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The Victory of Self-Criticism

A colleague pointed me toward this post from the Economist from Jan. 31st:

SOVIET propagandists during the cold war were trained in a tactic that their western interlocutors nicknamed “whataboutism”. Any criticism of the Soviet Union (Afghanistan, martial law in Poland, imprisonment of dissidents, censorship) was met with a “What about…” (apartheid South Africa, jailed trade-unionists, the Contras in Nicaragua, and so forth).

It is not a bad tactic. Every criticism needs to be put in a historical and geographical context. A country that has solved most of its horrible problems deserves praise, not to be lambasted for those that remain. Similarly, behaviour that may be imperfect by international standards can be quite good for a particular neighbourhood. (…)The most powerful western asset during the last cold war was not bigger nukes or higher living standards, but self-criticism. However bad western governments may be, they risk trouble eventually—from the media, the courts or the voters. That is not something that one can say with much confidence about Russia now.

Sound familiar? Given the coordinated attack in the comments section of an article authored by Mark McDonald for his defense of Vasily Alexanyan, we can see this double standards position being desperately flouted. Apparently it is OK to torture and slowly murder a prisoner because the United States have Guantanamo and the UK took part in Iraq. Read the complete article here.