And Whatabout Your Black People...?

This clearinghouse topic exists for on-going discussion based around Whataboutist or Bothsidesist statements regarding the Putin regime’s invasion of Ukraine and related aggressions. There is a separate topic to discuss and de-bunk lies and distortions about history here.

The title comes from a tiresome Soviet tu quoque retort to American criticisms of oppression during Russia’s communist period. The fallacious nature of such arguments has been discussed numerous times over the years on this BBS to the degree that they de-rail the main topic under discussion. Therefore we offer this dedicated reference Topic for their discussion, into which new but not novel comments asking “whatabout” and the like may be moved.

A few other reality-based definitions of terms we might be hearing from Whataboutists

  • “Cold War Mentality”: this refers to the counter-productive adversarial worldview promoted by conservatives and members of the military-industrial complexes of the U.S. and USSR and their various allied nations during the post-war period (roughly 1945-1990). The main point of contention was an ideological conflict between two (supposedly) equally strong superpowers espousing capitalism and (ostensible) communism. Despite the fact that a secret-police thug from the former Soviet Union now rules Russia, this is an empty accusation to levy against Western critics of his regime’s actions for several reasons. The USSR no longer exists and its successor state, the Russian federation, operates on a very different ideological basis of crony capitalism. Russia is also no longer considered a superpower by any serious geopolitical analyst, but is rather seen as an aspiring second-tier regional power and petro-state that happens to have inherited the previous regime’s arsenal of conventional and nuclear weapons. Finally, if anyone involved in the situation is calling up the shades of the Cold-War era, it’s the regime looking to re-construct the old Soviet empire in order to please its Know-Nothing ultra-nationalist domestic supporters.

  • “McCarthyism” or “Red Scare”: these refer to the often baseless witch hunts conducted by American right-wingers during the Cold-War era and earlier against those suspected of being sympathetic to the Soviet Union and Communism. As with “Cold War Mentality”, these terms do not really apply as no communists or communist/socialist are involved and Russia no longer claims to follow any such ideology. Also, those who acts apologists for the Putin regime’s attempts to re-construct the Soviet/Tsarist empire at the expense of neighbouring sovereign nations are being called out because they do a poor job of concealing their status as paid shills, Useful Idiots, or nostalgiac tankies; comparing them to the real victims of the McCarthy witch hunts is an insult to the latter.

  • Economic Sanctions – like the Magnitsky acts, expulsion from SWIFT, the shut-down of Nord Stream 2, etc. are not “Western attacks on the Russian people” but punishments for the oligarchs and kleptocratic government officials who rob the Russian people and who are responsible for this war.

  • “The U.S. has behaved terribly in the past and started its own wars on false pretexts” – very true. American neoCons also helped to wreck the post-Soviet economy by foisting a neoliberal “free”-market economy on Russia with predictably disastrous results (engendering rightful resentment at the time from imiserated Russians). None of that excuses the Putin regime’s decision to invade Ukraine.

  • “American Empire” – with 800 military bases, the largest military budget on Earth, dominance in international finance, and cultural power, undeniable. Also no excuse for this invasion or Putin’s expansionism.

  • “Ukraine has fascist militias” – yes it does. Some of them, like the Azov Battalion, see themselves as proud heirs to the genocidal Hiwis and other Ukrainian collaborators with the Nazis during WWII. Their inclusion in defense policy is a serious domestic problem for Ukraine, even if their political wings are siloed off from power. This doesn’t make the existence of pro-Russian fascist militias in Donbas – who’ve now been elevated to the leadership of the so-called republics in the region by Putin – acceptable in any way. And the existence of Ukraineian fascists doesn’t automatically make the central government in Kyiv fascists, too as the Putin regime is fond of claiming.

Also, bits me why you come hear, but to new comrades ve give hearty and appropriate…

[disclaimer: this topic does not necessarily represent the views of Boing Boing’s Authors, Publisher or Moderators but rather those of members of the BBS community]


Idk they just rolled into Ukraine without any opposition. :man_shrugging:

Superthugs maybe?


Ukraine has just invoked Article 4 of the UN Charter and it seems like they’re pointing out that Russia can no longer be a member of the Security Council or the General Assembly. It feels so little in the face of so many towns being blown up as we are here communicating from the safety of our homes.


Just to get the low-hanging fruit out of the way

“This is just like Iraq” is a dumb argument

“This is just like Syria, but with the sides reversed” is a better argument

It’s not a good argument, but it’s debatable, we could talk about it

Same with Taiwan, for instance, which might be the next shoe to drop for World War III

If you’re gonna troll at least don’t waste our time


Right…now that China and Russia are buddy-buddy, where’s China going to attack first?


The Russian Federation is not generally classed as a superpower as the USSR once was (and even that turned out to be a bit of a sham toward the end).

Thank you. More of this from everyone, please (and also in the topic meant to counter historical disinformation). The sooner we counter the tired arguments in advance, the fewer de-rails in the boing topics we’ll have to deal with and the less repetitive typing we’ll have to do.


Has Francis Fukuyama chimed in with a retraction of his life’s work yet? It’s been hours


I assume they can overwhelm Taiwan all at once

It will be interesting to see the rhetorical tap-dance from the State Department, since then we will be the foreign peacekeepers in a breakaway province


While I agree that they are not a super power from an economic perspective, I think they still do wield outsized influence on the world stage, largely through a (demonstrated) willingness to flaunt norms and excercise violence.

When that is backed by the nuclear arsenal of a superpower I don’t know what you call it, but Putin basically can try to run a protection racket on the world.


They can only project so much conventional military force, less than they could in the Soviet days (especially without the support of the Warsaw Pact). Someone noted elsewhere that approx. 2/3 of their conventional forces are assigned to this operation.


Maybe Russia? That is after all where the oil is and that is usually where you attack, from what I understand

ETA: also Russia has a history of picking crappy allies

EATA: I know that I am conflating the USSR and Russia in my ETA and apologize. I will do better


By any reasonable measure Russia still wields one of the largest military forces on the planet, including the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

Sure China has a bigger role in the world economy and the U.S. has more aircraft carriers but it’s not like Russia isn’t still fully capable of starting World War III.


I don’t think that puts them at too great a disadvantage. The last 20 years have proven that for all it’s size the U.S. conventional military is unable to effectively wage war in the modern era. I don’t feel they are that disadvantaged by it.

My fear is that Putin, as a nihilist, thinks that the threat of nuclear war is something he can leverage to keep the west at bay (along with capturing the right wing in western countries to obstruct if not comply) while he picks apart eastern Europe.


No doubt. A nation-state that isn’t a superpower, especially if it’s run by a reckless shakedown artist like Putin, can do a lot of damage even without nuclear weapons. As we’re seeing.


This post is a genuine person, expressing their real despair at what is happening right now and how it has happened before and how nothing will be done to stop it.

I am not criticizing the author and in fact I feel that despair myself. However I do think that is something that could be twisted and weaponized into “there is no point in doing anything and we should give up” so I wanted to hilite it here for thoughts on how tell the difference when a bad actor is espousing giving up and how to help others and ourselves when we genuinely feel this bleak.

Edited to be clear I was not looking to have the original post moved


I agree with your assessment that the post was made in good faith and also with your concern. I won’t be moving it here but I can’t speak for the other Leaders or the moderator.


Oh, I wasn’t asking for a move. I just wanted any “what about” discussion here, not under the original post, where it does not belong


8 posts were merged into an existing topic: Pedantic Digressions

Good call. My only criticism of that post is that it is too pessimistic; too cynical. But I didn’t give it my usual “Eyeore” gif, because my optimism that there will be consequences for these actions is wishful thinking. I will do whatever I can, in what little ways I can, to help bring it about. I hope everyone here does, too.

That’s how we inch ever forward to a more just world.


I have been thinking about this and I think it might be possible to weed out bad actors by honestly responding to an initial post with genuine empathy, support, and hope as you do above and I try to do in my response to the original post.

Your mentioning refraining from the reflexive eyeore is a good example of taking a little extra care because this a hard time. I refrained earlier a day or two ago from saying anything about a “this fun thing doesn’t matter right now” post in the Kraftwerk book thread, which I normally might have flagged as off topic, or responded to in a dismissive way, because shit is hard right now.

So I think that accepting that people are having a hard time, giving them some support, and hope if you can is a good way to respond.

However, if someone does not accept this and persists then I think we have to assume bad intent on their part. Things do suck and it is okay to say they do but if that is all someone has to add to the conversation and they persist in doing in a thread, or across multiple threads then I think we just have to assume bad intent, cease responding and start flagging.

Does this seem reasonable?