Thursday, January 7, 2021

Whataboutism and the attack on the Capitol

cr. AP J. Scott Applewhite
In the realm of politics in America, in a two party system that easily lends itself to us vs. them reactions, cries of hypocrisy are common. I find myself using the term probably too often. Yes, often there are cases where each side can show the other side does the same thing. But, let's be clear, there is no false equivalency whataboutism that can compare yesterday to the protests of 2020.

The events of January 6th were a planned (and further incited) attack on THE Capitol of the nation, the representatives inside, and the process of the official, final selection of the next administration. The response by law enforcement to the event, once which again was an attack on the People's House - the seat of our national government - was far from equitable to other protests.
What is whataboutism? Oxford defines it as: the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counteraccusation or raising a different issue. It's an attempt to weaponize claims of hypocrisy, to refute a statement or opinion by claiming 'both sides do it'. As if there are not levels of negativity, that we can't look at whether one case is worse than the other and thus inequitable.

People who support, or even just aren't entirely against, what happened on the 6th, like to say 'whatabout' the riots (their term) of 2020. You were okay with the violence and destruction of property by BLM, or ANTIFA, but this is where you draw a line? Isn't that hypocrisy? Yes and No, respectively. It is where I draw the line and its not hypocritical. Why not? Because of severity, magnitude, effect.

Yes, there was some destruction of property in the racial justice protests. People in Wisconsin can especially look at what happened in Kenosha. Others will point to Portland. I am not devaluing the damage to public and private property, but none of that was an assault on the symbol of our nation. They were not planned attacks on federal representatives (we will have to wait for more to come out, but there are definitive photos that show the MAGA/Q Anon/Proud Boys assailants were planning to kidnap government officials). In Portland, protests led up to a federal building, but the protesters did not attack it, they made a presence around it. Some destruction was done, such as security cameras and windows, but again they did not try to enter the buildings. I am not condoning those actions in Portland, but we will talk about equity of severity and response later.

Despite what you might think, have been told or shown, the vast majority of protests by BLM and similar groups, ones where ANTIFA was involved, were peaceful, and even ones that went off the rails by peripheral bad actors started that way. As TIME Magazine reported: "more than 93%—have been peaceful" A report published The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) states that more than 2,400 locations reported peaceful protests, while fewer than 220 reported “violent demonstrations.” USA Today also did a report, talking to people in cities affected by protests - including Milwaukee - where they found that "Very few of those charged in protest-related arrests appear to be affiliated with highly organized extremist groups, and many are young suburban adults from the very neighborhoods Trump vows to protect from violence, according to a review of thousands of pages of court documents by the Associated Press." This shows what many of already know, but unfortunately the majority (2/3 in an IPSOS poll) don't believe, namely that that the violence often happens around or after the protests, by actors not related to those protesting. In the Milwaukee area - which includes Wauwatosa and Kenosha - "local officials and residents say the protests have been marked more by determination than destruction."

Now, we can't forget to address equity in response as well. People have rightfully noticed a lack of equity in the treatment of the rioters yesterday and protesters that were not pro-Trump, not white-cause related. Compare the Portland response, or more directly related: the Lafayette Square response in D.C. This isn't a hypocritical projection by people but a valid comparison. In the previously mentioned report, this is show: ACLED also highlights a “violent government response,” in which authorities “use force more often than not” when they are present at protests and that they “disproportionately used force while intervening in demonstrations associated with the BLM movement, relative to other types of demonstrations.” I personally saw first hand how police can escalate a situation when a march came past our house, literally at the corner my house is on in Wauwatosa. It was one of almost weekly marches that come and go within a few minutes peacefully with just a little noise, when police aren't involved. This time police decided to block them, block them in at the intersection with no way to keep moving on. The police then told them they were at fault for lingering in one place, caused by the very police. It got pretty hairy but ended peacefully. But I saw how a situation can change for the worse when the protests are interfered with rather than just allowing them to go on with their peaceful plans.
If you don't understand why the protests have and are occurring, I can't help much with that. Self-reflection and some research may be required, beyond your usual outlets. Regardless, claiming that the January 6 attack on the Capitol was equitable to social justice protests and thus people who support one and decry the other are hypocritical is, well, delusional. The events of yesterday, Jan 6, were a low point in our nation and the actions were unacceptable and incomparable to other protests. The image above, of security defending our representatives against violent attackers, should never be something we have to see in our nation.

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