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Zoe Chance

Zoe Chance


1/ Understanding and responding to "whataboutism" (What about Syria? What about Palestine? What about Xinjiang?) 🧵: This is CRITICAL because whataboutism is Putin's heavy artillery in the public sphere. And it's more insidious than you realize. #StandWithUkraine️

2/The aim of whataboutism is disempowerment. It's deployed most effectively against a target group with high morale and solidarity, unified in a moral cause. Such as we have now.
3/Because whataboutism uses tools of logic, it masquerades as mere rational argument, easily snaring intelligent people.
4/The goals of whataboutism are DISTRACT DIVIDE DISEMPOWER
5/DISTRACT In a metaanalysis of 97 studies on persuasive message campaigns, researchers found the single biggest predictor of their success was message consistency.
6/Much of the West has rallied to, "Save Democracy, Save Ukraine!" Now, diversions from this unified message can be costly.
7/Putin, like Trump, disintegrates public discourse through distraction. Everything is a distraction from everything else. Even the timing of invasion of Ukraine distracts attention from the trial of Alexey Navalny, who would have been all over the news.
8/Any distraction can work (it's called a "dead cat" strategy), but they're particularly effective when diverting your attention to something you care about. Those topics grab your attention and hold it longer.
9/Whataboutism distracts you by shifting your attention to something else you care about. You care about Ukranians' human rights? What about everyone else!
10/News media are particularly susceptible to whataboutism and other diversions because new happenings are "news." Trump dominated the US news cycle this way for five years.
11/DIVIDE The solidarity of the forces uniting against Putin has been swift and shocking, but his troll army was already trained to divide and conquer. In the US, for example, they stoke rage and encourage violence among BLM protesters and white supremacists.
12/Like with Putin’s apparent support of the BLM movement, the whataboutism here is insidious. While elevating the voices of righteously angry marginalized people, it uses their voices as a weapon of division.
13/Social media are particularly susceptible to whataboutism and other divisions because we participate in identity groups in which messages spread easily from trusted source to trusted source.
14/On Twitter, my Arab friends are posting whatabout messages on Palestine and Syria. I agree with them. My Black friends are posting whatabout messages on racism at the border, and amplifying the hate speech of racist politicians in the US and Europe. I'm angry too.
15/Other friends acting as allies are re-sharing these whatabout messages. All of us without a clue that we're playing into Putin's hands.
16/Whataboutism is insidious because the messages don't come directly from Putin. They come from trusted sources, like news media and friends. We trust those people. We agree with many of their ideas. We share them. We are part of it.
17/That's how whataboutism cuts us. From within. Within our tribe, and even from within our own mind.
18/DISEMPOWER Whataboutism wants to ensure, above all, that we do not act. It tries to make us skeptical of one another, and doubtful of ourselves.
19/It tries to dim our fervor by pointing out failures according to our own standards. "I'm not telling you what to believe, I'm just saying that if you believe that's terrible, then surely you see this is terrible too."
20/But whataboutism points out those other situations you care about not so you'll stand up for their morals but so that you won’t stand up at all.
21/It works when the enemy does understand your values, and their whatabouts are true. Syria, Palestine, Xinjiang, others. Atrocities. Then it uses your internal logic against you.
22/ Idealism says, "If you care, then you must act." Whataboutism says, "You say you care, but you haven't stopped these other atrocities. So acting now isn't idealism, it's racism."
23/Whataboutism is tempting, with its big questions about yourself, and with pondering being so much easier than acting, The goal of collective action is that we all do a little more. The goal of whataboutism is that we all do a little less.
24/I'm an expert on influence techniques who understands how whataboutism works, but it still works on me too. Why am I doing so much now? Why haven't I done enough in the past? Am I an idealist, or a hypocrite, or a racist?
25/Understanding whataboutism doesn't protect you from it. So, what helps?
26/WHAT WE CAN DO We can acknowledge the whatabouts as true and important but they must wait. There is no time to ponder, no time to debate all the other issues that are true and important, no way to solve all the problems at once.
27/And this is the only chance you've had in your entire life to come together with the citizens of the world to unite against the forces of darkness and save democracy.
28/Ukraine has united us. Don't let Putin rip us apart. When he has capitulated to our collective might and determination, then we talk about the other atrocities and injustices.
29/We ask each other, what would it take to fix these terrible things, and to keep them from happening again? And from the experience of having worked together, imperfect as we are, toward this common goal, we will have a better answer.
30/This is already a world war, with citizens across the world participating in it. You can support humanitarian relief, support the military resistance, recruit friends, and lobby politicians. Be a lover or be a fighter. Be both. Just don't let whataboutism make you a bystander.
31/To those are finding this helpful, thank you for reading and sharing it.
32/To those whom I've upset, I'm sorry. I'm trying to choose the right words, but this is delicate situation and I'm human.
33/If you're BIPPOC, Palestinian, Syrian, Uighur, or a member of any other group that has been suffering from systematic oppression, I don't mean to question your right to use your voice.
34/What I'm asking is that we please we work together and not let Putin fracture us.
35/We have this one chance to come together to end the reign of the most dangerous person since Hitler. Putin's mission to sow chaos and terror, to destroy democracy and any faith in the public sphere and truth itself, could be brought to an end. Imminently. By us. Together.
36/All people will benefit. Autocrats everywhere will be on notice.
37/There's a lot of cynicism in the world right now. I'm an idealist with faith that we can actually make a better world, together, after this. That winning this world war will give us momentum to do more great things together.
38/But those great things won't happen without great commitment. We who help in this war must keep fighting for human rights and justice. For all people.
39/I believe we will. Those jumping in now haven't been sitting home eating bonbons our whole lives. We've been helping, just never on the same thing at the time.
40/As we mobilize together, we see how powerful we can be ❤️
41/Adding: THANK YOU to everyone who is helping me re-think some of what I said here. Especially re calling out racism. Still trying to figure things out but I agree with you.
END: There are hundreds of replies on this thread and elsewhere, and I responded to as many as I could. Blocked trolls and probably some well-intentioned people by accident. Doing my best and am tired. Peace be with you all 🙏
Zoe Chance

Zoe Chance

Bestselling author, prof @YaleSOM, married to @AbuLavinia. I study & teach good influence. #behavioralscience #climate #democracy
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