“Whataboutery” is an old trick favoured by Stalinists whenever difficult questions about human rights under “socialist” (or, these days, “anti-imperialist”) regimes are raised.
So, in the old days of the Stalinist empire, they would respond “what about racism in the US?” to questions about the lack of democratic rights in the USSR and Eastern Europe.
The other old trick of that sort is “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Some of the most blatant cases you’ll come across involve the Morning Star and its efforts to deny or justify the Chinese state’s treatment of the Uyghurs.
The editorial (25 May) on the Lukashenko regime’s hijaking of a civilian aircraft and seizure of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, surely represents a new low.
The editorial is headed “Western histrionics over Belarus are ridiculous and hypocritical”. Online (but not in the print edition), the piece is illustrated by a photo of Julian Assange, although he is not mentioned in the text.
Let me offer some edited highlights:
• “[T]here must be many millions of viewers, readers and listeners across the world who are drawing a stark contrast between the outpouring of condemnation for Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and the failure of those same politicians, editors and military figures to condemn Israel’s merciless bombing of Gaza.”
• “It should also be noted that a sovereign state has every right under the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Chicago Convention to require an overflying aircraft to land should there be a suspicion of its use for illicit activity. Military interception is permissible so as long as lives are not endangered.”
• “More clear-cut was the diversion of a jet flying Bolivian president Evo Morales home from Russia in July 2013. Rumoured to be carrying US whistleblower Edward Snowden to asylum in Bolivia, the plane was denied airspace over Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and forced to land in Vienna for fuel, where it was searched by the Austrian authorities.”
• “For that matter, Belarus has not made national heroes out of war criminals and collaborators who helped the Nazis exterminate almost a million of the country’s Jews in the Holocaust — unlike the historical revisionism rampant in our ‘free world’ allies, Ukraine and Nato members Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania”.
For now, let’s just accept that everything the Morning Star claims about the diversion of Evo Morales’ plane in 2013 and about “historical revisionism” regarding Nazism in Ukraine and elsewhere, is true. It isn’t, by the way. But how would that, or the undoubted war crimes of Israel, justify the paper’s de facto “Hands Off Lukashenko” stance?
The paper’s “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” approach was sorely tested a few days later (29-30 May) in an editorial denouncing the visit of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Britain. The editorial correctly points to Orban’s racism and antisemitism, his “anti-immigrant hysteria” and “calculated authoritarianism”, while trying to make out that his regime is a fairly mainstream member of the EU and skirting around the fact that Hungary under Orban has a record of using its veto in the EU to water down or even kill measures or statements detrimental to authoritarian regimes with which it enjoys close economic ties, such as Russia, Belarus and... the Morning Star’s beloved “People’s Republic” of China.