Alice and Bob are two students who are habitual cheaters.

Alice to Bob: You really should stop cheating on your exams.

Bob to Alice: I'll stop cheating if you stop cheating too.

Does the hypothetical argument above fall under whataboutism? It seems borderline to me. In this argument, Bob doesn't deny that Alice is right, but they refuse to stop cheating with a rationale that indirectly criticizes Alice for hypocrisy. The latter seems like a hallmark of whataboutism.

Related: Why is "Whataboutism" often criticized? and How can I respond to Whataboutism?

  • 4
    Your original question had an example of countries. Now it's 2 hypothetical persons, no countries, and it is about cheating on exams. How is this about politics? Nov 16, 2022 at 5:54
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica if the linked questions are on-topic, why not this one?
    – Allure
    Nov 16, 2022 at 6:20
  • The tl; dr is you should pick a political example, even if the question isn't about that particular example, or it becomes not suited for this site.
    – Allure
    Nov 16, 2022 at 10:17
  • 1
    I actually think the question works better with a contrived example, as that avoids details of the example obfuscating the structure.
    – Arno
    Nov 16, 2022 at 10:21
  • 3
    I agree that the question is completely detached from politics at this point. Voting to leave closed.
    – MJ713
    Nov 16, 2022 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


It depends.

Whataboutism is about derailing the discussion about a particular problem by pointing out another problem. The focus is on the derailing, not on actually wanting to solve that other problem.

So if Bob is genuinely offering a pact to Alice that they both stop cheating, and is considering Alice accepting this pact a possibility, it is not whataboutism.

If the anticipated outcome is eg Alice denying that she is even cheating in the first place, followed by a transition into a discussion of whether or not Alice is cheating, then it is whataboutism.



If any of the two would be caught cheating, saying "another also does" or even "everyone does" is very unlikely to work as excuse of any kind, every university would confirm. One is not relevant to another.

Also, being caught cheating (now or before) does not deny right of reporting about another student doing the same violation.

To say, religions do indeed suggest to forgive on the basis that no one is free from the sin but not when this is being cynically abused. Even Vatican has a prison.


I think I convinced myself that this isn't whataboutism. The reason is that for there to be a debate, there needs to be a statement whose truth is contested. In this example, Alice professes a belief in the statement "You [Bob] should stop cheating". Since Bob apparently agrees with that statement, they aren't actually disagreeing, and there is no debate.

Bob's response adds another layer - he makes a new statement whose truth is (potentially) contested: that "You [Alice] should stop cheating first". Alice could agree to this, or she could counter with:

  • You [Bob] should stop cheating first because ...
  • I should not have to stop cheating because ...

But Alice's response is outside the scope of the question.

If Bob had instead argued he should not have to stop cheating because Alice is cheating too, then that becomes whataboutism.

  • The truth is "as long as Alice is cheating or ever did, it is morally correct for Bob to cheat as well". What are you exactly missing? If Bob thinks Alice makes too much damage for him (like unfair competition), should report to professors instead. Cheating himself is not the right way to fight.
    – Stančikas
    Nov 16, 2022 at 9:06
  • as long as Alice is cheating or ever did, it is morally correct for Bob to cheat as well Are you suggesting that Bob made this claim in the OP?
    – Allure
    Nov 16, 2022 at 9:09

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