Understanding how we communicate information, deciphering what we and others mean, and identifying confusing or false arguments is key to working through and with our differences. Here are some useful guides for learning more about the art of communication.
Whataboutism is an argumentative tactic where a person or group responds to an accusation or difficult question by deflection. Instead of addressing the point made, they counter it with “but what about X?”.
More pernicious is when whataboutism is put to work as a misinformation tool. Since the cold war era Russian propagandists have responded to criticism of Russian policies by immediately pointing out that western countries have similar policies… The sophists were the propagandists of ancient times. They prided themselves on being able to convince an audience – using any means available, including whataboutism – of any conclusion, irrespective of its truth
Reasoning that appears sound but is misleading or fallacious is known as sophistry. In Metaphysics, Aristotle defines sophistry as “wisdom in appearance only.”
From the article on Whataboutism above, “Plato was an ardent critic of the sophists. He vehemently made the point that arguments should be aimed at truth.”
The first known systematic study of fallacies was due to Aristotle in his De Sophisticis Elenchis (Sophistical Refutations), an appendix to the Topics. He listed thirteen types. After the Dark Ages, fallacies were again studied systematically in Medieval Europe. This is why so many fallacies have Latin names. The third major period of study of the fallacies began in the later twentieth century due to renewed interest from the disciplines of philosophy, logic, communication studies, rhetoric, psychology, and artificial intelligence.