And you are lynching Negroes

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1930 print in Bezbozhnik, the Soviet magazine, showing a Black American being lynched, hanging from the Statue of Liberty

"And you are lynching Negroes" (Russian: "А у вас негров линчуют", A u vas negrov linchuyut, "And at your place, they are lynching Negroes") and the later "And you are hanging blacks" (Russian: "А у вас негров вешают") are anecdotal counter-argument phrases, which epitomizes the tu quoque arguments used by the Soviet Union in response to allegations that it had violated human rights.[1] Use of the phrase refers to such attempts to deflect criticism, e.g. by referencing racial discrimination and lynching in the United States.[2] The Economist popularized the term whataboutism for the repeated usage of this rhetorical tactic by the Soviet Union.[3]

The Soviet media frequently covered stories of racial discrimination in the west, as well as reporting on the impacts of unemployment and financial crises, which were seen as inherent problems of the capitalist system that had been erased by the strict egalitarianism of the Communist system. The history of lynchings of African Americans was thus seen as an embarrassing skeleton in the closet for the US which the Soviets frequently used as a stock form of defensive rhetorical ammunition whenever they were reproached for the various failings of the Soviet system, such as their inferior industrial and agricultural production, their human rights abuses and the relatively low standard of living for their workers.

History[edit]

The use of the phrase as a reference to demagoguery and hypocrisy is traced to a Russian political joke, about a dispute between an American and a Soviet man.[4] In a 1962 version, an American and a Soviet car salesman argue which country makes better cars. Finally, the American asks: "How many decades does it take an average Soviet man to earn enough money to buy a Soviet car?" After a thoughtful pause, the Soviet replies: "And you are lynching Negroes!"[5][6]

The joke is intended to expose the logical fallacy of citing a single boilerplate tu quoque counter-criticism as a general defense against completely unrelated forms of legitimate critique; in the original joke, the American car dealer's argument about the failure of the Soviet system to produce high-quality automobiles or enough of them to equip their middle class is a legitimate criticism that is not effectively diminished or countered by the (equally legitimate, but utterly irrelevant) counterpoint from the Soviet car dealer that the United States has a history of unfair race relations with African-Americans. The humor thus stems from the obvious logical fallacy inherent to the Soviet counter-argument, which fails to address the original criticism (because it is undeniable) and instead responds with an equally undeniable but completely unrelated counter-criticism against the American, thus avoiding having to ever admit fault.[7][8]

Variants[edit]

Similar phrases are used in the languages of Eastern Europe, in different variants.

  • Czech: A vy zase bijete černochy![9] (Literally, "And, in turn, you beat up blacks!")
  • Hungarian: Amerikában (pedig) verik a négereket (Literally, "And in America, they beat up Negroes")[10]
  • Polish: A u was Murzynów biją![11] (Literally, "And at your place, they beat up Negroes!")
  • Romanian: Da, dar voi linșați negrii![12] (Literally, "Yes, but you are lynching Negroes!")

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lucas, Edward (2009). The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 307. 
  2. ^ Interview with a Soviet emigrant Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives University of Arizona
  3. ^ http://www.economist.com/node/10598774
  4. ^ (Russian) "Your Letters", at Radio Liberty
  5. ^ The Sideways Institute
  6. ^ Dora Shturman, Sergei Tiktin (1985) "Sovetskii Soiuz v zerkale politicheskogo anekdota" ("Soviet Union in the Mirror of the Political Joke"), Overseas Publications Interchange Ltd., London, ISBN 0-903868-62-8, p. 58 (Russian)
  7. ^ Winn, Garret. (Ph.D). Utah Valley University. "The Logical Fallacies Handlist". 2001. Adapted from original text by Alyssa Rock from original text by Dr. L. Kip Wheeler. pg.5
  8. ^ [1] pg. 26.
  9. ^ "Nepoučitelný Topolánek" (Czech)
  10. ^ "A pragmatikus szocializmus évtizedei"(Hungarian)
  11. ^ "Gdzie Murzynów biją albo racjonalizm na cenzurowanym" (Polish)
  12. ^ Ștefan Cazimir, "Acordul de la Peleș", România Literară, 1/2002 (Romanian)