A Case Study In Bad Logic: Blaire White

A Case Study In Bad Logic: Blaire White June 20, 2017

Last night, Laci Green tweeted the following:

I totally and completely agree, which is why, before she wrote this tweet, my previous blog post was on the two most commonly misunderstood informal fallacies.

I thought, then, about discussing deductive fallacies, but I didn’t think it was necessary. Honestly, I thought most people learned about them pretty well around 9th grade, if not before.

Apparently, no, as we’ll see. And hardly anything in this blog post is gonna make sense if I don’t explain it, so let me give a lesson (or, if you had a decent education, a quick refresher) on the most basic type of deductive argument.

A quick primer on deductive syllogisms

Here is a basic valid deductive argument:

If it rains, I will bring an umbrella.

It is raining.

Therefore, I will bring an umbrella.

The conclusion (“Therefore, I will bring an umbrella”) follows from premise one, or the “Major Premise” (“If it rains, I will bring an umbrella”) and the conditions of the Minor Premise (“It is raining”).

Another way to state the form of this argument, or deductive “syllogism,” is:

Major Premise: If A (it rains), then B (I will bring an umbrella).

Minor Premise: A (it’s raining).

Conclusion: Therefore, B (I will bring an umbrella).

Or, to reduce it further:

Major Premise: If A, then B.

Minor Premise: A.

Conclusion: Therefore, B.

OK, so that’s logical reasoning. As long as the Major Premise and Minor Premise are true and you’re using that exact basic format, the Conclusion follows.

But we throw a monkey in the wrench when we make the Minor Premise “B” instead of “A.” Like this:

If A, then B.

B.

Therefore A.

Let’s see how it looks when we put the terms back in:

If it’s raining (A), I will bring an umbrella (B).

I will bring an umbrella (B).

Therefore, it’s raining.

There’s something “off” in the reasoning there, right? The fact that if it’s raining, you’ll bring an umbrella doesn’t mean that just because you have an umbrella, it’s raining, right? So that reasoning doesn’t work. It’s “invalid.”

This reasoning is invalid, as well.

If A, then B.

Not A.

Therefore, not B (which carries the implication that if B is true, the Major Premise is invalid).

And you can see this doesn’t work, rather clearly, when we put the terms back in:

If it’s raining, I will bring an umbrella.

It’s not raining.

Therefore, I won’t bring an umbrella (which carries the implication that if you do bring an umbrella, the Major Premise “If it’s raining, I will bring an umbrella” is invalid).

This invalid logic would also be frustrating, right? Like, if you told your friend, “If it’s raining, I will bring an umbrella,” and your friend says, “Oh, so you think that just because you’re bringing an umbrella, it’s gonna rain, eh? That’s really arrogant of you. Who do you think you are, Rainman?” You aren’t saying that if you bring an umbrella it’s gonna rain. You’re saying that if it rains, you’ll bring an umbrella. It’s important to get that straight.

That’s a fundamental building block of deductive logic. It can get more complex from there, but you have to know that to get started.

Now, because we’re going to go over some arguments you might disagree with, I’m going to make another distinction. You can disagree with the truth of an argument and say that it’s unsound, but if it still follows the rules of logic it’s valid. In logic, soundness  refers to the truth of the argument, and validity refers to whether or not it is logically consistent.

I’ll demonstrate this with a couple syllogisms:

Syllogism 1:

Major Premise: If I can see the horizon (A), the world is flat (B).

Minor Premise: I can see the horizon  (A).

Conclusion: Therefore, the world is flat (B).

Syllogism 2:

Major Premise: If I can see the horizon (A), the world is flat (B).

Minor Premise: The world is flat (B).

Conclusion: Therefore, I can see the horizon (A).

Both of these lines of reasoning are factually untrue, obviously. So we would say they both aren’t sound. We wouldn’t, however, say they both aren’t valid, because the logic of syllogism 1 (If A, then B. A. Therefore, B) checks out; all the terms are technically presented correctly and in the right place. Syllogism 2, on the other hand, is not only factually wrong and thus unsound due to its Minor Premise; it is also invalid due to the fact that the Minor Premise refers to “B” as opposed to “A.”

Again, “Soundness” refers to the truth of the statement, “Validity” refers to whether or not the argument is in the right logical form. And if you make the rookie mistake of putting “B” or “Not A” instead of “A” in the Minor Premise category, you’ve shown that you fundamentally don’t understand the Major Premise, and make having a discussion very difficult…like that annoying friend who thinks that what you actually meant is that every time you brought your umbrella, it rained.

If you got this, awesome! If not, just keep reading. It’ll all come together in a bit.

Let’s apply all that stuff to the “real world”

OK, so let’s apply this to something practical. The below YouTube video, made by controversial YouTuber Riley J. Dennis:

I’m going to summarize her Major Premises here:

Major Premise: If you want to call people the n-word but can’t because you’re afraid of political correctness (A), you’ll can call them “thugs” instead (B).

Major Premise: If you want to say you hate people of color but can’t because you’re afraid of political correctness (A), just say you’re in support of national security instead (B).

Major Premise: If you want to encourage a harassment campaign against someone but can’t do it directly because it’s “politically incorrect” (A), just use a faux disclaimer and then encourage all the harassment you like (B).

Major Premise: If you want to label feminists “feminazis” but can’t because of political correctness (A), just call them “feminist extremists” instead (B).

Major Premise: If you want to express your hate for trans people but can’t say “I hate trans people” due to political correctness (A), just say you wouldn’t date trans people instead (B).

Major Premise: If you think the white race is superior but can’t say so due to political correctness (A), you can just say that racism doesn’t exist while still stating that people of color are ruining our country (B).

Major Premise: If you want to support thee alt-right but can’t do it openly because it’s politically incorrect (A), say you’re a centrist while ignoring or constantly challenging the left and giving a platform to the right that encourages them to express themselves freely without critique (B).

Now, you may or may not agree that all of these premises are sound. But if you’re going to attack them, you have to understand their format, lest you make a blatantly illogical attack.

So, going back to to the umbrella example: when you say, “If it rains (A), I will bring my umbrella (B),” you aren’t saying that every time you bring your umbrella (B), it will rain (A); that vice-versa twist would be a fundamental misunderstanding of your statement.

By the same token, when Riley says, “If you want to call people the n-word but can’t because you’re afraid of political correctness (A), you’ll can call them “thugs” instead (B),” she is not arguing that if you use the word “thugs” (B) you secretly want to use the n-word (A); that vice-versa twist would be a fundamental misunderstanding of her argument.

Neither, in going down the list of Major Premises, is Riley saying that everyone who supports national security (B) hates people of color (A), or that all anti-harassment statements (B) are shields for people who want to harass (A), or that everyone who uses the label “feminist extremists” (B) secretly wants to label all feminists feminazis (A), or that all people who say they won’t date trans people (B) are transphobic (A), or that everyone who doesn’t think racism exists (B) thinks the white race is superior (A), or that everyone who is a centrist (B) is secretly a part of the alt-right (A).

Whether Riley thinks any of that or not, and whether you agree with Riley Major Premises or not, that’s simply not what Riley’s saying. They are invalid reversals of her Major Premises that really have nothing to do with her Major Premises at all.

I’m not making, as of yet, a point about so-called “SJWS” vs “anti-SJWS” here. This is not about how sound her arguments are, yet, but about how someone would rebut them in an logically valid way. I’m trying to nail down the minimum understanding that is needed for disagreement to occur and a real conversation to happen.

The worst thing you could possibly do, logically speaking, is mix up the terms. It derails the argument, creating straw men.

Let’s make this even more concrete. Concerning Riley’s first Major Premise, “If you want to call people the n-word but can’t because you’re afraid of political correctness (A), you’ll can call them “thugs” instead (B)” — if you say, “I am not a racist, and I refer to criminals as ‘thugs,’ so Riley is wrong,” you’ve made a logically invalid move. Like this:

Riley’s Major Premise: If I want to call people the n-word but can’t because you’re afraid of political correctness (A), I’ll can call them “thugs” instead (B).
Major Premise: If it is raining (A), I will bring an umbrella (B).

Minor Premise (misstated): I do not want to call people the n-word (Not A).
Minor Premise (misstated): It is not raining (Not A).

Conclusion (misunderstanding Major Premise): Therefore, if the premise is right, I won’t use the word “thugs.”
Conclusion (misunderstanding Major Premise): Therefore, if the premise is right, I will not be bringing an umbrella.

Bad rejection of argument: “I call people thugs, and would never say the n-word! Therefore, Riley’s Major Premise is wrong!”
Bad rejection of argument: “You are carrying an umbrella, and it is not raining! Therefore, your Major Premise is wrong!”

It’s basic logic.

But a lot of people don’t know basic logic, and are easily taken in by mistatatements of the Minor Premise and, by extension, the Conclusion. People who know logic know this, and they know bad logic can take time to unravel, and so they use this to dishonestly (or ignorantly) deconstruct the argument.

Take a recent video that Blaire White made in response to Riley Dennis. She has the same “If A, then B, not A, therefore not B — and yet B is true, so the Major Premise is false” faulty reasoning I broke down above. It may seem like a slightly complex formula if you haven’t seen it in action before, but it is a pretty simple formula, nonetheless, and you can rinse, lather, and repeat this (as we’ve just seen) with a lot of premises if the audience doesn’t get smart and realize what you’re doing.

Here is her video rebuttal to Riley’s video:

After disarmingly agreeing with Riley on the first point, she then states the following:

Riley, what if people really do believe in national security? I mean, it’s just a crazy thought, but I think that one day, if you step outside of your…bubble, I’m sure that you’ll find there is a legitimate argument for national security that doesn’t involve racism. But I’m sure it’s easier to just call it racism than actually argue against it.
……..
National security does matter. It’s actually one of the few functions of government that I personally believe in. And that doesn’t make me racist.

Do you see the flaw? It’s exactly the one we exposed above. Here, let me show you:

Riley J. Dennis’s Major Premise: If you want to say you hate people of color but can’t because you’re afraid of political correctness (A), just say you’re in support of national security instead (B).
Major Premise: If it is raining (A), I will bring an umbrella (B).

Blaire White’s Minor Premise (misstated): I do not hate people of color (Not A).
Minor Premise (misstated): It is not raining (Not A).

Conclusion (misunderstanding of Major Premise): Therefore, if the Major Premise is correct, I wouldn’t be saying that I support national security (Therefore, Not B).
Conclusion (misunderstanding Major Premise): Therefore, if the Major Premise is correct, I will not be bringing an umbrella (Therefore, Not B).

Bad rejection of argument: “I support national security, and I am not racist! Therefore, Riley’s Major Premise is wrong!”
Bad rejection of argument: “You are carrying an umbrella, and it is not raining! Therefore, your Major Premise is wrong!”

That’s the formula. That’s it.

The honest, logical response, of course, would be to show that the Major Premise is wrong by stating that you can’t (or usually can’t) effectively cover up your racist attitudes with the words “national security.” That’s would be the counterargument. Of course you can advocate for national security and not be racist — that’s not a counterargument, though, because the Major Premise never stated otherwise.

And I’d say Blaire White’s bad logic here was a fluke, but she does it again. In response to Riley’s Major Premise “If you want to encourage a harassment campaign against someone but can’t do it directly because it’s ‘politically incorrect’ (A), just use a faux disclaimer and then encourage all the harassment you like (B)” Blaire White states the following:

So even someone telling their followers not to harass you isn’t good enough? I mean, it must be tough assuming the worst possible intentions from everybody. Believe in national security? You’re racist. Tell people to be nice and not harass me? That’s harassment.

What’s fascinating is that she seems to know her argument is weak. Obviously, you can tell people not to harass someone while encouraging them to harass that person. “Don’t harass her, but Jenny is a stuck up, rude, mean, girl who could use a punch in the face” is a way to do it. And of course telling people not to harass isn’t harassment. Telling people not to harass while bullying them and giving them a ton of irrelevant insults that you know your fans will chase after is using the “don’t harass” encouragement as a cover for harassment. I think people do this, but I’ll not waste time going over the evidence here, as I’ve already given a pretty good example of someone who made a video entitled “Dick nosed female comedian strives for world record in double standards!” and complimented several rather disturbing commenters who called her the c-word…while at the same time putting up a brief anti-harassment post at the beginning of the video. He literally said people shouldn’t harass her at the beginning of his video, and then complimented the fans who did in the video (you can read about this episode in the bottom half of this article).

So, anyways, this argument is weak…but she nails it in by continuing to mischaracterize Riley’s argument with the straw man “believe in national security? You’re racist” which, logically speaking, is simply an invalid characterization of Riley’s Major Premise. And Blaire White then manipulates the audience into hating Riley so much due to the straw man of extremism she created that many of them out-of-hand reject an argument Riley made that actually, in the real world, has real merit.

Then, in answer to Riley’s Major Premise, “If you want to express your hate for trans people but can’t say ‘I hate trans people’ due to political correctness (A), just say you wouldn’t date trans people instead (B)” Blaire White says:

I don’t understand how you can even thing those two things are contradictory.

Why would she say they’re contradictory? Deciding to say you don’t want to date trans people in order to cover up your transphobia is a process, a system, not a contradiction. But Blaire White has already conditioned her audience to illogically break it down like this:

Riley’s Major Premise: If you want to express your hate for trans people but can’t say “I hate trans people” due to political correctness (A), just say you wouldn’t date trans people instead (B).

Blaire White’s Minor Premise (misstated and implied): Many people do not hate trans people (Not A).

Conclusion (misunderstanding of Major Premise, implied): Therefore, if the Major Premise is correct, none of these people would say they don’t date trans people (Therefore, Not B — notice, here is where the contradiction comes in, where a switch of the terms creates the straw man that you cannot be unhateful of trans people and at the same time say you don’t want to date trans people — an argument Riley didn’t make in this video).

Bad rejection of argument: Many of the people who do not hate trans people also say they don’t date trans people. That’s not a contradiction, and Riley’s Major Premise says that it is, so it’s wrong!

It’s a bit stunning, actually. Blaire White has the whole formula down to a sentence. She’s conditioned the audience to accept this mode of reasoning, and now she can just use shorthand for it. And in the process, she’s made Riley even more unlikable, even though she’s completely misrepresenting Riley’s argument to do so through some formulaic logical slight of hand.

The honest way to rebut Riley’s premise, of course, would be to show that you couldn’t effectively express a politically correct hatred of trans people by stating you don’t want to date them.  That’s a more difficult argument, though. Rebutting by saying “just because you say you don’t want to date trans people, doesn’t mean you’re transphobic” is completely missing the point of the Major Premise…in a way stunningly similar to the way Blaire White has done it before. And, perhaps thinking that people may be sympathetic to trans people as a larger marginalized group, Blaire White goes the next step, later in this rebuttal, by indicating that Riley is saying that people who don’t want to date her specifically are transphobic, which makes a more unlikable straw man argument and, at the same time, is even more different from what Riley Dennis was saying — which was, again that you can express a hatred for trans people in a politically correct way by saying you wouldn’t date them, NOT that not wanting to date Riley Dennis (or any trans person, for that matter) is in and of itself proof positive that you are transphobic.

Blaire repeats these mischaracterizations in her video several times. And you can disagree with my pro-social-justice stance all you want, because the above is not really about a stance; it’s about bad logic.

I’d appreciate a good argument. But…make it a good one. Don’t make such obvious mischaracterizations through blatant disregard for basic logic.

4 Places Where Blaire White Is Factually Wrong

OK, so the above was mostly about logic. Now, real quick, now that you’ve watched a video by Blaire White (if you clicked “play” and gave her another view — my apologies, it seemed the best way to demonstrate what I meant), let me attempt some additional detox.

1. Not that it’s relevant, but she indicates people won’t date Riley J. Dennis. For the record, she had a girlfriend fairly recently and, to the best of my knowledge (I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong) still does.

2. She says nobody says that racism doesn’t exist. Wrong. See this, with view count, like ratio, and comments.

3. She indicates that environmental racism is nonsense. No, it’s definitely a thing. Two seconds of research will tell you that it’s when people of color are put in bad environmental conditions because their color makes them a low priority. Flint, Michigan is a good example, according to this case study.  Honestly, the fact that Blaire White thinks that not knowing what the term means is a good enough rebuttal is astonishing to me.

4. She says that we (I guess people labeled “SJWs”) are terrified of having our ideas challenged. Um, no. When I challenged TJ Kirk (The Amazing Atheist) to a debate (I did, not him) on whether his claim that the statement “black culture is a victim cult” is racist, he backed out, not me. And then he tweeted this:

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