An excellent teaching moment came my way yesterday. My English 101 class spends the last half of the semester doing a unit on persuasive writing, and the textbook has a whole section on logical fallacies. In addition to a dry review of them last night, I ended class with something a little more unique and practical.
I told my classes about the already-infamous “Asians in the Library” video that a girl at UCLA did a couple of weeks ago, and then showed it to them. As we watched, we stopped it often so we could identify specifically which logical fallacies she was committing. It was hilarious, controversial, and really drove the point home–the world is full of people who make stupid arguments, and we have the tools to deflate them.
On a more serious note, for someone like me who truly believes that racism is a thing of the past, a relic that’s been relegated to only the most extreme fringes of society, no matter how loudly some professional grievance-mongers continue to crow about it, it’s really disturbing to hear something every now and then like this that shows us that there really is still some serious racism out there. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t think of any way to view this video with a charitable explanation–this young lady just simply comes across as an ignorant bigot.
My notes on her logical fallacies are after the jump; see how many you can spot!
0:10-0:14–“random people that I don’t even know” Not a technical fallacy, but who starts an argument by declaring that they have insufficient knowledge of the subject?
0:20-0:26–“hordes of Asian people…our school” Loaded language. A horde is a violent group of savage invaders–it makes me think of Visigoths or Genghis Khan. Also, the tone of “our” school here implies that the school does not belong to (or at least does not equally belong to) Asian students. Definitely not objective.
0:45-1:11–(people in groups are relatives / no skills being taught / no teaching manners) Non sequitur. The speaker’s casual observations of those who happen to be around her do not constitute adequate experience–qualitatively or quantitatively–to draw any of these conclusions.
1:55-2:01–“nice, polite American girl…” Loaded language. Notice how she emphasizes American, implying that, while she is an American, those she is criticizing are not.
2:14-2:36–“going through their whole family…tsunami” Non sequitur. Besides how tasteless this is (she appears to be saying that, if you’ve lost loved ones in this disaster, discuss it outside of the library, because the mourning noises you’ll make would be inconvenient to those around you), her supposition of what’s going on in these conversations is totally unsupported by how she introduces it.
2:39-2:46–“I’ve just never seen that happen before” Argument from ignorance. The speaker suggests that Asians are the primary culprits here because she has not seen others doing it. Clearly, she thinks that if she has not seen it, it has not happened. As I’ve had occasion to note a couple of other times here recently, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
While there are other offensive things in the video, the combined use of hordes, our, and American really make this an undeniably racist rant.