Rhetorical Shenanigans II: The ‘You Are Not Part of This Group And Therefore Cannot Know Anything About It’

By: Brett MacDonald

This is one of the most widely accepted Rhetorical Shenanigans — it is used by people in “marginalized” groups (Identity Politics practitioners) to manipulate foolish, kindhearted liberals (and other “marginalized” groups) into believing that they must accept, without any substantive proof, whatever babble comes out of their mouths.

This Shenanigan was most recently used against me by a good friend, we can call him El Prez for the purpose of this post.

El Prez posted the HuffPo video below, one that I reject as absurd. I reject it because it practices the ‘feel good outrage’ that leftists have been seeking out like addicts in search of a fix.

I assume the person that made this video thought something along these lines:

“How can my rage be verified as justified? How can I feel self-righteous? And how can I do both of these things, without actually doing anything to solve whatever problem it is that I cannot even name?” 

And I won’t be trying to tell you that there isn’t some problem — though, I don’t think there is — I don’t care to wage that battle here.

When I voiced my disagreement with the video and began chatting with El Prez, I was midway through explaining that, every time I see an argument like this, the same defense is made. And right before I was about to hit ‘enter’ on the keyboard, just like clockwork, El Prez pulled that beautiful little Rhetorical Shenanigan out of his pocket and — wham!

“Brett,” he say, “you are not a woman.”

Take a look at the video and after the jump I will explain:

So I spilled my drink when this happened because the timing was just perfect.  So, after enjoying a sensible chuckle, I decided to handle this is a dialectic approach which I will now relay here:

El Prez: Brett, you are not a woman.

**I was tempted to say, “neither are you, so how do you know any of this is true?” But I was afraid #IBelieveWomen would be thrown at me and I really like this guy.**

Brett Mac: I love the promulgation of stuff that cannot be proven or denied and therefore “must” be accepted like, “you are not a wom–

EP:  So you saying these things are ‘not offensive’ does not come from knowledge or experience.

**Note, I never even said these things are not offensive, I just found the video to be pretty hilarious in general.**

BM: Can you rephrase? I don’t really follow what you’re saying man.

EP: When you say these things, you’re not coming from a place of understanding or knowledge.

BM: If we cannot comment on groups that we are not a part of — meaning if we are not able to logically come to conclusions about people other than ourselves — we can all go around ad infinitum saying, ‘Oh, well you’re not me, so how do you know that’s not my experience!” Then put a smug look on our faces and declare ourselves vindicated of any criticism. The fact is, we don’t have to a part of a group to understand or analyze it. In fact, I’d posit people that are outside of those groups are often better equipped to do so because they are less likely to fall into that group’s confirmation bias.

EP: Better equipped?

BM: Let’s try this a different way. Sorry, still chuckling about that timing.

EP: <laughs>

BMOkay, if I were to call mankind a group would you agree? As in if mankind were compared with dog-kind you would be able to identify the member parts of each group based off what they say and identify about themselves, how they act, or how they look. Right?

EP: This is true.

BM: We can take mankind further and subdivide it just like dogkind, into various races. Now there is some discussion about race as a construct in whole or in part, but we can at least agree that there are white people, and Asian, black people, and various other subgroups belonging to the parent group ‘mankind.’ Still agree?

EP: Yes.

BM: Would it be right to say that these groups can be even further divided? Can we divide them into, say, straight, queer, cis, nonbinary, etc, etc?

EP: We can.

BM: All these  subgroups belong to the ‘mankind’ parent group, with some crossover between. For example, a queer black person is part of the overall black group, a straight white person in the overall white group — but the queer black person would belong to say a subgroup of queer black people, the straight white person to the straight white group — this is just basic categorization, a model that the concept of ‘privilege’ is somewhat based off of. But all these subgroups are still part of ‘mankind.’ Still in agreement?

EP: Yes, I would have to.

BM: So here is the question that I must ask then: at what point do we reach the atomic, indivisible group? At what point can we no longer subdivide groups? When do we reach the smallest, discernible element among them? I think when you answer this, your initial rebuttal will fail to hold up to any scrutiny.

EP: An individual.

BM: And I agree. I would posit that the individual is the only unit that cannot be divided further into a group and that each individual has a unique experience. We may not be special, but we are all certainly snowflakes in that regard.

But do we see a problem with this conclusion? What does that say about the constant defense by Identity Politics practitioners that pull that handy “you are not one of us,” card out of their back pockets?

I think it says they are at a fork in the road.  If they recognize that every human has a unique experience, they must readily accept either:

1. Although I am Jim and not Bob, I can watch Bob, criticize Bob, and know something about Bob regardless. I can even reject things that Bob says about himself especially if Bob is making those statements about a larger group.


2. I am Jim and will never know anything about anyone other than Jim for the rest of my life. I cannot learn, I can only experience. I cannot observe, I can only react.

If they accept the first option, then they must rework their initial rebuttal. If they reject the first option in favor of the second, then they are necessarily a nihilist, and the conversation need not continue because it doesn’t even exist.

Do not fall for anyone that tells you, “you are not X, you cannot talk, criticize or know anything about X because you are not able to be knowledgeable about X.”

These are either manipulators or the product of someone else’s manipulation. Either link them to this argument or talk them through it.

One thought on “Rhetorical Shenanigans II: The ‘You Are Not Part of This Group And Therefore Cannot Know Anything About It’

  1. Pingback: Pride and Prejudice and Racism | Political Wave

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