Villainous Fallacies

Fallacies are fake or deceptive arguments that sometimes appear to be sensible. They have immense persuasive power despite their lack of rational basis. They are sometimes used unintentionally by a speaker, without the intent to deceive. (Myself included, so please point out in the comments when I use them!) But because they are deceptive and easy, they are the most effective tools of Villains. These are the weapons that every thinking person needs to be armed against and every Vigilante needs to recognize and reveal for what they are.

 

Anecdotal Evidence (Overgeneralization)

Extrapolating results from selected samples to all cases. Example: “When I was in college, all I did was drink. That’s all college kids ever do.” Or, “The people I saw on welfare didn’t need it – welfare is for the crooked to game the system and get out of work!”

 

Benefactor Bias (opposite of Ad Hominem)

Failing to consider possible weaknesses in character or argument of a respected “virtuous” figure, family member, associate, etc. Example: “He’s a good Christian – he would never touch a child!”

 

Bush Doctrine (False Dilemma)

Offering only two black-and-white options even though more are really available. Example: “You’re either with us or with the terrorists.”

 

Carry a Big Stick (Argumentum ad Baculam)

Persuading by force, violence, or threats, however remote. Example: “Give me your money, or else!” Or, “Tax Day is April 15!”

 

Clinton Misdirection (Equivocation)

Failing to define one’s terms with no explanation as to why the term is used in a different way than usual. Example: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

 

Close Enough (Half Truth)

Providing only those details of the topic which support one’s argument while deliberately ignoring those which refute it. Example: “It is such a great diet – you ingest only coffee and vitamins for three weeks, and you lose at least 20 pounds!”

 

Coincidence, I Think Not (post hoc ergo propter hoc)

Suggesting that proximity between two events proves – or even implies – that one is caused by the other. Usually a form of Statistical Bullying, but can also be a case of jumping to conclusions without sufficient evidence to form a valid judgment. Example: “The number of vaccinations children receive is on the rise, and so is autism. Obviously, autism is caused by vaccinations!”

 

Cooties Defense (Ad Hominem)

Attempting to refute an argument by attacking another’s personal character or reputation. Example: “Why should I listen to that Oval Office-blowjob-receiving president?”

 

Dodging the Question (Avoidance)

Casting aside the point to avoid responding. Example: “Who cares whether they make it a rule that a woman must be hired?” Or, “You’re not the boss of me!”

 

False Advertising (Transfer)

Associating a famous or respected person or thing with an unrelated position to piggyback on the fame or respect. Example: Continued use of images of John Wayne, who has denounced cigarettes as too harmful, in cigarette advertisements.

 

Fear of Change (Appeal to Tradition)

Claiming that an argument is right simply because it has always been that way or because people have always thought that way. Example: “Marriage is between one man and one woman. Best not to upset the order.” Or, “Marriage has always been between a white man and a white woman. Best not to upset the order.”

 

Guilt by Association (Ad Hominem on steroids)

Refuting an argument by evoking the negative ethos of those with whom the speaker associates or of a group to which the speaker belongs. Used often in relation to claims that any and all arguments against your standpoint or actions are automatically racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, bigoted, discriminatory, or in some other way wrong due to an immutable characteristic that you happen to possess. Example: “You signed up for The Red Pill/The Blue Pill – they are all woman haters/man haters!” Or, “If you don’t use #blacklivesmatter, you are racist!”

 

Have a Heart (Appeal to Pity)

Urging an audience to “fight for the little guy” regardless of the issues at hand or the effect of doing so. Example: “You can’t start a business in this climate! Tax the rich and give to the poor so they stand a chance!”

 

Have Faith (Argument from Ignorance)

Asserting that since we don’t yet know – or can never know – whether a claim is true or false, that it must be false (or, sometimes, that it must be true). Example: “You can’t explain how the psychic knew I’d have two kids, so obviously she’s the real deal!”

 

Keep It Simple (Reductionism)

Giving deliberately simple answers or slogans in response to complex questions. Example: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”

 

My Way or No Way (Complex Question)

Demanding a direct answer to a question that cannot be answered without first analyzing or challenging the basis of the question itself. Example: “Stop dodging the question and just give me a number: What is the best interest rate for mortgages to prevent another housing crisis?”

 

Nancy Grace Syndrome (Argument from Silence)

Depending upon the silence of another party having a significant meaning. Used excruciatingly often by news media – perhaps most notably and regularly by Nancy Grace. Example: “He can’t even talk to the press…he’s guilty as sin!”

 

Ozing (“Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain”) (Red Herring)

Attempting to mislead an audience by bringing up an unrelated but usually emotionally loaded issue. A form of Tough Act to Follow. Example: Nearly every sentence spoken in every televised political debate. “How can you not support the end of abortion, the ending of innocent lives who have no say?” “I find it alarming that those who want to end abortion have no problem with allowing guns on our streets, which ends far more innocent lives every day.”

 

People Don’t Change (Essentializing)

Operating under the assumption that a person or thing is what it is and at its core will always be the same. Example: “Men (or women) are cheaters by nature.” Or, “Men (or women) are monogamous by nature.”

 

Perception is Reality

Replacing truth with a lie because a message or action, no matter how true, correct, or necessary, will “send the wrong message” or “change public opinion.” Example: “The War on Drugs is a failure, but we can’t admit that or we’ll be sending the wrong message.”

 

Political Correctness

Believing that the nature of a thing can be changed by changing its name. Example: “Today we strike a blow against cruelty to animals by changing the name of ‘pets’ to ‘animal companions.’”

 

Reactionary Overcompensation (Excluded Middle)

Proposing that if a little of something is good, more must be better. Also the opposite. Example: “But Food Babe said that sodiums were bad! I’m eliminating all sodium from my diet!”

 

Redneck Wisdom (False Analogy)

Analogizing one thing to another thing that is dissimilar in a way material to the argument. Also, assuming that because two things are alike in one respect that they must be alike in another. Mostly spoken by “wise” old men and women in bars. Example: “Employees are like dogs; they need to be disciplined and housebroken.” Or, “Want to find a good man? Remember, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

 

Space-Time Disorientation

The confusion of cause and effect. A form of Statistical Bullying. Example: “Rap music is causing moral decay.”

 

Special Little Snowflake (Everybody’s A Winner)

Operating under the assumption that everyone is either equally heroic or equally disgusting, and that no variation is possible. The extraordinary confused with the  ordinary. Example: Participation ribbons, or “Every member of the Armed Services is a national hero.”

 

Statistical Bullying (Lying with Statistics)

Using true figures to prove unrelated claims. Often consists of Spurious Correlations. Example: “College tuition costs have actually never been lower. When taken as a percentage of the national debt, the cost of getting a college education is actually far lower today than it was in 1965!” Or, “We started using Pesticide X in 1973, and each year since cancer rates have increased in direct correlation to how much was used. Pesticide X causes cancer!”

 

Stereotype Stupidity (Appeal to Likeness)

Disregarding the argument of an outsider not based on the merits but because “they’re not one of us.” Alternatively, accepting the argument of a group member without regard to the merits simply because “they are one of us.” Also known as groupthink or, in psychology, out-group bias. Example: “We ladies have to stick together!” Or, “What could she know – she’s a woman, and they never have to work for anything!”

 

Straw Man

Setting up a ridiculous and false perversion of an opponent’s argument to make one’s own appear more sensible. Example: “If you don’t support abortion, you hate women and want them to spend their lives barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen!”

 

Supernatural Source (Appeal to Heaven)

Holding that a particular view is superior to all others and is unquestionable because it has been sanctioned by a higher power such as God, king, or (current favorite in America!) society. Example: “God forbids gay marriage,” or “Everyone agrees that gays should be allowed to marry, and that’s the right side of history – you think you know better than our entire society?”

 

Tough Act to Follow (Non Sequitur)

Arguing reasons or answers that have no connection to the argument. Generally used to imply possession of knowledge that is unknowable. Example: “The San Francisco earthquake was punishment for the United States government allowing gays to marry.”

 

Two Wrongs Make A Right (Tu Quoque)

Defending an incorrect position or excusing one’s own bad behavior by pointing out that one’s opponent acts in a similar or worse fashion. Example: “We spy on our citizens because it is the only way we can keep them safe from attacks on their freedom!”

 

We have to do something! (Paranoia)

Appealing to fear to arrive at the conclusion one seeks. Example: Secretary of State Colin Powell holding a vial of anthrax in a hearing before the United Nations General Assembly to provide the rationale for a planned invasion of Iraq.

 

Well, Duh Fallacy (Circular Reasoning)

Arguing that something is true by restating the same thing in different words. Example: “Of course wealth inequality is a problem – the wealthiest 1% have experienced a net worth increase of 164% while the bottom 50% have lost 35% in the last 2 years!”