MEME WARFARE: culture jam for life’s guide to fallacies

MEME WARFARE
reasoned answers to simplistic pro-abortion bumper stickers

1. Ad Hominem
This fallacy is based on attacking a person instead of addressing her or his argument. While it is true sometimes people that are not genuine people do not have good arguments, this is not always true and therefore a fallacy.

Example:
Ben: “I believe abortion as a form of birth control is morally unacceptable.”
Joe: “Of course you would say that, you’re a Christian.”
Ben: “But have you addressed my arguments which support my view?”
Joe: “Those don’t matter because you’re a Christian.”

2. Ad Hominem Tu Quoque
This fallacy is committed when a person complains that something someone has said is either inconsistent with something else they have said or their actions.

Examples
Jennifer: Abortion is wrong.
Sally: But you used to say it is okay, so it can’t be that bad.
(Just because someone used to support a position does not make it correct.)

Reporter Jones: Senator Smith has stated that he is against abortion except in cases in which the mother’s life is threatened, rape or incest. But one of our sources has told us that his cousin Jennifer has had an abortion, and he did not object.
(Just because someone supported something which she or he publicly objects to does not make it any better.)

Another example can be seen at this uninformed blog, where a blogger wrote that, according to a few abortionists, they have killed the life inside even a few pro-life activists. Even if this were true, it would not excuse abortion. It sounds too audacious (picketing a clinic the day after an abortion?) especially when considering the source is the abortionist, the same person who stands to make a profit when abortion is kept legal. Not that his “profession” is ethical to begin with:  lying would not be too much of a stretch from killing human beings every week. And who is to say the killing center that posted this information is not lying, since it is all anonymous letters about a few incidents that span for many years? Again, even if it is true, it would be sad but still be based on Ad Hominem Tu Quoque instead of a logical argument.

3. Ad Populum or Appeal to Popularity
This fallacy is based on the majority’s opinion. Just because a larger number of people support a claim does not make it correct. While democracies do function on a majority voting for a particular candidate, just because a majority has a certain opinion on an issue does not make it inherently correct. Many people used to think that the earth was flat, but that is not true. Many people used to think that abortion was not killing any life, but science has shown us that this is inherently false as well.

Example
Reporter Jones: Most people favor the right to abortion; therefore it can’t be that bad.
(And even if this were sufficient reasoning to support the view, polls indicate that more people are pro-life than pro-abortion anyway.)

4. Appeal to Common Practice
This fallacy claims as “evidence” the popularity of a particular practice to support it. But just because a lot of people do something does not make it right.

Examples
-“Cheating on tests in college is wrong, but a lot of people do it so it’s not that big of a deal.”

-“Abortion is not that big of a deal; one out of three women has at least one in their lives.”

-“Abortion is a common practice; therefore it can’t be that big of a deal.”

-“Abortion can’t be that bad, my cousin ‘had one’ a few years ago.”

5. Bandwagon
This fallacy substitutes scientific findings with peer pressure.

Examples
-Jennifer is afraid of proclaiming that she is pro-life and has a problem with abortion. Therefore, in order not to be ostracized from her pro-abortion friends, she will not voice her opinion.

-Susan: “I think that abortion is wrong.”
Joe: “Gimme a break, that’s ridiculous.”
Billy: “Yeah that’s dumb.”
Susan: “Well, never mind, I guess it’s not that big of a deal.”

6. Description of Middle Ground (Golden Mean Fallacy, Fallacy of Moderation)
This is a fallacy because it does not follow logically that just because a position is in the middle that it is correct.

Examples
-“Some people say that 1+1=2 and others says that 1+1=100. Maybe 50 is correct, that sounds about right.”

-“Senator Smith is for adding funds to wildlife preservation by 20 percent. Senator Jones is for adding 10 percent. But Senator Rooney has advocated 15 percent. That sounds about right.”

-“Some people are for banning abortion except in the rare cases when the mother’s life is threatened, or from rape or incest. Others are for the right to abortion up until labor, or even after labor. I think the real solution is somewhere in the middle, maybe after the first, second or third trimester.”

7. False Dilemma
False Dilemma fallacy is an “either-or” fallacy. It occurs when a person states that there are only two conclusions or solutions, when in fact there may be three or many more.

Examples
“Either 1+1=4 or 1+1=3. 1+1 does not equal 4, so therefore 1+1=3.”

-“If you don’t cut funding to our schools there will be in a huge deficit in our budget.” (There could be other ways to balance the budget.)

-“If you make people work when they can for welfare, then many people will lose their welfare.” (They could actually work.)

-“Either a woman has a right to abortion or they will be seeking out back-alley abortions by the droves.”

9. Straw Man
This fallacy distorts or misrepresents a person’s argument or position and attacks it instead of adressing the real argument.

-Joe has position A.
-Billy presents Position A as position B, a wildly exaggerated, misinterpreted version of Position A, or even an unrelated or opposite version of Position A.
-Billy attacks position B.
-Therefore, position A is flawed.

This is fallacious because the position being argued against is not the same position being discussed.

Examples
-Senator Jones: “Senator Smith wants to take away funds from protecting a section of the Bay Bridge Forest. I don’t know why he would want to destroy our entire state’s environment like that.”

-Joy: “I think abortion should be banned except in cases of when the mother’s life is threatened, or from rape or incest, when women should be able to get cleaned out after a rape.”
Susan: “Why do you think that? You just want to take away all of our rights.”
Joy: “No, I didn’t say that.”

-David: “I think abortion is morally wrong.”
Joe: “You just want to take us back to the 1950’s.”
David: “No, I did not say that.”

10. Slippery Slope
This is a fallacy when there is not scientific evidence that phenomenon A leads to phenomenon B. Just because one position is taken or one thing happens does not mean another will, unless one logically leads to another. For example, during the Holocaust, they started out with killing the disabled. This is inherently wrong by itself, and it also led to the killing of many other types of people. But in other cases one thing has not led to another.

Examples
-“You can’t give someone a break, because once you do, they will walk all over you.” (This may be true in some cases, but not all cases.)

-“If you ban hardcore Internet pornography and put those responsible in jail, the next thing you know they’ll be banning books!”

-“If you ban abortion except in rare instances of life/rape/incest, the next thing you know they’ll be banning women from working!”

11. Inductive Fallacy
Just because one person that holds position A does not make everyone else the same that holds position A.

Examples
“When I drove to Arizona, I saw a white cow. Therefore all cows in Arizona are white.”

“Joe is against abortion, but he is also for the Iraq War. Therefore all pro-lifers are for the Iraq War.”

12. Spotlight
Spotlight fallacy refers to the coverage of a particular area/people/phenomenon by the media and how it sometimes distorts or generalizes the perception of the viewers.

Examples
Joy: “I don’t like abortion. I think it belittles children and women.”
Joe: “Oh you must be one of those right-wing nut jobs that wants assault weapons sold to everyone.”
Joy: “No, I think limited gun control is okay, such as banning silencers and assault weapons, which are only meant to do evil. But the media gives most of the attention to people more right-wing than me when it covers pro-lifers.”

The following example is from http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/spotlight.html used under Fair Use clause:
Bill: “Jane, you say you are a feminist, but you can’t be.”
Jane: “What! What do you mean? Is this one of your stupid jokes or something?”
Bill: “No, I’m serious. Over the summer I saw feminists appear on several talk shows and news shows and I read about them in the papers. The women were really bitter and said that women were victims of men and needed to be given special compensation. You are always talking about equal rights and forging your own place in the world. So, you can’t be a feminist.”

Jane: “Bill, there are many types of feminism, not just the brands that get media attention.”
Bill: “Oh. Sorry.”

13. Red Herring
This fallacy occurs when someone tries to take the attention away from an issue by bring up an unrelated issue by pretending it is related.

Examples
-Charles: “I think abortion is wrong.”
Josh: “Yeah, but you’re for capital punishment for murderers, so how can you say abortion is wrong?”

-Joy: “Abortion and infanticide are so morally reprehensible and disgusting.”
Susan: “But what about the Iraq War?”
Joy: “I thought we were talking about abortion. Did you know that I have a problem with the Iraq War as well? And what does that have to do with whether or not abortion is right, regardless of my position on Iraq?”

14. Relativist Fallacy
Relativist fallacy deals with the belief that one person’s truth is another person falsehood, and vice versa. While people have differing beliefs, some things that can be proven scientifically should not be open to debate.

Examples
-Bob thinks that 1+1=2. That may be true for Bob, but for Joe 1+1=3.

-Joe: “You may believe that life begins at conception. That’s fine, don’t have an abortion. But for me, life begins at birth.” (Scientifically, human life begins at conception.)

-Susan: “I could never kill my unborn child, but I don’t want to judge other people who might want to have an abortion.” (Abortion is not like going to rated-R movies or drinking wine and therefore based on personal conviction and circumstances. It’s either permissible or horribly evil.)

15. Poisoning the Well
This fallacy involves presenting negative information about a person (whether it be true or false) in order to discredit everything they say, even though the negative information usually does not include calling them a liar but rather including irrelevant information.

Example
-Bob: “Don’t listen to Senator Bisby. I heard he cheated on his taxes 10 years ago. Anything he says must be wrong.”
Senator Bisby: “We need to fight the scourge of abortion on demand.”
Bob: “Man, if Senator Bisby said it, it must not be true. Therefore, abortion is okay.”

16. Guilt by Association
This fallacy involves comparing people who support a position with unsavory people or people they do not want to be associated with in order to discredit their position.

This is a fallacy especially if the association has nothing to do with the position at hand. For example, Hitler probably believed in brushing his teeth. But that does not make anyone who believes in brushing their teeth a Nazi. The important question is whether or not the association deals with something relevant to the subject. What were the Nazis nefarious for? They were infamous for killing innocent human life. Therefore equating people that advocate killing the disabled, or any innocent human life is not mere hyperbole.

Examples
-“Senator Byrd supports the conservative judge even though he is a Democrat. But Byrd used to be in the KKK, therefore anything he says is wrong.”

-“Pro-life activist Joe Smith used to be in Greenpeace. Therefore all pro-lifers are nutty environmentalists.”

17. Personal Attack (also called Ad Hominem Abusive)
This fallacy deals with the false reasoning that attacks a person instead of her or his claims. Some exceptions to this include when a person is proven to be a pathological liar and therefore cannot be trusted.

Examples:
-“Joy says that doing crack cocaine is wrong, but she is just a conservative do-gooder.”

-“Charles has a problem with abortion on demand; he is such as backwards-thinking redneck.”

-“Joy said that abortion dehumanizes women. What a moron.”

18. Appeal to Ridicule (Appeal to Mockery, The Horse Laugh)
This fallacy deals with ridiculing the person making a claim instead of addressing the claim.

Examples
-“Sure my opponent advocates banning abortion except from life/rape/incest. But that is just laughable.”

-“Those wacky pro-lifers, they think unborn human beings are persons!”

19. Appeal to Tradition
This fallacy states that just because something is older or more established then it is better simply for the reason of being older. The exception to this is when something is better inherently because it is older, such as aged wine.

Examples
-“Abortion has been practiced for a while. Even the ancient Romans practiced abortion sometimes. Therefore it can’t be that bad.” (The Romans also practiced infanticide and torture . . . does that make those okay as well?)

20. Appeal to Novelty
This fallacy states that because something is new it is better. The exception to this is when something is better only because it is new and better condition, such as a new car. But a policy or political opinion is not inherently better just because it is newer.

Examples
-Sally: “I don’t think abortion is such a good thing.”
Sue: “Come on, Sally, get with the times.”

21. Appeal to Consequences of a Belief
This fallacy deals with the supposed consequences of having a belief, rather than logically debating the belief itself.

Examples
-“Making drugs illegal has led to high crime rates. Therefore we should legalize crack cocaine.”

-“If we make almost all abortions illegal, then women will go to back alley abortionists.” (Just because a few women would do this does not make abortion any less of an ending of a human life.)

-“I don’t think a nuclear war is possible. That would just make me sad.” (The key is fighting non-proliferation, not pretending the problem is not there.)

22. Begging the Question
Begging the question involves using a presupposed point to making another point. Often the presumption is not true, and therefore the point is made on false grounds.

Examples
-“Abortion is not a big deal. Those pro-lifers don’t care about the living!”
(This statement begs the question, are the unborn living? The unborn are living; therefore this statement is based on a false assumption and infers that the unborn are not living. Besides this fact, most pro-lifers care about the born as well.)

-“Since pro-lifers don’t care about the environment, then abortion is probably okay.”
(This statement begs the question, do pro-lifers care about the environment? Which many do, but it is somewhat unrelated to the topic at hand, which would make this sentence both begging the question and a red herring.)

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