Thursday, July 26, 2012


Alright, folks, it is getting into the home stretch of election time. That means I get angry at every political advertisement I see.

There is a very simple reason for this problem. Almost every political campaign (and the arguments of the candidates' supporters) relies on heavy use of persuasive language. These efforts at persuasion invariably rely on logical fallacies. Why? Because the audience usually does not know enough, does not pay close enough attention, or is too emotionally embroiled to notice. Once those argument slip into the debate, emotions run higher and tend to leave the combatants even more emotionally strung out and even less able to form logical arguments. Am I guilty of using such tactics? Absolutely. If I can raise some one else's blood pressure enough that they aren't thinking well, I'll do it. It makes them more likely to be flustered and not notice the weaknesses in my arguments.

But, as a public service, I want to run down some of the most common fallacies I see in politics.

1. The ad hominem-the personal attack. If you don't want to argue the point, just smear the opponent... I'm sure no one will notice you refused to actually answer the question.

2. The appeal to authority-ummm, I'm not really sure, but that guy with a bunch of degrees says this is so. He must be right.

3. The appeal to emotion-to prove myself right, I will make you feel sorry for my side of the argument.

4. Begging the Question-Have you stopped beating your wife? Simply, the question assumes a premise.

5. Confusing Cause and Effect-gun ownership and food poisoning are both rising, therefore, food poisoning causes gun ownership. Or do I have that backwards....

6. The Straw Man-by not supporting gun control, my opponent is putting guns into the hands of criminals...

Those are just a few that stand out, even though the examples are out of my imagination.

For more reading on the subject look here, here, here, or just Google "logical fallacies." Or, if you want Wikipedia, go here and here.