Examine the embedded advertisement
Locate one fallacy.
Name the fallacy.
Explain how it relates to the pictorial element(s) in the advertisement.
Post must be a minimum of 250 words.
Comment on a minimum of two peer posts in at least 100 words, discussing the following:
appropriateness of fallacy;
thoroughness of application;
whether it does or does not appear to suit the advertisement;
any helpful praise or suggestions.
A fallacy is a logic error created by poor use of evidence or a flawed inference. That is, if you
have too little evidence (quotations, data, statistics, anecdotes, etc.), it is easy to misinterpret or
make too much out of what you have. There are a number of fallacies that are traditionally
faulty ways of making logical leaps based on too little evidence. Many of the problems of our
world, including racism, nationalism, sexism, and the attitudes that create terrorism, can be
linked to fallacious thinking. Learning what the fallacies are is important so that you can spot
them in your thinking and in arguments you read or hear. If you want a general rule to
follow, however, to make sure that you do not litter your thinking with fallacies, remember
that all you need to do is have enough general and specific evidence to support what you are
saying. If you do enough research, you will not jump to ridiculous conclusions, which is what
fallacies ultimately are.
Below are a number of fallacies, but they are certainly not all of the fallacies. There are too
many of these to cover in a basic English class, but you might encounter many more of them in
a philosophy or logic course. Think of these as the beginning of what you should know.
These are based on misunderstandings of logic, emotions, or ethics.
Lack of Logic
Faulty Use of Authority—This fallacy occurs when the writer states that a concept is true
simply because an expert has stated that it is true. Expertise can help develop your credibility,
but you should not think of experts as infallible. To say that someone is an expert is to
acknowledge that that person has a good deal of learning and experience in a particular field,
but that is not the same thing as arguing he or she is always right. So, while writers might
begin by quoting experts, they must then follow by explaining and proving the point they are
trying to make with logic and direct evidence. When you are writing, remember that the point
of writing a paper is to explain a concept, and if all you do is say that something must be true
because your expert said so, you are not explaining a concept.
Biased Sample—Statistics are an important part of many arguments; however, gathering
statistics is a difficult job meant for professionals. Often these statistics are badly gathered.
When writing, you should be sure to explain where you get your statistics, and when listening
to arguments, you should demand to know where arguers get their statistics, how they are
gathered, and who the population is. For example, someone might argue that most people
enjoy drinking and gambling. But if that statistic were gathered exclusively in a casino, that
statistic would be unfairly biased.
Post Hoc Ergo Prompter Hoc (Faulty Cause)—This fallacy suggests that because one event
occurred before another event, the first event must have caused the second event. Now, it
might be true that the first event caused the second event, but as a critical thinker, you should
show and demand to be shown how the first event is the agent of change for the second. All
superstition is based on post hoc ergo prompter hoc. Some people pick up a penny, and then
something good happens to them. They assume that the penny caused the good thing to
happen because it happened first.
This logic is obviously flawed, but it is no less flawed than the argument that states that
President X entered office and then there was inflation; therefore President X caused the
inflation. It might be true that President X caused the inflation, but the evidence for that chain
of events must be shown.
Equivocation-When people commit the equivocation fallacy, they have a word meaning one
thing at one point and another thing later. English is a complex language, and words often
have dual even conflicting meanings. When writers use this fact to change the meaning of
their concepts according to the whim of their arguments, then they are equivocating.
For example, the word “good” means both “talented” and “morally righteous.” If the writer
uses it to mean one thing at one time and another later, he or she is equivocating.
False Analogy—Analogies, metaphors, and other figures of speech can make writing more
vivid and accessible. However, there is a danger in using them. Sometimes when comparing
two things, the analogy is inaccurate, and what the comparison suggests does not make sense.
For example, often when discussing the politics of war, we are warned that we will be
entering another Vietnam War. Such thinking is dangerous because the conditions that
existed during the Cold War in the United States and Vietnam do not exist in the same way
today, and if we continue to fight previous wars, we will ignore the truths that exist today.
Begging the Question—When writers beg the question, they make a statement that suggests
that the question being argued has been proved. That is, the phrasing of the statement or the
question asked is slanted in such a way that if the basic premise of the question or statement is
taken at face value, there is one possible conclusion. For example, if someone is arguing for
the death penalty and makes the following statement, he or she is guilty of begging the
question: “The death penalty is just because the state executes people who deserve to die.” Of
course, the point of the paper is to prove that some people deserve to die, but the premise of
the statement assumes that very idea.
The classic example of begging the question is asking leading questions such as, “Have you
stopped robbing people yet?” This kind of question is not allowed in a court of law because it
is impossible to answer in such a way that suggests innocence.
Non-Sequitor—The term “non-sequitor” means “it does not follow.” This is a basic misstep of
logic where a writer’s evidence does not suggest or prove what is being argued.
For example, the idea that Nando is a good doctor only if he has made a good deal of money
in his profession does not logically follow. Whether or not someone has made money has to
do with money management skills, not moral or ethical values or professional skills.
The argument that nuclear weapons are safe because they prevented a war with the Soviet
Union does not logically follow. The weapons are either safe or not because they have or do
not have safeguards. The war with the Soviet Union is another matter entirely.
Appeal to Tradition—Some people believe that if a concept has stood the test of time, it must
be a good idea. This is not logically sound. Of course, traditions are often valuable, but that is
not to say that tradition makes an idea more or less valuable. There are any number of
traditional ways of thinking that are clearly wrong or immoral, such as slavery, despotism,
sexism, and nationalism. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that because generations of
people you admired believed something, you should believe that same thing.
Misuses of Emotion
False Dilemma—A dilemma is a choice between two things, but very seldom in life do true
dilemmas exist. There simply are not many times when we must choose between two
extremes. More often, gray areas exist, and most people’s ideas are more moderate than
extreme. However, in a political system that stresses two parties, political arguments are often
framed as being either completely liberal or conservative, and people with loyalty are
expected to abandon their middle views and take on the extreme view of their party. Do not
feel pressured to choose between two views.
For example, the menu choice of soup or salad is a true dilemma. However, the idea that you
must either believe that marijuana should be completely legalized or should be made
completely illegal under all circumstances is a false dilemma. There are certainly more
options between those two extremes.
Slippery Slope—This fallacy suggests that one small event will inevitably lead to some larger
consequence. Those who make this argument have the belief that if one small thing happens,
somehow the people of the world will lose the ability to make reasonable choices on this
subject in the future. The argument that banning military assault weapons will inevitably lead
to people banning hand guns for personal protection is an example of the slippery slope
fallacy. Clearly, the for banning these weapons are different, and someone trying to ban both
of them would have to make two very different arguments.
Other people argue that we should not allow gay marriage because it will lead to marriage to
animals. This argument assumes that if we allow gay marriage, we will all suddenly lose the
ability to reason.
Ad Populum—The ad populum fallacy makes an argument that is meant to appeal to the
presumed shared values of the target audience. This same fallacy happens all the time in
advertising when advertisers suggest that buying their product is in some way American.
Some go so far as to suggest that we buy a certain brand of cheese because it is from
California. While there might be some aspect of California cheese that is better than any other,
the advertiser does not explain this idea, and we are left with the idea that if we love our
neighbors, we should buy their cheese.
Faulty Emotional Appeal—While emotion may have a part to play in any argument, your
emotions can be used to deceive or confuse you. If the emotion takes over the argument to the
point that the logic of the argument has become irrelevant or secondary, the arguer is
committing the faulty emotional appeal fallacy. At most, the emotional appeal should be
secondary or tertiary. It should never overwhelm the audience.
Disingenuous charities often use this technique. They will show you images or tell stories of
people who are in great need. Your first reaction will be one of guilt, but what you should be
asking yourself and the charity is whether or not those people who you are meant to feel sorry
for will be receiving money. Often, the answer is no.
Appeal to Fear—Appeal to fear is a special kind of faulty emotional appeal, and it is used
quite often. In this fallacy, we are made to believe that we should be reacting quickly and with
extremity because something is menacing us. These sorts of arguments are used in politics
very often. When Candidate Vinnick wants us to vote for her, she will often frame the
argument as being a choice between some terrifying future and peace. Politicians who claim
to be tough on crime or tough on anything sometimes use this technique. Unscrupulous
politicians will often use some groups or minorities as the object of fear. Thus, discussion of
topics such as immigration is often framed in terms of fear instead of logic.
Band-wagon—This fallacy suggests that if many people do something, then there must be
great value in it. Most people have succumbed to peer pressure in their lives. Band-wagoning
takes peer pressure to an extreme. Think of the number of times you have been asked to buy
products because many other people own that product. The people who use this fallacy
suggest that there is great value in being exactly like everyone else in the world or that if an
idea is commonly believed, it must be true.
Misleading Vividness—This kind of fallacy occurs when a writer describes an individual event
in great detail that is an exception to what generally actually happens. Because the event is
dramatic and confounding, it is memorable, but it does not represent what is actually
happening. Very often when the news reports crime, it reports individual events without
discussing statistics. Because individual crimes are dramatic, we could have the
misconception that crime is all around us constantly, and of course, that belief improves the
news shows’ ratings. However, if the stories are taken out of context, then they do not reflect
the reality of crime, and they are not truly news.
Ad Hominem—An ad hominem attack ignores the ideas of an argument entirely and attacks the
person who is making the argument on personal grounds. For example, someone might argue
that an idea is not true because the arguer is an alcoholic or does not follow a certain religion.
If you are a serious thinker, you should attack the idea, not the person. This fallacy is similar
to the faulty use of authority fallacy where someone says that idea must be true if an expert
says that it is. This is the opposite. It suggests that if someone is repugnant enough, nothing
he or she says can be believed.
For example, “Hitler was a vegetarian; therefore, I eat meat.” This statement plays on our
condemnation of the atrocities of the Second World War, but vegetarianism has nothing to do
with those events.
Poisoning the Well—Closely related to the ad hominem fallacy, poisoning the well occurs when
someone starts a statement by presenting negative information about an arguer. This
information might be true or false, but because the argument is framed as coming from
someone who has faults, the focus is off the argument and on the faults of the person.
For example, “Senator X was caught with a stripper last week, and this week he is arguing that
we should have more family-friendly television shows.” The first part of the argument is a
distraction and has absolutely nothing to do with the actual argument, but it is meant to
confuse the reader or listener into thinking that nothing Senator X has to say could possibly be
Double Standard—This fallacy suggests that different people should be held to different
criteria. For example, women are often held to a higher standard in the workplace than men
are. They are expected to have a different dress code and moral code.
Red Herring—You probably call the red herring fallacy “dodging the question.” The original
metaphor refers to the practice of drawing smelly fish across a person’s trail to throw off dogs
that are tracking him. It is another way to say the same thing. In the red herring fallacy, the
arguer will ignore the question entirely and try to change the premise of the argument.
For example, if a person is arguing about the morality of the death penalty and then switches
the discussion to state that the death penalty is an expensive option, then that person has
committed the red herring fallacy. It is important to stay focused on the same topic and the
same terms of an argument.
Straw Man—In the straw man fallacy, a person’s original argument is distorted, making it
seem ridiculous, extreme, and easier to refute. For example, if Billy argues that the pro-life
argument is an excuse to take away women’s rights, he is making a straw man out of that
position. He is exaggerating the position of his opponents, making them seem irrational,
hateful, and mean simply to attack them more easily. Think of this fallacy as building a straw
man just to knock it down.
Two Wrongs Make a Right—When people make the argument that two wrongs make a right,
they are beginning with the premise that they are wrong. This is a foolish way to begin an
argument, and it is self-defeating (or at least it should be). This fallacy argues that what the
arguer believes is wrong, but others were wrong before and their wrongness justifies the
The argument that states that heroin should be legal because tobacco is legal commits this
fallacy. It starts with the notion that heroin legalization is bad, but that other bad things have
Hasty Generalization—A hasty generalization asks people to assume a conclusion before all
the facts are in. For example, if you see someone who is overweight and happy, and you
assume that all overweight people are happy, you are committing a hasty generalization. The
only way to know if all overweight people are happy is to get to know every single
overweight person. Until this happens, you have not gathered all the evidence necessary to
make that judgment. All racism, sexism, nationalism and other types of prejudice are based
on this fallacy.
Guilt by Association—Similar to ad hominem, this fallacy assumes that if bad people believe
something, it must be wrong. For example, some people believe that vegetarianism cannot be
a good thing because Hitler was a vegetarian, but Hitler’s penchant for destruction had
nothing to do with his distaste for meat. Be careful. You will often see arguments framed in
terms of who is for or against them. These arguments should have no bearing on whether you
think an idea is right or wrong. Very good people can be wrong, and very bad people can be
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