The effective use of rhetoric can spur people into action for worthy causes, bring about positive health changes, and even persuade one to finish a college education. In contrast, like most things in life, what can be used for good can also be used in a negative way to elicit emotions such as outrage, fear, and panic. This type of rhetoric often uses fallacious statements in an appeal to emotion which complicates the matter even more as the emotions are misdirected. Unfortunately, the daily newspapers are filled with numerous examples of fallacious statements. Within the past week, the following five examples appeared in the New York Times and USA Today. The examples included statements that demonstrated scapegoating, slippery slope, ad hominem, straw man, line-drawing, arguments from outrage, and arguments from envy.
The first example, in an article about the current condition of income and wealth in the United States, the author stated that the fact that Americans are earning less and worth less than four years ago was started by the “financial crisis and the sharp decline in the value of homes, the principal asset of Americans, followed by the sharp drop in the stock prices. The crisis led to stubbornly high unemployment that cut income for many Americans and made wage increases harder to obtain for those who did hold on to their jobs” (Norris, 2012). The drop in housing prices is used as a scapegoating technique for the general financial condition of Americans. Scapegoating is a technique that places blame on a specific group for a certain circumstance (Moore & Parker, 2012, p. 187). By placing blame on the housing industry, Norris attempts to demonstrate that the American public is largely experiencing financial woes due to the drop in housing prices.
While it is true that housing prices did decline sharply between 2006 and 2010, the article does not provide the full picture. By ignoring the years prior to 2006, the author limits the perspective of the reader. When one reviews the full ten year period from 2000 through 2010, the data shows that there was a substantial increase in housing prices from 2000 through 2006, with some states showing increases of up to 120% over that timeframe (Mulbrandon, 2012). Though there was a decrease over the next four years, the full ten year period resulted in moderate increases over that time period in every state except Michigan. In reality, what happened between 2000 and 2006 was that too many Americans got caught up in a buying frenzy, believing that housing prices would not go down, overextended their mortgage beyond what they could afford, and then suffered when the housing bubble burst. This brought many negative consequences as a result of consumers not using their own critical thinking skills.
The second article reviewed provided an example of a slippery slope argument combined with a scare tactic. The article title
was “Prescription drug overdoses plague New Mexico”...