Fallacy Journal Essay

1693 words - 7 pages

Fallacy 1: Red Herring---Guilt by AssociationThe al Qaeda Cheering SectionThe most telling moment in last night's [State of the Union] speech came after the president noted that "key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year." In response, notes the New York Times, "some critics in Congress applauded enthusiastically." If Osama bin Laden watched the speech, one imagines him applauding too.Analysis of the Example:That Osama bin Laden might approve of the expiration of provisions of the Patriot Act does not show that American critics are wrong to also approve, since the reasons for their approval are different. Some Americans oppose parts of the Patriot Act because they believe that it infringes upon the rights of Americans without significantly helping to prevent terrorism. They may be wrong, but that do not make them an al Qaeda cheering squad.Source: James Taranto, "The al Qaeda Cheering Section," Best of the Web Today, 1/21/2004Fallacy 2: Argumentum ad HominemI wish it were possible for men to get emotionally involved in this question [abortion]. Men can not see it from a woman's point of view. That is why I am concerned that they are not more women in this House available to speak about this from the woman's point of view.Source: House of Commons Debates of Canada, Volume 2, November 30, 1979, p. 1920Analysis of the Example:This is a common type of circumstantial poisoning of the well, which claims that men should either not make a judgment about abortion, or should keep it to themselves if they do. This illustrates the effect that poisoning the well tends to have, which is to forestall opposition in debate. It also shows the mistake underlying all poisoning of the well, since the sex of the arguer is irrelevant to the merits of the argument. No doubt one could always find a woman to advance the argument.Fallacy 3: Red HerringThe operation cost just under $500, and no one was killed, or even hurt. In that same time the Pentagon spent tens of millions of dollars and dropped tens of thousands of pounds of explosives on Viet Nam, killing or wounding thousands of human beings, causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. Because nothing justified their actions in our calculus, nothing could contradict the merit of ours.Source: Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, from his memoir Fugitive Days, defending a bombing attack by the Weathermen on the Pentagon. Quoted in "Radical Chic Resurgent," by Timothy Noah, Slate, 8/22/2001.Analysis of the Example:This is a very clear example of the fallacy. The terrorists tried to justify bombing the Pentagon on the grounds that the Pentagon had unjustifiably bombed Viet Nam. The gist of the fallacy is contained in the last sentence, which claims that the wrongness of the Pentagon's actions justified a similar wrong: "Wrong + wrong = right."Fallacy 4: Hasty GeneralizationThe Tyra Banks show had an African American male guest who chose to voice his opinion of African American women....

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