You’re Using Fallacies and You Don’t Even Know it Part 2: Fallacies in Politics

This is part two of a two-part series on fallacies. Check out examples of Slippery Slope, Post Hoc, Appeal to Authority, and Bandwagon in part one. 

Lately, my television has been infiltrated with political ads. In Florida, my congressional district just had a special election, thus leading to endless personal attacks against David Jolly and Alex Sink from either their campaign managers or varying lobbyists. The instant a political ad would appear, I would press mute. However, it got me thinking about fallacies.

It seems every day and every new election the same arguments of deception and fallacious tropes are used to persuade Americans to vote this way or against that person. Rarely do these advertisements provide valuable information. I always wonder why politicians spend so much money on useless advertisements, but then I realize, these advertisements can’t be useless. They obviously help influence some people’s vote.

Because politicians and their campaign managers realize emotions often trump logic, they use numerous illogical and unpersuasive fallacies to appeal to the masses. Here are some curated examples of fallacies in politics.

Disclaimer: these examples are not a reflection of my, or CopyPress’ political views. 

Ad Hominem “Personal Attack”

The 2012 presidential election was a fun time for fallacy watchers like me. This pro-Romney ad uses the ad hominem fallacy to attack President Obama’s personal character. It claims Obama has a plan to “kill Romney.” This strategy tries to present Obama as a sore loser who will use any means necessary to defeat Mitt Romney, even if it means death.

This dramatic commercial personally attacks Obama’s character, in a strategic and clever way to make it look like Romney is the victim here. After all, Romney needs your help to fight back against this bully.

Begging the Question or Assuming the Answer 

This fallacy, begging the question, uses circulatory reasoning that assumes the conclusion of an argument. It fails to prove anything other than what it has already assumed. In this example, New Hampshire Rep. Bob Kingsbury links state’s kindergarten programs to higher crime rates.

beggingthequestionfallacyVia

The association Kingsbury made doesn’t create a logical premise, nor does he prove his conclusion. Because he thinks children are taken away from their mothers too soon when they enroll in kindergarten, he tries to find statistics to support his claim. The statistics do not create any logical link. This fallacy assumes towns with kindergartens are more dangerous than those without.

Non-Sequitur

Non-sequitur in Latin means “it does not follow.” This fallacy presents a conclusion that does not logically follow the established premises or evidence, so it literally does not make sense. This video presented by flackcheck.org shows a woman telling a story to promote gun rights and testify against legislation banning assault weapons. Though this story may be compelling, it in no way presents an argument against the proposed legislation.

According to Flackcheck.org, “Trotter was testifying against legislation banning assault weapons, but the Remington 870 Express 12-gauge shotgun Ms. McKinley used would not be banned under the proposed legislation.” Therefore, this argument of a narrative does not follow the proposed intention to testify against the legislation – the information is irrelevant, or “does not follow.”

Straw Man

The straw man fallacy, also known as the fallacy of extension, is when an arguer attacks an exaggerated or caricatured version of his opponent’s position. In the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney gave a speech where he attacked President Obama’s character by comparing his administration to Jimmy Carter.

Romney speaks out about Obama’s first term failures. “It was the most anti-small business administration I’ve seen probably since Carter. Who would have guessed we’d look back at the Carter years as the good ol’ days?” said Romney.

He exaggerates Obama’s administration by comparing it to Carter’s, which was remembered for inflation, energy crisis, war in Afghanistan, and hostages in Iran. This emotional appeal tries to worsen Obama’s image by exaggerating his position. Romney attempts to make Carter’s presidency seem light compared to the state of Obama’s presidency.

With a keen ear for deceptive rhetoric, like hyperbolic speech and emotional appeals, you can deduce any politician’s argument techniques to fallacious statements.

About the author

Caroline Campbell