We’ve all done battle with the infamous basement-dwelling keyboard warriors on the internet. Many of us have had real life encounters with unbelievably stupid idiots that you just know finished watching Alex Jones and went out to the grocery store looking to edu-ma-cate some librul idgits on the “facts” of real-world politicking. They’re out there, and their arguments are hollow. Here we examine some of their most common fallacies and how to combat them using logic.
We’ve provided examples, how to spot them, and how to counter them:
1. The Straw Man Argument
Let’s start with a text book definition of this type of argument:
“A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be ‘attacking a straw man.'”
The idea is to take one concept and oversimplify the argument to make it seem like something its not. Then, as people attempt to use logic to take it down, the attacker just doubles down on the incorrect argument. However, this is not really logic. Check out this example.
Recently, after the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway had an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN. Upon being asked if the firing of Comey was a cover-up, Conway responded:
“He’s wrong, it’s not a coverup. In fact, the president makes very clear in his letter the fact that Mr. Comey on three occasions assured him he is not under investigation.”
When the firing of Comey hit the news, Trump’s spokespeople were ALL claiming that Comey was fired because of his mishandling of the Clinton email scandal. This remained their argument until Trump himself stated that he was indeed fired because of the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.
It doesn’t take a master puzzle-solver to put the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle together. We all know that Conway’s statement was false. We all heard Comey state, under oath, that there were indeed active investigations into the ties between the Trump administration and the Russians. Cooper pressed her as the interview continued and her tact was to constantly repeat the false statement until Cooper finally stated:
“I’m not sure that many people believe this doesn’t restore confidence in the FBI. In fact, a lot of people are raising questions about saying that it destroys people’s confidence in the FBI.”
How To Spot:
The straw man attack is usually pretty easy to spot. Simple research will allow all the ammunition needed to knock the argument down. The easiest thing to do is to make sure that the opposition actually made the claim that the attacker is saying they did. In this case, we have a ton of substantive evidence that the president is under investigation.
Just because the president wrote a bizarre paragraph in the letter to Comey announcing his firing doesn’t make that investigation go away:
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
The straw man being attacked is the Clinton email scandal. Although Comey was fired in a vain attempt to stop the Russia investigation, Trump’s spokespeople were trying to claim that Comey was fired because of the unsuccessful investigation in the emails. When the Russian connection is mentioned, that bizarre paragraph will be brought up and the erroneous claim that Comey assured the president that there was no investigation will be reinforced — and the conversation will be pointed back to the email scandal.
How To Counter:
Since they are easy to spot, they are also pretty easy to counter. Simply ask your opponent for proof and their argument will fall apart quickly. Steer them back to the actual matter, rather than allowing them to continue on the deflection path.
2. The False Dilemma Fallacy
This fallacy involves assuming that there are only two solutions to a problem. RWNJs love to do this. They try to make you think that there are only two solutions to a problem: their solution and the wrong solution. Many problems are not so black and white. Here is one example. Suppose a politician says:
“We have to decide if we are going to support school choice or if we are going to support failing schools.”
This assumes that our only options are supporting for-profit schools or letting public schools fail when there are so many other possibilities.
Republicans have also used this same tact when addressing the healthcare crisis in our country. They maintain that we must repeal the ACA and settle for Trumpcare as opposed to opting for the many other solutions available:
- Expand the ACA to include additional coverage and provisions left out of the original
- Expand Medicare and convert the ACA to a single-payer system
- Expand Medicare and convert it to a universal healthcare system covered by taxes
How To Spot:
Unless there is a logical reason why there would only be two solutions, ask your opponent why he is offering only two options. Chances are they will double-down on the two options, which normally can be classed as “bad” and “worse.”
How To Counter:
Once you have spotted the false dilemma, start asking your opponent about other options, and that will usually shatter their credibility. Be prepared to highlight the other options available and the steps needed to at least begin the process of implementation of the better options.
For instance – it doesn’t do any good to just say “Fund public schools” without emphasizing the benefits that funding public education will bring. Likewise, it doesn’t do any good to just lobby for universal healthcare if you don’t present a plan to achieve your goal.
Go Forth And Do Battle
We’ve only covered the two most common types of arguments used by RWNJs here, but there are many more.
- The Appeal to Authority
- The Appeal to Fear
- The Appeal to the Masses
- The Achilles Heal Fallacy
- The Ad Hominem Attack
- Shifting the Onus of Truth
- The Red Herring
We’re not going to elaborate on all of them. You can visit the primary source we started with at Daltonator.net if you want more. The best weapon you can have in your arsenal is KNOWLEDGE. General MacArthur studied Rommel and read Rommel’s book on strategy in order to decimate him on the battlefield. Know your enemy. Know your topic. Stay calm and even-keeled when presenting any counter-argument. You will not win if you allow yourself to get angry. Reason and logic. We must take the high road if we are to regain control of our government and our country.
Featured image via YouTube screenshot.