I yesterday stumbled upon this list, Master List of Logical Fallacies, assembled by Owen M. Williamson at the University of Texas at El Paso. He’s come up with 146 of them. It is quite a joy ride to read through them, so many of them updated to modern times, as in #90, “Overexplaining, aka “Mansplaining”. Some I like very much and think are justifiably called “fallacies,” such as #146, “Zero Tolerance:
The contemporary fallacy of declaring an “emergency” and promising to disregard justice and due process and devote unlimited resources (and occasionally, unlimited cruelty) to stamp out a limited, insignificant or even nonexistent problem.
My experience with ZT is in our schools. Administrators cast a negative pall over any targeted behavior (“bullying”) and eliminate due process. They apply standardized mindless punishment without a day in court for the accused. It’s nasty business, as I see it, allowing school officials off the hook. Each incident of behavior needs thoughtful and just inquiry into alleged behaviors, meting out measured and just punishment when someone is found guilty. But who the hell has time for that? (It’s lazy too.)
When I was in college, a small land grant college in Billings, Montana, I took a course in logic, sophomore level. I had so much fun that I could not wait to get to the three and four-level courses, but there were none. There was only that one, and I would guess that it too was subsequently taken down. Nonetheless, it was fun working with syllogisms, and the most fun of all was working with logical fallacies. We were given the standard ones, such as ad hominem, appeal to authority, appeal to the galleries, post hoc ergo propter hoc, and my favorite, the complex question. (President Nixon replied to an embedded accusation in a question posed by Dan Rather by saying “I quit beating my wife too.” The question “Do you still beat your wife” is the classic example of the CQ. Either answer, yes or no, is an admission of guilt.)
I left that classroom feeling armed for debate, knowing I could undermine any argument with my new knowledge. I discovered that fallacies are not that easy to spot, and are often buried in sophisticated prose. It takes work.
Williamson has done a good job with his list, but there are some annoyances within, such as referring too his colleagues as “scholar” Lara Bhasin or “scholar” Marc Lawson. There must be some fallacy at work here, and I think it is contained in professional jabber … within universities the term “scholar” is a robe worn by anyone with whom there is mutual agreement and admiration. In larger society, I would call it the “expert label” fallacy, which is so common as to be used by every talking head, every public official. It’s a way of inserting lies into news and political exchanges, since as used the term “expert” gives license to tell lies. Without it, we would have no pandemic, and would not have our backs against the wall to accept a “vaccine” of unknown origin and purpose.
Here’s another one we all know about, #26, The Big Lie Technique.
The contemporary fallacy of repeating a lie, fallacy, slogan, talking-point, nonsense-statement or deceptive half-truth over and over in different forms (particularly in the media) until it becomes part of daily discourse and people accept it without further proof or evidence.
Williamson does not use the word “Hitler”, to his credit, but “Nazi” is there, along with “Gulf of Tonkin”, the latter indeed a big lie. His final example is,
The November, 2016 U.S. President-elect’s statement that “millions” of ineligible votes were cast in that year’s American. presidential election appears to be a classic Big Lie.
That’s something we need to look at, something “scholars” would be well-tasked to examine in detail, as Trump’s statement, while serving a purpose, was also used to squeeze out of the picture the problem of electronic voting, wherein there is no longer need to count votes. It could be mere misdirection. Elections are now “pre-stolen”, and there is no longer any need to stuff ballot boxes or run third-party vote-splitting candidates like Ross Perot or Teddy Roosevelt to assure the election of the desired victors, Bill Clinton and Woodrow Wilson. These days it is done with the flip of a switch, the actual “Big Lie” being something like the 2020 election being the “most secure in US history.” Nothing could be further from the truth. No election outcome is secure any longer, a direct result of HAVA, the Help America Vote Act, passed in the wake of 2000 and Dade County, used to justify replacement of paper ballots with electronic voting machines.
Nonetheless, if you have some time and want a fun ride, I urge you to review Williamson’s list, yellow highlighter in hand. It is good clean fun. But I do want to add a few more fallacies he may have missed:
The Conspiracy Fallacy: Using this tool, most people and all officials are able to destroy any argument from evidence by ridiculing the notion that powerful people work together to achieve ends to the detriment of everyone. The Pandemic is one such scam, but the conspiracy fallacy is so deeply embedded in American consciousness that people fear to give voice to simple arguments like “They could be lying, you know.” “Hey man, what have you got there, some kind of conspiracy candy?”
The Don’t Dare Run Over My Dogma Fallacy: This technique is used in science to destroy anyone who speaks out against unscientific practices. “Climate Change” and the Pandemic are controlled in this manner, insiders afraid to speak up. Those who do speak out are removed of their funding or even outright fired. (It could also be called the STFU Fallacy.) It is common and widespread, Galileo Galilei a noted victim. Dr. Peter Duesberg spoke out against the AIDS/HIV hoax, and lost his laboratory and funding at Berkeley. He is tenured, but reduced to classroom work. Dr. Kary Mullis, Nobel Laureate and inventor of the PCR machine, spoke out against use of the device to diagnose disease, at that time AIDS. He died in August of 2019, six months in advance of the Pandemic, wherein his machine has been wrongly used to diagnose disease. Here I find use of the word “Assassination” as perhaps literal in use. Surely Mullis, if alive, would be speaking out against his machine in wrong hands.
The Planted Rumor Fallacy: This is a device used in public policy where rumors, deliberately planted, travel far and wide and become part of the “debate”. For instance, in a recent debate with a relative, I was told “I believe that scientists were working on a virus that got out of the laboratory and now is widespread.” It’s no accident he thinks that, as such a rumor serves as misdirection, keeping public officials secure in their Big Lie, that viruses exist and cause disease.
It could also be called ,,,
The Misdirection Fallacy. Public officials don’t lie very much. They don’t need to. Lies can be exposed. It is far better for them to misdirect, as with Planted Rumors, or false (not real) conspiracies. For instance, we discovered on this blog that pop icon Paul McCartney is a set of twins, possibly identical. This was far more apparent in the early days, when both twins performed, stepping in and out of each other’s shoes. The original “Paul,” the cute one, retired in later years, their differences becoming too easy to spot in public. But in those early days, when observant fans might have noticed there were two of them, a rumor was circulated that original Paul had died in a car crash (9/11/67) and had been replaced by a lookalike, Billy Shears.
See how the Misdirection Fallacy is used? As they say, if the wrong question is asked, the answer does not matter.
This is fun! Williamson, to a large degree, has identified techniques of argumentation that fall into general categories (ad hominem, for example) but splintered them into many sub-fallacies. Hence, 146 and, probably, counting.
I invite readers in the comments to add their own, with the understanding that we are never above or exempt from victimization by fallacious attacks and arguments. Williamson himself is victim of many, and would, most likely, be the last to know.In my lifetime, I can only begin to count my own mistakes, and have to accept that I am susceptible at all times and must try to stay ever-vigilant.