Thursday, August 10, 2017

Someone doesn't understand the First Amendment

Here is a nice example of a Slippery Slope:

Billboard reads, "Attention: Lunatic Atheists and their Lawyers, Anti-God is Anti-American, Anti-American is Treason, Traitors lead to Civil War"



One of the oldest political tricks in the book

Here is a very nice example of a Red Herring from The Simpsons:


As we can see, Mayor Quimby is trying to distract the public from taxation issues by blaming immigrants for all their problems. Although this episode, "Much Apu About Nothing" originally aired in 1996, current political events reveal the extent to which this is, despite being fallacious, still an enormously effective political strategy.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

John Oliver on Media Consolodation

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I am a big fan of Chomsky and Herman's Propaganda Model of the Media. The first of the five filters that make up this model concern the size, concentrated ownership, and profit-orientation of the media. The argument here is that these factors shape or filter the content of the media we receive in the US.  A very good example of exactly this point comes from an episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver that first aired on July 2, 2017:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Donkey Brain!

Denying or Negating the Antecedent is a formal fallacy that has the following argumentative structure:
  1. If P, then Q.
  2. Not P.
  3. Therefore, not Q
This fallacy is often confused for the valid argument Modus Tollens which has the following structure:
  1. If P, Then Q.
  2. Not Q.
  3. Therefore, not P. 
The comedy show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia presents an excellent example of Denying or Negating the Antecedent in the following clip:


If we reconstruct the argument it goes:

  1. If one has donkey brains, then they make foolish decisions.
  2. Frank does not have a donkey brain.
  3. Therefore, he does not make foolish decisions. 





Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Did doctors really believe this?

Here is a great example of the Appeal to Inappropriate Authority, a fallacy in which one relies on some "putative" expert who shouldn't really be relied upon.

An ad from the 1950's for Camel Cigarettes. The ad copy says, "Mored Doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!"

Note that this ad does not claim that doctors recommend smoking. Instead, it implies that Camel cigarettes are healthier than other cigarettes because more doctors smoke them. While the ad isn't explicit, there is a clear Appeal to Authority in the claim that Camel cigarettes are preferred by doctors.

These ads were fairly common back in the 1950's until the a number of scientific studies started to be released that began to draw a clear connection between smoking and lung cancer. In addition, the FTC began to step up its regulations on tobacco advertising, essentially making ads like this illegal because they implied that some cigarettes were healthier than others or that cigarettes themselves did not pose any health risks. Much of this was dramatized on the TV show Mad Men, particularly the premiere episode "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."

Monday, April 24, 2017

I am pretty sure I have seen alligators on Sesame Street (maybe they were crocodiles?)

Here is another excellent example of a Post Hoc fallacy, this time from the folks at Sesame Street (examples starts at :40):


In this case, the fallacy is pretty clear. Ernie has a banana in his ear. There are no alligators on Sesame Street. Therefore, the banana in the ear is doing a good job of keeping the alligators away. While this example is obviously intended as a joke, it still provides a good example of Post Hoc reasoning.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Propaganda Model of the Media

Here is a fantastic video that nicely illustrates Chomsky and Hermann's Propaganda Model of the Media.


More information on this topic can be found here.
h/t to Kelly Mayhew