The Most Common Fallacies Our Enemies Use

For the closing days of summer, I am posting every chapter of the first edition of Everything You Believe Is Wrong. My enemies ravaged the first edition, inserting typos galore while I was distracted in the service of our people. I here leave their efforts untouched, so that the insidiousness of their behavior is plain. Meanwhile, I am completely revamping and expanding the book, and looking forward to incorporating your comments and criticisms (no need to point out typos and grammar errors). The second edition will be glorious.

This is the last half of Chapter 1: Bad Thinking.

What Fallacies Are

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to work.

Every bad or invalid or unsound argument contains a fallacy or mistake in thinking. Nobody knows the complete list of ways thought can go wrong, and it has even been surmised such a list is endless. History supports this contention. There is ample reason to believe the human race is congenitally insane. The late-great philosopher David Stove (whom we shall hear from again) in his essay “What is wrong with our thoughts”, proposed a nosology of human thought, a science and categorization of deliberative derangements, though it is clear from his many examples that a complete list will be a long time coming, if it ever arrives.

Even if the follies of cognition are infinite, some mistakes are more common than others. Every age has its own favorite forays into fiction, driven by fashion, fad, and fantasy, all of which are enforced by the culture’s self-appointed Watchers. Our Watchers, the majority, are employed by universities, the bureaucracy, and the media-entertainment complex. It is true that some of the treasures under the care of Watchers are genuine gold, but the great and growing bulk of their cache is intellectual pyrite.

The balance of truth versus error shifts in time, yet the current age is more eager than average to ferret away any shiny object it finds and call it precious. It never seems to matter much, and it certainly does not to us, what lies under the Watchers’ gaze. The public almost always grants authority and deference to these masters.

Well, and what choice does the public have? Most of us haven’t the ability to think things out for ourselves. We need guidance, and it is only right to bow to true superiors. The problem comes when a soul steps out of line and moves in the direction the Watchers do not like, which is these days is toward the Truth. Would-be apostates meet stiff resistance. Fallacies therefore have tremendous inertia.

Some mental misconstructions are permanent fixtures. Items in this class are by custom given rich Latin names and are, or were, taught somewhere in the “educational system.” They’re taught badly, it must be surmised, because of the egregious ways people invoke the Latin (typically as magical incantations). In our age, the number of folks fallaciously crying Ad hominem! can’t be counted.

At least for the sake of history, the Latin tags should be learnt by those seeking advanced knowledge. But because that language is receding rapidly into the distance, most of the tags no longer resonate and, as we shall see in more detail, are often misapplied. I have therefore chosen more evocative and memorable nicknames, at least for speakers of English, of the most popular and important fallacies of our day. Since this list is indexed on the current mood, it will have to be updated at the point at which mankind moves to new, or other old and long-forgotten, sophistries.

Common mistakes

Cerebral Stretches

Let’s do some warm-up exercises to limber us up and put us in the mood.

In the scale of human argument, it is so that there are very few instances where we can start with indubitably true premises and move to necessarily true conclusions. We have to look to metaphysics, logic, mathematics, and even theology for the perfection we seek but never or rarely find in ordinary discourse. We’ll here leave much of this perfection alone; it is too rarefied for us. Though the Appendix gives a précis on the subject, which is worth a moment of your time. Worth two good moments, rather.

If we don’t want to tackle the toughest themes, neither do we want to swat at gnats. The examples in this book will therefore not be drawn from the netherworld of thought of the sort found on social media, coffee houses, water coolers and the like. We’ll stick with arguments that pass among the well-credentialed Watchers of our time as being worthy.

In the Appendix, I examine a caution that must be here emphasized: because an argument for a proposition or conclusion has been shown fallacious, this does not prove that all arguments for that conclusion are fallacious. It is merely that the argument in question must be jettisoned. But also keep in mind that if the fallacious argument was all a proposition had going for it, yet the conclusion is still held as true after abandoning the argument, the sole justification for it to be true becomes simple desire, a dangerous and terrifying mistake. The argument for the conclusion then becomes, as we’ll see, the Meta Fallacy.

In each Chapter there is at least one example of a fallacy. I try as much as possible to keep these broad or fictional. Real-life examples are transitory, and nobody likes to read yesterday’s news. I’d hate anybody to think I’m picking on them personally—even if they have it coming. Nevertheless, some examples gleaned from the news were too juicy for me to pass up. Timeliness is not essential for us, so even if the examples given seem stale, their lack of importance is only apparent. The logic behind the take-down lasts forever.

Also keep in mind the anchoring effect (which is not unlike the one in economics). The real-life examples I give are about particular people and subjects, even if fictional. The people and subjects themselves are usually not the main interest. The arguments they use are. But it’s hard to keep our minds off the people and subjects and on the fallacies when the people and subjects are themselves fascinating. The more specific the example, the more it is likely the reader will think it does not apply to him. Thus, though I use plenty of actual words by real people, I make up as much as I can. All stories are inspired by real events, though, and readers will I hope recognize similar situations. It is your duty to do so.

There are a few fallacies that ride above or are attached to the others mentioned in the book. Their import is small or large depending on the context. They must still be recognized, even though we do not need a whole chapter for each. I next outline these.

Horribly Common Mistakes

The Controversial Fallacy is a version of Poisoning The Well. A reporter (it is almost always a reporter) will say, “The Congressman holds the controversial opinion that two men cannot be married to one another”, implying by the use of controversial that the Congressman’s opinion on this or some other matter is false. False the matter may be, but it is not proved false by noting that it is in dispute.

Using the word controversial is just one in a long list of ways reporters (and others) signal their virtue—or, rather, vice. The reporter wants to call the Congressman’s belief false, but he knows the rules say he should not interject himself into the story. He does it anyway, subtly, by using the word “controversial.” If he is called on his fallacy, the weasel will escape with equivocation. He will claim there is a real controversy, and that he was only really reporting on this controversy. But of course he is lying: he used the word to flag his disagreement and to show his office mates he knows which way to think.

On the other hand, it is true in some cases the controversy and not the argument is the story, but when it is, sentences like the reporter’s are superfluous.

The Fallacy of Omission is hard to spot, because it isn’t there. This is when relevant, probative, and pertinent information or evidence related to a proposition is known but isn’t given. Nobody can know all things, and even (genuine) experts in subjects slip up. I do not mean honest mistakes like this. I mean purposeful omission. A prosecutor has evidence which will exculpate the defendant, but he hides it so that he gets a conviction. This is so routine in law and politics that we might also call this The Prosecutor’s Fallacy.

This fallacy is mandated as the official editorial position at every major media outlet when reporting on opposition. Good news about the opposition shall not pass! The fallacy is rife. Politicians and lawyers especially, but no less the media, do not want the truth per se; they want to win. If you are on the side of Light, you should want to win. And politics is different than calm argumentation. The point is the Fallacy of Omission is used to generate propaganda, and propaganda works. I repeat that: propaganda works.

The counter-argument is thus to say that not all things can be said about a proposition in every story. This is so. But evidence that casts great suspicion or directly contradicts or even refutes the proposition at hand, if hid, is always cheating. Always.

As I write, it is popular among a segment of the population to consider ex-President Trump an idiot, and, simultaneously, was an all-controlling evil genius dictator. Evidence is adduced to show the idiocy; for example, that he misspelled a word.

This and other similar data are collected, and the judgment is given. Yet all evidence to the contrary is ignored. Like he headed a company worth billions, a status which all but precludes lack of intelligence, at least to some degree. The difficulty may be with the word intelligent. It is often tacitly conflated with or married to virtuous, a terrible habit. Thus, the President’s intelligence is denied because affirming it is equivalent (to them) of asserting his virtue, which they are loathe to admit, or vehemently deny. We need only assert the truth “Mao was intelligent” to refute this error.

Accepting The Wrong Thing

The Conditional Fallacy is perhaps the commonest error, but it is difficult to grasp. It happens when a local truth is confused with a universal truth. The difference between these is explained in the Appendix.

Briefly, a local truth is a conclusion deduced from a set of premises or assumptions that are in some way false, or are not necessarily or universally true. Given “Murdering men is morally good, and George is a man”, we can deduce “Murdering George is morally good.” The false premise is obvious—but they aren’t always easy to spot.

A universal or necessary truth is a conclusion deduced from a set of premises or assumptions which are themselves necessary truths. Given “7 + x = 4”, we deduce “x = -3.” Notice (as explained in the Appendix), the first premise carries an enormous bag of tacit premises, including knowing the definitions of the words and symbols used. These tacit premises are often forgotten, or confused.

Now, the Conditional Fallacy is committed in practice because most of us are far less intelligent than we’d like to be. It is related to the Fallacy of Omission.

Is abortion wrong? The Conditional Fallacy is often found in arguments answering this question, such as in the slogan, “A woman’s right to choose.” That’s the premise given as proof for the proposition “Abortion is morally permissible.” But the premise is incomplete. Choose what? Well, the choice whether or not to kill the life inside the mother. Asserting this “right” is therefore circular. Whether or not other arguments exist for or against abortion is irrelevant. Good arguments for abortion, if any exist, do not and cannot make this fallacy into a non-fallacy.

The Non-Fallacy Fallacy may also be called the Stubbornness Fallacy or the I Can’t Hear You Fallacy. It happens when you make a decent point or offer a valid argument and your opponent only pretends to have listened or read it. He acts as if he’s discovered an obvious flaw, a mistake not worth his effort to refute. Your argument is brushed away and your opponent moves on.

Bullies like this one. You hear this in interviews with politicians and famous personages. The newsman has just asked a coherent question (it does happen) which if answered truthfully will damn the politician. So the politician sidesteps it. This is so routine I’m embarrassed to even include it because everybody can see through this ploy. The only reason I mention it is exasperation. Why do the newsmen never follow up until they get an answer to their question? Lawyers always do. “Yes or no, Senator…Yes or no, Senator…” Exhaustion and the easy acceptance of lies by our elites is the only explanation I can think of. The British, God bless them, are particularly adept at this fallacy.

The related It’s Been Refuted So You Can Ignore It Fallacy will be used in answer to all of the arguments in this book by lazy debased reviewers or critics. They will say “The argument he used has been refuted a hundred times. Don’t bother with it.”

Oh yeah, big guy? If it’s so easy to refute, then go ahead and refute it. We’ll wait right here for you. This is close to the Bullshitting Fallacy, where the critic hopes you’ll take his word for it, but where he does not want you to test him.

Means & Extremes

The Little Big Fallacy is difficult. Here’s an example. I say “Men are stronger than women on average”, which is true. You, fresh from the latest superhero movie, say “No! Some women are stronger than some men, which implies women and men are equal!” Propaganda works.

The fallacy also works in the other direction. I say “Boys are at the top of mathematical ability”. You say, “The average scores of boys and girls are the same; therefore, boys are girls are equal.” Accepting the scores are equal does not disprove the observation more boys than girls score best.

Concise definition of the Little Big Fallacy: If you argue the average, your opponent declares an exception; where you argue the exception, your opponent points to the average. In each case he does sp to imply the opposite is true.

More examples: you say “Most men who becomes homosexual were introduced to the lifestyle while young by older men”. Your opponent says, “You can’t say that. Some men say they have always felt gay”, thus implying all who adopt homosexuality were born that way, ignoring the evidence that a great many men underwent a form of initiation. Or you say “Some homosexuals engage in `bug-chasing’, where they purposely seek out HIV infection”, your opponent will say, “You hater, you’re trying to paint all homosexuals with that brush”, thus implying you claimed all homosexuals were bug chasers, which is a lie.

Bug chasing is, alas, a real phenomenon.

That Argument Can Put An Eye Out!

Here’s an even more controversial argument, chosen because of its controversy, to make a crucial point. Deep breath first, then. And then again after. Blowing up without considering the argument is the Blowing Up Fallacy.

You say, “Most Jews in the USA are progressives, and progressives hold false and harmful beliefs.” The reaction to this will likely start with accusations of “anti-Semitism”, which might even be true, but which do not disprove the proposition. Supposing the name calling to have failed, your opponent might invoke the Little Big Fallacy and say, “You can’t paint all Jews with the same brush, which is anti-Semitic.” But you only painted a number less than all, not all.

Notice very carefully the point is not whether this proposition is true or false. I choose this example deliberately because it highlights the crucial Harm Fallacy or Consequence Fallacy. Your opponent hears you support a controversial proposition, and if he thinks no one can overhear, he may grant you the argument—he agrees with you—but he will say that it should not be spoken aloud because it could lead to harm if enough people believe what you both acknowledge as true.

This opinion about harm caused by the truth being known may itself become true. Assume it would. The temptation will then be to cast doubt on the proposition because of that potential for harm. When this maneuver is done, it results in a pure fallacy. The proposition stands regardless of how people act on it.

If the speaker of the proposition instead chooses to keep his mouth shut because he too fears the harm, there is no fallacy. “Noble lies”, however, are fallacies. Silence may be more or less prudential depending on a host of exterior (to the proposition) matters, none of which are relevant to the truth of falsity of the proposition. We see this same thing crop up later in discussing differences between the races.

The next, and related, mistake is the Implication Fallacy, a.k.a. Keep Yer Mouth Shut Fallacy a.k.a. the Hate Fact Fallacy, in which a truth is uttered but where your hostile opponent not only pressures you to keep quiet but uses the desire that the hate fact not be true to argue it is not true, in the same way putting a telescope to a blind eye allows you to say there is no signal from the Admiral to withdraw. For instances of this fallacy, see most official bannings from social media platforms and “cancel culture” in general. The desire that hate facts not exist leads to the second biggest fallacy of them all (the biggest we meet last in the book).

This is the Meta Fallacy. Though it’s not the commonest fallacy, is the most devastating of all in daily use. This fallacy occurs when an argument upon which a man has been relying in support of a proposition is shown to be fallacious, yet the man still regards the proposition true because the argument is fallacious. This sounds insane, and it is. The Meta Fallacy is related, in a backward way, to the Controversial Fallacy. The Meta Fallacy has its own Chapter, but its powers of destruction means it cannot have enough emphasis.

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Categories: Philosophy

9 replies »

  1. Where does a most common fallacy fit in? Specifically, the “begging the question” fallacy?

  2. Proper propaganda must be tailored to the audience. Most of the public are quite vulnerable to fallacies. Let’s see how to get each group to believe “Idea A is bad.”

    The first segment of the population is what I’ll call the low, or no, information voter (LIV for short.) They do not do any research on the issue in question, usually due to not caring. Sometimes this is a rational choice (you can’t keep track of everything), other times it is from a broader apathy. But in any case, they are best targeted by repetition and the opinions of the majority. If they inundated with ads saying “Idea A is bad”, hear “Idea A is bad” on the news and in their entertainment, and are surrounded by friends and relatives who say “Idea A is bad”, then they will believe it too. No real argument is needed.

    Next you have NPCs. These people are interested in ideas, but not very deep thinkers. They will largely do what they are told, but they need just a little more than repetition. What works best with them are the following:

    -Appeals to authority: “The experts say idea A is bad!”
    -Emotional appeals: “You’d have to be a bad person to support idea A!”
    -Dodging the argument by mockery “I can’t believe that you’d REALLY be so foolish as to support a debunked idea like A!”

    Next you have the midwits. They are involved and unlike NPCs they actually can parse a longer argument. But they are far less smart than they think they are (despite being most prideful of their intelligence) and they are fundamentally dishonest. They need a more in depth argument, but it doesn’t really matter if it is a valid argument or not, as long as it meets the minimum complexity threshold. This is where you start to get to the fun fallacies. From your list, poisoning the well, the conditional fallacy, the little big fallacy, the blowing up fallacy, the harm fallacy and the implication fallacy all work well on midwits. They are also fond of what I’ll call the “fallacy fallacy” where they dismiss opposing arguments by calling them fallacious, using names, even when the arguments are assuredly not fallacious. For example, dismissing the argument “P necessarily leads to Q and P is true, so Q will follow” as “the slippery slope fallacy” even as they continue to accept the proposition “P necessarily leads to Q” and “P is true.”

    Once you’ve convinced these three groups you’ve probably reached about 80% of the population, making the remainder an unnecessary bonus in a democracy.

  3. In addition to these, I’ve long argued that virtually every (and lately I’ve been dropping the “virtually”) leftist argument against “the right” is a strawman or projection, and often both.

  4. JerryR–I’d wager that far more than ninety percent of people think “begging the question” means “raising the question”.

  5. A reporter (it is almost always a reporter) will say, “The Congressman holds the controversial opinion that two men cannot be married to one another”, implying by the use of controversial that the Congressman’s opinion on this or some other matter is false.

    Does the use of controversial implies that the Congressman’s opinion is false to you or the reporter? I have used the word controversial to mean what the dictionary says it means.

    Isn’t an opinion subjective? Can it be objectively true or false?

    More examples: you say “Most men who becomes homosexual were introduced to the lifestyle while young by older men (A)”. Your opponent says, “You can’t say that. Some men say they have always felt gay (B)”, thus implying all who adopt homosexuality were born that way(C), ignoring the evidence that a great many men underwent a form of initiation(D).

    Is A true? While B doesn’t falsify A, it implies neither C nor ignores D. What is the form of initiation? Do a great many heterosexual men underdo the form of initiation too?
    “Boys are at the top of mathematical ability,” “The average scores of boys and girls are the same; therefore, boys are girls are equal,” and “More boys than girls score best” are obviously three different statements. They don’t negate one another, do they?

    There are boys and girls at the top of mathematical ability. Equal in average scores? Are we talking about boys and girls in the 4th grade or 8th grade? (Check it out. You might be surprised.)

    My conclusion: You and your opponent are terrible at understanding each other… unless they are just shooting the breeze and not trying to negate one another.

  6. I like the most that the same guy who dissects delusions deeply, posts the chap Ianto.

    * By the way, soon, somewhere around 2025, the Neuronet era will begin (as plan), and delusions will be impossible. It is agreed, don’t worry, and relaxx.
    Everything’s going to be all right.

    The main stages of the development of the Neuronet, Source: Pavel Luksha. Presentation “Roadmap for the development of the Neuronet”, 2014

    BiometriNet (pre-Neuronet) (2014-2024), The onset of the Neuronet (2025-2035), Full-Fledged Neuronet (2035+)

    “When Biometrinet becomes commonplace, the “Neuronet Offensive” will begin (2025-2035), during which communication protocols based on digital models of mental processes will be developed and approaches to organizing a “collective consciousness” capable of “brainstorming” and solving tasks that require the concerted efforts of many people will be found.”

  7. And by the way, I know I don’t have the right to vote, but I want to vote for Briggs to publish guest articles of people who get almost all their information about that distant country (you know) from… the semi-smart or controlled opposition Riley (and the amazing Rollo). I want to see what they write about something they don’t know. It’ll be fun.

    (*They don’t know what they’re saying at all. Because in order to know, they have to know the subject well, and then they will know what these two are not saying. When they know what they don’t say, they’ll know what they’re really saying. (And most of all, they will understand why these two say what they say and from where they borrow it.. Because these are undoubtedly not their opinionsey.)

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