A Tale of Two Journalists
A long time ago, there were two competing journalists. One was a guy who just wanted to print anything to sell newspapers, and the other was one who stood for journalistic integrity. One had a castle on a hill in California, while the other didn’t. One stood to uphold ethics and integrity in news reporting, while the other was fine spinning the truth to sell newspapers. It’s rumored that he even started a war once, just to sell more newspapers. These two men, William Randolph Hearst, and Joseph Pulitzer, formed the basis of modern journalism, and forged a divide in reporting style that still exists today.
One would think that in the time since then, journalism has moved more toward the more ethical model, favored by Pulitzer. In fact, one would hope that were the case. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. What was once labeled “yellow journalism” is now mainstream news. The current events that we are hooked on is mostly just spun content that is written in such a way as to persuade and manipulate you into seeing the world in the way that particular news source wants you to. The Hearst model is the prime model we see most of today. It’s news that exists to sell advertising space and manipulate you (mostly not maliciously, of course, but it helps if you buy the things in the ads, wink wink…nod nod…)
Without getting into specifics and mentioning any source by name, lest I incur the wrath of rabid followers, or worse, the legal teams of said sources, lets examine the ways in which arguments are constructed to appeal to your emotions. Once you understand these logical fallacies, you’ll be much better equipped to resist becoming a pawn and will be able to maintain and see the truth in most things you watch and read. This is critical, especially when much of the news is just noise and is there to distract, persuade, and manipulate, often against your better interests.
These are mostly used by pundits in the political hotheads, and particularly on one standout network that rhymes with shocks, although used extensively on both sides of the aisle.
Weak arguments, often used to make one look stronger or smarter than one really is in a debate, or as a political pundit.
The Ad Hominem
This consists of attacking the person rather than attacking their argument.
This is a favorite of blowhards on cable news and certain radio programs.
Appeal to Ignorance
This one states that an argument is true because there is no evidence that it’s not true.
You know, we can’t prove that the universe is not infinite, and only an intelligent super being can comprehend infinity, so therefore the universe must have been created by an intelligent super being.
Appeal to Authority
This states that because the argument comes from someone in an authority position, then it must be true, because they believe it.
I love it when this one is used in a story about, say, the financial collapse, and they interview a Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine to verify that those behind the collapse are in fact clinically psychopathic. He should know, after all, because he’s a “Doctor”, hahaha. This is used very often, watch for it 🙂
Appeal to Consequence
This fallacy states that by taking the ultimate consequence of something, that something else must be true.
The towers fell, and could only be melted at 9 million degrees…therefore, jet fuel couldn’t have brought the towers down alone, it must have been thermite…. etc…
Appeal to Incredulity
This states that if you can’t explain something, it can’t be true.
Well, we can’t explain God, therefore, He/She must not exist…
Begging the Question
Assuming the conclusion in one’s question.
“I heard that Liberals hate America. You’re a liberal, why do you hate America so much?”
Guilt By Association
States that by association, you must be guilty too.
Well, he was friends with Ayn Rand, so he must be a free market cheerleader too. (The Dalai Lama is friends with George W. Bush, so does that make him… (whatever you think of G.W. is irrelevant here) ? I don’t think so. See the fallacy and your own bias?)
Making broad and often baseless generalizations on a macro level based on observations on a micro level.
Every Republican I’ve met has been a true Christian. Republicans are not liberals. Liberals aren’t true Christians.
Instead of refuting the main argument, a pseudo-argument is created, one that is easier to attack. It’s a diversion tactic.
This argument takes any argument and pushes it to the extreme. USED ALL THE TIME, and absolutely RIDICULOUS.
If we allow marriage to be defined as not just between a man and a woman, then people might be free to marry their pet wombats, or their favorite ice cube tray! Oh the horror, the HORROR…
Ideas are Better Than Beliefs
This is a short list, but if you pay attention to these fallacies playing out all around you, you’ll start to see how repugnant much of the modern media has become. You’ll also be able to see past the appeal to direct emotional response that these types of arguments try to trigger. In doing so, you can not fall victim to it and remain calm, cool, and collected. You can also remain present.
Be mindful the next time you see these fallacies being used. Take notice of what it does to you emotionally. In time, you’ll be able to see things for what they are, and be able to spot manipulation at it’s root. You’ll then be free to make better decisions in your life, and help others who might fall prey to this crap. Most importantly, though, you will be less likely to stay out of the present moment with all the distractions, and will be much more available to yourself and others here and now, where you belong.
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