Spot The Logical Fallacy!

It’s time to play everybody’s favorite game: Spot The Logical Fallacy! Each week (or whenever we get round to it), we pull quotations from news reports from around the world which contain logical fallacies. It is your job to spot them. You could win valuable prizes!

The more egregious and obvious to spot a fallacy is, the fewer the points that will be awarded to its unveiler. Likewise, the more subtle and complex the fallacy, the more it’s worth. Only the first person to correctly identify the fallacy gets the points, so be sure your entries are in early.

No points are taken away for incorrect entries. Points will be cumulative.1 Occasional style points will be awarded for properly giving the Latin name for the fallacy: these are at the discretion of the MC.

All judgments of the MC are final and are considered to be, for the purposes of this game, infallible.

Send examples of fallacies to matt@wmbriggs.com.

  1. 5 points Hot Air linked to a 1979 interview with convicted child rapist, movie star, and film director Roman Polanski, in which he said in the way of self-exculpation:

    If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But…f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!

    Hint First take the empirical statement “Everyone wants to f— young girls!” is false; and then assume it is true. This is to show that even if you are Woody Allen and playing this game, you will come to the same conclusion.

  2. 3 point follow-up The French Film association SACD commenting on Polanski’s recent arrest issued a statement which read in part:

    By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown and for filmmakers to present them freely and safely, even when certain States opposed this.

    The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance, undermines this tradition: it opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects.

    Amplification Even though each fallacy in this statement is not stated at the same level of complexity, they are each worth 3 points.

    Bonus 2 points Is there a way to read SACD’s argument so that it does not include a logical fallacy?

  3. 3 points Eric Spitznagel, a writer seemingly unable to pen a profanity-free paragraph, contributed an article to Vanity Fair, the magazine of idiotic but glossy celebrity tittle tattle for those who like to pretend they are uninterested in salacious, IQ-draining gossip. He asked of magician Penn Jillette:

    It is just a coincidence that we have a black president and now [the Tea Partiers are] fed up with big government? Taxing us for an expensive and pointless war in Iraq is fine, but don’t you dare use my taxes to pay for universal health care!

    Amplification Each fallacy is worth 3 points.

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1 Contestants are responsible for keeping track of their own scores because your MC is too lazy.

12 Comments

  1. Its kinda like the same fallacy when you go around telling us that modern architecture is bad and ugly, while old architecture is beautiful and ordered, etc.

    It’s called “rethoric”, and shouldn’t be taken that seriously.

  2. Taxing us for an expensive and pointless war in Iraq is fine, …

    This statement (opinion) is simply atrocious.

  3. 1. Excluded Middle
    2. What do film festivals have to do with extradition laws?
    3. Just because YOU now notice the protesting, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there before.

    Wait – did I just take this more seriously than Briggs did?

  4. Since Nate already blithely disregarded the rules (rule breaker!), I will reply as well, but only in a indifferent manner – I care not for your points, and I gladly and intenfully earn none.

    1. Thank you for reminding me of that one – I was going there but couldn’t put a name on why. It does lead to the conclusion of “So what – all that means is that if you’re a convicted rapist and/or pedophile, there may be others who should be.”

    2. “Well, you see, it’s always been that way, and HEY WAIT A SECIOND, you’re just a dumb teabagger so why am I explaining this to you. Go back to your guns and religion already.”
    2b. Yes, it does open the way for an unexpected consequence – one of which is the arrest of escaped convicted rapist/pedophiles who ran from the law.

    3. Another answer is “Yes, it’s a coincidence.”

  5. 2.) Artists (and in this case film makers) are protected if their art is offensive to the state. If the artist does something reprehensible that is unrelated to his art, then there is no rationale for protection of artistic freedom.

  6. We began with one hand tied behind us because the first fallacy is a killer:

    “All judgments of the MC…… are considered to be……….infallible”.

    Game over.

  7. RE: #3: “It is just a coincidence that we have a black president and now [the Tea Partiers are] fed up with big government? Taxing us for an expensive and pointless war in Iraq is fine, but don’t you dare use my taxes to pay for universal health care!”

    Starting with the second sentence: Government taxing/spending & government growth (the extent to which it intrudes in previously independent society and/or the number of its regulatory agencies) are independent factors (conceivably government can grow bigger & spend less; it can always tax & spend more & not grow bigger). Taxing for a war was/is NOT an expansion of government, though it is an expansion of government expenditures & activity as the number of government agencies remained fixed and the number of government personnel remained [relatively] constant. In contrast, taxing MORE to fund universal health care increases government expenditures for both services to be provided AND for permanent new money-consuming government infrastructure to provide those services. The argument inherently assumes [illogically] that increasing taxing (& by extension spending) links directly with growth of government infrastructure (most notably characterized by increased number of people and additional regulatory agencies in which they “work”).

    The first sentence insinuates that racial preferences/biases are somehow linked to one group’s fondness for government; these are independent factors having no logical linkage. It goes further by slandering that group by further insinuating that this particular sample previously did endorse “big government” when just the opposite was true.

    Thus, one can conclude the person posing the question was not only an idiot, but quite possibly a liar.

  8. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed, “Vanity Fair, the magazine of idiotic but glossy celebrity tittle tattle for those who like to pretend they are uninterested in salacious, IQ-draining gossip.”

  9. William
    A very interesting take on the “Tuesday boy problem” at L.Motl blog : http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/08/one-son-on-tuesday-probabilistic-puzzle.html .
    As Lubos is a physician he generalises on distributions described by Fermi-Dirac or Bose-Einstein statistics .
    In other words the Tuesday boy problem ported from the classical domain where the answer is 13/27 to the domain of Quantum Mechanical boys .
    The interesting part is that the answer (probability) is not the same for bosonic children and for fermionic children 🙂

  10. P.S
    Sorry the “multiple language” demon hit again . Please replace physician by physicist in the above post . Argh I hate this .

  11. 1. “It is illogical to be mean to me.”

    It is unfair to condemn a person for doing what everyone wants to do.

    I did something that everyone wants to do.

    Therefore, it is unfair to condemn me.

    Fallacy of equivocation. The word “person” is used in the first premise. The word “me” is used in the conclusion. Polanski hopes that we will not notice that he is not a person, but is in fact a disgusting insect. Also a touch of appeal to pity. Pauvre petit.

    2. Fallacy of converse accident, or hasty generalization.

    The idiots of the SACD state a fact about tolerating films that are opposed by states. On this basis, they assert that Polanski’s criminal behavior should be tolerated as well; he should not be arrested. Not logical to generalize from a special case (films) to a more general case (crime). Diagnosis: douche bags.

    Also, “By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown…”

    This implies that the extraterritorial nature of something is a sufficient condition for permitting works to be shown regardless of the opposition of states within the larger class of territories.

    This is Non causa pro causa. There is no reasonable connection between extraterritoriality and trumping the opposition of states.

    A touch of the fallacy of division as well. Just because the whole (the class of territories) permits something, doesn’t mean that all the parts must have that feature as well.

    3. “Taxing us for an expensive and pointless war in Iraq is fine, but don’t you dare use my taxes to pay for universal health care!”

    Begging the question. The assertion implies that universal health care is a benefit, not expensive and pointless like the Iraq War. No evidence is given to support this.

    “It is just a coincidence that we have a black president and now [the Tea Partiers are] fed up with big government?”

    Post hoc. Suggests that having a black president caused Tea partiers to be fed up with big government. Diagnosis: piffle.

    Also Non causa pro causa. There is no reason to believe that a president’s race would foster anger at the size of government.

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