Know a Losing Argument When You See It On Facebook
What happened to us? Since 2016, Facebook has turned from a place for kitten photos and random funny posts to a venue for acrimonious political debate. Since it looks like we’ll be arguing with our friends and relatives for the next few years, we might as well learn to do it properly by knowing our basic logical fallacies.
After all, being able to identify errors in reasoning will help you develop more sound arguments and refute faulty claims. Here are some of the most common logical fallacies you’ll find on FB threads:
A favorite weapon of trolls. This fallacy is committed when one resorts to personal attacks instead of addressing the argument.
Person A: I’m against Duterte’s war on drugs.
Person B: Dilawan!!! <—Labeling a person without addressing the idea.
Person A: Instead of attacking Duterte’s drug war, why don’t we focus on the good things he has done?
Person B: Dutertard alert!! <—This attacks the person rather than engaging what he said.
This fallacy occurs when the conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow from the premise.
This man is a criminal. He must be a drug addict. <—Crime is perpetrated by non-addicts too.
FALSE DICHOTOMY or FALSE DILEMMA
False dichotomies or false dilemmas occur when one makes it seem like there are only two possible choices when there are actually other choices possible.
You keep defending the rights of drug pushers and criminals—that means you don't care about the rights of the victims! <—One can care about the rights of victims and defend the rights of suspects too.
This fallacy happens when one distorts, reduces, or completely fabricates their opponent’s position to make it easier to refute, and to make their own claims appear more reasonable. Essentially, it’s like you’re attacking a straw man.
Person A: I think everyone has a right to a fair trial
Person B: You bleeding-heart liberals think that policemen are murderers and that criminals should just run free. <—Not what Person A said at all.
The slippery slope fallacy happens when one argues that one thing will lead to another unlikely event, especially if there is no direct causation between the two.
If we tolerate homosexuality and legalize gay marriage, eventually we’ll wind up normalizing pedophilia and bestiality as well. <—Same-sex marriage does not have anything to do with pedophilia and bestiality.
This fallacy is named for an old practice in which fox hunters would use red herrings to throw their hounds off a scent. Similarly, one commits this fallacy when one brings up a tangential issue to avoid actually addressing the issue at hand.
Person A: Marcos is no hero—just look at all the atrocities that occurred during martial law.
Person B: Well what about Hacienda Luisita, and all the other killings that happened after Marcos was ousted? <—This fallacy is also popularly know as Whataboutism, because there's usually a "what about" somewhere.
APPEAL TO AUTHORITY
This happens when one bolsters one’s argument by quoting an authority, even one who isn’t an expert on the topic at hand.
President Trump denies climate change, so it must not be real.
BEGGING THE QUESTION
This is a circular argument which usually happens when one is so convinced of one’s beliefs that their supporting statements simply repeat their conclusion instead of proving it.
I'm always right because I'm never wrong.<—Restating the premise in another way doesn't prove it.
Vaccines cause autism because children become autistic after getting vaccinated.<—Also see below, "Ad Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc."
This is a favorite with teenagers, who like to say that “everybody’s doing it!” As the name suggests, this fallacy involves claiming that something is true simply because the majority believes it to be so.
I have a lot of Likes on my post. That must mean I'm right.
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
This fallacy happens when one assumes a causal link between events that may just have happened to follow each other.
I have a run of bad luck every time I see a black cat, so black cats are unlucky.
This list of logical fallacies is by no means exhaustive. The Fallacy Ref Facebook page does a great job of pointing out logical fallacies in articles relating to current events, as well as books. Here are a couple of websites that offer comprehensive fallacy lists as well: