Note: You may not rely on any fallacy websites. Attempting to use these websites is plagiarizing. If you do it, I will fail you for the entire class and I will report you to the administration for disciplinary action.




Find five examples of fallacies from media sources. Each example is worth up to five points:


Ø  1 point for finding an argument, rather than a report, illustration, explanation, unsupported claim, etc.;


Ø  1 point for identifying the premises and conclusion of the argument, including any IP’s or IC;


Ø  2 points for correctly naming the fallacy—Slippery Slope, Weak Analogy, etc.;


Ø  1 points for correctly explaining why it’s that named fallacy.


Ø  If the argument is fallacious, but not one of our named fallacies, you may apply the counter-example method to the argument, worth 3 points. 




Note: Only one fallacy per passage. There may be more than one fallacy in each comment. That’s ok. But don’t use one passage for more than one fallacy. See my last sample below for an illustration of this. And notice that a report of an argument is not itself an argument.




A good place to look for fallacies is in the online comments following newspaper and magazine articles, like the LATimes. Or, in any discussion forum on topics of controversy, political or religious.. I suggest you use Google news to find articles on controversial issues. These types of articles usually generate the most fallacy-filled comments. And you may not use advertisements as fallacy sources.




Here’s what you must do:


1)     Include the passage. Either cut and paste the passage into a word doc, or physically cut the article out and attach it to your assignment.


2)     If needed, supply any unstated but implied premises (IP’s) or conclusion (IC) to complete the argument.


3)     Identify the fallacy by name and briefly explain why it’s the fallacy you say it is; or apply the counter-example method to the argument.




Here’s an example:




From the comments following an article in the LA Times online about the Arizona Illegal Immigrant ID Law:




trevor1331 at 9:13 AM May 02, 2010 (The author was responding to comments by those critical of the Arizona law.)


 â€œIf, by the way, folks find America racist and unfair – there is a wonderful and simple solution:  Leave.”




False Dilemma: The author seems to be saying that if one finds America racist and unfair then they should either not criticize America or they should leave. (He doesn’t actually say that they should not criticize America/Arizona. But since he’s responding to those who are criticizing the proposed Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship, there’s reason to say this is implied.) Of course, it follows then that critics have two options: Either leave or shut up—stop criticizing America/Arizona. But that’s a false dilemma. These aren’t the only options. This is a democracy. That means the citizens may speak out against what our government does, or proposes to do. It’s part of participating in democracy. (I would argue that it’s not just ok to do, but required of us as citizens of a democracy.)




As this example illustrates, it’s not always easy to clearly explicate the argument given. With arguments from these sources, they’re often only half-given. Usually, the best course is to re-construct what you think the author intends for the argument to say, using the context and what the author actually says as evidence. That’s what I tried to do above. The more time you spend looking through sources, the more chance you’ll have of finding easier ones to do where the author more clearly and fully gives his/her argument.




Here’s more from the same comment:


Secondly, it is certainly unfair that laws are enforced – to lawbreakers.  What is fair about getting pulled over speeding?  What is fair about being busted for smoking pot?  Oh, I remember – because they are ILLEGAL.




Begs the Question: The author cites the fact that it’s illegal as the reason why the law is fair. But the issue is whether the law is fair or unfair. So citing the fact that it IS the law presumes without argument that this law is fair BECAUSE it’s the law; or (worse), presumes that every law is fair BECAUSE it’s the law.  That’s clearly Begging the Question.




Here’s another example that’s more straightforward:




In Montana, an old arcade game worth a fortune (LA Times, 10/2011)




The outside world recently discovered this town’s classic gypsy fortuneteller booth. Only one or two of its kind are left in the world. Collectors are offering millions, but cash-strapped Virginia City won’t sell. ‘We love her,’ says one official.


Janna Norby, a former curator whose position was one of the five eliminated by the commission this year, said she wouldn’t want to see the gypsy sold even if it meant getting her job back. “We set up the whole operation to save the town, not sell the town,” she said. “You keep selling stuff, you’ll have nothing left. No tourists, no jobs, no town.”




This is a slippery slope fallacy. She’s arguing that if the town sells the valuable gypsy fortuneteller, it will lead to selling everything in the town, and that will lead to “no jobs, no town.” IC: So, the town shouldn’t sell the gypsy. But there’s no good reason to think selling the gypsy will lead to any of that. That’s why it’s a slippery slope. In fact, there’s more reason to think that by selling the gypsy for millions, the town would have more chance of surviving than if they don’t.




One more example, also from the LA Times:




UC San Diego professor who studies disobedience gains followers — and investigators


When protesting students spilled into University of California campus courtyards in March, Ricardo Dominguez took to the streets in his own way — digitally — leading a march to the online office of the UC president.




Comment on this article:
Olivia G
 at 11:25 PM May 6, 2011


Now we remember why we still import teachers from Philippines and India, because the so called professors from that side of the border are a bunch of cuckoos.




Remember: Don’t use a passage like this one for more than one fallacy. There may be more than one fallacy in this short passage, but you may only do one.




Ad Hominem (Abusive): The author doesn’t address the merits of what Prof Dominguez did. She just resorts to trying to insult him by suggesting that he is from “that side of the border”—south, presumably—and professors from there are “cuckoos”.  First, we don’t know where he’s from. The article didn’t say. (I didn’t include all of it, but trust me, it didn’t say.) And more importantly, what she says is not in any way relevant to assessing the merits of what he did, and that’s the issue being addressed by the comments; so it’s an Abusive—or perhaps, Circumstantial–Ad Hominem fallacy.





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