SCOT BELLAVIA: Six Logical Fallacies on Twitter Leading Up to The Election

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Did you know 73% of statistics used as proof are made up on the spot? Including that one.

When our argument can’t stand on itself but we’re not ready to admit it, it’s easy to try to score points with lies, or, a logical fallacy. Fallacies are wordplay to trick the opposition and listeners into inferring something so the speaker is seen as correct. It shields the fact that the speaker has no argument.

Throughout the long presidential campaign that we’ve had, in its debates, and in online conversations I read, talking points are rife with logical fallacies. I’ve found six tweets sent by America’s leaders in the week leading up to Election Day.

The tweets are italicized and my analysis follows immediately in regular print. Though you might be able to guess their author, I put that at the bottom so you can see the illogic, rather than poisoning the well (a logical fallacy where one automatically discredits the argument based on who the author is).

1. “Joe Biden would increase refugees from terrorist nations by 700%. His plan would overwhelm your communities and turn Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the entire Midwest into a refugee camp…[remainder deleted for focus]”

This is an example of ad futuris. Anyone can speculate what a President Joe Biden would do based on what he has stated, but ultimately no one knows the future.

2. “I believe in science. Donald Trump doesn’t. It’s that simple, folks.”

This textbook example of the fallacy of extension, commonly known as the straw man argument, sets up Trump’s position for failure. It doesn’t fully explain Trump’s side. There is also a misuse of authority here. “Science” is often cited as an unquestioned authority. In reality, science is an amorphous, intangible field of study employed with imperfect contributors.

3. “When Joe Biden was Vice President, we saw a steady assault on Religious Freedom &
they even hauled a group of nuns into federal court.”

Reductive fallacy is the oversimplification of an issue. If someone does not know the context, they would read this and agree that nuns should never be sued. There is more to the story that’s valuable in understanding it.

4. “Thank you for joining us tonight, @JohnLegend, and using your voice to make a
difference in this election.”

The bandwagon effect is essentially peer pressure. Be it your favorite celebrity’s testimony or because everyone you know is doing it, the case is going to be more compelling.

5. “I took the Throggs Neck. Heard there was a pileup of chumps on the Whitestone.”

In response to a bridge blockade in New York by Trump supporters, this tweeter resorted to name-calling. Ad hominem attacks the person, rather than the argument, to invalidate them.

6. “The reason rural hospitals in South Carolina have closed is because Obamacare has
been a disaster for our state. #SCSEN”

Causal reductionism ignores the possibility of multiple factors of an event. This tweet leaves no room for the closure of hospitals other than Obamacare.

1. @RealDonaldTrump 7:40PM, 11/2/20
2. @JoeBiden 8:15PM, 10/28/20
3. @Mike_Pence 4:46PM, 10/30/20
4. @KamalaHarris 10:33PM, 11/2/20
5. @AOC (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) 5:31PM, 11/1/20
6. @LindseyGrahamSC 7:44PM, 10/30/20

At first glance, statements you hear may claim to be an assertion of fact or they may be dripping with bias. As you learn about more logical fallacies, you will be able to see past this wordplay into its deliberate misleading. Then, you will better determine who has the soundest argument.

Scot Bellavia

Scot Bellavia