Fallacies in Disguise:
A Review of the Fallacious World of Media and Literature
Raul A. Medina
14 May 2013
In the world we live in, we often forget about the things that we strive to go after because there is an infinite number of distractions that deviate us from such goals. And we have a tendency to do this over and over again. Such distractions are usually temporary and do not last for long before we realize they are not what we were looking for. It is hard to figure out why we fall into these sort of momentary pleasures. However, the purpose of this paper is to venture into some of the most alluring and inviting ads and commercials that tend to engage us in one way or another so that we can buy into their product or service.
The first fallacy I would like to address is perhaps the most important in my own opinion because it portrays why products are so successful: Appeal to authority. Mr. Bean, which is a world known comedian who does not speak but acts very funny. This comedian has been around for longer than some of us classmates, but the point here is that since his image carries so much history and happy moments for those who admire him, anything he promotes or advertises is most likely to be successful. Such example is from back in 2007, Macintosh computers put on a commercial where Mr. Bean is dancing to a Hawaiian song. The only thing that is showing is him dancing, nothing else. This is one of the biggest ‘appeal to authority’ fallacies I have seen before, because the product is not shown until the very last 3 seconds of the commercial. It is amazing how one figure can persuade the public to buy a Mac, which everybody loves. a) Identified fallacy: Appeal to Authority
b) Appeal to authority is an argument from the fact that a person judged to be an authority affirms a proposition to the claim that the proposition is true. c) This fallacy is evident here because Mr. Bean being such a big comedy icon has the ‘power’ to persuade people through an ad to buy a Mac just because he is dancing and is a cool thing to do, so ‘buy a Mac!’ that is what the commercial is screaming out loud. d) I think this fallacy is present in a lot of commercials around, Mr. Bean is a great example and Mac did a great job by using his image to sell their product. I am sure lots of British people bought a Mac due to this commercial back in 2007.
Coors Light has an advertisement that says ‘Equality is Refreshing’: this already seems like a way of misinterpreting the word equality. The fact that refreshing means something that is revitalizing or reviving does not mean that equality or fairness is also refreshing. a) Identified fallacy: Hasty Conclusion
b) Hasty conclusion is the drawing of a conclusion based on a small sample size, rather than looking at statistics that are much more in line with the typical or average situation. c) How does Coors Light beer know that equality is refreshing? What kind of evidence are they providing to prove this true? I think they are trying to convince people that their beer is tasty and they deserve equality by consuming it. d) The reason why this is being employed is because the very own purpose of the ad is to convince those who believe they deserve equality in their life they should drink Coors Light beer. Especially because it is refreshing.
In the May 2013 volume of the National Geographic magazine, the cover is announcing that a little baby will live to be 120* then it says in the bottom: * “it’s not just hype. New science could lead to very long lives”. In the article itself, the words of the “experts” say that “genes are likely to explain all the secrets of longevity”. a) Fallacy identified: Begging the Question
b) Begging the Question is the argument in which one gives a reason or reasons in support of some claim. The reasons are called premises and the claim one tries to support with them is called the conclusion. If one's premises entail one's conclusion, and one's premises are questionable, one is said to beg the question. c) How is this fallacy employed? Their own claim in the cover is “supported” in detail later on the article. d) However, I believe they say this because they really do not have anything else to say but to put all the responsibility in people’s genes for their longetivity. They do not have evidence to proof this but just a couple studies. Thus, begging the question also raises another fallacy: questionable statistics.
V8, the juice brand, has an ad that claims that their new 100% vegetable juice is a “delicious drink with great body (YOURS)” in this ad they show the juice bottle with a measuring body tape around the “waist” of the juice. a) Fallacy identified: Questionable Cause
b) This fallacy is revealed when we label a given thing as the cause of something else based on insufficient, inappropriate or contrary to available evidence. c) The very picture demonstrates the wrongness of this ad. I believe there would be misunderstandings in this image as to how it is illustrated- much has to do with the 100% vegetable statement and the measuring body tape. d) This ad is also trying to convey its message towards the people who are already healthy because the “great body” cannot be achieved by just drinking this juice… it takes exercise and much more than just drinking juice: a balanced diet.
PAPERbecause is a company that is committed to the responsible of paper. Also committed to communicating paper’s place and value to the businesses and people that use their products every day. In one of their ads I found ironically on a National Geographic magazine, it says “PAPERbecause helped Harry (in reference to Harry Potter) capture the imagination of a generation. There is a kid with a wizard hat on as a background with a wizard attire. This is just something I couldn’t seem to understand very well. It is basically saying that paper helped kids have imagination. Furthermore, we all know that making paper destroys forests, but PAPERbecause tries to explain that “for every tree harvested, several more are planted or naturally regenerated in their place”. a) Fallacy Identified: Questionable Statistics
b) Slippery slope is an argument that states that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect. c) I find this claim to fall into a very wrong impression of their company because, although in their efforts to replace every tree they remove, what happens to the habitat they destroy? Animals and insects depend on those trees for life. d) Where are the statistic showing what is being done to rehabilitate wildlife and nature? I am being a little picky, but Domtar is making broad statements here, and only providing the public with the information that looks good.
The Radically New Avalon is what Toyota last model for the Avalon car says. The ad shows a picture of the car with “unbottled lighting”. The picture itself is impressive and makes you think of the Avalon as a fast car and all the elements that lighting and fire portray. It is a creative way of marketing their new car because the color of the car is also very inviting to be fast, etc. a) Fallacy identified: Questionable Analogy
b) Questionable analogy an argument where two things are compared and a conclusion is drawn that what is true of one is true of the other and it results to be false. c) The fact that the ad says Unbottled Lighting makes one think that the car could be fast, but they really do not show any of this in the ad as to how fast it can go. The electricity of the lighting bolts covering the car is welcoming potential buyers to think of the car as a genuine built and speedy car with reliable high-end driving components. d) How much support does this car have from the picture? It challenges the viewer to use imagination but very simply putting the word lighting and radically will automatically think this car has it all: fast, comfortable and ALL NEW. The problem here is that the car has been out since the early 2000’s, thus is not necessarily ALL new.
There is a book written by Robyn Harvie called “Why we Run: A Natural History”. This is a book about extreme running… the grisly details are all there, and it is hard not to revel in the gore. But where the book truly excels is in its depiction of Harvie’s internal landscape. These passages are as moving as they are illuminating. This is a memoir for anyone who has ever dreamed about reaching the outer limits of what they are capable of. However, in several of the sentences in the book I found a few fallacies. In page 78 of the book, he explains what running means to him and goes on about how many marathons he has done and finally after his 4th he discovered that he wanted to be a real distance runner: “Running, to my mind, was little more than a way of getting away from it all, a feeling that is familiar to all of us” a) Fallacy identified: Unrepresentative Sample
b) Unrepresentative sample is to draw a generalization on the basis of a sample that is not representative enough to be reliable. In other words, to base a general conclusion on a sample that is unrepresentative of the population as a whole. c) The fact that he is implying that we all know the feeling of “getting away from it all” just tells me that he does not clarify that only runners get this feeling. Perhaps maybe he is talking to the reader whether or not they are runners that getting away from it all can be achieved in many other ways, but he does not present it. d) I think this is a very good example of unrepresentative sample because the audience he is referring to in the entire book is runners. Indeed since I am a runner, I can understand what he explains by his statement: but I have the same problem when I often try to explain to other non-runners the way I experience the freedom of the spirit from it all. Hence, all I can offer sometimes is a dumb sigh of indescribable happiness.
In the beautifully written fiction book “Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, there is a couple of sentences that caught my attention and thought I would give it a shot at claiming them as fallacies. The way he writes is fascinating, thus is hard to find fallacy within his literature. However, when Charlene, the main character’s friend describes from her perspective about a manuscript she knows about that lives in the Machu Pichu of Peru “The priest told me it’s a kind of renaissance in consciousness, occurring very slowly” What they do not say is that this kind of “renaissance” is not religious, but spiritual. Thus this makes me think that she describes the manuscript very lightly and slightly in wrong terms. a) Fallacy identified: Appeal to Ignorance
b) Appeal to ignorance is an argument that says that since we cannot prove something is true then we are entitled to believe it is false; or vice-versa. c) I think this fallacy is evident here because this fallacy involves taking the absence of evidence for conclusive proof that a claim is either true or false. d) I believe that since she is not very clear or really does not know about this manuscript she is talking about then she is not making it clear to her friend, thus appeals to be ignorant but still making a claim about something she has no clue about. She is relying on other sources to make her claims rather than her own.
I found a very genuine quote from Mr. Einstein, the genius, from one of his books- this one named “The World as I See it”. I believe this is a must read for every person living and to live. A truly passionate written account on how Albert Einstein sees the world. I agree with most of it and would like to emphasize on what I believe is a fallacy from what he had to say “This plague-spot civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed”. a) Fallacy Identified: Lack of Proportion
b) Lack of proportion occurs when we fall prey to the common psychological tendency to not react to events, risks, benefits, etc. in proper proportion to their likelihood and magnitude. c) I think Einstein here is trying to express his feelings towards a single society or civilization but fails to name it. Therefore, it makes it odd to understand because one of the things one ought to do is to protect his own country and not demolish it with thinking that puts it upside down. d) Again, this is his take on how he sees the world. But I think one should have a backbone, a patriotism within himself so that one can always go back to his roots and be proud of it. Wars can be avoided if we all agree with one thing, and it is called peace.
Michelin has been around for over a 100 years and continues to help define the tire industry. That being said, I found an ad that pretty much resembles what they stand for, however I found their claim somewhat vague “The Right Tire Changes Everything”. a) Fallacy identified: Suppressed Evidence
b) Suppressed evidence occurs when an arguer intentionally omits relevant data. This is a difficult fallacy to detect because we often have no way of knowing that we haven't been told the whole truth. c) I think this fallacy is relevant here because the way they claim that Michelin tires change everything is very unlikely. d) Since there are other branches out there that are also keeping up and doing a great job to do the same. I think they are trying to use their autonomy in the industry to claim such irrelevant statement.
In conclusion, I think this was a challenging project since as a student one evolves the thinking from before to now. In other words, I have been able to spot fallacies all over now, when before I did not even know what fallacies were. It has helped me dissect ads, books, and commercials to very small details and I enjoyed writing this paper. Thanks for a great semester of teaching us critical thinking.