25 Logical Fallacies Politicians Use More Than You Realize

It’s difficult to spot the logical fallacies politicians use all the time. Many are educated and trained on how best to answer a question or phrase an argument. Often, that means using tricks of the trade with thinly veiled logical fallacies. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do anyone any good. To make sound decisions, people need sound arguments. Making decisions off of bad logic usually leads to terrible consequences. Regardless, all politicians know logical fallacies are effective in fooling the electorate and dodging uncomfortable questions that can hurt their campaigns. They’ll never stop using them, so you might as well learn and know how to spot them. Put on your thinking caps, here are 25 Logical Fallacies Politicians Use More Than You Realize.

(And don’t worry; we cover politicians across the spectrum.)

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Pooh-Pooh Fallacy

barack obamaSource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcpLfgVl87g

Don’t laugh. That’s the actual name of the fallacy. It’s a fairly simple fallacy of dismissing an argument, accusation, or statement as not worthy of serious consideration. When Barack Obama was asked to respond to Sarah Palin’s criticism of his pledge not to strike non-nuclear nations with nuclear weapons, he replied, “I really have no response to that. The last I checked Sarah Palin isn’t much of an expert on nuclear issues.”


Dicto Simpliciter

ted cruzSource: https://www.thoughtco.com/dicto-simpliciter-logical-fallacy-1690451

From the Latin, “from a saying without qualification,” this is a sweeping generalization fallacy that doesn’t qualify its arguments. For instance, Ted Cruz, in an attack on his rival Donald Trump, claimed that Trump represented “New York Values” and that “Everybody understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal and pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage…and focus on money and the media.”


Cherry Picking

richard burrSource: https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/feb/05/age-cherry-picking/, https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/65/Cherry-Picking

Pretty much everyone knows this fallacy is very common in politics. To make themselves look better, politicians will pick the facts that make themselves look better and ignore the contradicting evidence. For instance, the Democratic opponent of Sen. Richard Burr claimed that in 2012 Burr “voted no on the Violence Against Women Act.” While true in that case, it ignored the three other times Burr voted for its re-authorization.


Ad Verecundiam

barack obama 2Source: https://philosophy.lander.edu/logic/authority.html

This Latin phrase means, “argument from authority.” In the political world, it’s usually used toward politicians that came before, like Ronald Reagan or the Founding Fathers, or an expert group that does studies on a particular topic, but it never actually addresses the main issue. For instance, Barack Obama appealed to authority when he said, “You do not have to take my word for it. Just today, an independent, nonpartisan organization ran all the numbers on Gov. Romney’s plan. This wasn’t my staff. This wasn’t something we did. An independent group ran the numbers.”


Ad Misericordiam

puppy eyesSource: https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/in-policy-heavy-speech-obama-appeals-to-emotion-on-guns/, https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/39/Appeal-to-Pity

Also known as the “appeal to pity” fallacy, this false argument distracts from the topic at hand by using emotion and making a case sympathetic. Barack Obama used this tactic in a speech to Congress to sway them on the gun debate, saying, “The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence –- they deserve a simple vote…They deserve a simple vote.”

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