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When I Googled "what is a logical fallacy", I was told that "People also ask what are the 10 logical fallacies? what are the 15 logical fallacies? what are the 24 logical fallacies?".
I was Googling logical fallacies because my ears and my mind were ringing. My ears and my mind were ringing because sometimes they are not fast enough at recognising the why and the how of wrongness, only that a wrongness is there.
In an increasingly polarised and media-ised world, we are all being manipulated by language.
I’m not sure they did actually teach me this at school, but I did read The Enormous Crocodile and love how the animals chase him up for hiding in plain sight and how he got his comeuppance when his secret plans and clever tricks were exposed.
A logical fallacy, Google tells me, is when the conclusion of an argument does not follow on from the premise.
There are formal logical fallacies, which means an argument is badly structured. Informal fallacies are when the reasoning in the argument is, well, unreasoned, or unreasonable.
An argument doesn’t have to be an impassioned or violent thing, I’ve learned. It can be a debate. And/or the premise, or the conclusion, a sort of sale.
In the early 2000s, I studied something called neuro-linguistic programming, and on one of the courses I attended, along with salespeople, counsellors, life coaches and me and my friend Rachel, there was a pastor who wanted to know the tricks of brain and language so she could use them to bring people closer to Jesus.
One of the things I remember learning was something called something like "the rule of yes", whereby if you get people to say "yes" twice they’re more likely to agree a third time. So you give them two easy yeses and then hit them with your ideology. Something like:
"So, you’re worried about what’s happening in the world?"
"So, you think nobody understands you?"
"So, you need Jesus/this anti-vax message/some TERF bull****/to buy what I’m selling you right now." (Delete as appropriate, which means all of the above.)
You’re probably familiar with Jesus but in case you are not aware of TERFs, they are transphobes who get acronymmed "trans exclusionary radical feminists" (TERFs), and in their crusade to make us think that trans people are a danger to society, rather than the factually-verifiable truth that society is a danger to trans people (see
http://countingourselves.nz), the TERFs use a lot of logical fallacies and linguistic tricks.
They hide their harmful messages in the guise of speaking up for women’s rights.
When chief TERF organisation Speak Up For Women New Zealand had their booking at the Dunedin City Library cancelled this week, there was a predictable outcry about their freedom of speech (also a logical fallacy), like this somehow supersedes the freedom of trans people to exist.
Anyway, in case you come across a TERF or two, you should know that they use "the rule of yes" to suck you in by being all like:
"So, you care about women and girls, right?"
"So, you think they should have safe spaces?"
"So, now let me tell you this incredibly narrow essentialist biological definition of a woman and how we should actually exclude anyone who doesn’t fit this definition."
What? NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.
Sorry for shouting but sometimes it gets that way with enormous crocodiles.
And I think I may have committed my own logical fallacy there by attacking the crocodiles rather than the argument.
This is called "ad hominem", if you want it in Latin. If I wanted to do more secret plans and clever tricks I could also "ad populem", appeal to the people.
I could take you in circles, shred and burn peripheral parts of your argument like straw or knock you down like a domino. I hope I wouldn’t, if I could, and still, I wish I’d learned to recognise all this at school.