Chapter 9: Evaluating Arguments: Problems in Critical Reading

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Transcript Chapter 9: Evaluating Arguments: Problems in Critical Reading

Building on the primary skills from Chapter 8, this chapter examines more complex elements of argumentation, specifically, how to identify flaws and weaknesses in persuasive writing. Learning to recognize deceptive techniques—whether they are intentional or unintentional—will sharpen your critical reading skills and safeguard your ability to think independently.

Chapter Objectives:  Be able to identify inductive and deductive reasoning  Understand the Toulmin method of analyzing arguments  Identify problems with arguments  Recognize emotional appeals in arguments  Identify common logical fallacies  Detect bias and other deceptive techniques  Understand the new media

See pp. 336-337  Inductive Reasoning Built upon a set of facts derived from observation or experience that serve as evidence and that lead to a conclusion.

Probability arguments

generalizations

 Deductive Reasoning Moves from reason to conclusion or to a specific application with certainty.

 

2 pieces of evidence = premises

2 premises + conclusion = syllogism As long as the argument follows the prescribed form of the syllogism, it is logically valid If the premises are true, then the argument is considered to be sound or reliable

 Hasty Generalizations and Stereotyping The two most common types of errors in inductive thinking result from conclusions derived from insufficient or unrepresentative evidence.

Inductive

evidence

deductive

syllogism

Claim > writer’s argument or proposition Fact, value, policy Qualifier Warrant > probability

often, mostly, certain, sometimes

> unstated assumptions/reason Backing/grounds > evidence Reservation > refutation An argument that lacks a refutation is not convincing.

Analyzing an Op-Ed Piece with the Toulmin Method

Read the passage on pp. 340-341  List 2 or 3 assumptions which are not specifically given by the author but can be understood when reading this passage.

 List some counterarguments to refute the editorial’s criticism of credit card companies.

 Identify the elements: › › › › › Authority Claim Qualifier Warrant Backing › › Grounds Reservation

Identify the elements:

Authority

: Though Rauch is not a teacher or an academic, he has covered public policy and governance issues for highly respectable publications and institutions for many years ( The Atlantic Monthly and the Brookings Institution are both highly regarded). He formerly wrote about education for a North Carolina newspaper.

 Identify the elements: 

Claim

: Schools should require more homework (a claim of policy).

Qualifier

: “Older kids” benefit more from increased homework (high school students, not small children); elite students have homework loads that are “downright inhumane,” but this is the exception.

Warrant

: Stated explicitly in paragraph 5: “Older kids learn more if they study more.” 

Backing

: Several authorities are cited: A 1994 national commission comparing American high schools to those in other countries (¶3); the testimony of Harris Cooper, an educational psychologist (¶5); statistics from the 1999 NAEP study on typical homework amounts (¶6); Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution’s Brown

Center on Education Policy (¶7); Raymond J. Pasi, principal of a Virginia high school (¶7). Reasons cited: Homework amounts in the United States are very small; students admit to doing just enough to get by; the “L” word— students are lazy.

Grounds

: The American school day is substantially less than it is in Japan, France, and Germany (claim of fact). American schools need to be reformed (claim of

policy). Schools are failing kids, but kids are also failing their schools—Rauch puts a lot of the blame on students (claims of fact and value).

Reservation

: Though Rauch does not offer a specific refutation, he does hint at one in paragraph 10: schools need plenty of fixing, suggesting that there might be other more pressing problems that need to be addressed before the homework issue.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Can you accept Rauch’s argument that American students need to spend more time doing homework?

What does your high-school experience suggest? Were you one of those who did just the minimum to get by, or did you try your best? Be honest in your self-appraisal.

Would more homework have been educationally valuable? If so, in what way? What is the purpose of homework?

What flaws, if any, do you see in Rauch’s argument? How do you define homework? Would his argument have been strengthened if he had defined “homework”?

Do you think he would accept a definition of homework as “busywork,” which many of us associate with the term, or do you think he has something else in mind?

The critical reader must be alert to weaknesses in arguments. Why?

Insufficient evidence

Lack of sufficient grounds or backing

Unacceptable warrant or unstated assumptions

Hasty or Unqualified Generalizations and Stereotyping

An all-inclusive statement made “in haste,” without allowing for exceptions and qualifiers.

“…

All

Shelties are…” nervous and high-strung

Hasty or Unqualified Generalizations and Stereotyping

An all-inclusive statement made “in haste,” without allowing for exceptions and qualifiers.

Stereotyping

Similar to the hasty generalization, except that it results in generalizations about people such as gender, age, ethnic background, race, attire, etc.

Incorrect Sampling

If done incorrectly, can produce flawed results.

 Identify the faultiness of each argument.

 1.

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

I always have Heinrich at Coastside VW Motors repair my Jetta. He’s German, and Germans are the best car mechanics.

1.

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

Unqualified generalization and stereotyping

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

2.

It’s no wonder the security personnel at Denver International Airport took a passenger aside for a more thorough search before allowing him to board my flight. He looked distinctly Middle Eastern.

2.

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

stereotyping

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

3.

I don’t see why people get so upset about small children seeing violent movies. Before the new codes went into effect, I took my seven-year-old nephew to see horror movies all the time, and he turned out all right. You don’t see him committing violent crimes!

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

3.

generalization

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

4.

A college instructor with five years of experience observes that students who sit in the front rows of a classroom get A’s and B’s, and those who sit in the back of the room get C’s or lower. He concludes that all college students should sit closer to the front of the room.

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

4.

Questionable premise

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

5.

A 2007 research study conducted at the University of Indiana surveyed 26 men and 20 women in Munich, Germany, to find out what characteristics they wanted in a mate. The survey was conducted at a speed-dating session, after which the participants were asked to choose those people they would like to have a second date with. The men’s choices did not reflect their stated preferences; instead, they chose only physically attractive women. This proves that men are interested only in women’s physical appearance.

Identify the faultiness of each argument.

5.

Small sample

An

appeal

is something that makes an argument attractive, worth considering, or plausible.

An illegitimate appeal seeks to control our emotions by spurious means, meaning that the writer plays on emotions irrelevant to the argument.

An

appeal

is something that makes an argument attractive, worth considering, or plausible.

Appeals are not necessarily bad, but they must be accompanied by evidence to support the argument.

When you examine a persuasive piece of writing, ask yourself this question: How good is this argument or product

without the appeal ? Is there any evidence besides the appeal? Strip away

the fluff from the argument and examine the claim

for itself, unobscured

by emotion or sentiment. Be aware that the more emotional the appeal, the weaker the argument.

A

flawed deductive

argument is termed unsound If one of the premises is untrue or if it is a generalization.

The argument may still be

valid

as long as the syllogism is properly constructed and followed the prescribed form.

Emotional appeals are acceptable in persuasive writing, as long as logical evidence is present that balances the discussion.

How good is the argument without the appeal???

Appeal to Authority

Allows the claim to rest solely on the fact that a supposed authority is behind it.

 Appeal to Fear

What will happen if…?

 Appeal to Patriotism My country…  Appeal to Pity or Sympathy …because we feel

Appeal to Prejudice

Emotion replaces reason.

Appeal to Tradition

It’s always been…

Identify the emotional appeal of the following passages: 1. California is considering a requirement that grocery stores and restaurants warn customers that starchy foods like potatoes and bread when baked, roasted, toasted, or fried create a carcinogen called acrylamide. Naturally, restaurant owners and food retailers oppose the measure because it would scare consumers. Anna-Marie Stouder, senior legislative director for the California Restaurant Association, said this about the proposal: “Acrylamide has been around since man has cooked with fire.” (Quoted in Greg Lucas, “Cancer Label for Foods Is Considered,” San Francisco Chronicle , May 25, 2005.) What type of appeal is Stouder using?

1.

Appeal to tradition

Identify the emotional appeal of the following passages: 2. It doesn’t matter that inspectors never found any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and a dictator who deserved to be overthrown. That’s why we should support U.S. troops fighting for freedom in Iraq now and America’s commitment to bringing democracy to Iraq.

2.

Appeal to patriotism

Identify the emotional appeal of the following passages: 3. The government should not have forced the Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, to admit women. The Citadel has always been a men’s college, and it should have been allowed to stay that way.

3.

Appeal to tradition

Identify the emotional appeal of the following passages: 4. During the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, Democratic Senator Dale Bumpers from Arkansas urged his Senate colleagues to drop the impeachment hearings, arguing that the Clintons “have been about as decimated as a family can get.” Bumpers continued: “The relationship between husband and wife, father and child, has been incredibly strained, if not destroyed. There’s been nothing but sleepless nights, mental agony for this family for almost five years.” (Quoted in “Ex Senator Pleads with His Old Friends to Acquit,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 22, 1999)

4.

Appeal to sympathy or pity

Identify the emotional appeal of the following passages: 5. Letter to the editor (paraphrased): Of course, gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is to be commended for engaging in civil disobedience on this issue. In the nineteenth century Henry David Thoreau committed civil disobedience and went to jail for refusing to pay a poll tax to finance a war he opposed. During the 1960s Southern blacks engaged in sit-ins to get segregation laws overturned. Newsom is simply following in the footsteps of these brave Americans.

5.

Appeal to tradition

Identify the emotional appeal of the following passages: 6. Letter to the editor (paraphrased): Those so-called homeless people who hold up signs at intersections saying “Will Work for Food” are just scam artists and slackers. What they really mean is “Will Gladly Take Your Money.” Work is the last thing on their minds!

6.

Appeal to prejudice

Identify the emotional appeal of the following passages: 7. Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut (formerly a Democrat), visited Iraq in June 2007 and wrote an opinion piece defending the continued American presence there. Here is one excerpt: “. . . a little perspective is useful. While benchmarks are critically important, American soldiers are not fighting in Iraq today only so that Iraqis can pass a law to share oil revenues. They are fighting because a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by Al Qaeda and Iran, would be a catastrophe for American national security and our safety here at home.” (Quoted in “What I Saw in Iraq,” The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2007; the full text is available at http://lieberman.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=2770 54 )

7.

Appeal to fear

Identify the emotional appeal of the following passages: 8. In 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (who later resigned) warned federal judges that they should not meddle in cases involving national security. He argued that federal judges “are not equipped to make decisions about” actions the president takes in the name of preserving national security because judges “don’t have embassies around the world gathering up information. I try to imagine myself being a judge. What do I know about what is going on in Afghanistan or Guantanamo?” (Quoted in Dan Eggen, “Bush Team Reverses Course on Warrantless Taps,” The Washington Post ,

January 18, 2007.)

8.

Appeal to authority

Bandwagon Appeal

…everyone is doing it!!!…  Flattery We are like them…identity  Just Plain Folks Opposite of snob appeal

 Name Calling “changing the subject”  Ridicule Substitutes humor   Testimonial endorsement Transfer Advertising (Use it and it will be YOU!!!)

1. Let’s face it. More than 75 percent of the American people in a recent poll voiced concern that the war in Iraq was a big mistake. All those people can’t be wrong.

1.

Band wagon appeal

2. In spring 2001 President George W. Bush gave two speeches on national parks. In one, Bush stood before a magnificent giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park; the other occurred in the Florida Everglades, where the backdrop was a grove of sawgrass and mangrove. (Note: Bush was not known during his two administrations for being a supporter of the green or environmental movement.)

2.

transfer

3. Republican Fred Thompson became wealthy as a Washington lobbyist and later as an actor on Law and Order. In 1994, Thompson decided to run for the Senate in his home state of Tennessee. He bought a used red truck, “not too flashy or macho,” and drove it around the state campaigning for votes. His Democratic opponent, Jim Cooper, called Thompson “a Gucci-wearing,

Lincoln-driving, Perrier-drinking, Grey Poupon-spreading millionaire Washington special interest lobbyist,” but the truck gimmick worked, and Thompson was able “to sell himself as an outsider country boy.” (Quoted in Perry Bacon, Jr., “Ready for a New Role,” The

Washington Post National Weekly Edition , September 10–16, 2007.)

3.

Just plain folks

4. Paint store clerk to author: “Why did you choose Benjamin Moore paint to use on your bookcases?” Author: “I heard it’s the best paint on the market.” Clerk: “You made the right decision. Benjamin Moore paint is definitely the best paint available. You can’t go wrong choosing it.”

4.

flattery

5. Commentator Frank Gaffrey said this about the terrorists who bombed London’s subways in 2005: “In the wake of July’s London transport bombings by home-grown British Islamists, the dangers of mistaking one type of Muslim community for another have become obvious. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has gone from ignoring Islamofascists in its midst—if not actually

accommodating their efforts to proselytize and recruit in Britain—to cracking down forcefully on their activities and presence in the United Kingdom.” (Quoted in Jewish World

Review, August 30, 2005.) Notice that the

word “Islamists” in the fi rst sentence becomes “Islamofascists” in the second sentence. Consider the latter word.

5.

Name calling

6. Liberal blogger Arianna Huffington wrote this blog entry after Vice President Dick Cheney gave an interview to Tim Russert in which he expressed an optimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq: “. . . if the VP had had more time he might have added that completing the mission in Iraq would include purple unicorns taking sips from the Euphrates, and Sunnis and Shiites flying hand-in-hand

down the streets of Baghdad on magic carpets on their way to that happiest place on earth, Disney Fallujah.” (Quoted in “Memo to Democrats,” AlterNet, Posted September 2, 2006.)

6.

ridicule

7. In 2006 former Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham was sentenced to more than 8 years in federal prison for taking $2.4 million in bribes from two defense contractors. Here is the relevant excerpt from a newspaper account of the trial’s summation: “In the San Diego courtroom,

Cunningham wiped away tears when his attorney, K. Lee Blalack II of Washington, referred to the former congressman’s wartime service, which included shooting down five enemy planes over Vietnam and being shot down himself. ‘There are men in this courtroom who are walking around and breathing because DukeCunningham put his life at risk.’

Blalack said Cunningham had already suffered greatly. ‘This man has been humiliated beyond belief by his own hand. He is estranged from those he loves most and cares most about. All his worldly possessions are gone.’” (Quoted in Sonya Geis and Charles R. Babcock, “Former GOP Lawmaker Gets 8 Years,”

The Washington Post , March 4, 2006.)

7.

Appeal to sympathy

8. The New York State Senate was considering a bill that would make it illegal for a person to walk or jog on the street or to cross a street while listening to an iPod. This prompted one citizen to ask: “What’s next? Getting fined if you don’t look both ways?”

8.

ridicule

Can an argument have an acceptable appeal???

Read pp. 359-360.

Ad Hominem Argument

This fallacy can take two forms: 1. to attack the person’s personality traits rather than his or her position on an issue.

2. attacks the character and reputation of the person because of individuals he or she associates with (guilt by association), rather than on the basis of his or her actions.

Go to pp. 360-361 and read the examples.

Begging the Question

Truth is claimed but has not been proven to be true but one would think it were true.

Go to p. 361 and read the examples.

Cause-Effect Fallacies

False Cause

Results either from citing a false or a remote cause to explain a situation or from oversimplifying the cause of a complicated issue.

Cause-Effect Fallacies

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

“after this, therefore because of this” The writer makes a connection based on chronological inference.

Superstition

Problem: Which came first??? Which was the result???

Go to p. 362 and read the examples.

Evasion

The speaker or writer evades or ignores the question by talking around it.

Study the following arguments carefully and decide which fallacy is represented.

1.

The Lytton band of Pomo Indians has proposed building a gigantic casino in San Pablo with 2,500 slot machines. Because more and more people are becoming addicted to gambling, I am opposed to this project.

1.

Fallacy: begging the question

2. Sweden is a socialist country, and it has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. This just proves that socialism causes suicide.

2.

Fallacy: false cause

3. When it was learned that none of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s five sons were enlisted in the military during the Iraq war, Romney had this to say: “One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.” (Quoted in Glen Johnson, “Romney Defends Sons’ Lack of Military Service,” Associated Press, August 9, 2007.)

3.

Fallacy: evasion

4. The President of XYZ Widget Company reports, “The recent settlement between management and the labor union was a huge mistake: Giving in to the union’s demands for a wage increase has resulted in low production figures.”

4.

Fallacy: post hoc, ergo propter hoc

5. Iran and North Korea are part of the Axis of Evil because their leaders are vicious and evil.

5.

Fallacy: begging the question

6. Before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, a tenant in one of the complex’s office buildings bought a large insurance policy that specifically referred to terrorist attacks. He must have had advance knowledge that the buildings would be destroyed.

6.

Fallacy: false cause

7. Senator Ted Kennedy has no business serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee and sitting in judgment of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts, Jr. He was involved in a young woman’s death in Chappaquiddick many years ago.

7.

Fallacy: ad hominem argument

8. When all liberal Democrats complained about how much President Bush’s second inaugural celebration cost when the nation was at war, how about the $200 million Bill Clinton’s presidential library cost when the country was also at war?

8.

Fallacy: either-or fallacy (false dilemma)

9. The late Jerry Falwell, a leader in the Christian right movement, offered this statement about the cause of the September 11 terrorist attacks: “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for the attacks of Sept. 11, because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the

Gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’” (Quoted in Timothy Noah, “The Right’s Holy Fool,” www.slate.com/id/2166220?nav=tap3 .)

9.

Fallacy: false cause

10. In 2002 Oregon’s Measure 23 asked voters to approve a single payer or universal health care system. Supporters of the measure, which was defeated in the election, had argued that the big medical and health insurance companies were pouring a lot of money into the campaign to defeat the measure. They concluded that if big corporations opposed it, it must have been a good bill.

10.

Fallacy: ad hominem argument (guilt by association)

11. Letter to the editor (paraphrased): I listen to my iPod in class all the time, and I still have an A average. I don’t think that my school has any right to ban students from listening to iPods in class. They should put their energy into helping students pass the state high school exit exam, not acting like the iPod police.

11.

Fallacy: either-or fallacy (false dilemma)

12. Letter to the editor (paraphrased): Major League Baseball’s inquiry into the use of steroids by professional baseball players is a misguided effort. Critics have said that these players need to be accountable for their actions. Well, what about all those perks that legislators give themselves and money under the table they take from lobbyists? Isn’t it more important for us taxpayers to know about their scams than it is for a few ballplayers who might have used steroids?

12.

Fallacy: either-or fallacy (false dilemma)

13. All those terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay deserve to be there. If they weren’t terrorists, then they wouldn’t have been arrested or been detained.

13.

Fallacy: begging the question

14. After Evansville allowed pornographic movie theaters and bookstores to do business downtown, violent crime decreased by 25 percent. This proves that restrictions on pornography rather than pornography itself are a cause of such crimes.

14.

Fallacy: post hoc, ergo propter hoc

15. The owner of two Kentucky theaters refused to show a 2005 movie starring Jane Fonda, Monster-in-Law.

He argued that Fonda ( “Hanoi

Jane”) had played an activist role during the Vietnam War, strongly criticizing America’s military policies there.

15.

Fallacy: ad hominem argument

An error in reasoning that also invalidates an argument.

Ad hominem

Begging the Question Cause-and-Effect Fallacies

2 forms: 1. To attack the person’s personality traits 2. To attack the character and reputation of a person because of whom he or she associates

Something has not yet been proven to be true 1. False cause  Results either from citing a false or a remote cause to explain a situation

An error in reasoning that also invalidates an argument.

Either-Or Evasion Fallacies, continued

2. Because B occurred after event A > event A caused event B

False dilemma Ignores the question by talking around it

False Analogy

…if there are fewer similarities than differences …if the resemblance is remote or ambiguous …if there is no connection between the two subjects at all Study examples and explanation on pp. 366-367

Oversimplification

…if the issue is greatly reduced to simple terms …if information is suppressed which would strengthen the argument Study examples and explanation on p. 368

Rationalization

…if a self-serving but incorrect reason is used to justify one’s position

Red Herring

…if another argument which is totally irrelevant is used to throw the discussion off track Study examples and explanation on p. 368

Slippery Slope

…one wrong idea leads to misunderstanding and belief in the wrong direction

Two Wrongs Make a Right

…is used to correct a wrongdoing and make it appear legitimate because others are doing it

Study the following arguments carefully and decide which fallacy is represented.

1. I don’t care whether file sharing and swapping music online is wrong; most CDs cost between $15 and $18, and that’s too expensive for college students who are already on a tight budget.

1.

Fallacy: rationalization

2. If doctors are allowed to consult reference books, medical journals, and websites, why can’t we medical students look at our textbooks and refer to websites during tests?

2.

Fallacy: false analogy

3. Letter to the editor (paraphrased) after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Texas’s sodomy law: If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to do whatever kind of sexual practice you want in your home, then you have the right to commit adultery, to practice bigamy or polygamy, all in the privacy of your own home. And as for gay marriage, if homosexuals are allowed to marry, what’s to prevent me from marrying my sister, or marrying my dog, or even marrying myself?!

3.

Fallacy: slippery slope

4. Bumper sticker spotted in Oregon, in response to the Forest Service’s decision to stop logging in so-called old-growth forests to protect the endangered spotted owl: “Hungry and out of work? Eat an environmentalist.”

4.

Fallacy: oversimplification

5. I don’t see why people can’t live until they’re 100. When you think about it, we have cars that are 100 years old that were meant to last for only 15 years because they are properly maintained. So why can’t all people live to be 100 if they take care of themselves?

5.

Fallacy: false analogy

6. No wonder those guys at Columbine High killed their classmates. They were known to play computer games like Doom and Quake. Violent video games are a leading cause of violence in our society.

6.

Fallacy: oversimplification

7. A dog breeder refused to reimburse the author after she purchased a pedigreed German shepherd puppy that later was found to have a serious defect requiring corrective surgery. The breeder argued: “You wouldn’t expect your doctor to reimburse you if your child needed surgery, would you?”

7.

Fallacy: false analogy

8. Wal-Mart and other large retail stores asked Congress to change the law regarding the workday limits for truck drivers from 14 hours per day to 16 hours. Erik Winborn, a Wal Mart spokesman, offered this argument: “We support it because we feel it would actually enhance safety rather than hurt safety.” (Quoted in Leslie Miller, “Wal-Mart Wants Longer Shifts for Truck Drivers,” Associated Press, March 9, 2005.)

8.

Fallacy: non sequitur

9. All this talk about the way Americans have treated prisoners at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo Bay is ridiculous. Do you think Al Qaeda treats soldiers they capture any better? I’m pretty sure they don’t pay attention to the Geneva Conventions against torturing captives.

9.

Fallacy: two wrongs make a right

10. The Federation for American Immigration Reform is a group that supports strict limits on immigration. During the debate about immigration policy, Ira Mehlman, the group’s spokesman, was asked whether the children of illegal immigrants should receive U.S. citizenship if they were born in this country. He replied, “It doesn’t make any more sense than if someone breaks into your house and gives birth and the child is considered part of your household.” (Quoted in Tyche Hendricks, “Stakes High for Families,” San Francisco Chronicle , April

3, 2006.)

10.

Fallacy: false analogy

11. During the recent presidential campaign, it was revealed that John Edwards, former Democratic Senator from South Carolina, had worked as a consultant for Fortress Investment Group, a fund that caters to wealthy investors. For a year’s work, he earned almost $500,000. Edwards, whose major campaign issue has been fighting against poverty, defended his earnings, saying that working for the fund educated him about the way financial markets operate.

11.

Fallacy: rationalization

12. In 1996, a Massachusetts bill required, among other provisions, that tobacco companies reveal the additives in each cigarette brand, in particular “ammonia based compounds that tobacco critics say boost nicotine delivery and make cigarettes more potent.” Peggy Carter, a spokeswoman for RJR Nabisco, the parent company of R. J Reynolds Tobacco Co., challenged the bill, arguing: “They wouldn’t ask Coke, Pepsi or the Colonel to

divulge their soft-drink or chicken recipe, so why should we be deprived of trade-secret privileges?” (Quoted in Barbara Carton, “State Demands List of Contents for Cigarettes,” The Wall Street Journal ,

August 2, 1996)

12.

Fallacy: false analogy

13. In the summer of 2006 Floyd Landis won the Tour de France, the grueling bicycle race. But in a random drug test, he tested positive twice for synthetic testosterone, a banned substance. Landis argued that he had been drinking Jack Daniels whiskey the night before, which probably caused his testosterone level to be elevated. Doctors who administered the test said that the substance was synthetic; therefore, the only way it could be present in the body was through an injection. (Landis was later forced to relinquish his title.)

13.

Fallacy: rationalization

14. In June 2002, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because the phrase “under God” violates the principle of separation of church and state. One argument against the ruling went like this: By outlawing the phrase “under God,” the court is promoting atheism.

14.

Fallacy: oversimplification

15. Students at Shasta High School in Redding, California, protested the ban on soft drinks from campus vending machines. Rocky Slaughter, student body president, offered this argument in support of a statewide ballot measure he was sponsoring: “We’re allowed to drive a car. We’re allowed to shoot guns. These are dangerous activities. So why can’t we make decisions about nutrition?” (Quoted in Greg Lucas, “Effort to Weaken School Soda Law,” San

Francisco Chronicle , March 28, 2006.)

15.

Fallacy: false analogy

16. It was revealed that contestants on 1950s quiz shows like Twenty-One and the

$64,000 Question had been fed answers

before the programs were aired. The resulting quiz show scandals prompted a national debate over truth and honesty in broadcasting. One quiz show producer was quoted as saying, in defense of the rigged answers, “If we rig the contest and supply [the contestants] with answers, we’ll make intellectualism and learning look glamorous.”

16.

Fallacy: non sequitur

17. New York City recently passed a law banning trans fats in restaurant food. Many New Yorkers shared the sentiments of this resident: “Mayor Bloomberg and his ‘food nannies’ won’t be satisfied with this prohibition, though. Pretty soon, they’ll have officials going through people’s garbage cans, looking for empty Ho Ho wrappers and Oreo cookie packages, and levying fines against people who eat junk food.”

17.

Fallacy: slippery slope

18. French scientists inserted jellyfish genes into a rabbit embryo to create a bunny that emitted a green glow in the dark. Supporters of this sort of tinkering with nature by manipulating an organism’s genes defended it, saying that dog breeders manipulate mating all the time to produce dogs with desirable qualities, so why can’t biotech breeders create glowing bunnies?

18.

Fallacy: false analogy

Detecting Bias

Bias occurs when a writer obviously favors one side over another, writing from a subjective viewpoint colored by—and possibly distorted by—his or her views about race, religion, politics, culture, and so forth. Bias also occurs when a writer carefully selects details that reinforce his or her viewpoint or when the writer omits, distorts, or suppresses relevant facts. Finally, bias

can result from slanted language— deliberately inflammatory words (sneer words) or words with highly positive connotations (euphemisms). Knowing a writer’s background can alert us to his or her particular point of view. But the best way to uncover bias or to discern a writer’s likely bias is to read a large body of editorials and opinion pieces. With

experience, we can see where our favorite writers stand.

It’s easier to understand bias when we read something with which we don’t agree.

Writing that conforms to our worldview seems right and natural, but it is likely to be just as biased as writing that expresses ideas that we do not accept. In other words, as critical readers we have to subject writing that reinforces our perspective to the same level of scrutiny as we do to writing that we disagree with.

Acceptable vs. Unacceptable Bias

We must distinguish between bias that is acceptable (fair) and bias that

is unacceptable (unfair).

Unacceptable bias derives from racial, ethnic, religious, or political intolerance and prejudice or derives from self-interest, whether political or economic.

Acceptable vs. Unacceptable Bias

If the bias is fair, we must decide whether or not the writer has credibility, whether the writer is an authority on the subject.

Consider these questions:

• Does the writer have expertise in the subject?

• What is the basis for the writer’s ideas? What does he or she stand to gain if we accept the argument?

• Has the writer revealed personal experience that lends credibility to the point of view?

Acceptable vs. Unacceptable Bias

Material that shows unfair bias will most likely also include one or more of the manipulative techniques you have already studied: slanted language (euphemism or sneer words), specious arguments, unsupported claims, emotional appeals, logical fallacies, and so forth.

In your own words, explain why this piece represents a liberal point of view—one that is opposed to Republican policies.

Possible response: Scheer is contemptuous of the administration’s pursuit of a lost cause at the expense of domestic needs. The administration’s intention to bring democracy to Iraq and to use its oil wealth to fund the war effort all turned out to be lies. Liberals maintain that it’s the government’s responsibility to fund social programs; they generally oppose military involvement in other nations.

In your own words, explain why this piece represents a conservative point of view— one that is opposed to Liberal policies.

Possible response: Strassel accuses Feinstein of catering to the wishes of Hollywood celebrities and of using earmarks to preserve this piece of property, which would ultimately result in denying veterans there and elsewhere of $4 billion. The piece makes Feinstein sound anti-military and antiveteran. The writer blatantly distorts West L.A. geography to support her claim.

As newspaper readership has declined, there has been a corresponding, almost dizzying, increase in new sources of information. Beyond traditional websites, blogs (weblogs), personal news sources, and websites like Wikipedia have proliferated. These writers are often ordinary people rather than experts and authorities in the traditional sense. In comparison to traditional sources of

Information (newspapers, television, radio, and magazines), these new media require even more scrutiny because there is little or no editorial oversight. (Wikipedia is the exception to this observation, because of the way the website is constructed, with collaborators constantly refining and checking the information.)

Political Blogs: A Special Case

Lack of editorial oversight and simple fact checking are the biggest problems associated with blogs. When everyone can be a writer, when everyone has a ready-made free forum in which to express opinions, sorting out truth from distortion and detecting bias and deliberate attempts to manipulate become even more crucial.

Political Blogs: A Special Case

Use the suggested list to analyze blogs found on pp. 380

Because an advertisement combines text, called ad copy, with images, it’s important to understand how they work together to create an argument.

When examining advertisements critically, start with the same criteria that you use when analyzing a photograph. Consider:  The subject—Who (or what) is being depicted?

 The action—What is happening and what is the significance of what’s happening?

 The argument—What is in the foreground and what is in the background?

 The people—What are they wearing?

Next, consider the copy (or text) in the ad:  What does the text in the ad say?

 What tone is used?

 What emotional or symbolic overtones does the copy convey?

Consider strategies of persuasion:  What does the advertiser want me to do?

 How is the image in the advertisement designed to accomplish this goal?  How is the text in the advertisement designed to further this goal?

 What emotional appeal is the advertisement using?

 What fallacy is used as deception?

Cartoons are a staple of newspaper editorial pages. Using exaggeration in the form of caricature, irony, and parody, cartoons comment humorously on the issues of the day, often presenting a stark vision of an issue stripped down to its essential elements.

Bias

Bias occurs when a writer favors one side over the other, writing from a subjective viewpoint colored by— and possibly distorted by…

Politics Economics Society Ethnology Race religion

Bias in the Media

Mass media in America is often accused of bias.

Conservative Bias Liberal Bias

Bias in Visual Material

Charts and graphs can be miscued.

Ask these questions:

 What is the claim being put forth?

 Are there any unstated assumptions?

 Is the graph drawn so that data are represented fairly?

 Is the information complete?

Bias in Visual Material

Charts and graphs can be miscued.

Ask these questions

, continued

:

 Is the source of the data clearly indicated?

 Is any bias evident?

Hoodwinking the authority Swaying the audience  Word Choice  Public Opinion Polls

Twisting the facts or misrepresenting one’s position or one’s opponent’s position