I?m teaching a college public speaking course and needed good examples of logical fallacies to help my students think critically about the methods speakers use to persuade their audiences. Luckily for anyone trying to learn these slippery tactics ? President Trump?s Tweets tend to beautifully demonstrate at least a fallacy or two. So here?s some of the big ones:
Speakers use red herrings to distract the listener/reader from themselves or the problem at hand. When they are accused of something, instead of providing evidence to disprove the accusation, they attack someone else for something else. Here, Trump says he doesn?t have deals with Putin and Russia but instead of explaining why that is true or providing proof of it he attacks Obama for his missile dealings with Iran. It?s kind of like trying to put Bobby in time-out for spitting at Molly when Bobby says ?But Jimmy kicked Sally!?
Argument from Omniscience/Authority:
Here Trump explains that his opinions and actions are correct because HE calls the shots. This is an argument from authority. As in, instead of providing proof for a fact, if the guy in charge says it, then it must be true. He also demonstrates argument from omniscience (the ability to know thoughts of all people) by saying ?everyone knows it.? There is no way for him to know what ?everyone? actually knows or thinks.
This is a very common one that can be tricky to see. Basically it comes down to X means Y because Y means X. The premise and the conclusion are the same. Like: This Reuben sandwich is great because it has Russian dressing on it! Why is there Russian dressing on this sandwich? Because it?s a Reuben!
In the following two tweets Trump comes to the conclusion that ?people are seeing ?big stuff?.? I have no idea what ?big stuff? is so let me re-read these Tweets to find the definition:
OK so ?Big stuff? must mean: all of the jobs he?s bringing back in to the U.S and the new auto plants coming into our country. OK so what do all the jobs and auto plants mean? They mean?big stuff? OK so premise = conclusion.
Latin for ?to the man.? This is done when someone focuses their critique on a person?s appearance, character, way of speaking etc. instead of refuting their ideas or opinions. Trump LOVES ad-hominems. They are typically fired at reporters and political opponents.
P.S If you find Trump?s ad-hominem Tweets entertaining, the New York Times has compiled a fun list.
This happens when someone attacks a person or organization for something they didn?t say or do or didn?t really say or do. It often happens when the attacker does not fully understand the argument of the person they are attacking. It can also be very intentional and is used quite a bit in political debates. The speaker is attacking a ?straw man? or super simplified or misinterpreted stand-in rather than the actual person?s argument since the actual person may have never said such a thing. Here Trump scolds the New York Times for supposedly ?DISHONEST? coverage of him. His evidence is about a supposed letter the NYT sent to readers which ?apologized? for their ?false and angry? stories. There was no such apology letter.