Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Seven Logical Fallacies of the Internet Age

The world of Internet debates can be a frightening thing. Whether it’s with strangers on a blog or with sorta “friends” on Facebook, it can be tricky to know how to proceed. If you want a real primer on logical fallacies, try this site. But I personally think some of the classical fallacies, around since the days of Plato and Socrates, need an update.

So here they are: seven ways to be really bad at logic on the Internet.

Ad Namecalling: “If I apply this negative label to you, people will stop listening to you and also like my comment because it’s fun to call people names.” You can dismiss almost any argument by calling someone “sheltered,” “radical,” or “ignorant.” This has the added benefit of making any debate more personal and emotional, so you’re much less likely to walk away thinking, “Hmm, I feel like I’ve learned something and broadened my perspective as a well-reasoned human being.”

Straw NarrowmindedArrogantBullyExtremistIdiot: “You are both stupid and a product of your culture and did not give any thought to your response. Therefore, I will assume what you meant was the most offensive and ridiculous extreme of your position and argue against that.” Similar to Ad Namecalling, but applies the negative assumptions to the actual statement the person is making. Both can be avoided by assuming that the person who disagrees with you is a relatively intelligent, somewhat-well-intentioned person. If you can’t manage that, then at least assume the person who disagrees with you is…a person. That way, you can avoid the same phenomenon that is behind racism, objectification, and genocide. (This is sort of a transition to the next fallacy. But really, now. It’s also kinda true.)

Slippery Thread: “If I don’t continue to reiterate my point whenever someone in this thread disagrees with me, I have lost, and then the world will not know the truth, and then everyone will die.” This one is more about the way arguments on the Internet work: everyone wants to have the last word. Even if that last word is repeating something they just said. Several times.

Jumping on the Likewagon: “The comment with the most ‘likes’ is obviously right.” Based on a grand ol’ star-spangled trust in democracy, this fallacy starts to lose its appeal when you realize that a majority of Americans contributed to making Twilight a bestseller.

Appeal to “They”: “I’m going to reference an uncited, unnamed authority who agrees with me or gives evidence for my argument, leaving you to wonder if this is a real source or just my gut instinct transferred to third person.” “They” say a lot of things. Often, those things are about as accurate as memes with quotes attributed to Buddha.

No True Troll: “Wow, this person posted a ridiculous statement of some kind. I am horrified! I will argue with it even though that person clearly isn’t changing his mind.” This takes place when another commenter is trolling, or intentionally posting something to get a reaction from others. Many people treat all commenters as non-trolls, thus giving the attention-seekers exactly what they wanted. Take it from me: no one is listening to the troll. No one. So don’t waste your time arguing with a statement that everyone already recognizes as bogus.

All-Caps Reasoning: “THINGS IN CAPS ARE WAY MORE LIKELY TO BE TRUE. Also, I’ll throw in a well-placed swear word so people will like my comments because it’s fun to swear. And use cutting sarcasm because if I’m smart enough to use sarcasm, I’m smart enough to be right about this.” We’ve been wrong all along, people. It’s not about content; it’s about formatting. Often related to the “Jumping on the Likewagon” fallacy.

Logic is fun, guys. And we should use it more often. The generation before us is begging us to do this. The generation after us would be begging us to do this if they realized what a world dominated entirely by emoticon-strewn, rant-like reasoning they’ll inherit.

The Internet gives us the power to say whatever we want, to broadcast to the world the very first drafts of our half-thought-out statements.

But let’s not.


  1. :) This is probably my favorite, because it made me laugh: “If I don’t continue to reiterate my point whenever someone in this thread disagrees with me, I have lost, and then the world will not know the truth, and then everyone will die.”

    Excellent post. I enjoy your satirical sense of sarcastic humor. :)

    1. Thanks, Jenelle! I enjoyed writing it...although I probably do a few of these every now and then myself.