argumentative fallacies in current discourse


1000-1500 WORDS

Your first essay asks you to look harder at the use of argumentative fallacies in current discourse. You have a few options for writing this paper:

1. Take a closer look at one specific argument that you find problematic or poorly made. Choose a short (short!) argument–the easiest way to do this is to choose an editorial from a newspaper. Make sure it’s from the editorial page, and not an article! Do a close analysis of the argument that both identifies the fallacies that the author has used and makes an argument for the dominant problem with the argument: what is the heart of the problem with it?

2. Is it false equivalence? In the past few months Michelle Wolf, Samantha Bee, and Roseanne Barr have all been criticized for offensive comments that were labelled racist or sexist. Michelle Wold did not apologize, Samantha Bee has apologized and Roseanne Barr has both apologized and responded in various other ways but she also faced the significant consequence of losing her show. Some people feel that it is not fair that she faced stronger consequences and others say this is a false equivalence–that the cases are not the same. Are they? Or is this false equivalence? If it is, what makes what Roseanne Barr tweeted more unforgivable than the other two widely criticized comments.

3. Focus on one fallacy that you think shows up in various public arguments and make an argument that it is specifically and particularly harmful, more harmful than most. Point to at least three examples of it from different people and ideally in different debates. You don’t have to be limited to the fallacies that were part of the assigned reading in class.

4. Ben Yagoda argues that sometimes “whataboutism” is an appropriate way to argue–is there any other fallacy that you think can be used in a helpful and justifiable way? Make an argument for such while using examples of the fallacy both being used well/appropriately and also being misses so we can see the difference.