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Examples of Propaganda
Propaganda is the spread of information or ideas with the purpose of influencing
feelings or actions. Propaganda is always biased and can be negative or positive,
but usually has a negative connotation.
Common Examples of Propaganda
Building a mental image - A politician will present an image of what the world would
be like with immigration or crime so that the voters will think of that image and
believe that voting for him will reduce that threat.
Overstating participation - The concept of "Get on the Bandwagon" is appealing to a
huge number of people by finding common threads, like religion, race, or vocation.
The theme here is "everyone else is doing it, and so should you."
Building false images - Presidents try to appear to be "common folks" but they really
aren't. Examples are Bill Clinton eating at McDonald's or Ronald Reagan chopping
Generating fear - Fear is generated to change people's behavior. An ad will show a
bloody accident then remind people to wear their seatbelts.
Promising happiness - Selling happiness is a concept used in ads, such as a wellliked actor will explain why you need to buy a product in order to solve a problem.
Creating a false dilemma - An example of false dilemma is where two choices are
offered as if they are the only two options. For example, a president saying in order
to reduce the deficit, we have to either tax the wealthy more or ask seniors to pay
more for Medicare.
Using slogans - If a slogan is repeated enough times, eventually the public will come
to believe it.
Appealing to tradition - Good feelings are generated by the thoughts of certain goods
and actions, and are frequently included in advertisements such as: "Baseball, apple
pie, and Chevrolet."
Misquoting - By taking a quote out of context a false impression can be given to the
reader or listener. For the film Live Free or Die Hard, Jack Mathews was quoted as
saying, "Hysterically...entertaining.". The real quote is, "The action in this fast-paced,
hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining film is as realistic as a Road
Runner cartoon."
Name calling - An example of name calling in propaganda would be: "My opponent is
an alcoholic"
Assertion - This is presenting a fact without any proof, as in "This is the best cavityfighting toothpaste out there."
Propaganda and Wars
Propaganda is part of war, both in the past and in current times. Here are examples:
In 2013, Iran showed pictures of their new stealth fighter flying over Mount
Damavand in Northern Iran. It was soon discovered that it was photoshopped.
During the McCarthy Era, mass media tried to convince everyone that Communists
were taking over the United States.
Alexander the Great intimidated an army by leaving armor and helmets that were
very large when they retreated. This made them look like giants.
In Vietnam, Americans took Vietnamese fishermen to an island and showed them a
resistance group. When they returned, the fishermen told everyone and the
Vietnamese spent a lot of time and effort trying to eliminate this fake group.
The United States dropped leaflets over Iraq telling people that Saddam Hussein
was responsible for their suffering.
Generalities in Propaganda
Glittering generalities are words that appeal to people on an emotional level and are
commonly used in propaganda.
Since propaganda is rampant in politics, here is a list of generalities that are used
often by politicians:
Common sense
Hard working
Public Relations and Propaganda
View all blog posts underArticles | View all blog posts underMaster's in Strategic Public
Relations Online
Propaganda has been an effective tool to shape public opinion and action for centuries.
Since propaganda and public relations both share the goal of using mass
communication to influence public perception, it can be easy to conflate the two.
Propaganda, however, traffics in lies, misinformation, inflammatory language, and other
negative communication to achieve an objective related to a cause, goal or political
agenda. Though propaganda techniques can be employed by bad actors on the world
stage, these same concepts can be utilized by individuals in their interpersonal
relationships. Regardless of how propaganda is employed, these common techniques
are used to manipulate others to act or respond in the way that the propagandist desires.
The desire to fit in with peers has long been recognized as a powerful force in society.
Propagandists can exploit this longing by using the bandwagon technique to appeal to
the public. This common propaganda technique is used to convince the public to think,
speak, or act in a particular way simply because others are. The public is invited to “jump
on the bandwagon” and not be left behind or left out as the rest of society engages in
what they perceive to be correct behavior.
Snob Appeal
In an attempt to appeal to the general public’s aspiration to belong to society’s high
class, propagandists can use snob appeal as a selling technique. This technique
involves convincing the public to behave in ways that are agreeable to the propagandists
and serve their purposes. In order for this technique to be successful, propagandists
have to first position themselves as having a product, idea or opinion that is worthy of
elite status. Many publicists in charge of public relations for companies employ a similar
technique as a way to maintain the perception that the business creates and sells highquality goods.
Vague Terms
Propagandists sometimes achieve their goal of swaying public opinion simply by using
empty words. When employing this technique, propagandists will deliberately use vague
terms meant to entice. Examination of the terms, however, can reveal that they offer no
real definition or commitment to meaning. The goal of this type of propaganda can be to
offer generalities that provoke audiences to expend their energy on interpretation rather
than critiquing.
Loaded Words
Words have power when it comes to public relations, and it’s no surprise that many
propagandists use a technique involving loaded words to sway public opinion. When
attempting to convince the public to act, propagandists may use excessively positive
words or those with agreeable associations. If the goal is to hinder action, propagandists
can select words that are highly negative to communicate with the public such as those
that inspire fear, anger, or doubt. A simple and effective means of loaded words usage is
the act of name-calling, which many political groups have used to disparage opposition,
quell dissent. and scapegoat groups of people.
Propagandists may attempt to associate two unrelated concepts or items in an effort to
push what they’re selling to the public. With the technique of transfer, propagandists
conjure up either positive or negative images, connect them to an unrelated concept or
item, and try to move the public to take action. Commonly, propagandists can associate
the glory or virtue of a historical event with their product or the action that they want the
public to take. Conversely, transfer can also be employed as a means to convince the
public to not take an action, lest they suffer a disagreeable fate.
Unreliable Testimonial
Propaganda can hinge on the ability of an unrelated person to successfully sell an idea,
opinion, product, or action. In modern day advertising, companies may enlist celebrities
to help sell their products as part of their public relations efforts. Oftentimes, these
celebrities don’t have any personal experience with the products or background with the
science utilized to create them, but their testimonial can increase sales simply because
they provide a recognizable and sometimes trustworthy face to the public. Viewers of
this type of propaganda put their faith in the testimonial rather than judging the product,
idea, or company on its own merits.
Recommended Reading
What is Public Relations?
The Latest Trends in Public Relations Practice
George Washington University Public Relations Program
How Propaganda Works
Propaganda Examples With Videos
Types of Propaganda (PDF)
Propaganda Techniques (PDF)
Fallacies and Propaganda
False Reasoning and Propaganda Techniques (PDF)
Devices Used in Propaganda
Propaganda Throughout History
College of DuPage’s List of Propaganda Techniques
Spotting Propaganda (PDF)
Advertising Techniques
5 Most Common Advertising Techniques
Public Service Advertising and Propaganda
Rhetoric in Advertising: Propaganda
Plain Folks
Examples of Bandwagon in Literary Works
Propaganda Techniques in Modern Society and Animal Farm
12 Classic Propaganda Techniques Narcissists Use to Manipulate You
German Propaganda Archive
WWII Propaganda
Soviet Propaganda Posters
Master’s in Strategic Public Relations Online
It is important to be able to evaluate what you read and hear. If you did not sort the
credible from the incredible, the serious from the playful, the essential from the
nonessential, the world would be full of conflicting and bewildering messages. Critical
thinking enables you to distinguish between fact and opinion and distinguish sound from
faulty reasoning.
One kind of faulty reasoning is a fallacy, a breakdown of logic. A fallacious argument is one
that tries to argue from A to B, but because it contains hidden assumptions or factual
irrelevancies, reaches an invalid conclusion.
Another kind of faulty reasoning results from substituting emotion for
thought. Propaganda is an indirect message appealing primarily to emotion. It is aimed at
forming opinions rather than increasing knowledge. Propaganda intends to persuade without
offering a logical reason to adopt a particular view or take a particular action. While the
word itself carries rather a negative connotation (implying intent to mislead or deceive) the
techniques can be used in good causes as well—a Cancer Society fundraiser, for example. At
least some propaganda techniques are used occasionally by non-profit organizations,
advertisers, churches, news organizations, governments, and instructors.
For good or ill, makers of propaganda typically select facts most appropriate to their purpose
and omit facts that do not help them achieve that purpose. Because some propaganda uses
facts (albeit selectively), it can look like a reasoned argument. But because it fails to make a
logical case, propaganda is often fallacious as well as emotional.
Fallacies and propaganda devices are slippery by nature; they overlap, are often used in
combination, and do not always fit neatly into one category or another. Following are
Ad Hominem Fallacy
An ad hominem fallacy redirects the discussion of an issue to a discussion of one of the
subjects—to his or her personal failings, inconsistency, or bias. For example, in a discussion
of the pros and cons of privatizing Social Security, it would be an ad hominem attack simply
to declare your opponent a parasite feeding on the lifeblood of the working class. Similarly,
you would be guilty of an ad hominem attack if you exclaimed, “How can you claim to be a
born-again Christian?” (pointing out an inconsistency of position) or “Of course you would
say that—you’re a Libertarian!” (pointing out personal bias). None of these response
addresses the actual pros and cons of the proposal to privatize Social Security.
A preemptive ad hominem attack, launched before the discussion fairly begins, is called
“Poisoning the Well” (below).
Ad Nauseum Fallacy
Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, said that if only you repeat something often
enough, people will come to believe it. Ad nauseum repetition is the stuff urban legends are
made of. Less harmless than urban legends is the indoctrination (“brainwashing”) of cult
groups, which aims to create belief by aiming sheer, ad nauseum repetition relentlessly at
an exhausted subject.
Fallacy Based on Appeal to Belief, Common Practice, or Expertise
An appeal to belief suggests that, since most reasonable people (of your sort) believe
something, you should believe it, too. “Educators fear that vouchers will undermine funding
for public schools.” Educators in particular might be inclined to conclude that this fear is
universal among educators, and identify with the belief because they identify with the
Appeals to common practice suggest that most everyone does it, and furthermore that it is
therefore okay; “Nobody in California comes to a full stop. That’s why they call it ‘the
California Stop.’”
An appeal to expertise dares you to pit your own ignorance against experts making a value
claim (a Grammy award-winning country singer publicly endorses a political candidate, for
example). Now, specialists agreeing on objective claims about matters within their field of
expertise are reasonably to be believed, but specialists making value judgments outside
their field might not. (For more, see the TIP Sheet “Objective and Subjective Claims.”)
Phrases like the following might signal an appeal to belief, expertise, or common practice:
“Ask anyone…”
“Everyone knows…”
“Any reasonable person would…”
“It’s obvious that…”
Fallacy Based on Appeal to Indignation or Anger
The problem with the appeal to indignation or anger is that anger is a poor substitute for
reasoning. On the contrary, anger clouds thinking. Certainly anger is sometimes justified,
when it follows an argument that gives me grounds for anger, but anger is not the way to
reach that conclusion. And anyway, sometimes we are angry for irrational reasons.
For example: “The governor is cutting education funds!” may cause a reaction of anger,
followed by the conclusion, “The governor is a dolt and a fascist!” (see “Name-Calling,”
below). Anger short-circuits the reasoning process, whereby we might have examined the
figures and learned (much to our surprise) that education funding is up from last year—just
not up as much as originally hoped.
Fallacy Based on Appeal to Pity
Who has not seen the heartbreaking pictures of starving orphans with the request for
donations to ease their plight? A valid appeal to pity has a direct link between the object of
pity (starving children) and the desired action (the money that can help feed them).
Appeal to pity becomes a fallacy when there is no logical link between the arousal of pity
and the desired action: “Please give me a break, Professor. If I don’t pass this class I’ll lose
my financial aid.” Whether this student is qualified to pass the class depends on the quality
and quantity of work completed, not on financial need. There is no relevant connection
between the student’s need on the one hand, and the quality of work she has (or has not)
performed on the other.
Fallacy Based on Appeal to Popularity or Bandwagon
Appeal to popularity exploits the human desire to belong to a group. While there is nothing
wrong with belonging to a group, some decisions are not group decisions, should be made
without taking a head count, and should be held to even if they are unpopular. For example,
my softball team’s consensus should probably not be the determining factor in my decision
to take a cut in pay in return for more flexibility in my working hours. My softball team’s
disapproval (they think I should go for the higher salary) should be irrelevant.
“Jumping on the bandwagon” is supporting a cause or position merely because it appears to
be popular or winning. Politicians who waver from one position to another are sometimes
trying to protect their jobs by appealing to the greatest number of voters based on changing
poll information. Of course, it is reasonable sometimes to change one’s mind; it is just
usually preferable to base the change on reason.
Fallacy Based on Appeal to Ridicule
Sarcasm is always hostile. Ridicule, sarcasm, and the “horse laugh” are the persuasion
techniques of bullies. Appeal to ridicule tries to convince you to accept an argument in order
to avoid becoming the butt of the joke. The laugh might be at the person (see “Ad
Hominem,” above) or at his position (see “Straw Man,” below). Whether it is blatant or
subtle, ridicule essentially denies discussion.
Apple Polishing Fallacy
Apple polishing is connecting compliments to unrelated issues. It urges someone to accept a
claim in the afterglow of pleasure at the compliment. “You are by far the best math teacher
I’ve ever had. You made me love math! I think I may change my major to math. I want to
be just like you. Oh—I haven’t finished that chapter review; you don’t mind if I hand it in
Fallacy Based on Begging the Question
Begging the question is a type of circular reasoning that presents as a true premise an
assertion that actually requires its own proof. This leads to a “conclusion” that has already
been pre-supposed or implied. For example, a student complains bitterly that he failed the
English composition exit exam. “The test is bogus! I’ve taken it twice now, and they won’t
pass me!” The student concludes that the test is bogus. His implied premise is that his essay
is, in fact, good enough to pass. But whether his essay is good enough to pass is, itself, the
question. Asserting that it is (or implying that it is) is not sufficient to prove that it is.
(Application of the test rubric, by trained test scorers—twice—would appear to conclude that
it is not.)
Distribution Fallacies: Composition and Division
Distribution fallacies arise two ways: In the composition fallacy, I know the characteristics of
the whole, and (wrongly) attribute those characteristics to each of its parts. Stereotyping of
individuals may result from a composition fallacy. Suppose I have read statistics that
attribute very strong business ambition to a certain demographic group. I then attribute
business ambition to each person of that group, without respect for individual variations
(See also “Hasty Generalization,” below).
In its converse, the division fallacy, I know the characteristics of an individual or part, and
(wrongly) attribute those characteristics to the whole. However, the parts are not
necessarily representative of the whole. Broad stereotyping of a group may result from the
division fallacy. Suppose I have become acquainted with a man from Taiwan who is an
extremely talented electrical engineer. I mistakenly conclude that all Taiwanese, as a group,
are amazing electrical engineers.
False Dilemma Fallacy
The false dilemma fallacy limits responses to those which serve the ends of its user (“Yes or
no?”), implicitly denying the middle ground (“Maybe…”) or any qualified response (“Yes,
but…”) . In a discussion on illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S., for example, there is
a vast middle ground of discussion between the extremes of building a very high fence on
the one hand, and allowing uncontrolled immigration with its associated high social costs on
the other. To suggest that a discussion on immigration is simply a choice between the two
extremes is a false dilemma.
Political surveys frequently pose questions positing false dilemmas, using loaded questions
that are worded in such a way that the desired attitude is suggested in the question. The
responder is thus “steered” toward the desired response.
Guilt by Association Fallacy
The guilt by association fallacy muddles the process of fairly evaluating an idea, person, or
group by interjecting irrelevant and misleading negative material. Think of it as a kind of red
herring (below). This fallacy tries to connect ideas or persons to something unsavory or
untrustworthy in order to discredit them. Take, for example, this claim made by an
individual running against the incumbent for the office of sheriff: “Our sheriff has breakfast
every single week with the head of a white supremacist group.” The fact that this weekly
breakfast is attended by thirty-five local businessmen, including the head of the white
supremacist group, is selectively omitted here (See also “Stacking the Deck, below). Be on
guard when you see phrases like these:
“has ties to…”
“connected with”
“is the parent company/subsidiary of…”
“was a member of…”
Hasty Generalization Fallacy
A hasty generalization draws an unwarranted conclusion from insufficient evidence (see also
“Distribution fallacies,” above). It often happens when the sample is too small to support the
conclusion. For example, data compiled from 1,000 households, all in Nebraska, would
probably be insufficient to accurately predict the outcome of a national election. Hasty
generalization occurs, as well, when the sample is too biased to support the conclusion: Ten
million households, selected from all fifty states, but all of them Libertarian (or Democrat, or
Republican), may also be insufficient to predict the result of a national election.
Another kind of hasty generalization occurs as the result of misleading vividness. For
example, a man in Tonga who watched many American daytime dramas (“soap operas”)
might conclude that people in the U.S. were more materially prosperous, more well-dressed,
more vicious, more self-centered, and more immodest than most of them are.
Name Calling
Name-calling is not so much a fallacy (see “Ad hominem,” above) as it is a propaganda
technique, a crude attempt to make mud stick. It does not pretend to thoughtfully address
issues or prove anything.
“The femi-Nazis want to eliminate gender.”
“We don’t need any more right-wing theocrats (or leftist, activist judges) on the bench.”
“This administration is a bunch of lying, neo-Fascist colonialists (or liberal, atheistic social
“America is the Great Satan.”
Negative Proof Fallacy or Argument from Ignorance
The negative proof fallacy declares that, because no evidence has been produced, that
therefore none exists. For example, a theist might declare, “You atheists cannot prove God
does not exist, therefore God exists.” On the other hand, the atheist declares, “You deists
cannot prove that God exists, therefore God does not exist.” First of all, the lack of proof
one way or the other does nothing to prove or disprove God’s existence; the deist and the
atheist may just as well make simple assertions: “God exists,” and “God does not exit.”
Second, the general rule is that the person who asserts something has the burden of proof
to provide evidence to support that something. It is not sufficient to make the assertion and
then shift the burden of proof to the listener to prove you wrong.
Poisoning the Well Fallacy
Poisoning the well is an ad hominem attack (see “Ad hominem,” above) on a person’s
integrity or intelligence that takes place before the merits of a case can be considered. It
redirects a discussion to the faults of one of the parties. “Of course she will oppose the tort
reform bill—she’s a lawyer, isn’t she?” The speaker suggests that something (greed? law
school?) has corrupted the lawyer’s thinking to a degree that she cannot evaluate the tort
reform bill on its own merits. Now the discussion is no longer about the merits of the tort
reform bill at all, but about the personal qualities and motives of the other party.
Questionable Cause Fallacy
A questionable cause fallacy is the result of incorrectly identifying the causes of events
either by oversimplifying or by mistaking a statistical correlation for a cause. Oversimplifying
occurs when complex events with many contributing causes are attributed to a single cause:
“School shootings happen because bullying makes students ‘snap.’” Since at least some
bullied students do not shoot their classmates, this would appear to be oversimplified.
Mistaking correlation for cause can happen when unrelated events occur together, either by
chance or because they are actually both results of yet another cause. For example, does
eating more ice cream in the summer cause an increase in crime rates? The rates for ice
cream eating and violent crime both rise each summer. However, the statistical correlation
notwithstanding, eating ice cream does not cause violent crime to increase. Rather, ice
cream eating and crime may rise together as a result of a common cause—hot weather.
There may be an evolutionary advantage to discerning cause and effect; we’re hard-wired to
look for causes, even if wrongheadedly. The tendency for humans to “see” a pattern where
none exists is called the clustering illusion, demonstrated by the Texas sharpshooter fallacy:
The Texas sharpshooter fires a hundred shots randomly into the side of barn. He then paints
a target around the thickest cluster of holes. He has taken statistically non-significant,
random data and attributed to it a common cause. The perennial attempts to find
meaningful, hidden codes in the works of Shakespeare or the Bible (or the works of
Leonardo da Vinci) illustrate the clustering illusion.
Fallacy Based on Scare Tactics or Appeal to Fear
Scare tactics create appeal from emotion. For example, the following appeal to fear requires
me to accept a certain standard of “businesslike” attitude and behavior on grounds of fear:
This company expects a high level of commitment; be here in the office finishing the
proposal through the weekend. Don’t forget your employee review is Monday.
Whether we can agree on what an acceptably “high level of commitment” is will have to
wait for another time, since my immediate problem is avoiding the implied threat of a poor
employee review. A warning differs from scare tactics because a warning is relevant to the
issue. For example, it would be foolish to ignore the following warning:
No late research papers will be accepted; you cannot pass the class without a passing grade
on this paper.
Slippery Slope Fallacy
Slippery slope arguments conclude that, if an eventual, logical result of an action or position
is bad, then the original action or position must be bad. It is characteristic of a slippery slope
argument that the final badness arrives in increments; thus, even though the badness could
have been foreseen and may even have been inevitable, most of us are taken by surprise.
Slippery slope arguments are common in social change issues.
A slippery slope argument is not necessarily a fallacy. It becomes a fallacy when the chain of
cause and effect breaks down. If I cannot show you the reason why a causes b, and b
causes c, and c causes d, my argument is fallacious. Typically, the (fallacious) chain of
“logical” intermediate events becomes improbably long and unlikely, exponentially increasing
the unlikelihood of the final result.
Often a historical precedent is cited as evidence that the chain of increasingly bad effects
will occur. For example, there exist several historical precedents for the confiscation of guns
by oppressive governments: in both Marxist and Nazi states, for example, the government
confiscated the guns of citizens based on the registration records of those guns. Gun
aficionados in the U.S. argue that gun registration anywhere will inevitably lead to
confiscation of guns by the government. However, as a simple matter of logic, a historical
precedent alone does not make those results necessary (or even probable) in every case.
Gun registration opponents could avoid the slippery slope fallacy if they could show the
reason why registration leads inevitably to confiscation. Or, if gun registration opponents
could demonstrate that the principle that favors registration of guns is the same principle
that would allow confiscation of guns, the fallacy may be avoided.
Smokescreen or Red Herring Fallacy
The smokescreen fallacy responds to a challenge by bringing up another topic. Smokescreen
or red herring fallacies mislead with irrelevant (though possibly related) facts:
“We know we need to make cuts in the state budget. But do you really think we should cut
funds for elementary physical education programs?”
“Well, we have to cut something. This governor has turned a million-dollar surplus into a
billion-dollar shortfall. And what’s up with that shady software deal he made?”
Why red herring? A herring (a salt-cured fish) has a very strong odor; drag one across the
trail of an animal and tracking dogs will abandon the animal’s scent for the herring’s. (A
satirical fictitious example is the “Chewbacca Defense,” first used on the television show
South Park in 1998, in which a lawyer convinces a jury to convict (and later to acquit) by
misleading them with irrelevant facts about Wookies; for more information,
see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chewbacca_Defense.)
Stacking the Deck Fallacy
Stacking the deck is a fallacy of omitting evidence that does not support your position. Like
the card shark who “stacks” the cards before dealing to favor his own hand, a person who
stacks the deck of an argument is cheating. All the cards favor him, because he has
arranged them so. On the contrary, honest treatment of a discussable issue should evaluate
evidence both for and against one’s own position. Stacking the deck can achieve short term
wins against the unwary, but eventually a card stacker’s credibility will suffer.
For example, look again at the claim made above (see “Guilt by Association”) by the person
running against an incumbent for the office of sheriff: “Our sheriff has breakfast every single
week with the head of a white supremacist group.” This assertion might win the challenger
some votes; note that the incumbent cannot truthfully deny it and independent investigation
would confirm it. However, the challenger has selectively omitted the fact that this weekly
breakfast is attended by thirty-five local businessmen, including the head of the white
supremacist group. Should someone effectively expose the cheat before the election, the
challenger will appear in an unfavorable light.
Straw Man Fallacy
If I take a complex position and oversimplify it in order to more easily overcome it, I am
guilty of the straw man fallacy. In a sense, a straw man fallacy is a type of red herring
(above), in that it misleads by misrepresenting the opponent’s position. Complex ideas about
family planning are misrepresented below:
“The nuns taught us family planning was a sin. We would have to keep having babies
because babies were a blessing, no matter how many of them already were in the house.”
The speaker may go on to demonstrate how unnatural and medieval such ideas are,
defeating the straw man he himself has created. Instead of defeating his opponent’s best
argument, he takes a weak argument, falsifies it, and then “overcomes” it. Political parties
often demonize each other, painting extreme caricatures of each other’s actual, more
thoughtful, positions in order to argue more easily (in marketable sound-bites) against
The straw man fallacy works best if the characterization closely resembles the real one; that
is, if I choose to misrepresent your position, I should not be too obvious about it.
Subjectivist or Relativist Fallacy
The subjectivist or relativist fallacy turns all disagreements into matters of opinion by
claiming that what is true and what is false are different for different people. In matters of
fact, such a claim cannot be made without making nonsense. In matters of opinion,
however, there exists no single standard to prove one or another claim conclusively true or
false. The rightness or wrongness of either opinion might very well depend on where you
stand. But even for matters of opinion, if there is no “truth,” then any opinion seems as
good as any another and all opinions seem essentially groundless and equally meaningless.
On the contrary, it is a virtue of a “good” opinion that it has a basis in evidence and logic.
For more, see the TIP Sheets “Objective and Subjective Claims” and “Deductive, Inductive,
and Abductive Reasoning.”
A subjectivist fallacy on a factual matter puts an end to rational discussion:
A: “The earth is roughly spherical, and goes once around the sun in about 365 days.
B: “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me. And I have a right to my opinion.”
But a subjectivist claim even on a subjective matter (“It may be wrong for you, but it’s right
for me!”) makes further discussion difficult by eliminating the common ground for
Fallacy Based on Transfer
Transfer is an emotional appeal that associates something or someone known (and
therefore implied “good”) with a product, idea, or candidate. Celebrity endorsements are an
example. Well-known objects and images can be used the same way, evoking an emotional
response that sponsors hope will transfer to their cause. For example, images of Arlington
National Cemetery might be used to help raise money for veterans’ groups. The image of
Mount Everest is often used to help sell outdoor products (though relatively few of the
products’ users will ever actually attempt to climb Everest).
Wishful Thinking Fallacy
Wishful thinking is choosing to believe something is true because we really, really want it to
be true. We usually perpetrate wishful think on ourselves, but it also underlies many
“positive thinking” philosophies: to believe in your dream is to make it come true. Though
wishful (positive) thinking followed by action may help me achieve my goals, wishful
thinking alone achieves nothing. Wishful thinking promotes comfort, but it does not promote