You simply cannot make up a better example of a loaded question guaranteed to bias an opinion poll. This was sent out by a Conservative MP to all his constituents in relation to the terrorism bill before Parliament right now.
So who do you have to talk to around here to get a new kind of fallacy passed? I’s like to propose a particular variety of fallacy that is somewhere between a red herring (an irrelevant distraction) and tu quoque (appeal to hypocrisy). What I have in mind here is when one person seeks to critique or trivialize a proposal by pointing to broader, more serious issues the solution fails to address. This is especially problematic when the person making a particular proposal has little means to undertake or address the larger issue, or when addressing the smaller problem in no way interferes with others who might take action to solve the larger problem.
This is fallacious because it distracts from the merits of a particular proposal or course of action, for instance by skirting the question as to whether the proposal actually stands to effect the desired changes. Another way in which the fallacy is in the red herring family is that merely pointing out another bigger problem is not enough to show that what is being addressed by a proposal is not itself a worthwhile problem to tackle. Showing that a problem is, in fact, trivial, ought to be accomplished on independent grounds. For instance, by providing reasons to believe that the problem has no serious consequences or by showing that it is not particularly widespread. Stating that there are other bigger problems in the world, is not by itself sufficient for demonstrating that issues being addressed by one’s opponent are necessarily trivial.
These look like arguments, they smell like arguments, but they’re not. They also have the mark of tu quoque since this form of argumentation seems to carry an implicit accusation of hypocrisy against a person because they’ve selected a smaller problem to tackle despite the existence of others. That is, there is an underlying sense that someone should practice what they preach by addressing “real” issues rather than those upon which they have chosen to focus.
Here’s one example:
In some countries people abort female fetuses, practice female circumcision and refuse to educate young women, and she wants to start a program to improve Canadian high school girls’ self esteem? Ridiculous!
Councillor Morgan is organizing a group of fellow council members to pick up litter in the park outside City Hall. Unbelievable! The Don Valley river is filthy and Lake Ontario is overflowing with garbage, and he thinks cleaning up a park is worthwhile? Give me a break.
What the hell, while I’m at it, I’d also like to propose the:
The MFS occurs when one aims to shut down an argument by stating, but not demonstrating, that one’s opponent has committed a logical fallacy. This is similar to poisoning the well if it is intended to make one’s opponent feel stupid and therefore submit. In the wild, this fallacy is most often observed among first-year critical thinking students during pub nights.
I have a confession to make: I helped exile rap singer Pitbull to a Walmart in Kodiak, Alaska. In participating in the Internet prank that achieved this, however, I also became party a social media campaign that could have resulted in a PR disaster had Walmart handled the situation poorly. Instead, what we saw was a celebration based far more broadly than Walmart could ever have hoped had the corporation and performer not been trolled as hard as they were. The moral of the story I’m about to tell is that due to the highly complex and chaotic environment created by the use of social media, companies cannot reliably predict the impact of online promotions and when or how these might go viral. However, with quick thinking on the ground (and quite possibly a sense of humour) companies can respond quickly and appropriately when they lose control of Internet promotions and even end up appealing to unlikely market segments along the way.
The chain events that brought Pitbull to Kodiak, Alaska started in the Spring of 2012 when Walmart and Sheets Energy Strips launched a campaign that promised a visit from the rapper to any Walmart store that received the most ‘likes’ on Facebook. It is probably important to note that while Pitbull may have no small number of adoring fans, he, Justin Bieber and all the members of Nickleback taken together comprise most of the top-10 list of musicians people love to hate. David Thorpe, one such anti-fan as well as a writer for comedy website somethingawful.com, heard of Walmart’s campaign and decided to start one of his own. Thorpe decided to hijack the contest in order to send Pitbull to the remotest part the USA possible. Kodiak fit the bill nicely, and Thorpe went to announce his devious plan to followers on Twitter using the hashtag #exilepitbull.
Thorpe’s twitter fans were quick to re-tweet his mischievous idea and soon it spread like wildfire on other social media sites such as reddit, 4chan and Facebook. Somewhere along the way I myself jumped on the bandwagon to cast one of the 71,000 or so ‘likes’ for the Kodiak Walmart. This number, incidentally, is many times higher than the town’s estimated population of 6,256. I was also gratified by having done so a few weeks later when I opened Facebook only to be greeted by a photo of an enormous stuffed grizzly bear looming over Pitbull’s shoulder along with the announcement from the local Walmart that the performer was indeed in Kodiak, Alaska. Celebratory postings soon followed on all the social media sites used to publicize the prank.
Thorpe himself reportedly said he was aiming “to disrupt a corporate social media campaign, since they really set themselves up for it.” Meanwhile online media blog The Gawker announced the visit as a victory for the Internet. The real winners, however, are Pitbull and Walmart. At any point along the way, either the company or the rapper could panicked or responded poorly to a promotional campaign spiralling out of control. They could have shut down the contest, tampered with the rules, or responded angrily on Twitter. Instead, during the voting period staff at the Kodiak Walmart posed for a picture while holding a banner proclaiming “We would love to have Pitbull.” A spokesperson for Walmart also reassured reporters regarding the Alaskan store that “If they do win, he is definitely headed there.” Pitbull himself, meanwhile, was tweeting “I hear there’s bear repellent at Kodiak, Alaska” and added Thorpe’s own hashtag #exilepitbull. In other words, everyone involved rolled with the punches and responded to the Thorpe’s prank with grace and good humour.
Now it was likely the case that the companies involved were aiming to appeal to a younger audience by showcasing a seemingly hot and hip performer such as Pitbull. However, by playing along with the joke and carrying through with their promise, Walmart and Pitbull also gained a certain amount of credibility, no matter how grudging, from an unlikely demographic. The kind of person who will find it appealing to exploit a corporation’s own advertising campaign for her own nefarious purposes is likely someone, such as myself, who is already skeptical and suspicious of most marketing activity. For instance, these are the sorts of folks who are currently abandoning Instagram in droves after news went viral that the company was going to use customers’ photos in advertising. And yet it is just these hard-to-market-to people who gratuitously shared photos of an extremely commercialized performer such as Pitbull posing inside a Walmart, a chain that is itself the quintessential beacon of corporate America if ever there was one. You can’t predict when it’s going to happen, but if you’re smart, you can make sure an Internet wildfire serves you instead of letting it devour you.
Finally, I’ll close with a couple more confessions, which is that although I’m still not crazy about shopping at Walmart, you can bet I’d go into the Kodiak one just to see the bear that posed with Pitbull. Meanwhile, I’m also just a smidgen less embarrassed now by the one or two songs by the guy that just happen to be on the iPod I use for the gym.