Logical Fallacies and Propaganda “Christians” Have Been Known to Use

3 09 2009

Cock of the snook to Lynn’s comments for this, where I found Christians warning other Christians about “spiritual abuse” and interpreting wikipedia’s fallacies and propaganda techniques to arm people against it.

(They read like the current public discourse on everything):

Frequently used propaganda techniques in Spiritually Abusive groups

  • Ad Hominem – Attack your opponent’s person rather than the argument itself. Literally “against the man”
  • Ad Hominem Abusive (Sub category of Ad Hominem) – An attack on the character or other irrelevant personal qualities of the opposition—such as appearance—is offered as evidence against their position. Such attacks are often effective distractions (“red herrings”), because the opponent feels it necessary to defend the self, thus being distracted from the topic of the debate.
  • Ad Hominem Circumstantial (Subcategory of Ad Hominem) -A Circumstantial Ad Hominem is one in which some irrelevant personal circumstance surrounding the opponent is offered as evidence against the opponent’s position. This fallacy is often introduced by phrases such as: “Of course, that’s what you’d expect him to say.” The fallacy claims that the only reason why he argues as he does is because of personal circumstances, such as standing to gain from the argument’s acceptance.
  • Appeal to Authority – Citing authorities or respected figures to support an argument or to discredit or negate an argument made by an opponent. This effectively thwarts the debate and the argument.
  • Appeal to Fear** – Fear is used to destabilize people so that they will be more likely to do or believe something that they would not otherwise choose under normal circumstances
  • Appeal to Force** (Argumentum ad Baculum) – Use of force and threats of force to “win” a debate. (baculum is a walking stick)
  • Appeal to Ignorance (also Argument from Silence) -An appeal to ignorance is an argument for or against a proposition on the basis of a lack of evidence against or for it. If there is positive evidence for the conclusion, then of course we have other reasons for accepting it, but a lack of evidence by itself is no evidence.
  • Appeal to Prejudice** – Using emotive terms and connotation to attach moral benefit or goodness to the argument. Attach the modifier “Biblical” to that which should not be questioned. “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” It can also be used negatively. “The opinions and unrelated beliefs of a non-Christian cannot really be trusted, even regarding matters that do not relate to morality or Scripture.”
  • Argumentum Ad Nauseum – An idea is repeated relentlessly until it is accepted. Especially effective when there is a great deal of milieu control.
  • Argumentum Ad Populum – (also called the “bandwagon” and “inevitable victory”) Persuasion based on social proof
  • Big Lie – Create a message that is so complex but contains enough truthful elements so that people will not identify all the fictitious and fallacious elements. By the time it is recognized, many of the ideas are a part of the fabric of the debate and widely accepted.
  • Black-and-White Fallacy** (also called the Either-Or Fallacy or False Dilemma) – Presents information so that there are only two possible choices, one of which is far more appealing than the other. Obsures the difference between that which is contrary vs contradictory.
  • Common Man – Taking on of the characteristics of the target audience to make the message more palatable
  • Demonizing the Enemy** – Dehumanize the enemy and remove elements of commonality so that the target is easily dismissed, worthless, and of “non-person” status
  • Direct Order – Simplification of the decision making process so that followers will respond to very simple commands without question or need for additional problem solving
  • Euphoria – Use of emotionally charged and euphoria producing events to perpetuate good feelings and utopian ideals
  • Flag-waving – Capitalizing on patriotic sentiments to further one’s agenda.
  • Glittering Generality – The use of positive connotation and vague statements to present an argument as very desirable without evidence to support glittering claims
  • Intentional Vagueness** (also “Fuzzy Logic”) – Conclusions are not directly stated and the message may be intentionally vague so that individuals may draw their own conclusions, and the speaker does not have to be held directly accountable for the ideas. This works well in concert with other propaganda techniques.
  • Oversimplification (also “Fallacy of the Simple Cause”) – Very complex processes are described with trite explanations that do not provide a faithful perspective for the target audience. Trite explanations are used to reduce rationales into faulty causalities.
  • Quoting Out of Context (type of “Straw Man” argument) – Selected quotes are extracted from a passage so that without the full context of the passage, the meaning is greatly distorted.
  • Rationalization** – Positive and unrelated aspects of something are offered as evidence for an argument’s validity. “But they can’t teach wrong doctrine because they have a lovely family”
  • Red Herring – (large category of several fallacies) Irrelevant but compelling aspects of an argument are offered as a distraction from the core issues in order to derail the debate.
  • Redefinition** – Assigning new meaning to an old term, but this is a logical boobytrap because of the ease of equivocation and confusing meanings. “He who defines, wins.”
  • Reductio ad Hitlerum (type of Red Herring – see also Transference) – Suggestion that a popular idea is associated with something deplorable, hateful and unthinkable so that people will react and reject the argument or source of information based on the association.
  • Repetition – A rhetorical or literary device that is lyrical and gets stuck in one’s mind like an advertising jingle. It is akin to argumentum ad nauseum, but also has literary quality.
  • Scapegoating** – A single cause or element is identified and vilified as the source of all undesirable circumstances or outcomes. The scapegoat distracts the audience from other possible contributing factors.
  • Slogans – Short phrases or motto used to make emotional appeals and support ideas. Slogans become “thought stopping” techniques quickly and become communication shortcuts that suspend critical thought.
  • Stereotyping (also “Name Calling” or “Labeling”) – Reduces people, events, practices or ideas to capitalize on prejudice to evoke fear or disdain.
  • Straw Man** – The Prince of All Fallacies (Subtype of “Red Herring”) – Attempt to refute an opponent’s position, and in the context is required to do so, but instead attacks a position—the “straw man”—not held by the opponent. Argues to a conclusion that denies the “straw man” the arguer has set up, but misses the target. A common straw man is an extreme man. Extreme positions are more difficult to defend because they make fewer allowances for exceptions, or counter-examples.
  • Testimonial – Reports or testimony from trusted sources are offered, out of context, in support of or for vilification of an idea, person, etc.
  • Transference** – Projection of either positive or negative qualities to something or someone in order to connote qualities that may or may not be related. It capitalizes on emotional response and is related to “Guilt by Association” and “Reductio ad Hitlerum”
  • Unstated Assumption**Beliefs are implied or stated indirectly because a direct statement would seem less credible. “Women’s suffrage is outside the prescriptive will of God and Kingdom Architecture.” As a woman and a voter, you now have been told that you are acting outside the will of God and willingly disobedient. Any Christian understands that willful disobedience of God and the Scriptures is sin. The speaker can imply that they have not accused anyone of sinning, skirting accountability; however their inference that voting for women is a sin is understood

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    9 responses

    3 09 2009

    …Christians warning other Christians about “spiritual abuse” and interpreting wikipedia’s fallacies and propaganda techniques…

    Is this from John’s post? I always get “stack overflow” error mssgs whenever I go to his blog, so I missed out, apparently. Is the bolding yours or his?

    I actually hesitated to post the Childs’ story as I had a feeling that it’d draw tsk-tsk’s from the *real* Christians who know the difference between good and bad theology… and whose wives read Debi Pearl and embrace being helpmeets themselves?

    3 09 2009

    The part you quoted is my wording, how I read what I found at Luke’s link in your comments, to “under much grace” — including the heading and all bolding, as it appears in the sidebar there. All or most of those links seem to go to wikipedia.

    I wouldn’t dream of getting into that story itself though. Whew. Rough stuff.

    3 09 2009
    Crimson Wife

    All of these arguments except for references to the Bible are used frequently in secular-progressive propaganda as well. What’s your point?

    3 09 2009

    I didn’t say they weren’t. I said here is a case where they were used between Christians, the point being that at least some discussion of logic and reason is being introduced in some of those dominionist communities. See Lynn’s thread, as I mentioned above.

    4 09 2009
    Nance Confer

    the point being that at least some discussion of logic and reason is being introduced in some of those dominionist communities


    So, a hopeful sign? Sad to think that this same lack of logic is going to prevent some kids from hearing their President speak. Among other, more important, things.


    6 09 2009

    Just read a Christian implore others to “take the mental out of fundamentalist” and let kids hear the speech because, after all, “how will we be able to counter it, if we don’t encounter it first.”

    I dunno… Talking about plans to “counter” a speech that they haven’t even heard yet sounds a little mental to me.

    6 09 2009

    No one even bothers to mention anymore, that the president shares THEIR faith, not mine. Christian, yep yep.

    Yet they’re the ones (not us) who hate and fear this Christian brother of theirs, won’t let him near the kiddies. Evidently because some other so-called Christians (behaving in extremely unChristian ways, from gluttony and love of money and not honoring the seniors right up to taking their god in vain for politics, bearing false witness, adultery, stealing, shooting and killing) covet his throne.

    So I see only one explanation that fits the facts. They can’t be intelligently designed.

    6 09 2009

    Something important to keep in mind, that connects to everything wrong in America right now, from education experts’ Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch bloggery at “Bridging Differences” this summer (before they went on culturally dictated schoolish vacation of course):

    It’s not only in schooling policy that we face a dangerous fork in the road. Our disrespect for genuine expertise (the absence of any school people in the current policy debates) is mirrored in every field (even in the appointment of a financier to head GM!). So, too, the range of expertise.

    We confuse the role of citizen vs. expert, but even more dangerously we confuse the role of both in our capitulation to fiscally powerful private interest groups. This goes for policy discourse in many fields—not just education, but health, energy, and on and on.

    The emperor wears no clothes—more charters, teachers paid for test results, and a national test are solutions that distract us. Not one of these is backed by “evidence”—even if we agreed that test scores were the purpose of education.

    9 09 2010
    Consider “Parental Rights” in Light of Friendly Atheist Advice to 14-Year-Old « Cocking A Snook!

    […] Logical Fallacies and Propaganda Christians Have Been Known to Use […]

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