The MakeUseOf Toolkit Against Online Trolls [Part 3]
Welcome to the third and final and article in this 3-post series. We’ve been looking at a number of different logical fallacies that Internet trolls sometimes use when trying to bully you into losing a debate, showing you how to win arguments in style (or at least raise their level).
In this final installment, I’ll be showing you five logical fallacies that make no sense. They might sound good on paper, but even a surface consideration is enough to find that these arguments have absolutely no reasonable foundation. If you see someone trying to win using one of these, just send them a link to the fallacy they’re using so they know you’re on to them, and can find a better argument (or concede you’re right).
Using the Section Links
- You can link to a particular section using the “link to this section” links in the header of each section:
- Right click on “link to this section.”
- Select “Copy Link Address.” Some browsers may call it “Copy Link Location,” or something similar.
- Send the copied URL to the person.
Appeal to Ignorance (link to this section )
The appeal to ignorance is not an appeal to the actual ignorance of one of the participating parties. Rather, it’s an appeal to a general sense of ignorance of the matter at hand. When someone appeals to ignorance, they are asserting that a claim is true until it is proven false. Sometimes this will manifest in the form of an argument that says something must be true because it is a “generally accepted” proposition.
In a debate, the appeal to ignorance is often used to shift the burden of proof from one party to the other. Internet trolls love to do this because it takes all of the work out of their hands and places it into yours, forcing you to exert unnecessary effort–it is the responsibility of the claim-maker to prove their claim, not your responsibility to prove them wrong. The burden of proof lies on the one who is making the claim.
Appeal to Authority (link to this section )
The appeal to authority is when someone brings in a claim made by an authoritative source on the subject of discussion and then asserts the truthfulness of that claim based solely on the source’s track record. In other words, because the source is often correct about a particular subject, all of their claims regarding that particular subject are assumed to be true.
This is a debating technique that can be tricky to refute because it sounds reasonable. However, what you must realize is that a person’s status neither validates nor invalidates an argument. The only thing that matters is whether the claim can stand up to logical and rational scrutiny.
Just because Joe Schmoe is an economist doesn’t mean everything he says about the state of the world’s economy is true. An expert in a field can still be wrong–it happens all the time. Therefore, it’s illogical to assume that just because someone is often correct about something he must be correct this time as well.
The False Dilemma (link to this section )
The false dilemma is also known as the “black or white” fallacy. As the name describes, it is a fallacy in which only two mutually exclusive options are presented as possible choices in a debate. If an ultimatum is given (“You must choose A or B”) while there are more options available (C, D, or E), then this fallacy has been committed.
Internet trolls love to use the false dilemma because it pigeonholes you into making a choice–a choice that is often impossible or irrational. Many times, the false dilemma is presented as “if you’re not with us, then you’re against us.” This is okay when there are only two possible choices (e.g., Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice), but once a third option is introduced, this becomes a fallacy.
Quoting Out of Context (link to this section )
Quoting out of context occurs when someone takes a particular quote from a related (or even unrelated) passage and presents it without its surrounding context, thus distorting the quotes from its original meaning. This technique is a favorite amongst Internet trolls, especially when the discussion takes place on a forum of some sort.
Most of the time, an out-of-context quote will be used to misrepresent an opponent’s position (i.e., strawman argument ). Other times, a troll will appeal to authorities by quoting well-known figures in a way that makes them seem as if they are in support of the troll’s position.
Whenever someone tries to make a point by using quotes, always check the original source to see if they are true to its context. If not, kindly let them know that they’ve taken the quote out of context and must reconsider their argument.
The Fallacy Fallacy (link to this section )
Now that you’ve been exposed to so many of the tricks that Internet trolls like to use, this last fallacy is something you should watch out for. In essence, this fallacy occurs when you completely discredit someone’s position simply because they used a fallacy when making their point. A flawed argument does not automatically imply a flawed position.
On the flipside, you might accidentally commit a logical fallacy when trying to provide an argument in a discussion. The other side may realize your mistake and then try to completely ignore your position because of it–but they’d be wrong to do so. If this happens, fix the fallacy and rephrase your argument.
That about wraps up this series. You are now equipped with the proper skills to identify and rebut 15 different logical fallacies that Internet trolls will use to shut you down. Use this knowledge and don’t let those trolls win any arguments with their weak words and faulty logic! Instead, refer them to these articles and help them raise their level of reasoning and online discussion. The world will be better for it, and your life easier.
What did you think of these posts? Were they helpful? Do you feel like you’re better prepared to face the trolls that lurk across the Internet? I’d love to hear your feedback, so please share in the comments!
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