Chapter 9: Evaluating Arguments: Problems in Critical Reading

Building on the primary skills from Chapter 8,
this chapter examines more complex
elements of argumentation, specifically, how
to identify flaws and weaknesses in
persuasive writing. Learning to recognize
deceptive techniques—whether they are
intentional or unintentional—will sharpen your
critical reading skills and safeguard your
ability to think independently.
Chapter Objectives:
 Be
able to identify inductive and deductive
 Understand the Toulmin method of
analyzing arguments
problems with arguments
emotional appeals in arguments
common logical fallacies
bias and other deceptive
Understand the new media
See pp. 336-337
Inductive Reasoning
Built upon a set of facts derived from
observation or experience that serve
as evidence and that lead to a
Probability arguments
Deductive Reasoning
Moves from reason to conclusion or
to a specific application with
2 pieces of evidence = premises
2 premises + conclusion = syllogism
As long as the argument follows the prescribed
form of the syllogism, it is logically valid
If the premises are true, then the argument is
considered to be sound or reliable
Hasty Generalizations and Stereotyping
The two most common types of errors in
inductive thinking result from conclusions
derived from insufficient or
unrepresentative evidence.
Claim > writer’s argument or proposition
Fact, value, policy
Qualifier > probability
often, mostly, certain, sometimes
Warrant > unstated assumptions/reason
Backing/grounds > evidence
Reservation > refutation
An argument that lacks a refutation is not
Analyzing an Op-Ed Piece with the Toulmin
Read the passage on pp. 340-341
 List 2 or 3 assumptions which are not
specifically given by the author but can
be understood when reading this
 List some counterarguments to refute the
editorial’s criticism of credit card
Identify the elements:
› Authority
› Claim
› Qualifier
› Warrant
› Backing
› Grounds
› Reservation
 Identify
the elements:
 Authority: Though Rauch is not a teacher
or an academic, he has covered public
policy and governance issues for highly
respectable publications and institutions for
many years ( The Atlantic Monthly and the
Brookings Institution are both highly
regarded). He formerly wrote about
education for a North Carolina newspaper.
Identify the elements:
 Claim: Schools should require more
homework (a claim of policy).
 Qualifier: “Older kids” benefit more from
increased homework (high school students,
not small children); elite students have
homework loads that are “downright
inhumane,” but this is the exception.
 Warrant: Stated explicitly in paragraph 5:
“Older kids learn more if they study more.”
 Backing: Several authorities are cited: A
1994 national commission comparing
American high schools to those in other
countries (¶3); the testimony of Harris
Cooper, an educational psychologist (¶5);
statistics from the 1999 NAEP study on
typical homework amounts (¶6); Tom
Loveless of the Brookings Institution’s Brown
Center on Education Policy (¶7); Raymond
J. Pasi, principal of a Virginia high school
(¶7). Reasons cited: Homework amounts in the
United States are very small; students admit to
doing just enough to get by; the “L” word—
students are lazy.
Grounds: The American school day is
substantially less than it is in Japan, France,
and Germany (claim of fact). American
schools need to be reformed (claim of
policy). Schools are failing kids, but kids are
also failing their schools—Rauch puts a lot
of the blame on students (claims of fact
and value).
 Reservation: Though Rauch does not
offer a specific refutation, he does hint at
one in paragraph 10: schools need plenty
of fixing, suggesting that there might be
other more pressing problems that need to
be addressed before the homework issue.
Can you accept Rauch’s argument that American
students need to spend more time doing homework?
What does your high-school experience suggest? Were
you one of those who did just the minimum to get by, or
did you try your best? Be honest in your self-appraisal.
Would more homework have been educationally
valuable? If so, in what way? What is the purpose of
What flaws, if any, do you see in Rauch’s argument? How
do you define homework? Would his argument have
been strengthened if he had defined “homework”?
Do you think he would accept a definition of homework
as “busywork,” which many of us associate with the term,
or do you think he has something else in mind?
The critical reader must be alert to
weaknesses in arguments. Why?
Lack of sufficient grounds or
Unacceptable warrant or unstated
Hasty or Unqualified Generalizations and
An all-inclusive statement made “in haste,”
without allowing for exceptions and
All Shelties are…”
nervous and high-strung
Hasty or Unqualified Generalizations and
An all-inclusive statement made “in haste,” without
allowing for exceptions and qualifiers.
 Stereotyping
Similar to the hasty generalization, except
that it results in generalizations about
people such as gender, age, ethnic
background, race, attire, etc.
 Incorrect
If done incorrectly, can produce flawed
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
I always have Heinrich at Coastside VW
Motors repair my Jetta. He’s German,
and Germans are the best car
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
Unqualified generalization and
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
2. It’s no wonder the security personnel at
Denver International Airport took a
passenger aside for a more thorough
search before allowing him to board my
flight. He looked distinctly Middle
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
3. I don’t see why people get so upset
about small children seeing violent
movies. Before the new codes went into
effect, I took my seven-year-old
nephew to see horror movies all the
time, and he turned out all right. You
don’t see him committing violent crimes!
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
3. generalization
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
4. A college instructor with five years of
experience observes that students who
sit in the front rows of a classroom get
A’s and B’s, and those who sit in the
back of the room get C’s or lower. He
concludes that all college students
should sit closer to the front of the room.
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
4. Questionable premise
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
A 2007 research study conducted at the University
of Indiana surveyed 26 men and 20 women in
Munich, Germany, to find out what characteristics
they wanted in a mate. The survey was
conducted at a speed-dating session, after which
the participants were asked to choose those
people they would like to have a second date
with. The men’s choices did not reflect their stated
preferences; instead, they chose only physically
attractive women. This proves that men are
interested only in women’s physical appearance.
Identify the faultiness of each argument.
5. Small sample
An appeal is something that makes an
argument attractive, worth considering, or
An illegitimate appeal seeks to control our
emotions by spurious means, meaning that the
writer plays on emotions irrelevant to the
An appeal is something that makes an
argument attractive, worth considering, or
Appeals are not necessarily bad, but they must be
accompanied by evidence to support the argument.
When you examine a persuasive piece of writing,
ask yourself this question: How good is this
argument or product without the appeal ? Is there
any evidence besides the appeal? Strip away
the fluff from the argument and examine the claim
for itself, unobscured by emotion or sentiment. Be
aware that the more emotional the appeal, the
weaker the argument.
A flawed deductive argument is termed
If one of the premises is untrue or if it is a
The argument may still be valid as long
as the syllogism is properly constructed
and followed the prescribed form.
Emotional appeals are acceptable in
persuasive writing, as long as logical
evidence is present that balances the
How good is the argument without the
 Appeal
to Authority
Allows the claim to rest solely on the fact
that a supposed authority is behind it.
Appeal to Fear
What will happen if…?
Appeal to Patriotism
My country…
Appeal to Pity or Sympathy
…because we feel…
Appeal to Prejudice
Emotion replaces reason.
Appeal to Tradition
It’s always been…
Identify the emotional appeal of the
following passages:
1. California is considering a requirement that grocery stores and
restaurants warn customers that starchy foods like potatoes
and bread when baked, roasted, toasted, or fried create a
carcinogen called acrylamide. Naturally, restaurant owners
and food retailers oppose the measure because it would
scare consumers. Anna-Marie Stouder, senior legislative
director for the California Restaurant Association, said this
about the proposal: “Acrylamide has been around since man
has cooked with fire.” (Quoted in Greg Lucas, “Cancer Label
for Foods Is Considered,” San Francisco Chronicle , May 25,
2005.) What type of appeal is Stouder using?
Appeal to tradition
Identify the emotional appeal of the
following passages:
2. It doesn’t matter that inspectors never found any
Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Saddam
Hussein was a tyrant and a dictator who deserved
to be overthrown. That’s why we should support
U.S. troops fighting for freedom in Iraq now and
America’s commitment to bringing democracy to
Appeal to patriotism
Identify the emotional appeal of the
following passages:
3. The government should not have forced
the Citadel, a military college in South
Carolina, to admit women. The Citadel has
always been a men’s college, and it should
have been allowed to stay that way.
Appeal to tradition
Identify the emotional appeal of the
following passages:
4. During the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton,
Democratic Senator Dale Bumpers from Arkansas urged his
Senate colleagues to drop the impeachment hearings,
arguing that the Clintons “have been about as decimated as
a family can get.” Bumpers continued: “The relationship
between husband and wife, father and child, has been
incredibly strained, if not destroyed. There’s been nothing but
sleepless nights, mental agony for this family for almost five
years.” (Quoted in “Ex Senator Pleads with His Old Friends to
Acquit,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 22, 1999)
Appeal to sympathy or pity
Identify the emotional appeal of the
following passages:
5. Letter to the editor (paraphrased): Of course, gays
and lesbians should be allowed to marry, and San
Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is to be
commended for engaging in civil disobedience on
this issue. In the nineteenth century Henry David
Thoreau committed civil disobedience and went to
jail for refusing to pay a poll tax to finance a war he
opposed. During the 1960s Southern blacks
engaged in sit-ins to get segregation laws
overturned. Newsom is simply following in the
footsteps of these brave Americans.
Appeal to tradition
Identify the emotional appeal of the
following passages:
6. Letter to the editor (paraphrased): Those so-called
homeless people who hold up signs at intersections
saying “Will Work for Food” are just scam artists and
slackers. What they really mean is “Will Gladly Take
Your Money.” Work is the last thing on their minds!
Appeal to prejudice
Identify the emotional appeal of the
following passages:
7. Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut
(formerly a Democrat), visited Iraq in June 2007 and wrote an
opinion piece defending the continued American presence
there. Here is one excerpt: “. . . a little perspective is useful.
While benchmarks are critically important, American soldiers
are not fighting in Iraq today only so that Iraqis can pass a
law to share oil revenues. They are fighting because a failed
state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by Al Qaeda
and Iran, would be a catastrophe for American national
security and our safety here at home.” (Quoted in “What I
Saw in Iraq,” The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2007; the full
text is available at
Appeal to fear
Identify the emotional appeal of the
following passages:
8. In 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (who later
resigned) warned federal judges that they should not meddle
in cases involving national security. He argued that federal
judges “are not equipped to make decisions about” actions
the president takes in the name of preserving national security
because judges “don’t have embassies around the world
gathering up information. I try to imagine myself being a
judge. What do I know about what is going on in Afghanistan
or Guantanamo?” (Quoted in Dan Eggen, “Bush Team
Reverses Course on Warrantless Taps,” The Washington Post ,
January 18, 2007.)
Appeal to authority
Bandwagon Appeal
…everyone is doing it!!!…
We are like them…identity
Just Plain Folks
Opposite of snob appeal
Name Calling
“changing the subject”
Substitutes humor
 Transfer
(Use it and it will be YOU!!!)
1. Let’s face it. More than 75 percent of the
American people in a recent poll voiced
concern that the war in Iraq was a big
mistake. All those people can’t be
Band wagon appeal
2. In spring 2001 President George W. Bush
gave two speeches on national parks. In
one, Bush stood before a magnificent
giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park;
the other occurred in the Florida
Everglades, where the backdrop was a
grove of sawgrass and mangrove. (Note:
Bush was not known during his two
administrations for being a supporter of
the green or environmental movement.)
3. Republican Fred Thompson became
wealthy as a Washington lobbyist and
later as an actor on Law and Order. In
1994, Thompson decided to run for the
Senate in his home state of Tennessee.
He bought a used red truck, “not too
flashy or macho,” and drove it around
the state campaigning for votes. His
Democratic opponent, Jim Cooper,
called Thompson “a Gucci-wearing,
Lincoln-driving, Perrier-drinking, Grey
Poupon-spreading millionaire
Washington special interest lobbyist,” but
the truck gimmick worked, and
Thompson was able “to sell himself as an
outsider country boy.” (Quoted in Perry
Bacon, Jr., “Ready for a New Role,” The
Washington Post National Weekly Edition
, September 10–16, 2007.)
Just plain folks
4. Paint store clerk to author: “Why did you
choose Benjamin Moore paint to use on
your bookcases?”
Author: “I heard it’s the best paint on the
Clerk: “You made the right decision.
Benjamin Moore paint is definitely the
best paint available. You can’t go wrong
choosing it.”
5. Commentator Frank Gaffrey said this
about the terrorists who bombed
London’s subways in 2005: “In the wake
of July’s London transport bombings by
home-grown British Islamists, the dangers
of mistaking one type of Muslim
community for another have become
obvious. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s
government has gone from ignoring
Islamofascists in its midst—if not actually
accommodating their efforts to
proselytize and recruit in Britain—to
cracking down forcefully on their
activities and presence in the United
Kingdom.” (Quoted in Jewish World
Review, August 30, 2005.) Notice that the
word “Islamists” in the fi rst sentence
becomes “Islamofascists” in the second
sentence. Consider the latter word.
Name calling
6. Liberal blogger Arianna Huffington wrote
this blog entry after Vice President Dick
Cheney gave an interview to Tim Russert
in which he expressed an optimistic
assessment of the situation in Iraq: “. . . if
the VP had had more time he might
have added that completing the mission
in Iraq would include purple unicorns
taking sips from the Euphrates, and
Sunnis and Shiites flying hand-in-hand
down the streets of Baghdad on magic
carpets on their way to that happiest
place on earth, Disney Fallujah.”
(Quoted in “Memo to Democrats,”
AlterNet, Posted September 2, 2006.)
7. In 2006 former Republican Congressman
Randy “Duke” Cunningham was
sentenced to more than 8 years in
federal prison for taking $2.4 million in
bribes from two defense contractors.
Here is the relevant excerpt from a
newspaper account of the trial’s
“In the San Diego courtroom,
Cunningham wiped away tears when
his attorney, K. Lee Blalack II of
Washington, referred to the former
congressman’s wartime service, which
included shooting down five enemy
planes over Vietnam and being shot
down himself. ‘There are men in this
courtroom who are walking around and
breathing because DukeCunningham
put his life at risk.’
Blalack said Cunningham had already
suffered greatly. ‘This man has been
humiliated beyond belief by his own
hand. He is estranged from those he
loves most and cares most about. All his
worldly possessions are gone.’” (Quoted
in Sonya Geis and Charles R. Babcock,
“Former GOP Lawmaker Gets 8 Years,”
The Washington Post , March 4, 2006.)
Appeal to sympathy
8. The New York State Senate was
considering a bill that would make it
illegal for a person to walk or jog on the
street or to cross a street while
listening to an iPod. This prompted one
citizen to ask: “What’s next? Getting
fined if you don’t look both ways?”
Can an argument have an acceptable
Read pp. 359-360.
Ad Hominem Argument
This fallacy can take two forms:
1. to attack the person’s personality traits
rather than his or her position on an issue.
2. attacks the character and reputation of
the person because of individuals he or she
associates with (guilt by association), rather
than on the basis of his or her actions.
Go to pp. 360-361 and read the examples.
Begging the Question
Truth is claimed but has not been proven to
be true but one would think it were true.
Go to p. 361 and read the examples.
Cause-Effect Fallacies
False Cause
Results either from citing a false or a remote
cause to explain a situation or from
oversimplifying the cause of a complicated
Cause-Effect Fallacies
Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
“after this, therefore because of this”
The writer makes a connection based
on chronological inference.
Problem: Which came first??? Which
was the result???
Go to p. 362 and read the examples.
The speaker or writer evades or
ignores the question by talking
around it.
Study the following arguments carefully
and decide which fallacy is represented.
The Lytton band of Pomo Indians has
proposed building a gigantic casino in
San Pablo with 2,500 slot machines.
Because more and more people are
becoming addicted to gambling, I am
opposed to this project.
Fallacy: begging the question
2. Sweden is a socialist country, and it has
one of the highest suicide rates in the
world. This just proves that socialism
causes suicide.
Fallacy: false cause
3. When it was learned that none of
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt
Romney’s five sons were enlisted in the
military during the Iraq war, Romney had
this to say: “One of the ways my sons are
showing support for our nation is helping
me get elected because they think I’d
be a great president.” (Quoted in Glen
Johnson, “Romney Defends Sons’ Lack
of Military Service,” Associated Press,
August 9, 2007.)
Fallacy: evasion
4. The President of XYZ Widget Company
reports, “The recent settlement between
management and the labor union was a
huge mistake: Giving in to the union’s
demands for a wage increase has
resulted in low production figures.”
Fallacy: post hoc, ergo propter hoc
5. Iran and North Korea are part of the Axis
of Evil because their leaders are vicious
and evil.
Fallacy: begging the question
6. Before the terrorist attacks on the World
Trade Center, a tenant in one of the
complex’s office buildings bought a
large insurance policy that specifically
referred to terrorist attacks. He must have
had advance knowledge that the
buildings would be destroyed.
Fallacy: false cause
7. Senator Ted Kennedy has no business
serving on the Senate Judiciary
Committee and sitting in judgment of
Supreme Court nominee John G.
Roberts, Jr. He was involved in a young
woman’s death in Chappaquiddick
many years ago.
Fallacy: ad hominem argument
8. When all liberal Democrats complained
about how much President Bush’s
second inaugural celebration cost when
the nation was at war, how about the
$200 million Bill Clinton’s presidential
library cost when the country was also at
Fallacy: either-or fallacy (false dilemma)
9. The late Jerry Falwell, a leader in the
Christian right movement, offered this
statement about the cause of the
September 11 terrorist attacks: “The
abortionists have got to bear some
burden for the attacks of Sept. 11,
because God will not be mocked. And
when we destroy 40 million little innocent
babies, we make God mad. I really
believe that the pagans and the
abortionists and the feminists and the
Gays and the lesbians who are actively
trying to make that an alternative
lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the
American Way—all of them have tried to
secularize America—I point the finger in
their face and say, ‘You helped this
happen.’” (Quoted in Timothy Noah,
“The Right’s Holy Fool,” .)
Fallacy: false cause
10. In 2002 Oregon’s Measure 23 asked
voters to approve a single payer or
universal health care system. Supporters
of the measure, which was defeated in
the election, had argued that the big
medical and health insurance
companies were pouring a lot of
money into the campaign to defeat
the measure. They concluded that if
big corporations opposed it, it must
have been a good bill.
10. Fallacy:
ad hominem argument (guilt by
11. Letter to the editor (paraphrased): I
listen to my iPod in class all the time,
and I still have an A average. I don’t
think that my school has any right to
ban students from listening to iPods in
class. They should put their energy into
helping students pass the state high
school exit exam, not acting like the
iPod police.
11. Fallacy:
either-or fallacy (false dilemma)
12. Letter to the editor (paraphrased): Major
League Baseball’s inquiry into the use of
steroids by professional baseball players is
a misguided effort. Critics have said that
these players need to be accountable for
their actions. Well, what about all those
perks that legislators give themselves and
money under the table they take from
lobbyists? Isn’t it more important for us
taxpayers to know about their scams than
it is for a few ballplayers who might have
used steroids?
12. Fallacy:
either-or fallacy (false dilemma)
13. All those terrorists being held at
Guantanamo Bay deserve to be
there. If they weren’t terrorists, then
they wouldn’t have been arrested or
been detained.
13. Fallacy:
begging the question
14. After Evansville allowed
pornographic movie theaters and
bookstores to do business downtown,
violent crime decreased by 25
percent. This proves that restrictions
on pornography rather than
pornography itself are a cause of
such crimes.
14. Fallacy:
post hoc, ergo propter hoc
15. The owner of two Kentucky theaters
refused to show a 2005 movie
starring Jane Fonda, Monster-in-Law.
He argued that Fonda ( “Hanoi
Jane”) had played an activist role
during the Vietnam War, strongly
criticizing America’s military policies
15. Fallacy:
ad hominem argument
An error in reasoning that also invalidates
an argument.
Ad hominem
2 forms:
1. To attack the person’s personality traits
2. To attack the character and reputation of a
person because of whom he or she
Begging the
Something has not yet been proven to be true
1. False cause
 Results either from citing a false or a
remote cause to explain a situation
An error in reasoning that also invalidates
an argument.
Fallacies, continued
2. Because B occurred after event A > event A
caused event B
False dilemma
Ignores the question by talking around it
False Analogy
…if there are fewer similarities than
…if the resemblance is remote or
…if there is no connection between
the two subjects at all
Study examples and explanation on pp.
…if the issue is greatly reduced to
simple terms
…if information is suppressed which
would strengthen the argument
Study examples and explanation on p. 368
…if a self-serving but incorrect reason is
used to justify one’s position
Red Herring
…if another argument which is totally
irrelevant is used to throw the discussion
off track
Study examples and explanation on p. 368
Slippery Slope
…one wrong idea leads to
misunderstanding and belief in the
wrong direction
Two Wrongs Make a Right
…is used to correct a wrongdoing and
make it appear legitimate because
others are doing it
Study the following arguments carefully
and decide which fallacy is represented.
1. I don’t care whether file sharing and
swapping music online is wrong; most
CDs cost between $15 and $18, and
that’s too expensive for college students
who are already on a tight budget.
Fallacy: rationalization
2. If doctors are allowed to consult
reference books, medical journals, and
websites, why can’t we medical students
look at our textbooks and refer to
websites during tests?
Fallacy: false analogy
3. Letter to the editor (paraphrased) after the
U.S. Supreme Court overturned Texas’s
sodomy law: If the Supreme Court says that
you have the right to do whatever kind of
sexual practice you want in your home,
then you have the right to commit adultery,
to practice bigamy or polygamy, all in the
privacy of your own home. And as for gay
marriage, if homosexuals are allowed to
marry, what’s to prevent me from marrying
my sister, or marrying my dog, or even
marrying myself?!
Fallacy: slippery slope
4. Bumper sticker spotted in Oregon, in
response to the Forest Service’s
decision to stop logging in so-called
old-growth forests to protect the
endangered spotted owl: “Hungry
and out of work? Eat an
Fallacy: oversimplification
5. I don’t see why people can’t live until
they’re 100. When you think about it,
we have cars that are 100 years old
that were meant to last for only 15
years because they are properly
maintained. So why can’t all people
live to be 100 if they take care of
Fallacy: false analogy
6. No wonder those guys at Columbine
High killed their classmates. They were
known to play computer games like
Doom and Quake. Violent video
games are a leading cause of
violence in our society.
Fallacy: oversimplification
7. A dog breeder refused to reimburse
the author after she purchased a
pedigreed German shepherd puppy
that later was found to have a serious
defect requiring corrective surgery.
The breeder argued: “You wouldn’t
expect your doctor to reimburse you if
your child needed surgery, would
Fallacy: false analogy
8. Wal-Mart and other large retail stores asked
Congress to change the law regarding the
workday limits for truck drivers from 14 hours
per day to 16 hours. Erik Winborn, a WalMart spokesman, offered this argument:
“We support it because we feel it would
actually enhance safety rather
than hurt safety.” (Quoted in Leslie Miller,
“Wal-Mart Wants Longer Shifts for Truck
Drivers,” Associated Press, March 9, 2005.)
Fallacy: non sequitur
9. All this talk about the way Americans have
treated prisoners at Abu Ghraib and at
Guantanamo Bay is ridiculous. Do you think
Al Qaeda treats soldiers they capture any
better? I’m pretty sure they don’t pay
attention to the Geneva Conventions
against torturing captives.
Fallacy: two wrongs make a right
10. The Federation for American Immigration Reform
is a group that supports strict limits on immigration.
During the debate about immigration policy, Ira
Mehlman, the group’s spokesman, was asked
whether the children of illegal immigrants should
receive U.S. citizenship if they were born in this
country. He replied, “It doesn’t make any more
sense than if someone breaks into your house and
gives birth and the child is considered part of your
household.” (Quoted in Tyche Hendricks, “Stakes
High for Families,” San Francisco Chronicle , April
3, 2006.)
10. Fallacy:
false analogy
11. During the recent presidential campaign, it
was revealed that John Edwards, former
Democratic Senator from South Carolina, had
worked as a consultant for Fortress Investment
Group, a fund that caters to wealthy investors.
For a year’s work, he earned almost $500,000.
Edwards, whose major campaign issue has
been fighting against poverty, defended his
earnings, saying that working for the fund
educated him about the way financial
markets operate.
11. Fallacy:
12. In 1996, a Massachusetts bill required,
among other provisions, that tobacco
companies reveal the additives in each
cigarette brand, in particular “ammoniabased compounds that tobacco critics
say boost nicotine delivery and make
cigarettes more potent.” Peggy Carter, a
spokeswoman for RJR Nabisco, the parent
company of R. J Reynolds Tobacco Co.,
challenged the bill, arguing: “They
wouldn’t ask Coke, Pepsi or the Colonel to
divulge their soft-drink or chicken
recipe, so why should we be
deprived of trade-secret privileges?”
(Quoted in Barbara Carton, “State
Demands List of Contents for
Cigarettes,” The Wall Street Journal ,
August 2, 1996)
12. Fallacy:
false analogy
13. In the summer of 2006 Floyd Landis won the
Tour de France, the grueling bicycle race. But
in a random drug test, he tested positive
twice for synthetic testosterone, a banned
substance. Landis argued that he had been
drinking Jack Daniels whiskey the night
before, which probably caused his
testosterone level to be elevated. Doctors
who administered the test said that the
substance was synthetic; therefore, the only
way it could be present in the body was
through an injection. (Landis was later forced
to relinquish his title.)
13. Fallacy:
14. In June 2002, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of
Appeals ruled the Pledge of Allegiance
unconstitutional because the phrase
“under God” violates the principle of
separation of church and state. One
argument against the ruling went like this:
By outlawing the phrase “under God,” the
court is promoting atheism.
14. Fallacy:
15. Students at Shasta High School in Redding,
California, protested the ban on soft drinks
from campus vending machines. Rocky
Slaughter, student body president, offered
this argument in support of a statewide
ballot measure he was sponsoring: “We’re
allowed to drive a car. We’re allowed to
shoot guns. These are dangerous activities.
So why can’t we make decisions about
nutrition?” (Quoted in Greg Lucas, “Effort
to Weaken School Soda Law,” San
Francisco Chronicle , March 28, 2006.)
15. Fallacy:
false analogy
16. It was revealed that contestants on 1950s
quiz shows like Twenty-One and the
$64,000 Question had been fed answers
before the programs were aired. The
resulting quiz show scandals prompted a
national debate over truth and honesty in
broadcasting. One quiz show producer
was quoted as saying, in defense of the
rigged answers, “If we rig the contest and
supply [the contestants] with answers, we’ll
make intellectualism and learning look
16. Fallacy:
non sequitur
17. New York City recently passed a law
banning trans fats in restaurant food. Many
New Yorkers shared the sentiments of this
resident: “Mayor Bloomberg and his ‘food
nannies’ won’t be satisfied with this
prohibition, though. Pretty soon, they’ll
have officials going through people’s
garbage cans, looking for empty Ho Ho
wrappers and Oreo cookie packages, and
levying fines against people who eat junk
17. Fallacy:
slippery slope
18. French scientists inserted jellyfish genes into
a rabbit embryo to create a bunny that
emitted a green glow in the dark.
Supporters of this sort of tinkering with
nature by manipulating an organism’s
genes defended it, saying that dog
breeders manipulate mating all the time
to produce dogs with desirable qualities,
so why can’t biotech breeders create
glowing bunnies?
18. Fallacy:
false analogy
Detecting Bias
Bias occurs when a writer obviously favors
one side over another, writing from a
subjective viewpoint colored by—and
possibly distorted by—his or her views about
race, religion, politics, culture, and so forth.
Bias also occurs when a writer carefully
selects details that reinforce his or her
viewpoint or when the writer omits, distorts,
or suppresses relevant facts. Finally, bias
can result from slanted language—
deliberately inflammatory words (sneer
words) or words with highly positive
connotations (euphemisms). Knowing a
writer’s background can alert us to his or
her particular point of view. But the best
way to uncover bias or to discern a writer’s
likely bias is to read a large body of
editorials and opinion pieces. With
experience, we can see where our favorite
writers stand.
It’s easier to understand bias when we read
something with which we don’t agree.
Writing that conforms to our worldview
seems right and natural, but it is likely to
be just as biased as writing that
expresses ideas that we do not accept.
In other words, as critical readers we
have to subject writing that reinforces
our perspective to the same level of
scrutiny as we do to writing that we
disagree with.
Acceptable vs. Unacceptable Bias
We must distinguish between bias
that is acceptable (fair) and bias that
is unacceptable (unfair).
Unacceptable bias derives from
racial, ethnic, religious, or political
intolerance and prejudice or derives
from self-interest, whether political or
Acceptable vs. Unacceptable Bias
If the bias is fair, we must decide
whether or not the writer has
credibility, whether the writer is an
authority on the subject.
Consider these questions:
• Does the writer have expertise in the
• What is the basis for the writer’s ideas?
What does he or she stand to gain if
we accept the argument?
• Has the writer revealed personal
experience that lends credibility to the
point of view?
Acceptable vs. Unacceptable Bias
Material that shows unfair bias will most
likely also include one or more of the
manipulative techniques you have
already studied: slanted language
(euphemism or sneer words), specious
arguments, unsupported claims,
emotional appeals, logical fallacies, and
so forth.
In your own words, explain why this piece
represents a liberal point of view—one that
is opposed to Republican policies.
Possible response:
Scheer is contemptuous of the
administration’s pursuit of a lost cause at
the expense of domestic needs. The
administration’s intention to bring
democracy to Iraq and to use its oil
wealth to fund the war effort all turned
out to be lies. Liberals maintain that it’s
the government’s responsibility to fund
social programs; they generally oppose
military involvement in other nations.
In your own words, explain why this piece
represents a conservative point of view—
one that is opposed to Liberal policies.
Possible response:
Strassel accuses Feinstein of catering to
the wishes of Hollywood celebrities and
of using earmarks to preserve this piece
of property, which would ultimately result
in denying veterans there and elsewhere
of $4 billion. The piece makes Feinstein
sound anti-military and antiveteran. The
writer blatantly distorts West L.A.
geography to support her claim.
As newspaper readership has declined,
there has been a corresponding, almost
dizzying, increase in new sources of
information. Beyond traditional websites,
blogs (weblogs), personal news sources,
and websites like Wikipedia have
proliferated. These writers are often
ordinary people rather than experts and
authorities in the traditional sense. In
comparison to traditional sources of
Information (newspapers, television, radio,
and magazines), these new media require
even more scrutiny because there is little or
no editorial oversight. (Wikipedia is the
exception to this observation, because of
the way the website is constructed, with
collaborators constantly refining and
checking the information.)
Political Blogs: A Special Case
Lack of editorial oversight and simple factchecking are the biggest problems associated
with blogs. When everyone can be a writer,
when everyone has a ready-made free forum
in which to express opinions, sorting out truth
from distortion and detecting bias and
deliberate attempts to manipulate become
even more crucial.
Political Blogs: A Special Case
Use the suggested list to analyze blogs found
on pp. 380
Because an advertisement combines text,
called ad copy, with images, it’s important to
understand how they work together to create
an argument.
When examining advertisements critically,
start with the same criteria that you use when
analyzing a photograph. Consider:
subject—Who (or what) is being
action—What is happening and what is
the significance of what’s happening?
argument—What is in the foreground
and what is in the background?
people—What are they wearing?
Next, consider the copy (or text) in the ad:
does the text in the ad say?
tone is used?
emotional or symbolic overtones does
the copy convey?
Consider strategies of persuasion:
does the advertiser want me to do?
is the image in the advertisement
designed to accomplish this goal?
is the text in the advertisement
designed to further this goal?
emotional appeal is the
advertisement using?
What fallacy is used as deception?
Cartoons are a staple of newspaper
editorial pages. Using exaggeration in
the form of caricature, irony, and
parody, cartoons comment humorously
on the issues of the day, often presenting
a stark vision of an issue stripped down to
its essential elements.
Bias occurs when a writer favors one
side over the other, writing from a
subjective viewpoint colored by—
and possibly distorted by…
Politics Economics Society Ethnology Race religion
Bias in the Media
Mass media in America is often
accused of bias.
Conservative Bias
Liberal Bias
Bias in Visual Material
Charts and graphs can be miscued.
Ask these questions:
is the claim being put forth?
Are there any unstated assumptions?
Is the graph drawn so that data
are represented fairly?
Is the information complete?
Bias in Visual Material
Charts and graphs can be miscued.
Ask these questions, continued:
the source of the data clearly
Is any bias evident?
Hoodwinking the authority
Swaying the audience
Word Choice
Public Opinion Polls
Twisting the facts or misrepresenting one’s
position or one’s opponent’s position

similar documents