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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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David Blomstrom
Political Activist & Student of Mind Control

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David Blomstrom

Political Activist & Student of Mind Control

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About David Blomstrom

I'm Seattle's only political activist - and, no, that isn't an arrogant statement; it's just the sad truth.
Sun, Jan 06, 2019 - 04:16 PM

If you criticize Obama, you're a racist

Oprah Winfrey said that people who criticize Obama are racist.

What kind of fallacy is this? It sounds like an ad hominem attack, but I don't think that's the best fit.



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6 Answers

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Sun, Jan 06, 2019 - 06:11 PM
That is more of a claim than an argument, thus it is a misunderstanding (deliberate or not) or the term "racist".

Did you mean IF Oprah said that? I did some Googling to see if that were true but I could not find anything. If you are saying she did say that, I would love to see a source.
Bo Bennett, PhD
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Abdulazeez Alabbasi

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Abdulazeez Alabbasi


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Print Sun, Jan 06, 2019 - 08:09 PM
well, the statement by itself is not fallacious, but if I want to seek for implicit claims she's making, she's probably implying that the reason why somebody would criticize Obama would be because of his race, which is a false cause fallacy.


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Michael Chase Walker
Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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Michael Chase Walker

Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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About Michael Chase Walker

Michael Chase Walker is an actor, author, screenwriter, producer, and a former adjunct lecturer for the College of Santa Fe Moving Images Department, and Dreamworks Animation. His first motion picture was the animated classic, The Last Unicorn.
Michael was an in-house television writer for the hit television series: He-Man, She-Ra, Voltron, and V, the Series. In 1985, he was appointed Director of Children's programs for CBS Entertainment where he conceived, shaped and supervised the entire 1985 Saturday Morning line-up: Wildfire, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Galaxy High School, Teen Wolf, and over 10
Print Mon, Jan 07, 2019 - 01:38 PM
The statement in and of itself is more opinion than a specific error in reasoning, although there are studies that examine the racist tendencies and roots of Obama criticism (Psychology Today). Certainly, it cannot be claimed that all Obama critics are inherently or ideological racist. However there are numerous slippery slope arguments than can develop from this kind of exaggerated generalization: Fallacies of Composition or Division come to mind, depending on which way you frame the claim, Whole to Part, Part to Whole, as well as ad hominem (guilt by association) or even a potential Transfer Fallacy rears its ugly head when attributing the quote to Oprah without verification.

I would argue against Questionable or False Cause as the fallacious culprits here because there are formidable studies that bolster the claim - so it is not entirely unreasonable. Nevertheless. there is no real cause or logical premise here - only opinion.

Logically, it is really not important who said it, but whether it is an error or blatant deception in reasoning.

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McCarthy

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McCarthy


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Print Tue, Jan 08, 2019 - 02:19 AM
This would be an ad hominem attack with several other fallacies thrown on top 1 She's assuming you are making a criticism of Obama which tend to be an argument 2 she is using false cause fallacy by asserting that you are making an argument because you are a racist 3 and this is socially implied that your argument is invalid because you are a racist.


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Jim Tarsi

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Jim Tarsi


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Print Wed, Jan 09, 2019 - 10:33 AM
I agree that the term "racist" needs to be defined more clearly to evaluate the argument. I see it being represented like this:

Person X is criticizing Obama.
Person X has <these traits>.
Racists have <these traits>.
Therefore, Person X is a racist.
Therefore, all people who criticize Obama are racist.

I see several times where a hasty generalization is used, mainly in making the leap "Person X is a racist, therefore all people who criticize Obama are racist."


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David Blomstrom
Political Activist & Student of Mind Control

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Print Sun, Jan 06, 2019 - 06:24 PM
I believe she made several variations of this claim. At one extreme, some defend her for saying things like "People don't respect Obama because he's black." However, the important thing is context. When someone made a legitimate complaint about Obama, Oprah would play the race card, suggesting the person was simply criticizing Obama because of his race.

https://wgno.com/2013/11/16/oprah-plays-obama-race-card/
Working on a series of books focusing on mind control and conspiracy at www.kpowbooks.com


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Registered User Comments

Bo Bennett, PhD
moderator
Sunday, January 06, 2019 - 06:47:11 PM
@David Blomstrom: I do remember this when it first his the media (from your link)

Winfrey blasted U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) who called the President a “liar.” She also said that 'There’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs and that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he’s African American.'

When you say "Oprah Winfrey said that people who criticize Obama are racist" you are making a claim as to what she directly said, which does not appear to be true. You might be able to get away with "Oprah Winfrey has implied that people who criticize Obama 'in some cases and maybe even many cases' are racist." There is a big difference and we should all do our best not to misrepresent someone no matter how much we disagree with them.

I am constantly reminding my liberal friends the same thing when they say something like "Trump said that Mexicans are rapists." I am no fan of Trump, but he did NOT say that. Precise wording is important as is context. If we don't have those right, searching for the fallacies is pointless.

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David Blomstrom
Sunday, January 06, 2019 - 07:15:06 PM
Yes, wording is important. However, I don't have time to do a thorough search of Oprah's statements right now.

In this case, I suppose I could simply replace "Oprah" with someone else who didn't choose their words more carefully.

For example, after Winfrey began her everyone-who-criticizes-Obama-is-a-racist campaign, I was talking to someone about Obama's unmanned drone campaign, and he called me a racist, citing Oprah to boot. Of course, he didn't have Oprah's handlers to make sure a really explicit statement didn't wind up in the headlines. ;)

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McCarthy
Tuesday, January 08, 2019 - 02:28:39 AM
@David Blomstrom: Well with the handlers it's clearly more that that as many of them make sure you heard what they didn't say by using social expectations and heuristics. The you are a racist for disagreeing with Obama and Trump said Mexicans are rapist are shining examples

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David Blomstrom
Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 08:20:55 PM
@McCarthy: BINGO. If I understand what you're saying, you're suggesting that - even if Oprah didn't directly say everyone who criticizes Obama is a racist - her implication was very clear, and it was also part of a bigger puzzle. The U.S. government and media wanted to silence Obama's critics by painting them as racists. In plain English, we're talking CONSPIRACY, and this is one of the conspiracies I'm going to discuss in my book Conspiracy Science 101.

Of course, Oprah wasn't the first to play the race card. When I criticized the late Seattle Schools Superintendent John Stanford, some of my fellow teachers warned me to keep my mouth shut...because Stanford was black. Ironically, when Stanford was dying of leukemia, I attended a school board meeting where he was viciously roasted - by the black community. They were smart enough to realize that Stanford was working for the white community, which was hard at work on ethnic cleansing...er, "gentrification." Ditto for Obama, who was arguably America's premier Uncle Tom.

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Dave Beech
Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 06:46:19 AM
One thing I've noticed over recent years is that so many people try to shut down an argument or debate by saying 'That's racist.' However, to my mind this is not enough. i think what is needed is an explanation why racism is inherently wrong. After all, if I was debating a French person and tried to shut them up by saying 'You're only saying that because you're French', I would be rightly open to utter ridicule, but I think the same logic applies to claims of racism. The person making the attack needs to then say why a racist opinion is wrong.
I accept I'm going to get vilified now by people who haven't understood my point. If I haven't made it clear, I apologise, but I can't simplify it any further.

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David Blomstrom
Sunday, January 06, 2019 - 09:07:37 PM
@Dr. Bo: Is the false cause fallacy listed on your site under a different name? I get confused a lot by fallacies that have multiple names.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
moderator
Monday, January 07, 2019 - 06:10:50 AM
It is under Questionable Cause, which is concluding that one thing caused another, simply because they are regularly associated. This would work if a) it is true that people who criticize Obama are regularly racists and b) and causality has been claimed but not established. In your version of the statement, criteria b is at least met.

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David Blomstrom
Monday, January 07, 2019 - 06:20:06 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: So if someone who is NOT racist questions Obama's use of unmanned drones, and one of Obama's defenders plays the race card ("You're just saying that because you're racist!"), then it would NOT be an example of Questionable Cause? But it is Questionable Cause if the Obama critic really is a racist?

That's confusing for me, but if that's the way it works, then this fallacy would not work for the fallacy I described (or incorrectly described in my first post). Thanks for the insight.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
moderator
Monday, January 07, 2019 - 08:05:04 PM
@David Blomstrom: Questionable cause would fit if it were agreed that criticizing Obama was regularly associated with racism.

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David Blomstrom
Monday, January 07, 2019 - 08:22:27 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: I think this thread admirably represents the complexity of fallacy. You think you've pegged something as a simple, easy-to-identify fallacy, only to wind up with multiple answers, compounded by variations in how you word your question. Very educational!

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David Blomstrom
Sunday, January 06, 2019 - 09:04:55 PM
@Abdulazeez Alabbasi: Wow, I've never heard of that fallacy before, but it sounds like a match. Maybe we could call it a false cause fallacy with just a touch of ad hominem attack? ;)

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David Blomstrom
Sunday, January 06, 2019 - 06:25:44 PM
So if a person used this "misunderstanding" deliberately (e.g. playing the race card), then we could accuse them of deception - or non-fallacious deception.

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David Blomstrom
Sunday, January 06, 2019 - 05:02:17 PM
To put it in fallacy form: If you criticize Obama, you are a racist.

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