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Innuendo and Genetic Ad Hominem

by Hans Bluedorn

Innuendo and Genetic Ad Hominem

Last time I asked you what the fallacy was in this quote by Jessie Jackson:

Quote: "The worst result [in this election] would be one that left Americans believing that this election was stolen in a state whose Governor is George Bush's brother. That would be a nightmare no matter which man became president.

It is dubious enough that the person who won the majority of the popular vote in the country has not been declared the winner. Particularly since the electoral college was invented largely as a scheme to allow Southern states to count slaves as three_fifths human, insuring their domination of national elections for the first decades of the Republic. We cannot compound that by foreshortening a complete and impartial investigation of the Florida allegations. Now is the time for justice, not for politics." – Jessie Jackson on the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition website

I gave you Genetic Ad Hominem, Innuendo, Hasty Generalization and Appeal to Ignorance to choose from (for descriptions of these, read the last Logic Loop in the archives).

From: J&L Herrera

Thanks for the challenge for this month's Logic Loop. Also, it's been a real mental exercise for me and my wife, listening to all the arguments these past weeks. I'm grateful we've worked on our logic skills to discern truth from lies. Your resources have been a great help, thank you!

OK, here goes:

Quote: "The worst result [in this election] would be one that left Americans believing that this election was stolen in a state whose Governor is George Bush's brother. That would be a nightmare no matter which man became president. "

I believe this to be Hasty Generalization, suggesting that all Americans would believe this based solely on the fact that Jeb and George are brothers.

Quote: "Particularly since the electoral college was invented largely as a scheme to allow Southern states to count slaves as three_fifths human, insuring their domination of national elections for the first decades of the Republic."

I believe this to be a composite fallacy of Genetic Ad Hominem and Innuendo. He first makes a statement which is irrelevant:

Quote: "It is dubious enough that the person who won the majority of the popular vote in the country has not been declared the winner"

This is NOT the issue at hand, and then goes on to attack the electoral college process (Genetic Ad Hominem) and suggested (Innuendo) southern states (Republican) schemed and dominated national elections for the first decades of the Republic.

Thanks for the Loop!

Juan

From: Me

Thanks for the response.

First of all, Hasty Generalization was not the answer I was looking for. A true Hasty Generalization is over generalizing with too small a sample. An example would be: since your uncle and his neighbor think that this election was stolen, all people must think that this election was stolen. However, there are other fallacies in the quote which you correctly pointed out. Genetic Ad Hominem and Innuendo were correct. You're right on there.

Genetic Ad Hominem (a subdivision of the common Ad Hominem fallacy), is an attempt to prove a conclusion false by attacking its source (its genesis).

Example: "You disagree with the idea of women in the military just because of your Baptist upbringing."

This kind of reasoning is irrelevant. Where an idea came from has no direct bearing on whether or not it is valid. Good results sometimes come from not-so-good beginnings. Just look at The Ugly Duckling. If the electoral college actually was just cooked up by a bunch of southern slave holders trying to dominate elections, that still says nothing about the electoral college's suitability in our current situation. Is the electoral college right or wrong today? (By the way, Jessie Jackson does not tell the truth about why the electoral college was created – it was created to prevent the dominance of large cities in presidential elections). The fallacy of Genetic Ad Hominem ignores the real topic and focuses in on irrelevant origins.

It might be important to note here that it is sometimes useful to study an idea's source in order to more fully understand it. Roots can reveal a lot about the true purposes and implications of an idea. While this cannot show an idea's present validity for certainty, it may be helpful.

Innuendo is actually not a true logical fallacy, but more of a propaganda and manipulation technique. It tries to psychologically manipulate your opinions.

"Innuendo" is used when indirect hints are dropped that something suspicious is afoot. Nothing is said out in the open, for fear they would actually have to back it up. Innuendo is used quite a bit in political contexts. Example: "I've never been suspected of sniffing cocaine, unlike my opponent!" We all know what the speaker is talking about, but nothing is said that would allow anyone to challenge it. He would just say, "I never accused him of anything."

Jessie Jackson says nothing out in the open, but his inferences are quite clear. He thinks: Jeb Bush has special and improper interest in the election, the election should go to the one who won the popular vote, and the electoral college only benefitted slave holders in the south before the Civil War.

Your turn

Okay, now that you did so well guessing the fallacy last time, see if you can figure out another one.

Quote: "According to R. Grunberger, author of A Social History of the Third Reich, published in Britain, the Nazis used to send the following notice to German readers who let their subscriptions lapse: "Our paper certainly deserves the support of every German. We shall continue to forward copies of it to you, and hope that you will not want to expose yourself to unfortunate consequences in the case of cancellation." (Parade, May 9, 1971 - found in "Informal Logic, a Handbook for Critical Argumentation" by Douglas N. Walton)

A very compelling argument. The first person who emails me giving the correct answer will receive in the mail a free Logic Loop Coffee Mug - much coveted by caffeine addicts everywhere......I'm not kidding.

Here are a few fallacies to choose from:

A. Fallacy of Composition: arguing that the whole possesses the qualities of its individual parts.

"This will be a very good pie, I used only the best ingredients."

"This team has very good players, it's bound to be a good team."

B. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: arguing that something happened "after this, therefore it happened because of this."

"My brother sucked on his thumb until he was ten years old, and now he is a serial killer. Never let your kids suck on their thumbs!"

"I hate Friday the 13th. That day is unlucky. My uncle fell off of a tight rope last Friday the 13th."

C. Argumentum Ad Baculum: arguing from the fear of force. Trying to get you to agree merely out of fear that bad stuff would happen if you didn't.

"If you don't agree with me, you'll be sorry."

"If you don't convict this murderer, you may be his next victim."

D. Hasty Generalization: over generalizing about something without a sufficient sample.

"All Fords are bad. I once owned a Ford and it was junk."

"I don't think anybody lives in North Dakota. Everybody I ever talked to who was from there didn't live there anymore."

Copyright December 14, 2000, all rights reserved. 7870 views


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