Monday, April 04, 2011

Logical Fallacies 101 (Part 4 Of 6): Argumentum Ad Populum

.:Logical Fallacies 101 (Part 4 Of 6): Argumentum Ad Populum:.

So just because everyone is doing it, this makes it right?

Argumentum Ad Populum is a very sinister logical fallacy. It attempts to use the numbers game to sway one’s opinion. The argument normally goes, “everyone’s doing it, so who are we to say it’s wrong?” This is particularly manipulative, because it plays on our concepts of democracy, in that we are conditioned to think that the more people agree with an issue, the more likely it is correct.

One need only look at the politicians put into power in this country to know that this is not necessarily true. In fact, statistical assent should not be the only factor in a given debate, although of course, especially in a public opinion debate, it is one of the many factors to consider. Despite that, just because many people think a certain way does not mean that certain way is correct. To argue that it is so is to argue based on popular opinion, which is not necessarily correct at all times.

Here, a YouTube commenter is insisting that other contestants cry and earn sympathy to get money, so we should just ignore what happened to Jan-Jan. He even sneaks in a sweeping generalization and possibly an argument from ignorance by drawing conclusions about Willie’s detractors: that they are being holier-than-thou. This swipe fails because it assumes something the commenter can’t possibly know about all of Willie’s detractors, but he makes the assumption anyways.

To make matters worse, while other contestants may do the same thing, the big difference is, Jan-Jan is six years old. We protect kids within the law precisely because they can’t protect themselves. If you were an adult dancing for Willie as one of his dancers, I may not like what you do, but you are entitled to choose your livelihood as a consenting adult. Jan-Jan is not a consenting adult, and should not be treated as one. As such, even if the parents say that they’re cool with Jan-Jan dancing like a man-ho, that is less an absolution of all parties concerned, and more of an indictment that Jan-Jan’s parents suck.

There was a time people lynched black people just because they were black. There were a lot of these people doing this. Surely, this is enough illustration that just because many people did it doesn’t mean it was right for them to do it?

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