Fallacies and Rhetorical Devices

Fallacies and Rhetorical Devices

Bill O’Rielly and his O’Rielly factor TV show on the Fox news network is known for being a never ending source of logical fallacies. Specifically, concerning the Israel war on the Arabs, nearly every form of rhetorical device and every kind of sleight f hand in argument is used to defend Israel agaisnt its caitve population in the West Bank and the Gaza strip.

Case in point: the October 22, 2008 “O’Rielly Factor” show featured this argument:

a) The Hezbullah organization is not a state

b) Hezhullah military organization does not wear uniforms

c) Hezbullah are terrorists, and therefore

d) Israel can act as they please in defending themselves against them.

Several specific fallacies can be detected here:

1. Ignoratio Elenchi, or in this case, the use of popular sentiment: terrorists are bad, defense against them is good. There is no sense of defining this hor word in this context. It is a means of diverting attention rather than addressing root causes.

2. O’Rielly denies that Hezbullah is a state, they are hence, illegitimate and have no “moral equivalence” to Israel, that is a state. Hence, Hezbullah are terrorists without rights relative to states, i.e. Israel. Among many other things, this is the fallacy of “false cause.”

Assignment 2: Rhetorical Devices: (source, The handbook of Rhetorical Devices, by Robert Harris, published by Virtual Salt, 2008)

1. arm every man, woman, and child in America (Hyperbole)

2. gun-pushers (Epithet)

3. big war (Hyperbole)

4. fanatical (expletive)

5. assault weapons (Antithesis – of a sort, creating the image of big, bad guns versus small handguns)

6. cop-killer bullets Antithesis, same as above)

1. big money guys (Epithet)

2. smuggled (metaphor – the attempt is to make their opponents look criminal)

3. stop at nothing (another metaphor, it is a means to make their opponents look fanatical and mentally unbalanced.). . . as they want

4. Is it possible (Procatalepsis is used here in the fear that it is possible that such things might not lead to traffic snarls, it is a form of protection.)

5. perfectly clear that (amplification? Might be used to stress the fact that only loonies could ever disagree)

6. But (sense of change, something can be done)

7. Can the developers be stopped in their desire to wreck our town? (Rhetorical question and Climax)

Assignment 3: Fallacies in Print

Time author Tony Koron made the following argument on February 4, 2009 (it can be accessed here: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1877193,00.html

The argument goes like this:

1. Russia is playing a great power game with the US in central Asia

2. This is evidenced by the fact that Russia just made a deal with the US over air bases in Kyrgyzstan.

3. The deal was motivated by the desire of the US to fight “its” war in Afghanistan against the Taliban

4. If the US loses the war, the Taliban will excite other Islamic forces in southern Russia

5. Hence, Russian co-operation is derived from crude self interest

6. This self interest is manifest in having the US fight “its’ wars.

Making sense of this: the argument is that Russia has interest x and interest y that conflicts. Interest x is the defeat of Muslim Fundamentalists, interest y is having the US out of Central Asia. The recent deal to permit US bases on Kyrgyz soil is a form of compromise between the two interests. Hence, Russia is devious and playing a “game.” Several fallacies derive from this:

a) Begging the question: Russia’s behavior may well be a response to precisely the game American is playing.

b) Whoever wants the Taliban to lose supports the US

Russia wants the Taliban to lose

Hence, Russia supports the US

This is the fallacy of Accident. There are many reasons why one would support the US, and many other ways to deal with the Taliban other than supporting the US. Including the idea that the Taliban, like the Iranians, have no support outside of Afghanistan.

The argument, in other words, begins from the unstated premise that “the Ruskies are untrustworthy, everything they do is part of a game of deceit.” This is what gives force to the argument, not the complex facts of Central Asian politics.

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