Popular Fallacies I Encountered In Responses


Let me tell you. I love reading stories on Medium. I also enjoy composing stories from time to time. However, I am noticing a familiar trend in the responses. People are engaging the same antisocial behaviour you see everywhere online.

The ones I encountered did not have the same bite as the typical puerile, man-child variety, but that actually makes them worse. Calm responses which practice a certain equanimity and have a rather piquant taste attract the most attention, because they are so unlike the obnoxious crap everywhere else online. This makes logical fallacies sometimes hard to spot.

Well, that just begs the question, doesn’t it? (Pun intended)

I have discovered a number of logical fallacies used on controversial subjects.

The Nib published a comic on trans* women using the restroom. Someone opened up the conversation by accusing the author of misrepresentation and implied she was an idiot. So he started the conversation with an Ad Hominem. He used various slippery slope arguments and straw men by arguing that allowing protections for trans* people to use the restroom will lead to men entering women’s restrooms and eventually perverts. I think he forgot legitimate reasons for men using the women’s restroom, such as helping their daughters, just using the restroom in case the other is inaccessible, and the occasional mix-up.


The Department of Education and Justice released a guidance to help schools comply with Title IX.


“Obama by supreme edict made all restrooms transgender!”

President Obama ordered all schools to make all bathrooms transgender or face a loss of federal funding. — http://www.snopes.com/obama-transgender-bathrooms/

Red Herring:

“I really feel for trans* people, but what about men in the women’s restrooms and locker rooms? What about a law to prevent them from entering?”

I suggested to an MRA that men’s problems predominantly come from other men. Hazing and Hazing death’s are such problems. He changed the subject and started talking about how women also experience hazing. Then he introduced a straw-man by asking me how would I go about absolutely eliminating hazing and asked me if feminists are doing anything about hazing.

Biased Sample:

“Someone used a study to suggest there are only 30,000 trans* people. The study only counted trans* people who were post-op.”

An MRA randomly posted some figures I guess to make it seem like most rapists, sex offenders and sexually aggressive men were motivated by trauma inflicted by females, and the that prevalence was growing. It was a biased sample due to the studies which were used which measured only certain groups of violent men who were abused by women. In other words, find sexually violent men who were abused by women and how frequently they were abused, find different studies with the same bias, and put them in increasing order to make it appear there is crisis.

Finally, there is an alarmingly high rate of sexual abuse by females in the backgrounds of rapists, sex offenders and sexually aggressive men — 59% (Petrovich and Templer, 1984), 66% (Groth, 1979) and 80% (Briere and Smiljanich, 1993).

Hasty Generalization:

This one was actually from a published story which was supposed to be about whether women truly wanted equality.

Most of us don’t want to pay half the bill on dates, we don’t want to work dirty and dangerous jobs, we don’t want to be drafted if there was a war, we don’t have to prove to a court that our children need us after divorce, and we don’t want to serve as unpaid bodyguard or be the first one to go downstairs when we hear a strange noise… and luckily for us, we don’t have to! — https://medium.com/@NikitaCcoulombe/do-women-really-want-equality-4374910f2236#.dyt829ucw

Bandwagon Appeal:

Someone sympathetic to the men’s rights movement took issue with my comments regarding a click-bait article which was about whether women wanted equality. He did not like the fact I referred to them as the angry man’s movement. I pointed to an article on Medium where an ex-MRA basically said the same thing. His rebuttal were popular comments which described the article as a caricature of what feminists want an ex-MRA to be like.

Basing an argument on popular opinion is the band wagon appeal fallacy.

Begging the Question and Burden of Proof:

I posted a response to an article talking about GMOs and their safety. I said the other side of the argument was not just about GMO safety but the urge by big agricultural businesses, such as Monsanto, to bully farmers into becoming dependent on expensive GMO seed, fertilizers, and pesticides. Farmers are being forced to abandon 10,000 years in agricultural knowledge and techniques for less sustainable practices which may not be healthy for us or the environment in the long run.

Another poster responded by telling me most people starved using this method and 90% of the population had to work the fields. He also responded with, “Your computer does not run on an avocado. Industrial agriculture freed millions of hands to work and create the computer you are using to type this.” I am paraphrasing of course, but most of his message was purely asinine and obtuse. He presumed I could only be using a computer, because industrial farming made it possible for people like Von Neumann to develop computers in universities for the purpose of creating atoms bombs. It begged the question. There was this assumption that we could not have computers unless agriculture was industrialized using GMOs, artificial fertilizers and petroleum based pesticides. He had no proof for his claims. They were, of course, just silly.

Anyone who had at least high school history remembers the vast ancient empires which stretched over Europe and Asia. There were multiple successful empires in Egypt which would last hundreds of years at a time. People within these empires had to be decently fed by huge agricultural centers, or culture and science never would have developed, and civilization would have crumbled. Plagues and famines were common then just as they are now.

Fast forward to the modern era. What changed? During both World Wars, new methods of farming turned large farms into factories producing large amounts of meat and dairy. The dairy industry heavily lobbied and marketed their products in the US to sell their surplus. After the war ended, there was no longer any need for these massive industrial farms. The big agro-biz which grew lobbied government to stay relevant. “It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that the first giant animal factories appeared and they were for egg production.” Corn was subsidized in 1973. In 1976, McDonald’s has sold about 20 million burgers since its founding. From 1975 to the 1980’s, the pig, chicken, beef, and dairy CAFO’s became firmly established. The 1980’s to 1990’s saw the rise of fast-food as the food of choice in the US. This was in the last forty or so years, and it only became a real problem in the last twenty-five.

Yet with all this industrialization, most farms are still family-owned.

The 88 percent of U.S. farms that are small family farms operate almost half (48 percent) of all farmland and own 47 percent of the value of farm real estate (land and buildings). They accounted for 20 percent of agriculture sales and 5 percent of the country’s net farm income in 2012. They held 40 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory and 89 percent of the horse inventory, and grew 64 percent of all acres in forage production. — https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Highlights/NASS%20Family%20Farmer/Family_Farms_Highlights.pdf

I got the feeling Mr. Poster was just a casual writer to be making such flimsy arguments. C’est la vie.

Some people just want to fight, a quite unfortunate aspect of human nature. You care so much about your story and its message. So willingly you engage these people, hoping for a thoughtful debate. You research, rebut, and argue your points carefully. Back them into a corner, and they back-peddle or change the subject. They never address the entire story but engage in frivolities instead. During your discourses, you discover neither side progresses one inch and the conversation is revealed for what it truly is, petty squabbling.

One of the things I noticed about some these pugnacious posters was their insouciant and cavalier writing style. They seemed to have put very little energy into their responses. They were detached, completely devoid of any compunction. There was often nothing to really argue, because there were no arguments being made, just reactions, half-truths, and fallacies. It was as if they were intentionally draining energy from actual debates to fuel their egos and a desire to be self-righteousness. The true message of our stories meant nothing, so long as they could make it about themselves.

Maybe they were actually being sincere; they were just terrible writers.

It would be nice if these sorts of people were avoidable. But one can only know after investing in some time with the poster or checking the poster’s previous posts before responding, in order to get a better idea of the poster’s thought processes and writing style.

I hope this little epistle of mine will help you become a more intelligent and prudent writer. The Medium community is full of wonderful people and support, but there are still some who will render obnoxious arguments wanting nothing less than your abasement. This story was written so that you may filter those obnoxious arguments and deal with them and focus on the ones which deserve your attention.