Logical fallacies are the topic for this week. What better place is there to look than in political debates? Politicians have largely been heralded as liars and people who will do anything to get what they want. With that in mind, I watched part of a Democratic debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Let’s dive right in to see if these potential presidential candidates use logical fallacies, what types of fallacies they use, and how it impacts their argument.
To set the context for the argument, over the course of two years, the water in a town called Flint (located in Michigan) has been poisoned. People cannot bathe in it or drink it. At about 26 minutes into the video, a woman from Flint asks a question about factory worker jobs. Will the potential presidential candidates encourage companies to keep factories in the U.S. is the question she asks? Hillary responds like any human being would with a resounding yes. Unfortunately for her, Sanders brings up the fact that in the past she has supported trade agreements that took away jobs from Americans. In response to that, Hillary points out how Sanders was against a bail out for the auto parts industry. This is an example of a red herring. Hillary Clinton does not respond to Bernie’s argument that in the past she has taken jobs away from Americans; rather, she tries to shift blame onto him by bringing up something that he has done wrong. She does not defend herself, but chooses to ignore Bernie’s argument. This type of fallacy is a fallacy one might hear on the school playground. In the words of a child the argument may go like this “Well, it doesn’t matter what I’ve done because you’ve done these bad things too.” This has the impact of making Ms. Clinton sound a bit childish. It raises the question in the mind of the audience “Can’t you defend yourself? Or can you only attack others?”
Now there were many more fallacies, but to go over all of them in the close to 2 hour video would take a very long time. For example, later Hillary says, “You were either for the auto industry bailout or against it.” This is an instance of bifurcation. I think that the overall impact of any logical fallacy used makes a person sound immature and unintelligent. That is the bottom line. That if one can’t defend their arguments, it makes them sound quite nonintellectual.