Friday, May 11, 2012

Cognitive Bias: the "no true Scotsman" fallacy

Traditional Scotsman
Traditional Scotsman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Another tactic used by MLMers, when confronted with evidence of their so-called MLM as scam, with arrest of members in other countries, will reply 'they are doing it wrong', 'they are just bad people, the system is fine', or some variation of the same theme.

They are guilty of using the "no true Scotsman" fallacy, or the "they did it wrong" variant (which was documented earlier).

The best way to explain "no true Scotsman" is with an example, as given by (slightly paraphrased)
Angus: Scotsman do not put sugar on porridge!
Lachlan: I'm a Scotsman, and I put sugar on my porridge
Angus: Then ya're no true Scotsman!
Angus moved the goalpost by redefining Scotsman as "true Scotsman" when confronted with facts counter to his claim. And a lot of MLMers do the same thing.

When it comes to defending a scam, this is the usual sequence of events:
A: TVI Express "distributors" have been arrested in India, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, China, and more for fraud. TVI Express itself was declared pyramid scheme in even more countries.
B: They, the bad reps, cheated the public! They are not "true" TVI Express!

Here's one example of such response (comment source):
Kschang you're such a loser for me you are nothing in this world, why don't you show your face coz you are the one that hiding, you have no credibility at all coz you are a fucking paid blogger, check it out our miscellaneous so you can see that tvi does not tolerating people who misrepresent our company and besides how can you argue with a positive result that happens to their members.
A full deconstruction of this retort will be done later (it's guilty of SO MANY fallacies it's rather hilarious to read), but note the bold section, requoted:
"check it out our miscellaneous so you can see that tvi does not tolerating people who misrepresent our company"

Here I'll have to add a little explanation: TVI Express supposedly has a page on their website that lists all the members they allegedly "terminated" due to bad conduct. Unfortunately, it's hidden behind a member wall.

It is very likely TVI Express (or the various "uplines") told members that TVI Express terminated all the people that were arrested, without telling the members WHY the arrestees were arrested. The arrestees may be presented as cheaters (i.e. took downline's money and never paid TVI Express) to the members.

The members then reacts to the news of arrest with the "no true Scotsman" argument, believing that those are just "bad people" "who misrepresent [tvi express]", not "true" TVI Express. They took TVI Express (and/or their upline) at their word, instead of trying to verify the information themselves.

They lack skepticism.

So what is the difference between "no true Scotsman" and "they did it wrong"? I see "they did it wrong" as more of a post-facto rationalization used almost exclusively by defenders of MLM or scam to justify / defend their continued involvement or prior involvement. So instead of the A-B-A interaction of the "no true Scotsman", it's just A-B for "they did it wrong".

But logically they are the same.

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