Friday, July 20, 2012

"You can't judge us unless you're with us" fallacy

An American judge talking to a lawyer.
An American judge talking to a lawyer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of often used deflections used by defenders of a suspicious scheme is "you can't judge us unless you're with us". It usually takes this form.
A: Acme XYZ is a scam because ____, ____, and ____. 
B: How can you judge Acme XYZ if you're not even in it? You don't know the truth!
As the answer is unrelated to the premise (it neither disprove the premise nor prove the counter-premise) it is a red herring. Though it "sounds" like a valid argument, until you look at it a bit closer.

This deflection attempts to examine A's 'qualifications', completely ignoring the facts and/or logic presented, and proposes a reason to discount A's premise without examining the premise itself, simply due to A's qualifications (or lack of).

NOTE: This argument is VERY similar in tone with its cousin, the "you're not in it" fallacy. However, this one invokes "appeal to lack of authority" (you have no right to judge us) instead of "appeal to lack of anecdotal evidence" (you don't have direct evidence to judge us).  The two are VERY close in both argument and tone.

However, even this alleged "lack of qualification" is in itself fallacious, because it can be restated as follows:

a) you have to be in a scheme to judge it
b) "B" is not in the scheme
c) "B" is not qualified to judge the scheme

Why would any one have to be IN the scheme to judge it? Are movie critics part of Hollywood movie studios? No! Are judges part of criminal underworld? No! Thus, the whole thing is a logical fallacy as well as a red herring.

This deflection can also be seen as inverse of appeal to authority fallacy. In appeal to authority fallacy, the "authority" was cited without explaining WHY this authority is correct. The authority is often quite famous, but not necessarily correct all the time. Why is this the inverse? B is essentially arguing that you cannot trust A's premise because A's not an authority, again, ignoring the logic and evidence presenting.  This is fallacious because logic and evidence is true no matter who brought them forth. 1+2=3 is true no matter who said it, a famous mathematician or a three-year old. B's trying to introduce a red herring: A's "authority status". 

This deflection has a sibling known as the "show your face" tactic, where "B" claims that unless A shows his face his premise counts for nothing, again, completely ignoring the logic and/or evidence presented.

(Sidenote: There is a reason why critics often choose to remain anonymous: so they can't be accused of "appeal to self-authority" fallacy... i.e. I am right because that's who I am: right. They want the readers to be focused on the logic and evidence presented, not on WHO said it. WHO said it does NOT matter. )

You'll often see this fallacy used when the opponent wishes to cite someone who is more amicable to the scheme, but never explained WHY, so they'll simply claim that this someone has great reputation, blah blah blah, compared to this nameless critic "B", without examining the logic and evidence present. Basically, B's trying to use both "appeal to authority" fallacy, as well as its inverse, to make the same point.

This fallacy is often used with the "Darth Vader Solicitation", where B offers to pay for A's membership into this suspect scheme, "so he can learn the truth".
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