Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bad Argument: "association with authority" fallacy

One of the tactics used by defenders of a suspect scheme is locate some sort of a relation between the suspect scheme and a celebrity, and use that as "evidence" to claim the suspect scheme is not a scam.

Here's an example:
A: Acme XYZ is a scam because of ___, ____, and ____. 
B: Acme XYZ is associated with celebrity (insert name)!  This celebrity would never involve himself / herself with a scam! Therefore Acme XYZ is not a scam! 
Instead of defeating the premise "Acme XYZ is a scam", this argument aims to prove the counter-premise, "Acme XYZ is NOT a scam". However, does the logic hold water? The answer is no.

Rewrite the statement slightly, and you get this:

1) Acme XYZ is associated with Celebrity Q
2) Q would not associate with a scam
3) Acme XYZ is not a scam

It's logical, until you realize there are at least two exceptions associated with 2) Q would not associate with a scam. The two obvious exceptions are:

  • What if Q doesn't know Acme XYZ is a scam?
  • What if Q was HIRED by Acme XYZ? 

Ever thought about that?

If Q does not know Acme XYZ is a scam, then of course Q will associate with Acme XYZ, perhaps even endorse it to some extent, esp. if he was also PAID for it. .
The Newlywed Game
The Newlywed Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here's a great example... Anybody remember Bob Eubanks? The famous host of "The Newlywed Game"? When he pitches a 1-900 dating service, do you think more of it because Bob Eubanks is pitchi
ng it? You probably did. It was used to lure investors, not customers. It failed.  This was back in 1996! You really think celebrities had gotten smarter? No!

Bob Eubanks found the gig through his agent. One day's work, couple hours at most, $15000 bucks. No problem, just talk in front of the camera for a bit and sound convincing. Bravo!

You can imagine what probably went on at the investor pitch meetings opportunity seminars:

1) This 1-900 dating thing hired Bob Eubanks of the Newlywed Show!
2) Bob Eubanks can't possibly involve himself with a scam...
3) 1-900 dating thing can't be a scam!

Well, it is. People who put in money lost 80% of their money.


A variation of this involving MLM is known as the "Compliance denial". It takes this form.
A: Acme XYZ is a scam because of ____, ____, and ____. 
B: Acme XYZ has hired famous lawyer L for compliance! It can't possibly be a scam now! 
The hiring of "famous lawyer L" doesn't make the company compliant or not. The company's actual business model and practices determines whether it's compliant with law or not. L can make recommendations, but it is up to the company to implement the changes.

There is also at least one case of a company that went through compliance review, was pronounced "compliant" by a famous lawyer, and was declared illegal scam by the government any way. That scam is Ad Surf Daily. 

And finally, if B tries to argue that "Acme XYZ must not be a scam because L couldn't possibly work for a scam", then it's becomes same as the main form. However, there is another problem.

Consider this: L is a lawyer, he gets PAID to tell what companies need to do to be compliant with the law. If the company doesn't think it's illegal, why would they have HIRED L in the first place? What are they worried about? Clearly, they *think* they *may* be illegal, which is why they HIRED L in the first place! 

Which only proves this argument is irrelevant. It's a red herring.

Beware when this red herring is used on you.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment