Friday, May 11, 2012

The "so is everything else" variant of "tu quoque" fallacy

A case of Tu quoque: "By Jove, what extra...
A case of Tu quoque: "By Jove, what extraordinary headgear you women do wear!"—ironic reference in Punch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the general "defense" used MLMers to defend their opportunity is the "tu quoque", or "You too!" fallacy. I call it "so is everything else" argument. This is best illustrated by an example.
A: BizX is a ponzi because of ____, _____, and _____. 
B: But so is Social Security! Insurance! Banking System! Federal Reserve! (Everything else!)
Really, that's a COMMON defense. Here's one actual example:
[Defending Zeekrewards which may be a Ponzi scheme] B. For those who think that money is coming from the investors….. it is!! So does money you borrow from the bank. You deposit your money into bank, bank holds federal minimum in bank vault and/or the fed… the rest well they make money by giving it to someone else for more money… sound familiar?? 
This is bogus because it doesn't deny that Zeekrewards may be a Ponzi. Instead, it is trying to argue that Ponzi scheme is all around us (and thus, not really a big deal). It is arguing something completely irrelevant. It's considered a "red herring".

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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Analysis of Wazzub May Announcement: fallacies and propaganda

Previously a post here in "A MLM Skeptic" highlighted Wazzub's "May 2012 announcement" as a prime example of "bandwagon fallacy" as it was used no less than FOUR TIMES in that single announcement.  It is also full of other logical fallacies, omission of truth, and other problem as well. We will go through the announcement with a fine-toothed comb and see how much real info is there and how much propaganda, by applying a little skepticism.

Full screenshots will be taken to prove that the words were not taken out of context.

There are no less than EIGHT problems in their announcement, IN ADDITION to the four bandwagon fallacies we've identified earlier.

Cognitive bias: the bandwagon fallacy

When MLMers try to "defend" their pet scheme against critics, another technique they often use is called the 'bandwagon fallacy'.

Bandwagon fallacy plays upon your "envy" and "desire to conform". Its argument is very simple:

"it is popular, therefore it must be good / true".

In some variants, the "therefore" portion is not stated, but merely implied.

Any time you see statement like "10000 members can't be wrong", you should beware that bandwagon fallacy is being used on you. Today, we'll study one prime example of bandwagon fallacy being used: Wazzub, the so-called "profit success sharing phenomenon".

On an update they posted in May (which is completely unlinked except through an obscure free blog), they used the following FOUR bandwagon fallacies (not to mention a slew of others, such as conspiracy theory, strawman argument, bad analogy, and much more) to "prove" their legitimacy. All captures are done on date this blog post is written.

The "let them think it's their idea" trick

vote symbol: suggestion
vote symbol: suggestion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the more subtle tricks in propaganda, or mass manipulation of opinions, is "suggestion".

We are always subject to psychological pressures, both overt and subtle. If we are not responsive to such pressures, then peer pressure and "cultural norm" like shame would not exist. Suggestion is a more subtle form of psychological pressure.

One of the more devious tricks in suggestion is the "let them think it's their idea" trick. Basically, instead of saying things outright, you instead hint, suggest, allude, or point people toward the conclusion you WANT them to reach, but never outright say it. You want the idea to be formed by your target, that it is THEIR idea, so they hold to their idea as their own.  Once they thought THEY had came up with the idea, they would defend it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Compliance: how you can be persuaded to do things you didn't want to

English: This depiction of the SIFT-3M Model h...English: This depiction of the SIFT-3M Model highlights the psychological steps involved in gaining or succumbing to compliance: (1) sensing (2) inferring meaning (3) formatting intent (4) translating intent into action (5) memory (6) motivators (7) musing (8) state and (9) inner and outer worlds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)There are three ways for you to decide to do something quite dumb, such as joining a scam
  1. You are just gullible 
  2. You are tricked into it as the other side misrepresented the three variables you need to evaluate the decision
  3. You are persuaded by one of the various "compliance techniques"
We will discuss gullibility in a different article (you can read some now). Today, our emphasis is on "compliance", which is basically a way for other people to persuade you to do something you do NOT want to do (at first). 

We all know the feeling when we feel we are set in our opinion and nothing could change our mind. You probably did this when you are a small child: I want this item and I am not leaving without it! But ev
entually your parent(s) convinced you to leave. You have been "persuaded" (or physically removed from the location). 

As you grown up, you learned that stubborn gets you nowhere. You self-taught persuasion techniques and used them on your parents, and your parents use persuasion techniques on you. Later, you use it on just about everybody, and other people will use it on you.

It is when persuasion techniques are used for evil, such as scamming you out of your money, that it becomes significant. Most of us merely go through our lives, not even aware of these techniques either incoming or outgoing. We thought it's just relations. Well, it's not. You need to recognize all the techniques before you can spot them being used on you. 

There generally are five commonly recognized compliance techniques:
  1. foot-in-door
  2. door-in-face
  3. low-ball
  4. ingratiation
  5. reciprocity
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Sunday, May 6, 2012

How do scams really work?

English: A list of all scams in India from yea...English: A list of all scams in India from years 1992 to 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Ever wondered how scams really work? How do they trick you into making the wrong decisions? To know that, you need to know how your brain thinks through a decision, what are the factors in the evaluation, and how scams interfere with the evaluation process.

Your brain needs three factors to evaluate a particular action:
  • risk -- what is the chance of the reward actually coming through? Lottery chance is tiny, work is almost certain. 
  • cost -- what is the cost that you need to pay? (could be money, time, work, reputation, etc.)
  • reward -- what is the payoff that you get once you paid the cost and accepted the risk? 
There are THREE ways you can be lead to making a 'wrong' decision

  • Your lack of skepticism, as you accept whatever you're told, without any fact-checking 
  • You were given extra factors to consider instead of just the relevant factors, which weighed the decision in their favor instead of yours
  • You were given a distorted picture of the three factors: risk / cost / reward