Fighting Propaganda

Logical fallacies and biases.

Where do we start? Well, let’s start with a simple video of people comparing the Affordable Care Act vs Obamacare. In case you don’t know, they’re the same thing.

What did you notice? You probably noticed that these people had formed opinions based on nothing but their feelings. Let’s be honest, their feelings about President Obama. You’ll notice that none of them knew the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are actually the same thing. And you’ll notice that when they went over what is in the ACA, that gentleman agreed with it. But then said that he didn’t like Obamacare. You probably heard the lady thank Jimmy Kimmel for making her look stupid. No one made her look stupid; she did that all on her own by talking about a subject she knew nothing about rather than being honest about what she knew.

  1. Step one. Be honest. Admit what you know and what you don’t know. And if you don’t know, rather than pretending to know, admit that you don’t. This is especially important when it comes to the topics we are most passionate about. Why? Because our passion clouds our judgement.

Now, you need to follow the basic premise of science and our legal system.

The “burden of proof” means that if you make a factual claim, it is your obligation to prove that claim. It isn’t anyone else’s obligation to disprove your claim.

When making claims, make sure to have evidence to support your claims.

Step 2. Avoid logical fallacies and biases. Here are some examples.

Obfuscation fallacies are common in politics. Politicians like to throw around terms like socialism and Marxism without ever defining them so that the listener can jump to whatever conclusion they want.
This is a great though fictional example of a strawman argument. He turns an debate about which flavor of ice cream is better into one about freedom and liberty.
Sid Miller literally turns a debate about healthy eating into one about freedom and liberty. This one is funny but sadly, it is not fiction.

When is a logical fallacy not a logical fallacy?

When is a logical fallacy not a logical fallacy?There are times when a logical fallacy isn’t a fallacy.  This may some illogical, but there are times when, for example, a slippery slope argument isn’t a fallacy and that’s when it’s being used for humor.  In this case, DirectTV is using a humorous slippery slope argument that is meant to be funny and not serious.  

This one is huge. This happens all the time in many fields including education as you will find out.

Anecdotal / Inappropriate Appeal to Emotion.

Anecdotal / Inappropriate Appeal to Emotion.
This example comes to us from the Cancer Treatment Centers of the United States.  Their commercials combine anecdotal evidence ie one example to create an emotional story of false hope since the vast majority of patients die with five years of treatment. 
Weisbaum, Herb. (2018).  Consumer group says most U.S. cancer centers use misleading ads.  NBC News. Retrieved from

This is why you have to be cautious about topics you are passionate about. Often people confuse passion with expertise.
Selection bias is common because it’s easy to not see what isn’t in front of your face. In this case, the planes that went down. Selection bias is problematic in lots of field that deal with volunteers and survey data. Volunteers are often self-selecting. For example, when dealing with research that compares charter schools to public schools, they fail to realize that students who go to charter schools haven’t been randomly selected from the general population of students, they self-select. They choose to go.

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