Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Con Men Apprenticeship: Fallacious Arguments, Con Man / Politician Similarities--Part III

--Mastery of these are Essential to Good Con Artistry

You could ask, if Fed Ex and UPS merged, would we call it Fed UP? That's kind of the same sort of question we must ask ourselves about the apparent merger of con men's and politician's thinking, arguments, lingo, and general practice.

What are these fallacious arguments? Here's a listing which you must master in order to earn your spurs as a skilled Con Man / Politician.

> Ad hominem attacks: "My opponent, Senator Foghorn, could know nothing about space travel as he brags in his book, because his great, great grandfather traveled west in a covered wagon." When in doubt leapfrog the issue.

> Argument by needling: Another form of ad hominem attack is to make your opponent angry. Simple insults will usually do it, but can easily be reinforced by interrupting, clowning around to show disrespect, being noisy, failing to pass the microphone if in a debate. Generally, making a horse's ass of yourself is one of the easiest argument forms to employ. To justify such obnoxious behavior, merely ask yourself, If you wear your heart on your sleeve, where do you display your other bodily parts?

> Attack a caricatured version of your opponent's position. "Senator Foghorn says we should not fund the Lower Slobovian Army:; can you understand why he wants to leave us all defenseless like this?" When in doubt, create a huge chasm of stupefying disbelief.

> Argument by conflict: Scientific debate on global warming is so split that it must mean that everybody is wrong, and perhaps we should worry about global cooling instead. When in doubt, totally distort.

> Appeal to fear, with mass-application. A sexual utterance in the work place must be stopped because, if not, all men will become foul-mouthed in the work place. When in doubt, muddle and magnify the issue to cover hordes of people and imply a mass dash into a new sin.

> Bifurcation: Assumption of only 2 alternatives when, in fact, there are more. "It's war or peace in Lower Slobovia." How about a truce, a UN Peacekeeping Force, an armistice (like the DMZ in Korea for the past 55 years)?

> Burden of Proof Argument. Claim that what has not been proven true must be false, and vice versa. How about absence of evidence? Is this evidence of absence? The Burden of Proof Argument carries delightful possibilities to create every sort of confusion imaginable.

> Argument by question. The questioner has a big advantage in a debate. It usually takes less time to ask a question than to answer it. And, questions can be phrased to make the answerer look like a fool with his response. "Senator Foghorn, why are you against increasing the minimum wage for starving teenagers?" How can Senator Foghorn win, no matter what answer he comes up with?

> Argument from age. Products labeled New! Improved! These appeal to the belief that innovation is of value for such products, whatever the circumstances. How about a doubling of the capital gains tax? Is this really New? Improved?

> Argument by slogan. Of special value when you can get your audience to chant your slogan. (The kickoff can be from pre-planted shills in your audience who can also stimulate laughter, applause--the live equivalent of a TV laugh track--as well as begin the chant of a slogan). "Change, change, change." "Fight for Lower Slobovia." "Clean up Washington." "Throw the rascals out." "No more blow-outs for Senator Foghorn." On and on. On and on. On and on. Ad nauseous.

Now, with you back to being the recipient of these "Sunday punches," remember:
These people are so gifted that they can throw your belief system into a state of prolonged levitation--just long enough to con you out of your money, or get themselves elected.

This--the political Silly Season--is therefore the Season to be extra aware of your presence of mind, have an extra-firm grip on your wallet, and a deaf ear to all strictly emotional appeals.

You will be nothing but healthier, wealthier, and wiser for it.


Ariel J said...

I am FED UP. It is incomprehensible to me how far these people will go to scam us all.

Jack Payne said...

If you're fed up now, Ariel, wait till you see what I've got coming up next (next week).

Earl T. Clydson said...

I think argument by slogan is the worst of them all. It's numbing how widespread this is, and how it usually, dependably works.

James Broadfoot said...

Very insightful points that delves into the psychological traps we the people are subject to every day.

Linda said...


David said...

Let's not forget the immortal "Drill Baby, Drill." I'm always looking for tools to analyze arguments that don't feel honest. You've given us a whole toolbox here, Jack. Thanks.

Kelly said...

No matter which way we vote in the upcoming elections, I have a depressing feeling that we will all be scammed and screwed. I will vote for the one I feel the American people will get less screwed by. Yeah, I believe most politicians are con artists. I think its one of the job requirements of being a politician, isn't it. How else can they rise to the top of the presidential race?

Good post, Jack. Very insightful. Thanks.

Warmer said...

Argument by slogan is to me the nuttiest of them all for sure. You ran one a few weeks ago, Jack. I believe it was Better Dead Than Red. My father told me this was very effective in the 1950's. This makes no sense to me. How nutty can people get?

Jack Payne said...

Your seem to feel the same about slogans, Earl and warmer. You're right. This particular weapon is just about the best, especially for politics.

All the psychological traps do abound, don't they James. Have got a bunch more coming up next week.

For some reason I kinda like "Drill, Baby, Drill," David. It has a certain pop cultre ring to it.

Kelly, you reflect my sentiment perfectly. For me this will be still another election where I will be voting--not for a candidate I'm enthusiastic about--but for the lessor of 2 evils.

Dougist said...

Great list Jack,

I'd say we have the linguists to blame. Ever since Chomsky fixed Skinner's wagon in the 1960's we have been awash in people finding ways to use words to activate our innate universal gammer.

And I'll be d*med if it doesn't work. We really should all march up to MIT and have a word or two with Noam before he passes on and all we can do is try to deconstruct whatever it is that is headstone will say.

btw: Slobovia doesn't stand a chance.


Terry said...

You did it again, covered a vital topic in depthl

Ione Hesber said...

I like argument by question. This is the shortest route to making your opponent look like a complete boob. When you ssk, "Why do your policies seem to indicate that you favor gay sex in public places," how is Senator Foghorn going to respond? Think of all the detailed explaining he'd have to do to just get back to even.

Jack Payne said...

You're right, Doug. Lower Slobovia never wins. Way back in 1975 I wrote an editorial on the gold standard in Lower Slobovia. They screwed up, big, and their neighbor, Upper Slobovia, took advantage of them.

Robin Easton said...

You are one of the most fascinating people I've met/read. You are this amazing mix of psychologist, lawyer, detective, and comedian. It is like nothing I've ever seen or am likely to see again. LOL LOL :)

I read this whole thing but am still laughing over this line:

"My opponent, Senator Foghorn, could know nothing about space travel as he brags in his book, because his great, great grandfather traveled west in a covered wagon."


My brain just goes twaaaaaang!!! over that because it makes no sense at all. I think politicians must have IQs of 2. If this were just a school play I'd be rolling on the floor. But since it affects the running of our country and sadly the world, it is also very alarming. That said, I am still going to laugh my guts out over this post. Oh Jack you are kicker! You really are.

Oh, I needed a good laugh.
Hugs to you,

PS Loved the FED UP...every time they come to the door now, that's what I'll hear in my head!!! LOL

Jack Payne said...

Robin, you are too kind. I like to put a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same room and let them fight it out.

Lillian said...

Appeal to fear with mass application. We hear so much about the 332 killings of U.S. troops in Iraq last year. I guess this must be the mass application the politicians talk about. At the same time they never mention that that was a lower amount than the number of murders in one city in the U.S., Chicago, in that very same year. Gross distortion. It seems to work when an unsuspecting public is kept completely in the dark.

Zenbae said...

Hi, sir. Nice to be here. But would you mind putting a translate google widget in your blog, so many foreigners can read whatever you write. Thanks.

McAlee said...

Enough said. You really said it all with this one.

Jack Payne said...

Good example, Lillian.

Will take the matter under advisement, Zenbee.

Jack Payne said...

No. Haven't said it all on fallacious arguments yet, McAlee. A bunch more coming next week.

Warren M said...

This is some psychological mix. Some of these I had not even thought of. Just goes to show how many different ways you can be taken if your guard is not up.

Cat Health Problems said...

well i am really fed up.

Ann said...

Too much isn't too much. Looks like that is the moral of this stry.