Spotting Logical Fallacies in the Media

Spotting Logical Fallacies in the Media
  1. Red Herring

Summary of the Fallacy

A red herring fallacy is a type of logical fallacy or argumentation mistake that happens when a deceptive claim or query is made to divert attention from the main topic or contention (The Thinking Shop Organization). The phrase “red herring” describes a fact that is being used as a distraction. Red herrings are employed to draw attention to something other than the primary subject of a discussion or written work. Sometimes it’s merely a literary ploy used to keep readers’ imagination alive; it is not always carried out for harmful purposes.

Summary of the Media

A good example of the red herring fallacy in practice is the Proactiv commercial, which makes use of Justin Bieber to maintain viewer interest. One of the most well-known and important superstars in the world, Justin Bieber, is used in the 3-minute Proactiv video clip to sell the product. Justin is portrayed competing on the basketball field, juggling footballs with his lads, and slaying on the stage on his My World tour while he demonstrates how Proactiv works. The beauty regimen is “totally easy; it’s like one, two, three, done,” according to Bieber. “Therefore, you no longer need to worry about it. It’s laid back (Streater, 2019). The commercial finishes with Justin Bieber returning to the playing field and poised to score. You have clear skin, Proactiv, it always feels wonderful to come out here, he says. “Don’t stop,”

Why the Media Item is a Fallacy

The video clip is a perfect example that shows the Red Herring logical fallacy because it addresses the most irrelevant issues during the argument (Rubin, 2022). The content of the commercial does not have anything to do with the actual product being sold. In the commercial, Justin Bieber tries to convince the audience to make sure they purchase the product. Red Herring is used in critical thinking to manipulate and create false consciousness logically. The audience in the commercial is easily manipulated to purchase the product because Justin Bieber endorses Proactiv as the perfect product for clear skin, as such, this shows a lack of logic and reason. Furthermore, the advert does not provide any relevant information about the product, it also ignores the ingredients and production procedures.

  1. Ad Populum Fallacy

Summary of the Fallacy

This fallacy can be applied directly, where someone addresses a crowd while making a conscious effort to arouse their passions and feelings to persuade them to agree with everything he is saying (The Thinking Shop Organization). One may observe the emergence of a kind of “mob mentality” in this situation when people follow what they think they hear since they witness others doing the same. It should be evident that this is a regular strategy used in political addresses. The speaker is or appears to be, targeting one individual yet emphasizing the relationship the individual has to bigger groups or masses indirectly.

Summary of the Media

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, media, the advertiser tells individuals that they can start over on a barren island and live a serene life filled with charm, independence, and innovation as they put some effort into shaping their new life into anything their heart desires it to be (Nintendo of America, 2019). They can gather materials that they can use to make anything they choose, including useful tools and cozy items. Also, they can accept their ability to grow things and attempt some new gardening techniques. They can also create a utopian farmhouse where the distinction between indoor and outdoor activities is no longer relevant. Nonetheless, individuals can explore the piece of land they call home while fishing, pole-vaulting across rivers, making friends with newcomers, relaxing and taking in the seasons, and much more. Animal Crossing encourages creativity by letting users customize and embellish their island however they see fit. A quality that ideally fits with the present need for spiritual solace among individuals.

Why the Media Item is a Fallacy

The most evident ad populum fallacy in the Animal Crossing media is the bandwagon fallacy, which often tries to convince the audience to believe or do something that every person supposedly does. In this case, the arguer wants his audience to believe that the Animal Crossing video game is the best game ever because everyone plays it (Nintendo of America, 2019). While the opinion of many gamers might be relevant in determining which game is the best to play, it certainly does not mean that it is the best and should be played by everyone. There are a substantial number of people who like Candy Crush Saga and other video games, and there is no evidence that Animal Crossing is the best. The arguer is trying to get many people to agree with his conclusion that Animal crossing is the best by appealing to their desires to fit in with other people who love the game.

  1. Ad Hominem

Summary of the Fallacy

Ad hominem is a logical fallacy that entails a personal attack: a justification for a position that is based more on how one perceives the opponent’s shortcomings than based on the case itself. In other words, it’s when one’s argument against an adversary’s position is an unrelated personal assault on the other person as opposed to the issue at hand, to invalidate the stance by undermining its defender (Petric, 2020). The phrase means “against the man.” The use of an ad hominem fallacy works solely to divert attention away from the actual problem.

Summary of the Media

In the five-minute video of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump continually attacks Hillary Clinton with derogatory ad hominem statements like, “Now you tell me she looks presidential, guys. I look presidential,” as if appearance were the main concern (CBS, 2016).

Why the Media Item is a Fallacy

This video provides an example of the ad hominem fallacy. Without stating any positions, all that Donald Trump says are unfavorable criticisms. Scientists asked participants to assess scientific arguments against claims in a study. They discovered that attacks on arguments built around ad hominem fallacies were equally effective as attacks on arguments supported by facts. Accusations regarding conflicts of interest were equally persuasive as those of fraud. Ad hominem fallacies that are abusive target the individual directly. When Trump brings up Clinton’s appearance during the discussion, it happens in the video. This is something that Trump frequently brings up when talking about Clinton’s position and appearance (CBS, 2016). Even though it has little connection with the topic of the conversation, Clinton’s looks are brought up. But when it comes to debating Trump’s viewpoints, appearance and attire are never a topic.

  1. The Appeal to Authority Fallacy

Summary of the Fallacy

The appeal to authority fallacy is a kind of informal fallacy that takes place when an individual relies solely or primarily on the authority, credibility, or skill of an individual or source to back up their claim, without offering any further proof or justification (The Thinking Shop Organization). It can be appealing to back up a claim with a quote from an authority figure when it’s necessary. However, if executed incorrectly, this could constitute the appeal to authority fallacy, a fallacy based on logic. Although experts are frequently the best sources for reliable information, an expert’s opinion can sometimes be used in illogical ways. There are several methods for doing this, and they are all variations of the appeal to authority fallacy (Rubin, 2022).  Because most variations of this argument are valid, it might be challenging to spot this error. In reality, compelling arguments result from the expertise and backing offered by authorities on the topics of many advertisements.

Summary of the Media

            In his “Unleashed” television ad, Drake portrays an MC who is having trouble becoming creative while recording his popular song “Forever.” Drinking a Sprite causes Drake to transform into an animatronics model as the soda travels through his body and explodes through his speaker-shaped heart (Hooks, 2014). When Drake delivers the song’s opening line, “Last name Ever/First name greatest,” the model comes back together and helps to unleash his lyrical prowess.

Why the Media Item is a Fallacy

Drake, a cultural superstar with hundreds of millions of fans and countless awards, is influential. The high standard of Sprite’s products is supported by its cultural influence. Since Drake is not a recognized authority in the drink industry, the advertisement’s claim to authority is erroneous (Hooks, 2014). Viewers should be wary of his backing for and admiration of Sprite for this reason.

  1. The False Dilemma Fallacy

Summary of the Fallacy

The fallacy of the false dilemma unfairly puts the audience in a difficult situation. The false dilemma fallacy happens when an advertisement unethically offers less choices and suggests the onlooker has to pick one (The Thinking Shop Organization). Nevertheless, a limited-choice advertisement is not always deceptive. If there are unfair options, the argument is false. Viewers or listeners who are misled and given a false dilemma may have an unrealistic impression of the situation being portrayed. This may influence how they vote, how they stand on issues, how they support causes, and how they spread myths. In essence, it keeps them from giving the situation careful attention and drawing their own opinions about it. Almost anywhere rhetoric is utilized, the false dilemma fallacy is present. An individual will notice it in advertisements, business presentations, and political content (Petric, 2020). Even in one-on-one interactions, a person will hear it. False dilemmas frequently occur alongside other logical fallacies like the straw man fallacy.

Summary of the Media

MasterCard ran a well-known commercial that is well-regarded in the media and marketing industries. The false dilemma fallacy was utilized in the tagline, nevertheless. There are certain items that money can’t buy, according to the financial services catchphrase (Adon, 2018). There is MasterCard available for everything else. It was incorporated throughout all of MasterCard’s marketing materials, including the final frame of heartfelt ads.

Why the Media Item is a Fallacy

False dilemmas are used by marketing professionals to facilitate clients’ decision-making. The server is presenting the visitor with two basic options to make it simpler for them to decide what they want. The spectator is only provided two options in the Master Card advertisement: MasterCard or priceless items or experiences (Adon, 2018). By providing an unfair range of alternatives, MasterCard uses the false dilemma fallacy to attract consumers.




















Adon. (2018). M S Dhoni MasterCard

‌CBS News. (2016). Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on “Putin’s puppet.”

‌Hooks, C. (2014). Drake Sprite Commercial.

Nintendo of America. (2019). Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Nintendo Switch Trailer – Nintendo E3.

Petric, D. (2020). Logical Fallacies. On-line Article (preprint), 10,

Rubin, V. L. (2022). Manipulation in marketing, advertising, propaganda, and public relations. In Misinformation and Disinformation: Detecting Fakes with the Eye and AI (pp. 157-205). New York: Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Streater, N. (2019). Justin Bieber Proactiv Commercial 2010.

The Thinking Shop Organization. “Thou Shalt not Commit Logical Fallacies.”

The Thinking Shop Organization. “Thou Shalt not Suffer Cognitive Biases.”




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