Monday, November 24, 2014

Logical Fallacies in The Office

Throughout the duration of the American Television series “ The Office”, Michael Scott, the show’s main character, develops a personal hatred of Toby Flenderson, the office’s human resources representative. Michael, as the regional manager of the office, is in charge of the people who work there, despite his obvious lack of intelligence. He is always trying to involve his coworkers in ridiculous, pointless, and sometimes dangerous projects. Nobody stands up to Michael because they are all his subordinates who do not want to get fired or be punished for criticizing the boss. However, because Toby works in human resources, it is his job to shoot down Michael’s policies if they are irrational and ridiculous. Because he is frequently the one to kill Michael’s enthusiasm about a particular whim, Toby is abhorred by Michael. Frequently, Michael discounts Toby’s contribution to a conversation solely because Toby is speaking and he hates Toby’s tendency to ruin his ideas. When he does this, Michael is attacking Toby through Ad hominem responses. Though Michael has dozens of ad hominem interactions with Toby, one of my favorites occurs in season 5 episode 9, “ The Surplus”.

In this episode, one of the office accountants discovers a $4300 surplus in the company budget. He points it out to Michael, and explains that the office has to spend the money at the end of the workday, or it will be deducted from next year’s budget. Michael is clueless about how to spend the money, so he looks for suggestions from his coworkers. Toby stands up and offers his ideas for how to spend the money:

“We should really have the office’s air quality tested. We have radon coming from below. we have asbestos in the ceilings. these are silent killers.”

Obviously, this is a reasonable claim, and an understandable argument for how to spend the money. However, Michael counters by saying:

“You are the silent killer. Go back to the annex.”

Michael completely ignores Toby’s plan and shoots down his argument not because toby’s evidence was weak, but because Michael hates Toby’s character. Michael does not address the legitimacy of any of Toby’s claims. Instead, he pushes him aside by saying that Toby is “The Silent Killer". Since Michael uses Toby’s character to refute Toby’s argument, Michael is using ad hominem evidence.

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't even thought about how many examples of ad hominem there are in The Office. There is one in almost every episode considering the complex relationships and long-standing quarrels between certain characters.