Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Favorite Pastime: Finding Fallacies in Political Debates

Political debates, whether before presidential or Congressional elections, are interesting, to put it mildly (not so mildly put, they make the job of Saturday Night Live writers more a matter of copy-and-pasting than anything else). In a debate between Mark Udall and Cory Gardner on October 15, who were both running for Colorado Senator, some humorous logical fallacies sprung up. When Udall was asked about his opinion on what the response to the Ebola outbreak, Udall used his time wisely and passionately repeated in many different ways that Ebola was bad and that America needed to fight Ebola, finishing nicely with a casual slippery slope, red herring, and ad hominem attack on Gardner, saying that Gardner voted for a budget cut to the CDC, implying that Gardner must not care about the Ebola outbreak. Gardner quickly elaborated on the red herring, clarifying that, in fact, Gardner had voted for that same budget cut as well. Udall attempted to clarify that it was a different vote, though never quite making clear the difference.

Both debaters in response to questions about Ebola made sure to mention their association with the fight against Ebola, beautifully exemplifying the logical fallacy of glory by association. Udall assured viewers that he had recently talked with workers at the CDC about the Ebola outbreak. Therefore, he must be the right choice, as he is so invested in the issue. Gardner, not to be outdone by Udall, told a beautiful sob story about talking to a nurse at a children's hospital about keeping children safe and stopping the Ebola crisis.

This was only a response to a portion of one debate of one election. There is a plethora of fallacies to be found in political debates, and they are sure to be accompanied by a fit of laughter. 

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