College of Political Knowledge
Subject: Political Theory/Elections/Campaigns
Do you watch the news? You know all those Medicare recipients that are bitching about a government take over of Health care….or all those macho little pricks with their guns worn in public…or maybe elected officials that are spouting fears of socialism or out right lying to stir up the people in opposition to any Dem health care agenda coming out of Washington.
I know….I know all that is old hat….so what is new?
Since most schools have eliminated the teaching of Latin and I do not want my reader to have a brain aneurysm trying to decipher the title of this post….let me help out….”argumentum ad populum”…..In Logic, a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges, “If many believe so, it is so.”
Just where am I going with this? Right? Good question and hopefully you will get your answer.
The idea has many names: appeal to the masses, strong appeal to belief, strong appeal to the majority, strong appeal to the people, strong argument by consensus, strong authority of the many, and strong bandwagon fallacy.
See what I am saying? The GOP is plying this tactic in the health care debate. That is to use every tactic available to sway a mass amount of people that will make the case for them. It is a fallacious argument at best…but it is effective if one figures in the rational ignorance effect. (for definition, go to my page with the same name).
How about a little clarification?
The argumentum ad populum is a “Red herring (fallacy)”. It appeals on probabilistic terms; given that 75% of a population answer A to a question where the answer is unknown, the argument states that it is reasonable to assume that the answer is indeed A. In cases where the answer can be known but is not known by a questioned entity, the appeal to majority provides a possible answer with a relatively high probability of correctness.
It is logically fallacious because the mere fact that a belief is widely held is not necessarily a guarantee that the belief is correct; if the belief of any individual can be wrong, then the belief held by multiple persons can also be wrong. The argument that because 75% of people polled think the answer is A implies that the answer is A fails, for if opinion did determine truth, there be no way to deal with the discrepancy between the 75% of the sample population that believe the answer is A and 25% who are of the opinion that the answer is not A. However small the percentage of those polled is distributed among any remaining answers, this discrepancy by definition disproves any guarantee of the correctness of the majority. In addition, this would be true even if the answer given by those polled were unanimous, as the sample size may be insufficient, or some fact may be unknown to those polled that, if known, would result in a different distribution of answers.
Thanx to wiki for the above definition.
Polls are used in this way….i.e. if the prez has 51% approval down from 56% then the people are losing confidence…..,good work, but that is not necessarily the case. The idea is to make it look as if more people believe in a thing and in doing so, that it is correct and true. Once again , not necessarily so.
People need to check everything they are told…most times it is either misinformation, taken out of context or an outright LIE! Just look at the polls that are out now….31% on the responders think Pres. Obama is a Muslim…..so what was all the finger pointing about back during the election when HIS pastor made some inappropriate statements….all the crap about how could he attend a church where thew pastor was so radical…a Muslim would NOT attend a Christian church…so what is this whole Muslim thing all about?
The only thing that it shows me is that Americans are gullible and have NO memory at all when it comes to politics……they are subject to the “argumentum ad populum” ….saying so makes it so! A STUPID way to approach the important issues in our society.