Accused of a fallacy? Suspect a fallacy? Ask Dr. Bo and the community!

Quickly register to comment, ask and respond to questions, and get FREE access to our passive online course on cognitive biases!
Register!

one moment please...


Blog Home Tags:
social justice
Print

Top Five Logical Fallacies in the Social Justice Movement

posted Tuesday Jul 04, 2017 12:00 AM

image loading...

Bo Bennett, PhD


About Bo Bennett, PhD

Sorry, this user has not created a bio yet.

There is a disturbing trend in the social justice movement where science, data, facts, and reason are sacrificed for ideology. Critics of the social justice movement often reject the overall ideas of social justice because of these reasoning flaws (which is problematic in itself—see Argument from Fallacy). If you are a supporter of social justice, and you are allowing your passion to affect your reason, realize that you are most likely doing more harm to the movement than good. There are several logical fallacies often committed by those espousing "social justice." What follows is a list of what I have found to be the most common. For more examples and details, click on the fallacy name.

First, I want to make it perfectly clear that logical fallacies are independent of politics and religion. They are committed by people all over the political and religious spectrums (yes, some more than others), but no group is immune to them. I do my best on this site to remain fair when dealing with issues of religion and politics... at least in the sense that I am conscious of my biases and factor those biases into my evaluation of fallacies. Despite my political and (non)religious leanings, my only enemy is un-reason. I have no problems with a full on intellectual assault of bad ideas and arguments, even if the bad ideas and arguments ultimately support my political or religious views. So here we go.

Top Five Logical Fallacies in the Social Justice Movement

  1. Overextended Outrage. This is a form of poor statistical thinking where one or more statistically rare cases are implied to be the norm or the trend (without evidence) for the purpose of expressing or inciting outrage toward an entire group. It is a form of extreme stereotyping, based on the cognitive bias known as the group attribution error. An example within social justice: Two bigots brutally assault a gay man in Mississippi. LGBT groups all over the country protest increasing violence against gays citing this case (when in fact, violence has not been increasing).
  2. Political Correctness Fallacy. The assumption or admission that two or more groups, individuals, or ideas of groups or individuals, are equal, of equal value, or both true, based on the recent phenomenon of political correctness, which is defined as, a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent. This can be seen as an over-correction of stereotyping. An example within social justice: Social justice groups are outraged that airport security profiles people as potential threats based on physical and cultural characteristics.
  3. Identity Fallacy. When one's argument is evaluated based on their physical or social identity, i.e., their social class, generation, ethnic group, gender or sexual orientation, profession, occupation or subgroup when the strength of the argument is independent of identity. Example within social justice: All of these fallacies are bogus since they are written by a White, cisgender, heterosexual male.
  4. Base Rate Fallacy. Ignoring statistical information in favor of using irrelevant information, that one incorrectly believes to be relevant, to make a judgment. An example within social justice: 22 trans people were murdered so far this year, which means there is a war on trans people! (In fact, if we factor in the base rate of murders and how many trans people there are in the population, we will find that trans people are less likely to be murdered than cisgender people).
  5. Traitorous Critic Fallacy. Responding to criticism by attacking a person's perceived favorability to an out-group or dislike to the in-group as the underlying reason for the criticism rather than addressing the criticism itself, and suggesting that they stay away from the issue and/or leave the in-group. An example within social justice: Calling anyone who criticizes ideas in social justice a "bigot," "racist," "Nazi sympathizer," etc., even if that person considers themselves a proponent of the movement.

There are dozens more that I often find in arguments about social justice, but these are by far the most common. Keep these in mind when you argue for what you believe is "social justice," and remember that the more unreasonable your arguments are, the more damage you are doing to your cause.


Podcast Episode: Top Five Logical Fallacies in the Social Justice Movement


Private, Anonymous Comment On This Post (no login required)Your comment below will be anonymously sent to the post owner, it will not be posted, and you will not get a response. To make a public comment, post below (login required).

Send Comment sending comment...

Registered User Comments

Emiel
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 03:00:48 PM
I have noticed that the moralistic fallacy is also very common among SJW and in social science.

And especially the "X ought not to be. Therefore, X is not"

Often times the X is related to issues of minority groups, feminism or sex.

I have been part of discussions about genetics in psychology and neuroscience. Equality is in those situations often interpreted as for men and women to be equal they must be the same in biology, this is an extreme left interpretation and often leads to bias a fallacious reasoning. It often goes hand in hand with poisoning the well and false equivalence like calling genetics the same as eugenics and is wrong and should not be.

Or discrimination is wrong, should not be and therefore does not exist as fundamental human behavior.

And considering that morality is often central to what makes and breaks a political ideology I think the moralistic fallacy is not a surprising consequence of a political ideology that is linked to identity.

https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/128/Moralistic-Fallacy

login to reply
0 replies
1 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Carol Joy
Monday, April 08, 2019 - 11:22:42 PM
I am engaged in debating people who are firm believers that the Vaccine Industry is not corrupt, that it operates within scientific norms, and that anyone who questions any of this is therefore a "conspiracy theorist."
Where I am coming from: some 37 years ago, I was injured by malathion sprayed overhead through the directions of Gov Jerry Brown, during his first sequence of being in the Govnernor's mansion in California. Within 9 months of being sprayed on a weekly basis, I began to lose my skin pigment,which has impacted me in a serious way as without pigment, I cannot be in the sun much. So over the last three decades plus, I was interested in learning everything I could about the science of pesticides, the approval process in terms of government licensing so products can be sold over the counter. How scientists set up protocols for their studies, how industry will use an expensive and very purified version of whatever product is the base ingredient in their study, but the base ingredient in what we purchase over counter lacks this purity and much more.
It didn't take me longer than three years or so to figure out that many inside the pesticide industry are adamant that their products are safe, and that these insiders insist no one really ever experiences any bad reactions to a product. Nor did it take me all that long to figure out that the scientists who will admit that some of the products produced by industry are harmful to people are the same scientists who have been let go by the industry due to their refusing to skew the data in a way that corrupts the science but results in a positive conclusion that Product X is safe.
So one of my big pet peeves was RoundUp, which often made me ill and gave me MS like symptoms if I encountered it anywhere. In Calif this stuff was liberally sprayed in side the parks, on playgrounds, highway medians, roadsides, so that sometimes I ended up dragging my one leg and talking with a nasty sounding slurring to my words. A pesticide researcher told me that since my MS problems were just beginning, that taking massive amounts of glutathione would help me, so I went to a vitamin store and bought some and took twice the recommended daily dosage. Sure enough it did reduce the symptoms by about 90%. (That man's name was Marc Lappe.)
So all through this time, I still believed in vaccines being safe. This was true even though I had been injured by the Swine Flu vaccine in 1976. (Luckily I recovered from my left arm's loss of mobility.)
As things I wrote began to be published, I found myself invited to become a member of a local Health Council. I realized right away that in terms of all the other members, I was like the only one on the Council who still believed implicitly that vaccines were safe. But I began to witness the same things about the vaccine industry that I witnessed with the pesticide industry. We would have a speaker come into address us, and they would mention some eensy teensie change they wanted to make inside a vaccine's formulation to make it safer, and then POOF they would be pink slipped. Their reputation was destroyed and they would be blacklisted in the industry. Over the six years I was on the Council, there must have been about fifteen people who had lost their jobs with the vaccine industry due to their wanting small changes made.
I also inadvertently ended up spending the good part of an early Apr 2000 Am watching a replay of a C Span recording of Sen Burton's Congressional Oversight Hearing on the Issue of autism and vaccines. The man focused on was one Andrew Wakefield, who presented his findings that when some children were innoculated with the MMR vaccine, the measles portion of the vaccine stayed alive and contaminated both inter cellular areas of the stomach and the gut and also disrupted the linings of those organs. Wakefield theorized that this measles activity in the gut might be playing havoc with the blood brain barrier, and he thought that the heavy metals of the vaccine might then have gotten spread into the brain. By the way, this work has been replicated many times.
However we live in a society where people simply read something in the news - often just the headline - and then they think "It is in the news - it is true." So although when I watched Wakefield on CSpan I was very impressed, I also knew he had not proven a thing - he had early indications based on a small study and he seemed to think the vaccine industry would be interested and perhaps expand the study to have a larger group of children be examined.
Instead over the next several years the industry attacked him on a bogus ethics charge, so despite the fact they cannot overturn his study, since it has been replicated by others, they have basically made his very name a curse word. Mention his name, and the decency of his small study, and you will get a torrent of abuse that there is no way this demon of a man should be considered a scientist now or ever. You will be told "How dare he tell parents to never vaccinate their children," when in fact all he ever suggested was that there were indications it might be safer to have a child innoculated for one disease at a time rather than several diseases in one doctors' visit. Anyway this is just the tip of the iceberg I have discovered about vaccines. However when I try and present any of this I am told I am guilty of "Conspiracy theory." However if you see a group of villagers tying people up to stakes and then setting them on fire, what else can it be - but a full blown conspiracy. So how do you counter the prejudice thrown at you for your "conspiracy" when there is really no other way of presenting a situation?

login to reply
1 reply
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...
 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, April 09, 2019 - 06:51:33 AM
Hi Carol,

who are firm believers that the Vaccine Industry is not corrupt

When you engage, first define what this means. There are corrupt elements in every industry. At what point does this mean the entire industry is corrupt and does corruption have anything to do with the effectiveness of vaccines, and if so how is one making that connection?

and that anyone who questions any of this is therefore a "conspiracy theorist."

Please refer to my article on conspiracy theories on this blog. This is addressed in detail.

I still believed in vaccines being safe.

Like "corrupt," we need to operationally define what "safe" means. I can do this for you. In science, when we discuss the safety of vaccines we are not claiming that vaccines never cause harm to anyone. Even peanut butter can seriously injure a decent portion of the population. Safety is based on statistics. For more details on this see http://www.immunize.org/safety/. Just like some people cannot have peanut butter, some should not take part in certain vaccines. It is important not to confuse your personal adverse effects with a global claim that vaccines are harmful. And even more important, is to ignore the benefits of vaccines while just focusing on the risks.

Wakefield theorized that this measles activity in the gut might be playing havoc with the blood brain barrier, and he thought that the heavy metals of the vaccine might then have gotten spread into the brain. By the way, this work has been replicated many times.

Here is where you lose all credibility. Wakefield's work has been discredited extensively and not successfully reproduced—at least not without serious flaws in methodology. Of course, if you reject the thousands of scientists and researchers (most of whom work for universities all around the globe) as part of the "conspiracy," then you really should consider that you might be deserving of the pejorative label "conspiracy theorist.".

I watched Wakefield on CSpan I was very impressed,

Here's the thing, doctors, scientists, researchers, and immunologists also watched and were not at all impressed. Unless one is intimately familiar with the area of study or scientific methodology, they can easily be persuaded by rhetoric and bad science.

Instead over the next several years the industry attacked him on a bogus ethics charge, so despite the fact they cannot overturn his study, since it has been replicated by others, they have basically made his very name a curse word.

I am stopping here. Your facts are very wrong. I can point you to mountains of evidence on how flawed Wakefield's research was by the most respected academic journals, but you might claim that this is all part of the conspiracy. (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136032/ for a brief start).

The harm that the anti-vaccine movement is causing is starting to become clear in 2019 with children unnecessarily dying due to parents denying science and buying into some global conspiracy where drug companies just want to get rich and millions of family doctors, researchers, and scientists (such as myself) are somehow profiting from this and keeping the conspiracy under wraps.

Carol, I don't at all believe that you are an evil person who wants to contribute to the death of children by spreading this misinformation, so PLEASE, study this topic without bias and agenda. Read the evidence AGAINST Wakefield. Read the overwhelming consensus statements from agencies whose primary focus is on the well-being of children (American Academy of Pediatrics - https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Vaccine-Studies-Examine-the-Evidence.aspx).

Anyway this is just the tip of the iceberg I have discovered about vaccines.

I will leave you with these questions. Do you think individuals in the medical and scientific communities who spend their careers researching vaccines don't have access to Google and haven't seen the same criticism you've seen? They have overwhelmingly concluded that vaccines are safe and they have an average of 10 years higher education in this field of study. What makes you think that you know better than they do on this topic? Please seriously think about that.

I hope I did not offend you in my answer. This is not an area where a little misinformation and ignorance on a topic results in a social faux pas or a silly belief. When this kind of misinformation is spread and believed, people die. So no room for sugar coating here.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

John A. Johnson
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 - 02:49:09 PM
I greatly appreciate this blog post on a most important topic. Although it was posted a year ago, as another John remarked, it just showed up in my inbox as well. I am not sure whether SJ rhetoric has become less fallacious than it was a year ago. It seems to me that motivated cognition is an intrinsic part of political ideology, and since motivated cognition is particularly subject to errors of reasoning, at least some of these logical fallacies are likely to be present in the SJ movement. However, I do not regard this as inevitable. I share may of the the goals of SJWs without endorsing their reasoning or all of their methods, and I would hope that holding them to standards of good reasoning might actually help increase social justice in the world. While I believe in civility, I do not think that religious and political ideas hold some kind of privileged status that protects them from criticism. Logic and reason are impartial and applicable everywhere.

login to reply
0 replies
2 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

John
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 - 12:41:28 PM
This was posted a year ago but I just got it in my inbox today. I think liberal SJ emotions were still pretty strong back then and to some extent have settled down. Afs policies emerge from conservatives in the government I believe there is also a greater body of examples of their approach to social justice. I an particularly interested in the logical fallacies (if any) in defense of family separation.

login to reply
0 replies
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, April 03, 2018 - 06:46:54 PM
From an anonymous commenter:

Even if the number of murders trans people per capita is less than white people is this not still a problem we should fight to combat?

Of course it is. The fallacy is in the claim that "there is a war on trans people," implying that this group is being targeted above and beyond other groups (if, in fact, they are not when the base rate of murders is considered). Had someone claimed that "murders in the trans community isn't a problem because they are murdered less than other groups" than that would be a fallacious as well. Be careful of strawmen.

login to reply
0 replies
1 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Michael Chase Walker
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 11:59:17 AM
Dr. Bo's list is excellent and perfectly delineates the faultlines of fallacious reasoning on either side of the political spectrum. Interestingly enough, these areas are also the basis for various neuroscientific studies seeking to determine the specific places in the brain that influence one's political, religious, or fabulistic tendencies to react either instinctively, or intelligently. ( See Sherman and Cohen's IPR, Dan Kahan's Yale Cognition project, etc.) Recent converging studies are showing that liberals tend to have a larger and/or more active anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC—useful in detecting and judging conflict and error—and conservatives are more likely to have an enlarged amygdala, where the development and storage of emotional memories take place. (See Jost, John T.; Amodio, David M. (13 November 2011). "Political ideology as motivated social cognition: Behavioral and neuroscientific evidence" (PDF).Motivation and Emotion 36 (1): 55–64.doi:10.1007/s11031-011-9260-7.

But I think what you're referring to is a trending social justice theory known as "Intersectionality", or the concept that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual (often used attributively).

Ultimately, intersectionality is a political theory or perhaps even an extension of Part to Whole (whole to part?) fallacious reasoning, but moreover, it is a viral ideology (rhetorical) than a specific logical fallacy.

Also see: Your Brain on Politics: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Liberals and Conservatives: http://bit.ly/1TviEKE

Please feel free to debate this. I'd especially like to hear his views on the distinction between neural cognitive biases and classic fallacies in logic.

login to reply
0 replies
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Jacob
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 06:03:19 PM
This is exactly what I have been looking for. In the past, before I started studying fallacies, I would encounter these SJO arguments and have a vague feeling that they were not right or fair. Seeing these bad arguments classified and explained has helped me make sense of these them and find new ways to combat them. I am a liberal and so are all my friends. Social justice is seen by liberals as a force for good (it is when not hijacked by faulty logic) so it is not questioned. There is this belief that if you question any part of the social justice movement then your liberal license will be revoked and you will be revealed as a traitor (Traitorous Critic Fallacy).

In my mind reality is a little left of center in the political spectrum. A little to the left you have belief in global warming, women's rights, belief in the existence of objective facts, etc. Go to far to the right and then you have moon hoaxers, flat earthers, and social justice warriors who believe in all of the above fallacies. A liberal person can reject all fallacious reasoning and still be a liberal and even still be a social justice warrior.

Thanks for helping the world to be a more reasonable place!

-Jacob

login to reply
0 replies
2 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Awelotta
Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 11:10:30 PM
Social justice refers to such a wide range of things that it seems a little generalizing to cite their fallacies individually, though I do recognize the trends that you point out.

login to reply
0 replies
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...


Become a Logical Fallacy Master. Choose Your Poison.

Logically Fallacious is one of the most comprehensive collections of logical fallacies with all original examples and easy to understand descriptions; perfect for educators, debaters, or anyone who wants to improve his or her reasoning skills.

Get the book, Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:


Not Much of a Reader? No Problem!

Enroll in the Mastering Logical Fallacies Online Course. Over 10 hours of video and interactive learning. Go beyond the book!

Enroll in the Fallacy-A-Day Passive Course. Sit back and learn fallacies the easy way—in just a few minutes per day, via e-mail delivery.

Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.


About Archieboy Holdings, LLC. Privacy Policy Other Books Written by Bo
 Website Software Copyright 2019, Archieboy Holdings, LLC. 

Component Viewer

A component is the HTML code for a section of a webpage that can be combined with other components to make a complete webpage. Click the component to insert the component code at the bottom of your current page, then customize it.