PHL1010 Columbia Southern Unit VII Terminal Cancer Health Article Paper Unit VII Assignment
For this assignment, you are to choose any article written within the last month, and consider how certain words and tone are utilized to direct your opinion.
In one to three brief paragraphs, identify any biases or fallacies you detect and any words the author uses to impart a certain message. What words or phrases could you replace to change the reader’s opinion? APA is not required, but remember to provide the title, date, and source of your chosen article. UNIT VII STUDY GUIDE
How to Detect Media Bias and Propaganda
in National and World News
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VII
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
4. Apply analytical reasoning to a variety of situations.
7. Recognize bias and fallacies in messages from mass media and other sources.
Unit VII Lesson
Unit VII Assignment
Unit VII Lesson
Unit VII Assignment
Chapter 12: How to Detect Media Bias and Propaganda in National and World News
Chapter 17: Becoming an Advanced Thinker: Our Conclusion
Appeal to Popularity (Argumentum Ad Populum)
The appeal to popularity occurs when someone claims that “X” is the case because a group of people believe
that “X” is the case. Appeal to popularity is systematic in commercials and marketing campaigns. Just because
many people believe something to be true or worthwhile does not make that thing true or worthwhile. See the
A movie trailer tells us, “Make the same decision five million people have made so far,
and come see I Am Going to Chop You Up Into Little Pieces: Part VII.”
Just because five million people have chosen to watch a movie does not give us any logical reason to go out
and see that movie.
Friend to friend: “How can you say Celine Dion’s music is not great? She has sold over 20 million
Again, the fact that Celine Dion has sold that many records does not mean that her music is great…or
The appeal to popularity can take other forms as well. One of the offshoots of the appeal to popularity is the
argument from common practice. In this fallacious form, one claims that a practice is justified because most
people in a society or place engage in a practice regularly. See the example below.
PHL 1010, Critical Thinking
Son to father: “Is it not against the law to cheat on your taxes, Dad?”
UNIT x STUDY GUIDE
Father to son: “Son, let me tell you something, all people cheat on their taxes.”
Another example is below.
Critical thinking student #1: “Hey! Let me copy your homework.”
Critical thinking student #2: “I do not know; the punishment for cheating is expulsion from the course.”
Critical thinking student #1: “Come on!!! Everybody does it.”
Just because all people cheat on their taxes or their homework does not give you a logical reason for
accepting the claim that it is acceptable to cheat on your homework. If all the people around you are speeding,
and you get pulled over, just because they were all speeding as well does not detract from the fact that you
were breaking the law and deserved to be pulled over. When people justify their beliefs using the fact that
most other people practice the same thing, they are committing one form of the appeal to popularity.
Another form of the appeal to popularity is the appeal to tradition. You have probably run into this one at work.
Perhaps you think of a more efficient way to accomplish a task or get something done. You approach your
boss with the new method. Your boss then informs you that you should keep doing it the old way. When you
question why, your boss says, “Well, that is just the way we have always done it.” Just because a certain
method or belief is representative of the way things “have always been done” does not mean that this is the
best way to do something. At the same time, practices that have worked for centuries often live for that long
because they reflect a very effective (if not the most effective) way to do things. If you are learning martial arts
from a master, and she tells you to wax her car and paint the fence, give it a little while before you go
complaining that you are not learning anything. The appeal to tradition is very strong and effective. It is also an
extremely useful tactic in maintaining social injustice. Appeals to tradition prevented women from engaging in
higher education, prevented African Americans from having the same privileges to use public services as
whites did, and prevented equality in the assignation of equal rights to same-sex couples in the United States.
When thinking about if the appeal to popularity is at play, just remember the words of a mother: “If all your
friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”
In the subjectivist fallacy, you claim that something is true merely because you believe it to be true. The
argument resembles the example below.
I believe that X is true. Therefore, X is true.
I do not believe that X is true. Therefore, X is not true.
Just because someone believes that something is true does not have anything to do with the actual truth value
of the statement. Perhaps you have an outdoor 4th of July picnic planned and have invited all of your close
friends and relatives to the festivities. You have meticulously planned the event for months. The morning of the
event, you cannot wait to get to the park to start setting things up and get the grill going. When you wake up,
there are dark clouds on the horizon. When you went to bed, there was not anything on the weather service
radar. However, it looks like there is a storm coming into town. The weather service has issued a thunderstorm
warning, there is 99% humidity, and your guests start calling to see where you are going to move the party. It
is moments like these that people get “hard-headed” and do not want to believe the inevitable. You might keep
telling the guests, “I do not think it is going to rain,” or “the party is still on in the park; you cannot really trust
these weather people.” Everything in you wishes that the clouds would magically disappear and that this event
could go on as planned. Your desire has led you into the subjectivist fallacy. Just because you do not want it to
rain, or you do not believe that it is going to rain, does not mean that it will not rain.
When people are discussing things with others with whom they disagree, there often comes a point where one
says to the other, “Well, you believe what you want to believe, and I will believe what I believe.” This is
acceptable as long as you are discussing the best type of pizza or your favorite music. However, if you are
PHL 1010, Critical Thinking
discussing governmental reform, educational reform, military spending, welfare,
then there is
more than likely a best position on the issue. There is a best position on welfare.
We might not know what that
best position is in our lifetime, but at some point, we will see that someone’s decisions and ideas were better
than others. Claiming that people can believe what they want to believe says nothing about the actual truth
value of what we believe. The effective critical thinker is the one who submits to the better argument and
holds the strongest positions on all issues, even when those positions go against what he or she might want to
It is extremely easy to fall into this dangerous fallacy. Paul and Elder (2012) mention relativism early in the
textbook and its danger to the beginning thinker. The relativist fallacy occurs when people say that certain
ethical practices are acceptable in some cultures but not in others. For example, you might say that it should
be illegal to have the death penalty in the United States, but it is acceptable for other cultures to practice the
death penalty. This cannot be the case. If you are going to argue against something with the premise that this
thing is wrong, then the act must be wrong in all cultures where it is practiced. One can think of numerous
examples. It is inconsistent to say that certain drugs should be illegal in the United States, but then go on to
say that it is acceptable for shamans in the Peruvian Amazon to take the same drugs in their own religious
ceremonies. You cannot have it both ways. If you think it is morally acceptable for humans in the jungle to take
drugs, then one must say that humans in our own society should be able to take drugs. If it is wrong to
subjugate women in our own society, then you must stand up for the rights of women all over the world in
social contexts where they are subjugated. If you believe that people of all ethnicities should be treated
equally, then you must claim unequal treatment is wrong in all places in the world where people are treated
unequally due to ethnicity.
It is important to mention that not all differences between cultures fall into the relativist fallacy. Those aspects
of cultural existence that do not have an ethical component (matters of taste) can be as diverse as the grains
of sand on the beach. There is no better side of the street to drive on. Some groups of humans think that
avocados and limes are the most delicious of fruits, while others think that pineapples and mangos are the
tastiest. However, always remember that in the realm of ethics, to say that opposite ideas are both correct is to
fall into the relativist fallacy. We can look back on our own society and say that the ways that women and
minorities were treated for hundreds of years was wrong and that we have made progress in the realm of
equality. The true relativist could not claim that the old ways were ethically inadequate. He or she would just
have to say that things were different and correct at that time, and now our differing ideas are correct. Not all
ethical positions are equal. It is the goal of the critical thinker to take on the best ethical positions and
consistently work to bring about the outcome of those positions in the world.
Red Herring Fallacy
The red herring fallacy occurs when someone strays off topic in the middle of an argument to try to draw others
off the trail of the argument. It is called the red herring because of a tactic that was used to train scent dogs,
wherein those training the dogs would drag a herring across the path of the scent that the dogs were supposed
to follow. The best dogs would remain on the trail of the original scent. However, most of the dogs were thrown
off course by the scent of the fish. The red herring fallacy is rampant in political debates.
Candidate #1: “We need to ensure that we maintain tight borders and prevent illegal
immigrants from getting into the country in the first place.”
Candidate #2: “What measures do you propose to secure our borders?”
Candidate #1: “The longer we wait, the more American jobs that will be lost to cheap labor
and the more the economy will suffer.”
Notice in this example that the topic in question is the measures that the government could use to secure U.S.
borders. However, the candidate has slyly dragged that fish across the trail and switched topics to loss of jobs
due to cheap labor. Let’s look at another example.
PHL 1010, Critical Thinking
Timothy: “I saw that you have been sending strange texts to some guyUNIT
for the past 10
nights in a row.”
Iris: “What? Where did you hear that?”
Timothy: “I did not hear it anywhere. I checked your phone and saw the texts. Is that the
same Tysean that you know from work?
Iris: “You checked my phone? That shows a total lack of respect and trust for me. Why do
you not trust me? Trust is an important part of a relationship, and I am not sure I want to be
with someone who does not trust me.”
Notice in this example that the issue is the strange texts that Iris has been sending Tysean. However, Iris turns
the topic of discussion to trust and a questioning of Timothy’s trust for her. Whenever someone tries to pull us
off the track of discussion, it is good to pause a moment and hit the reset button. When the topic is changed,
remind the person what the issue is, and then tell the person that their issue can be discussed after the initial
issue is taken care of.
Argument Ad Hominem
The ad hominem argument occurs when someone attacks the person making the argument rather than the
argument that the person is making. In this informal fallacy, the attention is turned from the argument to the
one making the argument. There are four forms of ad hominem that we will examine here.
1. Ad hominem tu quoque (you too) inconsistency: In this form of ad hominem, the person points out that
the one making the argument engages in the same behaviors that he or she is arguing for or against.
For example, imagine that you were outside smoking with a colleague, and the colleague said,
“Smoking is really bad for you. It causes poor circulation, decreases respiratory volume, and harms the
immune system. You should quit smoking.” The immediate response would be, “You smoke too!!!”
However, this has nothing to do with the argument of the other colleague. Just because that person
smokes too does not mean that his or her argument is unsound. Pointing out that someone else does
it too shows that they might be inconsistent. However, it does nothing to combat the validity or
soundness of a claim.
2. Ad hominem abusive: In this form of ad hominem, the response is vitriolic toward the one making the
argument. This form of ad hominem often occurs in high school hallways but can also readily occur in
the workplace. Let’s look at an example.
Employee #1: “I hear from Jeff that they are going to downsize the shipping department because
sales are decreasing and they do not need as many workers to fill the sales.”
Employee #2: “Jeff is such a sleazy guy. You really cannot believe anything that comes out of his
mouth. He makes me sick.”
Just because someone is mean, temperamental, arrogant, inappropriate, or snide does not
automatically disqualify all that the person says. Pointing out someone’s bad features does
nothing to disprove the arguments that he or she makes and is merely a form of abusive ad
3. Ad hominem circumstantial: Here, one attacks another person based on his or her circumstances.
Whenever you say that someone holds a specific position because he or she is a part of a specific
group (the rich, the poor, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Christians, the Muslims, the students,
the teachers), you commit the circumstantial ad hominem fallacy. Let’s look at an example.
Friend #1: “I think taxes should be lower for people who make less money because they need every
penny they can get for essential items.”
Friend #2: “You just think that because you are a Democrat.”
PHL 1010, Critical Thinking
Here is another example:
UNIT x STUDY GUIDE
Friend #1: “My cousin Vinny says it is a good time to invest in Berkshire. They have a new drug
coming out, and they are expecting profits in excess of 12 billion next year.”
Friend #2: “The only reason your cousin wants us to invest is because he is an investor, and he will
make a pretty penny off our investment.”
The fact that cousin Vinny looks to make money off the investments of others is a good reason to suspend
judgment about whether or not someone should invest. However, the fact that Vinny is an investor does not
automatically disqualify the claims that he made about investing in Berkshire. Pointing out a group that
someone making an argument belongs to as a refutation of the argument that the person is making is yet
another form that the ugly ad hominem takes.
4. Positive ad hominem: The ad hominem does not always take a negative form. In the positive ad
hominem, people point out good attributes of someone or some group in order to defend the person or
group. This often happens in cases where people in high religious, social, or political positions are
found to have done something immoral. For example, if a story breaks that a religious leader has
systematically abused children over the course of his or her career, then people who follow that
religion will tend to defend the leader, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Member #1: “I do not know, but now there are 10 kids who have come forward and said that leader
Jones has had inappropriate contact with them. I heard that five adults have come forward as well. It
seems that this has been going on for a long time. It is horrible.”
Member #2: “Well, I will tell you something. I just do not believe it. How can someone who has done
such good for the community and for all of us have done something so terrible? It is impossible.”
As we all learn over and over throughout the course of human history, just because someone does
something good for people does not mean that he or she does not have a dark side. To focus on the
good that someone does in response to negative charges or allegations that have evidence is to
commit the positive ad hominem fallacy.
Straw Man Fallacy
Straw men are much lighter and are more easily pushed over than real men. The straw man fallacy occurs
when someone makes a straw argument out of a real argument and then attacks the straw argument. When
people attack a weakened form of another person’s argument, they are committing the straw man fallacy. Let’s
look at two straw men arguments based on the opposing sides in the abortion debate.
Pro-life advocate: “Pro-choicers are murderers. Abortion is the murder of an unborn baby.
Those who approve of abortion really approve of killing innocent, unborn babies. I guess it is
just my opinion, but I think it is wrong to kill innocent babies.”
Pro-choice advocate: “Those idiot pro-lifers do not give a hoot about women’s rights. I guess
they just want women to go back to their place in the home, have kids, and stop going to
school. They just want women to regress into the Stone Age and lose all the rights they have
gained in the past 100 years.”
It is pretty easy to see that these are straw men arguments. No person who believes that abortion is
acceptable would hold that abortion is murder of an innocent baby. When the issue is defined this way, the
pro-life advocate is creating a straw man argument. Almost all people would agree that killing babies is wrong,
and people who believe that women should be able to get abortions would never argue that they are for the
killing of innocent babies.
At the same time, the argument that contradicts those who are against abortion also sets up the argument in
straw man form. Just because people who are against abortion do not think that women should be able to
choose this option does not mean that they would want women to lose the rights that they have gained over
the course of the past 100 years.
PHL 1010, Critical Thinking
As can be seen from these examples, it is much easier to attack an overstatedUNIT
and torch a
straw man than to respond to another side’s strongest argument. However, theTitle
goal of the critical thinker is to
always respond to his or her opponent’s strongest argument and concede valid points on the opposite side.
Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2012). Critical thinking: Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life (3rd ed.).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
To access the following resource, click the link below.
This article explores the idea that the Internet is changing how we take in and process information.
Carr, N. (2008, July). Is Google making us stupid? The Atlantic. Retrieved from
Learning Activities (Nongraded)
Nongraded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit
them. If you have questions contact your instructor for further guidance and information.
To gain further knowledge of the material, including key terms, please view the presentation below. This will
summarize and reinforce the information from these chapters in your textbook.
Click here to access the lesson presentation for Unit VII.
PHL 1010, Critical Thinking
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