A friend posted this tweet:

enter image description here

The point of the person's tweet seems to be, "Since Trump is thinking the same way that Kaepernick is thinking, and Kaepernick is right, then Trump is wrong."

Honestly, it really doesn't make too much sense.

Could someone help me understand the argument here, and if it falls into a category of logical fallacies? I've googled around and I'm too new to the study of logic to come to grips with it.

Here is a link to the tweet occuring on October 2nd: https://twitter.com/davepell/status/1047212270076346368

closed as off-topic by Eliran, Philip Klöcking Oct 8 '18 at 13:31

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  • I think this is off-topic. The person says: "X said the same thing as Y". This by itself is not an argument. What the person intended beyond that is speculation that I don't think fits this SE. – Eliran Oct 5 '18 at 20:05
  • I also don't think it makes too much sense. You have tried to find an argument but I don't think there is one. Check out my answer if you're interested. Best : GT – Geoffrey Thomas Oct 5 '18 at 20:27
  • 1
    I've moved the tag from Logic to Argumentation. I think this is more on-topic there. – Paul Ross Oct 6 '18 at 13:38
  • I added a source for the tweet showing the date it was made as well as the ethics tag. You may roll these back as I assume you are aware. – Frank Hubeny Oct 6 '18 at 14:25

Both Trump and Kaepernick make similar statements, that there is a group of people which may be unfairly treated because of things they didn't even do. Trump is against Kaepernick's stance, even though they are similar ideologically - people shouldn't be accused/oppressed because of who they are and not what they did.

Here, Dave Pell is pointing out the absurdity of the notion that Trump supports young white men who run into legal trouble despite having done nothing wrong, while at the same time disagreeing with Kaepernick, who supports young black men who run into legal trouble despite having done nothing wrong.

It's not about whether Kaepernick is right or Trump is wrong. It's about the ideological inconsistency needed to agree with one and not the other.

  • that strikes me as strange. Then people who agree with Kaepernick's statement should agree with Trump statement, and people that agree with Trump statement should agree with Kaepernick's statements. The creator of this tweet accidentally sided with Trump. – Monica Heddneck Oct 5 '18 at 18:31
  • I made some edits which you may roll back or continue editing. You can see the versions by clicking on the "edited" link above. Welcome to this SE! – Frank Hubeny Oct 5 '18 at 20:09
  • There's no inconsistency. Trump is seen by many as indifferent at best to sexual assault and rape, often perpetrated by young men. The tweet is taken as saying that it's a very scary time in American when a young man can sexually assault a woman and not get away with it. – David Thornley Oct 5 '18 at 20:40
  • "t's about the ideological inconsistency needed to agree with one and not the other." So is there a formal logical fallacy for this? – Monica Heddneck Oct 6 '18 at 1:13
  • @MonicaHeddneck, most likely contender would be a Negative Conclusion from Affirmative Premises. "All men could be accused while being Innocent", "There are black men", therefore "Black men could not be accused while being innocent" would have the structure of a syllogistic fallacy. – Paul Ross Oct 6 '18 at 13:53

Perhaps unwisely, I'm going to ignore the political context of the question.

However, do note that politics carried out on Twitter is worlds away from formal propositional reasoning. In particular, it is important to be aware of the unstated assumptions that back up a tweet. It is necessary to accurately understand those assumptions and engage with them to make a meaningful contribution to a discussion.

Anyway, there's a few subtly different ways to read the tweet.

  • "Since Trump is thinking the same way that Kaepernick is thinking, and Kaepernick is right, then Trump is wrong [to disagree with Kaepernick]."

That isn't actually saying anything about whether either of them is correct in the topic at hand, it's more of a moral jab at Trump's perceived unfair treatment of Kaepernick.

  • "Since Trump is thinking about A the same way that Kaepernick is thinking about B, and Kaepernick is right, then Trump [is either mistaken about B or about A]."

That does touch on the truth of the claims. Again it doesn't claim that Kaepernick was right, only that Trump cannot be right in both cases.

  • "Since Trump is (assumed correctly) acknowledging C in the context of A and Kaepernick argued that C implies B then Trump should acknowledge Kaepernick is right about B."

This assumes that the premises they both work from are in fact correct.

  • "Since Kaepernick argued that C implies B and Trump (assumed correctly) denied B, he cannot now claim or rely on C (in support of A)"

From the tone of the tweet, this is probably not the claim being made. However it's an acceptable claim to make from the logical form. It's the sort of logic you might use if you replace Kaepernick with a clear bad guy: "Bro, that was basically Hitler's whole point."

Note that the one thing that cannot be drawn out of this argument is that Trump is wrong about both A and B. I suspect that may be where your confusion came from: because there are multiple claims being made by Trump, "Trump is wrong" doesn't help clarify much! With the divisions made on who is wrong about what, the senses of the arguments can be clarified.

However, as I mentioned above, political claims tend to be too big and too full of assumptions to get a handle on formally. The implication of that is that the details may completely destroy any of the above variants. Consider:

Alex, party kid to mates about going out and getting drunk "There's no point in having this money just sitting in our wallets."

Bob, Alex's Dad about the importance of investment: "There's no point in having this money just sitting in our wallets."

Alex might respond with "Ah, I'm glad you agree with me! I'll take a taxi because there's no way I'll be legal to drive at the end of the evening."

However, it seems clear that, even though the sentence is word for word the same, there are many things different in what they're claiming and how their claims interact with money in wallets. It is possible for Bob to be right and Alex to be wrong, or Alex to be right and Bob to be wrong.


There are at least three logical fallacies one should beware of when listening to polemical and political discussion that one might associate with Dave Pell's October 2nd tweet, the recent notoriety around Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation reaching a high point on Friday, September 28th, the upcoming November 6th US midterm elections, and even this present post bringing attention to what appears to be a side issue.

Let's consider these logical fallacies.

  1. Straw man fallacy

Wikipedia describes a straw man fallacy as follows:

A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man."

The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e., "stand up a straw man") and the subsequent refutation of that false argument ("knock down a straw man") instead of the opponent's proposition.

This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery "battle" and the defeat of an "enemy" may be more valued than critical thinking or an understanding of both sides of the issue.

Unless one is hearing something from the other side of a polemical debate directly, one should not trust evidence provided by the opposing side.

  1. Fallacy fallacy

Wikipedia describes the fallacy fallacy as follows:

Argument from fallacy is the formal fallacy of analyzing an argument and inferring that, since it contains a fallacy, its conclusion must be false. It is also called argument to logic (argumentum ad logicam), the fallacy fallacy, the fallacist's fallacy, and the bad reasons fallacy.

Fallacious arguments can arrive at true conclusions, so this is an informal fallacy of relevance.

One should be suspicious when one side in a polemical argument claims that the opposing side is committing a logical fallacy. The reason may be a rhetorical device hoping listeners will fall for the fallacy fallacy and think that should there be a logical fallacy in the opponent's argument this means the opponent's argument is false. The opponent's argument may simply need correctly.

  1. Red herring fallacy

Wikipedia describes the red herring fallacy as follows:

A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion. A red herring might be intentionally used, such as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g. in politics), or it could be inadvertently used during argumentation.

Since the main focus of concern is the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation and the US midterm elections, focusing on Trump and Kaepernick appear to be not so much the "whole point" as Pell puts it but beside the point, that is, a red herring.

There may be other logical fallacies associated with political polemic. These are three that might be worth keeping in mind.


Pell, D, tweet on October 2, 2018 https://twitter.com/davepell/status/1047212270076346368

Wikipedia, "Argument from fallacy" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_fallacy

Wikipedia, "Brett Kavanaugh" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Kavanaugh

Wikipedia, "Red herring" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring

Wikipedia, "Straw man" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

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