Imagine a corporation (SodaWorld) that has been caught doing some bad things. It’s selling beverages that are contaminated with lead. In addition, it’s revealed that the company pays no taxes, and, even more shocking, the CEO is a member of the KKK.

In defending SodaWorld, a propagandist writes the following in a newspaper article:

Everyone knows the KKK has done terrible things to black people, but beverage companies are not known for lynching or sterilization schemes, and for good reason.

Can anyone tell me what fallacy best describes this? It kind of looks like a faulty comparison, but it also reminds me of a red herring.

  • 1
    Is the fact that the pundit is not talking about the lead and tax issues part of the fallacy (i.e. purposeful avoidance on their part) ?
    – armand
    Aug 7 '19 at 1:54
  • Yes. He's ignoring all the bad things the company is associated with, simply noting that beverage companies don't have a reputation for lynching people...even though the CEO is a member of the KKK. Aug 7 '19 at 2:09
  • 1
    With the kind of pile on you describe the standard tactic is to pick a charge which is easiest to deflect and focus on it, hoping that the rest, if successful, will be discredited by association, or at least overlooked. A combination of cherry picking and association fallacy (which is a case of red herring). The relevance of CEO's KKK membership to the company's performance is suspect, however. Depends on whether the company's owners stand by him, etc. Bringing it up in this context (assuming the propagandist responds to someone) might itself be a mistake, another association fallacy.
    – Conifold
    Aug 7 '19 at 8:14
  • association fallacy (subset of red herring) + cherry picking - good tip. Aug 7 '19 at 16:48

Yes, it is a red herring, trying to put the focus on the weakest scandal the company is facing (let's face it, beeing a member of the KKK, while bad, does not make one a less good beverage company CEO). Then the pundit is just stating, tongue in cheek, the fact that the company is not impacted by it's CEO's private activities. That looks to me as a straw man, because nobody criticizes the company for being involved in lynching, which is ridiculous, and it allows not addressing critics for the board members associating with such a disreputable CEO.

  • I'll probably mark you answer as correct. I just want to wait a bit to see if there are any other responses. Aug 7 '19 at 3:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.