14

A very common fallacy used by propagandists has the structure:

  • Person A presents fact X as support for a theory T that person A tries to prove, adding continuous suggestions about a conspiracy, but
  • Person B doesn't know fact X,
  • Person A claims the media are hiding fact X because they don't want you to know.
  • Since person B didn't know about fact X, he now feels it is true that there is a conspiracy to try to keep X secret from widespread knowledge.

This applies even when X is public knowledge for those continuously involved in some topic.

This fallacy portrays fact X as "just another proof" that the worldwide media is being controlled by governments or elites, X is morally bad, they are consistently lying to you, etc.

However, although there may be examples of this happening, it's not a logical argument because there may be another explanation for why you don't know fact X.

Does this fallacy have a name?

NOTE: It's important to note that this fallacy is made by B himself, not A. A isn't giving any explanation about X's secrecy, he directly claims that "X is being omitted by big media". Person B is who unconsciously reinforces A's axiomatic claim (media is hidding it) by adding a premise based on his own experience (I'm surprised by not knowing it). Why B relates his surprise of not knowing it with the validity of being hidden?

  • A. Due to A's suggestions, B has been biased and fact X is now temporarily attached to "secretism" in B's mind, which makes him forgets during the course of A's explanation that other causes are possible, like for example X not being relevant at all.

  • B. There's also an unconscious sense that, even if person B doesn't watch TV or read newspapers, and because we live on a strongly interconnected social world, the relevant points of what big media say should "reach me" some way or another, through friends, family conversations, social media posts, etc; a false feeling that "widespread info unavoidably will fall towards me too" just because I live connected to the world and not in a cave.

X is being hidden is a B's unconscious (and fallacious) personal conclusion matching A's claim in response of his suprise after knowing the important fact X.

2
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philip Klöcking
    May 26 at 23:24
  • How is it that person B doesn’t know fact X but then you claim fact X is public knowledge? He may not of known at the time but he can know very quickly if X is public knowledge. There are holes in your story or presentation.
    – Logikal
    May 30 at 6:34

3 Answers 3

20

This sounds like a Furtive Fallacy; the presumption of a malicious and secretive authority is supposed to serve as supportive evidence for an otherwise ungrounded claim.

1
5

I'll go out on a limb and suggest this informal fallacy is at its root a False Dilemma:

When you reason from an either-or position and you haven't considered all relevant possibilities you commit the fallacy of false dilemma.

The premise of the argument is not made explicit it in the OP (as is often the case in natural discussions), but I would argue that there is an implicit false choice involved here, namely that:

  • Either the media broadcast X
  • Or the media is hiding X

If the media were broadcasting X, then you would know X*. You don't know X, thus (if we accept the False Dilemma) the media must be hiding X.

But there may be many reasons why the media might not be broadcasting X. It may not be interesting. It may not actually be true (though that doesn't always stop the media ;) ). There might be more important news. And so on.

Addressing this implicit assumption would be a good way to counter person A's argument. (As would bringing to light any other hidden assumption that people might disagree on, for that matter.)

*) The premise that you would know about all the things the media are broadcasting is itself most likely false as well. The argument implicitly relies on this premise, but you might check afterwards and find the media indeed hasn't broadcast X, in which case you might still fall for the False Dilemma.

11
  • The original argument must have an either or premise not someone else making stuff up. Every disagreement is not a philosophical argument proper. You are confusing psychology with philosophy. If you are going to claim something is a fallacy then show the readers the proper definition of said fallacy right afterwards. You did not do so. You can’t just claim something is a fallacy because you don’t like the claim.
    – Logikal
    May 30 at 6:17
  • @Logikal I said it's an informal fallacy, and I linked to the definition. You're absolutely right if you're complaining that it is not a formal logical fallacy. But it is an informal one.
    – towr
    May 30 at 6:20
  • Show me that the FALSE DILEMMA is an informal fallacy please. Wiki is NOT enough. Show me a philosophy text with the definition.
    – Logikal
    May 30 at 6:25
  • @Logikal "Traditionally, a great number of informal fallacies have been identified, including the fallacy of equivocation, the fallacy of amphiboly, the fallacies of composition and division, the false dilemma, the fallacy of begging the question, the ad hominem fallacy and the appeal to ignorance." straight from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informal_fallacy
    – towr
    May 30 at 6:27
  • @Logikal "A false dilemma, also referred to as false dichotomy, is an informal fallacy based on a premise that erroneously limits what options are available. The source of the fallacy lies not in an invalid form of inference but in a false premise. This premise has the form of a disjunctive claim: it asserts that one among a number of alternatives must be true. " from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma
    – towr
    May 30 at 6:28
0

Appeal to Probability

There's a difference between rigorous, deductive logic; and practical, heuristic logic.

Rigorously, it's possible I just happened to miss the news every time a specific event was talked about.

Realistically, if I watch the news a lot and haven't heard a particular, important fact concerning a popular subject, it's most likely because the media I'm watching doesn't want me to know that fact.

A fallacy only occurs when we represent the second logical statement (this is probably true) as proving the first (this must be true). Doing so is known as an appeal to probability.

(Obviously, a fact concerning a subject almost nobody is talking about doesn't have a good likelihood of reaching me. So the second bit of logic isn't always valid even as a statement of probability.)

6
  • There are clearly people just making wiki pages and making stuff up out of their emotions. You can’t just scream fallacy whenever you like. This alleged fallacy makes no sense. All sciences go by probability so make this fallacy make sense for all of readers here. If a claim is not 100 percent or zero percent then you are dealing with a probability. There are only two absolutes: 100 percent such as All women are human beings and zero percent such as All women are reptiles. Anything in between 100 percent & zero is a PROBABILITY. The fallacy occurs only with the original person not another.
    – Logikal
    May 30 at 6:24
  • NO first off you are misusing the terminology VALID & SOUND. You are using them as some sort of cool SLANG.Those terms have very specific definitions in philosophy. You can't use them any kind of way you desire. Next all reasoning does not present a legitimate argument in philosophy. Some one may just be venting out emotions because they want attention & you seem to want to take anything as a legit logical argument. I can see you have issues telling philosophy apart from psychology. You can't just make up fallacies because you don't like the outcome. The OP is upset for that reason
    – Logikal
    May 31 at 3:39
  • Why are many people doing what you are doing by THINKING there must be a fallacy here? What we expect anyone to do is STATE what fallacy they believe it is & THEN ALSO post the definition of said fallacy you mentioned for all readers to see if the name of the fallacy & its proper definition posted for evaluation. If one does that your thoughts could be better evaluated by all readers on the site.
    – Logikal
    May 31 at 3:45
  • Your issue is you are STILL using the terms VALID & SOUND incorrect when you claim to KNOW what the mean. They refer to deductive reasoning only if you KNOW what they mean. Secondly wikipedia is not a reliable source. Plenty of people have spotted errors on multiple topic areas. Try using a PHILOSOPHY SOURCE written by philosophers. Would that not be more relevant than any random typing on wiki? Your source is poor. Quote a textbook for your definitions. The fact you think the disagreement is an argument is another problem. As stated the OP doesn't like that probability can actually be correct
    – Logikal
    May 31 at 5:59
  • The names people are coming up with have very specific and detailed definitions that don't match. That is the problem. If you make up names out of the blue that will be less persuasive won't it?
    – Logikal
    May 31 at 6:01

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