Readers, Writers, Texts

Logical Fallacies

The basis of arguing or debating effectively is using objective evidence to justify opinions, rather than relying on assertions that are based on logical fallacies. Understanding what a logical fallacy is can be an epoch-making event for many students, and identifying them in everyday conversations, the sales pitches of advertising campaigns, and the rhetoric of politicians’ speeches is an immensely empowering skill.

We have, arguably, never before lived in a time when logical fallacies are so prevalent. Entire political campaigns are built on them, in all countries of the world: see Brexit and the election of Donald Trump for two popular examples of campaigns from which you can find – literally – hundreds of logical fallacies. 

Read this article – then listen to a speech and enjoy picking apart all the logical fallacies you find inside:

Class Activity: TBC

Watch this clip from a Canadian morning television news show, in which the anchorwoman discusses the spread of coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak with an infectious disease expert. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that some of the things the expert reports are factual and correct, whereas others were opinions that have since been proved fallacious.

What logical and argumentative fallacies can you find in this short report? Did the expert use any persuasive strategies at any point? Identify as many of these as you can and explain them to your classmates.

Learner Portfolio

Visit this archive of Donald Trump speeches, and select one. Present an extract of this speech, up to a maximum of two pages. Annotate the speech to submit as a learner portfolio entry.

Here is an example of a piece of student work based on Donald Trump’s remarks at a campaign event in his 2016 Presidential run. Speaking about John McCain, Trump said “I don’t like losers” (in regards to the 2008 election), said McCain was “not a war hero,” (referring to his tour of duty during the Vietnam war) then said “he’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

Paper 1 Text Type Focus: satirical texts

At the end of your course you will be asked to analyze unseen texts (1 at Standard Level and 2 at Higher Level) in an examination. You will be given a guiding question that will focus your attention on formal or stylistic elements of the text(s), and help you decode the text(s)’ purpose(s). One of the hardest text types to approach unless you’ve had some prior exposure might be the political or satirical text. This type of text is fantastic at lampooning some of the more blatant and outrageous logical fallacies that some people – overeager politicians, climate-change deniers, pseudo-intellectuals, wannabe populists – propagate in the mass media. Use these practice texts to familiarise yourself with the different features of satire and add them to your Learner Portfolio; you will want to revise text types thoroughly before your Paper 1 exam. You can find more information – including text type features and sample Paper 1 analysis – by visiting 20/20. Read through one or two of the exemplars, then choose a new paper and have a go at writing your own Paper 1 analysis response:

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