Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fallacy of Relevance - Ad misericondium

When arguing a point, attempting to get out of a traffic ticket or scraping together a passing grade, an appeal to pity can sometimes be effective. Other times you just look stupid.

Case in point, a Yemeni man is held in Guantanamo Bay and the Obama administration won't release him. He might have had a chance but the Christmas day bomber-moron tried to remove himself from the gene pool and take others with him.
"So a Nigerian man tries to set off a bomb on an American plane, and they punish my brother for this?" says Hila's sister, who did want to be identified.
An excellent point, even if she does forget to mention that the Nigerian trained in Yemen. (BTW, the 'I don't want to be identified' part is pretty funny if they mention she's his sister - sign of things to come?) Now the appeal to pity:
"His mother died, his father died, his two sons died, and now his uncle has died," Hila's sister says. "Do they want us to all be dead before they bring him back home again?"
It's a fallacy of relevance because the death of the relatives has nothing to do with the reasons for jail. Still, it can be effective unless you take this fallacy so far. Too much detail tends to ruin the weepy feeling and harden the listener. "Crash!" goes your argument:
"She says the family has endured enough trouble already. Last year, Hila's two young sons died when a grenade they were playing with exploded."
If your two young kids played with a live hand grenade and killed themselves, you're a terrorist. Dude, your unidentified sister is making this too easy.


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