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Appeal to Group Identity

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Also Known As: Group Think fallacy

Description:

This fallacy occurs when an appeal to a person’s identification with a group is offered as a substitute for evidence. It has the following form:

 

Premise 1: An appeal is made to a person’s identification with group G.

Conclusion: Therefore, claim C is true.

 

While the type of appeal varies, it most often appeals to the pride the group member feels about being in the group.  While feeling pride and identifying with a group are not fallacious, to accept a claim based on group pride or identity is an error. This is because feelings of pride and a feeling of group identity are not evidence for a claim. A person can make this appeal to others or can make such an appeal to themselves.

This fallacy can be used with any sort of group identity, such as political groups, ethnic groups, religious groups, and so on. One variant makes use of nationalism (pride in one’s country) when attempting to get people to accept a claim (or reject a claim). Since a person can convince themselves that a claim is true (or false) based on their feeling of group identity or pride, this fallacy can be self-inflicted.

That group identity does not serve as proof is easily shown by the following example: “I am proud of being a Flat-Earther, therefore the earth is flat.”

This fallacy might seem like Peer Pressure, Appeal to Belief, and Common Practice. However, the logical errors made are different in each fallacy. While the Peer Pressure fallacy does involve a group, the mistake being made is that a claim is accepted based on fear of rejection by the group rather than because of pride in that group. In the case of Appeal to Belief, the error is accepting a claim because many believe it. Common Practice, as the name indicates, involves accepting that a practice is correct/good because it is common, rather than because one identifies with a group that engages in that practice. People can commit multiple fallacies, so someone might Appeal to Group Identity while also Appealing to Belief and to Common Practice.

Some might be tempted to think that this fallacy shows that people identifying as a member of a group they dislike are making an error. This is not the case; the mistake is not identifying with a group but taking that identity as evidence for a claim.

 

Defense: If the fallacy is being used against you, the defense is to recognize that no reasons are being offered. Instead, there is an attempt to appeal to your group identity to persuade you to accept a claim. Defending against inflicting this fallacy on yourself can be more difficult. Ceasing to identify with groups is not a requirement for the defense but being critical about this identification is.  If a matter is important, you should ask whether you accept a belief based on reasons or merely because of group identity.

 

Example #1

“Your blog post is truly awful. Your criticism of America’s Middle East policy shows that you are not a real American. Me, I love America and I am proud to be an American. Since you obviously do not love America or have any pride in her greatness, you should pack up and move to Iran. I think this takes care of your criticisms and reveals the falsehoods you are spreading.”

 

Example #2

Fred: “America is responsible for global warming.”

Sally: “Well, we do contribute more than our fair share to the problem.”

Fred: “No, it is not just that Americans contribute more. American corporations and the American politicians set the world agenda and thus America is to blame for global warming.”

Sally: “That seems a bit much. Surely other nations contribute as well. Look at China, for example. China is hardly an American puppet, and they are cranking out cars and coal plants.”

Fred: “You just don’t get it. America is the cause of the world’s problems.”

Sally: “Wait; are you one of those ‘blame America first’ people?”

Fred: “That phrase is loaded, but I am proud to be on the left. We are the vanguard against America’s misdeeds and will make the world a better place. I know we are right because I can feel it in my heart.”

Sally: “So, you know you are right because you are proud of your elite group?”

Fred: “Yes. Maybe someday you will join us.”

Sally: “Will I have to buy a Prius and an iPad?”

Fred: “Of course.”

 

Example #3

“Sure, there are people who criticize the government. But, as the guy said, ‘my country, wrong or right.’ So, those critics need to shut up and accept that they are wrong. Or maybe someone should shut them up with some Second Amendment remedies.”

 

Example #4

I’ve seen a lot of debate about faith, but I know that my faith is the correct one. Every time that I think of my relationship with God and my fellow believers, my heart swells with pride at our true and pure faith. I cannot help but feel sorry for those who blindly refuse to accept what we thus know to be true, but perhaps they will realize the foolishness of their error before it is too late.”

 

Example #5

George: “Wow, that Mal Mart seems bad. Lawsuits from women and minorities and so on, that shows they have some real problems going on.”

Gerald: “You shut your Twinkie hole! I work at Mal Mart and I won’t listen to you say anything bad about us!”

George: “Easy, I’m not attacking you!”

Gerald: “When you attack Mal Mart, you attack me. Now admit you are wrong!”

George: “What, just because you work there and think you are part of the big Mal Mart family? That has nothing to do with me being right or wrong about the company.”

Gerald: “Shut up or I’ll lower your prices.”

George: “What?”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More

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