Demonic Justification





Demonizing is a rhetorical strategy aimed at casting the target as evil, corrupt, dangerous, or threatening. Demonizing can also be used to fuel or intensify other fallacies, such as the Demonic Ad Hominem and the Demonic Genetic Fallacy.

Demonic justification is a fallacy in which a target is demonized in an attempt to justify how the target is being treated. This treatment can include such thing as actions taken against the target or policies that are detrimental to the target. The fallacy has the following form:


Premise 1: Target person or group T is demonized.

Conclusion: Action A against T is justified.


This is a fallacy because the attempt to justify the action is based on demonization rather than good reasons. Since demonization, by definition, involves making either selective, exaggerated, or false claims, demonization cannot justify an action.

It should be kept in mid that committing this fallacy does not entail that the action is automatically unjustified. The action could be justified by other reasons, but the fallacy would still occur if the stated justification for the action was the demonizing. As with any fallacy the conclusion is not disproven because the reasoning is fallacious. To think otherwise is to fall victim to the Fallacy Fallacy.

This fallacy is often used to try to justify damaging, harsh and even brutal actions, or policies. It derives its power from the willingness of people to engage in demonizing and the appealing belief that harsh measures must be taken against the wicked.

This technique is often used in war to motivate and try to justify the killing of enemy soldiers. It is also a powerful tool in domestic politics and is often used to try to justify cruel and unjust policies.

For example, throughout history migrants have been demonized as diseased criminals who are out to steal jobs from native workers. This demonizing has been used to try to justify harsh immigration policies and even violence against migrants. As another example, Stalinists and Maoists demonized their targets, thus attempting to justify their harsh and brutal measures.

As a final point, taking actions or creating policies in response to real evil, threats or dangers need not be fallacious. Sorting out such justifications would be a matter for ethics.


Defense: The main defense against demonic justification is being aware that demonization is occurring. One should take the time to seriously ask if such claims are true. Since people are influenced strongly by their biases, prejudices, and stereotypes, this can be challenging. People also like to believe that they are on the side of good and are battling evil, and demonization plays right into this.


Example 1

“Migrants are bringing in disease, committing crimes and stealing our jobs. Sure, some people claim that some of them are legally seeking asylum, but I say that they are just using that to drop more anchor babies on American soil. We need to round them up, concentrate them in camps, and then ship them back.”


Example 2

Nero: “These Christians do not worship our gods and we all hate the, for their many abominations. It is no wonder, then, that they started the fires that burned down Rome. We need to round them up and be rid of them.”


Example 3

“These trans people just want to get into bathrooms to attack women. They also want to steal athletic trophies from real women and girls. Therefore, we must impose bathroom bans and band trans from sports!”


Example 4

“We all know that men are the ones who commit rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. They also commit crimes and acts of violence against each other. Why, they surely go into bathrooms to attack women and girls.  They also steal jobs, trophies, and opportunities from women, what with all their testosterone and old boy networks. We need harsh measures to deal with all these men; they are naught but devils on the earth!”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More