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False Allegiance

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A False Allegiance is a bad faith technique in which a person pretends to belong to a group and attempts to exploit this professed false allegiance for persuasive purposes. While it can be used in conjunction with Hijacking, the difference is that False Allegiance involves a false claim of membership while Hijacking involves pretending to agree with something to use it as a persuasive tool.

If someone uses a False Allegiance to cause harm to the target group through claims and arguments, this can be, perhaps a bit dramatically, called a False Flag. For example, a foreign agent might pretend to be a member of BLM and post inflammatory comments on Twitter. The same agent might also pretend to be a Proud Boy and post inflammatory comments, perhaps even in response to their fake BLM posts.

As would be expected, accusing a member of a group of having a False Allegiance is also a rhetorical technique. See the Appeal to Purity fallacy for how this tactic can work.

As a fallacy, one form involves attempting to persuade members of the target group to accept a claim based on a false claim of allegiance. It has this form:

 

Premise 1: Person A falsely claims membership in Group G.

Premise 2: Person A makes claim C to members of G.

Conclusion: Members of G should accept claim C.

 

Those using this technique usually employ other fallacies, such as Appeal to Group Identity, to exploit their false claim of group membership. Their intent is to get members of the target group to give their claim or argument more credence simply because they profess to be a member of that group. The person using the fallacy might also attempt to enhance it by claiming such things as that they are a dedicated member of the group or that they have been in the group a long time.

The False Flag variant would look like this:

 

Premise 1: Person A falsely claims membership in Group G.

Premise 2: Person A makes claim or argument C with the intent of harming G.

Conclusion: C should be accepted as representing G.

 

Those using this variant will typically use other fallacies and rhetorical techniques along with the False Flag. For example, they might make use of Appeal to Fear or Appeal to Anger to enhance the response to their claim. As with the other variant, the person using this will often claim that they are loyal, long time, or mainstream member of the group.

Alternatively, the person might claim to be disenchanted with the group or a former member. This technique can make harmful claims appear more plausible because the person appears to have been in a position to “know the truth” and to have a credible motive for making harmful claims. For example, someone might pretend to be a former Republican who left the party because they hate Donald Trump. As another example, someone might profess to have left the Democratic Party because they became “too woke.” This technique makes it easier to use fallacies such as Straw Man when trying to harm the target group. This is because a former or disenchanted member would seem more credible saying negative things than someone who claims to be a loyal and current member of the group.

 

Defense: Lying about being a member of a group is not a logical fallacy but is obviously a bad faith technique. If someone’s False Allegiance is revealed, this does not in itself prove that their claim is false, or their argument is flawed. As always, claims and arguments should be assessed on their own merits. It does, however, considerably reduce their credibility.

While a person’s real allegiance can sometimes be determined, the internet makes this difficult. After all, anyone can pretend to be anything. Groups obviously also have dissenters and extreme members, so what might appear to be a False Allegiance or even a False Flag might not be. Fortunately, defending against False Allegiance does not require that you know the allegiance is false. In the case of the first version, the defense is like that used against Appeal to Group Identity and similar fallacies: believing a claim just because it comes from (what appears to be) one’s group would be an error.

The defense against the False Flag variant is to keep in mind that a harmful claim made by a (alleged) member of a group does not, in itself, show that the claim is representative of that group. See, for example, Straw Man: Nut Picking.

 

Example #1

Ralph (who is not a Democrat): “As a long time Democrat who worked hard to get Obama elected, I can say that I have had it with cancel culture. I am disgusted and angered that my party is now against free speech. I am thinking about voting for the Republicans this year and think you should too.”

 

Example #2

Ralph (who is not a Republican): “As a long time Republican who worked hard for our party, I can say that I have had it with their racism, sexism, and homophobia. I am disgusted and angered that my party is no longer really the party of Lincoln. I am thinking about voting for the Democrats this year and think you should too.”

 

Example #3

Sally (who is not in BLM): “I loved being in BLM at first. I thought I was helping people. But then I found out the truth: they do not believe that All Lives Matter but that only Black Lives Matter. This made me so mad that I quit. You all need to wake up and be awake rather than woke!”

 

Example #4

Sally (who is not in the NRA): “I loved being in the NRA at first. I thought I was helping people learn gun safety and fighting to protect the Second Amendment. But then I found out the truth: they are secretly controlled by Hillary Clinton and their top members run her child slavery ring! This made me so mad that I quit. You all need to wake up and leave the NRA!”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More

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