Genetic Fallacy, Demonic





A Genetic Fallacy is a flawed argument that comes in negative and positive variations.  In the negative version a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken as evidence discrediting the claim or thing itself. The positive variation is an error in reasoning in which the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence for the claim or proof that the thing is true or good. A Demonic Genetic Fallacy is always negative. The Demonic Genetic fallacy has the following two forms:


Form 1

Premise 1: Claim (or argument) C originates from group G.

Premise 2: Group G is demonized.

Conclusion: Therefore, C is false (or the argument fails).


Form 2

Premise 1: A originated from O.

Premise 2: O is demonized.

Conclusion: A is discredited.


The reason why the Demonic Genetic fallacy is a fallacy is that demonizing a group or origin has no bearing on the truth of a claim, the quality of an argument or the origin of a thing. In addition to the logical error, a Demonic Genetic fallacy also suffers from the fact that demonizing, by definition, involves deception. At the very least, demonizing involves taking facts out of context and commonly involves outright falsehoods.

The demonic version of this fallacy involves two steps, the first of which distinguishes the demonic from the normal Genetic Fallacy.

First, the target, which is the origin of the claim or thing, is demonized. Demonizing is portraying the target as evil, corrupt, dangerous, or threatening.  This can be done in the usual three ways: selective demonizing, hyperbolic demonizing, or fictional demonizing.

Selective demonizing is when some true negative fact about the target is focused on to the exclusion of other facts about the target.  Hyperbolic demonizing involves greatly exaggerating a negative fact about the target. Fictional demonizing is simply lying about the target. Second, the attack on the origin of the claim or thing is taken to discredit the claim or thing.

A demonic genetic fallacy can have considerable psychological force since demonizing typically goes beyond the usual attacks in a normal Genetic Fallacies and thus can trigger strong emotions. A common tactic is to demonize the target using stereotypes the audience already accepts and by appealing to their biases, fears, and prejudices. Such an audience will be inclined to accept the demonization and their emotional response can lead them to accept the fallacious reasoning.

A genetic fallacy, demonic or not, differs from the Ad Hominem fallacies in that a strictly defined ad hominem always targets an individual while the genetic fallacy can be used to target groups or institutions.


Defense: There are two main defenses against this fallacy. The first is to be aware of the logical flaw in the fallacy. Even if the demonizing claims were true, the reasoning would still be flawed: true but irrelevant negative claims about the origin of something, no matter how terrible, do not disprove a claim or argument or prove a defect in the thing.

The second is to be critical of negative claims and only accept them if they are adequately supported by evidence.


Example #1

“The so-called conservative media claims that Pelosi has engaged in insider trading, but they are a pack of sexist fascists who have set out to destroy America. Oh, I am sure they are also racist, but I guess that would not apply to Pelosi. Or maybe it does?”

Example #2

“The teacher’s union has said that the law they pejoratively call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ is aimed at hurting LGBGT children in our public schools. While some people might be simply confused about the law, we can be sure that the union is controlled by pedophiles who have been grooming children. So, we can dismiss their lies. This law will protect children. Protect them from the predators that now rule our schools.”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More