Understanding Fallacies

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Fallacy of Distraction

False Dilemma

A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the "or" operator.

Putting issues or opinions into "black or white" terms is a common instance of this fallacy.


  1. Either you're for me or against me.
  2. America: love it or leave it.
  3. Either support Meech Lake or Quebec will separate.
  4. Every person is either wholly good or wholly evil.

Here is an explaination attempted on Bill Moyer and Companies website which was consequential removed by their moderator:

Democrat vs. Republican, Liberal vs. Conservative, Labour vs. Capital are all false dichotomies. Capital exploits labour as a market, it is the purchase of one’s agency which would otherwise be dedicated to self or community. Labour is not the polar opposite of capital. Labour is the physical manner by which things get done. Capital is a means to procure resources where there was little incentive to give of one's skill or physical exertion. The battle therefore is not labour vs. capital, it's a competition between freewill and the market of supply vs. demand. In reality capital has lost touch with the physical body. Soon the memory of this material lacking substance will be lost. Eventually the whole process will begin anew. Worth will once again be attributed to the physical.

Democrat vs. Republican. This is a false dichotomy as well. Bill Moyer is as guilty as Rush Limbaugh. The dichotomy is about the distribution of power. The few control the microphone while the rest are forced to listen and obey. If you must split it into two, a more senseable pairing is Empathy vs. Apathy. The people are angry and don't know what to do because the system is apathetic to their needs. Empathy can be found from a spouse or a neighbour. Congressmen, newspaper editors, or radio call in programs are inefficient at spreading and receiving empathy. NPR appears empathetic until you find objection. This may explain why Bill Moyer's moderator removes post like this. Other NPR/PBS blogs do not moderate, but the public forum is so chaotic empathy has no chance. The apathetic shout to be heard provides no means to build empathy from a community. Existing internet tools do not realize the importance of the draft, in revision, and have yet figure out how to channel constructive feedback. Our existing systems of communication is unable to provide a bi-directional forum of empathy. It lives a false dichotomy of polarization. Democrat vs. Republican is an argument of white vs. white or that guys money versus the other guys money.

It's not liberal vs. conservative. All media is conservative. It is owned and controlled by the few, whether this is Bill Moyer, John Stewart, Bill Maher, or Rush Limbaugh.

False dichotomy. An empathetic friend explained this concept to me. I hope I have done him justice in sharing his explanation. As he said there is no such thing as cold vs. hot. Cold is just the absence of heat.


Identify the options given and show (with an example) that there is an additional option.


Cedarblom and Paulsen: 136

Reference Guide
Fallacy Summary

The content of this Fallacy originated from Stephen Downes Guide to Logical Fallacies.


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