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A working definition of “the media” is necessary for the purposes of discussing logical fallacies. As such, the broad term “media” includes both commercial and non-commercial aspects and applies to traditional outlets, such as print, and to so-called new media, encompassing all digital formats. For the sake of argument, “commercial” refers to any aspect of the media that is explicitly meant to influence people in terms of purchasing goods to generate profit. Advertising is one example of commercial media. In contrast, “non-commercial” media refers to any aspect of the media that is primarily intended to influence people in ways that do not directly involve commerce. An example of non-commercial media is news broadcasts, which are primarily intended to transmit information about current events.
Identifying logical fallacies is probably somewhat easier in other types of communication such as research papers, essays or speeches because they can carry a reasonable expectation of presenting a logical thesis statement that can be proved through the work. As neither commercial nor non-commercial media is explicitly presented with a thesis statement per se, identifying logical fallacies in media may be subjective, a matter of opinion. Yet, several different types of logical fallacies can be identified readily in various permutations in both commercial and non-commercial media.
Consider, for example, the logical fallacy of jumping on the bandwagon. The colorful name of this fallacy speaks for itself in meaning that people believe or “jump” to conclusions that other people believe with little critical examination. In commercial media, some advertising may be viewed as quite superlative in trying to convince people that a certain product is the ultimate key to gratification and social acceptance. Yet, the same fallacy may apply differently in non-commercial media. For example, it polls and other statistics may present an opportunity to “jump” to believe whatever such data present.
Another type of fallacy that is just about self explanatory by its name is false cause. Although it has several related fallacies, false cause basically means that claims are grossly exaggerated relative to cause and effect. In commercial media, this can be recognized in ads that are meant to evoke or to portray strong emotions relative to a product, such as owning a certain brand causing falling in love. In non-commercial media, false cause may be observed in reporting of complex issues that are not explored in-depth, which gives the illusion that one shallow aspect of an issue caused a multifaceted set of circumstances.
The above examples are meant to start an exploration of logical fallacies in the media. It is by no means exhaustive or indicative of particular ads or news broadcasts. As such, it is necessary to choose specific pieces of commercial or non-commercial media and to form one’s own opinion of the extent to which a logical fallacy may be detected. The references below on eNotes may assist in this task. Good luck!
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