Adversaries employ logical fallacies to disarm attempts to expose their campaigns, dismiss counterarguments, and dismantle resistance to their influence. Fallacies are concise, convincing attack templates employed in interactions with the target to maximize the delivery and pervasiveness of the meme while minimizing the time and attention necessary to convince the audience to adopt and internalize the messaging. These rhetorical tools are used in some of the most convincing arguments in everyday discourse, despite being predominantly vacant of meaning. In fact, the attractiveness of the fallacy is the main reason they are used so profusely in digital spaces. They tantalize the audience and seize their attention, thereby obfuscating any weaknesses in the underlying message. As a result, if the audience agrees, then they absorb the content; if they disagree, they argue, develop an emotional investment, and internalize the message even more deeply.

FALLACY 1: Strawman
The attacker misrepresents someone’s argument to make it easier to attack. By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone’s argument, it’s much easier to present their position as being reasonable while also undermining honest, rational debate [14].

FALLACY 2: Loaded Question
The troll or AI bot distracts from meaningful dialogue or provokes an engineered response by asking a question that had a presumption built into it so that it couldn’t be answered without appearing guilty. Loaded question fallacies are particularly effective at derailing rational debates because of their inflammatory nature. The recipient of the loaded question is compelled to defend themselves and may appear flustered or taken aback [14].

FALLACY 3: Composition/Division
The adversary implies that one part of something has to be applied to all, or other, parts of it or that the whole must apply to its parts. Often, when something is true for the part, it does also apply to the whole, or vice versa, but the crucial difference is whether there exists good evidence to show that this is the case. Because audiences observe consistencies in things more than discrepancies, their perceptions can become biased by the presumption that consistency should exist where it does not [14].

FALLACY 4: Begging the Question
A circular argument is presented in which the conclusion was included in the premise. This logically incoherent argument often arises in situations where people have an assumption that is very ingrained and therefore taken in their minds as a given [14].

FALLACY 5: The Texas Sharpshooter
Cherry-picked data clusters or an alleged pattern may be used to suit an argument. Clusters naturally appear by chance but don’t necessarily indicate that there is a causal relationship [14].

FALLACY 6: False Cause
The audience is led to believe that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other. Many people confuse correlation (things happening together or in sequence) for causation (that one thing actually causes the other to happen). Sometimes correlation is coincidental, or it may be attributable to a common cause [14].

FALLACY 7: Ad Hominem
Attacks against an opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument are irrational but effective at distracting an audience and derailing a conversation. Ad hominem attacks can take the form of attacking somebody overtly or casting doubt more subtly on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit their argument. The result of such an attack can be to undermine someone’s case without actually having to engage with it [14].

FALLACY 8: Bandwagon
An attacker may appeal to gained or fabricated popularity or the fact that many people do something as an attempted form of validation. The flaw in this argument is that the popularity of an idea has absolutely no bearing on its validity; nevertheless, many are convinced that the loudest or most prevalent narrative is the truth [14].

FALLACY 9: No True Scotsman
A troll may make appeals to their innocence or purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws in their argument. This form of faulty reasoning is interpreted as valid by the audience, because it is presented as unfalsifiable, since no matter how compelling the evidence is, one simply shifts the goalposts so that it wouldn’t apply to a supposedly “true” example. This kind of post-rationalization is a way of avoiding valid criticisms of an argument [14].

FALLACY 10: Appeal to Nature
Attackers may argue that because something is “natural,” it is therefore valid, justified, inevitable, good or ideal. While many “natural” things are also considered “good,” naturalness itself doesn’t make something good or bad [14].

FALLACY 11: Middle Ground
An adversary may claim that a compromise, or middle point, between two extremes must be the truth. Much of the time, the truth does indeed lie between two extreme points; however, sometimes a thing is simply untrue and a compromise of it is also untrue. Halfway between a truth and a lie is still a lie [14].

FALLACY 12: Appeal to Emotion
Attackers often attempt to manipulate an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument. Appeals to emotion include appeals to fear, envy, hatred, pity, pride, and more. It’s important to note that sometimes, a logically coherent argument may inspire emotion or have an emotional aspect, but the problem and fallacy occur when emotion is used instead of a logical argument or to obscure the fact that no compelling rational reason exists for one’s position. Facts exist irrelevant of feelings, but emotions may be invoked to cloud judgment and rational thought [14].

FALLACY 13: Personal Incredulity
Trolls may argue that something difficult to understand is untrue. Complex subjects require rigorous understanding before one can make an informed judgment about the subject at hand; this fallacy is usually used in place of that understanding [14].

FALLACY 14: The Fallacy Fallacy
An attacker may claim that because an argument has been presented poorly or a fallacy has been made, that the claim itself must be wrong. They thereby gain unquestionable authority in the discussion. It is entirely possible to make a claim that is false yet argue with logical coherency for that claim, just as it is possible to make a claim that is true and justify it with various fallacies and poor arguments [14].

FALLACY 15: Slippery Slope
A meme may convey that if A is allowed to happen, then Z will eventually happen too; therefore, A should not happen. The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals. Because no proof is presented to show that such extreme hypotheticals will in fact occur, this fallacy has the form of an appeal to emotion fallacy by leveraging fear. In effect, the argument at hand is tainted unfairly by unsubstantiated conjecture [14].

FALLACY 16: Tu Quoque (You Too)
A troll may avoid having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser, thereby answering criticism with criticism. This fallacy appeals to hypocrisy. It is commonly employed as an effective red herring, because it takes the heat off someone having to defend their argument and instead shifts the focus back to the person making the criticism [14].

FALLACY 17: Personal Incredulity
Disbelief in an argument or cause may be framed as irrefutable evidence that the argument is misleading or false. This usually takes the form of immediate dismissal of facts or a questioning of the integrity of the source material. It is effectively the weaponization of anecdotal observations over empirical evidence [14].

FALLACY 18: Special Pleading
A troll may shift the purpose of the argument or claim an exception when their claim is proven to be false. They may even play the victim [14].

FALLACY 19: Burden of Proof
An attacker may shift the burden of proof from the person making a claim to someone else to disprove. The burden of proof lies with someone who is making a claim and is not upon anyone else to disprove. The inability or disinclination to disprove a claim does not render that claim valid or give it any credence whatsoever. It is important for audiences to note, however, that they can never be certain of anything, and so they must assign a value to any claim based on the available evidence. To dismiss something on the basis that it hasn’t been proven beyond all doubt is also fallacious reasoning [14].

FALLACY 20: Ambiguity
A foreign influence operative may employ a double meaning or ambiguity of language to mislead or misrepresent the truth. Politicians are often guilty of using ambiguity to mislead and will later point to how they were technically not outright lying if they come under scrutiny. The reason that it qualifies as a fallacy is that it is intrinsically misleading [14].

FALLACY 21: Appeal to Authority
A provoker might argue that because an authority thinks something, it must, therefore, be true. It is important to note that this fallacy should not be used to dismiss the claims of experts, or scientific consensus. Appeals to authority are not valid arguments, but it is also unreasonable to disregard the claims of experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge, unless one has a similar level of understanding and access to empirical evidence. It is entirely possible, however, that the opinion of a person or institution of authority is wrong; therefore, the authority that such a person or institution holds does not have any intrinsic bearing upon whether their claims are true or not [14].

FALLACY 22: Genetic
An operative may suggest that a community judge something as either good or bad on the basis of where or whom it comes from, rather than its inherent validity. This fallacy avoids the argument by shifting focus onto something’s or someone’s origins. It’s similar to an ad hominem fallacy in that it leverages existing negative perceptions to make someone’s argument look bad without actually presenting a case for why the argument itself lacks merit [14].

FALLACY 23: Black-or-White (False Dilemma)
An issue may be presented with two alternative states as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist. The tactic has the appearance of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny, it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is presented. Binary, black-or-white thinking doesn’t allow for the many different variables, conditions, and contexts in which there would exist more than just the two possibilities put forth. It frames the argument misleadingly and obscures rational, honest debate [14].

FALLACY 24: Anecdotal
The adversary may use a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence. It’s often much easier for people to believe someone’s testimony as opposed to understanding complex data and variation across a continuum. Quantitative scientific measures are almost always more accurate than personal perceptions and experiences, but our inclination is to believe that which is tangible to us, and the word of someone we trust over a more “abstract” statistical reality [14].

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