Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 1)

We’ve all run into people who, in real life and online, are offensive.  Some of those people are ignorant about the offensiveness of their comments while others simply don’t care how offensive their behavior is, and a third group thrives on offending others because they mistakenly believe that no one can do anything about their behavior.

Making Assumptions

An assumption is something that a person accepts as being factual or correct without proof.  Now in some cases, what’s presented is, indeed, a fact.  However, there are also times when what’s presented is not a fact and merely an opinion.  For example, if someone alleges that a person, organization, agency or business has committed fraud (a serious allegation) and offers no proof to substantiate that allegation, you may want to request proof of such an allegation.  If you pass along that information and it is shown later on to be a false allegation, you could be held responsible for defamation, libel or slander (depending on how you passed the information along).  Don’t assume anything.  Research everything.

Leaps In Logic

Making leaps in logic can be as hazardous as making assumptions.  Whether you’re talking about ad hominem attacks or bandwagons, leaps in logic jump from one fact to an opinion that is misrepresented as a fact.

Ad Hominem

Oftentimes, ad hominem attacks are launched on people who present facts that cannot be refuted or who dare to present another option to the scenario put forth by another person.  Such attacks are rooted in the concept that the person launching the ad hominem attack doesn’t like the other person, or dislikes the facts presented by the other person, or does not want others to consider any point of view other than his or her point of view.  Ad hominem attacks have nothing to do with the validity of the argument put forth by the attacker and almost entirely based on personal emotions.  It’s always best to go with facts and steer clear of ad hominem attacks.

Emotional Appeal

Where facts are the basis of a discussion or an argument, the emotional appeal attack is meant to undermine the facts in favor of promoting feelings and evoke emotional responses in favor of the person who is presenting the emotional appeal.  It may prove effective in the short run, but runs aground when people supporting the emotional appeal realize they have been duped.   Scare tactics are a favorite of the emotional appeal attacks. It’s always best to go with facts in a discussion or argument, and steer clear of emotional appeal attacks.

Affirming the Consequent

This one is best explained by way of an example.

Premise:  More ice cream is sold in hot months than in cold months.
Premise:  More drownings happen in hot months than in cold months.
False Conclusion:  Ice cream causes drowning.

Those who read this false conclusion may find it humorous however there are many leaps of logic similar to this that happen in everyday life.  Always question the premises put forth in order to confirm the conclusion drawn from the premises put forth.  It’s always best to go with fact-based premises and steer clear of affirming the consequent attacks.  It’s always best to go with facts in a discussion or argument, and refuse to engage in refuting affirming the consequent attacks.

Argument From Authority

Like the ad hominem attack, the argument from authority attack puts forth the concept that the person is more important than the facts.  In this attack, the person either making the argument or being used to support the person’s argument is held up as an authority without proof that he or she is an authority.  This sort of attack is usually one favored by conspiracy theorists and those who rely on false diplomas and questionable credentials.  It’s always best to go with facts in a discussion or argument, and steer clear of argument from authority attacks.

Non-Testable Hypothesis

It may sound strange that the non-testable hypothesis attack is ever considered but it is.  The thinking is that if something has not been disproven, it must be true.  The danger in this attack is that a non-testable hypothesis that it is unfounded, and no empirical proof or mathematical logic. is presented to support the non-testable hypothesis.   It’s always best to go with facts rather than blind faith such as the non-testable hypothesis attack which lacks proof and logic.


This is one of the most popular of the leaps of logic, and assumes that if a majority of people are in agreement, it must be true.  Using illegal downloads as an example, when someone argues that everyone is illegally downloading copyrighted material ergo the law addressing illegal downloads should be stricken from the books, such an argument chooses to imply that the majority of people committing theft (illegal downloading) are in the right and those who uphold the law are in the wrong.  Wake up call: The popular idea isn’t necessarily the right idea.  It’s always best to go with the facts instead of the jumping onto the bandwagon attack.

Circular Logic

This one is used in the hopes of confusing others discussing the matter in the hopes that people will join in on the bandwagon attack once the circular logic attack is launched.  Repeating a claim and avoiding the opportunity to present facts to support the claim does not make the claim valid.  Such an argument relies on the mistaken belief that the person using the circular logic attack is in the right and anyone who disagrees with him or her  (even when those people who disagree with him or her present solid evidence to support their position) is wrong because they don’t understand that the attacker is, in his or her mind, right.  It’s always best to go with facts and to walk away from circular logic attacks.

False Dilemma

The false dilemma attack is meant to polarize onlookers of a discussion or argument, by trying to force the topic into an either/or situation.  For example, if the person using the false dilemma attack states that all politicians cannot be trusted and another person asks for proof of that statement, the next comment in a false dilemma attack would state that obviously if the person asking for proof does not agree blindly that all politicians cannot be trusted, then they must either be a politician themselves or untrustworthy.  In creating a scenario that pushes anyone who does not agree with the attacker into the position of being evil or more evil, the false dilemma hopes to discredit the person asking for proof.  It’s always best to go with facts even when someone adept in the skill of false dilemma attacks targets you instead of answers the question.


Nothing seems to be as effective as the exclusion attack because it relies on attacking a group of people, and making a gross generalization about the entire group.  Let’s say that someone states that they would never hire someone with Asperger Syndrome because the news has reported so many violent incidents over the past few years where the accused was alleged to have Asperger Syndrome.  Then let’s say that same person states that it’s a fact that people diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome cannot be trusted to act rationally because they are predisposed to violent behavior.  The fact of the matter is that medical research has proven that those diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome are not more violent than those who are not diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.  It’s always best to go with the facts and to step away from arguments that have a foot in exclusion attacks.

Faulty Analogy

The interesting aspect of the faulty analogy attack is how often the media and consumers fall prey to such attacks.  PETA uses faulty analogy attacks.  Politicians use faulty analogy attacks.  Businesses use faulty analogy attacks.  Sometimes these attacks are wrapped up in fancy words and pretty pictures, making the difficult to spot.  How difficult?  If you’ve ever come across a sign that reads, “making our store bigger, to serve you better” then you’ve been subjected to a faulty analogy attack.  Making a story bigger does not guarantee that the service will be better.    Besides, better is a comparative term.  Better than what?  Better than it was before?  Better than what it is across the street at another store?  Better than the service at a store in the same chain but in another part of the country?  It’s always best to go with the facts and avoid the faulty analogy attack.

The attacks listed under the sub-heading of Leaps In Logic attacks aren’t the only attacks to be found.  Next week, I’ll cover ten more Leaps In Logic attacks that can happen in discussions and arguments.

Elyse Bruce


2 Responses to “Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 1)”

  1. Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 2) | Elyse Bruce Says:

    […] Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 1) […]

  2. Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 3) | Elyse Bruce Says:

    […] Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 1) […]

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