Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 3)

When it comes to flawed arguments and leaps in logic attacks, the ways in which discussions can be derailed seem to be endless.  They’re not really.  They just seem that way.  This week, the list of offensive behaviors has a few more additions. I  doubt that all of the offensive behaviors will be addressed in these articles, however, a great number of them will be, giving readers and visitors some facts to consider.

Buzz Word

Who doesn’t react to words like patriotic or love or freedom? There are certain words that are guaranteed to elicit a reaction, either positive or negative. This is why you oftentimes hear people say that in polite conversation, steer clear of politics and religion.  When used in a discussion, these words can effectively redirect or shut everything down as no one wants to be painted negatively the implications that go with those words. Examples of the redirect attention include the misuse of such words as terrorist, anti-autistic, and bullying. It’s best to go with facts in discussions and arguments when faced with buzz word attacks.

Monte Carlo Fallacy

It’s said that those who are addicted to gambling lose large sums of money because of their mistaken belief that they just can’t lose if they keep doing what they’re doing long enough. In other words, if something happens more frequently than normal over an established period of time, then it will happen less frequently in the future.  The Monte Carlo Fallacy is used in discussions to highlight a future event where there is no evidence the belief that said future event will come to pass. It is sometimes put forth with the concept that bad situations can only get better. It’s best to go with facts in the present in discussions and arguments, and to prepare for the future rather than buy into the Monte Carlo Fallacy.

Hot Hand Fallacy

This leap in logic attack is the converse of the Monte Carlo Fallacy as the concept is one that claims that if something happened more than once in the past, that it will continue to happen in the present and will continue moving forward into the future. Many fortunes have been lost by investors buying into the “you can’t lose” Hot Hand Fallacy. While one may extrapolate that this could be one scenario based on past events, it is also just as possible that other scenarios will happen instead. It’s best to go with facts in a discussion or argument, and to consider the many possibilities other than just the Hot Hand Fallacy attack.

Law Of Averages

The Law Of Averages attack puts forth the belief that, based on averages, a specific situation is due to happen ergo it will happen. In other words, given enough time, everything will even out regardless of the situation. Unfortunately, probability and average are not words that can be used interchangeably. It’s best go with concrete facts in a discussion or argument, and to leave the Law Of Averages to statisticians to figure our rather than include this attack in the discussion or argument.

You Tou Fallacy

The Tu Quoque Fallacy (also known as the Appeal To Hypocrisy attack) argues that because something is acceptable (and even encouraged or promoted) elsewhere (or historically), there should be no problem with doing it now is one that some tend to hold tight. It’s based on the idea that if enough people are doing something or have done something in the past, it gives everyone the right to do the exact same thing regardless of the consequences, implications, or abuses therein. The phrase Tu Quoque is Latin and means you too.

For example, Newsweek has reported that in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, an acceptable punishment for overstaying a tourist visa is to administer a public caning. A Tu Quoque Fallacy would then assert that because it’s acceptable in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei,  in the U.S. and Canada, it is  also acceptable to administer a public caning to tourists who overstay their tourist visa.  It is best to rely on facts in a discussion or argument rather than bend to the will of a Tu Quoque aka Appeal To Hypocrisy aka You Too attack.

Wealth Attack

The Wealth Attack is the attack that starts with asserting that wealth determines value for everything. Except that it doesn’t. There are things in life that all the money in the world cannot buy. When someone argues that wealth is the most important — or only — factor that matters in the discussion, it’s time to walk away from the discussion. While wealth can certainly be influential it is by no means the sole or more important determining factor in the value of something or someone. If you aren’t in a position to walk away from the discussion, it’s best to go with facts rather than try to change the other person’s opinion about wealth and its influence.

Novelty Attack

Newer is not necessarily better. Old is not necessarily bad. When someone hauls the Novelty Attack into the discussion or argument, the leap in logic demands that the idea presented is adhered to at all costs no matter how absurd the basic premise is. Those who stick with the Novelty Attack are forgetting that in time, what is new now will eventually be old, and based on the life cycles found in historical documents, there comes a time when something that is old is unearthed and presented once again as being new. It’s best to continue with facts in discussions and arguments where Novelty Attacks are presented by others.

Naturalistic Attack

Sometimes the black-and-white of a discussion is colored with the Naturalistic Attack. This is where the premise of the argument is rooted in fact and the conclusion introduces a conclusion that, while close to the original premise, jumps from what is fact to a value judgment. For example, if the speaker says that autistics are rule bound (one of the identifying symptoms within the diagnostic criteria) ergo autistics are incapable of lying since that would break the rules, that is a Naturalistic Attack. The desire in that statement would be to have others who are not on the autism spectrum believe that autistics are 100% honest all the time. Unfortunately, anyone can — and does — lie. It is best to stick to facts in discussions and arguments instead of falling prey to Naturalistic Attacks.

Vacuous Truth

Vacuous truths are those that are misleading while being accurate. For example, someone who routinely engages in illegal activity may claim that he or she is a law-abiding citizen because they have never been charged with a crime. The unqualified portion of being a law-abiding citizen is supported by the implied assertion that is based on the claim that he or she has never been charged with a crime.  Just because someone has not been charged with a crime does not mean that they are a law-abiding citizen. After all, back in the day when Al Capone was running soup kitchens in Chicago, he asserted that he was a pillar of society, a law-abiding citizen, and more … all on the basis that if he was a criminal, he’d be in jail already.

Complex Question

The Complex Question is one for which all answers mislead because there is not way to properly address the question. Answering yes to the question becomes an admission of guilt, and answering no to the question leads listeners to believe that the respondent acknowledges being in the wrong while steadfastly refusing to admit to wrongdoing. This creates a situation where the person’s innocence cannot be defended without leaving doubt and accusation in its wake. This is a particularly favorite attack of extremists who rely on hysteria to flawed logic to score points. It’s best to continue with facts in discussions and arguments while refusing to respond to complex question attacks.

As you can see, there are as many bad behaviors out there are there are people who make use of them, with multiple variations on the themes already discussed in “Addressing Offensive Behavior” series of articles.  The one thing that remains consistent in all of this is the reliance on facts when discussing or debating matters and topics.  It’s a difficult row to hoe, but not impossible.

Elyse Bruce


Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 1)
Addressing Offensive Behavior (Part 2)


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