Current Events – The Coronavirus Fallacies

To start, let’s define a few things [1], [2]:

Straw man fallacy: The Straw man fallacy is an attempt to make someone’s argument easier to knock down by means of arguing against an overstated or misrepresented position. This is often the case of which an argument is distorted, exaggerated, or attacked as a weaker variant. This form of argument also pushes the idea of refuting an argument, whereas the idea of argument under discussion is not addressed or refuted properly. This attack is often in the form of incorrect paraphrasing or summarizing of an opponents position, or taking quotes out of context. Generally, this is used as a means of oversimplifying opposing views or disregarding inconvenient points in favor of points that are easier to argue against.

Slippery slope fallacy: A slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy wherein a person makes a claim about a relatively small first step leading to a series of related events that would culminate in some significant effect, usually one major, generally bad event. The idea asserts that if A occurs, Z will eventually happen as a result – therefore A should not be allowed to occur. This shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals, avoiding the question at hand. As such, this argument appeals to emotional fallacy through leveraging fear due to a lack of proof presented that such hypotheticals will actually occur.

Ad hominem fallacy: “Ad hominem”, latin for “to the person”, is a fallacy referring to the attack of a person’s motivations or character rather than a position or argument, or the appeal to one’s emotions rather than logic or reason, a tactic also known as “poisoning the well” or “mudslinging”. This fallacy is used as a distraction, pulling the public’s attention off of the real issue – which may even be unethical in some contexts. These attacks generally act as red herrings which attempt to blunt or discredit the opponents argument or to make the public ignore it.

Burden of proof: The burden of proof is a fallacy in which validity lies on the person attempting to disprove an argument, rather than the person making the claim – e.g. the “burden of proof” is on the person making the claim, not on the person who denies or questions it. People who use this fallacy often make non-falsifiable claims, meaning that they cannot be proven wrong, and request others to disprove such claims – a task which is inherently impossible and solely attempts to abuse their burden of proof and shift it onto their opponent, leaving justification of the opposite claim to their opponent.

With these in mind, let’s discuss how these apply to the Covid-19 conspiracies.

Today we experience a strange set of circumstances regarding the coronavirus, and those who argue of its reality (or lack-thereof). Many people, such as politicians and conspiracy theorists, promote the idea that the coronavirus is a hoax or “plandemic” (generally invented by “the media” or democrats) [4] meant to instill fear in (generally only American) citizens as an attempt to force them to surrender their rights and control people [8], such as voting and free public travel and shopping, or by means of a political agenda [3] – also being invented in a lab [17] (usually in China) [12]. Eric Trump, for example, exclaimed that the coronavirus is being used as a means of rigging the 2020 presidential elections in favor against Donald Trump: “You watch, they’ll milk it every single day between now and November 3, and guess what, after November 3, coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.” [5]. This assertion falls under the category of the “burden of proof” fallacy – a statement, which has no scientific backing, of which the (democrats, big pharma, China, the U.S. department of health, the WHO and CDC, etc.) are supposed to somehow disprove; most also go so far as to disbelieve those with personal experience with the virus, including those who have or had the virus, and doctors and nurses fighting it [8].

These claims have spiraled so far as to attaching themselves to other false claims (which are generally “slippery slope” fallacies), such as that of 5G radio waves being cancerous [11] and now spreading coronavirus [10], vaccines being invented as a way to force people into being micro-chipped [18] and tracked, stalked, or monitored by the government, and other non-scientifically proven claims by anti-vaxxers who believe the government plans to enforce the vaccine for this “chipping” purpose and other such unconstitutional acts [6]; their reason being the claims that, aside from the ‘disproven existence of the virus’, the mortality of the virus is: lower than the last flu season (a claim impossible to back as the flu season has passed, but coronavirus cases continue to grow exponentially), and only affects the extremely young/old/unhealthy/immuno-suppressed [4], as well as the idea that the death toll has been inflated [12]. These fears by conspiracy theorists including unrealistic concepts of building a ‘global surveillance state’ [19], which are generally argued by means of mudslinging or the “ad hominem” fallacy, have caused such great concern that the members of the World Health Organization (the WHO) and professors specializing in public health believe that the anti-vaxxers who spread the idea of “becoming woke” and resistance against vaccination are likely to cause the continued, even enhanced spread of the coronavirus over time [7].

Many additional theories exist as well, of course, such as contact tracing and its ties to violating citizen rights, and the ‘second wave’ of the virus being a hoax, let alone the first one [9], and vaccines having already been found in other countries; some even so far as to say that the so-called virus is actually a bacteria [13]. Contact tracing has been especially suffering under conspiracies – many conspiracists compare those doing contact trace work to the “new Gestapo”, German secret police or Neo-Nazis, again tying the job to a political agenda intended to violate constitutional rights [14]. Those working in tracing positions have faced threats of being shot on sight due to ‘forcing compliance’, some even being tied to conspiracies of stealing children [15]. Again – these claims are all non-scientifically backed, and those who attempt to argue are generally faced with “straw man” attacks (among many other fallacies, of course), even with both the lack of evidence in favor of the conspiracies as well as the general fact that none of these conspiracies have been proven correct [16].

 

References

[1] https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/fallacies/

[2] https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/

[3] https://theconversation.com/conspiracy-theorists-are-falsely-claiming-that-the-coronavirus-pandemic-is-an-elaborate-hoax-135985

[4] https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/apr/28/covid-19-turning-out-to-be-huge-hoax-perpetrated-b/

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/17/eric-trump-coronavirus/

[6] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-coronavirus-5g/false-claim-coronavirus-is-a-hoax-and-part-of-a-wider-5g-and-human-microchipping-conspiracy-idUSKBN22P22I

[7] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/anti-vaxxer-fear-coronavirus-vaccine/

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/magazine/coronavirus-hoax.html

[9] https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/Opinions/Opinion/Article/Is-the-second-wave-another-coronavirus-hoax-/4/22/57991

[10] https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-fake-news-less-of-a-problem-than-confusing-government-messages-new-study-140383

[11] https://www.shellypalmer.com/2019/11/5g-cause-cancer/

[12] http://www.milwaukeeindependent.com/syndicated/plandemic-hoax-debunking-coronavirus-myths-fighting-political-misinformation/

[13] https://www.bbc.com/news/53021722

[14] https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/janelytvynenko/coronavirus-contact-tracers-are-facing-death-threats-and

[15] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/06/a-new-right-wing-conspiracy-theory-claims-covid-contact-tracers-are-stealing-children/

[16] https://www.propublica.org/article/immune-to-evidence-how-dangerous-coronavirus-conspiracies-spread

[17] https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/20/21187983/debunk-coronavirus-conspiracy-theories-how-to-covid-19-news-science

[18] https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/world-news/conspiracy/are-the-planning-id2020-as-mandatory-implants-for-all-as-the-solution-to-the-crisis/

[19] https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/bill-gates-id2020/