Appeal to Hypocrisy
Recently, I posted an entry entitled Ad Hominem that related to argumentum ad hominem (also known as a personal attack, abusive fallacy, and against the man). Still, there’s another form of ad hominem fallacy called argumentum ad hominem tu quoque (also known as appeal to hypocrisy).
Per one source, “An appeal to hypocrisy, also known as a tu quoque fallacy, is a rebuttal that responds to one claim with reactive criticism rather than with a response to the claim itself. Example: ‘You don’t have enough experience to be the new leader. ‘Neither do you!”
To understand how this fallacy operates, if may be of use to consider its logical form. According to one source:
Person 1 is claiming that Y is true, but person 1 is acting as if Y is not true.
Therefore, Y must not be true.
If you have a piece of crack cocaine, no bigger than this quarter that I’m holding in my hand [demonstrates quarter size]—one quarter of one dollar, we passed a law through the leadership of Senator Thurman and myself and others, a law that says—you’re caught with that, you go to jail for five years. You get no probation. You get nothing other than five years in jail. Judge doesn’t have a choice.
A few years after his speech and associated efforts, Biden’s bill transitioned into The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Regarding this matter, one source affirms:
[T]he 1994 bill interacted with—and reinforced—an existing and highly problematic piece of legislation: The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which created huge disparities in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine. Under this bill, a person was sentenced to a five-year minimum sentence for five grams of crack cocaine, but it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger the same sentence. Because crack is a cheaper alternative to powder cocaine, it is more prominent in low-income neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are more likely to be predominately Black and in urban areas that can be over-policed more easily than suburban or rural areas.
Fast-forward, Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden—a white man, has reportedly “acknowledged a decades-long addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine.” Despite Joe Biden’s impassioned advocacy for “nothing other than five years in jail,” Hunter was apparently immune to his dad’s policy.
Given this information, suppose I concluded, “Joe Biden argued strongly against crack cocaine, yet when it came to his white son’s alleged crack use, Joe Biden didn’t push for similar sentencing as he did for nonwhite users of the substance; therefore, crack use is acceptable.”
I would have committed the appeal to hypocrisy fallacy. The fact that Joe Biden neglected to push for equal sentencing when it came to his son isn’t evidence for accepted crack use, only that he is—by his actions—a hypocrite.
To complicate the chosen example herein, consider what one source states of the appeal to hypocrisy fallacy:
An appeal to hypocrisy is a logical fallacy in which one attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by showing that the person making the argument has been unable to act in accordance with the position being argued for. By showing the person to be acting in a hypocritical manner, it is hoped that the audience will no longer take the argument seriously and that the argument will be dismissed. Rather than looking at the validity of the argument itself, the reputation of the person making the argument is looked at instead.
Keep in mind that my professed conclusion was that crack use was acceptable. I didn’t argue that Joe Biden couldn’t possibly be a hypocrite. Therefore, my proposal (acceptable crack use) is inaccurate despite the evidenced fact (Joe Biden is a hypocrite).
When choosing to demonstrate this logical fallacy, I wanted to challenge the reader. It’s important to know that attention to the details of an argument is necessary in order to better understand whether or not you agree with a proposal.
Having intentionally picked a socio-politically-charged topic, I suspect some readers will disturb themselves with irrational beliefs about my claim regarding Joe Biden. If you allow your emotions to cloud your judgment, application of logic and reason may prove unnecessarily challenging for you.
Therefore, keeping a rational rather than emotive disposition may benefit you more in the long run. As such, you may concur that Joe Biden’s hypocritical actions pertaining to his son do not suggest that crack use is acceptable to most people.
Finally, dear reader, try not to be intentionally provocative towards people. It’s dreadful behavior that not everyone appreciates. If you never start acting like I do, you won’t miss the grief you could otherwise cause yourself.
(See what I did there?)
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Ray, R. and Galston, W. A. (2020, August 28). Did the 1994 crime bill cause mass incarceration? Brookings. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/articles/did-the-1994-crime-bill-cause-mass-incarceration/
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