Falacia de la culpa por asociación

A guilt by association fallacy occurs when someone connects an opponent to a demonized group of people or to a bad person in order to discredit his or her argument. The idea is that the person is “guilty” by simply being similar to or associated with this “bad” group and, therefore, their arguments should be disregarded.

Guilt by association fallacies can often work in concert with hasty generalization or ad hominem fallacies, especially when they’re used to attack a specific group of people.

While guilt by association fallacies often include unfair stereotypes, this is not always the case. Guilt by association can even be factually accurate. For example, imagine two politicians both support a bill for free school lunches. However, one of these politicians has a known history of corruption. Despite being based on fact, it would still be illogical to use the corrupt politician as a means to discredit the second politician and their ideas.

In our comic below, you’ll find two instances of the guilt by association fallacy.

A comic about guilt by association.

Transcripción de imágenes
Panel One:
Title Card: Captain Logic and Doctor Fallacy flock together in… Guilt by Association!

Panel Two:
Scene: An idyllic farm in the country. A Rich Guy is receiving a tour from an Animal Rescue Employee.
Animal Rescue Employee: Thank you for considering a donation to Barn Sanctuary…

Panel Three:
The Rich Guy looks off into the distance as chickens flock around him. He’s not really paying attention.
Rich Guy: Hmm. Great place for a helipad over there.
Animal Rescue Employee: We care for animals that have been rescued from the factory farming system…

Panel Four:
The Rich Guy looks troubled.
Rich Guy: Wait. Did you say rescued? That’s what those Vegan Liberators claimed they were doing when they sabotaged the chicken nugget factory.
Animal Rescue Employee: That’s not us.

Panel Five:
Captain Logic (an owl in a superhero costume) appears.
Rich Guy: I can’t donate to a bunch of malnourished anarchists!
Captain Logic: Halt! That’s a guilty by association fallacy. Two groups can’t be lumped together just because they share some ideas.

Panel Six:
The Rich Guy points at Captain Logic.
Rich Guy: No, you halt! I know what you talking owls are like.
Captain Logic: Excuse me?

Panel Seven:
Doctor Fallacy (a villainous owl) arrives, riding on a drone.
Rich Guy: My assistant is a talking owl and I hired him because he’s ruthless and evil! So spare me your tricks, “Captain Logic.”
Doctor Fallacy: Hey, boss. Time for your next meeting!

Panel Eight:
The Rich Guy grabs a rope lowered from the drone and floats away.
Doctor Fallacy: Later, dorks.
Animal Rescue Employee: Ugh.

Panel Nine:
Captain Logic turns to the Animal Rescue Employee. She smiles at him.
Captain Logic: Hey, um, what he said about talking owls…
Animal Rescue Employee: Don’t worry! I know that was just more guilt by association.

For a screen reader compatible slideshow version of the comic, please click through the below images:

First, we see the animal sanctuary discredited because of its use of language that’s similar to a more aggressive animal rights organization. Then, we see Captain Logic’s arguments brushed aside because he’s a talking owl like the known troublemaker Doctor Fallacy. Both of these guilt by association fallacies fail to engage with the actual ideas being presented.

Guilt by association is a common trap to fall into and can be encountered in wide-ranging circumstances, from political campaigns to job interviews. Invoking a shady person or a demonized group can be a shortcut to persuading an audience, because doing so preys upon existing knowledge or fears. Often, this fallacy is deployed to distract an audience or muddy the waters. We should always try to focus on the actual issue being discussed, rather than falling for diversions like guilt by association.

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