A fallacy is defined as, an incorrect or misleading notion or opinion based on inaccurate facts or invalid reasoning. In the political spectrum, a fallacy can be described as a tactic which utilizes false information or ignorant reasoning in order to sway constituents or the opposition. Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Progressives; every person from every inch of the political spectrum has used fallacious arguments in the course of their life. Thankfully, a majority of people are able to pick up on and disregard such fallacies as false. For example, we all know that the ShamWow is not the perfect solution to every mess. No one actually thinks that we will “say wow every time” when we use a ShamWow. This advertisement’s portrayal of the simplicity of the product is fallacious, and anyone who has ever seen an advertisement on television and been fooled knows to think twice before succumbing to such transparent reasoning. This concept works the same way in politics. Unfortunately, a new type of fallacy has been ripping through the mainstream media, seemingly unnoticed, taking ignorant victims along with it. In this fallacy, a media outlet will portray a specific group of people (usually conservatives) who are aligned against, or for, a certain cause as protesting something that is much too broad to be protested. For the lack of a technical term, I call it the “All-Encompassing Fallacy,” and it most often appears concerning illegal immigration, the size of government, and taxation. According to mainstream media outlets that utilize the All-Encompassing Fallacy, people against the Arizona immigration law hold pro-immigrant rallies, instead of pro-illegal immigrant. The mainstream media labels conservative tea partiers as anti-government and anti-taxation, instead of anti-out-of-control-government and anti-over-taxation, respectively. In each of these cases, it’s time to set the record straight.
The Arizona immigration bill recently provided the spark for the powder keg that is illegal immigration, allowing all Hell to break loose. That isn’t to say that this bill is not an accurate solution and necessary, but this is not a fact even mentioned in the mainstream media. Most, if not all, major media outlets herald the rallies protesting the Arizona law as pro-immigrant and peaceful. Pro-Immigrant? Is it possible to be anti-immigrant? I suppose it is, but such a faction is minute. CNN helped to perpetuate this fallacy when they stated in an April 10th article, “Some counter-protests were also held Monday by people who favor stricter immigration laws, but they paled in size and scope next to the pro-immigration rallies,” referring to the immigration protests held in response to the Arizona immigration bill (http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/04/10/immigration/index.html). In response to this, let me clarify to the mainstream media that there is a major difference between LEGAL and ILLEGAL immigration. The people protesting at these so called “pro-immigration” rallies turn a blind eye to the word “illegal” in their title. When I last checked, the word “illegal” meant that a law had been broken. By phrasing these occasions as such, the mainstream media is encompassing legal and illegal immigrants into one category and ignoring the larger issue. This Arizona law is designed to prevent ILLEGAL immigration, not legal immigration. Legal immigrants are more than welcome to come to America if they go through the right channels. In fact, Americans are most often pleased with an influx of legal immigrants; our ancestors came to this country as legal immigrants after all. By using the phrase “pro-immigrant” instead of “pro-illegal immigrant,” the mainstream media is creating a false dichotomy which degrades those who want tougher ILLEGAL immigration laws and; therefore, support the Arizona law. If these rallies are pro-immigrant, does that mean that people who support the law are anti-immigrant? Of course not! The crafty phrasing of these labels further emphasizes the biased reporting in the mainstream media and solidifies the all-encompassing fallacy.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the tea party rallies are often met with biased reporting that utilizes the all-encompassing fallacy. In a Huffington Post article by Josh Sugarmann which offensively compares the language of the Tea Party movement to the rhetoric that sparked the Oklahoma City bombing, he labels such rhetoric as “anti-government” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-sugarmann/the-tea-party-gun-lobby-a_b_539358.html). Again, a distinction needs to be made in regards to “labeling” the tea party movement. If the tea party movement is “anti” anything, they are anti-out-of-control-government, but who isn’t? Regardless of party affiliation, few people are comfortable with reckless spending by elected officials. The mainstream media “encompassed” both people who are anti-out-of-control-government and those who are anti-government into one label to create an inaccurate impression of the Tea Party movement. There are few people who are completely “anti-government” and there is a name for them: anarchists. In no way is the entirety of the Tea Party movement anarchistic. Members of the Tea Party movement endorse candidates, protest or support legislation, and most revere the founders of our country. To say that the movement as a whole is “anti-government” is inaccurate and ignorant.
Another attack on the Tea Party movement that utilizes the all-encompassing fallacy is the suggestion that the movement is anti-taxation. In an article on Tax Day 2009, MSNBC published an article praising President Obama’s planned tax code while attacking the “anti-tax” Tea Parties (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30227452/). In addition to articles such as this, left leaning journalists and commentators have mockingly questioned why Tea Partiers do not realize that our taxes go to public schools, roads, and our military. Of course Tea Partiers are aware of this fact, and the mainstream media’s attempt to portray the Tea Party as ignorant has revealed their own ignorance. The Tea Party movement generally protests EXCESSIVE taxation, not the concept of taxation itself. They do not approve of taxing Americans to death (literally with the death tax) and pushing the national debt off for the next generation. They also disapprove of tax dollars going to things like abortion bankrupt federal programs. Let me emphasize again that there is a difference between taxation and over-taxation; an important distinction that the mainstream media has cleverly neglected.
The mainstream media’s usage of the all-encompassing fallacy spreads much further than the cases above; it can be seen in their portrayal of pro-life advocates, claiming they are anti-choice, and other controversial issues. Logical fallacies, especially the all-encompassing fallacy, infiltrate every outlet and form of media. It’s important to be able to spot illogical reasoning and dig deeper for the real truth. Never let bias prevent the real story from being made known. According to President Obama, “information can be a distraction,” but real information, real knowledge, without the taint of prejudice or bias, is power.