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Appeal to Ridicule

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Also known as: Appeal to Shame, Argument From Shame

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp July 30, 1816

An appeal to ridicule is a logical fallacy that tries to present the opponent's argument in a way that makes it appear ludicrous to the extent that it becomes a Straw Man.

Examples "The theory of evolution says we came from apes, that's CRAZY"

This argument mocks the opponent's argument and tries to resort to an Appeal to Emotion by claiming the opponent's argument is nonsensical. Although they appear very similar, this fallacy should not be confused with reductio ad absurdum, which is a valid type of logical argument. It should also not be confused with ridiculing the person making the argument, which is a form of the ad hominem fallacy.

Why does ridicule influence people?

It's no secret you can short-circuit somebody's brain with shame. How many of us were shamed into doing something stupid in high school?

But why does it work? There are these primitive, lower parts of your brain called amygdalae that controls base, emotional reactions. That's where things like contempt and shame come from, and stimulating it can completely shut down the analytical part of your brain. The gang calls you a coward and the next thing you know, you're wedging a roman candle between your buttcheeks. You'll show them!

You can thank evolution for that. Way back when humans started forming groups and tribes, social status was everything. It's what guaranteed you food, protection and ladies (that is, a chance to pass on your genes). Mockery developed as a "conformity enforcer" to keep people in line.

Making a person, idea or behavior the target of mockery gave it a lower social position, and made it clear that anybody who associated with it would share that lower position, leaving them out of the hunting/eating/fucking that made life in the tribe worthwhile. Thousands of years later, a good dose of mockery can shut down critical thinking and make us fall right in line, no questions asked.

Examples

  • "So now they're telling us that--get this, folks--global warming is caused by cows farting! Priceless!"
  • "And then he said we could save gas by inflating our tires! I couldn't make this stuff up, folks!"

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