Argumentumad Populum Logical fallacies
"If your opponent thought he had identified your lowest possible
motive, he was quite certain that he had isolated the only real one.
This vulgar method, which is now the norm, is designed to have the
effect of making any noisy moron into a master analyst."
- Christopher Hitchens, a British-American author, polemicist,
debater, and journalist, in Hitch-22: A Memoir
Mostly used by politicians, debaters, and people who act arrogantly
and always disagrees with others unreasonably; argumentum ad populum,
Latin for "appeal to the people", is a fallacious argument that
concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe
it. In other words, the basic idea of the argument is: "If many believe
so, it is so."
This belief is further given credence by newspapers that dissipate
such opinions. Most newspapers the world over, notwithstanding a few
exceptions are a device for making the ignorant more ignorant; and the
crazy crazier. They seem to cater to the baser qualities and values of
humans. In fact, in some cases, the best fiction is, far more true than
the news in such newspapers.
Whilst various people hold different opinions on this, it is also
true that newspapers are the means of a daily dose of worldwide
happenings and events that people cannot seem to live without. That is
why I suppose, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name
Mark Twain, an American author and humourist said: "If you don't read
the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're
In spite of it; and even if there may be an element of truth in what
is said, I am convinced that it applies only to a minority of the
newspapers; the rest adhering to basic ethics governing publishing.
However, it is also true that in the present world, whoever controls the
media controls the mind.
Arguments such as "because many believe it, it must be true" are
logical fallacies: the fallacy of trying to prove something simply by
showing that the majority of the public agrees with that something. It
is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal
reinforcement: a social phenomenon in which a concept or idea is
repeatedly asserted in a community, regardless of whether sufficient
empirical evidence has been presented to support it; and the bandwagon
The meaning of 'Bandwagon Effect' is that, it is a psychological
phenomenon whereby people do something, primarily because other people
are doing it; regardless of their own beliefs, which they may ignore or
override - the phenomenon of a popular trend attracting even greater
The bandwagon effect has wide implications; but is more common in
politics and consumer behaviour. An example of such belief would be,
similar to saying: At a time in history when most people believed the
world was flat, one could have claimed the world is flat because most
Yet we know it to be not the correct position even if many believed
it to be so. Similarly, one could claim Angelina Jolie is the
best-looking woman in the world because she is voted as such regularly.
But the sample she is part of - celebrities - is insufficient, and
ideals of beauty are arguably culturally determined and thus arbitrary
to a significant degree.
For instance, overweight bodies have been considered more beautiful
in some cultures, such as in Mauritania, because only the wealthy could
afford to eat enough to become overweight or obese. By contrast,
contemporary high fashion generally involves women who are, criticised
for eating too much.
Thus, this tendency of people to align their beliefs and behaviour
with those of a group is, also called "herd mentality." The Chinese
proverb "three men make a tiger" concerns the same idea.
Appeal to belief is valid only when the question is whether the
belief exists. Appeal to popularity is therefore valid only when the
questions are whether the belief is widespread and to what degree.
Hence, ad populum only proves that a belief is popular, not that it is
In some domains, however, it is popularity rather than other
strengths that makes a choice the preferred one for reasons related to
network effects: a phenomenon whereby some goods or service becomes more
valuable when more people use it. The internet is a good example.
Initially, there were few users of the internet, and it was of
relatively little value to anyone outside of the military and a few
As more users gained access to the internet, however, there were more
and more websites to visit and more people to communicate with.Thus, the
internet became extremely valuable to its users. However, if too many
people use the goods or service, negative network effects can occur,
such as congestion.
In the internet analogy; having too many users on the internet can,
hypothetically, cause the speed to deteriorate, decreasing utility for
users. Thus, providers of goods and services, which use a network
effect, must ensure increase in capacity to accommodate all users. If
not, negative network effects will take place.
In matters of social convention, such as etiquette or polite manners,
it depends upon the wide acceptance of the convention.
As such, argumentum ad populum is not fallacious when referring to
the popular belief about what is polite or proper. Social conventions
can change, however, and sometimes very quickly.
The philosophical question of moral relativism asks whether such
arguments apply to statements of morals. Whether to follow a tenet
decided by popularity, rather than logical design may be a matter of
safety or convenience.
In many cases, what is safe to do depends on what others expect one
will do, and thus on the "popularity" of that choice. In the final
analysis, intellect is the virtue of ignoring one's emotions and
attempts by others to contaminate one's opinions.
I believe that it is only because of the use of intellect,
consciously or subconsciously, good people do whatever they believe is
the right thing to do, though obviously I have no proof for it. I am not
even sure those actions would still qualify as 'good,' since they would
merely be a function of normal behavior.
However, if one assumes that one cannot be penalised for, doing the
things one believe to be truly righteous and just; how do we account
for: Hitler may have thought he was serving his nation by gassing
millions of Jews.Stalin may have thought that all his actions were for
the greater good of his people or something vaguely similar; and Osama
bin Laden would have been positive that he was serving God.It is not
hard to fathom that all of those maniacs were certain that what they
were doing was right.
These could only be, glaring instances of argument ad populum.
Politics and prostitution have to be the only jobs where inexperience
and, any-and-all things are, considered a virtue.
If not, what were Hitler, Stalin, Osama bin Laden, and the likes of
them doing but playing politics with the lives of ordinary people.
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