Association Fallacy

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    "'All wood burns,' states Sir Bedevere. 'Therefore,' he concludes, 'all that burns is wood.' This is, of course, pure bullshit. Universal affirmatives can only be partially converted: all of Alma Cogan is dead, but only some of the class of dead people are Alma Cogan."

    —"Logician" (track 9), The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    Claiming a quality of one thing is also a quality of another thing because they have some other thing in common, e.g. "Water is a liquid. Water will put out most fires. Therefore, any liquid will put out most fires." And then you pour on the olive oil. Or the high-proof vodka.

    Guilt by Association

    Also called

    • Reductio Ad Hitlerum, when the association is specifically made to Hitler.
    • Reductio ad Nazium, when the association is made to the Nazis.
    • Reductio ad Communum, when the association is made to Communists.
    • Broad Brush
    • Sweeping Generalization

    Guilt By Association assumes that two separate things share a negative factor because they share a different, unrelated factor. (See also Stop Being Stereotypical, Don't Shoot the Message)

    Examples of Association Fallacy include:
    • Equating complex calendars with human sacrifice because the ancient Aztecs had a complex calendar, and also practiced human sacrifice.
    • Stalin is sometimes used by religious conservatives to prove that atheism is bad.

    Stalin was evil.
    Stalin was an atheist
    Therefore atheists are evil because Stalin belonged to both groups.

    • Commonly used in arguments about religion:

    Pat Robertson said crazy things about Haitian voodoo practices causing the earthquake.
    Pat Robertson is a Christian.
    Therefore Christians are crazy.

    They burn witches.
    They burn wood.
    Therefore witches must be made of wood.
    Wood floats.
    Ducks float.
    Therefore anything that weighs the same as a duck must be made of wood.
    She weighs the same as a duck.
    Therefore, she must also be made of wood, and therefore, a witch.

      • Of course, in this instance they were completely right.
    • You get compared to Your Obnoxious/Loser Relative, with the implication that because they aren't model citizens, whatever it is you're doing or thinking is wrong and must be stopped immediately:

    You give a detailed and well-researched argument on a subject.
    Your mother/cousin/sibling/whatever turns up his/her nose and declares, "You're acting just like (insert "know-it-all" relative here)!"
    OR You're doing something a family member doesn't approve of, which Your Loser Relative also happened/happens to do.
    Your family member declares: "You're acting just like Your Loser Relative!"

    "Barack Obama plays basketball. Charles Barkley plays basketball. Is Charles Barkley qualified to lead our economy?"

    • Australia has banned porn that stars small-breasted women because since children have no breasts and pedophiles like children, anyone who likes small-breasted women must be a pedophile.
      • The above never actually happened outside of a press release.
    • Some teetotaller sects of Christianity maintain that Jesus never drank wine, based on logic which is sort of an inverse of this fallacy; an anti-association fallacy if you will:

    Alcohol is Bad (reasons vary as to why it's bad. Don't get into it, just accept that it's a premise of the argument)
    Jesus is Good
    Because Jesus is Good, Jesus only does and associates with Good things (again, there are flaws in the logic best left alone)
    Ergo, because alcohol is Bad, Jesus never partook of it.

    In order to make this work, any time wine is referenced in a positive context (for example, Jesus' first miracle), the word is instead rendered as "unfermented grape juice" when translated into English.
    • Squid Girl has Cindy Campbell show off this fallacy in her first appearance: Squid Girl has tentacles; some aliens that Cindy has heard of have tentacles; therefore, Squid Girl is an alien. (Cindy also mentions that she graduated at the top of her class at MIT, but that's a different logical fallacy in play.)

    Reductio ad Hitlerum

    A very common form of Guilt by Association is "Hitler did it, therefore it's bad." While persuasive, it's not always true, since while Hitler did a lot of evil things, he also was a massive advocate of animal rights (well, definitely more so than Jewish, gay, or Gypsy rights...), built motorways, painted pictures, hosted the Olympics, ate sugar, and breathed oxygen. This is related to the Fallacy of Division, since it assumes the evilness of the whole of Hitler also applies to any part of Hitler. Related to Godwin's Law and Hitler Ate Sugar.
    Examples of Association Fallacy include:
    • An anti-abortion Chick Tract claims abortion is wrong because Hitler killed Jewish babies, and therefore doctors who carry out abortions are as bad as Hitler.
    • There's an interesting inversion of this making the rounds on the internet. Whenever some distressing news is revealed to the world, someone will inevitably use the clip from Downfall where Hitler has a Villainous Breakdown upon learning that Berlin will be overrun. The person making the video will often put their words into Hitler's mouth. This is usually a case of Even Evil Has Standards, with the intended message being "Even Hitler thinks that's going too far".

    "Y'know, Hitler was a vegetarian."
    "Vegetarianism then: not all it's cracked up to be. In some extreme cases may cause genocide." \\ -- Bill Bailey

    Looks like this fallacy but is not

    • Similar to the above, when an example is used to establish a fact about a group in the aggregate, rather than about members of that group. For instance, noting instances of gay men who are HIV positive and concluding that gay men have higher rates of HIV is not a fallacy (assuming valid statistical techniques are used). Concluding that a particular gay man is HIV positive is a fallacy.
    • When a member of a group is presented as an example of a common feature at work, rather than proof in itself that there is a common feature. For instance, it is valid to use the 9/11 attacks and abortion-clinic bombings as examples of how radical Muslims and Christians can be evil. They are not, on the other hand, examples of how all Muslims and Christians are evil. Capiche?

    Honor by Association

    The flip side of Guilt by Association, stating that two things share a positive quality because they share a different, unrelated quality.

    Examples of Association Fallacy include:

    New Media

    • One Usenet poster who claims "we should all become vegetarian" claims in his sig that "Jesus was a vegetarian". His reasoning: vegetarianism is good; Jesus was good; therefore Jesus must have been a vegetarian. Which assumes that vegetarianism is "Good" by all standards and values of those who hold that Jesus Christ was good and that Jesus is believed to be "Good" by everyone.
      • Other people use a somewhat more complicated, but just as fallacious version of this argument: Because Jesus's teachings and behaviors were most in line with the Essene sect, Jesus must have been an Essene, and because the Essenes were mostly vegetarian (pescatarian, actually, but they leave out that part), Jesus must have been vegetarian and because Jesus is good, the vegetarianism is good and would therefore hate killing animals as much as they do. (Never mind that the Essenes weren't vegetarian out of compassion for animals, but rather because they believed anything created from sexual union was treif, but that fish spawned via abiogenesis in the waters and were therefore kosher. Of course that part gets left out, too.)
      • Some sects of Christianity that preach teetotalitarianism apply a similar fallacy to alcohol. They feel alcohol is bad, and Jesus was purest good, so he naturally would not have done anything bad. Therefore he would not have partaken of alcohol. Therefore, the same word is translated as "unfermented grape juice" in instances where it's being partaken of or otherwise addressed positively, and "wine" when speaking against the dangers of excessive drinking in their editions of the Bible. This is pretty much entirely nonsensical; grape skins are coated in yeast, and therefore keeping grape juice from fermenting with period technology is impossible. You pretty much had to own a vineyard to get fresh grape juice in those days, as the alcohol produced by fermentation was necessary to prevent spoilage.[1]

    Video Games

    • Metal Gear Solid: Otacon states matter of factly that liking dogs is irrefutable proof that a person is decent, deep down. Snake immediately points out that Hitler was a big fan of dogs. Interesting in that while it applies under this variant, the exchange is often mistaken for an example of the Argumentum Ad Hitlerium fallacy. But Snake isn't saying liking dogs is bad; he's just shooting down Otacon's fallacy by pointing out a bad person who liked dogs.

    Web Comics

    Looks like this fallacy but is not

    • When the example is being used to show that there is overlap in the members of two groups, but not to state or imply that the overlap is total. For instance, saying "many (or even most) vegetarians are good, moral people" is not this. On the other hand, saying it might be misleading: One hopes that most people are good, moral people.
    • Shame by association might or might not be considered different from guilt by association. It is a phenomenon found in groupings that place a high value on corporate reputation. In any case whether it is a variation of association fallacy or not, shame by association is an innate ideological feature, whereas guilt by association is impossible as guilt must be individual. "The Campbells conducted a massacre at Glencoe, I am a Campbell, therefore I am ashamed" is shame (which is an emotion and in some cases a political calculation). It does not follow that,"The Campbells conducted a massacre at Glencoe, I am a Campbell, therefore I should be hanged for murder."
    • What is definitely not association fallacy is when some association is placed in a position which can legitimately be assumed to cause predictable effects. The Nazis controlling the government of the state called Germany can reasonably lead one to conclude that said state will follow Nazi policies as a state is a corporate machine composed of individuals who by and large do what they are told. It cannot be assumed that everyone of Teutonic ancestry including not only internal dissidents but citizens of states with different policies will behave in the same way; and assuming anything of that kind is association fallacy.

    1. There is one occasion where the change fits; at the party, when Jesus turns water into wine. One of the guests comments on what good wine it is, but it suddenly becomes even more impressive if he's gone to the trouble and expense of getting fresh-squeezed grape juice.