Understanding the Appeal to Force Fallacy


Understanding the appeal to force fallacy
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A fallacy that relies on force or intimidation (scare tactics) to persuade an audience to accept a proposition or take a particular course of action.

Examples and Observations

  • "This kind of appeal is undoubtedly persuasive in certain circumstances. The robber who threatens a person's life will probably win the argument. But there are more subtle appeals to force such as the veiled threat that one's job is on the line."
    (Winifred Bryan Horner, Rhetoric in the Classical Tradition, St. Martin's, 1988)
  • "The most obvious sort of force is the physical threat of violence or harm. The argument distracts us from a critical review and evaluation of its premises and conclusion by putting us into a defensive position. . . .
  • "But appeals to force are not always physical threats. Appeals to psychological, financial, and social harm can be no less threatening and distracting." (Jon Stratton, Critical Thinking for College Students, Rowman & Littlefield, 1999)
  • "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly-enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
    "And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists. . . .
    "Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof--the smoking gun--that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
    (President George W. Bush, October 8, 2002)