Stacking the Deck Logical Fallacy

Glossary

Stacking the Deck
"Propagandists selectively choose their information or 'stack the deck' by ignoring certain facts to present a one-sided view" (Adam Murrell, Reclaiming Reason, 2002). Comstock Images/Getty Images

Stacking the deck is a fallacy in which any evidence that supports an opposing argument is simply rejected, omitted, or ignored.

Stacking the deck is a technique that's commonly used in propaganda.

Examples and Observations

  • "People sometimes make decisions by folding a piece of paper in half, and listing reasons in favor on one side, and reasons against on the other; then they decide intuitively which side has stronger (not necessarily more) reasons. This method forces us to look at both sides of an issue before we decide. In the incorrect form, we just look at half the picture; this is called 'stacking the deck.'"
    (Harry J. Gensler, Introduction to Logic. Routledge, 2002)
  • "Gamblers 'stack the deck' in their favor by arranging the cards so that they will win. Writers 'stack the deck' by ignoring any evidence or arguments that don't support their position. I once experienced 'stacking the deck' when I went to buy a used car. The man trying to sell me the car talked only about how wonderful the car was. After I bought the car, another man tried to sell me an extended warranty by pointing out all the things that could break down."
    (Gary Layne Hatch, Arguing in Communities. Mayfield, 1996)

Deck Stacking in Arguments For and Against the Legalization of Drugs

  • "[A] recent ABC show on drugs . . . distorted, omitted or manipulated drug reality. What was piously described as an attempt to open discussion on different approaches to the drug problem was simply a long promotion for legalization of drugs. . . .
  • "The program dwells with utmost respect on legalization efforts in Britain and the Netherlands. But it omits evidence of failure. It gives no time to British and Dutch experts who say they have been a disaster, or to Zurich's decision to close its infamous needle park, or to the rise in crime and drug addiction in the Netherlands, or the fact that Italy, which decriminalized possession of heroin in 1975, now leads Western Europe in per capita heroin addiction, with 350,000 addicts.
  • "The deck is stacked like a monte game. The advocates of some form of legalization include a judge, police chiefs, a mayor. But nothing is said about the great majority of judges, police officers and mayors who are opposed to legalization by any alias. " (A.M. Rosenthal, "On My Mind; Stacking the Deck." The New York Times, April 14, 1995)
  • "When the White House issued a statement last night saying that marijuana should remain illegal--responding to our pro-legalization editorial series--officials there weren’t just expressing an opinion. They were following the law. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is required by statute to oppose all efforts to legalize any banned drug.
  • "It’s one of the most anti-scientific, know-nothing provisions in any federal law, but it remains an active imposition on every White House. The 'drug czar,' as the director of the drug control policy office is informally known, must 'take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance' that’s listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and has no 'approved' medical use.
  • "Marijuana fits that description, as do heroin and LSD. But unlike those far more dangerous drugs, marijuana has medical benefits that are widely known and are now officially recognized in 35 states. The drug czar, though, isn’t allowed to recognize them, and whenever any member of Congress tries to change that, the White House office is required to stand up and block the effort. It cannot allow any federal study that might demonstrate the rapidly changing medical consensus on marijuana’s benefits and its relative lack of harm compared to alcohol and tobacco."(David Firestone, "The Required White House Response on Marijuana." The New York Times, July 29, 2014)

    Stacking the Deck on Talk Shows

    • "Biased talk-show hosts often stack the deck in their discussions of controversial issues by choosing more qualified and dynamic guests to represent the viewpoints they favor. If, by chance, the other guests seem to be overcoming the disadvantage, the host will interrupt and make it a 'two-on-one' debate. An even more outrageous form of stacking the deck is for talk-show hosts and program directors to ignore entirely the side of the issue they disagree with."(Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, Making Your Mind Matter: Strategies for Increasing Practical Intelligence. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003)

    Also Known As: special pleading, ignoring the counterevidence, slanting, one-sided assessment