The Pink Starburst Fallacy

If you remember from your debate class, a fallacy, from the great philosopher Aristotle, is an error in logical reasoning; someone says something, it sounds true, but there is actually a hole in their logic/argument.

For example, someone might say, “If you believe the world is flat, then you must also believe that Prince is still alive”. This is a logical fallacy because each of those beliefs do not depend upon each other; I could believe that the world IS flat, but not believe that Prince is still alive, OR, I could believe that Prince is still alive, but not believe the world is flat; just because I believe one piece of the argument does not mean I believe the other piece (but, the logical fallacy here suggests that you do, in fact, believe both).

There are many of these fallacies out there in the world (politicians, beauty pageant queens, your parents–use them all the time), and today, I would like to introduce the Pink Starburst Fallacy to you.

This fallacy exists when you present a statement and someone attacks your statement, saying that you must not [insert verb here] this other group of things, because of your statement. The fallacy here, or the error in logic, is that just because you say something about one group of things does not mean you hate/dislike/don’t support the other group of things; we can hold these two groups of things mutually exclusive from each other; it is possible that we can support BOTH groups of things (or not support both groups of things), but in our comment, we only mentioned one of those groups.

(I’m calling this the Pink Starburst Fallacy because apparently you can purchase wholes bags of pink Starbursts–and none of the other colors–I guess Starburst believes that pink is the supreme, most desirable, best flavor, and the other colors offer no purpose, so we might as well be able to purchase them in their solitariness).

This fallacy is different than a Black & White Fallacy because, in a Black & White Fallacy, the argument suggests that there are only two potential options: you either go to college or you will live in your parents basement (the fallacy here is that many other things could happen–I could join the military, I could work, I could marry a rich guy and live in HIS parents’ basement). And, it is different than a Slippery Slope, because a Slippery Slope focuses on one event that will inevitably lead to another (you either go to college or you will not have a good paying job; in reality, I could not go to college, learn a trade, get a good paying job; I could go to college, drop out, and still find a good paying job, or, I could go to college, graduate, and actually not get a good paying job).

For example, say I make the comment: German Shepherd puppies are cute. Someone might attack me and say, “Because you said that, you must not think Golden Retriever puppies are cute then”. This is a logical fallacy–just because I said German Shepherd puppies are cute does not also mean that I don’t find Golden Retriever puppies cute; I could certainly think BOTH breeds of puppies are cute, but in my comment, I was only pointing out the German Shepherd puppy.

I might make the comment, “I really enjoy skiing Breckinridge” and someone might respond, “You don’t like skiing Keystone?”. During my comment, I expressed favorability for Breckinridge, which does not mean that I also do not like Keystone, but rather, I was just commenting on one particular ski resort; the only truth we can discern from my statement is that I like Breckinridge (and we can discern the untruth that I do not like Breckinridge), but we cannot also discern what my thoughts of Keystone are.

Or, I might make the comment, “Teachers should earn more money”, and someone might attack me and say, “You don’t think the military deserves more money too?”. This is a logical fallacy because I might agree that BOTH teachers AND the military deserve more money; my comment never held one occupation in competition with another, but rather, just focused on a single, mutually exclusive group: teachers. In this fallacy, the attacker assumes that two (or more) categories or groupings are being held in competition with one another, which, according to the statement, could not be true at all.

Why does this fallacy exist? For some reason in our society, we have a tendency to always need to one-up everyone. We need to have the most dangerous car accident story, the most absurd birth story, the grossest injuries, the deadliest sicknesses, the most inconvenient plane ride, the creepiest date, the hottest road trip, the best concert experience, the wildest college experience. I think this is where this fallacy comes from–that in our world, we expect things to always be one side or the other (and, because things are one side or the other, that means one MUST be better/worse than the other–Dodge MUST be better than Ford, Target MUST be better than Wal-Mart, Chipotle MUST be better than Qdoba). So when someone makes a judgment on a particular group of things, we automatically start thinking about the other groups of things that can contain similar features, and we start pinning them against each other.

But, we should be able to hold categories of things mutually exclusive from each other; just because we like/desire/appreciate/dislike/hate/reject ONE group of something does not automatically mean we therefore need to reject/hate/dislike/appreciate/desire/like whatever we perceive to be its opposite or its competition. Its perfectly acceptable to think that German Shepherd AND Golden Retriever (and Bernese Mountain) puppies are cute; we can definitely think that Breckinridge AND Keystone AND Winterpark all have fabulous skiings; it can be true that teachers, firefighters, policemen, the military ALL deserve higher wages.

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