Liveware Quickies: The Association Fallacy

Guilty By Association (or Association Fallacy) is one of the hardest fallacies to spot because it has to fulfill certain precise requirements to actually be considered a fallacy.

The Association Fallacy has the following structure:

Premise: A is a B
Premise: A is also a C
Conclusion: Therefore, all Bs are Cs

Pure form example:

All dogs have four legs
My cat has four legs
Therefore, my cat is a dog

It can be combined with the Ad-Hominem fallacy:

You are a communist
Stalin was a communist that killed millions
You are going to kill millions just like Stalin

Now the -important- thing about this fallacy is the part when it says “ALL” or “just like”. Its the part of the fallacy that is the hasty generalization.
The second important thing to remember is that set C -can not- be entirely contained in B for it to work as a fallacy (i.e C can not be a subset of B).

Some examples:

Christians believe in a god
Theists believe in a god
All Christians are theists

This is not a Guilty by association fallacy (henceforth GBA) for set “christian” is contained in set “theist”. Its a true statement.

Some Christians are homophobic
You are a Christian
Therefore you are homophobic

Is a guilty by association fallacy. Pretty clear, right?

Now the hard stuff:

Most Christians are silent about gay-marriage issues
You are a Christian
Chances are you are also silent about gay-marriage issues

Is not a GBA fallacy. The argument doesn’t claim a -certainty- of you being silent about gay-marriage, it states a “high probability” you would be, from the expectation set A has.

You supported Stalin’s policies about gulags
Stalin committed genocide i the gulags
Therefore you supported genocide

Is not a GBA fallacy. The argument does not associate you with the -act- of genocide itself, it associates your support of an action.
This is a hard one, truly it might be dishonest to make this argument if it was presented -before- someone knew about the genocide of Stalin.
For example:

You supported Hitler
Hitler created death-camps
You supported the holocaust

General knowledge about WW2 tells us that the death-camps were not known to most people at time of inception, it is therefore depending on -context- if this becomes a GBA fallacy.
In itself it IS a fallacy but -IF- there is a reason you would have known about the camps (i.e. you were the scribe for Göbbels) it is -not-. Additionally, this argument is focused in the support of a person but not the act itself. You might have supported Hitler in his social- or work-policies that had nothing to do with death-camps (this would have needed to have been specified by the speaker).

It is -very- important to evaluate these arguments in context and evaluate the claims made carefully. There is a difference between an association with a trait or an action and their context.

The Association Fallacy is often used/committed when talking about responsibility for actions of a group, and depending on context, it might not be a fallacy at all.


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