Fallacies & Rhetorical Devices: Thank You for Smoking

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Fallacies & Rhetorical Devices: Thank You for Smoking

Rhetorical Analysis of a Movie Clip

Fallacies are often employed as rhetorical devices to persuade or manipulate an audience by appealing to emotions rather than logic. For example, the ad hominem fallacy attacks an individual's character instead of addressing the argument at hand, thereby diverting attention and undermining the opponent without engaging with their points. Another common fallacy is the straw man, where an arguer misrepresents their opponent's position to make it easier to attack. By understanding these tactics, readers can critically analyze arguments and avoid being misled by flawed reasoning. Recognizing fallacies is crucial for developing strong analytical skills and fostering a more informed and rational discourse.

Thank You For Smoking

The “Thank You For Smoking” movie clip exemplifies the straw man fallacy, false dichotomy, and highlights the difference between direct and indirect argument. As the protagonist pitches for sales, he indirectly argues for the use of actors and actresses to sell tobacco. This argument presents a straw man argument in which lower cigarette sales are blamed on the company not using Hollywood icons to sell tobacco. This argument commits the straw man fallacy with a line of reasoning that shifts blame to something that has nothing to do with the real reasons cigarette sales are lower than in years past. The straw man opens the door to many other fallacies found in the rhetoric.

Fallacies are the easiest way to understand nonsense! See how many fallacies you can catch in this clip. 

The use of rhetorical questioning and the creation of the straw man argument manifest themselves in a false dichotomy in which the audience is led to believe that smoking is either boring and unsalable; or sexy and hip through the use of Hollywood icons. This is a typical sales technique that many individuals fall prey.

The creation of this dichotomy is usually bolstered by appeals to emotion such as in this clip. The speaker appeals to the audience’s nostalgia by conjuring memories of famous actors and actresses from memorable scenes. By linking these feelings with his argument he gains support for his ideas although fallacious thinking. What is so faulty in this thinking is the fact that the lack of use of Hollywood actors and actresses has nothing to do with the reason that cigarette sales are lower than in prior years.

The speaker is also a master of indirect and direct argument. Never does he actually prove his arguments by providing evidence, but instead he provides only his option as the only alternative. For instance, tobacco sales are down not because of any direct reasons such as health or legal hindrances. But, they are instead lower because of the lack of movie stars. The argument is as creative as is it is illogical. However, the argument to the audience is convincing.

The speaker’s arguments are effective as evidenced by the fact that the audience hangs on his words and seems to agree. There is little counterargument besides the occasional small response to the rhetorical questioning asked. This shows how effectively the speaker leads the audience with the use of rhetoric. It should also be noted that the entire sales pitch is an example of ‘loaded language’ in which the speaker expects the audience to hear his rhetorical questions and then await his response. This use of rhetoric prepares the audience for the speakers answers. Although the speaker has really done nothing to prove his claims, he still has managed to prove his point. These are common tactics in sales and are very successful in selling people.

Photo by Stas Svechnikov on Unsplash

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