Monday, February 27, 2017

"Three Men Make a Tiger" and Fake News

The “Three Men Make a Tiger” fallacy is incredibly relevant to our lives today. The fallacy is based off a Chinese idiom. In the tale, a man named Pang Cong asks the king a question. He asks if the king would believe that there was a tiger in the streets if a person came up and told him. The king said no. Pang then goes on to ask if the king would believe it if not one, but three men came up to him and told him there was a tiger in the streets. The king replied yes. This idiom is used to show that repetition of a lie makes it seem more believable to the general public, and the larger number of people that support the lie, the truer it seems.
According to Keith and Lundberg (2008), fallacies are “mistakes and errors in argumentation and reasoning” (48). The Three Men make a Tiger is a fallacy because it shows that public opinion doesn’t equal fact. Just because something is believed to be true by the general public or a large portion of people, doesn’t mean it is actually true. For example, fake news is a huge problem in our world right now. Some argue that it even played a role in America’s presidential election. There have been fake stories spread about murders over Hillary’s emails or about people using food stamps to buy marijuana in Colorado.

NPR tracked down the man responsible for creating those two fake news stories and interviewed him about them. The man is an owner of a company called Disinfomedia, which is a fake-news business. The man, named Jestin Coler, stated that he was just writing because “the people wanted to hear this”. He said that a person in his line of business can make around $10,000 to $30,000 a month from advertisements on his fake news sites. Although he identifies as a liberal in the interview, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the right-wing using his fake stories to spread propaganda. When asked if he had any regrets, he said “I do not”.
These instances of fake news are just a few real world examples of the Three Men make a Tiger fallacy. As shown in the articles, the lies spread by Coler, and people like him, are seen as truth by many people in our country, specifically the political right. In fact, Coler says that his article about the FBI agent and Hillary was viewed over 1.5 million times in ten days, and was shared on Facebook half a million times. But just because something is widely believed doesn’t mean that it’s a fact. People tend to believe what those around them believe, but that shouldn’t be the case. Our country needs to work harder to not fall victim to this fallacy, and research stories before spreading them around. Rhetoric is a powerful tool for influencing the way people think and behave, and we need to be conscious consumers of information before we simply accept what someone says as fact.

Keith, W. M., & Lundberg, C. O. (2008). The essential guide to rhetoric. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.

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