Poisoning the well:

Tactical Fallacy
Definition Example
When negative claims are preemptively made against a position with the intention of discrediting whatever person is about to say. Before my opponent speaks, let me remind you that he is a college dropout and has never held a job longer than a year.
This fallacy is often found in public forums where the audience includes those who lack critical thinking skills and who are prone to emotional arguments.

Case Study One

Sarah Palin’s crowning as a beauty pageant queen in 1984 is often introduced by those who wish to bring into question her competency. Beauty pageant contestants are often considered less intelligent than what is needed for public office.

Case Study Two

Barack Obama’s Muslim father is often brought up in political dialogue in an attempt to poison the well. Many Americans have a fear of a Muslim agenda in Washington. His middle name “Hussein” is also emphsized to heightened this fear.

Keep in mind that a fallacious argument does not entail an erroneous position.

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