Gish gallop

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Concept.png Gish gallop 
(propaganda technique)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
A rhetorical technique that involves overwhelming the opponent with as many arguments as possible, with no regard for the accuracy, validity, or relevance of those arguments.

A Gish gallop is a rhetorical technique that involves overwhelming the opponent with as many arguments as possible, with no regard for the accuracy, validity, or relevance of those arguments. To the spectator unfamiliar with this strategy, the interlocutor’s inability to accurately respond to all the claims in the given time is fallaciously seen as a “win” for the Gish Galloper or appears to lend credibility to the arguments made when in fact it does not.

Problems with the term

It appears Gish did not use or advocate the use of a "Gish gallop" (From his debating booklet)[1]

The term was coined by anthropologist Eugenie Scott[2]; who named after the creationist Duane Gish, who according to her used the technique frequently against proponents of evolution. Even though it is a real rhetorical technique, and regardless of what one thinks of creationism, the naming of it after Gish is a low blow to smear an opponent.

How it works

For example, a person using the Gish gallop might attempt to support their stance by bringing up, in rapid succession, a large number of vague claims, anecdotal statements, misinterpreted facts, and irrelevant comments.

The tactic is nevertheless often quite effective, for the following reasons[3]:

  • The audience is left with the impression that there’s a huge amount of evidence on your side.
  • It’s impossible for your opponent to respond to all the misleading/false claims in the limited amount of time allowed in a debate.
  • Quantity is offered as a substitute for quality.
  • A falsehood can be quickly and appealingly stated. It takes much more time to offer an accurate account of the science.
  • Even if your opponent shoots down one or two arguments, you’re still left with a dozen untouched arguments.
  • The audience is left with the impression that your opponent can’t respond to the other problems.
  • Because of specialization in science, no one will have knowledge of all the “problem cases” you can dredge up.
  • Your opponent will often seem defensive: offering rebuttals that may seem arcane to non-scientists.
  • The audience won’t remember details, but will remember “there were a whole lot of problems for Theory X, and the scientist didn’t really have answers.”

Examples of Gish Gallops

Gish gallops are extensively used in modern propaganda. Corporate media have the ability to flood the information landscape, and a noticeable aspect of this is not how well founded the stories are, but rather the use of vague claims, anecdotal statements, misinterpreted facts, and irrelevant comments.

An reinforcing aspect of this is that dissenting views, no matter how logical, authoritative and thoroughly researched, are drowned out or ignored, making the claims seem undisputed.

Some major 21st century propaganda campaigns noticeably including long Gish gallops are:



References