The Mass Media: An Analysis of Their System of Fallacy by John McMurtry (1990)

At the heart of informal logic is its concern to detect fallacious structures of reasoning in natural language discourse. The normal procedure is: where we are able to identify a flaw in premise, inference, relevance or the like in any route of reasoning, we hold that a fallacy has been committed and we seek to demonstrate it. Otherwise put, logical analysis is directed at what is argued, and fallacies are found in this or that particular way of arriving at a conclusion.

This method of analysis is indispensable to sound logical construction of individual arguments, but misses the overall pattern of assertion and non-assertion for the particular claims within it. What has been so far overlooked is that reasoning can be misled not only in its steps of making a case, but by what is ruled out from being made a case: not only by what is wrong within this or that route of assertion, but also by what is wrong with the structure of these routes of assertion taken together. We have in a word missed the forest for the trees – or more accurately, we have missed the logical landscape within which the forest and trees are located.

I argue here that there is a deeper, more comprehensive structure that subverts reason and misleads our thinking across propositional routes, and not through any fallacy of any such route. And I show that this structure obstructs and deforms our thinking by a general system of deception which has so far operated underneath the reach of our tools of logical detection and correction.

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