A Chewbacca Defense is "winning" an argument by confusing your opponent so much that they stop arguing with you. After all, the first person to withdraw from an argument is clearly the loser... right? Right?
The sad part? It works. Not just in media, but inReal Life, too. In fact, most political systems are based on doing this.
Key signs of a Chewbacca Defense include:
Being accused of loving or hating X, where X is a subject unrelated to the debate.note (Red Herring)
Having a point repeated over and over again.
Shouting (because if your voice is louder, you seem more powerful, and powerful people always win, so you must be the winner!).
Having semantics or nitpicks about the argument come up repeatedly, either to tire out or distract the opponent, or to waste time.
Being hit rapid-fire with so many bogus arguments that you can't keep up unless you write them all down and painstakingly address them one at a time (clear your schedule). This lets the other debater claim your failure to answer a few points as proof that you couldn't answer. Also known as a gish gallop.
If you can prove the other side wrong about something, no matter how irrelevant, it makes them totally wrong and you absolutely right. See False Dichotomy.
If you can word your statements and arguments in a way that is too confusing, intelligent-sounding, or nonsensical for the opponent to understand or respond to, it makes them wrong and you right. See Insane Troll Logic.
If you can make your opponent give up on arguing with you, because you appear too crazy to understand them and/or don't seem to be listening, then they must be wrong and you must be right. See Argumentum Ad Nauseam.
If you can make your opponent look bad, then their argument must be equally bad and therefore they must be wrong and you have to be right. (see also: Godwin's Law, Ad Hominem, Strawman).note In real life, this one has almost never worked among people with common sense, so it usually won't work — especially not these days, since people are more educated and PR-savvy than ever.
Unfortunately, the mere existence of the Chewbacca Defense leads to an unfortunate problem in debate called Chewbacca's Dilemma: No matter what you say in an argument, no matter how intelligently and clearly you word your rebuttals and assertions, it is possible that your opponent will always perceive whatever you say to be a Chewbacca Defense. In fact, a common political maneuver is to use a Chewbacca Defense in order to accuse the opponent of using a Chewbacca Defense.
Confusing, isn't it?
Compare Confusion Fu, Passive-Aggressive Kombat, and Abomination Accusation Attack. As the strategy can work very well in conjunction with Obfuscating Stupidity, it's often popular with Simple Country Lawyers. See also Courtroom Antics.note Keep in mind, though, that particularly ridiculous, asinine, or otherwise worthless Chewbacca Defenses can and often will get the user in trouble if used in court; basically, if the judge calls your defense "frivolous" or "vexatious", that's a slightly more subtle way of saying "shut the fuck up, this is utter nonsense and you're going to face harsh penalties if you don't stop right now", and continuing in spite of that will result in contempt of court charges. If you're an attorney who regularly uses particularly bizarre or groundless sophisms as part of your strategy, odds are good that you will be harshly punished by the bar association, and if they're particularly egregious or you clearly have not learned after being punished multiple times, disbarment is a very real possibility. A Chewbacca Prosecution may also be used in a Kangaroo Court, where it doesn't matter what the prosecutor says because he's going to win anyway.
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Isaac and Miria from Baccano!. The argument referenced in the quote? It wasn't even an argument at all, but rather a Shrinking Violet trying to introduce himself to them.
Used in Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon by Pope Innocentius when he's debating against Masazumi. Masazumi has just accused the Testament Union of abusing the system of History Recreation to benefit themselves at the cost of an innocent person's life. She then proposes an alternative course of action that requires no deaths and benefits not just the far east but ultimately the whole world. The Pope's response? He reveals to everyone listening that Masazumi (who presents herself as male) is actually a girl and then accuses her of just using the situation to take power for herself. It was totally irrelevant, did nothing to counter her arguments, and it almost worked.
Mako: She may have lost the match, but she won with friendship! Winning with friendship means winning at life!
One of the first episodes has Ryuko losing a fight horribly because of her modesty interferingwith Senketsu ability to bond with her. Mako's response? GET NAKED! Mako then goes into a long-winded speech about how Ryuko has the best bust she and her family have ever seen, and she should have no problem showing it off to her opponent. It actually works in that Ryuko gets over her modesty and proceeds to win the fight.
Parodied in Astérix and the Laurel Wreath, where both opposing lawyers on a case attempt to use the same Chewbacca Defence.
In Youngblood: Judgment Day, defense attorney Skipper calls several witnesses to testify about a seemingly irrelevant detail of Riptide's murder (a book missing from her shelf), completely derailing the trial. At first, this seems like a textbook Chewbacca Defense, but the alternate sequence of events he proposes, that the theft of the book was the real motive for the murder and the perpetrator was Youngblood teammate Sentinel, actually turns out to be true.
The One PieceFan Fic series Gorgon Zolo makes reference to the South Park episode with Gaimon, the midget-afro-treasure chest-pirate taking the place of Chewbacca — as part of a disclaimer, no less.
In Equestria: A History Revealed, this was done in Chapter 4, in which the narrator purposely attempts to confuse you with confusingly similar terms and insane logic, and practically tells the reader that they just have the accept the confusion and move on, despite it not making a lick of sense.
Octavia: What do solving mysteries have to do with music anyway? Vinyl: What don't they have to do with it? Octavia: ...That's so stupid I don't know how to respond. Vinyl: Hurray, that means I win by default!
Thank You For Smoking provides an excellent example of this trope when the protagonist, a pro-tobacco lobbyist, demonstrates this debate technique to his son.
Nick: Okay, let's say that you're defending chocolate, and I'm defending vanilla. Now if I were to say to you: 'Vanilla is the best flavor of ice cream', you'd say: Joey:(playing along) No, chocolate is. Nick: Exactly, but you can't win that argument... so, I'll ask you: so you think chocolate is the be all and end all of ice cream, do you? Joey: It's the best ice cream, I wouldn't order any other. Nick: Oh! So it's all chocolate for you, is it? Joey: Yes, chocolate is all I need. Nick: Well, I need more than chocolate, and for that matter I need more than vanilla. I believe that we need freedom. And choice when it comes to our ice cream, and that, Joey Naylor, that is the definition of liberty. Joey: But that's not what we're talking about. Nick: Ah, but that's what I'm talking about. Joey: ...But you didn't prove that vanilla was the best... Nick: I didn't have to. I proved that you're wrong, and if you're wrong, I'm right. Joey: But you still didn't convince me. Nick: (Pointing to the passers-by) Yeah, but I'm not after you. I'm after them.
Cut to the two of them eating vanilla ice cream cones.
Plus when Joey has to write an essay on what's best about America, Nick replies "Our endless appeals system," with almost knee-jerk response time.
Kronk's shoulder devil in The Emperor's New Groove tried this: his argument for why Kronk should let Kuzco die was that (1) his angel counterpart was a pansy; and (2) he, the devil, could do a one-handed handstand. The latter actually convinced the angel more than it did Kronk, who was just confused and told them both to leave. This is particularly amusing because this is one of the few times Kronk actually poses an intelligent question as opposed to his usual demeanor as Dumb Muscle.
Shoulder Devil: Reason number two: Look what I can do! (Does a one-handed handstand) Kronk: But... what does that have to do with— Shoulder Angel: No, no... he's got a point.
In The Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There, ace lawyer Freddy Riedenschnieder seems to base his career on this. His defense of the protagonist's wife involves a truly baffling spiel about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, while his defense of the protagonist himself involves some weird, vaguely existentialist drivel about him being a "New Man" in a modern, morally ambiguous world and thus, presumably, he isn't responsible for the crime charged. Unfortunately it gets interrupted.
A prime example is the movie Listen to Me, where the debates got so convoluted, that you couldn't even tell which team was on which side anymore. It starts off with the protagonist's team being against abortion, and ends up with them being for it in the same debate.
Surprisingly enough, it actually happened to Star Wars with Chewbacca himself. In the special features of the DVD set, when George Lucas proved too difficult for the executives to meddle with (thanks to Alan Ladd, Jr.), they turned to a different approach: "But the Wookiee has no pants!" knowing that changing that would require re-shooting a lot of scenes, which would put Lucas severely over budget. Thankfully, that didn't work either.
The short film The Flying Car features Randal asking Dante what he would do to get a flying car. He mentions cutting his foot off without anesthesia and having a German man fondle him, which Dante eventually agrees to. Randal then calls him out for agreeing with that.
Liar Liar: In a deleted scene, Fletcher defends an incredibly guilty mugger, somehow spinning his robbing an old man at the ATM and beating a cop who comes to arrest him into his trying to help the man pick up dropped coins, being mistaken for a mugger, then attacked by the police. It's truly epic to watch. And it works.
In Camus's The Stranger, Mersault is convicted not so much for his crime as for not loving his mother enough and being an atheist.
The entire purpose of Newspeak grammar B in 1984 was to make a Chewbacca Defense easier - that is, to throw so many arguments at the opponent that he won't be able to answer, and leave people with no words to use anyway.
In Gormenghast, Steerpike uses this method to manipulate two mentally retarded sisters into doing his bidding and keeping quiet about it—after all, he must know what he's talking about if he uses so many long words...
The Tom Clancy novel Executive Orders has politically-inexperienced President Jack Ryan questioned about abortion. He states that he's pro-life, but the decision should be left in the hands of the Senate. After he gets offstage, his Chief of Staff angrily points out that he just alienated the conservatives and the liberals; the former probably think he's using the Senate as an excuse, and the latter think the Senate is the only thing keeping him from rampaging all over a woman's right to choose. This is a rare example of an unintentional Chewie Defense (the CoS, incidentally, mentions that he himself is pro-choice).
America (The Book) lampshades this process with one of the most interesting moments in Senate history.
Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) set the record for longest filibuster with his 24-hour, 18-minute speech railing against a civil rights bill. Thurmond's oration obliterated the previous filibuster record, a 13-hour description by Daniel Webster of the massive dump he just took.
In Gery Greer and Bob Ruddick's Max and Me and the Time Machine the title characters' consciousnesses were sent back through time, ending up in the bodies of Middle Ages people. When the Earl of Hampshire tried to talk one of them into joining the Crusades he took his Great-Uncle Dexter's advice "If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em" and came up with a rather interesting oration.
M'lord, thou hast asked me a question fair and true, and I shall answer thee forthrightly and forthwith. Hark ye! Mark ye! The House of Representatives! I speak, m'lord, of first base, second base, third base, and—forsooth—home plate! Zounds! For a farthing, I would leave my heart in San Francisco. Nay, nay, a thousand times, nay. Dracula and his band of ruthless ruffians shall not bob for apples! Ho! Therefore, wherefore, I do say it so!
Live Action TV
On Community this is Amoral Attorney Jeff Winger's go to strategy as a lawyer. He particularly seems to like invoking 9/11. Subverted when he uses it in Debate: his team loses, 50-8 (and the 8 were to Annie).
Used within Monk in the episode "Mr. Monk Takes the Stand" (Season 8, Episode 5), by attorney Harrison Powell. The defendant, Evan Gildea, was accused of murdering his wife, and his alibi is based on the existence of a large slab of marble that Gildea smashed apart and scattered across his driveway. Powell brings in the pieces and declares that, if Monk is right about the marble being a single piece which Gildea broke apart, then he should be able to put it back together, like a puzzle. So, Powell picks up a few random pieces and tries to fit them together. Of course, the odds of a few randomly selected pieces of a puzzle just happening to fit are very small, and so they don't. Powell asserts that this is proof of his argument. Powell ends up winning the case, though to be fair it's assumed that this is more because of Monk's severe mental condition shedding doubts on his testimony than Powell's performance.
Lawyer: So, Miss Talliot, you expect the court to believe that on the evening of the fourteenth of November last year, the very year, I would remind the court, on which the crime that my client is accused of committing took place, you just happened to be walking in the park? Witness: That is correct. Lawyer: That is what? Witness: Correct. Lawyer: Oh it's correct, is it? I see. I wonder, Miss Talliot, whether you were aware that the American novelist Gertrude Stein was a self-confessed Lesbian?
...And only gets more absurd from there.
Best part? The witness is the lawyer's mother!
During a sketch of Monty Python's Flying Circus the lawyer calls in several unrelated "witnesses", including a "dead" man in a coffin (who knocks once for "yes" and twice for "no").
Judge: It's only a parking offense!
Many TV pundits make a living out of using this trope. Just about any public commentator of any political leaning may eventually end up here once they get enough fame. Of course, this calls for a lot of parodies — not always discernible from the real thing.
Parodied by Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, who uses several variations of this when arguing with his guests, asking them foolish and emotionally provocative questions like "Why do you hate America?" and (back when George W. Bush was still president of the United States) "Bush: great president, or the greatest president?" He's even done this when arguing with himself, creating circular arguments along the lines of the following: If you were sent to Gitmo unfairly, you'd be angry enough at the government to want to overthrow it, and hence you'd deserve to be sent to Gitmo.
While still on The Daily Show, the Even Stevens bits which he performed along with Steve Carell were excellent parodies of this trope. The bits would begin with one of the Stevens saying the question under debate, followed by both alternating YES! or NO! as loudly as possible.
Played for Laughs in the Leverage episode The Juror #6 Job. Hardison (who has no formal law training) needs to pose as a lawyer to help the plaintiff win her lawsuit. He stalls as long as possible, and discredits the defendant's scientific expert by getting him to admit that he (the expert) is on the no-fly list because of a history of lewd conduct on airplanes.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: In one episode Detective Benson investigates the role of an Army-administered medication in triggering assaults committed by veterans. During the trial, the military officer defending the Army accuses the detective of hating American soldiers, rather than challenging her on the evidence.
Played for Drama in one Suits episode. Donna is on mock-trial in the firm for perjury after covering up for Harvey. Louis is playing the prosecutor. His Armor-Piercing Question: "Do you love Harvey Specter?", which he repeats over and over again until Donna breaks down and runs out. Louis wasn't doing it out of spite, however, and explains in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Harvey that in a real court case the prosecuting lawyer would use the same dirty tactics.
Claire Huxtable uses this in an episode of A Different World where she takes Vanessa to visit Hillman and is "caught" having dinner with an old boyfriend. Vanessa questions Claire about her behavior; Claire simply responds that Vanessa can ask questions when she's "had five children and can still fit into a size six dress." This shuts Vanessa up pretty well.
It helped that Vanessa was already in trouble for sneaking out to go on a date with Dwayne which is how they ran into each other.
Michael of The Office (U.S.) does this in the episode "China" at the end of his debate with Oscar on China's role in global politics. Oscar knows much more about the situation than Michael does, so Michael launches into a completely irrelevant speech about freedom and the American way. Everyone applauds, while Oscar vainly tries to remind them that it had nothing to do with the original argument.
Man: I feel funny about this! I feel funny! Aunt Eller: You'll feel funny when I tell your wife you're carrying on with another woman. Man: I ain't carrying on with no one! Aunt Eller: Maybe not, but you'll sure feel funny when I tell your wife you are.
"He Is An Englishman" from H.M.S. Pinafore is used as a defense of the leading couple's actions (of which the captain disapproves because their ranks differ). The captain is so confused by how this does or does not relate to the situation — especially because everyone on the Pinafore is English — that he ends up swearing, for which he is confined to his cabin.
Phoenix Wright is accused of doing this in the second game's final case by his long lost rival, Edgeworth. It's arguable that Phoenix did so in that case to stall for time, as well as in the third case of the third game in order to make the guilty party point out a detail of a piece of incriminating evidence introduced for the first time a few minutes ago, when he was out of the room - something he couldn't have known unless he was the killer.
This is also the perennial strategy of his protégé, Apollo Justice. In the third case of his game, it turns out to be impossible to do because Apollo doesn't have the necessary evidence (he only wins the case because he threatens to call a decisive witness. The true killer had to be a Borginian cocoon smuggler as was previously proven. So, Apollo says that if the witness admits he's a smuggler, thus proving that Daryan is his accomplice, it in turn decisively proves that the only one who could be the killer is Daryan himself, as he is the only smuggler with no alibi for the murder. On top of this, considering that Borginian cocoon smuggling is punished with the death sentence in Borginia, if he admits he smuggled the cocoons during the current trial, the duty of punishment would fall on the American (Japanese in original version) courts instead of those of Borginia, meaning he would not be killed. So in other words, the killer must testify about his crimes, otherwise he will die, which means that there is no escape for the true killer.
A witness actually pulls this off in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies . Hugh O'Conner's testimony about his body double in the mock trial is so unbelievable, so illogical, and so transparent that the prosecutor, Simon Blackquill, ragequits the questioning to "go for a stroll." It's actually pretty effective, since the defense eventually does get the truth out of Hugh, and Blackquill isn't there to hinder the proceedings.
In Escape from Monkey Island, amoral real-estate developer Ozzie Mandrill nearly succeeds in taking over the Caribbean with this method. All pirate disputes are settled with Insult Swordfighting and other insult-based games, but no one can understand Ozzie's Australian slang. Since no one who fights Ozzie can come up with the counter to his insults, he wins by default.
Used offensively in Umineko no Naku Koro ni during the third arc. Battler has to prove that magic wasn't used to do something and rather than preparing actual logical arguments he just rushes on ahead and declares his victory before his opponent has any idea how the logic game even works. She turns out to be really good at it when she's given a chance to think, however.
Shepard: HEY, EVERYONE! THIS STORE DISCRIMINATES AGAINST THE POOR!
Later, during Tali's trial, if you don't bother speaking to the admirals but still have a high enough score to persuade them, you can convince them to let her off by pointing out that she did good some other time and you're shouting loud enough to get her out of trouble, dammit!
In the webcomic Elf Only Inn April uses the "silence means consent/defeat" strategy in this discussion with Percy the sarcastic paladin:
April: I can tell by your silence that you know I am right. Percy: (frowning) I bet you find that people "know you are right" an awful lot. April: (happily) I don't like to brag but no one even tries to argue with me anymore.
You are working at a toy store, yes? Does that not make you a hypocrite? What? How does that even—?" Money equals power. Power equals camel. Camel equals five celery sticks. Five. Quid pro quo.
The Nostalgia Critic review of Suburban Commando suggests using the line "I was FROZEN today!" randomly in an argument to "watch what happens". He demonstrates it by acting out an argument with himself, in which the person who is yelled at with the line stares with a confused and slightly horrified look before slowly backing out of the room.
Most of the examples here are spoofs of the Chewbacca Defense. The list could itself be perceived as a straight example when someone tries to use it as proof that God does not exist (and that, itself, is actually on the list).
"Argument From Argumentation," where one arguer just says God exists over and over until the opponent leaves, is practically a template for all the others. The opponent's arguments, since they're ignored anyway, are all written as "[Atheist's counterargument]."
Godwin's Law states that as any internet debate rages on, the probability of one side comparing the other side to Hitler gets closer and closer to one. The "Hitler rule," a universal Internet rule established based on Godwin's Law, dictates that once the Godwin Point has been reached, the person who referenced Hitler or the Nazis has automatically lost the debate and there is to be no further discussion on the subject. A corollary to the rule holds that invoking Godwin's Law intentionally because you're sick of debating ("You're Hitler. Debate over.") doesn't work.
It should be noted that the Hitler Rule itself can also be considered a Chewbacca Defense. "This person mentioned Hitler, therefore their argument is false" doesn't really fly.
The comedy stylings of IMAO (In My Arrogant Opinion) are almost all based around this (such as nuking the moon for world peace).
This is how to win an edit war on The Other Wiki, where the content is often controlled not by those with the more accurate information but by those with the strongest opinions.
This is not only limited to The Other Wiki: because they are edited by users who inevitably don't all share the same opinions, any wiki can devolve into a shouting match where the most opinionated side is deemed the right one.
This was discussed in a video of Andrew Klavan On The Culture where the opposing argument can simply be defeated by telling them to shut up as to stopping them from speaking out their point of view.
Linkara, of Atop the Fourth Wall uses this in the form of 'because the kool-aid man is red' as an excuse for poor writing.
Cracked's take on how Mt. Rushmore got approval had the proponent of carving 3 President's heads (Lincoln was added to seal the deal) using this to leverage his position.
Discussed in this article. Most of the argument techniques mentioned fall into this trope's territory.
The Trope Namer comes from the South Park episode "Chef Aid". The defense is employed by Johnnie Cochran (the fact that Chewbacca doesn't live on Endor is one of the least nonsensical things about it). An oft-overlooked aspect of the defense is that Cochran himself points out that the argument that he's making is utter nonsense, and just using this as yet more evidence that the whole trial is a joke and they should acquit.
Cochran: Look at me. I'm a lawyer defending a major record company, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberatin' and conjugatin' the Emancipation Proclamation, does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.
In an episode of Justice League, when the Green Lantern is accused of a crime, The Flash becomes his attorney. He doesn't have a clue what to use to turn the case around, so he uses a Chewbacca defense. He ends his speech with "If the ring wasn't lit, you must acquit!" The result being both of them getting sentenced to death.
Later, a talk show host accuses the League of causing more crimes than they solve. Proof? White collar crime (which the league doesn't cover) went up 3%! And the real kicker: half of marriages end in divorce, and the other half... in death! Clearly, DC needs a superhero to tackle white collar crime, and a superhero marriage counselor; now if only Doc Samson wasn't a Marvel character...
In The Spectacular Spider-Man episode "Identity Crisis", Venom leaks Peter Parker's Secret Identity to the press. Peter denies being Spider-Man, but Venom tells the press afterward that Peter has to be Spidey, since Spider-Man would have to unmask himself to prove he wasn't Peter. Spider-Man stops mid-battle to tell him how little sense it would make for him to reveal his secret identity to the world just to prove who that identity isn't.
The Boondocks episode "The Trial of Robert Kelly" features R. Kelly on trial for urinating on a minor. Despite the absolutely overwhelming evidence against him, he wins the case because of his popularity and his lawyer used manipulative logical fallacies such as comparing R. Kelly's perversions to the Founding Fathers' (in an inversion of Hitler Ate Sugar) and accused the staggering evidence of being "really" based on racism. The defense lawyer also made an issue out of the fact that the DA in the case, Tom Dubois, has a white wife (Sarah). Huey Freeman calls the entire court out on their stupidity afterwards, asserting that not every famous black men that gets arrested is Nelson Mandela. He also points out while the government does racial persecute a lot of innocent black men, R. Kelly is not one of them and that if they really cared about him, they should do everything in their power to make sure that he gets the help that he needs to overcome his problem. Everybody ignores him, of course.
In another episode of The Boondocks, "Return of the King", Huey and Martin Luther King, Jr. are on a Fox News-type show, and the host responds to King by saying "Do you love America?", implying that King is simply anti-American. What's worse is that the way he asked it seemed to imply that it's a standard question that he asks everybody in the hopes of sparking conflict. And what's even worse is that a political pundit (Sean Hannity) has said these very words verbatim multiple times. It also didn't help that the height of this line's popularity was during the lead-up to the Iraq War...
Though this trope doesn't really happen in the "Apprentice Games" episode of Chowder (unless you count the awkward singing that drives everyone the hell out of the stadium) it is outright explained by Mung Dal in these words: "Winning isn't about being the best. It's about being so incredibly bad that no one can ignore you!"
Family Guy: Adam West uses this when Lois is running against him for mayor. Lois then wins the election by taking Brian's advice to do the same thing (she answers every question with "9/11").
An episode of The Simpsons involved Lisa joining the school's debate team. In her first debate, her opponent, a brunette girl, immediately circumvents the subject for debate in favor of breaking down Lisa's argument on the grounds that Lisa is aDumb Blonde. Much to the chagrin of anyone with half a brain, it works.
Another Simpsons episode, when Marge was being prosecuted for shoplifting:
Prosecutor: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Who do you find more attractive. Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson? Judge: What is the point of all this? Prosecutor: Your Honor, I'm so confident of Marge Simpson's guilt, that I can waste the court's time rating the superhunks. Lionel Hutz: Ooohh. He's gonna win.
And in Homer's dispute with the phone company:
Homer: I accuse the phone company of making that video on purpose.
Lindsay Naegle: Well of course we did...
Audience: [shocked gasps].
An episode of Martha Speaks has the titular talking dog taking part in a trial. To sum up the story so far, the cranky old lady next door had her lawn furniture wrecked by a guy who was clearly talking on his phone while driving and running a red light, almost running other Martha and the lady. Martha, being a talking dog and all, is brought in as a witness. Then the driver brings in a dog expert who says that Martha's testimony is wrong because she talks because she is a poorly trained dog (she isn't), and thus wouldn't know that she shouldn't be able to speak. True, the reason why is speaks only seems to work on her (and the letters from alphabet soup ending up in the brain is a little...impossible) but that's the same logic cartoons use with gravity only working when you look down or being able to fly until someone points out your particular species is incapable of flight. Around that point, the plot starts to get a little confusing, with the old lady, for no really explained reason, siding with the guy who almost ran her over.
According to texts from Ancient Greece the Sophist theory of debate relied heavily on the use of this trope and other logical fallacies to win arguments, apparently on the grounds that logic and wisdom were merely tools to get what one wants and that they had no inherent value beyond that. Although most of what we know about them comes from texts written by their political rivals the idea still stuck, leading to the modern term "sophistry" to represent this form of debate strategy.
Apocryphally, famous mathematician Leonhard Euler used one of these as a way of shutting up Denis Diderot, an atheist who was converting local people away from God. They had an actual public debate, and Euler's first argument was to say "(a + b^n)/n = x, therefore God exists. Respond!" Diderot had no idea what to say, and ended up leaving.
This is almost certainly untrue, however - Diderot was actually a very good mathematician and Euler was too thoughtful to use such an asinine tactic.
The trope namer was based on Johnnie Cochran's defense of O.J. Simpson.
Incidentally, in his book To be a Trial Lawyer, F. Lee Bailey wrote disapprovingly that if a client is guilty, then a lawyer's best bet is to get the most unintelligent jury possible. He also wrote that a lawyer should never ask a witness a question to which the lawyer doesn't already know the answer (also one of Rumpole's maxims, and common wisdom among experienced trial laywers).
High school and college debate in the U.S. can get extremely convoluted. Since the point of competitive debate is not just to argue about a topic, but to defeat your opponent, most debate strategy is built around trying to trip up the other side. As a result, some coaches feel that implausible and goofy arguments are better, since it forces the other side to waste time trying to respond. If they ignore the argument, you can claim that you won the point since they didn't respond properly. The classic example is if you're arguing against a resolution, you try to prove that their plan will eventually lead to nuclear war, even if it's about something like homelessness or health care. Sometimes debaters will respond to an argument like that by agreeing that it will cause nuclear war, but that nuclear war is a good thing. The "correct" way to respond to it is to refute it with specific evidence in your debate file, taking advantage of your ability to speak last. Another method is to not even argue about the topic but object to your opponent's argument on philosophical grounds (e.g. accuse them of being racist or sexist). Depending on the judge, calling them out on their rule abusing Chewbacca Defense may or may not result in it getting dismissed.
Generally averted with Parliamentary debate styles, which are by far the most popular English-language debate styles outside the US. These include British Parliamentary (the style used at the World Universities Debating Championship), Canadian Parliamentary, Australasian, and indeed American Parliamentary, which is rapidly increasing in popularity. In such formats, using a Chewbacca Defense can and will get you marked down heavily by the judge. The point is not to trip up the other side, but to attack the logic that lies at the heart of their argument - not that the execution of this strategy doesn't sometimes devolve into Chewbacca Defense-like action anyway.
Jargon usually exists to facilitate communication in a specialized context where "normal English" could be imprecise, would require lengthy qualifiers, or is simply badly suited to conveying an idea. It also develops naturally, like slang. It's also useful for purveyors of baloney, since jargon is often difficult to understand if you're not in the field. This can and generally does lead to people throwing around words like "privilege" and "erasure" in arguments without even knowing what they are.
Misusing scientific and medical terms are favorites for Chewbacca Defenses. The word quantum and equivocations with the word energy are favorites, with antioxidants and alkali/acid showing up perennially in health quackery. These are really problematic to defend against, since first the correct definition of the scientific or medical term has to be defended.
The obvious counter is to get the other person to define the terms as soon as possible, then point it out every time they contradict or alter their definition. This sometimes leads to the discovery that they're not actually using the standard definition of the term, in which case they may insist their definition is the "real" one for some reason.
According to the argumentative theory of reasoning, the entire evolutionary purpose of human reasoning is to win arguments; finding the truth is purely incidental. Therefore, the theory goes, bias and irrationality evolved because of this trope.
Commentary Programs. In any venue where a host holds a position opposed to that of his or her guests, arguments commonly degenerate into a maelstrom of very loud Chewbecca Defenses. Sometimes it even occurs during formal debates where the host is supposedly neutral to all parties, but decides to insert personal bias anyways.
Among the atheist and agnostic community, this kind of argument is often referred to as a Gish Gallop, named after Creationist, biochemist, and professional debater Duane Gish, who was well known for using the Chewbacca Defense against evolutionists. His typical method of winning a debate was making sure he was first to speak, rapidly firing off a massive number of points of questionable scientific validity which his opponent couldn't possibly have time to address individually, and claiming a win if as few as one of his arguments remain unaddressed. Worth noting, he still tried this in his debate against Michael Shermer. Shermer went first when debating him and not only explained why all Gish's questions were wrong and how his quotes were all out of context, he even stole all his jokes. Gish then gave the same speech he always gave and declared himself the winner.
One person on Youtube is known for making lengthy videos with lots of claims and very little backup which are frequently wrong. When people do lengthy videos with in-depth debunking of her arguments, she dismisses them as "obsessed" with her, to make herself look sympathetic without actually having to respond to the complaints. This does nothing to convince anyone who wasn't already sympathetic to her, mind.
Shane Killian is infamous for utilizing the Chewbacca Defense both in Real Life politics and on the internet. In fact, it oftentimes is his only means of presenting an argument. Even when he is in the right, he presents a Chewbacca Defense as though it is a necessary compulsion. Examples of his actions can be found here, here, and here.
Cato the Elder is famous for (among other things) ending his senate speeches with "Carthago delenda est," which translates as "Carthage must be destroyed." All of them. Regardless of what he was discussing. For example, "Yes, I agree, let's raise the taxes on grain. And Carthage must be destroyed." He continued this practice up until Carthage actually was destroyed.
This was a common tactic of Roman lawyers, especially Cicero. His "Pro Caelio" is an excellent example, using everything from immense verbosity to pretending to channel a certain woman's dead father to call her a slut. These tactics pull the judges completely off-topic and acquit the defendant Caelius, who is most likely guilty.
It gets worse. The personal attacks he used to such great effect were on the sister of Publius Clodius Pulcher; Clodius and Cicero hated each other, so it wasn't at all difficult for Cicero to lambast the Clodii. Additionally, Clodius and some of his family did not have the most savory reputation at the time, so the personal attacks were effective as an appeal to existing prejudices as well.
Ironically, Cicero was responsible for one of the most glorious subversions of this style of debate during his successful prosecution of Gaius Verres, the super-corrupt governor of Sicily. Verres hired Quintus Hortensius, widely regarded as the finest Roman lawyer and a master of the florid rhetoric that often swung trials. Hortensius, in addition to his planned Chewbacca defense, also deployed a battery of procedural tricks to delay the trial, giving Cicero only 9 days to present his case (this in an era when opening speeches usually lasted 5!) before a new, bought and paid for judge would be installed, making Cicero's job impossible. Cicero, who had spent the previous year shuttling between Rome and Sicily, gathering evidence (at one point summoning a mob and breaking into the Sicilian archives and carrying them off, and interviewing all of Verres's victims), simply stood up, outlined all of the defense's tricks to the prosecution, and then proceeded to call his witnesses one by one, making no speech at all. It took less than three days before Verres packed his bags and fled, disguised as a woman, to Masillia, where he died.
Politics thrives on this to the point that listing all the examples would cover most of human history.
Arthur C. Clarke once wrote an essay describing his methods of dealing with cranks. One of his suggestions was to respond to the crank with even greater levels of insanity until he leaves, thinking that you are the crank.