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Appeal to Flattery

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Appeal to Flattery:

Also called:

  • Appeal to Vanity
  • Emperor's New Clothes

Another simple fallacy in which it is suggested that accepting a particular conclusion speaks well of the person who accepts it. This fallacy tends to feed into the Bandwagon Fallacy and is a kind of emotional variant of Appeal to Consequences, since the unstated suggestion is that if someone does not accept the argument, one must attribute the opposite qualities to that person. This is a particularly common form of appeal in "soft" advertising in which the audience is encouraged to associate the use of the advertised product with desirable qualities of the people being shown using it, such as their being attractive, intelligent, and/or popular.


"Surely an intelligent, sophisticated reader such as yourself doesn't need an example or demonstration to recognize an Appeal to Flattery?"

Appeal to Flattery has a flip side known as "blocking disagreement" which generally amounts to a kind of pluralized Ad Hominem. (Of course, only total idiots would fail to recognize this for a fallacy.) This is sometimes a kind of implied subtext in the aforementioned "soft" advertising as well: since all the attractive, intelligent, and/or popular people are using this product, the advertising implies, you obviously don't want to be one of what must be those ugly stupid losers who don't use this product, do you?

In a variant, one can appeal to perceived positive qualities of a group and a course of action without ever actually establishing a link between them or even being required to demonstrate that the group has those qualities. "Surely loyal, patriotic soldiers like yourselves would be willing to put up with the mild inconvenience of public, mandatory cavity searches of all passengers embarking on a plane in order to make sure terrorists don't threaten our civil liberties."


And of course witty, tolerant tropers such as yourselves would have the patience to bear with a third example of Hypocritical Humor in what is becoming a Running Gag.


  • Probably the most well-known example is Hans Christian Andersen's tale of The Emperor's New Clothes, where two conmen trick a vain monarch into purchasing a non-existent robe by claiming that only those unfit for their positions or hopelessly stupid cannot see the special thread it is made from.
  • Very common in politics, where loaded positive terms are used to describe positions: for example, people do not call themselves anti-abortion but pro-life, and their opponents say they are pro-choice rather than pro-abortion. Who would want to oppose "life" or "choice?" This leads to the rather absurd idea that one could apply each side's argument to the other, making the two sides of the abortion debate "anti-choice" and "anti-life".
  • Advertisement:
  • In commercials for charities, one common practice is to thank the listener for donating at the end, flattering them with the unstated assumption that they are generous.
  • This is one of many techniques Palpatine uses to manipulate Anakin in the Star Wars prequels. He tells Anakin that he is the most awesome Jedi ever and that he is just way too awesome to take orders from that silly Jedi Council, who are clearly Just Jealous if they don't treat someone as awesome as Anakin with the proper reverence. This works extremely well because it's exactly what Anakin wants to believe.


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