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Appeal to Flattery

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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.

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"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."

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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.

See the Wikipedia page Appeal to flattery for more on the logical fallacy. Compare Bottled Cool.

Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • The Lexus commercials featuring Jonathan Pryce blend this with Celebrity Endorsement.
  • Say this in your most snobby voice: "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" Their early commercials played the "Snob Appeal" straight, but later commercials evolved into self-parody.
  • Movado wristwatches.
  • Played dead straight in an ad for a resume posting site. A man playing tennis is mobbed by uninvited spectators from the stands trying to get in on the game. Most of them are terrible players, and tennis balls are flying every which way. VO: "When you let everybody play, nobody wins." Apparently the first player's resume is getting lost in all the others on whatever site he's posting it. The tagline: "$100k+ jobs for $100k+ jobseekers". What a pity: Our Hero couldn't find his dream job because he was surrounded by hoi polloi!
  • A junk mail ad for The Economist subscriptions listed some of the powerful, influential people who read it (especially heads of state or their cabinet members). The gist is that powerful people like them read it, and you're like them (i.e. powerful), so you should read it too.
  • One of the Apple iPhone's applications was named "I'm Rich!" It costs $999.99 and all it did was show a ruby on your display. The message was pretty clear: only rich people (like you!) would buy something this useless! It managed to sell a few copies until someone claimed they bought it by accident and Apple removed it.
  • The Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour chain had the "Accountant's Special" as a joke menu item: one scoop of plain vanilla ice cream for $99.99.
  • The slogan of L'Oreal - "Because you're worth it."

     Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man does this to convince Doctor Doom he's being tricked by insinuating that someone like him shouldn't let himself be tricked that easily (which Peter calls an appeal to the ego in his head). Before this, his future-predicting AI told him that telling Doom the truth would have a 38% chance of success, but it was increased to 51% if Peter let Doom beat him up a bit first.
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     Folk and Fairy Tales 
  • Jean de La Fontaine's "The Fox and the Crow" has the fox spot a crow in a tree holding a big cheese in its beak. The fox greets the crow, asking to hear its beautiful voice which is surely equivalent to his magnificent plumage. The crow eagerly complies, opening its beak wide... and dropping the cheese.
    The fox seized it, and said, "My dear good sir,
    Learn you that every flatterer
    Lives at the expense of him who hears him out.
    This lesson is well worth some cheese, no doubt."
  • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes" has two tailors that manage to convince the emperor that they creted a suit that is only visible to smart people, so everybody would rather say that they can see the clothes and appear smart, allowing them to get paid by doing nothing.
  • According to Japanese Mythology, this is how to survive an encounter with the kuchisake-onna, or slit-mouthed woman. A strange woman in a surgical mask, she'll approach you and ask if she's beautiful. Saying no will enrage her and she'll kill you with her scissors because her ego is fragile. Saying yes will prompt her to reveal her mutilated face and ask again. Saying no at this point will also get you killed, but saying yes again will make her only slash you to match her because the Japanese word for "pretty" (kirei) pretty much sounds like a word meaning "to cut" (kire) and she is also apparently fueled by puns. Of course, she will let you go on your merry way if you say you're sorry, but you to be somewhere else right now.

     Live-Action Films 
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004): When first meeting the Baudelaire orphans, Count Olaf let's slip that he's only interested in their fortune in front of Mr. Poe, who is the Executor of their family estate. When Mr. Poe questions this, Olaf proceeds to ask him if he works out. Poe is clearly impressed by this compliment and leaves the children in Olaf's care.
  • 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.

     Live-Action Television 
  • 8 Simple Rules: In one episode, Cate finds out she used to date her daughters' principal. She believes he's being too harsh on them because she broke up with him. However, he claims he was the one who broke up with her. Cate spends the rest of the episode trying to prove she was the one who broke up with him. Her daughter Kerry tries to tell her to let it go. Cate then says she's just trying to prove she was both studious and sexy in high school, just like Kerry. This convinces Kerry to support her.
  • Drake & Josh: In an episode where the two brothers get a job, Drake tries to avoid doing any hard work by charming their manager, Helen. In one instance, Drake tells Helen's she's looking great right before she asks him to clean up some vomit. Helen gets flustered and instead makes Josh do it instead. Eventually, Drake gets promoted to manager.
  • Game of Thrones: When the Starks go to treat with Lyanna Mormont on Bear Island, Sansa tries to do this by telling Lyanna that she will likely grow up to be a great beauty. Lyanna dismisses the compliment and insists she'll grow up to be a great warrior instead.
  • Just Shoot Me!: In one episode, Finch goes undercover as a high school to get information for an article for the magazine. He ends up becoming popular with the younger generation and uses the opportunity as an excuse to relive his high school years. The intellectual Maya asks him how the assignment is going. Finch tells her that he found out that high school boys secretly find bookish and intelligent girls attractive. This pleases Maya, who leaves without pressing him for more information that would've exposed Finch's plan.
  • The Middle: Sue is approached by someone at the mall who tells her she has what it takes to be a model. Of course, she'll have to pay for some classes. Sue is so excited after being compared to a model that she never considers that this could be a scam, and spends the rest of the episode trying to pay for classes through babysitting.
  • Saturday Night Live neatly parodied this device with the "I'm #1" trucker's cap. "Lets everyone in the room know you're better than they are. Only $9.95, available at K-Mart and Caldor!"

     Music 
  • Wonderfully subverted by Les Luthiers: "You, who are used to success as just one more habit of life... You, who succeed with the same ease in business and in the most exclusive sports... You, who are used to being respected by men and admired by women... You... can you tell us how you do it?"

     Theatre 
  • The Music Man: Whenever the four members of the school board try to question Harold Hill about his plan to start a school band, he distracts them by complementing their voices and getting to sing barbershop quartet songs.

     Video Games 

     Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: One episode had Bonnie asking Lois to look after her baby and paraplegic husband while she goes on vacation. Not wanting to do this, Lois passes the job off to Meg. When Meg complains, Lois tells her that Bonnie compared Meg's appearance to that of a supermodel. This gets Meg to accept the job.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "dude, we're getting the band back together", Phineas and Ferb reunite a Hair Metal band for their parents' anniversary. 'They convince Bobbi Fabulous to join by telling him he's the one who steals the show.
  • South Park: The episode "Chinpokomon" involved Japan trying to brainwash the American youth using an obvious parody of Pokémon. Whenever American adults get suspicious, the Japanese will deflect by saying how large American penises are. This even works on the President. According to the DVD commentary this was based off of an encounter in Beijing.

     Real Life 
  • 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".
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Appeal To Vanity

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