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Association Fallacy

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"'All wood burns,' states Sir Bedevere. 'Therefore,' he concludes, 'all that burns is wood.' This is, of course, pure bullshit. Universal affirmatives can only be partially converted: all of Alma Cogan is dead, but only some of the class of dead people are Alma Cogan."
— "A Lesson in Logic", Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

"A is a B. A is also a C. Therefore, all Bs are Cs."

Claiming a quality of one thing is also a quality of another thing because they have some other thing in common, e.g., "Water is a liquid. Water will put out most fires. Therefore, any liquid will put out most fires." As it turns out, liquid oxygen and (of course) gasoline each encourage rather than extinguish a fire.

Compare Guilt by Association Gag, for situations where a character is assumed to be just like the other character or characters they happen to be with at the moment.

Guilt by Association:

Also called:

Guilt By Association assumes that two separate things share a negative property because they share a different, unrelated property, usually a relation to some undesirable person or ideology. (See also Stop Being Stereotypical, Don't Shoot the Message.)


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  • Overdue Protection:
    Sirius: So, Let Me Get This Straight.... You allowed your whole student body to gang up against one student-
    Minister Fudge: Er, it was discovered he was a parselmouth like You-know-
    Sirius: Voldemort was also a human being, who attended Hogwarts, spoke English, wielded a wand, wore robes and had two legs. I guess that makes all of us in this room Dark Lords then?
  • Scarlet Lady: In "Malediktator", when Chloé presents her half-sister Zoé to her classmates, the latter ponder if she's as bad as the former. Nino reminds them that Adrien was Chloé's friend when they met him and turned out to be cool.

  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, they use this to prove a woman is a witch.
    They burn witches.
    They burn wood.
    Therefore, witches must be made of wood.
    Wood floats.
    Ducks float.
    Therefore, anything that weighs the same as a duck must be made of wood.
    She weighs the same as a duck.
    Therefore, she must also be made of wood, and therefore, a witch.
  • Saving Christmas is full of this, trying to justify Christmas materialism, such as saying "the cross was wood = Christmas trees are Christian!"note 
    Kirk Cameron: Jesus came to Earth in a material body, so we celebrate Christmas with material things.
  • Gold Through the Fire: Basically, the entire film just attempts to equate US secularist policy with the Soviet Union's open antireligious persecution, as a means of attacking them. It relies heavily on historical and legal errors doing so.

  • This fallacy is used on the three Erics in Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Eric Bacon, the skinniest person in the class, is called "Fatso" because the other two Erics are fat. Eric Fry, the best athlete in the class, is nicknamed "Butterfingers", presumed to be clumsy and weak because the other two Erics are (cemented by a Never Live It Down moment when he drops a ball). And Eric Ovens, one of the nicest people in the class, is called "Crabapple" and presumed to be mean because the other two Erics are mean.
  • Harry Potter, in Prisoner of Azkaban, absolutely refuses to get a Nimbus 2001 simply because Draco Malfoy has one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Saturday Night Live's spoof of John McCain's political ads:
    "Barack Obama plays basketball. Charles Barkley plays basketball. Is Charles Barkley qualified to lead our economy?"
  • Harold Weir on Freaks and Geeks would end anecdotes about people who do things he disapproves of with "You know where X is now? He's dead." This is whether or not there was any causal link between what they did and their death.
  • Romper Stomper: Leila is told by Jago that, due to being a Muslim, she is responsible herself for any Islamic terrorism in Australia as moderates give them "cover".
  • Yes, Minister: Sir Humphrey describes "Politician's Logic" thus: "Something must be done, this policy is something, therefore we must do it."

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Sting apparently turned heel early in 2010 when he attacked Hulk Hogan with his black baseball bat. Not long afterward, he attacked Rob Van Dam in a similar fashion. Sting was a Designated Villain until October of that year, when it became clear to everyone that all along Hogan had been plotting a conspiracy to take over TNA, in much the same way he had with WCW 14 years earlier; Van Dam, however, did not join Hogan's conspiracy. When Van Dam confronted Sting about the unfairness of this, Sting admitted he'd been wrong, but also defended himself by pointing out that Hogan and RVD had entered TNA at about the same time, and it was natural to assume (in Sting's mind, anyway) that they were working together.

    Video Games 
  • This line from Kingdom Hearts IIExplanation :
    "If light and darkness are eternal, then surely we Nobodies are the same. Eternal!"
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Elven companion Sera dislikes when people assume she should be "elfy" just because she's biologically elven. However, Sera herself was made to feel inferior for not being "elfy" enough in the past by some "elfy" elves, so she's decided that all elfy elves must also be haughty bigots. Thus, Sera feels justified endlessly badmouthing elven culture to an Elven Player Character. After all, if you're not elfy then you shouldn't be offended, and if you are elfy then you must be a haughty bigot who deserves it. Problem? Thedas elves are Enslaved Elves, Sera has Internalized Racism, and Sera will do this even if a Female Elven Inquisitor is pursuing her in a Romance Sidequest.
    Elven Inquisitor: There's so much history there. What if some of it is true?
    Sera: Frig. You're going elfy.
    Elven Inquisitor: What?
    Sera: It's when fairy stories make your ears droop for "lost glory," but "glory" squats in the woods and smells like halla [deer] arse!
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords takes place shortly after the Jedi Civil War and subsequent First Jedi Purge, and the galactic population is pretty much sick of the Forever War between Jedi and Sith. The average citizen doesn't even bother to make distinctions between the two anymore to the point that "Jedi" is used as a catch-all term for Force users in generalnote . The Player Character can try to argue the point, but as your Boomerang Bigot companion Atton says; "The Jedi... the Sith... you don't get it, do you? To the galaxy, they're the same thing; just men and women with too much power, squabbling over religion, while the rest of us burn."
  • Phil Arms infamously denounced Pokémon by insinuating a number of fantastical claims before saying the line "Pokémon is a game? I say to them that Russian roulette is just a game!", implying that a video game/card game/television series is equivalent to playing with a loaded revolver in a game that only ends when someone dies.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: One of the dueling Lawful Stupid Appeal to Tradition arguments that Darth Thanaton uses to justify his attempts to kill the Sith Inquisitor Player Character beginning at the end of chapter 1 is that their recently deceased master Darth Zash was corrupt, therefore her apprentice the Inquisitor must also be corrupt. The fact that the Inquisitor killed Darth Zash in self-defense appears to make no difference in his thinking.

    Western Animation 
  • In Metalocalypse, Nathan Explosion delivers one in order to convince the other members of the band to drink bleach.
    Nathan: Bleach is healthy. It's mostly water, and we're mostly water, therefore, we are bleach.
  • Due to the Spike TV's incarnation of The Ren & Stimpy Show being made specifically for older viewers (hence the name Adult Party Cartoon), and due to the nature of a number of episodes of the original Nickelodeon series (which, for better or for worse, was intended to be a family shownote ), this has caused some people (and websites, including Wikipedia) to refer to the entirety of the franchise (such as it is) as being "adult" animation, which unfortunately was partially brought on by both the show, and Viacom (and by extension, the original creator) themselves due to reruns of the original show also being shown on Spike TV. Because of this, Nickelodeon (who has been planning a number of reboots of older Nicktoons) has officially declared the original show to be Exiled from Continuity, although NickRewind still shows reruns of the original show, and the DVD release of the original show from Paramount continues to be available.
  • Family Guy
    • The episode "Prick Up Your Ears" is about Lois teaching a sex-ed class, only to be fired by the board for teaching safe sex rather than abstinence. She is replaced by a motivational speaker named Jerry Kirkwood who proceeds to use numerous fallacies to scare the students into not having sex ever. It becomes clear he is a religious fundamentalist who attempts to use ridiculous statements in lieu of any actual research or argument.
      Jerry: Sure, sex is fun... but you can't have it before you're married even if you use a condom, because not only do condoms fail 100% of the time, they're also majorly unsafe. Hey, you wouldn't put a plastic bag over your grandmother's head, would you?
      [The scene switches to a shocked audience]
      Student: No...
    • In "New Kidney in Town", Peter adds kerosene to his homemade Red Bull in spite of Brian's objections, explaining it thusly:
      "Kerosene is fuel, Brian. Red Bull is fuel. Kerosene is Red Bull."

  • Equating complex calendars with human sacrifice because the ancient Aztecs had a complex calendar, and also practiced human sacrifice.
  • Commonly used in arguments about religion:
    Pat Robertson said crazy things about Haitian voodoo practices causing the earthquake.
    Pat Robertson is a Christian.
    Therefore Christians are crazy.
    Stalin was evil.
    Stalin was an atheist.
    Therefore atheists are evil.
    • This is also often done with Hitler; adding insult to injury, Hitler also often gets used for the reverse.note  Also see Hitler Ate Sugar.
  • You get compared to Your Obnoxious/Loser Relative, with the implication that because they aren't model citizens, whatever it is you're doing or thinking is wrong and must be stopped immediately:
    You give a detailed and well-researched argument on a subject.
    Your mother/cousin/sibling/whatever turns up his/her nose and declares, "You're acting just like (insert "know-it-all" relative here)!"
    OR You're doing something a family member doesn't approve of, which Your Loser Relative also happened/happens to do.
    Your family member declares: "You're acting just like Your Loser Relative!"
  • Australia has proposed banning porn that stars small-breasted women because since children have no breasts and pedophiles like children, anyone who likes small-breasted women must be a pedophile. Thankfully nothing seems to have come of it.
  • Certain teetotaller sects of Christianity maintain that Jesus never drank wine, based on logic which is sort of an inverse of this fallacy; an anti-association fallacy if you will:
    Alcohol is Bad (reasons vary as to why it's bad)
    Jesus is Good
    Because Jesus is Good, Jesus only does and associates with Good things
    Ergo, because alcohol is Bad, Jesus never partook of it.
    • In order to make this work, any time wine is referenced in a positive context (for example, Jesus' first miracle), the word is instead rendered as "unfermented grape juice" when translated into English. Never mind that "unfermented grape juice" was essentially an impossibility until the late 19th century. Wine isn't made made by doing anything special to grape juice; grape juice is made by artificially stopping the fermentation that naturally occurs because of the yeast found in grape skins. By the time you, a Russian landholder, gathered enough grapes to produce "unfermented" grape juice, enough of the grapes had started fermenting anyway that choosing not to ferment them was economic suicide.
    • Not to mention that the word "oinos" was used for wine both in verses warning against drinking to excess and in verses that praise its virtues, such as declaring that a new man born in Christ is like "new wine" or that "wine makes for a merry heart", not to mention the wine that Jesus turned the water into at the feast (the first recorded miracle, by the way). If it's all the same word, why would it sometimes mean "alcoholic beverage capable of causing drunkenness" and other times mean "unfermented grape juice" based solely on whether it's being described negatively or positively?
    • There is also the New Testament command in the first letter to Timothy which could be interpreted as an active instruction to Christians to go out and consume alcohol:
    "Take not only water, but drink also a little wine for thy stomach's sake. (1 Tim 5:23)
    • It has been noted that this could well render heretical, or at least heterodox, teetotal denominations such as Methodism...
  • It has been suggested that, in the late 1960s and early '70s, some right-wing white Americans felt a particular resentment toward the Civil Rights Movement because it emerged at roughly the same time as the sexual revolution and the drug culture, and therefore the two were sometimes linked. The already widespread perception that young people in the '60s professed a great love for black music and that black music itself was inherently sexualized and contained occasional drug references certainly didn't help. The result was that quite a few of these people saw the hippies as basically "niggers" with white skin (an insult that many hippies were all too happy to appropriate). The association persists in the present day, particularly since Barack Obama was elected President disproportionately by minorities, and his administration appears to have ushered in much more tolerance for such practices as homosexuality and birth control.
    • The civil rights movement was also associated with communism, as some prominent Communist Party members were also part of the civil rights movement, since the Soviets never overlooked the chance to give the U.S. some bad P.R.note  Given that this was the height of McCarthyism, this caused a lot of right-wing white Americans to associate civil rights and black people with communism. This still persists today in claims that Barack Obama is a secret Marxist.
    • The role played by communists in the civil rights movement in the US, especially in the 1930s, was large. Many prominent civil rights activists, like Paul Robeson, were either themselves communists or sympathized with them. More mainstream civil rights organizations really went out of their way to avoid all communists or communist sympathizers to avoid being associated. Unfortunately, this also meant that the civil rights movement in the first half of the 20th century was splintered badly.
  • If one shows up at an event that featured pornography, they will be treated as if they did pornographic activities, even if they were not involved in any pornographic segments or if it was a video with pornographic segments added afterwards without the knowledge of those involved, such as happened to some wrestlers who worked for Rob Black's XPW, like Nicole Bass.
  • Alan Turing confessed in a personal letter that his greatest fear when facing his upcoming trial for "Gross Indecency" was what result it would have on his life's work.
    I am rather afraid that the following syllogism will be used in the future:
    Turing Believes that Machines can Think.
    Turing Lies with Men.
    Therefore Machines cannot Think
    • Thankfully, while his view that machines can think is criticized by some, it hasn't been on the grounds that he was homosexual and thus wrong.
  • Any time a musician, athlete, movie star, or other public figure gets caught in some kind of serious scandal, you'll see the argument that you must stop listening to their music/watching their movies/etc., because it means you're supporting whatever it is they did or were alleged to have done. See also Music Is Politics.

Reductio ad Hitlerum

A very common form of Guilt by Association is "Hitler did it, therefore it's bad." While persuasive, it's not always true, since while Hitler did a lot of evil things, he also was a massive advocate of animal rights (well, definitely more so than Jewish, gay, or Roma rights...), built motorways, painted pictures, hosted the Olympics, ate sugar, and breathed oxygen. This is related to the Fallacy of Division, since it assumes the evilness of the whole of Hitler also applies to any part of Hitler. Related to Godwin's Law and Hitler Ate Sugar.


  • An anti-abortion Chick Tract claims abortion is wrong because Hitler killed Jewish babies, and therefore doctors who carry out abortions are as bad as Hitler.note 
  • There's an interesting inversion of this making the rounds on the internet. Whenever some distressing news is revealed to the world, someone will inevitably use the clip from Downfall where Hitler has a Villainous Breakdown upon learning that Berlin will be overrun. The person making the video will often put their words into Hitler's mouth. This is usually a case of Even Evil Has Standards, with the intended message being "Even Hitler thinks that's going too far".
    "Y'know, Hitler was a vegetarian."
    "Vegetarianism then: not all it's cracked up to be. In some extreme cases may cause genocide." — Bill Bailey
  • One of the posters on Conservapedia apparently does not like either mainline Protestants or people who play video games, and was quick to note that James Holmes (the "Joker" killer in Aurora, Colorado) was both Presbyterian and a video game fanatic. The obvious inference is that there is something intrinsic in both Presbyterianism and video games that can cause people associated with them to become mass murderers. By that logic, one might as well say that, because most serial killers are men, all men must be serial killers.
  • Parodied in one book of The Dresden Files when a minor villain tries to justify killing a single mother.
    Harry: For god's sake, Trixie, she's got kids.
    Trixie Vixen: So did Hitler.
    Harry: No, he had dogs.

Looks like this fallacy but is not:

  • When an example is used to establish a fact about a group in the aggregate, rather than about members of that group. For instance, noting instances of gay men who are HIV-positive and concluding that gay men have higher rates of HIV is not a fallacy (assuming valid statistical techniques are used). Concluding that a particular gay man is HIV-positive is a fallacy.
  • When a member of a group is presented as an example of a common feature at work, rather than proof in itself that there is a common feature. For instance, it is valid to use the 9/11 attacks as examples of how radical Muslims can be evil. They are not, on the other hand, examples of how all Muslims are evil. Capisce? The same also applies in regards to the frequent claim that because Marxists were atheists, this shows atheism is evil. Again, all it proves is that atheism is compatible with totalitarian ideologies, and that atheists with totalitarian ideologies are evil.
  • Discussions where the subject manner can be seriously compared to Hitler (or slavery, etc.). For instance, comparing the forced labor camps, purges, etc. under Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia without making the leap that those things are bad BECAUSE Hitler/Stalin did them.

Honor by Association:

The flip side of Guilt by Association, stating that two things share a positive quality because they share a different, unrelated quality.


    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The White Magician uses the fact that he fights criminals and villains like heroes do to set himself up as a hero, despite the fact that he "accidentally" kills everyone he fights when their tech (which he helps sell to them) "malfunctions" and in the DCU heroes emphatically don't kill; doing so means they are no longer in compliance with the law. He gets away with it for longer than he should because he's got a pet reporter painting him in a good light.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: This exchange from "What Is Dead May Never Die". It's not precisely Honor by Association, but it certainly isn't guilt, either:
    Hot Pie: I've seen lots of battles! I saw...
    Arya: Liar.
    Hot Pie: I saw a man killing another at a tavern in Flea's Bottom. Stabbed him right in the neck.
    Lommy: Two men fighting is no battle.
    Hot Pie: They got armor on.
    Arya: So?
    Hot Pie: So if they got armor on, it's a battle.
    Lommy: No, it isn't.
    Hot Pie: What does a dyer's apprentice know about battles, anyway?
    Arya: Gendry's an armorer's apprentice. Hot Pie, tell Gendry what makes a fight into a battle.
    Hot Pie: It's, uh, when they've got armor on.
    Gendry: And who told you that?
    Hot Pie: A knight.
    Gendry: How'd you know he was a knight?
    Hot Pie: Wells, cause he's got a-armor on.
    Gendry: You don't have to be a knight to have armor. Any idiot can buy armor!
    Hot Pie: How'd you know?
    Gendry: Because I sold armor!note 

    Western Animation 
  • South Park:
    Scott: "All of these things link Terrance to the murder: hair fibers, blood samples, nail clippings, a piece of his shirt. A watch with his initials on it, a day planner with the murder scheduled, a haiku called "Time to Kill Dr. Jeffrey O'Dwyer." "Dr. O'Dwyer / time to have your head smashed in / with my new hammer." Terrance, you may be a famous surgeon, but you're not God. J'accuse, Terrance!"
    Phillip: "Good people of the jury, my client Terrance is no more a murderer than you or me. He loves puppies and hates mean things. Would a murderer go to the zoo and feed animals like this?"
    • The argument here is that Terrance has done a thing associated with kind people, so he must be one. This is, of course, enough for the jury to acquit him on the spot (or as soon as farting allows).
  • Star Wars Resistance: Tam Ryvora believes that the Empire and its successor the First Order are good because her grandfather, who was a genuinely good person, worked in an Imperial factory. When her boss tries to point out that the Empire took advantage of the vulnerable, she blows it off. Unsurprisingly, this naïve viewpoint sets her up for corruption by the First Order's agents.

  • One Usenet poster who claims "we should all become vegetarian" claims in his sign that "Jesus was a vegetarian". His reasoning: vegetarianism is good; Jesus was good; therefore Jesus must have been a vegetarian. Which assumes that vegetarianism is "Good" by all standards and values of those who hold that Jesus Christ was good and that Jesus is believed to be "Good" by everyone.
    • Other people use a somewhat more complicated, but just as fallacious version of this argument: because Jesus' teachings and behaviors were most in line with the Essene sect, Jesus must have been an Essene, and because the Essenes were mostly vegetarian (pescatarian, actually, but they leave out that part), Jesus must have been a vegetarian and because Jesus is good, vegetarianism is good and he would therefore hate killing animals as much as they do. Never mind that the Essenes weren't vegetarian out of compassion for animals, but rather because they believed anything created from sexual union was treif (unclean), while thinking that fish spawned via abiogenesis in the waters and were therefore kosher. Of course that part gets left out, too.
    • Most first-century Jews were pescatarian anyway, if only because fish was a much more reliable source of food in their part of the world.
  • "Milspec" parts can end up doing this. While the military spec is above consumer grade in some applications (eg vicious drops tests for electronics, though the ruthless burn-in for components usually isn't a feature), for firearm parts it's a rather different story. The implication is that it's "suitable for actual war" because the military fights wars and all, and should therefore be pretty spiffy, but people tend to forget it's also "suitable for equipping thousands or millions of infantry" and so milspec gun parts tend to be pretty middle-of-the-road compared to high-end commercial parts, as alluded to in one of Murphy's Laws of Combat:
    "Remember: Your equipment was made by the lowest bidder."
  • This same logic is behind inexpensive knives that tout "surgical steel" as a selling point. You're supposed to assume it's high-quality metal because it's the same kind in a surgeon's scalpel, never mind that modern scalpel blades are designed for the very light-duty job of making incisions in soft tissue and disposable. No knife meant for any kind of serious use is crafted from such cheap, brittle steel.
  • Athletic sponsors looooove this one, even if their products have little to no relevance to the sport they're helping underwrite. The "official" sports drink or footwear of MLB may have some arguable significance to the consumer, since the athletes are probably at least using the stuff out of obligation. Having an "official" cheeseburger, pizza or high-calorie soda is pretty much meaningless, though, as pro ballplayers aren't downing a whole lot of junk food during spring training — or had better be training as hard again to make up for it if they are. Even in the case of the former, the "official x of y" doesn't automatically mean it was chosen by the organization for its superior quality; only that it was the brand that offered them the most money for an endorsement deal.

Looks like this fallacy but is not:

  • When the example is being used to show that there is overlap in the members of two groups, but not to state or imply that the overlap is total. For instance, saying "many (or even most) vegetarians are good, moral people" is not this. On the other hand, saying it might be misleading: one hopes that most people are good, moral people.
    • Specifically refuting the idea that an overlap between two groups is total, looks like an Association Fallacy, but isn't. The "Hitler was a vegetarian" sort of argument is most often this; not arguing that all vegetarians are genocidal dictators, but refuting the idea that vegetarians are all by definition good people. For example:
      • In Metal Gear Solid, Otacon states matter-of-factly that liking dogs is irrefutable proof that a person is decent, deep down. Snake immediately points out that Hitler was a big fan of dogs. Interesting in that while it applies under this variant, the exchange is often mistaken for an example of the Argumentum Ad Hitlerium fallacy. But Snake isn't saying liking dogs is bad; he's just shooting down Otacon's fallacy by pointing out a bad person who liked dogs.