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False Dichotomy

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"False Dichotomy: This is where you say that there are only two choices, when actually there are more. For instance, you might say that someone is either alive, or they're dead, ignoring the fact that they might be Dracula. Or you might say that if someone's not a Democrat, they must be some sort of Republican, ignoring the very real possibility that they could be Dracula."
Lore Sjöberg, Alt Text episode 5, "Logical Fallacies"

A false dichotomynote  — also known as either/or reasoning, the black/white fallacy, false dilemma, false choice or binary thinking — is when just two options are presented for something when there are actually (many) others. Moreover, the two options presented are rigged to favour one answer. There are two ways of doing this:

Classic. One choice is an unacceptable extreme, the presenter hopes the target will commit to the not-unacceptable-extreme option: "Kill the children, or buy their cookies."

Polarization. Both choices are unacceptable extremes, the presenter hopes the target will commit to the less-unacceptable option: "Kill the children with their own cookies, or only kill half of them."

Reality is rarely so simple, unforgiving, or rigged. Instead of an artificial binary choice favouring an ideology, life offers a diverse landscape of choices and consequences.


A more subtle form is to argue that a statement of support for one thing means the speaker opposes another thing which is seen to be an opposed position, but which is not actually mutually exclusive with it at all:

Alice: I like cats.
Bob: Why do you hate dogs?

This binary approach is also a common media trope. Simply put: it is a lot easier for an audience to understand a story where characters are villains or heroes.note  In the simpler romances, it is more straightforward if characters exhibit a transcendent love, or an excoriating hate. Contrast Golden Mean Fallacy. Necessary for someone to be able to Take a Third Option (though, of course, doing that instantly subverts this trope by revealing the falsity of the dichotomy). A Sadistic Choice is similar, except all of the given options are horrible. Compare and contrast the Semantic Slippery Slope Fallacy.


Super-Trope to:

The inverse is called Denying the Correlative, wherein someone attempts to Take a Third Option where there is no third option. For example, being asked a yes or no question and answering "maybe."

Looks like this fallacy but is not:

  • There really are only two options. If a cafeteria only serves tea or coffee and you ask for a drink, "tea or coffee?" is not presenting a false dilemma.
  • The choices are "A" or "Not A". In this case, "Not A" encompasses everything that isn't "A", even if that category is massive. For example, "You're either a Conservative, or not a Conservative," does include all possibilities, even though "Not a Conservative" includes liberals, libertarians, anarchists, or any other political philosophy that isn't simply conservatism by another name.
  • The act of presenting two options makes there become just two options. For example, if asked to call heads or tails on a coin, it can be assumed any other states the coin might land in are going to be discarded.
  • There really are only two options, even though there's a third (semi-)option that comes from combining (bits of) the other two. This is usually due to a linguistic quirk of English whereby both the Inclusive Or (A or B or both) and Exclusive Or (A or B but never both, often abbreviated xor) are both just 'or'. E.g. the statement "Everyone reading this page is alive or a human" is true for an Inclusive Or, but not for an Exclusive Or. Naturally, most statements like that are misleading in general speech. See the trope Mathematician's Answer.


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  • Blue Spring Ride: Kou has to choose between dating Futaba, a girl that he's loved for several years, or to give emotional support to Yui, who is currently going through a rough spot in her life. Never once does it occur to him that he could date Futaba, while still being a good friend and support to Yui.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Towards the end of the story, Alphonse acquires a Philosopher's Stone and uses it to his advantage to fight Kimbly and Pride. Kimbly wonders why: if Alphonse were to use the Stone to flee instead, he could use its power to restore his and Edward's bodies in full... while leaving Amestris and its people to its fate. Alphonse throws out this logic and claims there is no reason he should not be able to pull off both. Kimbly accepts this, but points out that it brings one more possibility on the table: fail to restore their bodies and fail to save anyone.
  • At the end of Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, Fuse is given a choice between killing Kei or sparing her... but the second he shoots her, a squadmates with him is shown unloading his own pistol, making it clear the "choice" was no choice at all, merely a test of his loyalty. If Fuse had refused, his squad would've just shot him and killed Kei themselves.
  • Zankyou no Terror: During their first bombing, Twelve gives a bomb to his classmate Lisa to make Nine remember their mutual painful memory. Nine calls Lisa and gives her two options; join them as an accomplice or die as a victim. Obviously she chooses staying alive.

    Comic Books 
  • During the initial promotion for Civil War, Marvel released a pair of message board signature images reading either "I'm with Captain America" or "I'm with Iron Man". Within days, fans were creating their own versions by the dozens, the most popular being: "You're all fucked when the Hulk gets back" or "THOU ART NO THOR"!
  • Parodied in Spider-Man with J. Jonah Jameson's favorite description of Spidey; "Threat or Menace?". Basically suggesting that either Spider-Man is a danger to others around him accidentally, or he's an actively malevolent thug. The (true) third option that Spider-Man is neither of those things and is actually a hero who protects people is, of course, ignored by Jameson.
  • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers: In his hellish prison-turned-junta Garrus-9, Overlord gives everyone who wins the Gladiator Games a choice; either commit suicide or fight him for their freedom. Overlord, for reference, is a genetically-enhanced Super Soldier capable of slaughtering entire armies single-handedly. There is no choice but to die. The third option of simply running away before this point is pointed out by Impactor, but Snare sums up why nobody takes it; they're all rightfully terrified of what Overlord would do if anybody refuses to play along with his rules.
  • The chief cause of the threeway conflict between humans, mutants, and robots that forms the crux of X-Men is extremists on all three sides insisting that people must choose and can only be one, and that any alternate options like peaceful coexistence or overlap between groups is impossible. The X-Men fight to prove that false dichotomy wrong, and stories frequently highlight the Insane Troll Logic behind the dichotomy.

  • A Few Good Men: Colonel Jessup, after having been accused of killing one of his own men (admittedly by accident): "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post." You are either at war or not a soldier, used against a military lawyer.
  • The "Battle of Wits" from The Princess Bride presents this. The Man in Black puts two goblets between them and asks, "Where is the poison?" Vizzini goes through dozens of justifications and possibilities for why one would poison either one, trying to stall for time. Either way, he never considers that they were both poisoned. Vizzini pulled the fallacy on himself, since the Man in Black never said that only one of the goblets was poisoned.
  • Part of the choice between factions in Captain America: Civil War. Would you rather have superheroes who are so overly regulated they can never be effective at all, or no authority/oversight so superheroes can do whatever they want without repercussions? This may be justified because they are being told that the current arrangement is the compromise by Thaddeus Ross, who is using the Accords as a power play to control the Avengers who support him and round up the ones who don't. After seeing his severity later in the film and his unreasonable pettiness in the next, the remaining "Pro-Accords" Avengers quit.
  • Layla from Sky High (2005), asked to demonstrate her powers, claims that the hero/sidekick dichotomy is a false one, but is cut off by Boomer declaring her a sidekick.
  • Star Wars:
    • Revenge of the Sith: Two for one, but only one called out:
      Anakin: If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy!
      Obi-Wan: Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
    • The Empire Strikes Back has Han wishing to leave the Rebels to go and pay off his debt to Jabba The Hutt, as he's been attacked twice now by bounty hunters and believes his life is in constant danger until he does so. This is treated by everyone as a desertion, with Leia and Luke chiding him as a Selfish Dirty Coward who is abandoning his friends and turning his back on the rebellion for good. In the end, his choice is depicted as "welsh on the bet to stay with the Rebels" or "abandon the Rebels to pay the debt", and why he can't just duck out for a day to pay the debt and then return to his post with the Rebels after the fact is never brought up. What makes it particularly odd is this is exactly what Luke does when he leaves the Rebels to train with Yoda on Dagobah, and he's gone a lot longer than it would presumably take to do the galactic equivalent of paying a bill.
  • Thank You for Smoking: Nick Naylor's career as a tobacco lobbyist runs on this, using rapid attacks of Chewbacca Defense, Insane Troll Logic, and Moving the Goalposts to discredit his opponents, thereby making himself looking like the smarter one by comparison. As he explains it to his son during a theoretical debate exercise, "I proved that you're wrong. And if you're wrong, I'm right."
  • A Matter of Faith: The only options raised in the debate are naturalistic evolution versus creationism. In reality, many believers Take a Third Option of theistic evolution, claiming God at least started it or perhaps guided the process. Of course, the film was backed by creationist groups which reject this, so naturally the idea isn't brought up at all.
  • Fletcher's general view in Whiplash boils down to a belief that praising people, whether they deserve it or not, makes them complacent and prevents them from going further, as evidenced in his "good job" monologue, but he goes the other extreme, offering up nothing but horrific verbal abuse. The idea that a teacher can praise a student for doing well and also push them to do better is something that doesn't seem to occur to Fletcher and is a sign that he just likes being awful to people because he's a bully.

  • There's a standard joke about someone moving to Northern Ireland and being asked by the locals if they're Protestant or Catholic: when they explain that they are in fact atheist/Buddhist/Muslim/other, the locals respond "Yes, but are you a Protestant or a Catholic atheist/Buddhist/Muslim/other?"
  • Similar joke: an atheist is asked but is asked to clarify " it the Protestant God or the Catholic God you don't believe in?"
  • This joke includes one at the end. The third interviewee presumes that the prospective employer must wear contacts, as it would be hard to wear glasses without ears. Apparently, it did not occur to the interviewee that his prospective employer might not require any correction to his vision at all.
  • If you see a $5 note and a $10 note on the ground, which would you pick?
  • "That city only has prostitutes and troops!" "My mom lives there!" "She's guaranteeing the town safety."
  • At an asylum, a patient's sanity is tested by filling a bathtub with water, then asking the patient to empty it in the shortest time possible, given a choice between a cup and a bucket for doing so. A sane person would choose to pull out the plug.
  • One common joke involves a kid riding a bicycle (or donkey, in some versions) across a border with a sack of straw every day for years; a suspicious border guard stops him every time and checks the sack for smuggled goods, never finding anything. When the two meet years later and the officer asks what the kid was actually smuggling, the answer is "bikes/donkeys". The false dichotomy comes in because the guard falsely assumed that the kid was either smuggling something in the sack, or not smuggling at all.
  • The infamous trolley problem. As many people have pointed out, if you were actually in this situation in real life, it's highly unlikely that your only two options would be to do nothing and let the children get hit, or flip the switch to the other track and then let the rail worker get hit.

  • A Sherlock Holmes sequel-by-other-hands has Holmes called upon to judge which of two violins is the one Davy Crockett played at the Alamo. He quickly identifies one as a fake, but realises that he was intended to; the owner wanted him to declare a violin as genuine, and so was presenting him with the false dichotomy of "which one's the fake?" They both are.
  • In Twilight, Bella believes she must either be with Edward or with Jacob. She also believes she must either become a vampire or grow old. Later, she believes that she must either wait until her belly is full-sized to deliver, or abort it, because no life-threatening pregnancy was ever solved by putting the babies on life-support to save the life of the mother. Bella thinks only in absolutes throughout the series. Another example would be when Edward leaves her in the second book. To her, her only options are being happy with Edward, or being miserable without him. Being happy without Edward never once occurs to her, no matter how often it's suggested to her.
  • In The Tar-Aiym Krang, Tru and Bran spend an inordinate amount of exposition debating whether the titular legendary artifact for which they are searching is a musical instrument, as per one version of the myth, or a powerful weapon, as per a different version. Naturally, the actual Krang turns out to be a sonic weapon of unprecedented power.
  • Brave New World: Mustapha Mond's experiment in equality fails to be an argument against free will because the experiment seems to have been engineered to fail. The people involved in the experiment were Alphas. They not only had a high intelligence that made them efficient at intellectual work, they were conditioned all their prior life to be happy only with specific jobs. This ensured civil war, because they were literally brainwashed into being incapable of accepting the menial jobs they were shown. Yet no character points this out. If the experiment involved members of all castes, except without the caste system being enforced (allowing castes to interbreed, and take different jobs if they wanted to), or the citizens selected for the experiment were adults who were spared conditioning as children, the experiment could probably have succeeded. The "brilliant minds" who became disillusioned with society and were banished to the world's many islands to do as they please (alluded to at the book's end and explored in Huxley's Island) certainly created what could very well be a viable alternative to "civilization" (with its brainwashing and enforced caste system) and "savage" (poverty- and conflict-ridden) reservations. Thus the presented trilemma between pointless hedonism, civil war, and low-technology reservations is a false one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Colbert Report:
    • Stephen Colbert loves this trope and takes it to the extreme, often asking questions such as "America: greatest nation in the world, or greatest nation in the universe?" When the interviewee starts to say he/she doesn't want to be quoted as saying either of those, he explains that those are the only options available: "So I'll put you down for 'world,' because that's not AS great as 'universe'..."
    • "Pick a side, we're at war."
    • "George W. Bush: Great President, or The Greatest President?"
    • He also divides the supermarket into cheese and non-cheese. Assuming that he classifies everything with cheese in it as cheese, it's a real dichotomy… but not a particularly important one. What about cottage cheese and other borderline dairy products?
  • Parks and Recreation: Leslie tried to drum up public support for building a park by phrasing the question, "Wouldn't you rather have a park than a storage facility for nuclear waste?"
  • Revolution: In "The Dark Tower", Nora Clayton gets shot in the gut by a coil gun and is bleeding out. Rachel Matheson tries to convince Team Matheson to just leave her behind and turn the power back, and Nora herself even urges them to leave her. However, Charlie Matheson intervenes and flat out states that this is not an either-or situation and that they can both turn the power back and get Nora to an infirmary. So, Aaron Pittman and Rachel go on to get the power back on, and Charlie and Miles Matheson go on to get Nora to an infirmary.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Tabletop Games 
  • RPG game Paranoia: if you aren't a fanatic supporter of the oppressive totalitarian regime, a loyal servant of The Computer, you are a death-dealing commie mutant traitor. This one is notable because everyone in Paranoia is a commie mutant traitor at heart, so instead of there being more than two possibilities, it turns out there's only one. Well, some of the commie mutant traitors do love the Computer.
  • Many, many debates about alignment in the D&D game have arisen because of assuming every possible action must be either "Good" or "Evil", while overlooking the existence of "Neutral" as an alternative. This frequently comes up for the paladin class, because the phrasing of their code of honor implies that even tolerating any act of evil or chaos can cost them all their class features.
    • The infamous "Baby Orc Dilemma" from early editions is the result of jerkass DMs using a false dichotomy (either kill a innocent baby monster or let it grow up to be evil) to force Paladins into "falling" by boxing them into a Sadistic Choice between two evil options. The actual result of the choice — the Paladin falling — is the same either way, so it's lose-lose. The rather obvious options (ensuring the baby is raised properly by good people, adopting it yourself, that the baby just won't grow up to be evil, etc.) are not allowed. Stamping out this sort of nonsense is why later editions ditch the Always Chaotic Evil concept (which they were doing anyways) and spell out Paladin codes in the player handbook rather then leaving them up to the whims of the DM.

    Video Games 
  • One sidequest in Mass Effect: Andromeda involves investigating a murder. Eventually, you learn that the suspect did indeed try to kill the victim, but the shot missed, and the victim was instead killed by hostile aliens. The game then presents only two options: arrest the suspect for the murder, which he didn't technically commit, or let him go, even though he really was trying to kill someone. For some reason, the game forgets that attempted murder is also a crime, if a less serious one.

    Visual Novels 
  • Part of a trick played on Kyousuke in The Devil on G-String, which is especially amusing because he just saw it pulled on his idiot friend. The trick pulled on his friend was the question "Which river is the longest in the world? A. the Amazon B. the Yangtze C. the Edo?"note  while it was never stated that it was actually a multiple choice question, and thus the answer is the Nile. The trick played on Kyousuke comes immediately after, where he gets asked, "Will you go on a date with Mizuha at a classical concert or somewhere else?" and he accidentally picks option one before realizing that 'don't go on a date at all' was also a valid choice, but is too proud to back down now.

  • In Edition Wars: Invaders from the Fourth Dimension, a story in The Order of the Stick book Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales, the Fourth Edition version of Haley is able to knock out Durkon by stabbing him in the foot, because nowhere in the rules does it say that she can't knock him out by stabbing him in the foot.
    4E Elan: Then that means you used—
    4E Haley: Yes. I used the power of abandoned verisimilitude!
    4E Elan: Anything is possible when you don't care about what's actually possible!
    • A straighter example is the conflict to begin with. 4E Roy believes that people can either play 4th Edition or 3.5. Eventually both teams Take a Third Option by attacking other types of gaming.
  • Called out in the Fantasy theme of Irregular Webcomic!: When one of the Player Characters asks the DM "Would you rather have campaign progress or character development?" the DM promptly replies "It is not a dichotomy!" In the accompanying rant, it is commented, "Of course not. In a dichotomy, you do get one of the options."
  • Averted in this Mountain Time comic in the form of the battle cry of the Rally for More Options.
  • xkcd:
    • Deconstructed in "Charity". Telling someone they are in the wrong for choosing a middle ground does not mean they will make the choice you feel is just. Then your side loses completely should they choose the other option.
    • False Dichotomy is named after the fallacy and provides a sillier and more meta example.
    Cueball: Yes, but we have to embrace false dichotomies, because the only alternative is cannibalism.

    Web Originals 
  • Extremely common in a Flame War. In fact you can test this yourself; go to any wikia based site and bring up a commonly held but non-verifiable belief, you won't have to wait long to see this kind of argument show up.
  • A popular joke on YouTube is to comment on a video by reciting the number of "dislike" ratings the video has at the time of commenting and accusing all of them of something; common examples include "[X] people missed the 'like' button," "[X] people had no childhood," "[X] people are Justin Bieber fans," or some kind of threat. Such comments tend to be found in the highest rated comments, but luckily, subversions and parodies are replacing them in that spot (a common version referencing something in the video or relevant to it).

    Western Animation 
  • South Park
    • "Gnomes" is about Harbucks Coffee threatening the existence of Tweek Bros. Coffeehouse. Mr. Tweek gets the public on his side to oppose the larger corporation and a proposition is soon presented that would determine whether or not Harbucks would be allowed to stay. An ad is soon presented by "Citizens for a Fair and Equal way to get Harbucks Coffee kicked out of Town Forever".
    It's time to stop large corporations. Prop. 10 is about children. Vote yes on Prop. 10, or else, you hate children. You don't hate… children… do you?
    • Spoofed in "The Death of Eric Cartman":
    Mrs. Stotch: I don't know whether to ground him or call a doctor.
    Mr. Stotch: I think you should call a doctor. I'll ground him.
  • In the episode "Screwed the Pooch" from Family Guy:
    Lawyer: Mr. Griffin, which of the following two phrases best describes Brian Griffin: "problem drinker" or "African American haberdasher"?
    Peter: Uh, do I-I guess problem drinker, but that's uh-
    Lawyer: Thank you. Now: "sexual deviant" or "magic picture that if you stare at it long enough, you see something"?
    Peter: Well, sexual deviant, but that other one's not even, eh-
    Lawyer: Thank you.
  • In King of the Hill, Hank Hill and his friends can't wrap their head around their neighbor Khan Souphanousinphone not being either Chinese or Japanese, even after he corrects them.
    Hank: So are you Chinese or Japanese?
    Khan: No, we are Laotian.
    Bill: The ocean? What ocean?
    Khan: From Laos, stupid! It's a landlocked country in South-East Asia between Vietnam and Thailand, population approximately 4.7 million!
    Hank: (long pause) So are you Chinese or Japanese?
    Khan: D'oh!
    Dale (whispering about Khan): He's Japanese.
    Cotton: No he ain't! (inspects Khan) He's Laotian. Ain't you, Mr. Khan?
  • In Dragons: Riders of Berk, Hiccup must choose between beating Snotlout at The Thawfest Games or letting Snotlout win, with it being shown that if Snotlout doesn't win, he's in for hell from his father (of breaking the family streak) to the point of Snotlout outright panicking when he thinks it'll happen. It's never brought up that maybe Snotlout's dad is taking this too seriously, shouldn't have his love for his son based on a game, or anything of the sort. It also doesn't help that Snotlout is an obnoxious winner, not even realizing that Hiccup threw the race for him, when part of Hiccup's dilemma was if he was just winning to be a jerk (he Took a Level in Jerkass so they could wonder that, too) instead of helping out a friend.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Son of Stan, pt. 2", Stan and Francine argue over whether the proper way to raise Steve is to be totally strict, or totally permissive. Stan settles the matter by cloning Steve and letting Francine raise Steve her way, while he raises Steve-arino (the clone) his way. It turns out that neither way is correct: Steve ends up becoming a disrespectful slob thanks to Francine's lack of disciplining him, while Steve-arino becomes a psychopathic killer thanks to Stan's oppressive parenting.
  • The 1967 cartoon The Bear That Wasn't (based on the book of the same name) has a bear told by factory managers that he's not a bear but a silly man in a fur coat that needs a shave. They tell him this over and over, but the clincher comes when the factory's president is brought in. The president takes the bear to the zoo and explains that bears belong in the zoo. Since the bear was not in the zoo, he could not be a bear. The bears in the zoo even agree, saying that a real bear would be in the zoo with them!
  • In Over the Garden Wall, the Deal with the Devil the Beast operates under is actually one of these. He told the Woodsman (and later Wirt) that their only choices were to keep their loved one's soul lit in the Dark Lantern or let them die. In reality no such choice exists, as the Dark Lantern doesn't actually contain the soul of the Woodsman's daughter; it contains the Beast's soul and he tricks people into keeping it lit because if it goes out he'll die. Take a wild guess what happens when Wirt finally figures out the trick and gives the Woodsman the lantern...
  • In Batman: The Animated Series episode "Almost Got 'Im", Harley Quinn has Poison Ivy strapped to a Conveyor Belt of Doom with Batman cornering her. She tries to convince Batman that he could only capture Harley or save Catwoman. Batman proves her wrong by simply shutting off the power to the conveyor belt without letting her go.
    Harley: Good call. Help!

    Real Life 
  • The "debate" between religion and science is itself an example. Putting aside the fact that religion isn't even a single thing, it isn't actually at war with science. The whole concept is outright bizarre when you consider how many famous historical scientists were priests (and a good number of modern ones), the historical papal bulls protecting free inquiry, the funding of science, the many historic universities with religious founders, and the fact that the Vatican itself has a science department (the Pontifical Academy of Sciences), along with several labs. Even if the Theory of Evolution were disproven, Creationism would not automatically take its place. These aren't even mutually exclusive as species may be created but still evolve after this over time. Usually, the claim by proponents of this idea (called the "conflict thesis") will be a) religions suppressed science historically, b) religion and science both have incompatible methodologies or c) science disproves religion. The first is now disbelieved by historians, since outside a few possible examples there really is no evidence of this. With the second case, some do agree, but others do not. Scientific evidence is used for religious claims (and against them, of course)-while they aren't entirely the same, there is no inherent conflict. With the third, of course there is much ongoing debate. Many scientists will just follow the observable facts and leave their own personal religious beliefs out of it (when they don't outright see the observable facts as confirmation of their religious beliefs), which many creationists and anti-theists don't seem to fathom.
  • Similarly, Science vs. Art, ignoring that many prominent scientists appreciated and/or partook in artistic pursuits, and vice-versa.
  • Another similar one is the "division" between religions and the idea that they are mutually exclusive or that one cannot practice or believe multiple faiths. Leaving aside that religions have been intermingling since the very conception of religion (so… since the dawn of human existence), the idea that all religions are true or carry reflections of the truth was the de facto presumption for most of history and is still a fairly common religious belief, even among those who do subscribe to "one true faith" (C. S. Lewis, for instance, was a devout Catholic who believed that pagan religions carried reflections of the truth of Christianity). The concept of "only one true faith" is a lot Newer Than They Think, and is sometimes accused of being less of a true, serious theological view and more a political tool.
  • "America - Love It Or Leave It" is a popular false dilemma in The United States, though it's not exactly unique to them. The dilemma suggests that a true patriot must embrace everything ever done by America, or become un-American. However, since America as a nation was founded on the concept of political dissent, one must doubt the premise of this false dilemma very seriously. To say nothing of the fact that this fallacy can easily be turned back on those who use it, i.e. declaring that nobody who truly loves America would allow it not to fix its current problems, thus implying that those who use the fallacy don't really love America (in a mature way) by thinking it's perfect and can do no wrong, that is, enabling it.
    • A specific case of this leading to an absurdity was advertised on news websites based in the US in early 2021. To wit, Ben Shapiro put up an ad for an article published by his website, with the tag line that reading it could supposedly turn any American leftist into a patriot. This, of course, doesn’t consider the very real possibility that a reader might hold staunch left-wing views and be a patriot already, meaning that the article would not cause them to change their opinions even if it lacked conservative spin.
  • Any country where the men can choose between the army and civilian service. Either you join the army because A Real Man Is a Killer, or you refuse to join because you're a wuss, a traitor, and not a real man. Many of those who choose the latter do it not because of fear of death, but because of personal reasons such as pacifism (hating all conflict in general), or not being willing to fight a particular conflict due to an ideological opposition to that conflict (i.e. "I'd defend my country if I felt it was necessary, but I don't think this war is necessary"). Also, the dichotomy presented suggests the only way a man can prove his masculinity is by killing, when there are many other ways for a man to prove this, either to the world or to himself.
  • Homophobia vs LGBTQ support. Either you support gay marriage because you're gay yourself, or you're against it because you hate gay people. There's quite a good deal of in-between groups that rarely get heard from, such as "unionists" who believe gay marriage is wrong, but should not be banned because marriage is an intrinsic right, or straight people who have no problem with gay marriage, and some gay people who don't want gay marriage because they consider the institution historically flawed or because they would rather take political action against issues like LGBTQ youth homelessness and find the marriage issue insignificant.
  • There's also the broader dichotomy that by being LGBTQ, you must also be a liberal and support liberal causes. This ignores the fact that one's sexual orientation does not affect their political views on things such as the economy, spending, energy, healthcare, etc. In one example, the idea of being a gay Republican in the United States is often seen as a joke, but there is a significant number of people within the Republican party who are also gay. The organization Log Cabin Republicans has been representing this membership since the late 1970's, and has even been the subject of a documentary, Gay Republicans.
  • Law & Order vs Oppression: it all depends on if you agree with the law or not.
  • Rebellion vs Revolution: it all depends on who wins. If the government wins, it's only a rebellion. If the rebels win, it's a revolution.
  • Conspiracy theorists frequently commit this:
    • Either you accept that their conspiracy is true, or you're a mindless sheep who believes whatever the establishment says. It's quite possible for one to believe the establishment lies sometimes, but they happened to be telling the truth this particular time. Even that's a false dichotomy, as some of the most outlandish conspiracy theories (such as reptiles secretly controlling the earth via the Illuminati) can be rejected by someone who believes the establishment is always lying.
    • A common claim from conspiracy theorists is always along the lines of "You're trying to destroy my theory? You must be one of them!", ignoring the fact that maybe people who have no personal stake in the argument find it completely insane.
    • Some people, moreover, suggest that certain conspiracy theories (or even most) are themselves started or supported by the establishment. After all, most build up the idea of a nigh-omnipotent secret elite running things. Such as idea, when taken seriously, may inspire people to drop out of participation in the political system at all as being hopeless, thus neutering the threat of changes that the establishment doesn't want. It could also discredit dissent by having them embrace absurd, fringe ideas. Others might point suspicions in another direction from the real source of a problem, making people chase red herrings.
  • Political correctness vs bigotry. It implies that anyone who criticizes PC thought must be a racist/sexist/homophobic bigot, and conversely implies that anyone who is ever offended by anything or tries to raise a discussion about whether something is offensive is an overly sensitive PC person trying to censor everybody. Or the idea that a work with Unfortunate Implications or Values Dissonance can't still have value. Even among PC crowd, there are some who oppose censoring historical works with offensive material, believing that such works can be learning experiences and censoring them would be a form of whitewashing or denial.
  • People tend to treat reason and emotion as mutually exclusive.
  • Abused by anti-vaccine advocates. Either vaccines are completely safe or they are too dangerous to use. Cost-benefit analysis is rarely used. Ignoring medical cost-benefit analysis is often abused in more sensationalist media coverage. For example, hysterical news articles about how Ritalin (or many other drugs, usually psychiatric ones) may be damaging the patients prescribed it in some vague, undefined way, or pointing out some of the nastier potential side effects, and calling for its use to be stopped on that basis... while ignoring that for at least some patients, these short term side effects or potential long term risks do not outweigh the benefits of the drug for them.
  • Pro-life vs. pro-choice. A substantial number of pro-lifers, including the Catholic Church, would allow abortion for extenuating circumstances, such as if the mother is at risk of death from childbirth or the pill if it's needed to control an irregular cycle. Some are also not opposed to contraception, which is preventing conception from occurring (such as condoms), while abortion is post-conception. Inversely, many pro-choicers may in fact dislike or even oppose abortion, but still do not think it should be banned or carrying to term presented as the only option. That is why it's called "choice" after all. There's also the question of if abortion should be allowed only in early stages of pregnancy, versus at any time or never (even most people on the pro-choice side do not support abortion past early periods, except in extreme cases such as to save the mother's life).
  • Right-handed vs left-handed, ignoring the possibility of being ambidextrous, which still ignores the possibility of being cross-dominant.
  • To hear some people talk, parents who don't believe in spanking are not disciplining their children at all, and are letting them run the household, while the other side of the debate often claims that anyone who spanks their child is automatically a psychopathic abuser. Both sides tend to ignore that what works or is necessary for one child may not apply the same way to another.
  • The court of public opinion. In many trials or investigations into a hot issue, such as the Zimmerman/Martin case or the Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown, debates on the topic usually insist that you either believe the shooting was racially motivated or that you are a racist yourself who believed the victims deserved to die because of their skin color.
  • United States health care:
    • According to proponents of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) the choice is between Obamacare or no health care at all. Therefore, you either support the ACA or you want people to be without coverage and die in the street of preventable conditions.
    • Conversely, opponents of the ACA frame it as a choice between the unfettered free market, which will naturally make everything more efficient through competition, or a government-run monopoly that will destroy the nation's health care system.
    • The ACA is actually between the two extremes, setting up exchanges in which consumers can shop around for plans from different companies, regulations and subsidies intended to make the private-sector insurance industry more equitable, along with a mandate for insurance coverage to ensure that there are no free riders who don't contribute to the system. Ironically, it was originally proposed by the conservative Heritage Institute as a counter-proposal when Bill Clinton had proposed universal health care in the early 1990s.
    • And then, in 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic sparked an economic downturn which saw massive layoffs and with that, millions losing their health insurance, leading to a renewed push for government-sponsored healthcare either with Medicare For All or a Public Option.
  • The debate over economics in the US often boils down to a simplistic view of capitalism vs socialism. The right bashes people supporting welfare policies as dangerous socialists trying to turn their countries into a failed police state like the USSR or Venezuela. Conversely, the left accuses people who support free enterprise of being greedy corporate apologists willing to let people die for profits. Those on both sides often fail to realize that it is possible to have a market economy with pro-worker laws and/or government assistance for essential services. Most notably, both point to the Scandinavian countries as examples of socialism even though those countries are actually social democracies, i.e. capitalist societies with generous welfare policies and pro-worker provisions.
  • "You're either part of the solution or part of the problem." - No room for innocent bystanders here.
  • My Real Daddy vs. Only the Creator Does It Right: a work can have two (or more) integral creators.
  • When something popular gets cancelled, people will jokingly say the company hates good things and/or making money. Inversely, when something unpopular continues on, people say the company loves things that suck. The executives responsible may indeed like the work but can't justify the production cost on a small audience. Even successful franchises have a lifespan.
  • It is saidnote  that the Library of Alexandria was burned down by 'Amr ibn al-'As on the basis that if the scrolls were in agreement with The Qur'an, they were superfluous, whereas if they opposed it they were blasphemous. This of course ignored the vastly more likely possibility that they had no connection to it at all (though he might have classified them as “superfluous” in that case).
  • When it comes to people expressing extreme (even violent) philosophies, you're either fine with, or even support, the terrible beliefs they're advocating, or you want to censor them because you hate freedom of speech. Except that it's possible to support the right for people to say things you personally disagree with. Indeed, the US First Amendment and similar laws are designed precisely for this. An idea everyone is fine with, after all, usually needs no legal protection against censorship.
  • The system of dividing people into either "liberal" or "conservative" affiliations. It is entirely possible for a person to have liberal opinions on one issue and conservative opinions on another, and there are beliefs which don't fall into either category. This also usually carries some ethnocentrism with it—countries other than the U.S. often have completely different definitions of "liberal" and "conservative" (and what is liberal in one country may be conservative in another). Also of course they may embrace a different ideology from these two entirely.
  • Many people believe that a person can only be male or female. Setting aside the fact that different people have different standards for who falls on which side of the binary, there are also people who are both and/or neither, both in the biological sense note  and in the self-identification sensenote . When you get down to a chromosomal level, it can get even more complex.
  • Whenever massive protests erupt in the wake of a police killing, the phrase "people over property" occasionally comes up, as if to suggest that caring about those whose deaths sparked all the civil unrest and caring about property destroyed as a result of looting and riots are both mutually exclusive concerns. The fact that this destruction of property has cost many people their jobs, their businesses, or even their lives often goes completely ignored.
  • There's also the issue where a person can only be an introvert or an extrovert, ignoring that people can also be ambiverts, and be borderline between ambivert/introvert and ambivert/extrovert. It all just depends on the person. And also, whoever says "all introverts are inherently anti-social, and all extroverts are inherently great puplic speakers" apparently hardly knows anything about either. A good number of actors consider themselves introverts, and quietly observing people likely adds a lot of nuance to their own performances.
  • Unconditional support of the police vs. Cop Hater. That one frequently shows up in the debates surrounding Police Brutality, Miscarriage of Justice and the like. People speaking up against such phenomena are sometimes assumed to be part of the second group when they may be otherwise perfectly fine with the institution as a whole. People voicing their support to the police and/or speaking up against unwarranted violence against members of the police force may be assumed to be part of the first group, when they may also agree that officers who don't do their work properly should be punished. There are also people who consider themselves part of the first group that seem to think that any acknowledgment that the police are fallible will automatically make them part of the second group.
  • Nudity = Sex. In other words, being naked gives you the urge to want to have sex with others or perform sexual acts, like masturbating. While this is true only in some cases, however, being naked doesn't really make you do that. Being naked is simply being fully exposed to your surroundings and being close to nature. This is called 'naturism'.

Alternative Title(s): False Dilemma, False Dichotomies