Motte and Bailey Fallacy Examples in Media, Real Life, Politics, News & Ads
Motte and Bailey Fallacy
Motte and Bailey Fallacy Definition
The motte and bailey fallacy is a type of argument that uses two different positions to defend an indefensible position. It is a medieval castle’s outer defensive walls, with the motte at the top of a hill and the bailey on its lower slopes.
The name derives from an old French word for “mound” (motte) and “enclosure” or “fortified farmstead” (bailey). It’s named after the castle tactic of using a motte-and-bailey, where the “motte” (a mound or earthwork) was used as a fortification until it was captured by attackers, then retreating to the “bailey” (the inner courtyard).
It was often used in medieval times as an impregnable fortress but could also refer to a large house surrounded by outbuildings.
Motte and bailey is a term that describes the use of a superficially plausible argument to support an idea, but when challenged, retreats to another position or claim. It is a strategy in which the person making an argument makes two different claims, with the second claim being more radical than the first.
- The first claim is called “motte,” and it’s usually something that sounds moderate or reasonable.
- The second claim is called “bailey,” and it’s usually something much more extreme or unreasonable.
An example would be someone who argues for gun control because guns kill people and supports the idea that law enforcement should have guns.
Motte and Bailey Fallacy Examples
Motte and Bailey Fallacy Real-Life Examples
Motte and Bailey Fallacy in Real Life:
The motte-and-bailey doctrine is a stratagem in which the same proposition, initially advanced as part of an argument for one position (the “motte”), can later be used to argue that the seemingly opposite position is actually true (“the bailey”).
For example, if someone argues against gun control by claiming that guns don’t kill people – people do – they are using this fallacy because their original statement was not meant to imply anything about whether or not guns should be illegal; it was only meant to show that gun control would not solve the problem.
This tactic has been used throughout history and across many different subjects.
Motte and Bailey Fallacy Examples in Media
Examples of Motte and Bailey Fallacy in Media:
For example, someone might argue that guns should be banned because they are dangerous and then turn around to argue that people need guns to protect themselves from criminals who have guns.
It occurs when someone makes two contradictory arguments, one that they believe in and another for the sake of argument.
Motte and Bailey Fallacy Examples in Advertising
Motte and Bailey Fallacy in Advertising:
Motte and barley come from the medieval castle design in which a motte was built up high on a mound and then surrounded by an outer wall with lower thick walls called “baileys.”
An example of this fallacy can be seen in advertising for video games where ads show children playing happily while adults are shown working hard.
Motte and Bailey Fallacy in Politics
Examples of Motte and Bailey Fallacy in Politics:
When defending an indefensible position, one will use any available arguments and then abandon them when they are no longer useful.
In politics, it refers to politicians who use one set of arguments when they are in power and another when they are not.