The definition of false equivalency is “a logical fallacy in which two opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when, in fact, they are not.”
Analogies can go wrong for many reasons, but the basic reason is assigning equal value to non-equal items.
This occurs frequently in scientific information. For example, if 98 scientists say one thing and two say something contradictory, they get to debate respectfully. This gives them equal footing, and the coverage as well as the credibility status for each is the same.
Rather than giving 98% of the media coverage and credibility to 98 authorities and their research, data and proof and 2% to the other views, they are given equal amounts of time, space or talk show visibility.
Science versus pseudo-science or the denial of science by extremists who object to scientific principles and methodology aren’t even in the same ballpark, but that matters not if the information is controversial or gets viewers, readers and listeners.
An argument that has little data seems to be louder and is oft repeated as though that will make it be so. Introduce emotion and irrational concepts to throw everyone off balance and there you have it. False analogy, false dichotomy or just plain fallacy of composition is the trifecta of entertainment.
My mom would call this making a mountain out of a molehill. When we tried to create drama or exaggerate the events of the day, she would quickly dismiss us. She would have had very little tolerance for the concept of false equivalency and would let us know we should come back when we had something big, real and verifiable to report.
If one person chased me home from school, and I told her everyday so many people are chasing everyone home from school, she would have none of it. Name the one, deal with the person, and move on.
If I were to write articles about pets in general and would give the same amount of column space to pet snakes and spiders as I do for dogs and cats, I would be suggesting that there are as many snake and spider owners as there are dog and cat families. Giving equal coverage to each is giving false equivalency.
This concept can be applied to organizations, professional disciplines and the media. If television coverage on prime networks gave the same amount of time to chess tournaments as they gave to football, I fear their advertisers might complain. The viewership isn’t the same demographic, the number of viewers isn’t equal and the product placement might have to be altered. Basically, the advertisers aren’t interested in appealing to chess fans with the same amount of advertising dollars.
It is hard to get numbers on the hate groups and Ku Klux Klan members in the United States or worldwide; people don’t always brag about membership. But the percentage of the population participating in those is far less than the Kiwanians, Elks or Rotarians.
The Klan has anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 members. Rotary has 450,000 members in North America alone. There are said to be 900 different hate groups. That may sound like a lot until you take note of more than 500,000 members of Kiwanis worldwide doing good and raising money for worthy causes.
There are more than 3,000 Optimist Clubs working endlessly to make a brighter future and yet the pessimists, naysayers and hate mongers get equal amount, if not more, attention on all levels of public media.
Giving great credence to one particular thing is no different than a teacher saying what a hard year she is having, because she has two students who are incorrigible. The other 19 attentive and wonderful students are overshadowed by the time and energy the other two take. That seems to be the metaphor we are bombarded with.
All this is to say false equivalency is bologna from the get-go. It is comparing apples and oranges. Or as my mother would say “Oh, bologna,” and everyone who knew her knew she wasn’t talking about bologna.