Camel Cigarettes - Smoke the straw man.

If you like your bullshit fruit to be of the low-hanging variety, you need to introduce yourself to a little friend of mine called Cigarette Advertising. You won't find anyone's fruit hanging much lower, with the rich, thick layers of misdirection and pseudoscience, all covered in a gooey frosting of we're perfectly-happy-to-get-rich-making-you-sick-and-dead. But let's take those lemons and make some Skeptical Lemonade, by drilling ourselves on a few of the most commonly seen logical fallacies. Let the skeptical self-drilling begin!

If you were to pry open your skull, throw your brain on the floor and stomp it into a puddle of gore (Somewhere in New York, an ad executive just leapt to his feet and shouted around his cigar "You mean we can do that now?"), you'd look at this ad and think "Hey! Camels are completely safe! Thanks! I need me some Camels!" This is thanks to a couple of misleading logical fallacies. Let's get to know their names!

I found three logical fallacies stretching their legs in this ad. Ambiguity, Argument From Authority, and Straw Man.

Ambiguity - This one is pretty general, but advertisers luv luv luuuuuuuuv ambiguity. They use the hell out of it... probably such that they don't even know they're doing it any more. Here, R. J. Reynolds is hoping you'll mistake "throat irritation" for "cancer", and assume Camels are the cancer-free cancer stick. Negative. Just because your throat feels buttery smooth doesn't mean you're kicking ass in the living-forever department.

Argument From Authority / Appeal to Authority - "A bunch of doctors smoke Camels. Therefore, they're super great and totally safe and you'll never die." This one has been nicely satirized by infomercials on The Simpsons, usually featuring Try McClure. "Don't believe me. Just ask this 'scientician'!"

Nowhere is it written that doctors have flawless judgment. Many doctors have drinking problems and may indulge in kiddie porn here and there. That is not an endorsement for the health-preserving effects of either. Here's another one: "Four out of five Josef Mengeles recommend joining ze Nazi party for their patients who chew gum." See? Easy!

Straw Man - Ah, the man of the hour. He's the life of this party. A Straw man argument is one where you set yourself up with an easily-defeated enemy so that you can claim a hollow victory... usually, while hoping no one notices the other, bigger, more important argument for which you have no answer. Here, RJR would like you to believe that "throat irritation" is the worst consequence of smoking, and if we could just come up with a non-irritating cigarette, everything would be great. They do this to distract you from the cancer elephant in the room. They would also be very happy if you would mistake one for the other (See "ambiguity").

Here are some other straw mans you can expect to see before you go to bed tonight:

-"Zero trans fat!" (Please don't check the amount of actual regular fat, found on the nutrition label.)

-"Yeah, but the man can dance!" (Routinely used to excuse the despicable or illegal behavior of celebrities and pop stars.)

-"Gluten free!" (Please be thrilled that this bottle of water has no gluten. Please do not be outraged that you're paying 1000% more than you should for the privilege of drinking water, when in reality the water from your tap is held to a higher standard of purity than bottled water shipped across state lines.)

-"New size!" (Please do not compare the amount of product in the new package to that in the old package, which was sold for the same price.)

The straw man argument is very popular with advertisers. It's a very effective way of distracting someone away from the truth while making it appear as though you're helping them. For more on straw man arguments and other logical fallacies, please turn on any media device in the world or walk out your front door.

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