Tu quoque fallacy- Appeal to hypocrisy (personal inconsistency)

Tu quoque (Latin for “you also”), or the appeal to hypocrisy, is a fallacy that intends to discredit the opponent’s argument by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with its conclusion(s). That is, it is claimed that the argument is flawed by pointing out that the persona making the argument is not acting consistently with the claims of the argument.

The logically fallacious tu quoque “argument” follows the pattern:

Person A makes claim X.
Person B asserts that A’s actions or past claims are inconsistent with the truth of claim X.
Therefore, X is false.

An example would be

Peter: “Bill is guilty of defrauding the government out of tax dollars.”
Bill: “How can you say that when you yourself have 20 outstanding parking tickets?”

It is a fallacy because the moral character or actions of the opponent are generally irrelevant to the logic of the argument. It is often used as a red herring tactic and is a special case of the ad hominem fallacy, which is a category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of facts about the person presenting or supporting the claim or argument.


In the trial of Nazi criminal Klaus Barbie, the controversial lawyer Jacques Vergès tried to present what was defined as a Tu Quoque Defence—i.e., that during the Algerian War, French officers such as General Jacques Massu had committed war crimes similar to those with which Barbie was being charged, and therefore the French state had no moral right to try Barbie. This defense was rejected by the court, which convicted Barbie.

Further References

Walton, D. (1998). Ad hominem arguments. University of Alabama Press.

Seeing the bigger picture

A generalisable lesson from psychophysics.

“Violations of moral norms can be made ‘morally invisible’ even if all relevant facts are unobscured: This can be achieved by embedding these facts into a context that prevents eliciting widespread unease and indignation. One example is the structural violence associated with the implementation of neoliberal economical doctrine. While societal and humanitarian consequences of this violence have so far been mostly observed in so-called third-world countries, they also manifest themselves more and more often in western industrialized nations. Mass media play a pivotal role in making facts morally and cognitively visible: In addition to reporting simple facts, media typically also deliver the contextual frame necessary for interpreting the facts, thus shaping our political world view. The invisibility of some moral transgressions is thus part of our daily live and concerns us all.” (Mausfeld, 2015)

See also: uni-kiel.de/psychologie/mausfeld

Occlusion & fragmentation of information

If information is partially occluded and fragmented, we are oftentimes unable to identify the underlying pattern (see Figure 1).

However, as soon as the causal reason for the fragmentation becomes available to us (i.e., when we become aware of the visual or ideological “mask”) we are able to use inferential deductive cognitive reasoning processes to identify (and understand) the underlying pattern – despite the fragmentation of information/knowledge (see Figure 2). Without this “causative information” which masks the underlying pattern the likelihood of successful pattern recognition is minute (note that both figures display the letter “R” in various orientations – the difference between them is that Figure 2 shows the mask whereas Figure 1 does not) .Insight1 (cf. Köhler, 1925)2 into the mechanism which causes the occlusion and fragmentation thus allows us to understand the broader meaning of the percept (or the psychological narrative), viz., we are able to see “the bigger picture” in context. This contextual knowledge can be a visual mask or a historical pattern (as outlined below). The adumbrated perceptual analogy is thus generalisable across prima vista unrelated domains (i.e., it is domain non-specific).

The same idea can be applied to the social sphere. An understanding of the mechanisms which undergird “neoliberal psychological indoctrination” is crucial in order to understand the “bigger picture” – the “holistic gestalt” (Ash, 1998; Sharps & Wertheimer, 2000) of the social, political, economic, and academic environment we inhabit. Based on this overarching knowledge we can then “try our best” to take an appropriate and responsible course of action. However, we first have to perceive and acknowledge the problem. That is, a valid diagnosis is primary. Without this broader understanding we “lose sight of the wood for the trees” (cf. global vs. local perception/information processing), that is, we attend to seemingly unrelated semantic information fragments without an understanding of their mutual interrelations. Interestingly, emotions & affective states play a significant modulatory role in the underlying cognitive processes (e.g., Basso, Schefft, Ris, & Dember, 1996; Gasper & Clore, 2002; Huntsinger, Clore, & Bar-Anan, 2010). In other words, our emotional system is centrally involved in perception and reasoning. Therefore, the emotional system (i.e., limbic system) can be systematically manipulated in order to interfere with rational higher-order (prefrontal) cognitive processes which are necessary for logical inferential reasoning and problem-solving. Primordial fear (phylogenetically ancient amygdalae circuitry) is perhaps the most significant inhibitor of higher-order cognitive processes.

Gross, C. T., & Canteras, N. S.. (2012). The many paths to fear. Nature Reviews Neuroscience

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1038/nrn3301
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Povinelli, D. J., & Bering, J. M.. (2002). The mentality of apes revisited. Current Directions in Psychological Science

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/1467-8721.00181
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Ruiz, G., & Sánchez, N.. (2014). Wolfgang Köhler’s the mentality of apes and the animal psychology of his time. Spanish Journal of Psychology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1017/sjp.2014.70
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Edaward BernaysWalter LippmannBertold BrechtErich Fromm

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.” (Edward Bernays, Propaganda, 1928)
  • Bernays, E. L. (1928). Propaganda. Horace Liveright.
  • Bernays, E. L. (1936). Freedom of Propaganda. Vital Speeches of the Day, 2(24), 744–746.
  • L’Etang, J. (1999). The father of spin: Edward L. Bernays and the birth of public relations. Public Relations Review, 25(1), 123–124.

“That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. . . . [a]s a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power…. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach. …  The public must be put in its place, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and roar of a bewildered herd.” (Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, Chapter XV)

  • Lippmann, W. (1920). Liberty and the News. Museum.
  • Lippmann, W. (1970). The Phantom Public. Politics.

From 1930 onwards, Brecht became part of a wider complex of projects exploring the role of intellectuals (or “Tuis” as he called them) in a capitalist society. A Tui is an intellectual who sells his or her abilities and opinions as a commodity in the marketplace or who uses them to support the dominant ideology of an oppressive society. ] The German modernist theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht invented the term and used it in a range of critical and creative projects, including the material that he developed in the mid-1930s for his so-called Tui-Novel—an unfinished satire on intellectuals in the German Empire and Weimar Republic—and his epic comedy from the early 1950s, Turandot or the Whitewashers’ Congress. The word is a neologism that results from the acronym of a word play on “intellectual” (“Tellekt-Ual-In”).
According to Clark (2006):
“… the critique of intellectuals which Brecht developed… around the notion of ‘Tuismus’ engages a model of the public intellectual in which the self-image of the artist and thinker as a socially and politically engaged person corresponded to the expectations of the public.”

  • Clark, M. W. (2006). Hero or villain? Bertolt Brecht and the crisis surrounding June 1953. Journal of Contemporary History.
  • Hunt, T. C. N.-. (2004). Goodbye to Berlin:  For 200 years, German thinkers have shaped British intellectual life – but their influence is fading fast. The Guardian.

“It is very useful to differentiate between rational and irrational authority. By irrational authority I mean authority exercised by fear and pressure on the basis of emotional submission. This is the authority of blind obedience, the authority you will find most clearly expressed in all totalitarian countries.

But there is another kind of authority, rational authority by which I mean any authority which is based on competence and knowledge, which permits criticism, which by its very nature tends to diminish, but which is not based on the emotional factors of submission and masochism, but on the realistic recognition of the competence of the person for a certain job.”

― 1958. The Moral Responsibility of Modern Man, in: Merrill-Palmer. Quarterly of Behavior and Development, Detroit, Vol. 5, p. 6.

“No expert certification is required to think about these questions, even if the ruling elites try their best to restrict discourse about them to a narrow group of “qualified experts”. As “citoyens”, well-informed and dutiful citizens trying to actively participate in forming our community, we possess what in the age of enlightenment came to be called “lumen naturale”: We are endowed with a natural reasoning faculty that allows us to engage in debates and decisions about matters which directly affect us. We can therefore adequately discuss the essential core of the ways in which grave violations of law and morality are hidden from our awareness without having some specialist education.” (Mausfeld, 2015)

Despite the clear words of these very influential and prominent personalities (i.e., Bernays and Lippmann) some social psychologists argue that “irrational conspiracy theories” are based on fallacious and “illusionary pattern perception” – but see article below.

By contrast, compare the following websites for more information on the actual origin of the “conspiracy theory meme”. According to the in-depth analyses of these scholars, governmental ‘think tanks’ (e.g., well-paid social psychologists) played a crucial role in the invention of the term “conspiracy theory” which is used to prima facie discredit those who challenge the mainstream narrative propagandized by the mass-media and other other social institutions (e.g., schools & universities). The social sciences & humanities have a long well-documented history of contributing to the systematic manipulation of public attitudes & opinions (the public relations industry and the social sciences/humanities are obviously deeply intertwined) (cf. weaponized anthropology). Today, the cognitive neurosciences joined the choir (cf. techniques of neuro-marketing). Psychology (and science in general) is a two-sided sword. It can be used to contribute to the unfoldment of human potential (the humanistic perspective which emphasises liberty and self-actualisation a la Maslow) or the same methods can be used to manipulate and control people (the neoliberal doctrine a la Bernays which focuses on power and submission to authority). It is self-evident on which side of the bipolar continuum (viz., humanism versus neoliberalism) humanity finds itself at the moment…

Connecting the dots: Illusory pattern perception predicts belief in conspiracies and the supernatural

See also: conspiracytheories.eu/activity/canterbury-training-school/

neoliberal indoctrination - Copy

Mausfeld_Why do the lambs remain silent_2015

: www.uni-kiel.de/psychologie/mausfeld/pubs/Mausfeld_Why%20do%20the%20lambs%20remain%20silent_2015.pdf

Semantic Chord/Knowledge graph
Concepual cloud
Semantic timeline



Ash, M. G. (1998). Gestalt psychology in German culture, 1890-1967 : holism and the quest for objectivity. Cambridge Studies in the History of Psychology. doi.org/10.1021/acs.joc.6b02599

Basso, M. R., Schefft, B. K., Ris, M. D., & Dember, W. N. (1996). Mood and global-local visual processing. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. doi.org/10.1017/S1355617700001193

Gasper, K., & Clore, G. L. (2002). Attending to the big picture: Mood and global versus local processing of visual information. Psychological Science. doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00406

Huntsinger, J. R., Clore, G. L., & Bar-Anan, Y. (2010). Mood and Global-Local Focus: Priming a Local Focus Reverses the Link Between Mood and Global-Local Processing. Emotion. doi.org/10.1037/a0019356

Sharps, M. J., & Wertheimer, M. (2000). Gestalt Perspectives on Cognitive Science and on Experimental Psychology. Review of General Psychology. doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.4.4.315

Impression management

Impression management is a conscious or subconscious process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event. They do so by regulating and controlling information in social interaction.[1] It was first conceptualized by Erving Goffman in 1959 in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and then was expanded upon in 1967.[2] An example of impression management theory in play is in sports such as soccer. At an important game, a player would want to showcase themselves in the best light possible, because there are college recruiters watching. This person would have the flashiest pair of cleats and try and perform their best to show off their skills. Their main goal may be to impress the college recruiters in a way that maximizes their chances of being chosen for a college team rather than winning the game.[3]

Impression management is usually used synonymously with self-presentation, in which a person tries to influence the perception of their image. The notion of impression management was first applied to face-to-face communication, but then was expanded to apply to computer-mediated communication. The concept of impression management is applicable to academic fields of study such as psychology and sociology as well as practical fields such as corporate communication and media.

Johnson-Cartee, K. S.. (2010). Impression management. In Political and Civic Leadership: A Reference Handbook

Plain numerical DOI: 10.4135/9781412979337.n94
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Leary, M. R., & Kowalski, R. M.. (1990). Impression Management: A Literature Review and Two-Component Model. Psychological Bulletin

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.107.1.34
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Gardner, W. L., & Martinko, M. J.. (1988). Impression Management in Organizations. Journal of Management

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1177/014920638801400210
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Moro, E., & Vidailhet, M.. (2010). Management. Blue Books of Neurology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/B978-1-4160-6641-5.00027-1
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Henderson, P. W., Giese, J. L., & Cote, J. A.. (2004). Impression Management Using Typeface Design. Journal of Marketing

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1509/jmkg.
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Bolino, M. C., Kacmar, M. K., Turnley, W. H., & Gilstrap, B. J.. (2008). A multi-level review of impression management motives and behaviors. Journal of Management

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1177/0149206308324325
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Plain numerical DOI: 10.2307/256734
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Barich, H., & Kotler, P.. (1991). A Framework for Marketing Image Management. Sloan Management Review

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/0024-6301(90)90145-T
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Bolino, M. C.. (1999). Citizenship and impression management: Good soldiers or good actors?. Academy of Management Review

Plain numerical DOI: 10.5465/AMR.1999.1580442
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Grant, A. M., & Mayer, D. M.. (2009). Good Soldiers and Good Actors: Prosocial and Impression Management Motives as Interactive Predictors of Affiliative Citizenship Behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1037/a0013770
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Paulhus, D. L.. (1984). Two-component models of socially desirable responding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.46.3.598
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Bolino, M. C., & Turnley, W. H.. (2003). More than one way to make an impression: Exploring profiles of impression management. Journal of Management

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/S0149-2063(02)00212-X
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Parhankangas, A., & Ehrlich, M.. (2014). How entrepreneurs seduce business angels: An impression management approach. Journal of Business Venturing

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2013.08.001
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Schlenker, B. R., & Weigold, M. F. .. (1992). Interpersonal processes involving impression regulation and management. Annual Review of Psychology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.43.1.133
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Red Herring strategy/fallacy

A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion. A red herring might be intentionally used, such as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g., in politics), or it could be inadvertently used during argumentation.

The term was popularized in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, who told a story of having used a kipper (a strong-smelling smoked fish) to divert hounds from chasing a hare.

“When I was a boy, we used, in order to draw oft’ the harriers from the trail of a hare that we had set down as our own private property, get to her haunt early in the morning, and drag a red-herring, tied to a string, four or five miles over hedges and ditches, across fields and through coppices, till we got to a point, whence we were pretty sure the hunters would not return to the spot where they had thrown off; and, though I would, by no means, be understood, as comparing the editors and proprietors of the London daily press to animals half so sagacious and so faithful as hounds, I cannot help thinking, that, in the case to which we are referring, they must have been misled, at first, by some political deceiver.”

William Cobbett, February 14, 1807, Cobbett’s Political Register, Volume XI[10]