Winning Discussions: Poisoning the Well (Effective Pirating)

Winning Discussions: Poisoning the Well (Effective Pirating)

Logical fallacies are techniques that people use to make an argument appear convincing even when it is wrong. Learning how to identify and refute logical fallacies is one of the best ways to win in a discussion. Catching an opponent committing a fallacy will force him to retract his error or he will appear foolish or manipulative to his audience. There is a dark side to this. Once you learn to identify logical fallacies you will also be able to use them. Do not deliberately use them against fellow Pirates; it is extreme bad manners and you will most probably be caught out.

The Logical Fallacy – Poisoning the Well

Poisoning the well is when someone is making an ad hominem attack in advance.  Before the person has a chance to make their case, their position is being undermined by an attack on their person. It comes from the ancient practice of adding poison to the water wells of an enemy before a battle in order to weaken them.  Whether these claims are true or not is irrelevant to the validity of any argument to be made. This sort of trick can make a very emotional appeal to the audience.  It can also be used to discredit any past or future arguments.

I you are the recipient of such an argument and accept it then you  are committing the fallacy of poisoning the well as well. This logical fallacy is a favourite tool of trolls as it is easy to make such an aspersion and forces the opponent to prove a negative and waste time and resources needlessly. In fact defending oneself from such an attack can put the victim on the defensive. Any Pirate who use this tactic should be challenged at every opportunity.


I saw Carol talking to one of those feminazis, so anything she says is not to be taken seriously.

I would like to remind you that any one who is against my plans for the campaign is not a real Pirate.

The next candidate to speak is a Pirate. Pirates engage in criminal activities such as file sharing. She is not to be trusted to represent our electorate.




You can read more about the bandwagon  logical fallacy in a wikipedia post and logical fallacies in general in this wikipedia article.
Remember that just because someone commits a logical fallacy it does not mean their argument is necessarily incorrect. If you have the time and resources then use the principles of scepticism to test their reasoning objectively.

This article is a part of a series called Effective Pirating:

Winning Discussions: The Fallacy Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 09/01/15
Winning Discussions: The Gambler’s Fallacy (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: argumentum ad ignorantiam (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: post hoc, ergo propter hoc (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Ad Hominem (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Appeal to Fear (Effective Pirating) 21/10/14
Winning Discussions: Begging the Question (Effective Pirating) 17/8/14
Winning Discussions – The Bandwagon Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 11/8/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – Tu Quoque 24/7/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – The Straw Man 17/7/14
Effective Pirating: Choose your Opponents Carefully 7/7/14

Featured image: CC BY-NC Pirate times derived from a work by Andy Castro