False equivalence is a logical fallacy in which two completely opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency.
They both have mustaches, but that does not make them the same
A common way for this fallacy to be perpetuated is one shared trait between two subjects is assumed to show equivalence, especially in order of magnitude, when equivalence is not necessarily the logical result. False equivalence is a common result when an anecdotal similarity is pointed out as equal, but the claim of equivalence doesn't bear because the similarity is based on oversimplification or ignorance of additional factors. The pattern of the fallacy is often as such: "If A is the set of c and d, and B is the set of d and e, then since they both contain d, A and B are equal". d is not required to exist in both sets; only a passing similarity is required to cause this fallacy to be used.
The following statements are examples of false equivalence:
- "They're both living animals that metabolize chemical energy. There's no difference between a pet cat and a pet snail."
The "equivalence" is in factors that are not relevant to the animals' suitability as pets.
- "The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is no different from your neighbor dripping some oil on the ground when changing oil in his car."
The comparison is between things differing by many orders of magnitude: Deepwater Horizon spilled 210 million US gal (790 million l) of oil; one's neighbor might spill perhaps a pint (0.5 L).
"[F]alse equivalencies are developing on a grand scale as a result of relentlessly negative news. If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there’s a leveling effect that opens the door to charlatans. The press historically has helped citizens recognize the difference between the earnest politician and the pretender. Today’s news coverage blurs the distinction."
- Phillips, Harry; Bostian, Patricia (2014). The Purposeful Argument: A Practical Guide, Brief Edition (Second ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 129. ISBN 9781285982847.
- "False Equivalence". Truly Fallacious. 2013-08-16. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- Krugman, Paul (September 26, 2016). "The Falsity of False Equivalence". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
- Phillips, Ari (2016-08-26). "Welcome to the maddening world of false equivalence journalism". Fusion. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- Buchanan, Neil H. (June 22, 2016). "The False Equivalence of Clinton and Trump's Negatives". Newsweek. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
- Thornton, Bruce (2016-06-07). "The False Comparison Of Trump to Hillary". Frontpagemags. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- Bennett, Robert "Bo". "False Equivalence". logically fallacious. Retrieved 27 November 2018.