This is part 10 of a 12 week series where I explore the tactics of verbal cheap shot artists – people who can’t, or won’t use valid arguments to present their case, but instead resort to verbal cheap shots. To make sure you don’t miss a single article, be sure and sign up for my RSS feed or subscribe by email (both are free!) so you can get the freshest new articles! Check out my other posts in the Verbal Cheap Shots category.
Once upon a time, a Bedouin was making his way across the desert with his camel. Night was fast approaching and he began putting up his tent to provide shelter from the bitter cold of the nighttime desert. His camel asked, “Master, can I please come inside the tent to stay warm?” The Bedouin said no and went inside to sleep.
All night long the Bedouin heard the camel shivering and loudly complaining about the cold night. The camel asked again, “Master, can I just put my nose into the tent to warm up?” Frustrated the master said yes and rolled over to go back to sleep. The Camel asked again, “Master, can I just put my forelegs into the tent? They’re freezing!” Again the master acquiesced. Then the camel said, “I have to put my back legs in as well, otherwise they will freeze and we won’t be able to travel in the morning.” The Bedouin agreed, but by now the tent was overcrowded and though he was very uncomfortable, he fell asleep.
The Bedouin awoke in the middle of the night, outside the tent and realized that the camel now had the tent completely to himself.
It’s a funny story, but it’s also the basis that many verbal cheap shot artists use to justify their position. The Camel’s Nose is a fallacy in which a person claims that some event must inevitably follow another with no argument for the inevitability of the event in question. Just like in the story, there are a series of steps or gradations between one event and the one in question and no reason is given as to why any intervening steps or gradations will simply be bypassed.
The Camel’s Nose is known by many different names:
- Slippery slope
- The “foot in the door”
- The Domino effect
- The boiling frog
- “Give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
- Fairness policy
There may truly BE a series of steps that inevitably follow each other, but the fallacy portion of the argument comes into play when there is no evidence given that those steps are indeed inevitable. This is especially clear in cases in which there is a significant number of steps or gradations between one event and another.
We have to stop these tax cuts. Next thing you know, NO ONE will be paying their fair share.
We can’t let Competitor ABC get a grip on our customers or we will go out of business.
Don’t give anything to the homeless people begging at intersections. That just encourages more people to do that sort of thing.
We have to stop the board of education from banning those books on [pick a subject]. If we don’t, they will ban every book they don’t like.
We can’t let people carry handguns. What do you want, a bunch of old West shootouts in the streets?
We can’t let store manager A have two assistants. We would have to do that for every manager in the chain if we did.
The Camel’s Nose fallacy is considered a fallacy because it isn’t supported by facts. It may actually be true, but the argument itself usually requires a leap, and ironically, the larger the leap, the more easily it’s believed. Certain events DO follow other events, but to thwart illogical thinking, always include proof.