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Bandwagon

Back in the day, a musical bandstaged on a wagonwould bounce and bluster with an ever-growing crowd on its way to a political rally. Appropriately, this practice originated in the circus. The bandwagon logical fallacy is one of the more blunt fallacies, as you could probably imagine. Easy to recognize and easy to employ, the bandwagon argument is also entirely faulty.

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Bandwagon

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Back in the day, a musical bandstaged on a wagonwould bounce and bluster with an ever-growing crowd on its way to a political rally. Appropriately, this practice originated in the circus. The bandwagon logical fallacy is one of the more blunt fallacies, as you could probably imagine. Easy to recognize and easy to employ, the bandwagon argument is also entirely faulty.

Bandwagon Definition

The bandwagon fallacy is a logical fallacy. A fallacy is an error of some kind.

A logical fallacy is employed like a logical reason, but it is actually flawed and illogical.

A bandwagon fallacy is specifically an informal logical fallacy, which means that its fallacy lies not in the structure of the logic (which would be a formal logical fallacy), but rather in something else.

The bandwagon fallacy is named after the bandwagon phenomenon itself, so it’s important to define both.

Jumping on the bandwagon is when a belief, movement, or organization experiences a large influx of subscribers, based on its recent success or popularity.

The fallacy grows from this phenomenon.

The bandwagon fallacy is when a popular belief, movement, or organization is considered sound due to its large number of subscribers.

While “jumping on the bandwagon” is often used to talk about sports and the like, the bandwagon fallacy is more frequently used when talking about cultural movements, legislations, and public figures. This can go very wrong, very fast.

Bandwagon Argument

Here’s a simple example of the bandwagon argument, which commits the bandwagon logical fallacy.

The orange political party is doing great in the midterm elections. This means their positions are worthwhile.

This is not necessarily true, though. Just because a particular party is effective at gaining followers, it only proves that they are effective at gaining followers. It does not mean that their policies are more correct, more viable, or more powerful than the policies of less successful groups.

But is this true? After all, if an argument is better, then more people will believe it… right?

The short answer is “no.”

Bandwagon politician example StudySmarterFig. 1 - Not "right" just because many people say so.

Why the Bandwagon Argument is a Logical Fallacy

Fundamentally, the bandwagon argument is a logical fallacy because movements, ideas, and beliefs can become popular due to random chance, marketing, persuasive rhetoric, appeals to emotion, attractive optics and people, cultural upbringing, and anything else that can influence somebody to make a given choice.

In other words, because bandwagons are not formed in a strictly logical manner, they cannot be used as evidence to support a logical argument.

Many extremely dangerous ideas, such as Nazism, as well as many dangerous figures, such as cult leader Jim Jones, have or have had bandwagon followings. This alone is proof that a bandwagon argument is not sound.

Bandwagon Effect in Persuasive Writing

In persuasive writing, a bandwagon argument has less to do with speed or recency, and more to do with sheer numbers. It is when the writer attempts to persuade the readership that an argument is true since “many people agree.” The writer uses the number of subscribers to a belief as evidence that the belief is rightly held.

Whether a writer claims that “many people agree,” or “most people agree” or “a majority of people agree,” it does not matter; all of these arguments are guilty of the bandwagon fallacy. Such a writer might attempt to paint the reader as foolish if they hold a contrary belief.

Bandwagon Fallacy Example (Essay)

Here’s how a bandwagon argument might appear in an essay.

Finally, Schoffenheimer is the true villain of the book because, even in the story itself, most of the characters despise him. Jane says on page 190, “Schoffenheimer is the most dastardly figure in this auditorium.” All but three of the assembled women nod in agreement at this remark. At the car show on page 244, the “assembled gentlemen…turn their noses” at Schoffenheimer. When someone is so widely ridiculed and despised, they cannot help but be the villain. Even a poll on Goodreads revealed that 83% of readers think that Schoffenheimer is the villain.

This example is guilty of multiple logical fallacies, but one of these fallacies is the bandwagon argument. The writer attempts to persuade their audience that Schoffenheimer is a villain because many people both in and out of the book call him the villain. Do you notice something missing in all this hate for Schoffenheimer, though?

The writer doesn’t describe anything that Schoffenheimer actually does. As far as the reader knows, Schoffenheimer could be hated for being a nonconformist, or for holding unpopular beliefs. Many great thinkers have been persecuted during their time for these precise reasons. People could simply “despise” Schoffenheimer for bigoted reasons.

Now, Schoffenheimer might well actually be the villain, but that is not the point. The point is that Schoffenheimer is not the villain just because people say he is. Logically, Schoffenheimer can only be called a villain if his actions in the story warrant it. A “villain” needs to be defined, and Schoffenheimer then needs to fit that definition.

Bandwagon villain example StudySmarterFig. 2 - Someone is "something" based on their actions, not on popular opinion

Tips to Avoid Bandwagon Arguments

Because they are a logical fallacy, it is important to identify bandwagon arguments and prove them fallacious. Otherwise, bandwagon arguments can be used to reach false conclusions.

To avoid writing a bandwagon argument, follow these tips.

Know that large groups can be wrong. The classic question is appropriate, “Just because everyone is lining up to jump off a bridge, would you?” Of course not. Just because many people partake in something or believe it to be true, that has no bearing on its actual soundness.

Do not use evidence that is founded on opinion. Something is an opinion if it cannot be proven. When you look at many people agreeing on something, consider, “Are these people agreeing on a proven fact, or have they been persuaded to have an opinion?”

Know that consensus is not proof. When a majority of people agree to something, this simply means that some form of compromise has been reached. If legislators pass a bill, it does not mean that every aspect of that bill is ideal, for instance. Therefore, if a majority of people agree to something, you should not use their consensus as proof that their consensus is wholly accurate or logical.

Bandwagon Synonym

The bandwagon argument is also known as the appeal to common belief, or the appeal to the masses. In Latin, the bandwagon argument is known as argumentum ad populum.

The bandwagon argument is not the same as the appeal to authority.

An appeal to authority is when an authority’s words and not their reasoning is used to justify an argument.

To understand how these fallacies are similar as well as different, take the phrase “most doctors agree.”

A claim such as “most doctors agree” is not a great example of a bandwagon argument, because, when making such a claim, the writer does not primarily appeal to the number of doctors; they primarily appeal to doctors as authority figures. Thus, “most doctors agree” is better categorized as an appeal to authority.

This does not mean that “most doctors” are wrong, of course. It simply means that their word is not the reason that a claim is sound. For instance, a vaccine isn’t effective because scientists and doctors say that it is; it is effective because their research proves it to be effective.

Bandwagon - Key Takeaways

  • Jumping on the bandwagon is when a belief, movement, or organization experiences a large influx of subscribers, based on its recent success or popularity.
  • The bandwagon fallacy is when a popular belief, movement, or organization is considered sound due to its large number of subscribers.
  • Because bandwagons are not formed in a strictly logical manner, they cannot be used as evidence to support a logical argument.
  • To avoid writing a bandwagon argument, know that large groups can be wrong, do not use evidence founded on opinion, and know that consensus is not proof.
  • The bandwagon argument is not the appeal to authority fallacy, although they can appear similar.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bandwagon

Jumping on the bandwagon is when a belief, movement, or organization experiences a large influx of subscribers, based on its recent success or popularity. 

Yes it is. However, it is also a logical fallacy.

It is when the writer attempts to persuade the readership that an argument is true since “many people agree.” The writer uses the number of subscribers to a belief as evidence that the belief is rightly held.

Because they are a logical fallacy, it is important to identify bandwagon arguments and prove them fallacious. Otherwise, bandwagon arguments can be used to reach false conclusions.

The technique is not effective in logical persuasive arguments. It can be effective when used against those ignorant of it.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

The bandwagon fallacy is when a popular belief, movement, or organization is considered _____ due to its large number of subscribers.

The better an argument is, the more people will believe it.

Because bandwagons are not formed in a strictly logical manner, they cannot be used as evidence to support a _____ argument.

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