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DefinitionEdit

A loaded question contains an unfair or unwarranted presupposition.

ExampleEdit

This ad, for John McCain, "Chicken button," commits the fallacy of loaded question.

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This ad features a young American man wearing jeans and a button-up shirt. He begins by saying, "Senator Obama, you tell us you're ready to lead America. Why didn't you choose to lead Illinois?" "Do you remember the three buttons that were in front of you in the Senate? The green button for yes, the red button for no, and the one you used 129 times, the chicken button? Why Senator were you so consistently afraid to take a stand?" Following this comes a picture of Obama; the narrator asks, "What happens when we elect a Senator who loves the chicken button?" He pleads, "Please America lets never find out." Throughout the ad we hear chicken noises.

Loaded questions are asked several times in the video. The first one occurs at the beginning when the man asks "Why didn't you chose to lead Illinois?" This question presupposes that Senator Barack Obama did not lead Illinois; the only thing in questions is the reason. Similarly, the question, "Why were you so consistently afraid to take a stand?" presupposes that Obama was consistently afraid to take a stand.

More examplesEdit

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This ad, "Snow Job," by "Swift Kids for Truth" commits the fallacy of a loaded question.

The video begins with a picture of Barack Obama and a quote from his book, "Pot had helped and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it." There are different kids making sniffing noises as if they were using cocaine with pictures of Obama in the background. A little boy with a purple shirt says, "Is it snowing in here?" A little girl coughs and says, "Cocaine." Another girl with a white long sleeved shirt says, "Feels good doesn't it? You remember." In the background, we see cocaine, a razor blade, and a rolled up 50 dollar bill. One boy says, "Mmm hmm" and a different boy says, "You like the good stuff, don't you?" A girl coughs while saying, "Cocaine, cocaine. Isn't that a gateway drug?"

There are two loaded questions asked in this video. "Feels good, doesn't it?" presupposes that Obama used cocaine, and, even, that it felt good, although the question pretends to verify the latter. Whether Obama answers, "Yes (it feels good)" or "No (it doesn't)" he is still admitting to using the drug. The second loaded question occurs when the little boy asks, "Do you like the good stuff?" The question presupposes that he likes some variety of cocaine; it seeks only to establish which.


Q

This question, addressed to Mike Gravel during a CNN youtube debate commits the fallacy of loaded question.

During the 2008 Democratic "Youtube" Debates, people from across the country submitted questions to candidates via youtube.com. The question asked in this video is addressed to candidate Mike Gravel from a man named John from West Virginia. John asks, "In one of the previous debates you said something along the lines of, 'All the deaths of Vietnam were in vain.' How do you expect to win in a country where probably, uh, a pretty large chunk of the people voting disagree with that statement and might very well be offended by it? I'd like to know if you plan to defend that statement, or if you're just going to flip flop. Thanks."

The question asked in this video is a complicated one. It has many parts to it that are full of fallacy. The part of the question that asks, "How do you expect to win..." makes the assumption that the candidate has hurt his chances of winning because of his statement about Vietnam vets. It is essentially asking "Why would you win?" In the final part of the question John asks, "I would like to know if you plan on defending that statement or if you are just going to flip flop." This statement accuses Gavel: that Gravel flip flops, or has in the past. It redirects the focus of the question and creates the unwarranted pressuposition that Gravel is inconsistent. It is essentially asking, "You're going to flip flop, aren't you?" This statement also commits another fallacy: false alternatives. The question asks, "Are you going to A, or not?" Beause of this false alternative fallacy, a loaded question is created. Questions that contain false alternatives are always loaded questions. They presuppose that one of two choices must be the answer, although the answer could be something entirely different.


2

This question to Guiliani, "Republican Debate: Giuliani 9/11 Question," during another CNN youtube debate also commits the fallacy of a loaded question.

The video opens with a picture of an eagle; the accompanying text reads, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free… it expects what never was and never will be.” A video clip of Giuliani talking about 9/11 is shown then a question is posted on the screen, “Mr. Giuliani, how can you lie to the American people about why we were attacked on 9/11 and lie about why we’re still at risk of being attacked again?” A narratorreads the question while the words are posted on the screen. Then a video clip of Philip Zelikow, the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, is shown: “The al-Qeada leader wanted to punish the United states for supporting Israel.” Then the narrator concludes with, “You know the truth. How can you lie to us.”

This video is full of loaded questions with the presupposition that Rudy Guliani lied to the American people about September 11, 2001. The questions "How can you lie to the American people about why we were attacked on 9/11 and lie about why we're still at risk of being attacked again?" presuppose that Guliani knowingly lied. Guiliani cannot answer the question that is asked without conceding the presupposition.

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