Definition of Shotgun Argumentation
In shotgun argumentation, you drown the audience in so many arguments that it is just overwhelming (firing many shots as it were). Your opponent is disabled from processing and answering them all. Moreover, the separate claims may individually have some validity, but all these claims combined do not result in a valid argument.
One of the pellets may have hit the target.
MEANING of SHOTGUN ARGUMENTATION
Shotgun argumentation is a metaphor from real life and it actually describes it very well: a single rifle only fires one bullet and there’s a high probability of a miss. A shotgun, however, fires tens or even hundreds of small pellets, and the probability of at least one of them hitting the target is quite high. At the very least, resistance is incapacitated for some time.Example SHOTGUN ARGUMENT >>
2020 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
A stunning example of shotgun argumentation was displayed in the US, when the losing candidate in the 2020 presidential election filed an avalanche of lawsuits to contest the outcome of the election. The allegations were accompanied by a loud media spectacle.
Apart from one minor win, the lawsuits didn’t amount to much, and were immediately dismissed in court. Yet, many of the candidate’s followers were convinced by the sheer amount of bogus cases that there had been wide-spread fraud – while in fact independent auditors had found none.
Side-note: many of the election officials that supposedly “stole the election”, were appointed by the same candidate that made the allegations.
A high-stake case of shotgun argumentation indeed.
Why Shotgun Argumentation Matters
When there seems to be an abundance of proof, you may feel you don’t have to fact-check. After all, there are so many pieces of evidence or arguments to support a claim.
“Surely, even if even one of these claims is valid, it’s bad enough!“
It’s true that there may be valid arguments hidden in a shotgun argumentation. Actually, adding some kernels of truth makes this fallacious argument all the more believable.
However, if that single claim would not have been very convincing as a stand-alone argument, you have been presented a shotgun argument.
The baseless claims act as fillers, to give substance to an otherwise meager argument.
It is good to be aware of this technique. Once you recognise the structure, you’ll see it is often used to deter potential fact-checkers and critical thinking.