Kafkatrapping, a logical fallacy used frequently in arguments

TL;DR Summary:

  • Kafkatrapping is an argumentative form used frequently in propaganda messaging to convince you of someone’s agenda.
  • If you have seen the movie, Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, you may remember that “only a witch would deny she is a witch”.  That’s kafkatrapping! A denial is confirmation!
  • There is no possible defense to the accusation. The argument is framed in a way that to deny the argument is admit that you are guilty!

This argument form is often used in other contexts (not just witches and sorcerers!) For example, the technique can be used in discussions of immigration policy, gender discrimination, nuclear proliferation policy, science policy and more.

For Eric Raymond’s discussion on Kafkatrapping, please see “Kafkatrapping“:

One very notable pathology is a form of argument that, reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.”

and

A common variant, which I’ll call the Model C, is to assert something like this: “Even if you do not feel yourself to be guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}, you are guilty because you have benefited from the {sinful,racist,sexist,homophobic,oppressive,…} behavior of others in the system.” The aim of the Model C is to induce the subject to self-condemnation not on the basis of anything the individual subject has actually done, but on the basis of choices by others which the subject typically had no power to affect.

and

Notably, if the model A kafkatrap is true, the world is divided into two kinds of people: (a) those who admit they are guilty of thoughtcrime, and (b) those who are guilty of thoughtcrime because they will not admit to being guilty of thoughtcrime. No one can ever be innocent. The subject must be prevented from noticing that this logic convicts and impeaches the operator of the kafkatrap!

Another version is described by Wendy McElry – Beware of Kafkatrapping

Again, “only a witch would deny she is a witch”, therefore she must be a witch illustrates how this form of argument is logical nonsense.

But this argument form is used all the time and is again becoming quite popular today.

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