Definition Edit

The arguer threatens to harm someone who does not accept the conclusion of his argument.

If you don't accept P, you will be harmed.
Therefore, P.


This ad against same sex marriage, "Lies from the 'National Organization of Marriage'," commits the fallacy of ad baculum.

Gay marriage

The National Organization of Marriage preys on audience members' fears to convince them to oppose gay marriage. The ad implies that if same sex marriage is allowed then terrible, unforseeable harm will come. This ad opens with the announcement that a storm that is coming; we see an overcast, dark sky, broken occasionally by lightning. Many people "pop up," their brows puckered with anxiety, claiming they are afraid of this coming storm. They each give a different reason to be afraid: if passed, Prop. 8 and similar propositions in other states will shut down adoption agencies, close churches, and make witches out of believers. These claims instill fear in viewers, inviting them to worry about whether this "storm" will affect their lives in ways they hadn't previously imagined. At the end of the Damon Owens appears talking about the National Organization of Marriage; the sky clears up as if by magic: the NOM dispels the danger.

More Examples Edit

This ad against smoking, "Anti-Smoking Ad," commits the fallacy of scare tactics.


This ad starts off with numerous young people smoking cigarettes in what looks like a bar. The room is dark and filled completely with cigarette smoke. The narrator begins: "We’ve all tried to quit smoking, its hard.” By saying "we," the narrator identifies himself as a smoker, and leads us to believe that he sympathizes with smokers knows what they have to go through to kick the habit. He then says, “Every cigarette we smoke leaves this, fatty stuff in our arteries.” Accompanying this claim is an image of cigarettes leaking out a disgusting “fatty substance." We then see a thumb squeezing this same fatty substance out of an artery that was clogged with it. The narrator explains, “This was found in the artery of a thirty-two year-old smoker. Our hearts won’t work properly if our arteries are all clogged up.” This ad commits the fallacy of scare tactics because it tries to scare smokers by showing disturbing images of fat oozing out of cigarettes. While it is not a fallacy to point out that a course of action has negative consequences, it is a fallacy to exaggerate those consequences or to appeal directly to people's fears and other emotions.


This ad thumb|300px|leftproduced for the National Rifle Association (NRA)tries to scare the audience into voting against Barack Obama. They claim that if Obama were to be elected, Americans' freedom will be threatened, in that they would lose their gun rights. The video starts out with a dark scene in a home showing a bunch of clips of an obvious burglary. Then there is a flash to a clip with a woman in her pajamas getting a gun, ostensibly to protect herself from this burglar. This drama is accompanied by dark music; a deep male voice narrates. The ad then cuts from this thriller to rapid-fire shots of Obama. Obama, we hear, is adamantly against “the right of self protection.” The video ends by claiming that defending freedom entails voting against Obama.

Here the argument seems to run: If you do not accept that you should vote against Obama, you will be vulnerable to violence and theft. Therefore, you should vote against Obama.


This video commits a scare tactics fallacy in arguing: If ou do not buy a gun you will be the victim of a burglae; therefore, buy a gun. This commercial is a spoof of the NRA commercials. The beginning of the video starts out at night, in a dark house where a burglar is obviously going to break in. The background music is very creepy and goes really well with the frightening theme of the video. The burglar breaks into the house carrying a knife in hand, going from room to room, and making each scene more and more climactic. Finally, the burglar gets to the homeowners bedroom. As the burglar attempts to approach her, the sleeping woman pulls out a machine gun from under the bed sheets and shoots him. After the woman shoots the burglar with her machine gun, upbeat music starts to play and words pop up and go across the screen saying, “don’t be a victim” then the camera flashes back to the burglar falling to the ground and you see the words “buy a gun” go across the screen.

This video mocks the NRA and its arguments; it is a low-glitz cover for common NRA ads. Some NRA ads follow the same story line as does this video -- although the end is usually punctuated by a single shot and not a round of machine gun fire. The NRA appeals to people's fear of just such events in order to persuade them to reject gun control. Their argument seems to run: If you do not accept that gun control is bad, you will suffer terrible harm from "bad guys"; therefore gun control is bad. The video essentially takes the NRA message and makes it extreme and humorous.

Just about any of these fear ads on the American Museum of Moving Image's "Living Room Candidate" arguably commit the fallacy of ad baculum. Look, in particular, at the two anti-Clinton ads, "Arkansas 2" and "The Threat" and the anti-Dukakis ad, "Revolving door".