The Accident Fallacy


  • An arguer commits the accident fallacy when he/she applies a general rule to a case where that rule doesn't apply.
  • It follows the general pattern:
    • P is a general principle applicable to all X.
    • A is an X, therefore P is applicable to A when, in fact, specific characteristics of A make it not applicable.

Here's the scoop:

           What if surgeons went to jail for doing their job?  Or if children set fire to the cat because mom said it was okay?  What if penguins started flying because other birds could fly?  What if dogs were cats because they both have four legs and fur?  All of those are very real possibilities if Accident Fallacies ruled the world.  In order to keep our world safe and orderly, we must defend ourselves.  Defend ourselves with what, you might ask?  Defend ourselves with knowledge, because knowledge is power.  And the best place to get trustworthy information is the internet, particularly Youtube.  My team of skilled researchers and I took to the web in order to find examples of these so-called “Accident Fallacies” so we can study them and learn their weaknesses.  And so our journey begins.


           This first example of an accident fallacy is a video on the issue of same-sex marriages.  In the video, it is stated that in the year 2000, 61 percent of California voted in favor of Proposition 22, which states that a marriage is between a man and a woman.  It goes on to say that 4 judges ignored the democratic way and voted against Proposition 22, against the people of California, thus overturning the vote.  At the end of the advertisement, it says vote yes on Proposition 8 to “restore the definition of marriage that was already approved by 61 percent of the voters”.  The fallacy occurs in that a general rule has been misapplied to a certain situation.  The general rule in this case is that the majority rules in voting.  However, in this situation, that rule does not apply.  Another fallacy committed in this video is appeal to bandwagon.  The fact that 61 percent of voters already approved Proposition 22 makes the viewer feel the need to vote with the majority.  I feel like this video would persuade people to vote in favor of Proposition 8 for the mere fact of “righting” democracy.


           This second example of an accident fallacy is a video advertising Hansaplast brand condoms.  The video starts off with the camera panning down a lunchroom table, showing a number of young children eating there packed lunches.  At the very end of the table is a little boy eating an enormous sundae for his lunch.  He looks to the others and says “My mom said I could.” The next shot shows him in a pet store, buying a large python.  He looks at the cashier and says “My mom said I could.” The shots get more and more inappropriate, from getting a tattoo to jumping out of an airplane, every time justifying the action with the words “My mom said I could.” The last shot shows him running up to the door of his parents’ bedroom and asking if he could put the cat in the washing machine.  From the other side of the door, moans of pleasure and intimate exclamations of “Yes!” can be heard in a woman’s voice several times.  The boy, hearing “Yes!” assumes that she is giving him permission.  Text appears on the screen that reads “HANSAPLAST CONDOMS.  PURE PLEASURE”.  The fallacy again occurs in that a general rule has been misapplied to a certain situation.  The general rule in this case is that if your parent gives you permission, it’s okay to do.  However, in this situation, the rule clearly does not apply.