Definition Appeal to Force
Appeal to force refers to strongman tactics. This type of fallacious argumentation uses intimidation and the threat of punishment to convince, rather than rational aguments. People will agree with you because they fear you.
The arguer poses a threat to the audience: Accept my conclusion, or there will be consequences. In an appeal to force, ideas are pushed through fear and intimidation, rather than convincing evidence. It really doesn’t matter if there is any proof. Terrible things will happen if you don’t do this! You’ll be sorry!
Agree with me – or else …
Appeals to force and social media
This typically happens when trolls are ganging up on legitimate participants in a news group, or on a social media forum. When a mob is put at work to retaliate against a participant, other people tend to be too afraid to criticize the mob, for fear that they, too, will be attacked. The mob therefore usually wins the argument. By force.
A recent example of an appeal to force is the former US President, Donald Trump, who supposedly threatens Republican party members that they would face all kinds of consequences if they do not toe the line.
Appeal to force is related to an appeal to fear, which is more of a warning. Appeal to fear are usually preying on feelings of insecurity. You don’t want to get sick. Buy these vitamines! Better safe than sorry.
What you need to know: group dynamics
People are herd animals. Group-based appraisals shape group behavior. When a group potentially turns against you, you are more likely choose side with that group.
Herd mentality is especially dangerous when angry, frustrated and uninformed (or purposely disinformed). That is why totalitarian regimes often use child soldiers to stay in power. Children generally don’t like to stand out, and comform to the group. They don’t yet realize what they are doing, and don’t understand the grand scheme of things. Therefore children can be effective enforcers. Notable examples: the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, the Little Red Guards in Maoist China, and the Hutu children’s army in Rwanda.
Similarly, when participants are anonymous (or perceive to be anonymous), they are more likely to lash out. This means that zooming in on individuals in a mob may stop the behavior of some of them.
See also: Bandwagon fallacy – join the club!.