Definition of Shotgun Argumentation

In shotgun argumentation, you drown the audience in so many arguments that it is simply overwhelming (firing many shots as it were).

By presenting a large number of arguments in rapid succession, the opponent is intimidated and disabled from processing and answering them all.

It is fallacious if some separate claims individually may have some validity, but all these claims combined don’t result in a valid argument.

The baseless claims merely act as fillers, to give the appearance of substance and expertise to an otherwise meager argument.

Shotgun argumentation is hit or miss…

How to spot shotgun argumentation

If you are presented with an overabundance of arguments or claims that somehow don’t feel right, it is good to step back and single out one or two of them. If you take a closer look at those arguments it may turn out that they are not very convincing in their own right. If that is the case, look at some of the other claims.

Keep looking until you find an argument that is actually substantiated by facts. You may be surprised and find a solid argument that broadens your horizon.

However, if you cannot find a single claim that would be very convincing as a stand-alone argument, you may be dealing with shotgun argumentation. Sometimes it just doesn’t add up.

A stunning example of a shotgun strategy 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 STOP THE STEAL media spectacle, which alluded to unsubstantiated fraud allegations.

More than 80 lawsuits were filed after US Election Day in November 2020, none of which amounted to much. Apart from one minor win, all were immediately dismissed in court.

Yet, many of the loosing candidate’s followers were convinced by the sheer amount of bogus law suits that there had been wide-spread fraud – while in fact independent auditors had found none.

On January 6th 2021, this led to a violent mob storming the Capitol grounds. This complex, which is considered a democracy icon, houses the US Senate and House of Representatives.

They were at that point in joint session to certify the election results. The mob, supporters of the losing Presidential candidate, tried to prevent ratification of the incoming President’s win. Lawmakers were rushed to safety, and could resume the certification only after the grounds were cleared.

A high-stake case of shotgun argumentation indeed.