“”Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.
|—Johnnie Cochran being parodied on South Park|
The Chewbacca Defense is any legal or propaganda strategy that seeks to overwhelm its audience with nonsensical arguments, as a way of confusing the audience and drowning out legitimate opposing arguments. It also has, intentionally or unintentionally, the effect of confusing the opponent so that they will stop arguing with you. If they are too chicken to continue the argument, the point they are trying to argue must be equally flimsy, right? Right?
In war, if the opposing side pulls back and raises the white flag, you've won.
Some people like to think that this strategy also works in the art of debate. If you can get the opposing side to shut up, then you're right by default.
The sad part? It works. Not just in media, but in real life, too. In fact, most political systems are based on doing this.
The term comes from, surprise, a South Park episode aired in 1998. It is a parody of Jonnie Cochrane's famous closing argument in the OJ Simpson trial.
Common (and sad) examples
The common Chewbacca Defense is based on the following misconceptions and/or fallacies:
- If you can prove the other side wrong, it makes you right.
- If you can word your statements and arguments in a way that is too confusing, intelligent-sounding, or nonsensical for the opponent to respond to, it makes them wrong and it makes you right.
- If you can shock or confuse your opponent and make them think you are a lost cause and not worth arguing with, you are right.
- If you can make an opponent look bad, their logic must be equally bad, and therefore you are right.
- If your opponent is stumped at giving you a straight-forward answer or rebuttal to your point, it makes you right.
- If you are more popular than your opponent, it makes them wrong and it makes you right.
- If you just keep arguing and shouting, even if everyone else (not just everyone else in the debate — everyone else in the world) thinks you are not just wrong, but insane, until everyone else just gets tired of listening to you spew nonsense, you're the last man standing, and, by default, you are right.
Unfortunately, the mere existence of the Chewbacca Defense leads to an unfortunate problem in debate called Chewbacca's Dilemma: No matter what you say in an argument, no matter how intelligently and clearly you word your rebuttals and assertions, your opponent will always perceive whatever you say to be a Chewbacca Defense. In fact, a common political maneuver is to use a Chewbacca Defense in order to accuse the opponent of using a Chewbacca Defense.
Confusing, isn't it?
- Argumentum ad nauseam
- Gish Gallop
- TvTropes.org - which features extended examples and from where this article was originally sourced, hopefully in accordance with their Creative Commons license.)
- ↑ YouTube - Johnny Cochran closing arguments
- ↑ Americans can watch the scene here. The rest of the world have to make do with this
| Articles about logical fallacies|
|Affirming the consequent||Denying the antecedent|
|Fallacious argument styles|