Appeal to celebrity

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Smoking Camels cigarettes can cause emphysema, that's why famous sports stars love them!
People ask me questions about present situations in life, and I say, “I don’t know, I’m just an actor. I don’t have any opinions. Actors are pretty stupid. My opinion is not worth anything. There’s no controversy for me, so don’t engage me in it, because I’m not going to participate.”
—Anthony Hopkins[1]
So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God and fuck off, OK? It’s already three hours long. Right, let’s do the first award.
—Ricky Gervais' conclusion to skewering the actors at the 2020 Golden Globes awards ceremony[2]

An appeal to celebrity is a fallacy that occurs when a source is claimed to be authoritative because of their popularity. It is the bastard child of an appeal to authority and an argumentum ad populum. The appeal to celebrity is especially common in advertising.

The fallacy is an appeal to authority and thus a conditional fallacy.

Form[edit]

P1: Famous person X supports Y.
P2: (unstated) Famous persons are correct.
C: Y is correct.

Examples[edit]

It is well known in academic business studies that celebrity endorsements significantly increase advertising effectiveness.[10] Therefore the most common form of appeal to celebrity, the usage of celebrities to endorse products in advertisements, happens far too often to note individual instances. Celebrity endorsements of products should be considered only at face value: they are when a company pays a celebrity, as part of marketing branding, to boost brand awareness by increasing buzz around a product with a positive review.[11] Nothing more, nothing less. The celebrity in question may or may not like the product, they get paid either way. It is not uncommon for a celebrity to endorse one product, and then be spotted in public with a competitor's product.[12] Even if they are contractually obligated to use the endorsed product in public.[13]

Also, scammers will frequently depict celebrities, almost always without authorization, "endorsing" the scam in their own promotions. This is particularly common for get-rich-quick/investment type scams,[14][15] scams promoting bullshit health products like supplements,[16] and celebrity imposter scams, where a scammer impersonates a celebrity to fleece a victim into donating money towards a fake charity or other similar ruse.[17] Even quack doctor Mehmet Oz fought back against people falsely using Oz's name to push out their own brand of bullshit health products.[18]

Problems[edit]

Popularity is irrelevant to truth. The only minor exception occurs when the cited celebrity is popular because of their expertise (e.g., Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and Neil deGrasse Tyson in their respective fields), which merely shows (in this case) that said persons are good at explaining science, not necessarily doing it. It also doesn't follow that, for instance, Dawkins's expertise in biology gives him any particular authority in questions of religion, or for that matter other branches of science such as physics or astronomy. Similarly, Michael JordanWikipedia may be an authority on basketball shoes, but because of his expertise at basketball, not because of his popularity. This also works for Canadian pop singers Tegan and SaraWikipedia talking about LGBTQ issues (via their charity) because they are gay.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Anthony Hopkins Talks to Brad Pitt About Movies, Mortality, and Mistakes by Brad Pitt (December 2, 2019) Interview.
  2. Golden Globes: Read Ricky Gervais’ Scathing Opening Monologue: The comedian-actor tackled everything from 'Cats' and Jeffrey Epstein to Netflix's takeover and Leonardo DiCaprio's dating history during his fifth go hosting the Golden Globes. by Abbey White (January 5, 2020 5:52pm) The Holly wood Reporter.
  3. Ur-Fascism by Umberto Eco (June 22, 1995) The New York Review of Books.
  4. The TV that Created Donald Trump by Emily Nussbaum (2017 July 24) The New Yorker.
  5. Donald Trump won election because 'Apprentice' viewers believed in his TV character: study by Douglas Perry (Updated: May. 17, 2019, 10:08 a.m. | Published: Mar. 12, 2018, 1:30 p.m.) The Oregonian.
  6. Jenny McCarthy's "Mission" to Spread Pseudo-Science. by Michael Convente (August 15, 2009 · 2:00 PM PDT) Daily Kos.
  7. Gwyneth Paltrow advises women to 'steam-clean' their vaginas. by Megan Blandford (2015 January 30) The Sydney Morning Herald
  8. John McAfee reveals he charges $105,000 per promotional cryptocurrency tweet" by Shannon Liao (2018 April 2) The Verge
  9. A Celebrity Journal fiasco: Quack-loving Suzanne Somers, WSJ "expert" on health care by Ryan Chittum (October 29, 2013) Columbia Journalism Review
  10. Celebrity vs. Influencer endorsements in advertising: the role of identification, credibility, and Product-Endorser fit by Alexander P. Schouten et al. (2020) International Journal of Advertising 39(2):258-281. doi:10.1080/02650487.2019.1634898.
  11. The Effect of Celebrities in Advertisements by Hashaw (2019 March 29) Houston Chronicle.
  12. 8 Celebrities Who Are Very Bad At Endorsing Products by Brendan Klinkenberg (2015 July 15) Buzzfeed News.
  13. Charlize Theron: A tale of two watches by Oliver Marre (2008 October 14) The Guardian.
  14. Why You Should Avoid Celebrity Endorsement Scams Like the Plague by Donna Fuscaldo (2019 November 14) The Motley Fool.
  15. Celebrity scam alert as criminals use rich and famous to lure online victims (2020 August 14) National Cyber Security Centre
  16. Spotting Fake Celebrity Endorsements Of Diet And Health Remedies by Bruce Y. Lee (2016 October 3) Forbes.
  17. Celebrity Impostor Scams AARP.
  18. Dr. Oz leads charge against false celebrity endorsements (2019 April 30) The Gainesville Sun.