Appeal to celebrity
|Cogito ergo sum|
Logic and rhetoric
“”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.”
“”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|
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.
- P1: Famous person X supports Y.
- P2: (unstated) Famous persons are correct.
- C: Y is correct.
- A large part of the appeal of fascism and other right-wing populist movements relies on the idea of the “will of the people” usually centered around a charismatic figure In other words, the celebrity-style politician/dictator must be right — they draw huge crowds, so therefore they represent the ‘will of the people’. To reduce it to the absolute level of absurdity — Hitler had 66 million fans; who am I to disagree?
- Donald Trump's use of the reality TV show The Apprentice to help win the presidency. Many people voted for Trump because they thought he was an astute businessman who would improve the U.S. economy.
- Jenny McCarthy’s use of celebrity to spread pseudoscientific ideas
- Gwyneth Paltrow using her celebrity to sell ridiculous ideas such as vaginal steaming
- John McAfee using his notoriety as a cybersecurity "expert" to shill cryptocurrency
- The Wall Street Journal using actress and health industry non-expert Suzanne Somers to comment about the Affordable Care Act.
It is well known in academic business studies that celebrity endorsements significantly increase advertising effectiveness. 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. 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. Even if they are contractually obligated to use the endorsed product in public.
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, scams promoting bullshit health products like supplements, 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. Even quack doctor Mehmet Oz fought back against people falsely using Oz's name to push out their own brand of bullshit health products.
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 Jordan 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 Sara talking about LGBTQ issues (via their charity) because they are gay.
- Appeal to Celebrity Fallacy Files
- Appeal to Celebrity Logically Fallacious
- "Appeal to Celebrity" The Skeptic's Field Guide
- What Is Appeal to Celebrity? Definition and Examples Fallacy in Logic
- Anthony Hopkins Talks to Brad Pitt About Movies, Mortality, and Mistakes by Brad Pitt (December 2, 2019) Interview.
- 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.
- Ur-Fascism by Umberto Eco (June 22, 1995) The New York Review of Books.
- The TV that Created Donald Trump by Emily Nussbaum (2017 July 24) The New Yorker.
- 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.
- Jenny McCarthy's "Mission" to Spread Pseudo-Science. by Michael Convente (August 15, 2009 · 2:00 PM PDT) Daily Kos.
- Gwyneth Paltrow advises women to 'steam-clean' their vaginas. by Megan Blandford (2015 January 30) The Sydney Morning Herald
- John McAfee reveals he charges $105,000 per promotional cryptocurrency tweet" by Shannon Liao (2018 April 2) The Verge
- A Celebrity Journal fiasco: Quack-loving Suzanne Somers, WSJ "expert" on health care by Ryan Chittum (October 29, 2013) Columbia Journalism Review
- 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.
- The Effect of Celebrities in Advertisements by Hashaw (2019 March 29) Houston Chronicle.
- 8 Celebrities Who Are Very Bad At Endorsing Products by Brendan Klinkenberg (2015 July 15) Buzzfeed News.
- Charlize Theron: A tale of two watches by Oliver Marre (2008 October 14) The Guardian.
- Why You Should Avoid Celebrity Endorsement Scams Like the Plague by Donna Fuscaldo (2019 November 14) The Motley Fool.
- Celebrity scam alert as criminals use rich and famous to lure online victims (2020 August 14) National Cyber Security Centre
- Spotting Fake Celebrity Endorsements Of Diet And Health Remedies by Bruce Y. Lee (2016 October 3) Forbes.
- Celebrity Impostor Scams AARP.
- Dr. Oz leads charge against false celebrity endorsements (2019 April 30) The Gainesville Sun.