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Chewbacca Defense

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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. It is most commonly found in democratic debates, since a dictatorship would only bother with this strategy if it were too weak to silence the opposition directly.

Origins[edit]

The term comes from, surprise, a South Park episode from 1998 ("Chef Aid"). It is a parody of Johnnie Cochran's famous closing argument in the O.J. Simpson trial.[1]

Cochran
…ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, I have one final thing I want you to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense!
Gerald Broflovski
Damn it! He's using the Chewbacca defense!
Cochran
Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of two-foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense! Look at me. I'm a lawyer defending a major record company, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberatin' and conjugatin' the Emancipation Proclamation, does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.[2]

Key characteristics of a Chewbacca Defense[edit]

Common (and sad) examples[edit]

The common Chewbacca Defense is based on the following misconceptions and/or fallacies:

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?

Analysis by Actual Lawyers[edit]

Devin J. Stone, Esq. (aka LegalEagle), a licensed lawyer in DC, Maryland, Virginia, New York, & California, notes the episode in general contains several things that would never happen in a real world case and various inaccuracies (such as actions that would be limited to a criminal case occurring in a civil case), giving the episode a "C-" for legal accuracy.[3]

Meanwhile, Legal Geeks (a pair of e-Discovery attorneys) argue actually an example of jury nullification. They also state that an actual judge would likely say, “I have a bad feeling about this” and possibly declare a mistrial if such an argument was made in court. They then stated "A party successfully using the Chewbacca Defense to confuse the jury into engaging in jury nullification in a civil lawsuit runs the risk of the losing party winning on a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV). In Chef’s case, the copyright violation should have entitled him to a judgment as a matter of law." [4]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. YouTube - Johnnie Cochran closing arguments
  2. Americans can watch the scene here. The rest of the world: go fuck yourselves.
  3. Real Lawyer Reacts to South Park Chewbacca Defense, YouTube.
  4. A Legal Analysis of The Chewbacca Defense, The Legal Geeks.