Failures of Logic – The Chewbacca Defence
With the return of Star Wars to the cinemas this month, this week we take a look at the logic argument “The Chewbacca Defense”. Chewbacca, as many will know is the giant furry wookie character in the original Star Wars films who, as a happy coincidence returns as side kick to main character Han Solo in the recent and 7th film.
What you may not know is that Chewbacca has also had his name taken in more urbane critical thinking circles to express a certain sort of argument. To make a Chewbacca Defence is to use a strategy based on overwhelming your opponents with arguments that don’t make sense and often aren’t at all related to the point being discussed in order to drown out your opponent and silence opposition through confusion or convincing them it’s not worth arguing with you.
The thinking here goes that if the opponent gives up the discussion then, regardless of what your points actually were, as the last person standing you’ve won the debate. After all, if the other side gives up, that’s a victory by default no?
Origins and Explanations
The Chewbacca Defence first originated on the American comedy show South Park as a parody of a legal defence used during the OJ Simpson trial which has been portrayed by some as overly verbose and intentionally given to mislead and distort. The original defense can be read here. An excerpt of the parody from the show was as follows:
“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.”
Anatomy of a Chewbacca Defence
A Chewbacca Defence argument might involve some or all of the following:
- Accusing an Opponent of something unrelated to the matter at hand
- Not allowing the opponent to speak and put forth their argument
- Filibustering – interrupting an opponent and talking nonsense just to lengthen and delay a debate.
- Shouting loudly – because being the loudest means being the strongest and the strongest should win.
- Hitting an Opponent with so many small and bogus arguments that the opponent simply cannot address them all in the time allotted.
In general, the Chewbacca Defense is less about making a strong argument of your own and all about discrediting and undermining your opponent in the minds of observers without having to actually address the points being raised. By making your opponent look bad you supposedly taint their arguments as bad as well, which by default must make you right.
Sadly there’s not a lot that can be done outside of moderation in these sorts of cases as in many cases it’s simply not possible to properly argue an opponent who insists on using such methods and when you give up on it, they assume, wrongly that they have won the debate. Nevertheless, being aware of this trend is useful to critical thinkers as it can help you identify a facetious argument early on and avoid