The Appeal to Popularity

I’ve got nothing against Guy Fieri. But a lot of people do.

Anyway, in a post over at Breitbart, Lisa De Pasquale defends Fieri against all critics. This portion of her plea jumped out at me:

Maybe Fieri’s critics are right. As such, my main defense for Fieri is… So what? America likes him. Is that what makes his critics so angry? They’re like the nerds in high school who put down the popular jocks’ accomplishments. Fieri’s biggest crime is his mainstream success.

Call it the appeal to popularity. “Fieri’s food can’t be terrible. Just look at how many people like it.” You hear this sort of thing all the time, of course, but no one actually believes it.

In fact, the only time you hear the appeal to popularity is when the person making the appeal agrees with popular opinion. Nobody ever says, “My opinion must be wrong because it’s out of step with the mainstream.”

And that’s because all of us recognize that popular taste isn’t always good taste. What’s liked isn’t necessarily what’s best. And so critics — whose job it is to distinguish bad from good from best — will frequently criticize the tastes of the majority. And sometimes get angry with the majority for having such bad taste.

So I submit that every damn time you see the appeal to popularity, it’s at least at some level disingenuous. Which means we should just stop using it.