In logic lingo, a straw man fallacy is a false and easily defeated representation of your debate opponent’s position.
A real straw man is easy to beat in a fight. It has no muscles or awareness to counteract your advances. I could tell you that I beat up “Mike Tyson” if I named a scarecrow Mike Tyson and beat it up. You would be right to be skeptical of my claim. If you cared enough, you might ask me some follow-ups, like are you talking about THE Mike Tyson?
Similarly, a straw man argument is easy to refute. Creating a straw man version of your opponent’s position is a common and natural argument technique that we’ve all used or encountered since we started talking.
Common examples conservative-types encounter include you have no compassion. Or, you just don’t care about poor people. Sometimes it’s a little more subtle. I can see your point, buy my conscience won’t let me support your position.
Obama’s recent characterization of his opponent’s tax plan as Romney Hood, or the opposite of Robin Hood, is also a good example of a straw man argument.
To make this characterization, Obama leveraged the analysis of a third-party that took liberties at guessing Romney’s full tax plan, identified actions they believe Romney would take when he discovered that his plan wouldn’t work and, assumed it wouldn’t work. In other words, Obama beat up Mike Tyson.
Beware of straw men during this election season.
- Our Straw Man-in-Chief (tammybruce.com)