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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:04 PM
Original message
What Is and Isn't a Strawman
The strawman fallacy is a tactic of argument and a very common one. However, the term is loosely used here at DU and often incorrectly.


This is an example of the use of a strawman as seen at Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

Person A: We should liberalize the laws on beer.

Person B: No. Any society with unrestricted access to intoxicants loses its work ethic and goes only for immediate gratification.


That was a serious attempt by Person B, in debate, to distort the position of Person A and so as to more easily disprove it.


Now, an example of hyperbole, which might look like a strawman but is not:


Bob: I heard Obama is inviting Rick Warren to make an inaugural speech.

Sally: Really? Obama must be a Nazi.


That is 1) an exaggeration, and 2) a distortion of Obama, which makes it look like a strawman. But it isn't. It's an independent conclusion drawn by Sally about what Obama is really doing or like, not a supposedly legitimate representation of Obama's actual, outward position on the issue. It is a flawed statement, but not a strawman.


The strawman tactic is incredibly common and most often goes unnoticed and isn't even intentional. But it has a context.

My point is that not every flawed argument is a strawman.

Thanks.

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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:08 PM
Response to Original message
1. If I were to say that Warren is just as bad as members of Aryan Nations...
Edited on Thu Dec-18-08 06:08 PM by Solon
and therefore Obama coddles, or at the very least, tolerates bigotry. Would that be a straw man?
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. No, not a strawman. nt
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Cronus Protagonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:17 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. It would be hyperbole
Obama has shown no intent in, or example of tolerating bigotry. If you hire a person to do a job of work you're not exactly endorsing every viewpoint the wage slave has ever had. That's why it's hyperbolic to overstate as is in that statement.
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:21 PM
Response to Reply #5
7. I'd say it's not a strawman because while it interprets Obama's actions
it doesn't distort his outward, stated position so as to more easily knock it down.

In other words, the statement is independent of what Obama has said. It couldn't be disproved by looking over Obama quotes and saying, No, see? That's not his position.

It makes no attempt to put words into or take words out of his mouth.
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:23 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. Obama himself has said he's interested in "reaching across the aisle"...
that is a phrase that is subject to interpretation, if I interpret it differently from you, my POV is just as valid.
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:28 PM
Response to Reply #9
12. ...Not sure I understand your point.
The idea is that if you're not distorting his actual, outward position, you're not making use of the strawman. For it to be a strawman, you have to first contend that what you're saying about him is what he, himself, is saying.

If you're just saying that he coddles homophobes, that's an interpretation of what he's doing- not a supposed recitation of his stated position.
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:33 PM
Response to Reply #12
16. No, what I'm saying is my contention that he coddles homophobes is his action...
while saying he tolerates homophobia is an interpretation of his using the phrase: "Reaching across the aisle" when explaining his actions.
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:37 PM
Response to Reply #16
22. It all depends on whether you're saying that he is saying these things
Edited on Thu Dec-18-08 06:50 PM by BullGooseLoony
or not.

Are you saying that he is saying that he tolerates homophobia? If so, that would probably be a strawman- a misrepresentation of his stated position, which, while deliberately vague, was more of a statement about attitude (his general approach to the Presidency) than a statement of policy.
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:42 PM
Response to Reply #22
25. Tolerating homophobia is an attitude, and as you said it was vague...
I have my opinion, and you have yours.
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:46 PM
Response to Reply #25
27. LOL you're trying to start an argument with me and all I'm trying to talk
about is the Strawman Argument.

Go somewhere else if that's what you're wanting to do. I'm not interested.
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slackmaster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 07:02 PM
Response to Reply #9
32. That's a Red Herring
:hide:
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TomInTib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:11 PM
Response to Original message
2. So, when is a Red Herring not a Stalking Horse?
When it's carrying a False Flag?

I dunno.
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slackmaster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:27 PM
Response to Reply #2
11. When the stalking horse is being ridden by a True Scotsman
On the way to a Poisoned Well.
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Cronus Protagonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 07:00 PM
Response to Reply #11
31. A true Scotsman would never lead anyone to a poisoned well
:)
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Cronus Protagonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:14 PM
Response to Original message
3. Good luck getting people to understand THAT!!11
A sizable population here cannot spell "lose" - good luck getting them to understand the difference between hyperbole and a logical fallacy! :P
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Bucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:36 PM
Response to Reply #3
21. don't tell me your going to start picking on people for there spelling to!
heh-heh, "logical phallusy"
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grantcart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:19 PM
Response to Original message
6. Here is a real strawman
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truth2power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:23 PM
Response to Original message
8. So, if someone says they don't like Obama's choice of Warren,
and someone else responds, "So, would you rather have McCain/Palin?", isn't that a strawman?

Seems to me that the above moves the discussion to another level entirely, and one that would easily be refuted. I doubt that anyone here would prefer McCain to Obama.

I really would like to know. I struggle with these logical fallacies.

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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:25 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. No, that's a false dichotomy.
A false choice between two situations- Obama inviting Warren, or a McCain/Palin administration.

Whereas the first person's point is that they just don't want Obama to invite Warren, which is entirely conceivable and another possible choice.
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truth2power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 07:09 PM
Response to Reply #10
33. Ok. I understand the false dichotomy. But, re: some of your other
responses, here ...

If I say, "I'm opposed to Obama's selection of Rick Warren to do the Invocation" (or whatever) then there's no opportunity for a strawman, because there's no opportunity to exaggerate Obama's position on the matter. Correct?

So, could you make this concrete? Could you erect a strawman for either or both of these statements?

#1. "I'm opposed to Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the Invocation."

#2. "I'm opposed to Obama's selection of Rick Warren because I think Mr. Warren is ultimately self-serving and would stab Obama in the back (figuratively) at the first opportunity."

Thanks. I'm not trying to, umm..."beat a dead horse" but I sure would like to sort this out.
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 07:31 PM
Response to Reply #33
36. Right, but keep in mind that when you speak of "exaggerating Obama's position"
on the matter, you need to be very deliberately representing what you're saying as what Obama has actually said in support of his policy- not just giving your interpretation.

As far as the three statements you put up, no, none of them are strawmen.

I'm not sure what you mean when you ask if I could erect a strawman for the last two statements. But, I'll use them to give you a couple more examples.

#1- Let's say Person A says, "I'm opposed to Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the Invocation," and then Person B responds, "Why don't you want Obama to select any religious figure to give the Invocation?" That would be a strawman- a distortion of Person A's expressed position. Person B, through their statement, is representing that Person A said something other than what they did say.

#2- Let's say Person A says, "I'm opposed to Obama's selection of Rick Warren because I think Mr. Warren is ultimately self-serving and would stab Obama in the back, figuratively, at the first opportunity." Then Person B says, "Oh, come on. You think Warren is going to try to assassinate Obama with all those people watching and Secret Service around? Give me a break. Obama's decision was right." That is also a strawman. This is a double fallacy, in fact- Person B also makes use of what is called the "equivocation" fallacy. Equivocation is when a debater takes advantage of an ambiguity of meaning in a word or phrase- in this case, your phrase "stab Obama in the back,"- in order to distort an argument, deliberately or otherwise. Person A meant the phrase in one way, but Person B responded in a way making use of an entirely different meaning.
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truth2power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 08:53 PM
Response to Reply #36
37. Thank you. That's what I was looking for. Responding to my
statements with a strawman.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:29 PM
Response to Original message
13. Ye Gods, this is getting out of hand. Nit-picking over the definition of strawman?
It's official, DU has gone totally nuts. :crazy:
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Bucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:32 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. You post is a red herring.
And an ad hominem attack.

And nuts-o-phobic.

And possibly sacreligious.
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ecstatic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 08:56 PM
Response to Reply #15
38. No. It's a triangulation
:crazy:
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Lex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:33 PM
Response to Reply #13
17. I think just discussing it is what's happening.
Not everyone's cup of tea, obviously.



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truth2power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:44 PM
Original message
Please, Odin, I'm trying to figure this out. Thanks. n/t
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Bucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:59 PM
Response to Reply #13
30. By discussing the meaning of "logical fallacy", they're basically endorsing PNAC's agenda
Every time you post a rolling eyes smily, God kills a freeper
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Lex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:31 PM
Response to Original message
14. Exaggeration of your opponent's position to something ludicrious
Edited on Thu Dec-18-08 06:32 PM by Lex

and then arguing that point (the exaggerated/overstated one), instead of the real one made, is a strawman.


A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.<1> To "set up a straw man," one describes a position that superficially resembles an opponent's actual view, yet is easier to refute. Then, one attributes that position to the opponent. For example, someone might deliberately overstate the opponent's position.<1> While a straw man argument may work as a rhetorical techniqueand succeed in persuading peopleit carries little or no real evidential weight, since the opponent's actual argument has not been refuted.<2>


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man


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BootinUp Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #14
18. oy. nt
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Lex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:35 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. yo. nt
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:40 PM
Response to Reply #14
24. That's right- and implicit or explicit in that is the representation of what one
is saying as legitimately being the position of the opponent- i.e., "this is what my opponent says."
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truth2power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 07:22 PM
Response to Reply #14
35. I think I was confused, upthread, about who the "opponent" is. ..
So, in this context, there's you, me, and Obama. I'M the one who's your opponent. I say, "I think Warren is a bad choice because he'll turn on Obama at the first opportunity." And then you exaggerate MY position to something ludicrous. Yes? :crazy:
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Bucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:35 PM
Response to Original message
19. So straw man would be "If you object to the Warren selection, you're bashing Obama", right?
I'm seeing a lot of that here. All criticism is "bashing". And then all bashing is hating.
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:44 PM
Response to Reply #19
26. Mmmm...I see what you're saying there, but
ultimately, no, I don't think that's a strawman. I think it's just a characterization- a hyperbole- of those who criticize Obama. Exaggerating "criticism" to "bashing." There's no misrepresentation of a position, really, there.
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Bucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:56 PM
Response to Reply #26
28. What about the phrase Obama hater, which was used in a subject line here?
I know these are just slides along a continuum here, but where do you draw the line?

The way I read it--and tell me if you see it differently--is that if I criticize one of his choices, I'm speaking against his actions, but I would still be a supporter of his. The way I saw "bashing" used, it seems like I was being accused of being anti-Obama; that is, that I was speaking against him rather than speaking against one of his political choices. That's what twisted my rubber in a knot: being told that my objection to a selection was an ad hominem attack. That's how I saw it as a mischaracterization.
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Guaranteed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 07:13 PM
Response to Reply #28
34. Right, exactly, I see what you're saying and it's difficult to pin down but
Edited on Thu Dec-18-08 07:15 PM by BullGooseLoony
it doesn't seem right calling it a strawman. That tactic you're talking about almost assuredly would be more accurately described with another term- an ad hominem attack, the very term being used to describe your objection to his decision.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

Characterizing others as "Obama haters" or "bashers" or the like can be seen as distorting their position through that characterization- the personal attack against the person trickles down to the credibility of the argument. But as attacking the person themselves doesn't specifically put into or take out a point of their argument- it doesn't modify the argument itself- I don't think it's properly called a strawman. It's an attack on the credibility of the argument's messenger rather than the argument.
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Gman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:40 PM
Response to Original message
23. For a live lesson on the Straw Man, listen to Hannity for 3 hours
it's nothing but constant non-stop Straw Man arguments about Obama which he instantly knocks down. Listen and see how often he does it. Don't say, "eeeeewww, I can't stand him, I'm not going to listen to HIM!" Do it to educate yourself and think about how you would knock Hannity back down and steer him to the real argument and truth.
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BootinUp Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 06:57 PM
Response to Reply #23
29. I loved this response. nt
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