The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacy: Straw Man

Description of Straw Man

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

  1. Person A has position X.
  2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
  3. Person B attacks position Y.
  4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

Examples of Straw Man

  1. Prof. Jones: "The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000."
    Prof. Smith: "What are we going to do?"
    Prof. Brown: "I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it."
    Prof. Jones: "We could reduce our scheduled raises instead."
    Prof. Brown: " I can't understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones."

  2. "Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that."

  3. Bill and Jill are arguing about cleaning out their closets:
    Jill: "We should clean out the closets. They are getting a bit messy."
    Bill: "Why, we just went through those closets last year. Do we have to clean them out everyday?"
    Jill: "I never said anything about cleaning them out every day. You just want too keep all your junk forever, which is just ridiculous."

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