Straw Man Tactics – Facebook Arguments That Have Nothing to do With Your Point
By Rock Kitaro
July 12, 2016
How many times have you taken the time to post your honest thoughts on a subject, any subject, only to have someone debate you and make points to an argument that has very little to do with your original position? It’s like someone shouting, “CHECK MATE!,” laughing and seal-clapping all proud of themselves while you sit back and seethe, wondering whether or not you should remind the person that you’re playing checkers, not chess.
This is called the Straw Man tactic. I’m seeing this a lot in online debates, so its time for a little exposure.
The Straw Man tactic is a fallacy in which someone appears to have shot down an opponent’s argument, while its actually refuting an issue not proposed by the opponent. It fails to address or disprove the original proposition even though it “appears” to be the same issue.
For example if I were to say, “If you feel like you don’t have a place in this world, keep your chin up and build your place in it. Suicide isn’t the answer.”
And then “Betty” responds with, “Clinical depression is a serious issue. It can’t be controlled or fixed with medicine or religion. We never know what people who suffer with depression go through on a daily basis so we have no right to judge them from committing suicide.”
This is a Straw Man tactic. Anyone reading her post could nod their heads, thinking “she’s right. Clinical depression is a serious issue.”
But the thing is, my original post made no mention of clinical depression. I never said that clinical depression can be controlled or fixed with medicine or religion. Nor did I say anything remotely judgmental about those who have committed suicide so the issues “Betty” points out disproves arguments that I never made.
Furthermore, it distracts from my original message about keeping your chin up and refrain from committing suicide which is fairly positive and uplifting, to promote a message about clinical depression and how sometimes suicide may be acceptable. (which is quite grim, to be honest. Seriously, stay away from my future children).
Another example could be, if you were to read my provided example and say, “your example isn’t a good example because some could say that ‘not feeling like you have a place in this world’ is a sign of depression in which Betty is right to stress her point.”
This too is a form of a Straw Man tactic. It’s the “selective form” referred to as the Weak Man tactic. It’s when people selectively focus on any hasty generalization you make as a way disprove your entire argument, when really its just the generalization that’s interpreted as flawed.
“So Rock. What are you saying? No one should oppose your arguments?”
Not at all. I acknowledge that I have no control over what you say or do.
I’m only pointing out a trend practiced by way too many. I think there’s too many people entering debates and discussions with closed minds, ready to project their thoughts but refusing to hear or attempt to understand the other side. Especially if the opinion is based on faith or empirical experience. Because they don’t want to believe or lack the comprehension to put themselves in the other’s shoes, they lash out with clichés and recycled arguments that have very little to do with the main topic.