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Straw man fallacy

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  • The straw man fallacy involves misrepresenting an opponent’s position to make it easier to refute. Straw man arguments often oversimplify opposing views or disregard inconvenient points in favor of points that are easy to argue against. 

    Examples

    In many instances, the person committing the straw man fallacy highlights the most extreme position of the opposing side—for example:

    • Opposing argument: Teens should be taught about contraception methods so they can practice safe sex should they choose to have intercourse.
    • Straw man argument: Proponents of sex education want to give kids license to have sex with no consequences.

    This straw man argument ignores the things that make the issue of sex education complicated, and it boils down the opposing position to a narrow, extreme view.

    In other cases, speakers commit the straw man fallacy by highlighting the actions of a minority of the opposing side—for example:

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    • Opposing argument: Bicycle infrastructure should be expanded because cycling is a sustainable mode of transportation.
    • Straw man argument: We should not build bike lanes because cyclists run red lights and endanger pedestrians.

    Here, the straw man argument ignores the positive aspects of bicycle infrastructure and focuses on the minority of cyclists who don’t follow traffic rules.

    And some straw man arguments oversimplify the opposing viewpoint so it is easy to refute—for example:

    • Opposing argument: Publicly funded healthcare should be enacted in the U.S. so all Americans can have equal access to the care they need to live full, happy, and productive lives.
    • Straw man argument: In this age of government spending run amok, the last thing we need is another entitlement.

    This argument ignores the complex issues surrounding publicly funded healthcare and resorts to generic rhetoric that pushes buttons but provides little substance.

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    Comments

    1. Michael G. Marriam says:

      Very good illustrations. Now could you add some examples illustrating the way progressives use straw man arguments against, lets say, the right to keep and bear arms?

    2. tooth2power says:

      Hey “Grammarist” – Who gave you these liberal boilerplate examples – Elizabeth Warren ? LOL !
      Tell me where the “substance” exists in your last pronouncement “example”?
      “Publicly funded healthcare should be enacted in the U.S. so all Americans can have equal access to the care they need to live full, happy, and productive lives.”
      So, the counterpoint is, ‘What’s it going to cost in taxes, jobs and creating a deeper distrust of the federal government when our president lies to the governed declaring, “You can keep your plan, doctors and a family of 4 will save $2500.00 a year…PERIOD?”

    3. danny0575 says:

      The publicly funded healthcare example is NOT a good example of a straw man argument because government running amok creating entitlements is quite accurate and NOT an extreme position. It’s only extreme to liberals.

      • More accurately it’s an example of ‘moving the goalposts’ rather than a straw man – instead of interrogating the premise of the argument (the link between public healthcare and a happy, productive life), the counter-argument dismisses the premise entirely as ‘another entitlement’ and instead talks about something else.

        Can we have more articles on rhetorical strategies please? One of my major bugbears is the misuse of the phrase ‘begging the question’

    4. Lucy Iluvbacon Castillo-Riley says:

      Lol! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who caught on to the one sided examples provided by this site

    5. my brother is the ultimate straw man. i told him the same way people were accused of being witches back in the 17th century in America conspiracy theorists and whistle blowers are being murdered and villianized by the main stream media.. Instead of responding to this, he merely got back to me saying something about how ridiculous I was to be talking about witches hundreds of years ago to the present reality in todays time, not referring to the point in any way because clearly he had no way to refute it. so instead, like all the times before in our conversations, he pulls the straw man role, and suddenly the topic veers and is no longer viable to discuss.

    6. Love the examples.

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