Friday Fallacy

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Friday Fallacy 4-10-15

It’s Friday and you know what that means… It’s time once again for your #FridayFallacy!

As always, we will begin with an example to give you a chance to guess the fallacy, and then we’ll name it and explain how it works and how to counter it for the next time you come across it.

This week’s fallacy is visual! See the picture, then scroll down the the explanation.

straw-man
Ready?

This week’s fallacy is the Straw Man fallacy. This fallacy is committed when “a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position” (The Nizkor Project). It looks like this:

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.

Here’s an everyday example:

Bill and Ted are arguing about dinner plans:
Ted: “Let’s go out to dinner. I don’t want to cook tonight.”
Bill: “We just went out the other day. Do we have to go out every night?”
Ted: “That was last weekend, and I never said anything about going out every night.”

The easiest way to catch a straw-man fallacy is simply to listen very carefully for the exact argument being asserted. Sometimes it helps to restate it for the person and check in with them: “To make sure I understand your position, you are saying that ____. Is that right?” To counter one, just be frank and correct the misstatement, and make sure to offer that you believe your claim is not only accurate but reasonable. Sarcasm and beating around the bush tend not to work well to counter this fallacy, although they can be effective in the right situation. But, because it depends on the fallacious party marking an outrageous claim, you already have the high ground, and all you have to do is keep it by showing that what you’re saying is, in fact, reasonable.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s fallacy! Have a great weekend!

Thanks to our very own Alexa Blumenstock for this “fixed” version of the graphic:

straw-man-fixed

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