Straw Man

Straw Man

Because it is easier to demolish a man of straw than to beat a live opponent fairly, propagandists sometimes pretend that they are responding to the views of their opponents when they are only setting up a type of artificial opposition which they can easily prove to be wrong.

A common form of the straw man fallacy is to attribute to others views that they do not actually hold.

This fallacy almost always avoids the real issue. This fallacy is closely related to the personal attack and name calling fallacies but appears to be a more sophisticated effort to deceive the public.

The user of the Straw Man strategy must cleverly reinvent his opponent in order to change the public's initial perception of that opponent.

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:

  • Person A has position X.
  • Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
  • Person B attacks position Y.
  • 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.


Dr. Goncalo Amaral, the original head of the Portuguese investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
  • In my opinion, a respected, intelligent, devoted believe in justice (Amaral) was successfully "reinvented" using the Straw Man technique. (This blog has devoted a number of pages to the treatment of Dr. Amaral by the British Press and the McCanns.)
  • Added to the libelous news articles portraying Dr. Amaral as a drunk, inept, a bumbler, etc., there is a specific allegation that he has targeted the McCanns in a personal, vicious way. In 2009, he was alleged to have replied "Fuck the McCanns" to a BBC reporter's question. This was vehemently denied by Portuguese citizens who overheard the remark and claimed Amaral had spoken in Portuguese to say something along the lines of "Ask the McCanns". Due to the fact that Dr. Amaral does not speak English, and that there are high stakes involved in the court cases, it is logical to conclude that it is highly unlikely Amaral would have used this form of profanity to a reporter. Further, in his book "The Truth of the Lie", there are no instances of Dr. Amaral using emotive language or being rude in any way to the McCanns. A Straw Man might be profane, however it is very unlikely a dignified 30 year veteran of the Portuguese police would have been.

(More to follow)

Return to top of page Copyright © 2010 | Flash News Converted into Blogger Template by HackTutors