Fallacious Argument of the Month: meet the straw man

fallacy of the monthThere’s nothing like a good argument, as any fan of Monty Python knows.

Having a good argument, however, demands diligence, attention to detail, self-awareness, and practice; it’s all too easy to have a bad one. The bad kind, alas, abounds in political discussion, particularly during an election season, makes frequent appearances in conference rooms and at family dining room tables, and of course proliferates like rabbits on the internet. With the aim of bettering public discourse and combating the viral spread of fallacy everywhere, I propose to launch a regular feature: the Fallacious Argument of the Month.

Each month I will spotlight a different fallacious argument. This month please welcome July’s fallacy, the straw man argument.

For the lazy thinker, nothing could be more fun or easier than the straw man argument. Simply set up your straw man by distorting or exaggerating your opponent’s position, and then set it ablaze or knock it down. This lets you disregard what your opponent actually said and unburdens you from inconvenient facts. (The down side of course is that no one gets to debate and discuss the issue on the merits, although that of course is the point.) Examples of straw man arguments include these two, taken, for the sake of fairness, from each side of the American political aisle:

If you have a favorite fallacious argument that you’d like to see featured here at Mediation Channel, please let me know. And don’t forget to tune in on August 3 for next month’s Fallacious Argument.

4 responses to “Fallacious Argument of the Month: meet the straw man

  1. You mis-spelled “cemetery”.. is my compulsivity showing?

  2. Thanks for spotting that. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t catch that myself – I’m anal-compulsive myself, particularly when it comes to matters of spelling and punctuation. Consider it corrected!

  3. Michael Dallahan

    Thanks for the link to the Monty Python Argument skit. I am not sure which is funnier, the dialogue between Michael Palin and John Cleese or what happens later when Palin storms out of the room and unintentionally attends a “Being Hit on the Head” lesson.
    This will make a light hearted way to introduce the subject of a staff in service I will be facilitating-“Managing Conflict in the Workplace”. thanks again!

  4. Michael, I’m really happy to learn that you’re going to find use for that classic Monty Python skit in an in-service. Hope your group enjoys it as much as you and I did! Thanks so much for dropping by. I really appreciate it.