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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Strawman Fallacy

The Strawman Fallacy is a commonly used debating technique. The Strawman Fallacy says that, to discredit an opponent, attack the weakest point of their argument. Their weakest point is false. Therefore, their entire argument is false.

Most mainstream news sources use the Strawman Fallacy when analyzing things. It has become second-nature for most people. I almost feel compelled to not mention some of my weaker ideas, because people will see those and automatically disagree with my stronger ideas. On the other hand, I assume that my readers are reasonably intelligent and I mention some of my more speculative ideas.

If you want to disagree with me, disagree on my two strongest points. My two strongest arguments are "The Federal Reserve is evil." and "The income tax is evil." The Federal Reserve is bad because it's a huge subsidy to the financial industry, paid by everyone else in the form of inflation. Artificially low interest rates cause a tremendous amount of economic distortions. The Federal Reserve causes the Compound Interest Paradox to enslave everyone under a crushing debt burden. The income tax is evil because it converts everyone into government slaves. All productive work must be reported and taxed. I cannot do productive work without supporting the Federal Reserve and other things I find objectionable. The income tax is evil because it means that the dollar is backed by the government's taxation and spying power. The income tax prevents people from using alternate monetary systems, because income taxes must be paid in dollars.

When I try explaining my ideas to other people, they prefer to attack some of the other arguments I make. If you want to disagree with me, disprove my two strongest points, not others that aren't as strong. I mention my other theories as well, because they produce a coherent picture. However, those don't have solid evidence backing them up. The evidence against the Federal Reserve and income tax can be confirmed using mainstream information sources.

For example, some people might say "There's no Supreme Leader of Humanity. Therefore, the Federal Reserve and income tax are good." That isn't valid logical reasoning. I'm not 100% certain that there actually is a Supreme Leader of Humanity. It's something that concerns me as a possibility. I mention the Supreme Leader of Humanity because it's an interesting idea. It has nothing to do with the validity of my arguments against the Federal Reserve and income tax.

Most people are trained to use the Strawman Fallacy when thinking or debating. The Strawman Fallacy guarantees that any marginal ideas are not discussed at all. People are afraid to mention doubtful ideas, because the Strawman Fallacy makes them look bad for doing so. I assume that my readers are intelligent. I will continue to mention speculative ideas that I'm not 100% sure are true. I mention them because they're interesting, which should be sufficient justification for writing about them. I'm almost 100% sure that the Federal Reserve and income tax are extremely evil. When I mention other things, it doesn't detract from the validity of those arguments.


Stephen said...

This is not the correct use of the term Straw Man.

This is what wikipedia says, "To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw man argument" is to describe a position that superficially resembles an opponent's actual view but is easier to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent (for example, deliberately overstating the opponent's position)."

Here's an example using a real situation.

Whenever two or more people are debating illegal immigration the side opposing it will give reasons such as; The drain on social services, Bringing down wages for the jobs illegals take (thats where those "great deals" from contractors come from), or Not learning English and creating a "parallel society" of spanish-speaking only Americans. The side in support of illegal immigration will then inevitably respond with; America was founded by immigrants, We can't deport millions of illegal immigrants, or You're a racist.

These are all examples of Strawman arguments because they respond to points not raised or even related to the points made by the first side.

Having said that,

Attacking someones weakest points is the easiest way to defeat them.

Dismissing strong, well-reasoned points is stupid and lazy.

Its also how most so called debates on TV News, both Presidential and otherwise, are conducted.

Anonymous said...

Stephen is correct about the accepted definition of the straw man fallacy.

I don't know if there is a name for the fallacy of attacking an opponent's weak points. "Nitpicking" is the best I can think of.

But I would like to point out that it is ONLY a fallacy IF the "strong" points do not depend on the "weak" ones. In other words, if it's a fallacy, it's a specific kind of the fallacy of irrelevance.

In general, an irrelevant criticism is one which attacks premises or deductions which are not part of the actual argument being criticized. There are several ways in which these spurious premises or deductions can be introduced, so there are as many kinds of irrelevance.

Straw man introduces things the opponent never actually said, but that superficially resemble what he said.

Nitpicking seizes on things he did indeed say, but it ignores or misrepresents the use he made of them. (Was it an interesting aside, or a crucial step in his argument? Or was it, as FSK claims, part of another argument altogether, independent of this one?)

I hope this helps.

-- Corky

Anonymous said...

using your wiki definition this is the correct usage. They are describing his argument as depending on the weaker points. Aka the income tax is evil depending on the supreme leader of humanity. Therefore they think they can destroy a weaker point and the stronger point fails.

eagledove9 said...

How dare you claim that Burger King is better than McDonald's! People who believe such things should not be allowed to roam the streets.

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