The straw man fallacy occurs over a few stages:
- Person one states their argument.
- Person two takes that argument and then offers a different or distorted version (or “straw man”) of it.
- Person two then proceeds to tear down that new version of the argument.
- Person two claims victory!
As you can see, the straw man argument is constructed (sometimes intentionally) in order to give the appearance of having actually refuted the original argument. However a straw man argument is illogical because it doesn’t actually address the original argument - instead it addresses some kind of misrepresented or exaggerated version. Being on the receiving end can be highly frustrating!
Person one: “I think people should eat fewer fatty hamburgers.”
Person two: “You don’t think people should eat meat? Are you trying to put farmers out of work? Trying to disrespect the culture and work of barbecue chefs everywhere?”
By exaggerating person one’s position, person two creates a straw man which they can more easily attack, and they avoid having to address the original argument.
Visualizing the literal setup of a man of straw, the attack, and the (illogical) proclamation of victory is a neat way to internalize the straw man fallacy into your latticework of mental models!