A straw man argument is a sneaky sort of argument which is intentionally weak. The straw man argument is named after the human-shaped, straw-stuffed punching bags which people used to use to practice fighting against. The idea was that soldiers who practiced fighting against a straw man would have more confidence fighting real soldiers when it comes to war. But it gets a bit more complicated than that. For an argument to be called a ‘straw man’, it’s not enough for that argument to be weak, or for that argument to counter another argument. A straw man argument has to be intentionally weak in order to distort what the other person has said. That kind of argument can be difficult to find in the real world, and it can be easy to misidentify ordinary counter-arguments, especially weak counter-arguments.
Luckily for us, Donald Trump provides us with a golden opportunity! He uses this kind of argument every chance he gets to attack his rivals. Here are three recent examples which we've given a "Straw Man Rating" out of 10.
This January 2019 tweet is a straw man argument because it does not counter the Democrat’s real argument that there should not be a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Instead, it makes a straw-man argument that the Democrats are only arguing against the wall to gain political favour, even though they know a wall would help. This is a bit naughty, but both parties are truthfully playing electoral politics so the Straw Man rating is only 5/10.
In February, Trump made a more blatant straw man argument. This tweet is a straw man because it does not represent the Democrats’ real argument that there should be a maximum limit on the number of migrants in detention. Instead, it makes a straw man argument that the Democrats don’t want to detain or send back any migrants who commit crimes and that the Democrats don’t care. Straw Man rating 7/10!
This last tweet is our best straw man argument yet. It does not counter the real argument that Donald Trump’s life should be investigated in more detail. Instead, it argues against an absolutely outrageous argument that no-one is making – that Trump needs to be discredited in order to implement socialism in the United States. To be fair to Trump, this is a quote from Sean Hannity, but Trump has tweeted it. Apparently, 114,000 people have seen this tweet in the last week and can't see it's a straw man! Straw Man rating 10/10!
Can Donald Trump possibly make a better Straw Man tweet yet? Stay tuned to find out…
If you are interested in learning to think for yourself, and detect invalid methods of argument you might benefit from our online University Preparation course. We cover academic writing and critical thinking. We will have you thinking like an independent researcher in no time!