The Straw Man Fallacy


by Peter Paskale

As the big bad wolf will gladly confirm, it’s way easier to blow-down a house of straw.

And so it is with arguments. An argument made of straw is easier to demolish than one that’s made of stone. Why would anybody therefore want to build themselves such a poor and flimsy straw-bale argument?

Precisely because they want to blow it down. All by themselves.

It’s such an accepted strategy within communications that is even has a name – The Straw-Man Fallacy, and it’s why NRA commentator Dom Raso is claiming gun rights should be extended to blind people.

Mr Raso is an awesome speaker. He’s also highly credible, and that’s important for the success of a Straw Man Fallacy, because the straw-man involves tricking your audience.

Mr Raso’s argument is that blind people are being denied their Second Amendment rights to carry guns, and on the basis of his evidence, and putting my own views on guns to one side, I would have to say that I agree with him. To deny blind people the same rights  as the rest of us would be discrimination unfairly based on a physical disability. This however, is where the straw-man comes in, because the Gun Control Act of 1968 makes no mention of blind people.

While the Act does list various groups who are prohibited from carrying guns, blind people are most definitely not amongst them.

Mr Raso therefore, has powerfully won an argument against a case that doesn’t exist, and that doesn’t exist for the very reasons that he cites in his video. It’s all rather odd and circular, but done for a reason, because creating a Straw Man Fallacy is only stage one of a larger communications strategy:

Step One: The straw-man

Let’s say that blind people represent group A. Mr Raso’s straw-man has now led you, the audience, to inaccurately believe that blind people are unfairly discriminated against under the Gun Control Act.

Step Two: The demolition

Our speaker now builds a powerful case for why that is wrong. He creates a compelling argument, against an illusionary target of his own creation.

Step Three: The extension

If Mr. Raso can prove that Argument A demonstrates unfair prejudice, then we as an audience become pre-inclined to believe that maybe groups B & C are also being prejudiced against.

Step Four: The precedent

While Argument A was an illusory straw-man, groups B & C will be real. The successful straw-man however, will have created a precedent under which it can now be successfully argued that groups B & C, who are genuinely listed under the Gun Control Act, should also be able to carry fire-arms.

Maybe I’m being Machiavellian again, but usually when a speaker invokes a straw-man fallacy, it’s step one. Showing how easily you can blow down the house of straw is only a prelude to panicking the occupants of the house of stones into quitting the building with  less of a fight.

Mr. Raso makes a fabulous case, and I believe this is the prelude to something bigger.

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