Political Season Warning

Watch out for the straw man


Watching the debates reminded me of a communication ploy to which those who hold similar views to the presenter become victims. It’s an abysmal technique I recommended as a political consultant. Its called the straw man argument. And, is often use when attempting to strengthen a position on an issue to which the presenter has little or no backup data. The straw man technique is misinterpreting the opposing point of view to make it easier to refute or discredit it.

A presenter’s straw man argument: “There is a war on Christmas. Atheist are trying to do a way with the day we celebrate Christ’s birth. We’ve got to stop them. The first steps are having us say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas and making us remove manger scenes from public spaces!”

With this Christian straw man argument, the goal is to entice likeminded and uninformed individuals into joining supporting the alleged Holy war. In reality this is literally, a nonexistent issue. The overwhelming majority of Atheist, Jews, and other non Christians have no problem with Christmas. However, to sell more soap and automobiles, the media drags this old chestnut out every year, then assiduously seeks out a person of an opposite view to create a “news” fiction. Don’t fall for that straw man argument and have a happy holiday.

A recent CarMax TV commercial is a great example of a straw man argument. Video and voiceovers depict car dealers attempting to take advantage of buyers with various disreputable sales ploys. CarMax then says they don’t use those “muscular” tactics. The truth is most new cars dealers stopped using strong arming decades ago. CarMax is presenting an old truth as a current situation to frighten buyers away from their competition. That is straw man argument.

Beware, this political season! Candidates will attempt to make you fearful of their opponents by telling you things about them that are untrue or half true. Learn to identify straw man arguments and ignore them.

Footnote: A related ploy is getting supporters to demonize opposing candidates. It is foolhardy and shameful to denigrate someone’s character because you disagree with them. Once while visiting my granddaughters, I said that I hated Brussel Sprouts. I was told not to ever say hate again. It isn’t nice.

Since that time I’ve tried to follow their advice. There rarely any reason to even dislike someone, much less hate. In reality there is rarely a good reason to hold an opinion regarding someone’s character whom you do not know. Animosity can be harmful to your health. Disagree yes. Hate no. And, watch out for the straw man!





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