Internet Idiocy: The Double Straw Man. Posted July 18, 2012 - 13:59:38
If you ever bother to waste time arguing with someone on the internet (or at least monitoring online "drama" for entertainment value), you've likely heard the term "straw man" bandied about. For those not well versed in the specific terminologies of logical fallacies, the simple explanation of what a "straw man" fallacy is really just where you misrepresent your opponent's opinion to tear it down.
An example would be one where I say something like "Pie is awesome," but your response is "If we only ate pie and nothing else, we'd all get horribly overweight!"
I never said we should only eat pie in my statement. What I said was that Pie is awesome (because it is). But it's hard to argue with that, so by transforming it into "Trae thinks we should eat nothing but pie!" you've created a much easier to defeat opinion. The problem is, of course, that I don't actually think what you're arguing against.
Now straw mans, like many logical fallacies, get used in internet arguments constantly. This particular one gets used so much that people are now using the term as a verb... which just shows a lack of grammatical creativity on their part, but whatever. This prevalence though has led to many people erroneously crying wolf in any argument that they just plain don't understand.
For example, the comic Shortpacked! by the very talented David Willis often does comics which make commentaries on Geek Culture in general. One of the biggest issues being discussed in the last year or so has been that of misogyny in comics, video games and other media. The problem is, frankly, real - and kind of frustrating since it's 2012 and this crap shouldn't be going on still.
I honestly thought most of it was gone, but the sheer idiocy that I've witnessed has proved to me that I was just being naive.
In any case, Mr. Willis will often insert real things he's heard into his comics. If someone says something particularly stupid, he'll put it in some character's mouth and make fun of it. The problem is, the instant he does, some idiot in the comments decides that Willis is constructing a Straw Man.
Here's the thing - he's not.
Willis isn't saying "All geek men are like this" at all. He's not even saying "all people who disagree with me are like this." What he's saying is, "People who say the things this character says are dumb." If you aren't saying these things then, get this, you aren't what he's talking about. If someone actually holds the position that is being ridiculed in the strip, and the point of the strip is to only mock those who hold that particular position, then it's not a straw man.
Worse, by misrepresenting Mr. Willis's stance AS him trying to create a Straw Man, the person making this declaration has themselves constructed a straw man fallacy.
Thus we have achieved the amazing, ever mind boggling Double Straw Man. And you know what? That's just so stupid it's insane.