Ok, I’ll admit, I’m not exactly sure what the term means. I’ve seen it thrown around in debates, but I just can’t put my finger on a definition, just a vague feel of what it refers to. What does it mean in the context of the SDMB?

A strawman is a argument that you falsely attribute to your opponent based on an overexaggeration of his position.


Person A: “A woman has a right to choose whether or not to abort.”

Person B: “Oh, so you think that it’s OK to kill a baby as it’s being born by having it’s brains sucked out…”

Note that Person A never mentioned partial-birth aborition. A could easily be pro-choice but still be against PBA. Person B set up an easy “strawman” argument to knock down.

Zev Steinhardt

From here

A Straw Man is something that is easily bested although it has the appearance of being legitemate.

It’s good for blowing smoke in a debate and appearing to come out the winner–because your opponent’s jaw is on the floor and they appear to have been gainsaid; when the reality is that they’re trying to figure out if they’re in the right building because what was just said had nothing to do with their position.

It’s also good for inflating the image of a product by comaparing apples to oranges: EVERYONE wants the tight shiny skin of apples, but all oranges give you is a pitty, wrinkly, fleshy skin. You therefore conclude apples are better.

It was this same tactic that duped the Germans, in WWII, to opt to use the machine gun rather than the death ray invented a decade or so earlier: “The machine gun is a familiar weapon, easy to maintain and can empty a can of ammunition in just under 2 minutes at maximum rate of fire. The death ray, on the other hand, is easily misplaced, difficult to field strip and can not use modern ammunition.” How different things might have been!

Please…don’t do it…control yourselves.

I don’t know DarrenS. I really didn’t get the explanation until right then…

Thanks Matchka

My Pleasure.

I thought this thread would be about Darryl Strawberry!

Everytime me and my buddy would play R.B.I. 3 for NES he would hit at least 1 homer with Strawberry and would yell-out “the STRAWMAN does it again!”

Any who, carry-on…


I thought a straw man had to do with 1920’s style death rays.

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. A straw man has to do with 1920’s style Dorothys (and Tin Men, and Cowardly Lions).

Seriously. Now that I have a formal definition of Strawman, I can recognize how people have erroneously applied it in the past. I can also say that this is a common tactic in the gay rights debates lately. But I mostly fear that it will become so overused that jaded dopers will beat it into triteness.

“…Oh here comes that Stawman accusation again!”

But shouldn’t the real question about a strawman be, …

do you listen to him and go down the yellow brick road?

Yep – and I’m very weary of the term. It’s completely overused over in Great Debates, where it sometime seeems like the rules are simply “First person to yell ‘STRAWMAN!’ wins”

No, Monstre I don’t think the term is used much more often than it needs to be. Dorkweeds keep using strawmen in their arguments, and they keep getting called on it.

I think the term is occasionally misused, often in political threads where poster A proposes some sort of new law, poster B points out how that law could be abused, and poster A starts accusing B of invoking strawmen, simply because B pointed out a potential flaw in A’s idea, but A doesn’t want to admit it.