I am really sick of seeing people use the term “Straw Man” to mean a situation in which someone pretends that their opponent is something they are not. Screaming that your opponent is a misogynist because they are against quotas is not “Straw manning,” it’s just making an irrational and unsupported claim. I suppose it’s a type of ad hominem, an attempt to vilify the messenger in order to have the message dismissed, but it is not a “Straw man.” I suspect the problem here is the very term straw man. The last word implies that it is an attack on the man, not the ball – then, quite literally, an “ad hominem.” But that is not what the straw man fallacy actually is.
The real meaning of the straw man fallacy is the replacing of the opponent’s actual argument with a fabricated one which is easier to beat. Once the fabricated argument has been beaten, the dishonest fucker claims victory. Since us amateur logicians don’t get taken very seriously, here is a quote, verbatim, from a US university text entitled “A Concise Introduction to Logic,” by Patrick J. Hurley, a professor emeritus at the University of San Diego…
“The straw man fallacy is committed when an arguer distorts an opponent’s argument for the purpose of more easily attacking it, demolishes the distorted argument, and then concludes that the opponent’s real argument has been demolished.”
For example. An MRA says, “Western women have it better than Western men.” Since nobody except a total pinhead could honestly dispute this, the MRA’s feminist opponent gnashes her teeth, rends her garments, and screams hysterically, “OMG! He said women have it better than men! What about all those women in Afghanistan, you misogynist bastard!?!?!” and then proceeds to give all sorts of admittedly valid evidence as to why women in Afghanistan have it worse than men. Problem is, the MRA’s statement was about Western women, not Afghan women. His argument has been distorted, misrepresented – it has been “straw manned.”
Figuratively speaking, what the straw man fallacy adds up to is that you can’t beat Mike Tyson, so you simply put together a dummy that looks somewhat like a big, black guy with no neck, then you beat the shit out of the dummy and prance around shouting “I beat Mike Tyson!” No, you just beat something you claim is Mike Tyson.
I hope this clarifies the true meaning of the Straw Man Fallacy and prevents future confusion. And just remember, you don’t need to trust me — you just need to trust Professor Hurley.