Straw Man Fallacy

A straw man fallacy occurs when someone distorts or exaggerates another person’s argument, and then attacks the distorted version of the argument instead of refuting the original point. By using a straw man, someone can give the appearance of refuting an argument when they have not actually engaged with the original ideas.

In our comic, we see a personification of a straw man used to derail a debate about climate change:

A comic about the straw man logical fallacy.

Image Transcript
Panel One:
Title Card: Captain Logic must stop Doctor Fallacy from creating… A Straw Man!

Panel Two:
Caption: Global Climate Change Summit
Scene: Inside a conference center, a scientist and an oil executive are engaged in a live debate about climate change.

Panel Three:
As the scientist gives his remarks, the oil executive leans disrespectfully against the wall. Doctor Fallacy hangs around her side of the stage.
Scientist: We now understand the significant role fossil fuels play in climate change. Even my opponents from the oil company can’t ignore the data.

Panel Four:
The oil executive leans over the microphone.
Executive: Yes, we can.
Crowd: Boo!

Panel Five:
Doctor Fallacy whispers strategy to the executive.
Doctor Fallacy: You’re losing them! Quickly! Deploy the Straw Man!

Panel Six:
A man dressed as a scarecrow—the straw man—lumbers onto the stage like a zombie. The executive looks delighted.
Straw Man: Our opponent thinks we should ban all cars!
Scientist: Huh?

Panel Seven:
The straw man takes over the microphone.
Straw Man: Mandatory bike riding! What’s next!? No more stoves!?
Executive: Makes you think…

Panel Eight:
Captain Logic swooshes in. The straw man cowers behind the executive.
Captain Logic: Halt! Doctor Fallacy is using a Straw Man to misrepresent the argument!
Scientist: Yeah! You’re arguing against points I never made.
Straw Man: He’s onto us!

Panel Nine:
Caption: Years later…
The executive, the straw man, and Doctor Fallacy wander through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Executive: Now that most of the planet is uninhabitable, I realize I should have engaged with the issues in good faith. My bad.
Straw Man: This is fine.
Doctor Fallacy: Ugh.

For a screen reader compatible slideshow version of the comic, please click through the below images:

Of course, in real life, straw man fallacies won’t literally jump out at you like in our comic. This fallacy can be a very easy trap to fall into as misrepresenting or exaggerating an opponent’s position, even unintentionally, can feel like a shortcut to winning an argument. To avoid straw man fallacies, it’s important to practice active listening skills and to ask direct clarifying questions.

When dealing with a straw man, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Restating the terms of an argument and prompting your opponent to acknowledge them can be like a strong wind that blows away straw men.

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