Avoid Straw-Manning Your Opponents With This One Weird Trick

Short post today. 

There has been an increasing number (or my perception of an increasing number) of blog posts, Facebook comments, and articles in which the author puts forth an imaginary position that “some” believe, and then argues against those hypothetical people. A recent example of this was found at the NIskanen Center. I don’t link to that organization, but you can peruse its website at your own peril. The intimation is always that “some” think a terrible thing, and they should think a good thing instead. This serves to rally the troops around the good thing they should be thinking, when in reality nobody really believes the bad thing. At best, they are merely accused of believing it. This makes the entire line of reasoning disingenuous.

Perhaps it’s accidental. Perhaps these authors don’t really mean to build straw men out of their political opponents. If so, I have a fool-proof way of constructing expository statements in such a way as to virtually eliminate the risk of building straw men. It goes like this:

I disagree with [PERSON] when he/she says [ACTUAL QUOTE, WITH CITATION] because [REASONING].

Phrase your rebuttals this way, and you will nearly always succeed.