The fallacy of the straw man: meaning and examples (2023)

Have you ever been involved in a heated argument, but they try to exaggerate their position? Then you may fall victim to this person's scarecrow argument.

Find out the definition of the scarecrow argument and some examples of the scarecrow fallacy in media and politics. I'll also show you how to identify, combat, and avoid the informal fallacy!

Example of a scarecrow argument

Scarecrow arguments often occur when making decisions. One person takes another person's point and then exaggerates it. For example, a professor recommends longer lectures. A person using the scarecrow might reply, "No, because that means giving students full marks."

What is the straw man fallacy?

ostraw manThe fallacy is misrepresenting an opponent's position to make it easier to refute. Oversimplify an opposing point of view or ignore inconvenient points in favor of points that are easy to argue against.

The flow of this relevance fallacy usually goes like this:

  • Person A makes statement Y.
  • Person B repeats Person A's statement in a distorted way.
  • Person B attacks the distorted version.
  • The statement Y becomes a false or invalid position.

Typically, the person committing the straw man fallacy highlights the more extreme versions from the other side, for example:

  • Opposition:Teens should be taught about contraception and safer sex when and if they want to have sex.
  • Straw man:Sex ed advocates want to give kids a license to have sex without consequences.

The scarecrow argument ignores the importance of the actual argument. Instead, they argue that sex education is giving children a "license to have sex without consequences."

The scarecrow fallacy also occurs when someone highlights the actions or claims of an opposing minority, for example:

(Video) The Strawman Fallacy | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

  • Opposition:Cycling infrastructure must be expanded becausecyclingIt is a sustainable means of transport.
  • Straw man:We shouldn't build bike lanes because cyclists run red lights and endanger pedestrians.

Here, the scarecrow ignores the positive aspects of the real cycle infrastructure problem. Then it focuses on the minority of cyclists who do not follow the rules of the road.

The fallacy also oversimplifies the original claim, making it easy to disprove, for example:

  • Opposition:Publicly funded health care must be approved in the US so that all Americans can have equal access to the care they need to live full, happy and productive lives.
  • Straw man:In this era of public spendingto get mad, the last thing we need is another right.

This example is fallacious because it ignores the complex issue of publicly funded healthcare. He then resorts to generic rhetoric that pushes but provides little substance.

A person may also discuss versions of a theory that the speaker did not mention in his or her original statement. Here is an example situation of an evolution class:

  • opposition: A biology professor argues that Charles Darwin is the father of evolution. And he claims that the theory of evolution is a fact and a theory.
  • Straw man: That's impossible! There is no evolutionary evidence that we came from the scum of the lake.

The scarecrow argument provides skewed stance or false evidence about evolution, assuming that we evolved from pond scum. He also considers that fact is synonymous with certainty.

The fallacy is also associated with picking nuts. To crack nuts is to look for statements that are extremely fringe and not representative of an opposing group. Then they parade these statements to show the irrationality of the group.

Examples of the clown fallacy in film and media

The scarecrow fallacy is also common among movie villains who want to instill fear in people. Even among celebrities, the media can portray people who oppose a particular issue as irrational.

In the Beauty and the Beast musical, Gaston convinces his troops to kill the beast. He does a bolder version of what Belle said about the beast, thinking it would cause harm to the village.

Then all the town got scared and decided they didn't want to let the beast run free anymore. Gaston's exaggeration is an example of a scarecrow in the movies.

In media reporting, journalists tend to focus on one side of the story and then ignore other groups of people. Or they portray two sides of a story as equally valid, even if one is wrong.

Example of scarecrow arguments in politics

Political debates are where scarecrow arguments are often found. A famous case is during thethird presidential debate between Clinton and Trump.

(Video) CRITICAL THINKING - Fallacies: Straw Man Fallacy [HD]

On the subject of immigration, Trump claims that Clinton was in favor of open borders, according to his 2013 speech.

Clinton responds by saying that she was talking about the movement of goods and energy and not the movement of people. Trump used the scarecrow by quoting Clinton's earlier speech, which mentioned "open borders," and then attacked his liberal views on immigration.

In another example, Bernie Sanders has proposed moving to a single-payer health system. Hillary Clinton then fires back, saying that Sanders wants to dismantle Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.

Hillary Clinton made a scarecrow argument whySanders does not intend to eradicate ACA and Medicare🇧🇷 He wants to replace them with universal healthcare.

History of the straw man fallacy

There is no specific record of the first cited straw man fallacy. But this fallacy may have been around as long as people started arguing with each other.

Aristotle mentioned this type of reasoning in the 300s B.C. However, there was no label or recognition for this as a fallacy until Stuart Chase published his 1956 book Guides to Straight Thinking. The social theorist explicitly defines the straw man as an informal fallacy.

An informal fallacy is flawed reasoning rather than logic. This means that scarecrow arguments can sometimes be logical and valid. However, the way you refute a point is incorrect.

How to Spot a Straw Man Argument

The scarecrow plot is sometimes hard to spot when you focus on the plot without looking at the full context. Another reason it's hard to pin down is that scarecrow arguments are a form of verbal manipulation.

But learning how to identify the straw man fallacy is essential to knowing how to refute it. Here are some strategies that people use to create distorted images of a claim.

  1. Oversimplifying or hasty generalization.
  2. Focusing on some aspects of the plot.
  3. Quote parts of the statement out of context.
  4. Argue against extreme views that the opponent has not used.

How to Counter Scarecrow Arguments

So what do you do when your opponent takes a fallacious rationale from your argument and turns it into an extreme position? Here are some civilized approaches to combat scarecrow arguments.

Explain that the person's statement is an exaggerated version

Challenge your opponent by claiming that their statement is a scarecrow argument. Explain why this is an extreme position that provides a distorted view of his claim.

(Video) Straw Man Fallacy Example

In the evolution example, you can counter the erroneous reasoning of humans who came from the scum of the lake by saying the following:

“This is an extreme version of my complex statement. My original position does not state that we come from the scum of the lake. Science is based on empirical evidence, so a scientific fact has to be confirmed to a certain degree to be a fact. And the empirical evidence for biological evolution falls into this category.

ignore history

An alternate approach is to ignore your opponent's argument in response. Continue with your original point and provide more supporting details to bring your discussion back to the original topic.

For example, in a presidential debate, Candidate A says that the country should not increase the defense budget. So Candidate B argues that Candidate A wants the country to be defenseless. Candidate A redirects the point as to why the defense budget is already sufficient.


You can also counter the scarecrow arguments with the man of steel arguments to be in an advantageous position. It is a type of argument that helps the opponent build a powerful form of his original claim.

This form of argumentation is a powerful approach in that you usually brush aside any incompetence from your opponent.

How to avoid using Strawman's arguments

You may also be using the scarecrow argument without meaning to. Avoid fallacies in arguments by restating your opponent's position. Ask them if they agree with your description before going against it.

Accuracy in reasoning should always be your goal. But if you realize you've made a mistake in a discussion, correct it immediately. Asking about your opponent is the best escape strategy, as it also leads to a productive discussion.

Always focus on the person to whom you are directing your message. If you're arguing in front of a group, focus on persuading them instead of persuading your opponent. This will prevent you from using the scarecrow argument and other fallacies.

There are cases where a scarecrow argument may be the best way to get the upper hand, as it wins over so many people. But misrepresenting your opponent's statements is inherently immoral and illogical.

Studies show that the scarecrow fallacy is only useful when a listener is not motivated to examine the speaker. Make a distorted picture of the audience statement and they will start to get involved in the discussion. Still, it is ineffective and can backfire.

(Video) Straw Man (Logical Fallacy)

Fallacies Related to the Scarecrow Arguments

These are the different approaches to reasoning when using the scarecrow argument.

Iron Man Storyline

The iron man argument is one of the most common fallacies in which a person also misrepresents the original statement. But the twist is that they make his arguments so that they are easier to defend.

The argument under discussion is more difficult to dispute, as there are overlapping features. The word of the debate becomes theirs because of the various strategies they can employ. One way to identify Iron Man storylines is to look for imprecise terms and slang.

For example, a businesswoman once made a statement about the social impact of her company. However, they failed to generate that social impact. When questioned by the media, her response was: "The company is doing what it can with the priority of generating changes in the coming months."

Hollow Man Arguments

The Iron Man fallacy is faulty reasoning in which a person fabricates or attributes a controversial issue to a loosely defined group they should oppose. Here, a person can create a fictitious position and claim that the opposing group created it.

In essence, they are fabricating extreme views and arguing with non-existent opponents. It is a real problem among many people who want to escape responsibility.

For example, one could create abstract statements that animal rights activists want animals to have the same rights as humans. It's a hollow man argument because no one has taken a full position that animals should be like humans.

The slippery slope fallacy explained

The slippery slope argument is made when a person argues about a series of events leading up to a larger event, which is usually a bad conclusion.

For example, one might think that a gun control law would keep people from owning guns. Therefore, no one would defend themselves if a terrorist attack occurred.

fallacy of composition

The fallacy of composition is an informal fallacy in which a person uses aspects of a part of a whole and then applies them to the whole. This reasoning follows the idea that all members of X have P. Therefore, X has P.

Conclusion on Strawman's arguments

A scarecrow argument is clever because it can be considered logical and valid. Now you know the meaning of the scarecrow argument and how to combat it. You also learned some examples of the straw man fallacy in media and politics.

(Video) Straw Man Fallacy: Explanation and Class Activity

When in debate, always respond to your opponent's fundamental proposition. And combat your logical fallacies by pointing them out or continuing with your original point.


What is straw man fallacy with example? ›

Presenting a fringe or extreme version of an opposing argument as the mainstream version of it: For example, one might create a straw man by claiming that all vegans are opposed to all forms of animal captivity, including pet ownership.

Which of the following is an example of straw man? ›

Strawman Argument Example

A person takes someone else's point then exaggerates it. For example, a teacher recommends longer class lectures. A person using strawman may reply, “No, because that means giving a perfect score to students.”

What is a strawman answer? ›

A straw man (sometimes written as strawman) is a form of argument and an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man".

What is meant by fallacies give 5 examples? ›

Ad Hominem, Appeal to Pity, and Affirming the Consequent are also fallacies of relevance. Accent, Amphiboly and Equivocation are examples of fallacies of ambiguity. The fallacies of illegitimate presumption include Begging the Question, False Dilemma, No True Scotsman, Complex Question and Suppressed Evidence.

What is a strawman in business example? ›

Here is an example of a straw man:

2. In business, straw man is a debate strategy in which a point that can be easily refuted is attributed to the opposition. The objective of setting up a straw man in an argument is to "knock down" one argument and make it appear as if the opponent's entire position has been refuted.

What type of argument is straw man? ›

A straw man argument attacks a different subject rather than the topic being discussed — often a more extreme version of the counter argument. The purpose of this misdirection is to make one's position look stronger than it actually is. The straw man argument is appropriately named after a harmless, lifeless scarecrow.

How do you use strawman in a sentence? ›

Example: The senator was criticized for using a straw man argument during the debate instead of addressing his opponent's real position.

What is straw man fallacy in critical thinking? ›

An informal fallacy where you substitute a person's argument with a distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented version in order to make it easier to attack. However, this tactic undermines a rational debate as one side of the discourse has had their argument deliberately distorted against their will.


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