Category Archives: Strawman

Strawman argument: False quote asserts candidate is an idiot

Goal: Dr. Ben Carson is an idiot
Method: Assertion, Strawman Argument: Fabricate a statement about your opponent and then use that fabrication to argue your opponent is an idiot.
Scorecard: Over 36,000 shares within a month of this propaganda item posted online.

Snopes.com notes the headline is fiction; Dr. Carson never said what is claimed.

Here is the original headline:

Voila_Capture 2015-11-01_04-42-13_PM

A political report claimed Dr. Ben Carson said he had no idea how gravity works but asserted climate change is a hoax. He said neither of those things.

Source: Gravity Well (Snopes.com)

The headline is a fabricated quote. By fabricating a quote, the propagandist creates a “strawman argument”, making the target’s position look unreasonable while making your own position and argument sound reasonable, by comparison.

Follow the link to see how Snopes found the headline to be false and that Carson never said any of the things attributed to him by Occupy Democrats.

This type of propaganda messaging works because it feeds into what the target (Occupy Democrats supporters) wants to believe (about Dr. Carson). It is a simple message that elicits a rapid emotional response (“Good grief! He is an idiot!”) which is quickly translated into clicking on the social media “Share!” button.

Strawman arguments, like this one, can backfire by showing that the propagandist is foolishly making things up and thereby, harming their own reputation. However, from the tone of the comments at the original post, the “targets” do not recognize the quote is false nor that they are being manipulated with a “strawman argument”. Because most people lack an understanding of these basic propaganda methods, they do not recognize when they are being manipulated.

Republican Platform seeks to sell off all Western US Federal lands

Voila_Capture 2016-07-17_09-19-12_PMTL; DR Summary

  • The Seattle Post Intelligencer says the Republican Platform calls to “Sell off public lands in the West, log national forests”.
  • This link was widely distributed on social media.
  • Snopes.com says the erroneous story was based on an incorrect blog post from ThinkProgress claiming the GOP plans to close national parks, monuments, wilderness areas, national forests, BLM lands  and sell them to private interests.
  • Snopes.com notes the assertions about national parks, etc, are not supportable and that the Seattle PI actually quoted the 2012 platform, not 2016.  Read the link for their full analysis.
  • The final 2016 Republican platform does call for a review of federal lands with a goal of turning over “certain” lands to states.

The basic propaganda method used here is the strawman argument. In the strawman argument, you create a fictitious statement from your opponent (in this case by exaggerating what they said) and then argue against that fictitious statement, rather than what the opponent actually said or promoted.

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Logical fallacy: Linking a $15 minimum wage in 2022 to unemployment in 2015

CaptureTL; DR Summary

  • Occupy Democrats issued propaganda posters in 2015 proclaiming that in spite of a $15 minimum wage, Seattle’s unemployment has gone down and restaurants are booming,
  • But the $15 wage does not take effect until 3 to 7 years into the future.
  • This linkage is a logical fallacy.

 

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Poster 2 Source: Occupy Democrats.  Shared over 28,000 times.

There is no connection between a $15 minimum wage and Seattle restaurants or unemployment in 2015 because there is not yet a $15 minimum wage.

The $15 minimum wage in Seattle will kick in gradually over a period of 3 to 7 years, depending on the type of employer.

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Use sleight of hand to persuade your propaganda target

Canada Incomes

TL;DR Summary

There is a whopper error in this poster. Can you spot it? Let’s rewrite the first line:

US $7.25 Minimum Wage 49.95 Danish Krone

Written that way, you would convert one currency in to the other, right? Canadian currency, like the US, is called a “dollar”. But the US dollar and the Canadian dollar are not equivalent. This propaganda poster uses this sleight of hand magic trick to persuade – most people see the $7.25 and the $10.45 and think they are making a meaningful comparison! [1]

  • This technique – sleight-of-hand and a false comparison – is effective in propaganda, just as a magician’s use of distraction is used to hide how the trick is done.

The statement should read:

     US $7.25 Minimum Wage Canadian $10.45

As of January 31, 2016, one Canadian dollar is worth 71 US cents. Thus C$10.45 is US $7.46 so the poster now reads:

     US $7.25 Minimum Wage US equivalent $7.46

But there are several more errors in this chart than just this …

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