With the advent of social media, the sharing of opinions across a broad spectrum has never been so easy. Of course, what many of those who opine fail to recognize is that debate from opposing views will naturally follow. Debate is a valuable tool in civil discourse. Argument is not. Argument is simply disagreement voiced, while debate is a formalized way of arguing with someone. Debate has structure, pursues truth through disagreement, and has agreed upon limits on conduct. An argumentative fallacy is a proverbial led pipe used to bludgeon its wielder’s opponent. They are the dirty tricks of an otherwise fair contest. In some formalized settings, the use of argumentative fallacies can forfeit the debate. It is because they are based on falsities and not grounded in sound, reasonable, logic that these tactics have been deemed fallacies. Knowing what they are can help you spot them when others use them and prevent yourself from falling for their lure.
1. Straw Man
This is when someone creates or acknowledges an extreme or irrational counterargument. For example, if someone were to state “Some people may believe that Medicare needs to be reformed, but I believe that ensuring the wellbeing of our seniors is our first priority.” The statement implies that people who wish to reform the Medicare system don’t believe in that the wellbeing of seniors is important. Obviously, everyone believes this is important and the contention is over how best to do so. This fallacy is easy to spot because the debater will imply an irrational counterargument.