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How To Lie

This technique creates a flawed "double" of your opponent's argument. This is typically used when your opponent has a good argument which is quite difficult to attack. As flaws do not exist in the original argument we simply substitute it with a flawed one. It operates like this:

- Analyze your opponent's argument.

- Within that argument find an issue that will be damaging should it be flawed.

- Rework the issue so that it is flawed.

- Re-state your opponent's argument with a flawed issue in it.

Let's say that there are two politicians arguing about the death penalty; Larry and Moe.

Larry: I am against the death penalty because the right to life is an inalienable right that cannot be canceled by the state.

Moe: Larry is proposing to release known killers on the streets because even killers have an inalienable right to life.

See what happened here? Larry did not say anything about releasing killers. Moe deliberately "explained" Larry's point of view in such a manner as to create a flaw in the argument. Larry never favoured releasing killers into the street. Moe made it up entirely, yet because people are stupid and do not use their brain, they were swayed by the image of a being murdered instead of calmly analyzing the counter-argument and realizing that it was BS to begin with.

This technique can be used in many different ways although typically it is used to "explain" or "re-state" the opponent's argument in a "convenient" manner.

The manner in which this "re-statement" is done, matters. If this "re-statement" is exaggerated, or incorrect or out of context or an oversimplification, the "straw man" being created is, in fact, a fallacy.

Of course, this is not to say that re-stating cannot be a valid argument. It can be if it does not deviate from the original one. Sometimes re-stating and leading to consequences is OK. For example:

Moe: I disagree with Larry's point of view because if the death penalty is not imposed it becomes possible for hardened criminals to eventually be paroled and released.

This is a sound argument because it is based on laws that are true. Of course, it then becomes the listener's task to ascertain what the actual probability of such an event may be. In all likelihood and if they do their homework, they will realize that it is almost nil. Moe is conveniently omitting an estimate. Not a nice play but a valid one.

Returning to the dark side, this technique can also be used to ridicule the argument by transforming it into something laughable. For example:

Moe: I see, so Larry is OK with keeping unrepented hardened serial killers in prison forever. That's OK ladies and gentlemen. As soon as the prisons are full, the government will initiate the "Adopt a Killer" program. Hope you have a spare couch!

This is obviously not OK.

However, it is OK to point out the ridiculousness of your opponent's argument if the argument is ridiculous to begin with! This is so because you are not modifying it. If Larry would have said that he is against the death penalty because his favoured cat told him so, then Moe would be in his right to ask, for example, what language was the cat speaking?

The "straw man" technique is something commonly used, people falling for it every single time. This is so not only because they have never been trained to recognize it, but because they have been trained not to.

Huh?

That's correct. Decades of state education has trained people to debate instead of analyze. Why is that? Because analyzing leads to evolution; not status quo. Debating leads nowhere; status quo. Cui bono? You do the thinking.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

 

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