Strawman, Black and White, No True Scotsman – Fallacies


            The strawman fallacy is a form of argument where a narrator or speaker gives the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument but either misrepresenting, exaggerating, or distorting it. Typical strawman arguments create an illusion that the objecting person has refuted the opponent’s claim, rendering it false. A fitting application of this fallacy can be found in Obama’s inaugural address on January 21, 2013, in which he said “For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias” (Lopez). This statement is no more than an exaggerated argument since no one at the time of speaking was arguing for a dissolution of government powers that would leave the American people responsible for their own defense and stately duties. The real issue is, rather, the degree of responsibility that citizens should endure. Thus, Obama may be attacking a strawman.

Black and White

            This is an informal fallacy where a speaker claims that something has only one alternative even with the existence of other options. The term “Black and White” signifies the occurrence of merely two options – either black or white. The speaker thus refuses to accept the possible existence of any moderate conclusion, say grey. Donald Trump’s campaign statement “We’re going to start winning so much that you’re going to get used to winning instead of getting used to losing” on May 26, 2018, embodied the Black and White Fallacy as it gave the possibility of only two options, either winning or losing (Lutey). In reality, the success of a country is not based on the concepts of “winning” or “losing” but rather improving the welfare of the people.

No True Scotsman

The ‘No True Scotsman’ Fallacy is a way of arguing that relies on false interpretation of evidence in order to evade the negation of one’s argument. In other words, the fallacy tries to protect the universal generalization from cited counter-arguments by altering the definition in an improvised fashion with the aim of dismissing the counter-arguments. Proposed counterexamples are therefore rejected because of their contradictory nature. When Christian Broadcaster Harold Camping predicted the end of the world in 2011 via Jesus and won the support of many Christians in his alarmist campaign, Christian groups publicly declared that he was not a genuine Christian (“May 21 Doomsday Pictures: 11 End-Of-The-World Predictions” ). A majority of these groups did so particularly after the Armageddon dates had passed, implying that, their conclusions were based on a ‘No True Statesman’ fallacy. In point of fact, Camping was a Christian just like many other self-proclaimed Christians in the world today. His act of making a bold claim based on his religious beliefs was itself a valiant act.

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