Posts Tagged ‘straw man’

Graaaaack Goes the Dinosaur! Tammerlin Drummond Imagines a Day Without a Newspaper

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Via the San Francisco Peninsula Press Blog comes a classical straw dog argument concerning the Descent of Newspaperdom. Let’s have a look-see.

a_day_without_a_mexican copy  

It begins:

“I wonder what would happen if we all woke up one day and there were no more newspapers? All 1,400 U.S. dailies — poof! Gone.”

That’s how the dinosars might have died out, but poorly-managed newspapers are actually flickering off one by one. Why would all U.S. newspapers shut down all of a sudden? Spite? A “circle the wagons mentality” perhaps? This is unclear. Maybe we could get by with fewer newspapers? (We’ll find out soon enough, of course.)

“One of the favorite parlor games in the blogosphere these days is to bash newspapers. We [does  the writer think she’s a newspaper?] are often compared to tyrannosarus (sic) (sic) [yes, two typos in one word] rex — desperately clinging to our newsprint while we slip into the La Brea Tar Pits.”

What a second,  isn’t this woman’s bloggish screed online (otherwise how would anyone read it?) AND isn’t she on the Twitter. Maybe she’s already evolving? Maybe she can express herself without first killing trees to make newsprint?

“We’re portrayed as arrogant, irrelevant, boring. Lacking any distinct voice or sensibility.”

Is this list inclusive? No. Any links to back up what she’s talking about? Sadly, no.

“Blogs with such names as “Newspaper Death Watch” subsist on a steady diet chronicling our industry’s decline.”

NDW? That’s a new one on me. HTML link cheerfully provided.

“We’re told that people don’t need newspapers anymore because they can read whatever they want on the Internet for free.”

Uh oh, the passive voice is really coming on strong now. Is that the straw dog I hear being constructed?

“I can only shake my head when I hear this casual, ignorant dismissal of the valuable service that newspapers continue to provide in the face of crushing financial obstacles.”

“Financial obstacles” = unsustainable business models, which used to survive on classified ads and government subsidies through the unfunded mandate of legal notices that nobody reads (some call that kind of thing a “legal fiction” – anywho, the continued requirement of legal notices to be printed on paper is a massive, increasing, ongoing government subsidy that you won’t see the newspaper biz surrendering without a big fight anytime soon).

“…there is hardly enough original, reliable content on blogs to make up for the vacuum that would be created by a complete absence of the information that newspapers provide.

Is anybody calling for a ban on newspapers starting tomorrow? No.

Houston, we have a fully-formed Cat 5 straw dog.

She goes on, about nonexistent taxidermy blogs and brain surgery, but you get the idea.

Leave Us click on over to the Wiki, where we learn that:

The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B disregards certain key points of X and instead presents position Y.
Thus, Y is a resulting distorted version of X and can be set up in several ways, including:

  1. Presenting a misrepresentation of the opponent’s position and then refuting it, thus giving the appearance that the opponent’s actual position has been refuted.
  2. Quoting an opponent’s words out of context — i.e. choosing quotations which are intentionally misrepresentative of the opponent’s actual intentions (see contextomy and quote mining).
  3. Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, then refuting that person’s arguments – thus giving the appearance that every upholder of that position (and thus the position itself) has been defeated.
  4. Inventing a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs which are then criticized, implying that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.
  5. Oversimplifying an opponent’s argument, then attacking this oversimplified version.

3. Person B attacks position Y, concluding that X is false/incorrect/flawed.
This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious, because attacking a distorted version of a position fails to constitute an attack on the actual position.

Game, Set, Match. Thanks Wiki!

So There You Have It – it’s like self-parody, man.

Oh well, see you in the funny pages.