When I was a kid and knew no better, I thought a straw man was simply a PC way of talking about a scarecrow…you know, those straw-filled pants and shirts designed to scare away crows from the growing corn….farmers recycling their old clothes, repurposing them, making something useless useful once more.
But now that I have decades of world experience behind me, it is much easier to understand what a straw man really is…and much easier to identify one when I see it.
Unfortunately, this is a skill that too many conservatives have not fully developed…and is a weakness in the conservative armor that the left continually attacks.
The straw man.
The straw man is an argument advanced that has absolutely no bearing on the subject, and is designed to turn the attention away from the subject at hand and toward the new subject being that of the straw man.
Here is a simple example.
We have all heard about the spending spree of the GSA conference in Las Vegas last October. At a cost of some $820,000 of tax-payer money, it must have been quite a party!
Now that the videos have arrived and it is clear to all that GSA employees made mock-music videos during working hours, wasted enormous sums of money on parties etc, some senior GSA employees have become the sacrificial lambs and now have all the time they want to play in Vegas…except not on the taxpayers dime now.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, has not attempted to defend the 2010 conference. Top Obama officials have condemned the expenses and pledged to implement protections to clamp down on wasteful spending.
However, the administration has pointed to rising costs under the George W. Bush administration to suggest that the $820,000 Vegas conference could have been avoided -- if the Bush-era GSA had acted.
Readers…let me introduce you to today’s straw man…. The diversion of the $820k wasted by the Obama administration could have been avoided if Bush had controlled the costs during his.
The use of Bush in this example may initially run counter to logic because over the course of Obama’s administration, the “blame Bush” syndrome should have run its race.
Reality, on the other hand is very different.
Remember, the purpose of the straw man is to divert attention. And in this case the administration is trying to redirect your anger away from the waste and toward the continuing attacks on Bush. Those conservatives who long ago decided that there was no value in defending the Bush policies remain angered at the Obama administrations continuing to blame Bush…and that is the anger the straw man is trying to ignite.
That is the anger that has no substance….that is the anger that can only fully fledged conservatives who would NEVER vote for Obama will feel. Meanwhile, the issue of the waste under Obama’s watch gets quietly put to bed….the attention of the conservatives has been redirected…and the media certainly won’t follow up…so the administration eventually gets a free pass.
Straw man tactics work…and the left know exactly how to use them.
What I find most distressing is that conservatives fall for it every time.
Over the next few days we will hear and read many stories that are checking the facts on the Bush costs…that try to prove or disprove the efficacy of the administration’s statements…that try to justify what Bush did…or simply try to argue that it doesn’t matter what Bush did.
You will see stories about how Obama has once again blamed Bush…but you won’t hear many stories about this particular waste of $820k of taxpayers money…that will become lost in the hullabaloo surrounding the Bush accusations.
Be wary though…it is not just the administration that builds straw men. It is such an effective strategy that the media also uses it.
In the last few days statistics were released that show that under the Obama administration, something like 92% of all jobs lost were jobs previously held by women.
When you have Obama and the left courting women and talking in terms of the GOP war against women, this is a particularly troubling statistic.
But the Obama administration need not fear….the media, through Politico, was quick to erect the next straw man.
They produced statistics showing that under Bush most job losses were jobs held by men, so that when Obama came into office the only people who were left to lose their jobs were women.
Yep….what a great straw man this is.
It hits several levels of creativity….
It implies todays job losses by women are Bush’s fault….awesome!
It suggests facts that are not necessarily proven.
It sets itself up for lots of new stories trying to prove and disprove the allegations.
And in the meantime, the real story gets put quietly to bed again.
In a few weeks nobody will know what the real story is…but they will know everything about how many men and women lost their jobs under Bush.
A perfect straw man!
And of course, the fact that a straw man has the shape of a man, but has nothing but (symbolically) worthless straw inside, makes it a symbol for people regarded as lacking needed qualities.
In the Wizard of Oz, the scarecrow lacks a brain….
And that raise in me a question….
Do the folk who erect the straw man lack intelligence….or is the folk who are fooled by the brainless ramblings of the straw man who lacking?
Do not be fooled by the brainless ramblings of straw men….
See beyond these feeble attempts to distract you from the real issues, and simply ignore them….focus on what is important, not on your emotional response to straw men.
Only by knowing what is important will you be aware of the straw men blocking your path!