The straw man fallacy is a logical fallacy involving the accidental or intentional misrepresentation of another person’s argument so that it is easier to respond to or refute. The logical error is one of irrelevance because the response is not directed at the original argument, but rather another argument that has been put in its place for the purpose of knocking it down. The image of a straw man comes from a strategy of criticism where a group of people build an effigy of their leader using straw and then attack or burn the straw using fire as a means of transferring their attack onto the leader. Since they are unable to attack the real person, the straw man acts as a surrogate. The source of the term “Straw Man,” in terms of argumentation, is fairly recent, and Douglas Walton identified its first inclusion in the author Stuart Chase’s Guides to Straight Thinking from 1956.
Douglas Walton, “The straw man fallacy”. In Logic and Argumentation, ed. Johan van Bentham, Frans H. van Eemeren, Rob Grootendorst and Frank Veltman. Amsterdam, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, North-Holland, 1996. pp. 115-128