Misused: Strawman Has A Point

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Harry/Rowling was attacking a strawman? If Cho's arguments were the strawman, what was the actual position?

I don't think there's any answer to that question, because it makes no sense to apply "strawman" to this situation. It's only a strawman if the author argues against some larger point, not against her own plot. This is just a case of "I disagree with the author's position!"
27 EditorPallMall29th Mar 2013 09:42:20 AM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
[up]Exactly. In order to be SHAP you need to be a Strawman to begin with. It cannot merely be "character x disproves of character y's actions and character y doesn't want to hear it".

edited 29th Mar '13 9:42:36 AM by EditorPallMall

Keep it breezy!
[up][up]It can actually be answered very easily. The position is that Marietta's treachery was so loathesome that she deserves permanent scarring for what she did.

It's not just, "I don't agree with the author's position!" The author presents the opposite position in a manner that's meant to be weak and easily refuted, but the very straw arguments used some readers find are stronger and more valid than the author intended.

edited 29th Mar '13 9:43:45 AM by k9feline5

[up][up] Read the main page definition again. It says right at the start, "An author sets up a Straw Character, or some other kind of straw-man argument. (emphasis mine) A character does not have to be a strawman to make a strawman argument.

edited 29th Mar '13 10:04:42 AM by k9feline5

30 EditorPallMall29th Mar 2013 10:05:06 AM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
Now you're just using semantics. Just as much as Cho Chang is not a strawman, Cho Chang's argument is not "made of straw". It is a different character with a different perspective on the situation. The books do not prove neither side as being morally superior. That Rowling agrees with Harry is irrelevant.

It would be like if an author has the heroes capture a villain. The leader wants him dead because they can't hold him but they can't let him reunite with the bad guys either. The lancer protests that this is not a line they should cross, but the leader kills him anyway and they move on.

A strawman version of this would be if the lancer protests not on an ethical basis but that he's a worthy opponent and they should kill him in battle instead. Strawman has a point would be if the villain escapes and later he returns the favor.

edited 29th Mar '13 10:07:31 AM by EditorPallMall

Keep it breezy!
31 Larkmarn29th Mar 2013 10:12:55 AM , Relationship Status: Hello, I love you
How is Cho not a strawman there? The only point to her objecting was to shoot her down and make Harry/Hermione's beliefs clearly the "correct" ones.
32 EditorPallMall29th Mar 2013 10:19:28 AM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
No, the point of Cho Chang's protest is very much not to prove her wrong but to act as another catalyst for the Harry/Cho break-up. In fact, after that don't they talk to each other for the rest of the book.
Keep it breezy!
[up][up][up]The fact that Rowling agrees with Harry is completely relevant. Cho makes an argument, Harry shoots down the argument, getting the last word both times. In Marietta's last appearance, the fact she's still scarred is a source of Harry's amusement. Marietta's never mentioned again beyond, "that stupid Marietta". Rowling thought Harry's arguments had effectively shut down Cho's arguments when they hadn't.

And your example is not an example of SHAP, it's more an indication that the lancer is not a strawman and neither is his argument, but is validated in such a way that can only be intentional on the author's part.

edited 29th Mar '13 10:25:31 AM by k9feline5

34 EditorPallMall29th Mar 2013 10:39:06 AM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
How is answering the question of 'Is there ever justification for executing captives?' with 'Well we could, but it would spoil a good fight.' ever a legitimate position to hold in the real world? You do not respond to the question with your thirst for battle.

Back to the issue at hand - since when does having the last word or acting smug mean you have won the argument? Again, the books do not show Harry is morally superior in this scenario. The question is raised, gets dismissed because the characters (or at least Harry) is not interested in talking about it, and it is used for character development. Harry's later amusement at Marietta's expense is morally questionable but it only shows Harry's disdain for traitors.

Finally, the author is dead. I do not care what Rowling says outside of the books; only what she writes in the books counts.
Keep it breezy!
35 AnotherDuck29th Mar 2013 10:45:22 AM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
The more I hear, the less I think it fits. A straw argument isn't any argument you're supposed to disagree with. If that were the case, pretty much any villain having a point would be this trope. What part of Cho's argument is a staw argument?
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Well, she does say that Marietta's mother worked for the ministry, which Harry responded with by saying Ron's family does too, which I seem to recall was basically an argument ender or intended as one. However, this argument set up to be demolished does have a point: Marietta's family is not particularly close to Dumbledore like the Weasley family and thus she really could get in serious trouble unlike Ron.
37 EditorPallMall29th Mar 2013 11:20:27 AM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
[up] Reading directly from the book where this dispute happens, Cho does not bring that up, and how much trouble Marietta would be in compared to Ron if she did not snitch is never addressed. Harry does not bring up a strong case either; he mostly affirms where he stands on Hermoine's actions.

I don't see a strawman (argument) here. When you get right down to it, this was more of an emotional struggle between two teenagers.

edited 29th Mar '13 11:22:19 AM by EditorPallMall

Keep it breezy!
Removed two of the references to Poe's Law, and am not sure about the other two.

If people mistake a parody for the real thing, that's not Poe's Law. That's just a successful use of the strawman fallacy. If you set up a strawman to demolish, and the audience thinks the strawman accurately represents your opposition, you win the debate; the audience mistaking it for nonstraw is the whole point.

Poe's Law is the claim that certain groups—let's not euphemize, in the original usage, specifically Christian fundamentalists—are so extreme that it is impossible to strawman them, since they're really like that.

Rant follows:

Poe's Law is a way to *justify* strawmen—if it is by definition impossible to strawman Christian fundamentalists (or whoever), then by definition any parody or hostile misquoting of a Christian fundamentalist is their actual position. Because they're really like that.

I have serious problems with Poe's Law. One form of strawmanning is to take the very worst members of your opponents and assume, or pretend, that most or all of your opponents are like that. The Poe's Law line of reasoning is used to justify all kinds of prejudice—after all, *some* African-Americans really are violent, dangerous gangbangers! To use a less Acceptable Target.


PS Yes, a "villain" with a point can still be a strawman. Even one who wins the argument decisively in the eyes of most of the audience. "Strawman Has A Point" is an audience reaction when an artist fails to make their strawman as weak as it was supposed to be. It may very well be that a work with an unintentionally convincing "villain", may still be deliberately not representing even stronger opposing arguments than the Strawman's Point.
The key to a strawman is not that they oppose the hero's opinion (who tend to be proven right 99% of the time) or oppose the "right" answer/solution but that their arguments are intended to be obviously wrong in order for the hero's argument to look more right by comparison. They have to reach some sort of extreme in their opinion to qualify, either by their actions or that most of their argument is meant to be silly ("Some children who admire these overly pumped superheroes do poorly in school, quarrel with their siblings and refuse to eat their vegetables.").

As a compare/contrast: In Rush Hour the FBI agents don't like the fact that Consular Han has brought in an outsider from Hong Kong to assist in the kidnapping investigation. That is a valid concern to have. They become strawmen because their actions went beyond having an opinion and being reasonable and instead they did everything in their power to belittle and undermine the heroes.

Contrast that to Dante's Peak, where the main character has some evidence the volcano is unstable and starts alerting the local town. His boss comes in and asks him to wait because they don't have any proof and Crying Wolf can wreak havoc with tourism regardless if the mountain blows. Instead of being a staunch naysayer he helps the main character with the investigation and when they find proof he is supportive of the evacuation.
40 AnotherDuck29th Mar 2013 02:13:50 PM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
[up][up]Poe's Law is about parodies, not strawmen, though. While they might look the same, they have different purposes. Parodies are exaggerated to make fun of them, either good natured fun or with ill intent, but most importantly, they're not supposed to be taken for real. Strawmen are about actually convincing people that that position is wrong, and are supposed to be taken for real.

The Onion is about parody, satire, and other humour, so I'm not sure it fits the trope at all.

edited 29th Mar '13 2:17:10 PM by AnotherDuck

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Cleric of Banjo
Here are my thoughts on those Harry Potter examples:

  • With the Cho one, it strikes me that there is a decent argument that Harry was supposed to come across in the right; however, it doesn't seem that Cho is a strawman. Incidentally, I think the reason for this kind of example as well as some I've somewhat supported with The Legend of Korra is that the work makes the protagonist(s) a bit morally grey to make them more interesting, but arguably doesn't really adequately have them called out for it; still, that doesn't make characters opposed to the protagonist strawmen.
  • With Umbridge, I think there could be an example noting that she was kind of "right for the wrong reason" in terms of her hostility toward Hagrid or Trelawney teaching; however, this is more like Jerkass Has a Point, since Rowling isn't strawmanning Umbridge's views- Umbridge just has evil views.
  • Similarly, Filch does have a point about the main characters causing problems (in fact, that is a view expressed by a lot of sympathetic characters as well); its just that Filch is a jerk- I tend to think that Filch is shown as having some legitimate complaints about students' behavior, and you are meant to be slightly sympathetic to his behavior, given that he's a Muggle Born of Mages; it doesn't change the fact that he's a blackshirt who constantly advocates torturing students.

edited 29th Mar '13 3:00:51 PM by Hodor

Edit, edit, edit, edit the wiki
[up][up][up][up][up]Cho can't argue the point of Ron's dad supporting Dumbledore because she doesn't know about it. The H/R/H Power Trio have to keep top secret about the Order of the Phoenix and the Weasly family's involvement in it, even from the rest of the DA, so it's not a point Cho can make. That doesn't mean the point doesn't exist. It arises naturally from the point Cho was trying to make.

Cho says, "Marietta's mother works at the Ministry." Harry retorts, "Ron's dad works at the Ministry, too!" He (and Rowling) thus imply, "Therefore, your point is invalid!" The reader can look at that and think, "Well, no, actually her point isn't invalid since Ron's dad supports Dumbledore while Marietta's mum doesn't. The situations facing Marietta and Ron, which Harry acts as if they're identical, are in fact very different from each other."

Death of the Author is not a universally accepted theory. On this wiki, it's a YMMV page, just like this page is. On this page, the author's intentions matter a good deal. The author intends an argument to be weak, but readers find the argument stronger than the author intended.

In Rowling's case, she's a hugely popular author who generously allows plenty of personal access for fans to ask her about any aspect of her series. Plenty of readers were curious about what her intentions were in regards to the jinx. She was asked, she gave her answer, which confirms what was already implicit in the text.

In this brief argument, Harry gets the last word on every point Cho was trying to make. No one else ever says anything negative about Hermione's jinx after that. Rowling goes out of her way to let us know that Marietta still has the jinx as late as the start of the next school year (implying no one get it off) but doesn't bother to reveal anything further within the story. The implication is that Harry is right and Cho is wrong. Many of us feel it's the other way around.

edited 29th Mar '13 3:26:50 PM by k9feline5

43 Rebochan29th Mar 2013 03:29:57 PM from Soaking up Rays
I've got Sunshine!
Oh, I think in a lot of these cases, it's perfectly legit to critique whether the characters actually are in the right (hence why this is going on so long about Harry Potter), but that's the case in any work with more than one side to a moral quandry. This trope really only needs to be focusing on whether someone is being given a weak argument deliberately for the sake of making the protagonist look better by comparison or otherwise we get what we have now, which is a lot of tropers arguing over storylines.

I think in the case of Umbridge, she's firing people because she's a horrible person, but she's using logic that can't be argued with to do so. It's part of what makes her a dangerous villain in much of the book.

Regarding Jerkass Has a Point, I've noticed there's quite a few in the page that need to get shuffled over there.
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44 EditorPallMall29th Mar 2013 03:50:41 PM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
k9feline 5, after that huge round-a-bout post you made I am beginning to suspect you are unaware of the situation going on in the book and also do not understand what a Strawman is.

I am done arguing with you.
Keep it breezy!
Me: If Cho's arguments were the strawman, what was the actual position?
k9feline: The position is that Marietta's treachery was so loathesome that she deserves permanent scarring for what she did.

No, the story presents that position as right. I asked, "What position does the story attack, using Cho's argument as a strawman?" I don't think there is one.

For comparison, suppose a story wants to argue against guns. Bob says, "People need guns to protect themselves from communist nukes." That is a strawman of the actual pro-gun position, which is that guns protect us from interpersonal threats, such as other guns.

On the other hand, suppose Bob says, "People need guns to defend themselves from muggers." That is not a strawman. Bob's argument is a plausible position that seems valid until someone refutes it. Alice then says, "The mugger will pull the gun right out of your hand and aim it back at you." (An exchange like this happened in The Newsroom.) The story implies that Alice is right but it doesn't strawman any position in presenting Bob's argument.

In the former example, maybe Alice mocks Bob, maybe she doesn't. The story doesn't really need to present a character to refute the argument because the strawman itself, through ridicule, aims to discredit the pro-gun side.

In either example, you may continue to agree with Bob. With the strawman, this is less likely, but you may say, "Actually, that's a valid point. People with guns can shoot terrorists with nukes." This, I think, would be a correct example of Strawman Has a Point.

The Cho example is not a strawman because her argument, like Bob's mugger one, seems plausible until another character refutes it. It does not mischaracterize any position.

edited 29th Mar '13 4:02:30 PM by AmyGdala

Cleric of Banjo

Yes, that's kind of what I was thinking too- that the Cho example is akin to a work where an author clearly favors one position but doesn't strawman the opposing position- they just don't agree with it
Edit, edit, edit, edit the wiki
[up][up]Ah, I see. Cho's position can be summed up as: Marietta's a good person who screwed up, Hermione's jinx was wrong, and Marietta didn't deserve it. Harry instantly shoots all of this down, and it's never brought up again, except to show us Marietta's jinx is long lasting and possibly permanent (and confirmed by the author that at least some of it is permanent), which Harry is amused by.

I'm not sure I'm in favor of this kind of narrow definition of a strawman argument. This would pretty much eliminate any example that doesn't have a direct parallel to a Real Life situation. It's not really possible for an author to "mischaracterize" a completely fictional character they created in a fantastic setting that has no direct Real Life parallel. In Real Life, of course, one can't create a magical jinx that instantly scars for life someone for saying the wrong things to the wrong people. The only Real Life parallel is in the broadest sense, whether a school student who snitches really deserves permanent scarring for what they did.
48 Rebochan30th Mar 2013 12:25:12 AM from Soaking up Rays
I've got Sunshine!
Marietta's a good person who screwed up

Which also isn't true, by the way. Or need I remind that Dolores Umbridge would have done all kinds of horrible things to the people Marietta was turning in? And that Marietta by this point had been established as incredibly rude to Harry and Co.? So no, Harry isn't being a horrible unreasonable oaf for being upset with her. Yea, I had to pull the book back out again for this too.

This isn't a straw position no matter how much you bend and turn it to try and make it one.

This would pretty much eliminate any example that doesn't have a direct parallel to a Real Life situation. It's not really possible for an author to "mischaracterize" a completely fictional character they created in a fantastic setting that has no direct Real Life parallel.

Oh hey, look! An actual Strawman being used in a discussion about Strawmen!

Nobody said that only real life scenarios are valid. Cho's argument is based on Cho's position that Marietta was her friend and she thinks Harry went over the top. She isn't entirely wrong. Harry also isn't entirely wrong to think she deserved what she got for trying to turn all of the kids in while getting off scott free.

A Strawman would be Cho saying something that is completely irrelevant and mischaracterizes the actual argument, while Harry shoots that argument down. But what Cho says is perfectly valid from her perspective (Marietta was never mean to her) and she is also never required to concede this point regardless of what Rowling thinks. This has been explained several times in this thread using other examples.

Now, if we could possibly get to the actual trope at hand and how to deal with it....the Harry Potter example is just one of many problematic parts of the page and I put the trope in TRS to try and rehabilitate this trope to something that we can use.

edited 30th Mar '13 12:26:35 AM by Rebochan

http://www.f-d-r.com/blog/ - Filthy Digital Ramblings, musings on media.
White Hindu
Oh hey, look! An actual Strawman being used in a discussion about Strawmen!

It's only a Strawman if you deliberately mischaracterize an opposing point of view. Or did you just use a Strawman there? Are we in some kind of loop?
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50 Rebochan30th Mar 2013 12:40:06 AM from Soaking up Rays
I've got Sunshine!
Or did you just use a Strawman there? Are we in some kind of loop?

It...felt like a strawman. Since it felt like the position I and some others have explained was being mischaracterized...but...

Oh god, I think I'm going to start bleeding straw by the time this thread is over.
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