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Domaining Industry Fallacies – Straw Man

Posted on 02 March 2014 by Andrei

The principle behind the straw man fallacy (a logical error) is simple: instead of attacking someone’s position, you present a distorted version of that position (one that is easier to attack) and start attacking that one instead of referring to that person’s actual position.

Is this fallacy common in the domaining industry?

Yep!

Here’s an example you’ve probably come across frequently:

Person A: I think new gTLDs will be reasonably successful.

Person B: What, you think a gTLD will ever surpass dot com? Don’t you realize how many trillions of dollars have been invested in directly or indirectly promoting the dot com extension? Or that pretty much all popular websites are on a dot com domain?

As you can see, we’re dealing with a straw man. Person B is presenting a distorted version of Person A’s position. Person A simply said he thinks new gTLDs will be reasonably successful, not that one of the new gTLDs will surpass dot com.

Instead of attacking Person A’s actual position, Person B is attacking a statement Person A never made. The distorted version of Person A’s position is considerably easier to attack that Person A’s actual position, so Person B most likely thinks he’s dominating the discussion and proving just how wrong Person A is.

Is he dominating the debate?

Well yes but not the debate at hand :)

The debate he’s dominating is one that never existed in the first place.

Person B never said a new gTLD will dethrone dot com.

He simply said he thinks new gTLDs will be reasonably successful.

Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong.

This much is certain: after a deeply flawed debate such as the Person A vs. Person B one, we aren’t any closer than at the beginning to being in a good position to figure out whether he was right or wrong.

If we want to draw the right conclusions when it comes to new gTLD debates and domaining industry debates in general, it’s very important to be intellectually honest and the straw man argument represents a very good example of (intentional or accidental) intellectual dishonesty.

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. rathead Says:

    i believe mr bolger would rather be called scarecrow.

  2. Domenclature.com Says:

    Does the pro-nGTLD person ever commit domaining industry fallacy? In all your examples so far, the new gTLD skeptic commits the fallacy.

    Secondly, it seems to me that, tho there’s such a thing as a straw man fallacy, expanding the debate to get a comprehensive analysis, such as the one proffered by Person B above, is not one of them.

    When person A made the comment that “I think new gTLDs will be reasonably successful”, it is assumed by person B that person A has either looked at all possibilities, or neglected to look at some, before arriving at his or her nebulous conclusion. So, it’s fair to go at person A, and poke holes with ANY valid fact. Person A was soundly checked by person B.

    What person A did was to present person A with a foggy conclusion at the outset; no supporting data, no particular reasoning or reasons why, just a fat conclusion; hyperbole aside, person A was free to go to the zenith, as far as his wit, and imagination could take him, to check the son of a bitch.

  3. Andrei Says:

    @Domenclature.com: both sides frequently commit fallacies and as far as the straw man one is concerned, identifying it is all a matter of asking yourself whether in our case Person B is analyzing Person A’s argument or a distorted version of Person A’s argument. If it’s the latter, we’re dealing with a straw man :)

    Here’s an example of a pro-gTLD straw man:

    Person A: I think dot com will always be the #1 extension.

    Person B: What, you think all new gTLDs will fail? Don’t you know that… [and then he starts presenting arguments against the distorted version of Person A's argument rather than against Person A's actual argument]

    In other words, just because Person A thinks dot com will always be the #1 extension, it doesn’t mean he thinks all new gTLDs will fail. The same way, to refer to the second part of your comment about the Person A vs. Person B debate example provided in the post, Person A simply said he thinks new gTLDs will be reasonably successful and that doesn’t automatically mean he thinks one of the new gTLDs will dethrone dot com.

  4. Domenclature.com Says:

    “…it is all a matter of asking yourself whether in our case Person B is analyzing Person A’s argument or a distorted version of Person A’s argument. If it’s the latter, we’re dealing with a straw man”

    @Andrei,

    That’s just it, person A presented zero. zilch, nada argument, or points, only a conclusion; so, because person A presented no arguments, it was impossible for person B to Oversimplify his opponent’s argument, and then attacking this oversimplified version; a condition that must exist before the foregoing fallacy could occur. The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version. Here, person A only had a conclusion, a wrong conclusion at that; no argument, no facts, zero…

    Thanks ;-)

  5. Andrei Says:

    @Domenclature.com: as far as the straw man issue is concerned, identifying this fallacy is simply a matter of determining whether or not one party ignored the position of the other one by shifting everyone’s attention to a distorted version of that position. Now sure, if you don’t agree with that position, it makes sense to explain why or to ask the other party for clarifications. That’s what constructive debates are all about.

    But disregarding that person’s position by shifting the discussion to a distorted version of that position is a logical mistake :)

  6. Latino Says:

    Andrei,

    I like your postings, but regarding this immediate posting, you’re messing with us, right?

    For God’s sake, the gtld are long as hell, and, as such, no one will EVER want to use them. No fallacy there. No strawmen. No scarecrows. Not even an opinion. Instead, this factual statement is based the failure already taken place on numerous occasions (.mobi, .museum, .travel, .info, .name, .aero, .jobs, .asia, .coop). Reminder: these were not random extensions. They were hand-selected to represent the categories identified as MOST NEEDED by ICANN. Will some fools rush out thinking this time will be different? Sure, we have seen that already and there are probably a handful more that will come out of the woodwork. Is it safe to predict that overall enrollment will be dismal and those who partake will be utterly disappointed? Absolutely! Plain as the nose on your face.

    To say that opponents of gtlds are resorting to fallacies is simply incorrect.

  7. Andrei Says:

    @Latino: both sides often resort to fallacies (not just opponents of new gTLDs), usually without even realizing it. In your case for example, we’re dealing with a red herring :)

    I’ve written about this fallacy on the 28th of February and coincidentally, have actually used the same example, the “current gTLDs vs. new gTLDs” comparison:

    http://domainingtips.com/domaining-industry-fallacies-%E2%80%93-red-herring.html

 
 
         
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