Friday, November 16, 2012

Bad Argument: Creating Straw Issues

English: Karl Rove Assistant to the President,...
English: Karl Rove Assistant to the President, Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One political tactic used by Karl Rove (who got Bush multiple terms at the White House, but failed to help Romney) was to create straw issues to deflect attention away from his candidate's weaknesses. The more emotionally charged the straw issue, the better. For example Karl Rove drove wedge issues such as gun control, gay marriage, and abortion, which managed to divide the Democratic voters during the Bush campaigns. Republicans sell "values", while Democrats are merely explaining issues.

[ You can read more about the full Karl Rove campaign tactics here, a PDF file ]

This is often used by scammers to deflect attention from the real questions that need to be asked, by peddling a minor issue, and be very loud about it, then insinuate that this straw issue is the "real deal", when it isn't.

This is an advanced application of a strawman argument: to create an argument that acts as a distraction.

[ Read more about Strawman arguments ]

For example, if a review of a fraudulent scheme had gotten the history of the scheme slightly wrong, the scammer will point out that mistake, then use it to insinuate that because the reviewer did not get that one thing correctly, the entire review is worthless. In reality, the review of the scheme's business model, the heart of the review, was not disputed. The disputed section, the "background", is merely dressing, and mostly irrelevant.

[ You can read one such attempt to "defend" a scheme here ]

So how do you combat such bad arguments? You throw it right back at them, telling them "Thanks for the info (if it's accurate), but you avoided the real issue" then repeat the main issue.

If they can't get back on topic, then you point *that* out, and they can only nitpick, not debate, but you also thank them for helping you improve your argument.

[ Read more on the "nitpicking" fallacy ]

Karl Rove was apparently quite surprised and shocked to find that his man, Romney, lost the election. When the poll numbers came in indicate they are not even close, he apparently refused to believe it, at least initially.

Apparently Americans have wised up against this sort of tactics from politicians. Did they wise up against scammers though?

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