According to Wikipedia, "A straw man is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of an opponent's argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument."
No one is more skilled at employing this tactic than than the king of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, who on "Fox News Sunday" stated to host Chris Wallace
.. there's no acknowledgment of any progress, Chris. If you listen to these people, the president, the mayor of New York, you would think it's 200 years ago. You would think we haven't even started working on these problems, and that's not true.
And I think for the president to promote this division as he just did in that clip that you said...
Not to be outdone by himself, the following day he claimed New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio
and Obama are running around saying that nothing's been done. The protestors, "There hasn't been any progress." That's absurd. But the country is roiling, all of these protests, the country dividing. There are people today who think race relations -- polling data is out -- race relations in this country are worse than they've ever been. See, that can't possibly be true. We've come a long way and nobody is out saying this. Nobody's trying to tamp this down.
Obama may think, "Well, if I try to tamp it down I'm being insensitive to the protesters." This isn't good for anybody except the few who are profiting from it. And I mean profiting from it in two ways: power and money. And of course those are two powers that are hard to contend with, but nevertheless the policy that is being engaged in here is destroying, literally destroying the fabric of our country.
The New York mayor has movingly emphasized "black lives matter" and the need "to re-train police forces in how to work with communities differently." The flavor of DeBlasio's remarks has been to sympathize and empathize with the protesters of violence against black men. However, Limbaugh clearly has distorted (if not lied about) the remarks in order to pretend the mayor has claimed "there hasn't been any progress."
Limbaugh's smear of Obama is identical ("if you listen to these people, the president, the mayor of New York"), which is not surprising for a guy who speaks of "these people." They're all alike, in his mind. But while Rush's criticism of DeBlasio, discouraged by how young black men such as his son still face hurdles other individuals do not, is inaccurate, his attack upon Obama demonstrates clearly how much of a cretin Limbaugh is.
Here (as quoted by Media Matters) on November 23 on George Stephanopoulos' "This Week" is the man who is charged with arguing "there hasn't been any progress":
Well, you know, we go in sort of ebbs and flows. I think that my own experience tells me that race relations continue to improve. If you think about just in our lifetimes -- we're about the same age - where we've traveled, there's no way to say that somehow race relations are worse now than they were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or 50 years ago. Part of what happens is that they get a lot more attention today -- occasionally problems that used to be pretty common 20, 30 years ago weren't videotaped.
On December 7- the day before Rush assured us Obama "is running around saying that nothing's been done"- Yahoo News reported that the President two days earlier had told BET News
This is something that's deeply rooted in our society, it's deeply rooted in our history. But the two things that are going to allow us to solve it: No. 1 is the understanding that we have made progress. And so it's important to recognize -- as painful as these incidents are -- we can't equate what's happening now to what was happening 50 years ago.
If you talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles, they'll tell you that things are better -- not good, in some cases, but better. And the reason it's important for us to understand progress has been made is that then gives us hope that we can make even more progress.
But if there is one individual- and there is one- whom the right smears more consistently, it's Eric Holder, and on Fox News Sunday, Limbaugh contended
Look, Eric Holder is the one who uses the word or the phrase "occupying force" to describe the New York PD. That's the way this regime talks about Israel. I'm not putting these words in their mouth. I'm not the one who's saying them. But I do think we have to honestly interpret and analyze and honestly hear what they are saying.
Except that Eric Holder never used the phrase "occupying force" to describe the NYPD. Instead, on December 1 in Birmingham's Ebeneezer Baptist Church the Attorney General had stated (video below)
The problems we must confront are not only in Ferguson. The issues raised in Missouri are not unique in that state or to that small city. We are dealing with concerns that are truly national is scope and have threatened the entire nation. Broadly speaking without mutual understanding between citizens whose rights must be respected and law enforcement officers who make tremendous often unheralded sacrifices every day to preserve public safety. Without that kind of interaction without that kind of trust there can be no meaningful progress. Our police officers cannot be, and cannot be seen as an occupying force disconnected from their communities that they serve.
Our police offices cannot be, and cannot be seen as, an occupying force disconnected from their communities that they serve. When Rush Limbaugh claims Holder described New York police as an "occupying force," he is putting words in his mouth. Presumably, he realizes that if he says he's not putting words in someone's mouth, his audience will assume he's not. Limbaugh's game is to persuade his followers that because Barack Obama and Eric Holder disagree with them, he must be dividing the nation. And he'll make up whatever he needs in order to convince them.
Yesterday, I argued that Rush Limbaugh was right about something, that shutting down the government didn't hurt the GOP and doing it again would not do so. But he still is a disreputable snake-in-the-grass. All is right with the world.