A straw man/target is a misrepresentation with a definite purpose: to stand in place of the real in order to receive violence.
A straw man characteristically cannot respond to this violence.
Ergo, a straw man is a sort of victim by design. An object, not a subject. It cannot be otherwise.
In the realm of discourse, a straw man is a misrepresentation of another’s argument, someone else’s line of reasoning or their conclusions.
Unlike a literal straw target, a rhetorical one doesn’t have to be created with intention. One can accidentally misrepresent someone’s argument. In fact, we all often do.
If we can generally be said to believe (in) our own claims, then if our misrepresentations of others’ arguments are not checked, it seems we nevertheless go on believing them.
At some point along this trajectory of utterance and belief, we reify the straw man; we conceive of it as and move through the world as if it were real. We believe in our strong man.
A straw man is a misrepresentation, but as such it is still a representation standing for some entity. It’s not a complete fabrication.
Since our straw man is itself a hypothetical utterance, then it must imply a hypothetical speaker. A person.
Ergo, our straw man entails not only a misrepresented utterance but also a misrepresented speaker.
It’s probable that the majority of straw men are formulated in absentia. The subject is not present.
In that case, our straw man characteristically cannot respond to its misrepresenter (us). We make claims about this person and her/his utterances, but we allow no reply from the object in question.
Because we are presumably aware of the real someone (the referent) whom our straw man misrepresents (though perhaps not of its being a misrepresentation) the inevitable result will be to form a prejudgment of that real someone or people like them in the real world.
If violence can be defined as something like the radical removal of an actor’s choice in a situation, then believing in a straw man is akin to enacting a form of violence, since our straw man is by nature not able to respond.
This is the basis of prejudice, of othering: a straw man of the mind.
A majority of Americans (56 percent) say the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life — an uptick in recent years. …
But Robert Jones, the founder and CEO of PRRI, pointed out … that Americans are basing those opinions largely on people they don’t interact with.
“Muslims make up only about 1 percent of the U.S. population,” he told host Maureen Fiedler, “and they’re also heavily concentrated in just a few cities around the country.” …
[W]hen asked in an August 2011 PRRI survey, seven in 10 Americans said they have seldom or even never had a conversation with anyone who is Muslim in the past year.
(Amber Phillips, “Americans Are Increasingly Skeptical of Muslims. But Most Americans Don’t Talk to Muslims,” The Washington Post, Nov. 24, 2015)