CNN’s House of Straw
“To argue against a Straw Man is to interpret someone’s position in an unfairly weak way, and so argue against a position that nobody holds, or is likely to hold.”
Oxford University Press
Here we see two examples of straw man tactics employed by Gupta and Larry King, who steered Moore away from discussing health care and instead focused the entire show on defending Gupta’s obfuscating statistics and the semantics of the word “free”; this to eliminate discussion on the devastating ethical and social consequences of our present system. The film didn’t, as CNN implies, focus on people with no insurance.
It focused on Americans WITH insurance but whom were denied services under HMOs that gave doctors bonuses for denying services to paying members.
“One can set up a Straw Man in the following ways:
- Present a misrepresentation of the opponent’s position, refute it, and pretend that the opponent’s actual position has been refuted.
- Quote an opponent’s words out of context — i.e., choose quotations that are not representative of the opponent’s actual intentions (see contextomy). [e.g., Lou Dobbs comparing Michael Moore to Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, immediately after the Blitzer interview]
- Present someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, refute that person’s arguments, and pretend that every upholder of that position, and thus the position itself, has been defeated.
- Invent a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs that are criticized, and pretend that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.
- Oversimplify a person’s argument into a simple analogy, which can then be attacked. [e.g., socialized medicine]
From the beginning, CNN made their priorities clear: the health care debate isn’t nearly as important as the latest news from a celebrity heiress.
“Some logic textbooks define the straw man fallacy only as a misrepresented argument. It is now common, however, to use the term to refer to all of these tactics. The straw-man technique is also used as a form of media manipulation.”
If you’re wondering why Michael Moore was furious in the interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, you need only consider the following:
While CNN accused Moore of “fudging the facts” in his documentary, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta didn’t just fudge the facts himself in a cock-eyed hit piece he called a “reality check”, he libeled Moore, fabricated statistical “facts”, and accused Moore of making claims he never made. The manifest evidence to support this assertion is the “straw man” fallacy Gupta used to try and debunk Michael Moore, so it’s not just my opinion. It was a staggering hypocrisy to accuse a guest of fudging the facts when you were not only libeling him, but engaged in a classic propaganda technique and logical fallacy.
In the classic straw man attack, the opponent’s strongest arguments are avoided like the plague. Instead, the focus is on the weakest or most irrelevant argument.
That is why in Gupta’s hit piece, you didn’t see him address the practice of denying claims to paying members, the doctors who got bonuses for not treating patients, the image of a woman, clad only in a hospital gown, who was dumped on Skid Row because she couldn’t pay her medical bills.
What you saw was his attack on statistics used in the film, and it was a libelous attack at that. At the end of Gupta’s piece, the underlying message was that Moore was engaged in the very type of propaganda Gupta just delivered.
|CNN and FOX’s mad race to the gutter has only begun|
Consider the first example of a straw man argument above, and we’ll compare it to the arguments offered by CNN, particularly in the Gupta and Moore debate the following day:
Present a misrepresentation of the opponent’s position, refute it, and pretend that the opponent’s actual position has been refuted.
CNN claims that Moore’s film insists that universal health care would be free, and that is free in other western nations. Yet this is not true. In the movie itself, Moore notes the French are “drowning in taxes” and further notes the British National Health Service founding pamphlet explicitly states that “this is not a charity. You are paying for it mainly as taxpayers.” In other words, though Moore and CNN agreed that universal health care meant increased taxes, CNN misled viewers by claiming the film ignored the tax issue.
In another example, Gupta claimed Moore used BBC statistics when in fact he used government statistics. The whole point of this “reality check” was not to support the concept of accuracy, as Gupta claimed, but to divert attention from the most egregious and shameful practices of the US health care industries which Moore was never given a chance to address. Using straw man tactics Gupta and Larry King steered Moore away from discussing health care and instead focused the entire show on defending Gupta’s obfuscating statistics and the semantics of the word “free”; this to eliminate discussion on the devastating ethical and social consequences of our present system. The film didn’t, as CNN implies, focus on uninsured people and it states so early on. It focused on Americans WITH insurance but whom were denied services under HMOs that gave doctors bonuses for NOT treating patients.
See the following link for latest updates on the CNN hit piece which coincided with that of FOX News.