09 May 2006

Straw Man

"BOOOOO! Scared you, didn't I."

What's a "straw man" argument? Here's the explanation from Wikipedia:
"....a rhetorical technique based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent.

A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact misleading, since the argument actually presented by the opponent has not been refuted.

Its name is derived from the use of straw men in combat training. It is occasionally called a straw dog fallacy [1] or a scarecrow argument.

Setup of a straw-man

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 .......

Here's an example of a straw man argument:

1. The Opposition aims to replace the PAP as the ruling government.
2. Can they do it better than the PAP?
3. Of course not! Compare their track records.
4. Therefore vote for the PAP.

With a little thought, it's clear that this is a nonsensical argument. The Opposition does not aim to become the ruling party. Nor does it have any chance. Prior to GE 2006, it had 2 seats out of 84 in Parliament. How could it possibly have jumped from 2 seats in Parliament to 43 seats in Parliament? That's a 2150% increase in success rate.

This could only be possible if, say, PM Lee Hsien Loong was suddenly exposed as a paedophile, Goh Chok Tong suddenly crossed over to the Workers Party, and Lee Kuan Yew suddenly announced plans to sell Singapore to Malaysia.

Actually, come to think of it, even if all these highly improbable (no, impossible) events actually occurred .... the Opposition might still not win 43 seats in Parliament.

What the Opposition aims to win a few more seats in Parliament, to supply some alternative perspectives and to act as a check and balance on the ruling party. Not to become the ruling party itself.

Naturally, it is to the PAP's advantage if Singaporeans do not realise that. Indeed the PAP is fortunate that many Singaporeans do not realise that. It is far better for the PAP, if Singaporeans believed that the Opposition aims to become, and might actually have a realistic chance, to become the ruling party. This would scare Singaporeans into voting for the PAP.

Take for example this letter in the ST Forum today:

May 9, 2006
Thanks to PAP victory, his family can sleep well

THE general election is finally over and families like mine can sleep well again, knowing that the People's Action Party (PAP) has been returned to power.

Congratulations to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his team for receiving a strong mandate of 66.6 per cent of the popular vote ...

Steven Cheong Thiam Hin

The poor man. To think that he has been losing sleep for the past few weeks - over fears that the PAP might possibly NOT be returned to power. Heheh!

Voodoo doll, nightmare guaranteed.
No resemblance to any politician in Singapore is intended.


Anonymous said...

I think Singaporeans are born with justice and freedom in our heart; but we have sold our conscience to money and progress package.

How can we in our consicence vote for PAP ever again?
How in our conscience can we be silent and just go along the flow?

Remember how the Jews died? Because people didn't dare to speak up and believe Hitler was going to deliver them economically

Remember how Anwar got beaten up? Malaysians spoke up and now he is free and vindicated

History will judge us on how Singaporeans cooperated with PAP to bring down JB Jeyaratnam, Tang Liang Hong, James Gomez, Francis Seow etc....

We have sold our conscience for filthy money. Does this make Singaporeans different from Judas? For 13 filthy coins we crucify people wrongly....How can we call ourselves first world Singaporean? We should not join hands with PAP. Their blood shouldn't be our blood....

If you are civil servant, resist acting on PAP's will. If you lose your job, at least you know you live your life with conscience.

If are a teacher, teach our next generation how to think, not what to think.

If are a monk, priest, pastor or mullah, tell Singaporeans that God is a god of justice.

IF you are journalist, write subtly!

If you are a student, stop your teacher when he or she is spreading propangada

If you are an ordinary Singaporean, stop acting as if we have nothing to do. Speak out and Stand out!

Anonymous said...

And yet you remain anonymous.

Good analysis btw Mr Wang.

Anonymous said...

YES! Thank you - I was having a discussion about this last night and for some reason completely blanked on the term 'straw-man'.

Anonymous said...


I remember he said that he didn't know if the Elections Department is taking further action on the James Gomez issue.

However, Slyvia Lim has revealed that the police complaint filed by ED was dated 6 May.

PM Lee said he didn't know at 0200hrs@ May 7.

So if you believe PM Lee, the ED acted unilterally when filing the complaint, without even having the courteousy of informing the head of the government and their direct boss of the Elections Department.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Well, it could be true. It's quite possible that PM Lee already had his own hands full, with the elections going on (besides there's always time for the PAP to take whatever kind of action, if possible, against Gomez or anybody else, AFTER the elections).

Actually it would be PROPER for the Elections Department to make the police report WITHOUT consulting any Minister. That's because after Parliament is dissolved, there really isn't SUPPOSED to be any Minister (or any MP). It was actually a mistake for the press to have kept on referring to LHL as PM during the election period, because he WASN'T.

Radikaz said...

Sometimes i feel ashamed being a Singaporean, time over time, majority of us are being held hostages by the gov that have the carrot dangling in our noses.

I would suspected many got their fingers burnt on the asset enhancement program in 95-97 and would desperately need somethings to lift their property's values by having their compound upgraded. So as we all knew, gov and the people has caused many miseries to people who stood for us and yet they citing no one credible is able to par off against the pap's candidates.

Ironically is'nt it?

Sometimes, i just feel happy that the people suffer under the hands of their high handed policies deserved it. Because they gave them the fully mandates. Only thing i felt unfair are the young generations who deservingly felt there's ought to be more voices inside the parliament were effectively snubbed by the old voters.

I hope the successful campaign from WPs has enough dosages of blue pills to wake Singaporean up.

Grassroot and youth programs are some of the ways that WP can push forth in the preparation of GE 2011.

On the contrary, how many 5 yrs do we have to see a level playing political ground that serve the people than running Singapore inc?

We will paid for our mistakes..i assured you.

Anonymous said...

>>That's because after Parliament is dissolved, there really isn't SUPPOSED to be any Minister (or any MP). It was actually a mistake for the press to have kept on referring to LHL as PM during the election period, because he WASN'T.

I had a discussion with a friend over that issue. I said the same as you, but he insisted that while parliament is dissolved, the cabinet isn't so the ministers are still in place. I remember reading that power is vested in the President and civil service, but could not remember for sure.

Then we both lamented how little we knew of Singapore's constitutional law... and promptly blamed the government for our ignorance!

On a serious note though - I am very embarrassed to admit that I know how the US government works in and out, but not Singapore's. I guess it's time to do some homework.

Anonymous said...

Check this guy out who wrote a letter to the ST forum.

"I implore our unanimous leader, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, to heed my call. I want it to be fixed immediately. I mean the lifts, not the opposition."

He's my idol.


Anonymous said...

It's strawman + ad hominen, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Even if LHL didn't know (highly improbable), WKS as Home Minister would very probably have been informed about the police report and promptly informed LHL. But I'm sure we all have a strong suspicion (which we can't prove) that the complaint is politically motivated, i.e., the Election Department was merely doing the PAP's bidding? So who's the one hurting the reputation of the Election Department? Hence the public outrage.

Anonymous said...

Funny Singaporeans. Complained about the government all the time and vote them in every single time..

What can we say? In this Internet age, we can't say that they are not well informed enough. Can we blamed the government all the time. The voters are the one that put them there.

I am glad the opposition esp the WP has done well in this election. With proper planning and strategising, they would be a force to be reckon with. Hope they could attract more members to join their ranks.

Not that PAP is that bad but Singapore has outgrown its childhood stage and the timing is right for a stronger opposition to represent the people on government policy.

Like raising a child,you can't really tell a teenager or young adult what to think or do anymore but can provide sensible alternatives.

Anonymous said...

I read the whole letter in the papers. It's actually a very subtle snipe at you-know-who, talking about arrogance, drop in mandate % (He keeps mentioning the specific numerics), PAP keeping their promises, the vagueness of PAP's manifesto, how the opposition is gaining ground, and the unwarrantted lionization of The Great Father ("Kudos to this great man who owes no one any apology..."), all packaged in a manner which would pass the ST filters. To package all that into this letter, while being very subtle, He could be a better wordsmith than you, Mr Wang.

The criticism letters at the forums are getting very hard to differentiate from the letters of the real ball-carriers...

But I guess this is neccessary, to get past the filters for publication. But sometimes it might be so subtle that even those whom the author was writing to connect with fail to connect with completely, dismissing it was a ball-carrying letter.


Anonymous said...

strawman + ad hominen + ad absurdum isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Well Joshua, i would think that those here online would constitute at the most 10 or 15% of the population.

It's the rest out there who consumes the 140th religiously and doesn't have a clue who is voting for the incumbent. And not to mention fear at the polling stations...

David said...

I think that letter writer was being sarcastic, Mr Wang.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

No, THAT one was not being sarcastic. Folks here are talking about different letters.

Cobalt Paladin said...

Actually, if WP had won Aljunied GRC, the face of the next GE will be very different. WP only needs another 6% and it would have Aljunied GRC.

Regardless the results of the current GE, more people (especially the post 65's) are joining WP. Look at the team they fielded. More young people will be encouraged to fill the WP ranks. Either GE2011 or GE2016, we'll see WP challenging most, if not all the wards.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

All these years, the Opposition has never even won one GRC. But assume that from now on, the Opposition is extremely successful and wins one new GRC each election, (and furthermore successfully defend all GRCs that they have won).

2011 - 5 Opposition MPs in Parliament

2016 - 10 Opposition MPs in Parliament

2021 - 15 Opposition MPs in Parliament

2026 - 20 Opposition MPs in Parliament

2031 - 25 Opposition MPs in Parliament

2036 - 30 Opposition MPs in Parliament

2041 - 35 Opposition MPs in Parliament

2046 - 40 Opposition MPs in Parliament

2051 - 45 Opposition MPs in Parliament (finally forming the majority).

I may very well have died of old age by the time they form the majority in Parliament.

And certainly it would be foolish to assume that in the distant year of 2051, the PAP will still be anywhere as worthy as it is today, to be the ruling party.

Recruit Ong said...

Actually i think the WP did not do well at all in this election. Why i say this is bcoz hor they expended the most resources, effort and fielded the most candidates in this GE compared to past GEs and yet still win only 1 seat. Their hit rate in this GE is the lowest ever.

Anonymous said...

I am glad the opposition esp the WP has done well in this election. With proper planning and strategising, they would be a force to be reckon with.

The key question is, can they, and will they be allowed to grow and become a threat, however minor, to the ruling PAP party? MM Lee's speech last Sunday seems to suggest he'll have none of that, though I hope I'm wrong.

Their hit rate in this GE is the lowest ever.

But in terms of PR they've won by a landslide. The old image of Opposition as hapless rabble-rousers has been blown away. If anything, it's the ruling PAP party that ended up looking bad. :)

Anonymous said...

s'poreans have been brainwashed by propaganda from day ONE..
like that frog in the well..
lucky got broadband in that well.. things are looking good
i think some of us are still in a trance that's all..
i have some friends thanking the gods that pap still in power too..
it's like getting slapped in the face but still think it's a good thing and they can't get enough of it