The straw man fallacy is where an attacker sets up a "straw man" that looks superficially similar to their opponent's position, but is more easily attacked. They then attack the straw man and claim to have successfully defeated the opponent's position.

In the reverse of this, a defender sets up an "iron man" (perhaps?) that looks superficially similar to their own position, but is more easily defended. They successfully defend the iron man and claim to have successfully defended their own position.

Is there an existing word for this latter fallacy?

I get the impression people often do it subconsciously, and sometimes before an attack is even made (examples). You could call it a straw man attack on behalf of the defendant I suppose (i.e. your straw man is your misrepresentation of the attacker's stance as an attack on the iron man) but that adds a level of indirection over the original situation that the fallacy describes. Also, if the defense is conceived of before an attack is made, the "straw man" wouldn't even exist yet - only a plan to construct him should the need arise - but the "iron man" is definitely there all along.

  • I don't think your iron man = opposite of straw man idea really works. The thing about a straw man argument is that the act of using one can also be knocked down just as easily as the original false position it represents. But if we imagine the "reverse" technique, that would be knocked down just as easily for much the same reason (it's a misrepresentation). I suppose you could call it a red herring, perhaps. But whatever you call it, once identified it will fail, so there's not really any scope for describing it in a way that suggests it has any real "strength". – FumbleFingers May 16 '14 at 13:13
  • Good point that as an argument it's just as weak. But I think red herring usually implies much greater irrelevance to the topic than straw man. – Sideshow Bob May 16 '14 at 13:30
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    I seriously suspect if this is on topic on ELU. At least not until the OP can have a concrete concept and present it in a short phrase/ expression. Nebulous ideas do not have antonyms. – Kris May 16 '14 at 13:32
  • "... much greater irrelevance"? – Kris May 16 '14 at 13:32
  • both the straw man fallacy and what you describe are ultimately "non sequiturs". What you're saying is "if A then B. C, therefore B" (strawman is identical but B would be something negative, here it's positive) – msam May 16 '14 at 14:21

The Iron Man fallacy already exists (and, unfortunately, it has nothing to do with Tony Stark):

The iron man works like the straw man. ...[Y]ou invent an argument the person does not make all in order to make the argument the person makes appear to be stronger than it is. This has the related effect of making the critics look unfair, unhinged, or shrill. More importantly, it may serve to cover over the real vices of someone's position. (from TheNonSequitur website)

Unlike the straw man fallacy, the iron man fallacy is harder to strike down because of an emotional element that makes the critic look soulless. It is best used, perhaps, in heated topics like abortion and pollution, where attacks on one's position is tricky.

It is a form of begging the question.

  • Good info that Iron Man already exists, thanks. I can't mark as accepted as I'm still looking for words to describe the situation above. – Sideshow Bob May 19 '14 at 7:32
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    @SideshowBob - It matters not to me if you decline my answer, but if you read carefully, that is exactly what the fallacy does: to create an argument that is more difficult to attack/tear down. It meets your definition precisely. Just sayin'... – anongoodnurse May 19 '14 at 7:37

Here is a good link that shows the difference between strawmanning, ironmanning and steelmanning: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Straw_man#Iron_manning

Another fallacy you might want to look into is the Motte-and-Bailey: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Motte_and_bailey

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