Straw Man Whack-A-Mole

Straw Man: A logical fallacy by where a person misrepresents an opponents position in an argument, so it can be torn down.

Among the more frustrating things in discussing AA with a twelve-stepper is that every individual has his or her own conception of what is AA. Most of the resident AAs who comment on this blog are hardcore AAs, and tend to have a more fundamentalist view of the organization. Others use AA as nothing more than a support group. And of course, there the thousands of other interpretations that fall somewhere between the two extremes.

What is one person’s AA, is not another person’s – and this applies not just to how a person uses AA, but to how each person interprets the meaning of the scriptures, as well. Like any religious group, there are literalists, as well as those with a broader interpretation of the group’s writings. The Baptist church down the street from me is much different than the Baptist church I knew as a kid in the American South, and an Anglican and a Catholic are similar in their rituals and belief systems, but they each consider themselves Christians. Sunni and Druze Muslims each have a unique interpretation of the Koran, and like is the case with other Muslim sects, they don’t really even care for each other, even though they are each Muslim. I can pick other examples, from Mormons to Jews, and there is a common characteristic that none of them have a singular point of view. This makes sense, because scripture is inherently vague and often contradictory, and with time, worshiping in a particular religion is like picking food in a cafeteria, where it becomes take what you want, and leave the rest.

Anyone who has ever had a debate among people regarding what is really written in Bible knows that it can be an exercise in futility. A Pat Robertson fundamentalist believes, rightly, the the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, and they may just point out the verse from Leviticus that states that very thing. An Episcopalian will point out, rightly, that Leviticus also claims it is a sin to eat a Lobster. Either way, nobody is going to win that argument, because it becomes one giant circle jerk of one person trying to up the other on who is more right.

The same holds true with AA. Arguing what happens in AA with a group of members is like a never ending whack-a-mole session, with different AAs popping up stating the standard lines: “that is not what the Big Book says” or “that doesn’t happen in my group”. Both of those statements are both right and wrong, because AA has varying denominations. One AA might see the absurdity in having pet cat as a higher power, where another one might see validity in it. One might work their steps in a specific way, and accurately (or inaccurately) cite the Big Book and what it “really says”. Others will rationalize their interpretation a different way, and will also cite the the same source.

This brings me back to the straw man. In discussing what happens in AA, and tearing it down, it is virtually impossible to build a straw man argument. At least, this is the case if we are writing in generalities and averages, as we do on this blog. AAs tend to read what we write and think that we are speaking specifically of them and their group. I know this, because we get letters from AAs telling exactly that. Often we’ll see it in the comment section – “that isn’t my AA”, or “that is not what the Big Book means”. Those people might be right, they might be wrong. It doesn’t matter.

The only way we can build a straw man here is if we write specifically to the individual, and argue against what he or she believes. We don’t do that here, because there are too many AAs. The fundy AA, the liberal AA, and all in between. For our purposes, if it happens in AA, it is AA. We write about what happens in AA. So, if you think that we are talking about your brand of crazy as we discuss what happens in the AA nuthouse, and you think we are misrepresenting your point of view, we are not. We are simply discussing some other AA’s brand of crazy. But don’t fret. We’ll get to you in due course.


  • mcgowdog

    Another way to observe and comment on that would be to say that the fundamental AAers have the same concept of what A.A. is, "We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action." "The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution."

    If you go to A.A. and have NOT discovered a common solution, then get the hell out and start a blog and bash it. Sounds reasonable.

    So there's your strawman argument right there. Y'all learned it from Agent Orange and are spewing it out right here. The "thousands of interpretations in between" is your assessment of a fellowship that still has recovery rates vastly more successful than the dribble that Orange spews out and you mimic here. Here's a truer retention rate of A.A.s by length of sobriety which debunks Oranges and others observation of AAWS stats;

    A.A. Members' Length of Sobriety:

    Less than one year….. 26%

    1-5 years………………. 24%

    5-10 years…………….. 14%

    10+ years………………. 36%

    Yet, y'all are going to gasp with fear when you see this and you all know in your little heads that it's 5% or less. In fact, you think the retention rate of A.A. is a negative percentage, everybody is drunk, and everybody who gets breathed on by an is going to get drunk as well as it's a contagious disease. Go look down in New Orleans right now. We are not Saints! We are drunks! Remember?

    Then you go and compare A.A. to organized religions. Another strawman argument. Religions only calibrate at about 380 and A.A., like the new Testament of the bible and Carl Jung himself, calibrates at 540. If you look at the Old Testament, it's only at about 190, but if you look just at Proverbs, Psalms, and Genesis, it's at about 600. Revelations is about 70… or utter Penn and Teller Bullshit. So why compare religion to A.A.? Religion is man-made. Within the realm of religion is various levels of awareness, this is true. Within A.A., it's also true, but you have real alkies, non-alkies, recovered alkies, sick and dying alkies. For the real alcoholic, it's simple; do these spiritual principles or you'll get drunk and/or be miserable. Now that claim may upset some of you. Some of you are sober by praying to your pet rock. That's fine If that works for you, go for it.

    "AAs tend to read what we write and think that we are speaking specifically of them and their group…. It doesn’t matter."

    And sometimes, you hit us full-on by name and mock us right from the site as you see fit. And it doesn't matter, because you have now clue who they are or what they do. You just cherry-pick what you need to set up an post of mockery.

    "as we discuss what happens in the AA nuthouse, and you think we are misrepresenting your point of view, we are not. We are simply discussing some other AA’s brand of crazy. But don’t fret. We’ll get to you in due course."

    You've already labeled A.A. right there and can go no further. Your brain is blocked off from seeing the truth in any of it and if A.A. was any more than what you claim, that would be an attack on your very ego that drives you to post something like this.

    Assessment of this post, F-.