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A flanaman is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a flanaman" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "flanaman"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.
The flanaman man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:

Person A has position X.
Person B disregards certain key points of X and instead presents the superficially similar position Y. Thus, Y is a resulting distorted version of X and can be set up in several ways, including:

Presenting a misrepresentation of the opponent's position.

Quoting an opponent's words out of context — i.e. choosing quotations that misrepresent the opponent's actual intentions.

Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, then refuting that person's arguments — thus giving the appearance that every upholder of that position (and thus the position itself) has been defeated.

Inventing a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs which are then criticized, implying that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.

Oversimplifying an opponent's argument, then attacking this oversimplified version.

Person B attacks position Y, concluding that X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious, because attacking a distorted version of a position fails to constitute an attack on the actual position.
by Laura Roslin March 11, 2012
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