LingLogic Wiki

Also known as Smoke Screen, Wild Goose Chase.

= Definition=

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant statement is made in order to divert attention from the argument at hand.

: Pattern:



Topic A is discussed.
Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).
Topic A is abandoned.

= Examples=

This ad for Prop. 8, "It's already happened," commits the fallacy of red herring. The issue is whether or not to legalize gay marriage; the ad argues that parents should control what their children learn in school.

image from clip

== Further examples==


This ad against Prop. 8, 'Love poem," also commits the fallacy of red herring. It poignantly asserts the importance of love. However, the issue at hand is not whether or not love is important -- just about everyone can agree to that -- but whether or not gay marriage should be legalized.


In this interview about Isaiah Thomas' multimillion dollar sexual harassment suit and he uses multiple red herrings. When asked what he is going to say to parents about allegations of sexual harassment, he says that he has been in the game a long time and that many parents named their kids after him. Both of these statements, although true, are simply being used to distract from the subject at hand.
Another red herring from this video was his mention of his daughter's hospitalization. The reporter asks why there was an ambulance at his house and he mentions that earlier that day, his daughter was hospitalized. The real issue was how he ended up in the hospital after overdosing on sleeping pills.
Finally, Thomas commits one more red herring in this video, which was that when DIRECTLY asked whether or not it was a suicide attempt, he says "I like living". Thomas most likely does like living, yet this does not answer the question of whether or not he attempted suicide.


In this excerpt from the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden commits a blatant red herring. When asked about same-sex couples, he goes on and on about all the good things the Democrats support but when asked outright whether or not they support gay marriage, the red herring becomes clear. He almost got away with it.


In one of the most glaring examples of red herring, Sarah Palin tries to distract from the reporter's question about which publications she reads by first expressing her "great appreciation for the press and the media". When that doesn't work, she switches to red herring #2: "Alaska isn't a foreign country..."

thumb|left|126px This clip was taken from the TV show House . House and his colleagues are sitting around talking about a case they have to solve. As House walks in and introduces a new case, one of his fellow doctors asks if they "have to solve a twenty year old case before breakfast." House goes off topic by asking if Dr. Chase and Dr. Cameron had showered together and concluding that both said no, it was a double negative actually meaning they did. Although this is a red herring, it is not the ideal example. House does veer off topic but her does it in a more distinct and flashy manner instead of subtle and discreet. Red Herring is a fallacy that is committed when the intended question or statement is diverted by a similar topic that misleads the audience without them noticing.

Here Dr. House obviously believes that a case he chooses is important and does not believe his actions should be questioned. Thus, he diverts the focus to an inappropriate topic to embarrass Dr. Chase and make himself seem more in control of the conversation.

The conclusion that is made, the two colleagues did shower together, is not relevant to the stated premises, if the case had to be solved before breakfast. The pattern of this fallacy would be Topic A (when the case had to be solved) is under discussion and then Topic B (the colleagues showering together) is brought up making Topic A disappear.


This clip of the interview of Miss Teen South Carolina also commits the fallacy of red herring. The question being discussed is "why do you think most Americans can't locate the US on a map?" She begins her answer by stating that Americans do not have access to maps and then introduces the topic of education. She commits the fallacy here because she discusses the education of people located in South Africa and Iraq instead of that in the United States. She continues to commit red herring in her answer by saying "... I think America should help South Africa," and speaks about how this will contribute to a better future. She completely diverts the audience's attention away from the original topic of discussion.

Miss Teen South Carolina misunderstood the question, and/or did not come up with an answer in time and chose to address a similar but different issue. Ultimately, she did great at distracting everyone from the original topic but failed at being taken seriously.

Red Herring?