Red herring

Tactical Fallacy
Definition Example
When there is an attempt to distract from the opponent’s argument without actually addressing it. Your ex-wife told me that you once kicked a cat. This renders your argument invalid.
Red herrings are fish with a strong smell that were once used to cover a fugitive’s scent from tracking hounds in pursuit. Someone might try to disrupt your assessment of their weak argument by introducing new unrelated arguments (perhaps controversial arguments) in the hope that you’ll forget or ignore their weak argument.

Case Study One

Red herrings are often used in politics. Instead of focusing on the value of a particular policy, the personal lives of the politicians promoting the policy are offered as a reason to reject the policy.

Case Study Two

An abusive spouse might attempt to distract from their abuse by focusing on the pressures of life that they wish to cite as the cause of their abusive behaviors, thereby not accepting responsiblity.

Keep in mind that a fallacious argument does not entail an erroneous position.

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