Saturday, August 26, 2006

Logical Fallacies, Part 8: Red Herring

When writers choose an unrelated point to distract readers from the real issue, they are committing the logical fallacy of a red herring . If you’ve ever heard or said, “You always disagree with me,” you’ve experienced a red herring. The term originates from the use of smoked herring to distract hunting dogs following a scent trail. Example:

Cicero Architectural & Engineering Consulting promises a profitable year. We have heard such claims before—from the likes of Fashion First Textiles and Medusa Boutiques—both of which yielded disappointing results in their first year after emerging from bankruptcy.

The textile and boutique businesses could not be more unrelated to an architectural and engineering firm. In addition, Cicero Consulting was not emerging from bankruptcy. By raising this irrelevant issue, the writer hopes to scores points in discrediting Cicero’s claim. Educated readers quickly detect this flaw.

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