Red herring__a fallacy of relevance

Red herring fallacy is a type of error that is used as a way of diverting people’s attention from the original topic under discussion. For this purpose, an unrelated question is introduced in the conversation. This fallacy grants an argument that may be correct but does not address the subject being discussed. It is mostly an effort to change the subject.

What are fallacies?

 Fallacies are pseudo arguments;

Although they look like genuine arguments, their premises don’t support the conclusion.

These cause many people to accept or reject the claims when there are no rational grounds for doing so.

 Why is it called Red herring fallacy?

 There is a history behind it. This term was used by an English polemicist named William Cobbett in 1807. He went on a hunt one day. He had dogs for hunting the foxes while training his dogs. Then he put some red herring fish to distract the dogs. The result was that the dogs got distracted by the red herring fish and didn’t find the fox. At that time, a red herring fish was used to divert the hounds not to chase the foxes. That’s why this fallacy is named after that fish.

 Red herring fallacy in literature:

 This is something that is frequently done in a literary sense when the writer demands to divert the devotion of the reader away from the matter. It can be used as a way for the listener and the reader to draw a false conclusion from the delivering information. In literature red herring fallacy can be used by the author in mystery novels to divert the attention of the reader, so the reader remains curious till the very end. One of the essential uses of red herring fallacy in literature is to lead the reader to believe that a particular character is a suspect of a crime.


 Example # 1:

 To look at the global warming problem, we first consider how the homeless will suffer in the cold.

Example #2:

 Daughter: Mom, please bring me this dress.

Mother: Dear! You know I have a surprise for you at home.

Example # 3:

Public: Sir! Why are you not reducing our Texas?

Minister: Have you seen how much uncleanliness is there in your city? Everyone is responsible for cleaning it.

Functions of Red herring fallacy:

Red herring fallacy is mostly used in conversation with the public to distract them or to change the subject to escape from a difficult situation. For politicians, red herring fallacy is a trick which they use to dodge awkward questions asked in an argument or conference. They start talking about some unrelated topic to distract the public.

It is mostly used in literature by mystery novel authors. They create suspense by using the this fallacy. This trick is used to confuse the reader, and mostly, the reader starts judging any character as the culprit, but at the end of the story, the most innocent one is usually the criminal.

How to Avoid the red herring fallacy?

The best way to avoid this herring fallacy during a conversation is by listening carefully to what the next person is talking about. Humbly and tactfully listen to the opposing party. When someone is arguing with you, you need to repeat the words which the other person is saying. Think before you speak if you find yourself caught in any red herring fallacy.

    Some questions have two contradictory answers, and both answers can support your problem. Still, the real one is the only one that can accurately describe your desired answer. So humbly and tactfully notice that the opposing person is not tricking you.

But if someone uses it as a skill, it is beneficial and positive for assembly members, board members, and leaders as well. By using this herring fallacy without coming in the notice of others is somehow more powerful and enjoyable.

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