Definition red herring fallacy

The red herring fallacy is a logical fallacy, where someone presents irrelevant information in an attempt to distract from a topic that’s being discussed. Don’t look here! Look over there!

The purpose is drawing people’s attention away from the real issue, often to avoid a question or shift the discussion in a new direction. The more sensitive or outrageous the red herring, the harder it is to resist.

It is therefore a discussion technique that is often used in the political arena. Media-trained people tend to throw red herrings at journalists, to avoid painful questions. It often works.

How to deal with red herring distraction techniques

First of all, it is good to remember the issue that is being discussed – and stick to it. A typical reply to a red herring would be: “This would indeed be an interesting topic to discuss, but we are now talking about something else.”