Logical Fallacies
Logical Fallacies / Red Herring
Red Herring icon

Red Herring


The red herring fallacy focuses on arguing for an irrelevant topic with the intention of distracting the audience, this usually happens when the orator finds another topic easier to outline.

Example of Red Herring

  • "I know I cheated on the test, Mrs. Holburn. But what am I going to do, my parents will kill me!"
  • "Officer, I was speeding. But I have to return this book to the library. I don't want to have to pay a late fee."

This is a common fallacy.

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Red HerringExtended Explanation

The Red Herring fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when a topic is introduced in an argument that does not directly relate to the issue being discussed. It is a form of misdirection that draws attention away from the original issue, and is often used to divert attention away from an argument’s weaknesses. It is considered a fallacy because it does not add any relevant information to the discussion, but instead distracts from the original issue.

The term “red herring” originates from the hunting practice of dragging a smelly, red fish across the scent trail of a fox, which would distract the fox and allow the hunters to catch it. This same concept is applied to arguments, where irrelevant topics are used to distract the opponent or audience from the main point. These distractions can be made in the form of an emotional response, such as an appeal to fear or anger, or an irrelevant piece of information.

In an argument, the red herring fallacy is used to divert the discussion away from the topic at hand and onto a different, unrelated topic. This could be done as a way to avoid admitting one’s own mistakes or weaknesses, or to discredit the opponent’s argument. It is considered a logical fallacy because it does not address the issue and instead focuses on something else. It is also considered a type of “straw man” argument, where the person making the argument presents a weaker version of their opponent’s argument in order to make it easier to defeat.

The red herring fallacy is a common form of argumentative fallacies, and can be seen in many debates and discussions. It is important to be aware of this fallacy and to recognize when it is being used in an argument. If someone is using the red herring fallacy, it is important to refocus the discussion on the original issue and to avoid being distracted by the irrelevant topics.