Red Herring

The red herring fallacy is my favorite because it has an interesting origin—and it was used in Scooby Doo! The origin of the name of this fallacy comes from old foxhunting practices in England. When the hunters were training their dogs to stay on the trail of a fox, they would mark a trail with fox scent so the dog could practice following the scent. As a further test, they would take the smell of fish (like a red herring) and create a second trail leading in another direction. If a dog left the scent of the fox trail to follow the stronger and more noticeable scent trail left by the red herring, then the dog failed the test. The smartest and best-trained dogs weren’t distracted by the fishy trail and stayed on the path. Basically every episode of Scooby Doo involves a red herring trick—for example, when the ghost at the amusement park turns out to be a distraction created by the owner to cover up his financial problems and shady business practices. A speaker who uses the red herring fallacy makes an argument that distracts from the discussion at hand. Bringing up socialism during an argument about nationalized health care is an example of a red herring fallacy.

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