In Part Four’s video, Associate Professor of Philosophy Kevin deLaplante talked about the Red Herring fallacy. He says it is easily confused with the Straw Figure fallacy.
The Red Herring is anything that distracts you from following the trail (topic) of the original argument and is distracting enough to make the audience want to follow the new trail (topic), which is an irrelevant distraction away from the original argument and main issue.
For example, when Sid, in our debate, introduced something that changed the subject, which raised a new issue that wasn’t relevant to the previous line of discussion, the fallacy occurred when Sid concluded something from this different issue or presumed that some conclusion has been established.
The “Straw Figure” Fallacy. Source: The Critical Thinking Academy
“In this respect,” Professor deLaplante says, “the fallacy is very much like a Straw Figure fallacy in that you are mistakenly or misleadingly say you won the argument or refuted the argument”, which was when Sid avoided engaging with the original argument.
However, the Red Herring is different from the Straw Figure fallacy in that a Straw Figure involves distorting or misrepresenting some original argument and then knocking down the distorted argument.
Straw Figure: Arguer misrepresents an opponent’s position.
Red Herring: Arguer tries to distract the attention of the audience by raising an irrelevant issue.
There are many examples of Sid introducing Red Herrings into the argument where he ignored the original argument and changed the subject. In Part 2 of the debate, I asked, “How would you describe the differences you observed between how piety is practiced in mainland China and Taiwan?”
Sid immediately introduced a Red Herring with “First, as the term pertains to Taiwan, there is no such thing as mainland China. There is China, and there is Taiwan. The word ‘mainland’ denotes a connection, but there isn’t one and never really has been.”
Sid’s response had nothing to do with piety, and if I had not been ignorant of logical fallacies, I would have been aware of what he was doing and challenged it.
Then Sid asked his first of many loaded questions when he said, “Approximately 90 percent of Taiwanese want nothing to do with China, and why would they?”
What does this have to do with piety? In fact, there was no evidence with a link to support the claim that 90 percent of Taiwanese want nothing to do with China, which was often the case with Sid’s Red Herrings throughout the debate. Unfortunately, my response was to spend hours researching and writing replies.
The recent results in Taiwan’s presidential election indicate that a majority of Taiwanese may favor reunification with China or at least closer ties. On January 14, 2012, Fox News.com reported, Taiwan’s China-friendly president wins re-election with 51.6 percent of the total against 45.6 percent for Tsai Ingwen of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party.
Fox News said, “Ma’s Nationalist Party also retained control of the 113-seat legislature, though with a reduced majority. Speaking before thousands of jubilant supporters in downtown Taipei, Ma said his China policies had resonated with voters. ‘They gave us support for our policy to put aside differences with the mainland. To search for peace and turn it into business opportunities.’”
In addition, Sid introduced so many Red Herrings, that I couldn’t respond to all of them, which is why I decided to write comments and new posts and spend more time with these new topics. When I did respond to some of Sid’s Red Herrings, he often ignored what I wrote while posting more Red Herrings that I often scrambled to respond to, which was my mistake.
Sid’s alleged contempt for me appeared to increase as evidenced by his numerous ad hominem attacks after I started to ban his logical fallacies. In addition, his use of Judgmental language – insulting or pejorative language, may have been intended to influence my judgment. Examples: “You’re an imbecile Lloyd, a soft headed moron,” and “You lack the intelligence to argue, so you ban.”
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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