Red Herring: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Something that draws attention away from the central issue, as in talking about the new plant is a red herring to keep us from learning about downsizing plans. The herring in this expression is red and strong-smelling from being preserved by smoking. The idiom alludes to dragging a smoked herring across a trail to cover up the scent and throw off tracking dogs.[Late 1800s ]”

This method of misdirection has been used for centuries by kings and queens; prime ministers; presidents; marketing executives; politicians and leaders of religious orders to keep the people in the dark or convinced of a belief which was totally based on spurious duplicity.










In 1973, for the organization I was affiliated with, I attended a private meeting about writing for newspapers.  During the meeting the presenter received a call from her boss in DC about a European news story that would be coming out the following weekend about the organization’s activities in Peru and their misuse of the natives for work projects.

This is where I first encountered the concept of spin and my first real taste of how news could be manipulated by an organization for its own ends.  After the meeting I asked her whether the European reporters’ news story was accurate.

She smiled and said, “I can sense that you have a knack for journalism.  When you work for an organization, you will use those talents to further the goals and ambitions of the organization.”

Being unsatisfied I repeated my question. She replied: “It makes no difference if it is true or not.  Our job is to make sure it does not become a topic of conversation in the wrong circles.  That’s our job.  One day it will be yours if your loyalty is in the right place.”


Over the years I have witnessed the red herring device used by politicians and religious leaders.  One of the favorite ones is when a religious leader calls for total unity as the organization grapples with serious issues such as equality.

“Brothers and Sisters, for the sake of unity and the work we must place aside our differences on this subject.  It has become a distraction to our mission…We must work together as one to achieve the high calling given to us for the world steeped in ignorance and darkness.  All else is of forces determined to tear us apart.”  It is never Sisters and Brothers.

A red herring is intended to mislead from the truth.  It was true back in 1970s and it is in 2016.

Listed in the links below are more examples.

G. D. Williams © 2016

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Logical Fallacies


Red Herring

This fallacy consists in diverting attention from the real issue by focusing instead on an issue having only a surface relevance to the first.

Rhetorical devices in presidential politics

This page collects examples of rhetorical techniques used by both candidates in the 2008 US Presidential campaign. Here is the official transcript of the third presidential debate, and here is a list of fallacies.

Logical Fallacies Handlist

Fallacies are statements that might sound reasonable or superficially true but are actually flawed or dishonest. When readers detect them, these logical fallacies backfire by making the audience think the writer is (a) unintelligent or (b) deceptive. It is important to avoid them in your own arguments, and it is also important to be able to spot them in others’ arguments so a false line of reasoning won’t fool you. Think of this as intellectual kung-fu: the vital art of self-defense in a debate. For extra impact, learn both the Latin terms and the English equivalents.

In general, one useful way to organize fallacies is by category. We have below fallacies of relevance, component fallacies, fallacies of ambiguity, and fallacies of omission. We will discuss each type in turn. The last point to discuss is Occam’s Razor

10 Christian Examples of Classic Logical Fallacies

10 Christian Examples of Classic Logical Fallacies