The Dandelion Group

Technique of the week

Red herring

One person’s fish can be another one’s poison. Master this fallacy and avoid being nonplussed.

“Red herring” is an old and odd term common in political debates. An English journalist coined this expression in the 19th century describing how he led hounds astray. Hunting with a cured fish has become less popular since. Nowadays, the term describes attempts to divert attention. In contrast to other types auf faulty reasoning, a true “red herring” uses completely irrelevant arguments.

Books on rhetoric explain how to defend yourself against fallacies. Some, however, you can also use to your advantage. The next time you end up befuddled by an argument or lost for words, do not remain silent and regain momentum with a red herring.

How to rebut with a red herring

  1. Write down 1-3 sentences that everyone would understand easily.
    (e.g. I like elephants.)

  2. Make sure that they contain some new, interesting information.
    (e.g. Elephants cannot jump.)

  3. Regardless of the topic, reply with one of them when you are speechless. You can also formulate it as a question.
    (e.g. Dad: ‘Do your homework.’ Daughter: ‘As soon as you show me an elephant who can jump.’ or ‘Daddy, did you know that elephants cannot jump?’ )


The US government shutdown is an power struggle between the newly-elected House and the government. Research the main arguments from the Republicans and equip Speaker Nancy Pelosi with three red herrings for her next meeting in the White House

Learn the techniques. Boost your confidence. Make your point.
here to jump the curve.

Ben WilhelmComment