TRUE OR FALSE -- HOW CAN YOU TELL?
Have you ever been talking to someone, or exchanging posts in a seed and someone says something that you don't understand? You ask your question, you get sort of an answer and the conversation moves on with more concerning the speaker's point . Later maybe you think, "What was the answer to my question?" Did he explain why his claim was true? Oh well, I don't remember. It must have been true, I just don't remember and we started to talk about something else.
Well, you may have been a victim of the Red Herring fallacy. It is a technique that is used by debaters, salesmen and con men to have you hear what they want you to hear instead of what they are really saying. Oh, people are not like that. All people are as honest as I am and besides, most people are not smart enough to do things like that. I can tell the truth when I hear it. If that is your response, maybe I can interest you in some waterfront property down on the beaches of the Louisiana Gulf Coast!
Why is it important?
Red Herrings are used to control the conversation. They are very common and sometimes people don't even know that they are using it. Some people are just naturally adopt it to cover them selves if they are pressed for an answer to something they don't know or because they have subliminally learned to do it. I first learned of it when I was selling books door to door to put myself through college. It was one of the things that we were taught in training. We used it to keep the presentation moving to follow the script or to cover a question that we had not learned the answer to as yet. We would then bring up the question in our sales training and we learned the better, and more truthful response so that we did just make something up that was verifiable as untrue as it could damage the sale. Others will simply use it to deceive or to avoid the truth and suggest that their statement was answered properly and will continue to use it as a proven fact even though they could not defend it with a straight answer.
Anyone that has had any kind of sales training or leadership training will most likely have been exposed to this technique. It may be ingrained into their sales technique that they don't even realize that they are doing it. It is a "survival" technique to cover a "little white lie" that they may be using to close the deal. If it is used properly and with the proper timing in conversation, the listener will take the bait of the Red Herring, move on to the new topic and will think that their question was answered and the statement was true. That is the purpose of the Red Herring and that is why it is important to learn how to spot it!
In conversation, you don't have the luxury of going back later and studying exactly what happened unless you tape all your conversations. In the written media, however you do have that luxury. You can go back and see what was said and then it is a lot easier to spot the deception. So, why then does it live in the written word? Well, simple. If the reader is not aware of the technique, it will probably go unnoticed. How many times do you go back and re-read responses in NewsVine? Usually, one time is more than enough! Often the topics are very emotional for the reader and when emotion takes over,
What is the red herring?
Here is an example:
You are in a conversation and you state that:
Our new helmet law for bicycle safety campaign will prevent many serious injuries to the head. Your debating opponent then makes this statement: These "wear you helmet" ad campaigns are not going to work. This is the response with the opposing opinion. but your opponent doesn't want to talk about the people that are going to be saved, he is just against the whole concept so he adds: People are still going to ride without their helmet no matter what. And this is the Red Herring. This is a true statement, but it does not address your statement. If you take the bait and start If you take the bait and start to address the topic of those that don't, you have lost control and you will most likely wind up in an argument and more Red herrings will be thrown in and you will wind up in a name calling exchange about someone that used his helmet to bash in the head of his cheating girlfriend or some other topic all togerther. What can you do?
Response: Complete elimination of head injuries is not the purpose of the campaign. The goal of the campaign is reduction. You have side stepped the Herring and you are back on your topic. If he repeats the attempt, you bring it back to your topic. If he continues to try to change the subject, you are not in a debate, you are being trolled. You can either call him on what he is doing or you in a written conversation, you can ignore him and continue to express your opinions after a declaration of the topic you are talking about.
You might think that this is not such an important point as some people certainly might not wear their helmets. That is true and you may want to address that at some future time, even later in that conversation, but you have been taken off your topic and you have not been able to address the points that you will be making and if this is a political debate you may lose it and your campaign to prevent injuries may not be enacted. If you have a valid point, you have a right to express it and to put forth your arguments without being led into an unrelated topic that sounds related and may be true, but is in fact a distraction that is intended to lead you astray and replace your positive opinion with the false assumption that all people should not wear helmets because a few will not.
Analysis of the technique
- Seat belts are a bad idea. People are still going to die in car wrecks.
- While seat belts could never save 100% of people involved in car accidents, the number of lives that would be saved is enough to far outweigh any negative consequences of wearing a seat belt.
The Red Herring statement starts with a repeat of your statement. (A) and then linked to another statement (B) which is true but not in the same
A NEW ELEMENT UNRELATED TO THE ORIGINAL TOPIC IS INTRODUCED TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT. THIS IS CALLED A RED HERRING AND TO DIVERT ATTENTION TO THIS RED HERRING INSTEAD OF THE REAL OR ORIGINAL TOPIC. THE POSTER WILL TRY TO LEAD THE ARGUMENT AWAY FROM THE ORIGINAL TOPIC AND CHANGE IT TO SOMETHING THAT IS UNRELATED AND LIKELY TO BE UNTRUE.
IN PRACTICE, THE POSTER WILL ADD AN ELEMENT IN THE RESPONSE OR TAKE AN UNRELATED ELEMENT THAT IS FAMILIAR AND THEN USE IT TO PROVE A DIFFERENT ELEMENT. THE NEW PROOF MAY BE TRUE OR FALSE, ITS ONLY PURPOSE IS TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT AND TO GET OFF THE ORIGINAL SUBJECT
EXAMPLE: THE STATEMENT IS THAT LOBBYING THAT INVOLVES GIVING MONEY TO ELECTED OFFICIALS IS A FORM OF CORRUPTION. THE RESPONSE IS THAT BIG CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE TOO. IT IS THE RIGHT OF ALL CITIZENS TO HAVE THE EAR OF THEIR CONGRESSMAN. HERE, THE SUBJECT IS BEING CHANGED SO THAT THE POSTER IS DIVERTED TO ANSWERING THE NEW ELEMENT OF THE CORPORATION BEING CONSIDERED A PERSON. A GOOD RESPONSE COULD BE "THAT MAY BE AN INTERESTING TOPIC, BUT THE SUBJECT IS THE EXCHANGE OF MONEY FOR INFLUENCE."
THE DEFENSE IS TO NOT BE BAITED TO THE NEW TOPIC. STICK TO THE SUBJECT. ALWAYS RESPOND TO THE TOPIC AND INSIST ON GOING BACK TO THE TOPIC IF THE RESPONDER TAKES IT IN AN UNRELATED CONDITION.
STATEMENT: CHICKENS, WHICH ARE FED ANTIBIOTICS, ARE A BREEDING GROUND FOR DISEASE. THE OVERUSE OF ANTIBIOTICS WILL INCREASE PROFITS BUT WILL HELP SPREAD DISEASE, RESPONSE: THE CHICKEN THAT HAS BEEN GIVEN GROWTH HORMONES CAUSES THE CHICKEN’ TO SIT IN THEIR OWN DISEASE RIDDEN FECES. WE SHOULD STAY AWAY FROM GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD.
THIS RED HERRING. IT’S A TACTIC MEANT TO DIVERT THE LISTENER. THE CONDITIONS DESCRIBED HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD.
Argument of Ignorance.
The assertion is made that because the position hasn’t been falsified that it is true by necessity. It completely ignores the possibility that there might not be enough investigation to support both the assertion that genetically modified foods are safe and the assertion that they are unsafe.
Statement: Universal health care is not workable because there is no proof that it will work.Response: This is hard to respond to in a civil manner. The easiest response is 1) "your ignorance of the solution does not show that it can not work." This will probably cause an argument and result in being taken off topic and is not the best answer. 2) Universal health care has worked in other countries already. We can find a way to make it work in our country. 3) If you want to discuss how it can work you might say "Here is an explanation of how it can work."
Arguments From Ignorance are frequently used to try to shift the burden of proof where it belongs. If the idea in the statement has been presented, Use the facts in the topic that tells how it can work or how the costs will be workable and ask for real evidence to support the statement that it will not work with evidence to support the opposition. We don't have to prove innocence, he has to prove guilt.
The Argument From Ignorance, or Appeal to Ignorance is the assertion that because the position hasn’t been falsified that it is true by necessity. It completely ignores the possibility that there might not be enough investigation to support both the assertion that genetically modified foods are safe and the assertion that they are unsafe.A very simple example to make this technique perfectly clear is this: If you don't look at my gas gauge, there is no proof that your tank is empty. Therefore I don't need to buy gas. (Fall for this fallacy and let me know how it works out.)This is just a primer to get you started to see how you can be deceived and manipulated with your posts and responses. I used Wiki as a reference for most of the definitions but there are many sites available.You can Google things like "truth" "logic" "fallacy" "syllogism" or just go to this link and start to click on links in the article and follow your nose to the things you like. Red Herring on Wiki. Here is another one that I found that will let your imagination run wild and give you a chance to see if you spot some of these examples in any of the Seeds. If you are not sure, copy and past them into a response and ask. I (we) will be happy to help you understand what you are seeing as a FLAG and to help you find a proper way to respond to it or give you any help that we can.
Everyone, Right, Left, Center or just interested in understanding the truth should learn to spot these techniques that can be used to convince you that what they are saying is true. We all can't learn all of them, but just by reading and thinking of them will start to open your eyes and ears to a whole different level of understanding what you read and what you hear. It is not only in politics, but in other aspects of your life. These techniques are also used by all types of sales people and on TV commercials. Its not always possible to spot the truth, but the more you can analyze what is being said, the more questions you can ask and if you are being told the truth, you should get good and informative answers to YOUR questions and not some other answers that will give you the false impression. Some FLAGS may be accidental and/or innocent and can still turn out to be true after investigation. Many, however, will not. If you don't understand these FALLACIES and you don't check, you are almost certain to believe some false statement. Life in today's society is tough enough. Don't allow yourself to be fooled needlessly. Check your facts and I will help you all I can.
Here is a good reference link for tons of Fallacies and a Tree to help you organize them. I found it in researching for this little primer and I really enjoyed clicking through the different types of fallacies. I was surprised that there were so many cataloged variations. Here is a good INDEX.
Remember, copy and past or write out something that looks like a FLAG or a fallacy and post it.