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USD Information Literacy Lessons: Page 5B

The broad focus of these lessons is understanding sources of information, including examples that can help you learn how to access information sources at USD. Each lesson is dedicated to a specific element of information competency.

Red Herring, also Called Distraction

Red Herring, also Called Distraction

The red herring fallacy occurs when a writer makes a point that serves only to distract the audience from a logical progression of the argument. The origin of the term red herring is provided by The Well-Crafted Argument: "In British fox hunting, red herrings (very odorous) are sometimes dragged across a trail to throw the dogs off scent. This practice serves as a metaphor for raising an issue that has little or nothing to do with what is being argued in order to force the argument in a new direction" (153).

An example of a red herring fallacy follows: "Wal-Mart may cause local business to go under, but in fiscal year 2004, the Wal-Mart Foundation gave over $170 million to charities, most of which were locally-based."

The red herring fallacy occurs because mentioning Wal-Mart's charitable contributions distracts the reader from the real issue: driving local merchants out of business.


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