Red Herring

Staying on topic is very important in debates and discussions. A Red Herring is a statement or question that distracts from the subject at hand. This often happens in a number of ways:

  • One person realizes they are losing the debate and purposefully changes the subject to something they feel more comfortable debating.
  • The topic reminds someone of a related but off-topic idea. This is is brought up, changing the subject, often without realizing it.
  • Someone bring up relevant but tangential supporting point with the intention of bring it back the original point but they never return do.

A Red Herring can seem similar to a Strawman, the distinction being a Red Herring changes the topic while a Strawman changes the opponent's argument.

How to Respond

Simply restate what the conversation is supposed to be about and ask them to address it. If another important topic is brought up, offer to table it for the time being and revisit it after the current discussion is completed. If you both decide to change subjects, make it clear to all that the topic is changing.

True or False: The following is a Red Herring
Person A: Haircuts are too expensive, it's better to just cut your own hair. Person B: I tried that and ended up cutting my bangs way too short.