Red Herring Fallacy Examples | Origin, History and Similar Fallacies

Red Herring Fallacy Example: A red herring is a line of reasoning or subject offered in literature to draw attention away from the underlying issue or problem. In persuasive writing and speaking, red herrings are more prevalent than in fiction.

The ‘red herring fallacy is a term used to describe the usage of red herrings in rhetoric. The red herring fallacy is a rational fallacy in which someone gives unrelated information in an attempt to divert attention away from a topic being addressed, usually to avoid answering a question or to move the conversation in a different direction.

Another name for the red herring fallacy is the usage of red herrings in rhetoric. There are Red herring examples in movies. Red herring vs. straw man is a hot topic to consider.

Red Herring Fallacy

What are red herring fallacies?

The red herring fallacy is a logical fallacy in which someone gives unrelated information in an attempt to divert attention away from a topic being addressed, usually in order to avoid answering a question or moving the conversation in a different direction. Suppose a politician is asked how they feel about a policy. In that case, they may employ the red herring fallacy to divert attention from their inability to answer the original question by explaining how they feel about a similar issue.

It’s critical to understand red herrings because they’re regularly employed in a number of situations. As a result, in the following article, you’ll see examples of red herrings, learn more about red herrings and the red herring fallacy, and learn how to respond appropriately to people who use red herrings incorrectly.

The term “red herring” refers to a deceptive or incorrect clue in literature. It’s a typical literary trick in mysteries and thrillers that might lead readers down the wrong road or otherwise divert their attention away from the plot’s true events.

The red herring tactic is frequently used in mysteries, thrillers, and detective novels, where the author wishes to keep the reader wondering until the very end. A writer frequently includes elements intended to purposely mislead readers and set a false trail while producing a red herring. This makes it impossible for them to forecast the outcome.

Red herrings are deceptive devices that lead readers astray, causing them to be even more surprised when the truth is revealed. By implying explanations that may or may not be true, a red herring may be an effective technique to pique a reader’s curiosity. This strategy entails persuading the reader to believe a fake storey conclusion. When done correctly, the reader will be shocked by the truth and appreciate the deception while also learning something new about the environment or people.

Similar fallacies

Red herring is an informal fallacy that falls under the category of relevance fallacies, which is a large subcategory of informal fallacies. The straw man fallacy and evading the question are two notably similar fallacies that may be mistaken with this one.

  • The straw man fallacy is a defect in thinking in which an argument is distorted or misrepresented to make it easier to refute while still seeming to focus on the original subject. The distinction is that, unlike a straw man, a red herring is an attempt to divert attention away from the main topic.
  • Getting around the question: Avoiding the question is a logical error of offering an argument or a response that does not address the real subject in question, similar to the topic of this article. The ignoratio elenchi, on the other hand, is a purposeful attempt to redirect attention away from the question that occurs when someone accidentally misses the point.

Origin and history

A ‘red herring,’ in the literal meaning, is a herring (a species of fish) that has been cured by drying and smoking, resulting in a pungent odor and reddish-colored flesh. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, references to red herring as a form of cured fish may be found in writing as early as the beginning of the 14th century, with the earliest reference to “herring red” in the “Glossary of W. de Bibbesworth” from 1333.

The symbolic connotation of the term may be traced all the way back to the early 1800s. Around this period, English journalist William Cobbett penned an apparently fictitious account about using red herring to drive hounds off the scent of a hare when he was a youngster.

He expanded on this incident and used it to attack several of his coworkers in the media. In a blog post, Quinion says, “He used the narrative as a metaphor to denounce the press, which had allowed it to be deceived by false information about Napoleon’s purported defeat.” “As a result, they diverted their attention away from vital home issues.”


  1. When your phone bill arrives, and you’ve over your limit, you tell your mother about how difficult math class is and how well you performed on an exam today.
  2. When you’re late arriving home (beyond curfew), you chat to your parents about the weather, such as how chilly it is or how wet it is.
  3. When a young child’s mother tells him to go to bed, he starts asking questions, claiming to be hungry, or claiming to need to go to the bathroom—all in an attempt to escape bed and divert mom.
  4. A simple example of a red herring is a business executive who replies to the question “what do you think of your firm’s new environmental policy?” by stating, “The company is making fantastic progress in product development that we believe will assist our customers.” Because the CEO answers to the question with irrelevant material in an attempt to avoid it and divert listeners, this is an example of a red herring in general and of the red herring fallacy in particular.

Examples in English literature:

In literature, red herrings are popular, especially in thriller and mystery books. They’re a literary trick that deceives readers with false hints to make the tale more engaging. This adds tension to the storey and prevents readers from jumping to conclusions too quickly. For example, the author may construct a fascinating or controversial side character that draws the reader in and leads them to incorrect assumptions.

They are commonly connected with mystery literature, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books contain several instances. For example, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the butler, who is the most apparent suspect, deceives the readers. He’s an enigmatic and dark figure, and one of the crucial clues appears to point to him. The butler, on the other hand, proves to be absolutely innocent.

Examples in movies

  • Throughout most of Tarantino’s work, there are several examples of red herrings. One is prominently featured in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film is set against the backdrop of Sharon Tate and the infamous Manson murders. Audiences who are aware of the truth behind the tale are aware of the final outcome. Despite audience expectations, the tale revolves around (fictional) characters Rick Dalton, a fairly washed-up actor, and Cliff Booth, his friend/driver/stunt double.

The framework for Sharon Tate’s tale and character is largely provided by 1960s Hollywood and its history. Tarantino’s audacious decision to effectively make the Sharon Tate/Manson narrative a red herring has divided opinion. The Tate murders and their infamy are utilized to entice the viewer into a preconceived notion of what would happen, only to be shocked when that expectation is shattered.

  • Sirius Black, the first wizard in known history to escape the prison of Azkaban, is essential to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The viewer is encouraged to assume that Black is the movie’s villain because he is depicted as a frightening murderer intent on finding the person who put him in jail.

Many in the wizarding community have similar beliefs, and Sirius Black’s suspicions appear to be verified in different interactions with Professor McGonagall, Mr Weasley, and others. However, we find at the end of the film that Sirius is an ally who has been falsely accused of murder. Peter Pettigrew, disguised as Ron’s pet rat, is the true evil.

  • Inception is a film that keeps the viewers guessing. Cobb is living in the actual world or in a dream, according to the movie’s closing scene, which is uncertain. There are no precise cues, and Mal’s old totem doesn’t tell us anything either. The totem falls down in real life, yet it spins endlessly in dreams. Cobb does not remain to watch the outcome, opting instead to join his children in the garden.
  • Expect the unexpected if you’re a fan of Saw (or horror in general). With its typical red herring example, the precedent was set in the first film.

Lawrence and Adam, two guys who wake up imprisoned within a terrifying toilet and part of Jigsaw’s game, are the film’s central characters.

Given that the former was formerly suspected of being Jigsaw and that the latter is a crooked journalist snooping on Lawrence, the spectator is instantly sceptical of both Jigsaw’s victims. Jigsaw is revealed to be Zep Hindle, an orderly at Lawrence’s hospital, late in the film. Their adversary, it turns out, was there in front of them the entire time.

  • Anyone who has seen a Hitchcock film knows how much he likes red herrings. Psycho is a great example of this. Marion Crane, a lady who stole $40,000, is followed until her unfortunate demise in the Bates Motel in this classic psychological horror. The motel’s jittery proprietor cleans up the murder scene in the end (including unknowingly getting rid of the stolen money).

However, despite his attempts, disaster appears to overtake him, with additional murders and investigations occurring before the film’s conclusion. In all of this, where are the red herrings? Almost everywhere, to be precise. Their adversary, it turns out, was there in front of them the entire time.

One of the primary red herrings in the film is the usage of violins, which appear frequently and build-up, hinting that something evil is about to happen. When they play, though, there is usually no twist or big storey development. Finally, they’re usually intended to distract and develop tension in the audience. Norman’s mother, of course, is the second major red herring.

Audiences completely anticipate her to be the psycho since she is shown in the film and by Norman as always sitting by the window, always disagreeable, and always in control of her son. She was, in fact, a means of diversion. The entire time, Norman was “Mother” and the murderer.

  • Red herrings abound in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, particularly in the episode “Serenity.”

The group salvages some Alliance items in this episode and heads to Persephone to deliver the stolen boxes.

The Serenity crew picks up some passengers for additional payment before leaving, including a doctor named Simon Tam. Simon’s guarded and standoffish demeanour, as well as his habit of casually roaming around in prohibited locations, clearly suggests that he is working with the Alliance. Of course, when the crew discovers that the ship has a mole, they immediately think Simon is to blame.

However, it turns out that the mole is not Simon but another Persephone passenger called Dobson. Simon’s actions were never the result of his involvement with the Alliance. Instead, it was due to his status as a fugitive attempting to transport his sister out of the country.

The red herring fallacy is a logical fallacy in which someone gives unrelated information in an attempt to divert attention away from a topic being addressed, usually to avoid answering a question or to move the conversation in a different direction.

A red herring is a piece of information that is intended to deceive people into ignoring something vital.

Red herrings are usually used as a literary device, such as when an author uses a side character to distract the reader’s attention from another character, or as a rhetorical technique, such as when someone responds to a question with unrelated information to hide their refusal to answer the original question.

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