In video we will be looking at the red herring
fallacy and then see an example by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot. A red herring is when an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention
away from the original argument. This is often used to avoid dealing with an argument directly
by shifting the focus of the argument away from the original position.
An example of this being Have you finished your assignment?
I was working on my assignment and then the game came on TV, did you watch it?
As can be seen here, rather than addressing whether the assignment was finished or not,
the perpetrator uses a distraction and creates a new topic of discussion, irrelevant of the
original question. Let’s see the Australian Prime Minister Tony
Abbott put this fallacy into practice in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Network.
Let’s quickly run through some other issues prime minister starting with the economy when
Labour left office unemployment was five point eight percent it’s not six point three percent,
growth was two point five percent it’s now two percent, the Australian Dollar was ninety
two cents it’s now around seventy cents. The budget deficit was thirty billion dollars
when you took office and now it’s forty eight billion dollars. How do you explain to the
Australian people that you were elected promising in your words to fix the budget emergency
yet in fact Australia’s economic position has worsened under your leadership.
Well I don’t accept that uh, the boats have stopped
We’re talking about the economy The boats have stopped the carbon tax is gone,
the mining tax is gone, we are now on a path to sustainable surplus.
In the video Leigh confronts the prime minister with a series of statistics on unemployment,
growth, the dollar and the budget deficit showing an economic decline during his time
as prime minister. She then asks him to explain how this occurred
given he was elected with the promise of increasing economic strength.
The prime minister perpetrates a clear red herring fallacy in his response to this question
by shifting focus from the aforementioned statistics to issues not previously mentioned
or relevant to the question. He begins by stating that immigration of asylum
seekers arriving by boat has decreased, which clearly has no relevance.
He then goes on to mention tax cuts made on carbon emission and the mining industry. Though
tax cuts may have an effect on the economy and therefore appear relevant to the question.
The prime minister does not relate these issues to the question asked and instead uses them
to direct focus away from any literal response to Leigh’s inquiry.
The questioning continues beyond the end of the example video, however at no point does
the prime minister answer the original question. After attempting to persist with the question,
Leigh is eventually forced to move on to another line of questioning, though she does not acknowledge
the prime ministers response to be adequate. This demonstrates how the red herring fallacy
can easily be used to avoid directly answering a question.
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