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<xTITLE>Fallacious Argument Of The Month: In Pursuit Of The Red Herring</xTITLE>

Fallacious Argument Of The Month: In Pursuit Of The Red Herring

by Diane J. Levin
November 2009

From Mediation Channel

Diane J. Levin

Red herrings

Each month I dedicate a post to the discussion of a different fallacious argument. It’s part of my ongoing effort to help the world bicker better.

Here, friends, is this month’s installment.

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That diverting entertainment, magic, depends upon distraction to delight and mystify an audience. Magicians play their tricks not primarily with hats and rabbits but instead with our perception, directing our attention elsewhere as they nimbly palm the coin or make the assistant vanish into air.

In the hands of the skilled illusionist, magic is artistry. But in the theatre of argument, misdirection is nothing but a cheap trick. Allow me, reader, to introduce you to November’s Fallacious Argument, the distractingly odorous red herring.

A red herring is a device used in discourse to sidetrack attention from the original subject to another topic, preferably one that has no bearing on the discussion at hand and designed to inflame the emotions of the audience. Although the red herring flourishes wherever enemies of rational discourse may be found, it prefers to spawn during political election seasons. When large issues loom, the red herring is ready to divert attention from energy, health care, or social security to a $400 haircut or a candidate’s wardrobe. Handle with care: its smell is notoriously long-lasting.

(With thanks to Philip J. Loree, Jr., a fierce defender of rational discourse and a highly insightful ADR blogger.)

Biography


Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property issues, and serves on numerous mediation panels, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Training and coaching are an enduring passion -- she has taught thousands of people to resolve conflict, negotiate better, or become mediators -- from Croatian judges to Fortune 500 executives.

 

A geek at heart, Levin consults on web design and social media to professionals.  She blogs about ADR at the intersection of law, science, and popular culture at the award-winning MediationChannel.com, regarded as one of the world's top ADR blogs.  She also tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide at ADRblogs.com, where she has created a community for bloggers writing about constructive ways to resolve disputes.

 

web site: http://dianelevin.com



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