| John Spacey, April 21, 2016 updated on January 12, 2017
A red herring is an argument that serves as a distraction. It is a broad category of fallacy that includes any off topic argument that may be an unintentional lapse in logic or a calculated attempt to persuade and influence. The term red herring is also used for literary devices such as subplots designed to make the main plot more surprising or interesting.Red herring arguments may attack a person instead of their argument. Alternatively they may be appeals to emotion, fear, tradition, honor, flattery, popularity, pity, ridicule or spite that serve to distract.
Chewbacca DefenseA commonly cited example of a red herring argument comes from the cartoon South Park and is known as the Chewbacca defense:
Why would a Wookiee, an 8-foot-tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of 2-foot-tall Ewoks? That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense! Look at me. I'm a lawyer defending a major record company, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberatin' and conjugatin' the Emancipation Proclamation, does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.~ South Park, "Chef Aid"The Chewbacca defense is a parody of a famous American trial, the OJ Simpson murder trial, in which the defence made the argument "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" referring to a glove presented as evidence that did not appear to fit the defendant.
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