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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Red Herring


In a recent interview, President Joe Biden was asked about the position of the United States in regards to the 2023 Israel-Hamas war. Concerning the loss of civilian lives, Biden floundered on his response. For context, consider the following verbal exchange:


Scott Pelley: Certainly, about 1,200 Israeli civilians were killed in the initial attack, but now Hamas fighters and Palestinian civilians are being killed in the counterattack. Is it time for a ceasefire?


President Biden: Look, there’s a fundamental difference. Israel is going after a group of people who have engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust. And—so I think Israel has to respond. They have to go after Hamas. Hamas is a bunch of cowards. They’re hiding behind the civilians. They put their of—their—their—their headquarters where civilians are and buildings and the like. But to the extent they can separate out and avoi—I’m conf—the Israelis are gonna do everything in their power to avoid the killing of innocent civilians.


The question was, “Is it time for a ceasefire?” It isn’t difficult to simply respond with a “yes” or a “no” while adding additional context if needed. However, Biden used a logical fallacy known as “red herring.” According to one source:


A red herring is a logical fallacy in which irrelevant information is presented alongside relevant information, distracting attention from that relevant information. This may be done intentionally or unintentionally.


It may be important to understand how this fallacy is represented in its logical form. Per one source:


Logical Form:


Argument A is presented by person 1.


Person 2 introduces argument B.


Argument A is abandoned.


Biden’s response polluted the waters of credible discourse, because he threw a red herring into the discussion when name-calling Hamas (barbarians commit barbarism)—which is its own form of logical fallacy—while distracting from the crucial topic of peace (ceasefire).


Though it’s true Biden expressed that “the Israelis are gonna do everything in their power to avoid the killing of innocent civilians,” he didn’t affirm or deny the posed question. As a result, Biden committed the fallacy of a red herring argument.


Providing a less sociopolitical-charged illustration, consider the following example of a red herring:


Daughter: “I’m so hurt that Todd broke up with me, mom.”


Mother: “Just think of all the starving children in Africa, honey. Your problems will seem pretty insignificant then.”


I think it’s important to understand how the red herring logical fallacy works, because it can contribute to one’s ability to use logical and reasonable thinking. Then again, what does any of this have to do with the price of tea in China?


(See what I did there?)


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW



References:


Department of Philosophy. (n.d.). Red herring. Texas State University. Retrieved from https://www.txst.edu/philosophy/resources/fallacy-definitions/red-herring.html

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2023, January 8). Logic and reason. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/logic-and-reason

Hollings, D. (2023, October 15). Name-calling. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/name-calling

Lavery, T. (n.d.). Red herring. TechTarget. Retrieved from https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/definition/red-herring

Logically Fallacious. (n.d.). Red herring. Retrieved from https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/cgi-bin/uy/webpages.cgi?/logicalfallacies/Red-Herring

Pelley, S. (2023, October 15). President Joe Biden: The 2023 60 Minutes interview transcript. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/president-joe-biden-2023-60-minutes-transcript/

Wikipedia. (n.d.). 2023 Israel-Hamas war. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023_Israel-Hamas_War

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Joe Biden. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Biden

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Scott Pelley. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Pelley

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