Red Herring Fallacy – more evidence of social media thought disorder

by Captain Walker

Categories: Psychology & Philosophy

Thought disorder is not a diagnosis nor do I allude to a mental condition in Bloggs below. In psychiatry when thought disorder is observed, it may point to any of a dozen underlying mental disorders. But note carefully that the environment of observation would be clinical and not extend into the wider world. However, many of the errors of logic encountered among 34 well described thought disorders occur in ordinary discourse outside of the practice of psychiatry. To be clear a majority of thought disorders do not involve errors of logic. But bizarrely I have also observed serious errors of logic among my professional contacts.

As I mentioned in my posts on Faulty Analogies, and Digging into logical fallacy, I would be analysing various forum discussions to pick out errors of logic. The following conversation and comments shows a number of errors by Bloggs who decides to climb the wrong tree in a social media encounter with CW.

Initial summary

Conclusions are at the end.

Statements/ResponsesLogical Errors by BloggsComments on CW’s Focus
Bloggs: Asks CW if they would like God to intervene in personal violent thoughts.Red Herring Fallacy: Diverts from the main topic of God’s historical passivity to personal moral dilemmas.CW: Stays focused on the original argument about God’s passivity in history, not engaging in the tangential issues.
Bloggs: Accuses CW of avoiding questions, compares to an atheist getting angry for not being believed.Straw Man Fallacy: Misrepresents CW‘s stance by implying avoidance and anger.CW: Continues to address the original topic without diverging into defending personal emotions or reactions.
Bloggs: Questions why CW posted their initial statement if there is incontrovertible evidence that there is no God.Presumptive Assertion: Assumes CW‘s belief or disbelief in God, not addressed in the original statement.CW: Maintains focus by clarifying their statement was about an inference of God’s characteristic, not about the existence of God.
Bloggs: Implies CW is angry and avoiding answering questions.Ad Hominem Fallacy: Attacks CW‘s character (alleging anger and avoidance) rather than dealing with CW’s statement.CW: Redirects back to the topic by not engaging with the personal attack and focusing on the logic of the conversation.

Detailed analysis

Forum statement/responseLogical errorsComments

“I am not religious, but if there is a God, He surely cannot stand for this.”

God is a passive bystander. Overwhelming evidence in history shows this. Learn.

No logical error Conciseness and Relevance: In forums with word count restrictions, participants are often required to be concise. CW‘s choice to mention the evidence without delving into a detailed explanation is aligned with the need to be brief while still making a relevant point.
J Bloggs Replying to CW 14 HOURS AGOSo here’s a question for you (by the way if you care to know a bit about my experiences and testimony just scroll up and you will see it, which should put what I am about to ask in perspective.)

Bearing in mind every act of violence is done by one or more human beings against one or more human beings, I take it you would like God to intervene, hmm? So tell me would you like Him to intervene when you are wishing you could ‘just kill somebody’ for the way they have behaved? This is not a fair question? As far as God is concerned what we think is equally as bad as what we do.

Straw Man Fallacy: J Bloggs seems to create a straw man argument when responding to CW‘s statement about God’s passivity. By asking whether CW wants God to intervene in personal thoughts of violence, Bloggs shifts the argument from a general observation.

Begging the Question: Bloggs‘s line of questioning assumes that God should intervene in human thoughts and actions, which presupposes a specific understanding of God’s nature and role – the very point under discussion.

Red Herring Fallacy: The Red Herring fallacy occurs when an argument is diverted to a different topic, leading the discussion astray from the original issue. In this case, CW initially posits that historical evidence suggests God is a “passive bystander.” This statement is specific to God’s role or perceived inaction in historical events.

J Bloggs‘s subsequent responses divert from this central claim. By introducing questions about divine intervention in personal situations of violence or thoughts, Bloggs shifts the focus from a broad, historical perspective on divine passivity to the realm of personal morality and divine intervention in individual thoughts and actions. This shift does not address or refute CW‘s original claim about God’s historical passivity but instead introduces an unrelated topic.

CW Replying to J Bloggs 13 HOURS AGOI made a reasonable inference about a characteristic of God, based on overwhelming evidence in history. It is there. Just look and you will find. Alternatively don’t look.

You are free to believe whatever you like, just like the next person. I’ll believe what the incontrovertible evidence informs me. Sorry.

Implicit False Dilemma: Bloggs‘s line of questioning suggests a false dilemma by framing the issue in a binary way — either CW wants divine intervention in all personal moral failures or none at all. This oversimplification ignores the complexities and nuances in CW‘s argument about God’s historical role.Encouraging Independent Research: By stating that the evidence is available and can be found by those interested (“It’s there. Just look and you will find.”), CW is implicitly encouraging others to conduct their own research. This approach can be effective in prompting readers to independently explore the topic further.Practical Limitations: Detailed discussions with extensive references might not be feasible in such forums. Acknowledging these limitations, CW focuses on conveying the core of their argument – the existence of historical evidence supporting the claim of God’s passivity.

Engaging the Audience: By making a claim and leaving room for audience involvement (through independent verification), CW potentially makes the discussion more engaging. It invites readers to actively participate in the exploration of the topic.

Asserting a Position While Respecting Diverse Views: CW‘s statement respects the diversity of beliefs among forum participants (“You are free to believe whatever you like, just like the next person.”) while confidently asserting their own stance based on perceived evidence.


J Bloggs Replying to CW 13 HOURS AGOSo you opted out of answering even one of my questions, I wonder why? If there is incontrovertible evidence that there is no God why on earth did you post what you did. It is rather like an atheist claiming there is no God and then becoming angry because someone does not believe them. Come on if there is no God why get angry and why avoid answering questions?Accusation of Evasion (by J Bloggs): Bloggs accuses CW of opting out of answering the questions, suggesting evasion or reluctance to engage. However, this accusation itself could be seen as part of the Red Herring fallacy, as it further diverts from the original topic of discussion — the historical evidence of God’s passivity.Implicit Straw Man (by J Bloggs): Bloggs‘s line of questioning and subsequent remarks can be seen as constructing a straw man. By suggesting that CW‘s failure to answer these questions implies certain beliefs or emotional states (e.g., being angry about the non-belief in God), Bloggs is diverting the conversation and potentially misrepresenting CW‘s stance.

Ad Hominem Fallacy: Bloggs indirectly attacks CW‘s character by suggesting anger and avoidance in his responses. This approach targets CW‘s supposed emotional state and behaviour rather than addressing the substance of CW‘s argument.

Staying On Topic (by CW): CW‘s decision not to engage with Bloggs‘s questions can be interpreted as an effort to stay on topic. In logical argumentation, maintaining focus on the original statement or question is crucial for clarity and coherence. By not deviating into the tangential issues raised by Bloggs, CW is attempting to keep the discussion centred on the initially presented idea.
CW Replying to J Bloggs“So you opted out of answering even one of my questions, I wonder why?”

I saw my actions are remaining focused on the issue I posted.

“If there is incontrovertible evidence that there is no God why on earth did you post what you did.”

Nothing to do with me. My statement assumed the existence of God, obviously. I said nothing about ‘incontrovertible evidence that there is no God…’

“It’s rather like an atheist claiming there is no God and then becoming angry because someone does not believe them.”

You can discuss that with Richard Dawkins, if he’d give you time.

“Come on if there is no God why get angry and why avoid answering questions?”

Angry – who me? You’re type who has ideas in their heads which they make into reality. Thankfully, reality doesn’t depend on ideas in heads.

I have to thank you profusely for giving me hard evidence of how conceptual drift and errors of logic occur on social media forums (which this is).

Presumptive Assertion (by J Bloggs): Bloggs‘s statement “Come on if there is no God why get angry and why avoid answering questions?” carries an implicit assumption that CW is angry. This is a presumptive assertion as it assigns an emotional state (anger) to CW without clear evidence from the conversation. It is a tactic that might be aimed at discrediting CW‘s argument by painting it as emotionally driven rather than rational.

Logical Consistency (by CW): In logical debate, consistency is key. CW‘s choice to not engage with the Red Herring and remain focused on the original argument demonstrates a commitment to logical consistency. Addressing Bloggs‘s tangential questions would have led the discussion further away from the central point.Maintaining Argumentative Integrity: When faced with a Red Herring, it is often strategically and logically sound to refrain from engaging with the divergent topic. Doing so helps maintain the integrity and focus of the original argument or point being discussed.

Avoiding Further Distraction: Engaging with arguments that are off-topic or based on a Red Herring can lead to further distractions and may cause the original point to be lost or overshadowed by irrelevant discussions.

Logical Discourse Standards: In any logical discourse, the aim is to address points that are pertinent and directly related to the topic at hand. Engaging with a Red Herring can detract from these standards, leading to a less coherent and productive conversation.

Tactical Response to Fallacies: Recognising and not engaging with fallacious arguments can be a tactical response, especially when the intention behind the fallacy seems to be to derail or redirect the discussion.

Preserving Relevance: By choosing not to engage with the Red Herring, CW is effectively working to keep the conversation relevant to the original topic, which is a sound approach in any logical or critical discussion.


In the engaging dialogue between CW and Bloggs, a nuanced interplay of argumentation and logical fallacies emerges. Bloggs’s approach in the conversation is characterised by a series of tactical shifts and misrepresentations, effectively seeking to divert the focus from CW’s original premise regarding the passivity of God, as deduced from historical evidence.

At one point, Bloggs redirects the discussion towards personal morality and divine intervention in individual violent thoughts. This manoeuvre, emblematic of a Red Herring fallacy, sneakily aims to steer the conversation away from the broad, historical perspective initially posited by CW. Rather than confronting CW’s observation about historical evidence, Bloggs entangles the discussion in hypothetical moral quandaries, veering off from the main argument.

Further, Bloggs subtly constructs an implication that CW is sidestepping the posed questions, likening them to an atheist who becomes irate when their disbelief is questioned. This strand of reasoning not only misconstrues CW’s position, a hallmark of the Straw Man fallacy, but also embeds a presumptive assertion about CW’s beliefs on God’s existence. This presumption was never directly articulated by CW, marking a significant divergence in Bloggs’s interpretation.

Progressing in the discourse, Bloggs appears to suggest that CW’s arguments are fuelled by anger and an intentional evasion of questions. This tactic, characteristic of an Ad Hominem attack, aims to shift the emphasis from the substantive debate to CW’s presumed emotional state and conduct. Such an approach aims more to undermine CW than to genuinely engage with the substance of their argument.

Throughout this interaction, CW exhibits a consistent dedication to maintaining focus on their initial claim. In the face of Bloggs’s diversions, CW avoids entanglement with the peripheral and emotionally tinged allegations. Instead, CW reaffirms and elucidates his position, underscoring the inference drawn from historical evidence while avoiding the personal attacks and moral hypotheticals introduced by Bloggs.

Thus, the conversation unfolds as a dynamic interplay of assertions and counterarguments, where Bloggs’s strategies of deflection and misrepresentation encounter CW’s unwavering focus on the key issue. This exchange serves as a representative example of the intricate dynamics often present in discussions where logical precision is intertwined with managing rhetoric.

Other posts that may interest you...

How to talk down to people

Right – so I’m at a hotel over a few days for the purposes of work.  Yesterday 30th June 2021 around 19:00PM, I asked the receptionist if I could have a small package delivered from Amazon. She said “Yes – no problem I’ll put it on the system“.  I saw her type it into the ... Read more

Testing idiocy

LiveFyre Sidenotes have been installed on the site. Tough – no tutorial on this. You know the magic words – ‘Google is your friend’. This post is just to ensure that I’ve stated the bleeding obvious: 1. With each opportunity or power must come proportionate degrees of restraint and responsibility. 2. Sidenote garbage to this ... Read more

Chippy shop smell or bum-water – the choice is yours

Oh dear me. I’ve made somebody unhappy by causing a chippy shop smell in a kitchen. Well, there’s always a first time as they say. So what’s the story? I’m living in shared accommodation at a hospital for work purposes. That’s nothing new as I’ve done this on few occasions before. Dr X was unpleasantly ... Read more

The nature of the flow of thought

An unusual individual has given free-willing consent to publishing this conversation. Some will be obsessed with XY’s and JS’s characteristics, identities and when all this happened – which is to miss other important things in this conversation. Human thought/thinking is a sequence of ideas and assertions using language. Its flow depends both on ‘form’ and ... Read more

Continue reading

Reading ability of UK doctors could be stuck at UK Year 9

Well, I do spend time on forums as some know to wrestle with parts of human nature that some totally avoid. Today I am led to infer that the reading ability of doctors in some significant proportion could be stuck ...
Read article

Painting with Emotions: A Colourful Journey into Love

Love between two hearts is a symphony of feelings, a dance that transforms the world around us. This journey we embark upon explores the tender bonds between a man and a woman, though the essence of love’s beauty may resonate ...
Read article

Onemillioncheckboxes – Navigating Human Nature, the NHS, and AI Futures

The craze surrounding the site Onemillioncheckboxes (OMCB) reflects an interesting intersection of collaborative and competitive online behaviour. The concept of one million checkboxes, initially designed to be checked off collectively, has evolved into a platform for users to express creativity, ...
Read article