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A red herring, besides being a type of pickled fish, is an argument style in which an irrelevant or false topic is presented in an attempt to divert attention from the original issue, with the intention of "winning" an argument by leading attention away from the original argument and on to another, often unrelated topic.
This "reasoning" takes the following form:
- Topic A is under discussion.
- Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A, even though topic B has no relevance to topic A.
- Topic A ends up being abandoned.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because changing the topic of discussion does not count as an argument against a claim.
An example would be the following argument for a tax cut: "I've begun to think that there is some merit in the Republican's tax cut plan. I suggest that you come up with something like it, because if we Democrats are going to survive as a party, we have got to show that we are as tough-minded as the Republicans, since that is what the public wants."
Suddenly, the debate is no longer about taxes, but looking good to the public.