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The bait-and-switch is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone presents a partial, appealing truth while hiding an unappealing falsehood.

The fallacy is a fallacious argument style.

Usage by cults[edit]

Bait-and-switch tactics are used in cults and other authoritarian settings to conceal doctrine from outsiders and new inductees. Since many such groups base themselves on principles that outsiders often find outlandish, such groups often choose to spoon-feed doctrine to inductees rather than letting them study it independently, in hopes that the extreme points of doctrine will be much more acceptable to the new believer after a period of conditioning brainwashing.

The difference between bait-and-switch and telling people the introductory-level concepts of a religion before teaching the more complex concepts of a religion is twofold. In a bait-and-switch:

  • the more complex parts of the religion are deliberately hidden (as opposed to hidden for practical reasons), and
  • the more complex parts of the religion are also the parts which are most objectionable, as opposed to merely being more nuanced versions of more basic beliefs.

Would a rat enter a trap if it knows in advance that is a trap?

Milk before meat[edit]

Milk before meat is the Mormon term.


Gradient is the Scientology term (and in Scientology's case some good ol' fashioned money spendin' is involved so the investment is not just emotional). As a controversial example, new converts to Scientology[1] are told it is compatible with all other religious beliefs, but at higher levels are told other religions are the result of implants, most famously the R6 implant, and are expected to follow Scientology to the exclusion of other faiths.


In a similar fashion, anti-Masonic conspiracy theorists are notorious for claiming that only the "higher, 33rd degree Masons" know the true, evil practices of the fraternity. However, in mainstream Freemasonry, no degree is higher than the third degree; all other degrees are supplementary. The numbers are only a substitute for the ornate titles of the degrees (e.g. Master of the Royal Secret).

Motte and bailey[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Motte and bailey

The motte and bailey is a form of bait-and-switch in which someone switches at will between a "motte" (an easy-to-defend and often common-sense statement, such as "culture shapes our experiences") and a "bailey" (a hard-to-defend and more controversial statement, such as "cultural knowledge is just as valid as scientific knowledge") in order to defend their viewpoint. Usually, someone will put forward the bailey -- something controversial -- and retreat to the motte when attacked.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Though even this is questionable since their own philosophy arguably draws more from counter-Enlightenment Romanticism movements than it does from the Enlightenment itself


  1. L. Ron Hubbard famously referred to outsiders and newbies as "raw meat".
  2. Sex-positive feminismWikipedia's W.svg: "[Rubin criticizes] anti-pornography feminists who she claims 'have condemned virtually every variant of sexual expression as anti-feminist'."
  3. EverydayFeminism: Why Everyday Feminism Is For Everyone