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Crazy Eddie,Wikipedia's W.svg a notorious retailer that engaged in bait-and-switch tactics[1]
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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 term "bait-and-switch" originates from retail sales, in which a product is advertised as a bargain, but when the buyer shows up at the store, they are given a sales pitch and induced to buy a more expensive and more profitable item.[2] The practice is illegal in many jurisdictions.[2]

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 (or, at best, merely nonsensical to the fresh mark uninitiated — but most often they are both), as opposed to merely being more nuanced versions of more basic beliefs.

It is also worth noting that by this strategy the mark new initiate is encouraged to commit to and emotionally or financially invest in the religion before being shown the "inner doctrines" that most tend to inspire resistance and rejection. Once this is done, the strategy exploits a number of known weaknesses of human psychology, such as the sunk cost, groupthink, and in-group bias, that tend to lead the new initiate to smother her/his own resistance.

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.[3]


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[note 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.


  • Under scrutiny, a theist might exclaim "God is love" or "just the Ground of Being", or that all believers find God eventually (motte), but then they turn around and demand prayer or insist that those who don't believe properly are damned to Hell (bailey).
  • Right-wing libertarians will typically claim to defend freedom and oppose authoritarianism (motte), but then will support hugely repressive policies (like the right to discriminate by a dominant racial group (which would lead to things like sundown townsWikipedia's W.svg) or fascist dictatorships) (bailey). Friedrich August von Hayek is a typical example of this in action. He claimed all socialism is authoritarianism only to support Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.[4] Another form of libertarian bailey has been put forth by Walter Block who argued that people should be able to "voluntarily" trade their freedom for slavery.[5]
  • Most proponents of Intelligent Design maintain one clearly Christian version, which they will advance at all times (bailey), but when pressed, it's just some unknown designer who created it all (motte).
  • Christian apologists, such as William Lane Craig, believe in one specific, Christian God who is capable of all kinds of supernatural feats (bailey), but in debates they defend a Prime Mover and Universe Starter (motte).
  • Proponents of quackery like homeopathy might maintain that their "cure" can do wonders (bailey), but when pressed, they are okay with it being indistinguishable from placebo (motte).
  • A minority of feminists, while claiming a broad definition, such as "feminism is the radical notion that women are people" (motte), personally hold a far more specific definition (bailey) in order to exclude some group. For example, TERFs and SWERFs exclude trans persons and sex workers respectively, while some sex-positive feminists have excluded anti-pornography feminists[6]. This has been criticized as infighting.[7]
  • Many MRAs espouse "egalitarianism", the belief that both genders should be equal, while painting feminism as outright female supremacy (despite the concept of "egalitarianism" being actually the same as feminism in general) and is thus appealing (motte), but then argue that men should leave society altogether, or that women should be viewed primarily as targets for sexual "hookups", or that men are entitled to sex from women, that women are biologically inferior at STEM fields or that they just generally hate them (bailey).
  • Many Tankies pull this with their supposed "anti-fascism", claiming that they're simply opposed to right-fascism/Nazism (motte), but then reveal that they consider anything not specifically part of their authoritarian far-left program to be "fascism" and that the best way to fight this supposed "fascism" is via violence and totalitarian means.
  • The Alt-Right like to claim while on the defensive that they're simply defending the legacy of "Western Civilization" from the extreme left (motte),[note 2] before ranting about how the Jews control everything, blacks are inferior to whites, it's the job of (white) women to produce more white babies to protect the white race, and that anything even slightly to their left (i.e. the vast, vast majority of the population) is a "far-leftie" who must be combated via violent, authoritarian means (bailey).
  • Anti-immigrationist nativists will typically claim that they're not racist and that they're just asking questions about the effects of immigration (motte) only to then spew vile racist bigotry about the immigrants themselves (bailey).
  • An atheist might make affirmative and definitive declarations such as "God is impossible" (bailey), but under pressure retreat to the easier-to-defend position that atheism is just a passive lack of belief in a god (motte).
  • Holocaust deniers will claim that they are only engaging in good faith historical revisionism (motte) but will then oftentimes use their "revisionism" as a means of promoting anti-Semitic bigotry (bailey).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. L. Ron Hubbard famously referred to outsiders and newbies as "raw meat".
  2. 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. Crazy Eddie Early Years by Sam E. Antar, White Collar Fraud.
  2. 2.0 2.1 bait-and-switch Lexico.
  3. Milk Before Meat — But Meat by Robert L. Millet (archived from February 13, 2019).
  4. The Road From Serfdom by Greg Grandin (November 17, 2006) Counterpunch.
  5. Toward a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability: A Critique of Rothbard, Barnett, Smith, Kinsella, Gordon, and Epstein by Walter Block (2003) The Journal of Libertarian Studies 17(2):39-85.
  6. Sex-positive feminism:Wikipedia's W.svg "[Rubin criticizes] anti-pornography feminists who she claims 'have condemned virtually every variant of sexual expression as anti-feminist'."
  7. EverydayFeminism: Why Everyday Feminism Is For Everyone