Obama’s Red Herring
During presidential election years, television campaign advertisements are common and some even commit fallacies. In the presidential election of 2008, Barack Obama vs. John McCain, Obama ran an advertisement called “Seven.” The ad beings by saying, “Maybe you’re struggling to pay the mortgage on your home.” McCain is then quoted saying the fundamentals of the economy are strong. Next the ad poses the question of how many houses McCain owns, and that McCain owns seven homes worth 13 million dollars combined. The ad concludes with a picture of the White House, and how America can’t afford to let McCain move in. The “Seven” campaign ad is an example of the Red Herring fallacy.
A Red Herring fallacy is committed when the arguer diverts the audience attention away by changing the subject to a different, but sometimes closely related one. As seen in the ad “Seven,” Obama’s original claim is that McCain does not understand the fundamentals of the U.S. economy. The ad then subtly diverts the viewer’s attention away from the economy to how many houses McCain owns, as the title foreshadowed. The conclusion that the viewer should not vote for McCain is drawn from his owning of seven houses, but not from the original claim that McCain doesn’t understand the fundamentals of the economy. The housing market being closely related to the economy helps Obama lead the viewer off track. Since the Red Herring fallacy is being committed, the viewer should not accept the conclusion to vote against McCain solely on this campaign ad.
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