3 Ideas In 2 Minutes on Not Being Misled
Red Herring, the Dead Cat Manoeuvre & Chekhov’s Gun
I. Red Herring
A Red Herring is a misdirection that distracts from an important issue or question. It can be a logical fallacy or a literary device, used deliberately or unintentionally, deployed to gain an (unfair) advantage or simply for entertainment. But more on that later.
II. The Dead Cat Manoeuvre
British politician Boris Johnson relates a story of Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby:
Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as “throwing a dead cat on the table, mate”.
That is because here is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table — and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat — the thing you want them to talk about — and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.
III. Chekhov’s Gun
Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov on the importance of continuity in story plots:
One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off. It's wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.
The dramatic principle may apply to any character, prop or plot point which creates a feeling of anticipation. However, if used for intentional effect, Chekhov’s Gun can be a legitimately powerful story device. By the way, did you notice the elaborate display of knives in Knives Out (2019)?
If you’re interested in real-life applications for Chekhov’s Gun, I’ve written about it here. 🐘
Have a great week,