While it may not be a rhetorical fallacy as such, I'm wondering if there is term that covers this:

When losing an argument, divert the conversation to something unrelated, and say something correct, agreeable, or even tautological.

If done well it will create the illusion that you were right all along, and give you the final word.

It is also incredibly annoying.


3 Answers 3


It is a red herring.

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic.


  • It couldn't be a red herring because OP asks specifically for an attempt to subtlely agree to the proposed argument without blatantly agreeing with it
    – gelolopez
    Jun 24, 2015 at 16:48
  • 1
    @gelolopez: It is a red herring. Read carefully. Not only something agreeable (but it can be agreeable and unrelated). It is diverting the conversation with irrelevant topics.
    – ermanen
    Jun 24, 2015 at 16:49
  • As presented here (and in your source) this would seem to be exactly what I'm thinking about. Diverting the conversation to something which your counterpart will agree with you on, and pretending that it settles the original argument, hoping that noone will notice the gap. It works particularly well in heated, multipart discussions, as people tend to loose track of the debate, without much intervention.
    – Bladt
    Jun 24, 2015 at 18:03

...something correct, agreeable, or even tautological

A thought-terminating cliché, you mean?

When a commonly heard and accepted phrase is rhetorically introduced as a substitute for an actual argument. (logfall.wordpress.com)

From Wikipedia's List of Fallacies:

Thought-terminating cliché – a commonly used phrase, sometimes passing as folk wisdom, used to quell cognitive dissonance, conceal lack of thought-entertainment, move on to other topics etc. but in any case, end the debate with a cliche—not a point.

Examples from Logfall:

  • The phrase “Only God knows” is often interjected at the end of a discussion to imply that no one is justified in taking a position on the issue, or to assume the evidence is balanced on both sides.

  • Sometime the phrase “Freedom is not free” is used to justify initiating or entering a war.

  • Christians often quote the verse “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’” sometimes as if this is a justification for belief in God, and sometimes simply as a thought-terminator.

  • When having their expectations questioned, older people often, due to either having no real answer or having no interest in giving an answer, say “When you’re my age, you’ll understand.”

  • Yes - my first thought when reading this question was that the person using the thought-terminating fallacy is exploiting the symptoms of the person experiencing cognitive dissonance.
    – maxwell
    Jun 24, 2015 at 17:21
  • That is lovely! I'm going to have to rememver that. I think, however, that ermanen's answer relates more closely to what I had in mind.
    – Bladt
    Jun 24, 2015 at 18:09
  • @Bladt: Whatever floats your boat, man. Do note however that 'red herring' is a whole class of fallacies; and this one isn't even in that class. See the wikipedia link in my post.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 24, 2015 at 20:17
  • @Tushar Raj: the wiki page you reference states: "A red herring fallacy is an error in logic where a proposition is, or is intended to be, misleading in order to make irrelevant or false inferences". You're right about it being an entire class, but isn't what I described included in it?
    – Bladt
    Jun 25, 2015 at 15:48

In formal logic, it is called tautology

From RationalWiki

"A tautology is a statement that, by virtue of logic and nothing more, is true. Because of this, such statements contain no useful information: "The red bicycle is red". Sometimes this can extend beyond simple logic to obvious definitional facts: "The red bicycle has two wheels".

It is not necessarily a fallacy but it is a form of argument which does not contribute further to the validity of an argument

  • 1
    True, but I'm looking for the act of diverting an argument, and stating something irrelevant (and perhaps tautological), to give he false appearance that "you were right" throughout the argument. It works because your opponent cannot, or will not, disprove your last statement, and thus the debate ends there.
    – Bladt
    Jun 24, 2015 at 18:06

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