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Poisoning The Well

September 24th, 2009

Taxonomy – Where am I?

Poisoning The Well

classification : informal – red herring – genetic fallacy – as hominem

A logical fallacy that uses the association of negative emotions to distract a subject from actual evidence in an argument. The usual method is to point out the unpleasant nature of the person making the opposing argument.


Adverse information about a target is pre-emptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the target person is about to say. Poisoning the well is a special case of argumentum ad hominem


“Everything I say is correct, no matter what you say”

“Don’t listen to him, he’s a scoundrel.”

Other Names

Argumentum ad hominem
Appeal to ridicule
Black propaganda
Guilt by association
Prolepsis ( a form of rhetoric )
Scorched earth
Smear Tactics
Smear Campaign

Note: Poisoning the Well as a rhetorical technique is not, strictly speaking, a logical fallacy since it is not a type of argument. Rather, it is a logical boobytrap set by the poisoner to tempt the unwary audience into committing an ad hominem fallacy. An argument must stand or fall on its own, regardless of who makes it.

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Categories: Logic