Acorn tossing (throwing acorns, tossing acorns) is a rhetorical distraction in which an irrelevant attack is used as a distraction to throw the discussion onto ground where the attacker is more able to defend their position. It is typically used in situation where one party has a very solid point and the other party wishes that point to appear much weaker, typically by making its supporter look foolish.
This technique is often used in discussion trolling.
It most often takes the form of a "why do you care" question, thus shifting the topic to the question of why the defender cares about the irrelevant attack, though other forms are presumably possible.
The technique usually follows a pattern like this:
- A advocates a particular point
- B attacks the point with an irrelevant but false claim
- A states that claim is false but irrelevant (attempts to get back on track)
- B: "Why do you care if [false claim] is false, if it's irrelevant?"
- A is forced to either explain the irrelevancy of the claim, refute it, or abandon the discussion
This is much like the following situation:
- A tries to start serious discussion.
- B throws acorn at A.
- A: "Stop tossing acorns at me!"
- B: "Why? It's just an acorn. It's not like I'm hurting you or anything. Is your thinking so unfocused that you can't continue speaking just because an acorn drops on you? What if it just fell from a tree? Would you blame the tree and refuse to continue our discussion? Does this discussion matter so little to you?"
- A is forced to either spend time convincing B to stop tossing acorns, to put up with the annoyance and distraction, or abandon the discussion
- "If you aren't bothered by the idea of a Muslim president, then why do you care if Obama is a Muslim or not?"
- "If you're not bothered by communism/socialism/Marxism, then why do you care whether or not they are based on atheism?"
This page needs more examples that aren't in the "if you aren't bothered by" format.
- Acorn tossing is in some ways similar to Gish galloping. The former consists of off-topic comments intended to lure the victim into a place where they are less able to defend themselves (though largely irrelevant to the original discussion), while the latter consists of on-topic arguments that so easily generated that the victim can't keep up (even if individually they are fairly easy to refute).
This topic was inspired by a discussion on Blag Hag.