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Claim-smuggling is a rhetorical deception in which terminology is used that makes or implies a claim without openly stating the claim's exact nature. This allows the claim to stand without examination, in the minds of many listeners, by having emotional impact on them without engaging the critical thinking which might counter it.

This technique also generally makes counterargument more difficult, as skeptical listeners have to first reconstruct the hidden premise before they can counter it.

Claim-smuggling can be used as a form of dogwhistle, triggering a calculated reaction in a particular sub-audience while leaving the more rational portion of the audience unaware.

Claim-smuggling typically appears in the form of an association fallacy; unlike most instances of association fallacy, however, it implies that there is some justification for the connection but never actually states it.

Distinguishing Features

Association fallacies more commonly state the nature of the connection: "There he stands, son of a whore and friend of harlots! How can you vote for such a man?" A claim is being "smuggled" if it implies a connection without stating it outright: "I don't know about you, but I don't believe in voting for pimps and whoresons! A vote for me is a vote for legitimacy!" The latter example "smuggles in" claims similar to those stated outright in the first example, while leaving an otherwise-uninformed audience unsure as to exactly what is being claimed.