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Poisoning the well refers to the practice of presenting embarrassing information about an opponent, discrediting the opponent and, by extension, discrediting their message as well.

Is there a name for the variation I describe below?

Imagine a person we'll call X. X has impressive credentials (a science degree, lots of experience, etc.) and is outspoken on the issue of climate change. He's most closely associated with a theory that a big percentage of amphibian species will be extinct by the year 2050.

Now imagine some propagandists who recruit a really sleazy, bizarre individual (Z) to parrot X's message. It's the same message, but the messenger has become wholly disgusting, making the message look kooky as well.

Would you just call this "a variation of poisoning the well," or is there a specific name for it?

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    Isn't this guilt by association, a.k.a. bad company, fallacy. – Conifold Sep 29 '20 at 5:57
  • Ah, I think that would be a better term than poisoning the well. It still doesn't seem quite right, though. I'll give it some more thought. – David Blomstrom Sep 29 '20 at 9:28
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    First off everything is NOT a fallacy because someone doesn't like the message or their feelings were hurt. Secondly, where is the actual argument in the scenario? Poisoning the Well is a variation itself of an adhomenim fallacy. An actual ARGUMENT HAS TO BE PRESENT --not just an emotional response from someone. The definition given is more psychological than anything. Thirdly Saturday night live does the very same thing amongs other comedy shows where they spoof a political party, candidates, celebrities, entertainers, etc. This is not a fallacy. There is no obvious conclusion to reject. – Logikal Sep 29 '20 at 13:46

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