What I want to discuss is how people will use this red herring to distract you from your discussion or objective with an irrelevant appeal to emotion. (After all, elections, various causes, arguments and all sorts of things are dealt with more on the emotional level than with actual thought processes.) Appeal to Emotion can take many forms, including:
- Pride. Man up and do the debate.
- Ridicule. If you refuse to debate, Jesus will cry.
- Purpose. You could make converts if you do the debate.
- Fear. If you refuse to debate, I will mock you all over the Internet and tell your wife untrue things about you with those girls in Accounting.
- Pity. I really need you to do this debate because it will look good on my CV.
Something that I want to emphasize is that people with a bumper sticker mentality (they can handle slogans, but are unwilling or unable to deal with more profound concepts) are easily influenced by labels. Brand someone with a label that has negative connotations and you can win over the weak minded to your side.
One of the favorites of leftists in America is to call someone a "racist". Well, what does that mean, really? That you roll up your car windows and lock the doors when you drive past people of that ethnic group? Big deal. But the connotation is, "I'm gonna kill me some niggers/kikes/spicks/wops/gooks/honkies and I'm gonna love it!" Pick a word with angry, violent connotations and slap your enemy down with it, getting other people to hate him on your say-so.
"Freethinker", "rationalist" and other atheistic buzzwords are emotionally loaded, with a built-in insult. That is, they are the rational ones by virtue of being atheists. This Genetic Fallacy conveniently ignores the fact that many of the world's greatest thinkers and scientists have been Bible-believing Christians.
The following is hilarious because it involved several fallacies: Certain atheists managed to get themselves booted from creationists' "Pages" on Facebook. They whined in another page about "rational" people being kicked out, deviously using the Fallacy of Equivocation to imply that they were being sensible, the only reason for them to be kicked out was because of expressing their "rational" views. This appeal to emotion used both the Genetic Fallacy (atheists are "rational" just because they are atheists) and Equivocation (where "rational" has the usual meaning in the mind of the reader, but the atheists are being manipulative because they have their own meaning of the word). Sneaky, capice?
One problem with labels is that it seems to be human nature. We like to categorize and identify people and people types in our thought processes. It's not possible to avoid all labels and connotations. Sometimes labels serve a useful purpose for our cognitive processes.
My advice to you is to pay attention when someone is using labels. Watch yourself as well. When they contain emotional impact and manipulation, I think it's fair to suspect that someone is trying to manipulate you.