I see memes about once a week which state, "The media isn't covering this really important thing. Shouldn't they be ashamed! Like and Share and FWD to grandma if you agree!". Similar posts include "conservatives don't want you to see this" or "liberals are hiding this important news from us".

I find this line of reasoning insulting to the very issue at hand. Instead of talking about the apparently important topic, the meme creator and reposters are just using it as a hammer against an outside group. They seem to care more about beating the other group rather than supporting their purported important cause.

What is the name of or term for this argumentative tactic?

  • 1
    I made an edit which you may roll back or continue editing. I added "rhetoric" as a tag since I think that is what this would be whatever its name is. Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 14:20
  • 1
    My guess is you are going to continue to get no answers to your question because there isn't any term for this pattern yet (I don't know there isn't, though). And I'm not sure I agree with your assessment. Sometimes raising consciousness about an under-reported story--without yourself conveying the complexity of the story right then--is warranted. If the intent, though, is to merely whip up animosity toward a group or issue without the audience ever understanding the under-reported issue, sure, that's just rabble rousing.
    – Chelonian
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 19:24

2 Answers 2


I think there are a few tactics in play.

First of all, I think it appeals to a sense that many people have that the media is not always reporting on important things. And certainly in modern times, with all these allegations of 'fake news', many people look at the media as untrustworthy and pushing certain agenda's. Now, whether this is really the case is not the point .. the point is that many people believe this is true, and that's what it appeals to.

Of course, one logical problem with this line of 'reasoning' is the following: even if it is true that the media does not always report on important news (i.e. there is some important news that the media does not report on), does not mean that whatever the media does not report on is important. For example, the media is not reporting on the color of the socks I am wearing today ... but that does not make it important. And the media is also not reporting on me swimming across the Pacific Ocean this morning ... but that does not make it true.

And yet, I think many people are making this fallacious logical inference:

"It's not reported on by those untrustworthy and biased media. Ah! So then it must be important and true! I better FWD to grandma!"

Not sure what technical name to give to this tactic. But if the tactic points out a specific group that is not reporting on something, then the argument involves a clear Circumstantial Ad Hominem, combined with a bit of Denying the Antecedent (if reported by group G, then false ... so if not reported by G, then true)

Second, I think the tactic is appealing to a sense of duty: "this is important ... and the media isn't reporting on this .. so it's your duty to spread the word!" So here maybe it's not so much the media being untrustworthy, but rather that the media may simply have 'missed' this very important thing! And so yes, do your duty and help spread the word!

And, of course, everyone wants to feel like you're doing something important and help out, and be a good citizen and patriot and all.

In the end, though, it is once again purely emotional and rhetorical: by making reference to the media, the suggestion is that we're dealing that should be reported on (unlike, again, the color of my socks); hence the 'duty' we have to FWD to grandma.

And is it important? Well, that remains to be seen ... "Bram is wearing his blue socks today! And the media isn't even covering this!! Do your duty and FWD to grandma!"

So, I would classify this as a fallacious (emotional) Appeal to Duty


You might be referring to the newly-named phenomenon of 'hand waving'. This occurs when, for example, a school, college or company is accused of practising racial prejudice in failing to appoint candidate X.

Instead of establishing the exact details of the situation, and ascertaining precisely what happened, activists immediately accuse the institution of racialism. This accusation goes viral, and texts and tweets &c. are copied and recopied repeating the claim of racialism. People are metaphorically waving their hands in horror at the heinous practices of this abominable institution.

In the midst of all this abuse, the actual situation it is supposedly about goes unexamined. Was the institution guilty of racialism ? I don't know but nor does anybody else in the hullabaloo that engulfs the institution.

In your own terms the 'important topic' of what the institution actually did is lost to view, ignored, not properly investigated at all, and the literally ignorant accusation of racialism is used 'as a hammer' to beat the institution. 'Ignorant' because whatever the institution did is unknown to the hand wavers.

  • "People are metaphorically waving their hands in horror" -- That is not what "hand waving" means, unless that is a new use of that term. What "hand waving" has meant heretofore is a type of discourse in which one superficially appears to be explaining something but is actually not explaining it, instead just giving the appearance of explanation, akin to waving one's hands in front of one's body or in front of a blackboard to suggest "this is where actual information should be inserted".
    – Chelonian
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 14:59
  • @Chelonian. 'Hand waving' is not a precise term. It is new, and the borders of its meaning have not yet (I think) been settled. I should be perfectly willing to consider an alternative. Naturally there's no obligation on you to help me out but if you can suggest a better, more appropriate term then it would enable me to give the Questioner a better answer : giving the Questioner the most accurate answer is my overriding concern.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 16:15
  • Can you point out where in your Wikipedia link this new usage of "waving their hands in horror" is referenced? I don't see it in there, and the wiki page just gives the meaning I am familiar with (the one I described). Or, failing that, can you find another reference online for this new usage of "hand waving"?
    – Chelonian
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 14:52
  • I did not add the link.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 19:20
  • Let me reverse the question. Wiki is a popular reference point, not an accredited academic source. So can you indicate such a source that not merely confirms your usage but refutes mine ? Finger on the page. If I am charged with definite error, the least I can expect is authoritative refutation. If you provide it, I shall retreat at once.I have no wish to wrangle but I think you are taking slang, very recent slang at that, as having a firmness and settledness of meaning which in this case I don't think it has.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 19:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .