What argumentative tactic is in play when someone says "The media isn't covering this"?


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?


Posted 2018-08-06T14:01:44.957

Reputation: 129

1I 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. – Frank Hubeny – 2018-08-06T14:20:25.997

1My 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 – 2018-08-06T19:24:45.513



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


Posted 2018-08-06T14:01:44.957

Reputation: 2 677


(See my edit at the end of the post.)

You appear to be asking two different questions.

1) What's it called when someone says "The media aren't covering this"?

2) What's it called when someone says "The media aren't covering this," after which they encourage you to like and share and blame the coverup on conservatives or liberals.

The first question is simplest, yet even it can be confusing. First, most people underestimate media corruption. It's probably ten times worse than most people think. So when someone accuses the media of ignoring an important issue, they're very likely speaking the simple truth.

However, propagandists can play all kinds of games. The issue the media supposedly aren't discussing could be a straw man. There may be yet another, even more important, issue the media aren't discussing.

The part about like and share focuses largely on social media, which are no more trustworthy than the media (of which they're essentially an extension). How many people really understand what they're liking and sharing? And do you know who you're sharing it with?

You also talk about the conservative/liberal blame game. That could be an example of a named fallacy, but you could also just call it part of the old divide-and-conquer routine. The people who run the show typically pit conservatives against liberals so that they fight each other rather than focusing on the people in charge.

Even if conservatives or liberals don't want you to see something, the ultimate blame for not discussing issues generally rests with the media. I identify myself as a left-winger, and I don't want people to hear the endless propaganda regarding the phoney war on terrorism. But I don't control the media, so if you aren't hearing enough about the phoney war on terrorism, you can't blame me.


I'm not sure if this will help put things in perspective or not, but consider Donald Trump's outrageous words and actions.

Many people think he's a kook, but it's more accurate to describe him as an actor. Though Trump and the media are allegedly at war with each other, they're actually partners. Trump says or does something outrageous, and the media turns his antics into headlines - while ignoring climate change, the tragic aftermath of the destruction of Libya, the ongoing retreat in Afghanistan and on and on.

That's how the game works.

David Blomstrom

Posted 2018-08-06T14:01:44.957

Reputation: 1

The direct question was just to learn the name for the tactic, if it even had one. I expanded on the common themes or variations to help articulate what I was seeing. You also added some examples in your answer which do help clarify or justify the answer. – Freiheit – 2018-08-06T15:55:18.113

I'd like to learn the name for that tactic as well, assuming there is one. In the absence of a technical term, we can just call it lying. ;) – David Blomstrom – 2018-08-06T16:26:45.307


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.

Geoffrey Thomas

Posted 2018-08-06T14:01:44.957

Reputation: 34 276

"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 – 2018-08-10T14:59:50.877

@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 – 2018-08-10T16:15:34.847

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 – 2018-08-12T14:52:02.590

I did not add the link. – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-08-12T19:20:27.417

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 – 2018-08-12T19:43:38.407

I invited you to briefly chat about this (if you want) in the Symposium chat room. Not sure if the way I did it worked. If you write me back there, use the @ symbol before my username and maybe I'll get alerted. – Chelonian – 2018-08-14T16:32:02.570

@Chelonian. Hello, I didn't get the message. How do I get into the Chat Room ? Best - GT – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-08-14T19:36:54.793

At the bottom of this page on the left is a link for Chat. If you click that, you'll go to the general chatroom, then click on The Symposium for the chatroom I left you a msg in. You can then address me with @Chelonian there and I'll get a msg in my inbox linking me to that chat. Mods, can you clean up our thread here once he sees this? Sorry. – Chelonian – 2018-08-15T03:09:16.480