This question arises from an interesting answer to a recent question I asked.

You know the phrase "The best defense is a good offense"? It works well in sports and war. But in my impartial hearing, where I was the complainant (~offense) and the school district was the respondent (~defense), the district decided to go on the offense, and made up wild accusations about us parents. I need a word or phrase for this approach.

Clarification: I could understand attacks that say things that are true (e.g. if I had screamed and pounded the table, it would be fair for them to say that). I wouldn't mind attacks pointing to parents taking an unreasonable stance (e.g. asking them to create a spot in a competitive sports team, only because of the child's disability).

Somehow I need to convey the idea that the attack was unfair and uncalled for.

  • Do you really want to use a request for inclusion as example for an unreasonable stance? Anyway I still think that the best defense is a good offense fits rather well considering that its about taking initiative and forcing the other party into defense.
    – Helmar
    Nov 4, 2016 at 15:22
  • You don't have just an English problem -- or even several English problems. You also have a workplace or an academia problem. See my comment on your earlier question english.stackexchange.com/questions/356940/…
    – ab2
    Nov 4, 2016 at 21:38
  • @ab2 - I have more problems than I can count. But when I get this Closing Argument turned in, it will be a big weight off my shoulders. Nov 5, 2016 at 2:53

4 Answers 4


The respondent in example probably went on offensive by indulging in a smear campaign.


A smear campaign is an intentional, premeditated effort to undermine an individual's or group's reputation, credibility, and character. Like negative campaigning, most often smear campaigns target government officials, politicians, political candidates, and other public figures. However, private persons or groups may also become targets of smear campaigns perpetrated in companies, institutions, the legal system, and other formal groups.


smear campaign noun
​a planned attempt to harm the reputation of a person or company by telling lies about them: They accused competitors of mounting a smear campaign to drive them out of the market.

  • 1
    This definitely conveys the request in the last line of the (edited?) post: "Somehow I need to convey the idea that the attack was unfair and uncalled for."
    – Ghotir
    Nov 4, 2016 at 20:26
  • This and DARVO are really good. I can't split the acceptance. I'll see how I can work them into my draft. Maybe create a bounty which I believe can be split. Nov 4, 2016 at 21:00
  • I used this one. Very effective. Nov 18, 2016 at 16:37

I think you are referring to a countercharge:

  • a charge by an accused person against the accuser.

To countercharge:

  • to make an accusation against (one's accuser).


If you want to point out that the countercharge is based on false assumptions you may refer to it as a :


  • the malicious utterance of false charges or misrepresentation; slander; defamation
  • Maybe it's just me, but calumny feels too emotionally loaded. The made absurd, unfounded, uncorroborated accusations, true, but they didn't accuse us of doing anything illegal. Nov 4, 2016 at 20:56
  • Countercharge won't work because it didn't feel like tit for tat. Their accusations were out of proportion to my formal complaint. Thanks for your contributions, though. It's always good to do some brainstorming and get people thinking about a question. Nov 4, 2016 at 20:57

One term of art in psychology and criminology is DARVO.

DARVO refers to a reaction [that] perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender." The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles...such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim -- or the whistle blower -- into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of "falsely accused" and attacks the accuser's credibility or even blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.

  • Jennifer J. Freyd, University of Oregon, What is DARVO? (emphasis mine)

This is quite similar to what is spoken about in the question that the OP referenced - someone who is willing to manipulate and twist facts to ensure that they win and is less concerned about justice or truth.

  • 1
    This sounds to me like a highly technical term which is not widely used.
    – March Ho
    Nov 4, 2016 at 20:33
  • 1
    I'm thinking I could define it in a footnote. Nov 4, 2016 at 20:59

A general term for responding to an attack with one of your own is counter-attack (or counterattack):

counter-attack, n.: An attack made in response to one by an opponent.

counter-attack, v.: Attack in response.

Such a maneuver is often simply called a counter.

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