What is the term when a person says ONE thing to deflect attention from something ELSE being said or done by the same person.

Like someone does something wrong, but talks in circles or creates another story to redirect attention from what he did or said in the first place, so the original ill is noticed less.


10 Answers 10


How about misdirection, deflection, or obfuscation?


misdirection: [mass noun] the action or process of directing someone to the wrong place or in the wrong direction: ‘the deliberate misdirection that had put me off the track’

deflection: [mass noun] the action or process of deflecting or being deflected

deflect: cause (someone) to deviate from an intended purpose

obfuscation: [mass noun] the action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible: ‘when confronted with sharp questions they resort to obfuscation’

We've seen a lot of misdirection, deflection, and obfuscation in our political discourse of late.

  • Obfuscation is spot on, Richard. Though I can't think what you mean when you mention contemporary political discussion ;-)
    – BoldBen
    Jan 24, 2017 at 2:03
  • @BoldBen Hey, Ben. Agreed. :-) I always try to hope for the best. Jan 24, 2017 at 2:31
  • Obfuscation is hiding something by making it unclear and confusing in and of itself. Misdirection is closer to what the OP edited their question to say, focusing attention on one thing to distract from another thing happening at the same time. It's a staple of magicians.
    – stannius
    Jan 24, 2017 at 20:51
  • Richard, my query was actually politically centered and obfuscation ( as well as another's answer of gaslighting) are spot on!! Jan 25, 2017 at 14:28
  • @Suzycurious Thanks. I inferred that and answered accordingly. Good question. Jan 25, 2017 at 15:30

You could call it:

Creating a Distraction

a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.

And from Merriam Webster:

: something that makes it difficult to think or pay attention

: something that amuses or entertains you so that you do not think about problems, work, etc

The verb distract,

"He distracted attention from the problem by talking about the weather."


It's a bit formal and might not be in the entire audience's vocabulary, but that being said, you might consider:


(Also, it doesn't apply only to distracting speech.. your question is a bit unclear on that)


1 : deception by artifice or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade

2 : a deceptive device or stratagem

  • Yes, this is a good one and my query was directed more toward the actions of one who is basically trying to pull the wool over one's eyes. Saying one thing that causes a reaction in such a way as to keep the listener busy so they don't see the true nature of the deception. Does that make sense? Appreciate your input. Jan 25, 2017 at 14:26

You can use to dodge meaning:

  • to evade (questions, etc) by cleverness or trickery.

    • The President dodged questions about his relationship with the actress.

The Free Dictionary


From a native speaker:

Use diversion if you mean deliberately creating one activity to divert attention from another: "The pickpockets had a partner screaming nearby to create a diversion while they were stealing wallets undetected."

Use counterfeit question if you mean a false request for information when you are really making a statement: "If I gave you ten dollars for a cookie, why is my change only one dollar?" The question sets up a challenge more than it seeks clarification. The word 'counterfeit' is, of course, strong language.


The thing the person says could be called a red herring, being something irrelevant which distracts from the main issue, whereas the person saying the thing is practicing misdirection or creating a distraction.


How about gaslighting ?

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. Its intent is to sow seeds of doubt in the targets, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity

Source : Wikipedia

  • I saw the play "Gaslight" from which the term originated when I was a teen. Nice period piece. Jan 24, 2017 at 16:19
  • I think this fits the bill!! Appreciate your input and I saw Gaslight as well, Paul Chernoch, amazing! Jan 25, 2017 at 14:22

A more colourful phrase is to throw a dead cat on the table. Example (political). This is current in the UK, but appears to derive from Australian use. Even when applied to Trump, most of the uses I've found are UK-based though CNN and HuffPo have both used it in this context.

  • I appreciate this and my query WAS actually politically motivated! Jan 25, 2017 at 14:21

Ignoratio elenchi

Ignoratio elenchi, also known as irrelevant conclusion, is the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may or may not be logically valid, but fails nonetheless to address the issue in question. More colloquially, it is also known as missing the point.

Ignoratio elenchi falls into the broad class of relevance fallacies. It is one of the fallacies identified by Aristotle in his Organon. In a broader sense he asserted that all fallacies are a form of ignoratio elenchi.

(Red herring and straw man are also pretty good fits to the scenario.)

  • +1. Why is this answer buried so deep?!
    – Tushar Raj
    Jan 25, 2017 at 7:04
  • Speaking of rhetoric devices, circumlocution/equivocation are also worth mentioning.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jan 25, 2017 at 7:05

Perhaps what you are looking for isn't a single word but the expression:

They are changing the topic.


They are changing the subject of the conversation.

When you are about to get into trouble, for example, it is a common strategy to make the accuser forget about that situation by bringing something else to the foreground.

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