I'm looking for a term that is essentially a diversionary tactic, and which I will explain by example. I have been told that some filmmakers deliberately add blatantly gratuitous material into what they submit to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA, the group responsible for censoring/rating movies). This is done so that MPAA reviewers focus on cutting the blatantly gratuitous material (for the film to achieve the desired rating) and, as a result, permit more of the other material to pass through untouched.

To distinguish from a red herring (or similar terms), note that this technique is always deliberate and that this trick has two functions:

  • Distraction: the second party expends less effort on other material as a result of the more objectionable material.
  • Distortion: the more objectionable material makes other material appear less concerning.

I do not associate this second function with a red herring. In particular, the more objectionable content is on-topic, not irrelevant, which is what makes the second method possible.

This trick is not unique to the film industry. For instance, a politician hoping to get a bill passed that increases school funding could add clauses with exceedingly generous subsidies for retired teachers, expecting that these will be cut back or removed, so that other material of greater interest to the politician is left intact. The use of animated ads in StackExchange's new ad program is, potentially, another example of this, and is the motivator for this question.

  • The POTUS is a master of creating distraction: manipulation, deflection, misdirection, subterfuge...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 7:41
  • pork barreling or sweetening
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 21:55

2 Answers 2


How about a "sacrificial decoy"?

The bill included a sacrificial decoy.

It's similar to a "sacrificial lamb" but "lamb" doesn't convey deception like "decoy" does.


Straw man, used in politics consistently, putting up a distract argument. Not sure how real straw men work, being a pest tech birds see through the process within a short period of time, you have to keep moving them to be affective. Well the media does that for the robber barons.

  • 1
    In politics, a straw man isn't a distraction, it's a deliberately weak version of your opponent's position used to build your own argument against. Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 5:46
  • Well put Killing Time, perhaps a straw woman. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My reality is that politicians/ journalists, same thing professional bullshit artists will put up ideas relevant or not to the debate in order to distract from the the truth. Please correct me if you know of something more apt. I apologize for swearing, but given the context I thought it to be appropriate
    – Col Smith
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 10:48
  • You are right killing time, I just re read the question, I stand corrected. I must of been on one of my hate rants. I get that when ever politics are uncovered. You've got to love language, it's the by product of our level of intelligence. Some of the best commentators I've found are comedians, Barry Humphries, Max Gillies said that politicians appeal to the Dark side Of humanity, so every election, we just getworse
    – Col Smith
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 11:01

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