In Finnish, there's a pithy expression Siitä puhe mistä puute, which literally if somewhat awkwardly translates as "talk is about what is lacking".

For example, if you fly into a country and find the streets full of massive billboards proclaiming that the many races of the country are united behind the Glorious Leader, who is making the economy strong and ensuring everybody has enough to eat, it would be reasonable to suspect that the billboards are attempting to paper over the reality that most people hate the Glorious Leader, there are racial tensions, the economy is terrible and there are food shortages. But the expression can also apply to much more pedestrian situations, like a couple on the verge of divorce insisting publicly that everything is just fine, or the CEO proclaiming that rumors about discontinuing a badly-selling product and laying off everybody involved are completely false and untrue, or an oil company strip-mining the Arctic buying full-page ads to tout their investments in solar power.

Is there a way to convey this in English? The lady doth protest too much comes close, but this seems more targeted at a specific individual: for example, the Glorious Leader could be accused of protesting too much if they go on CNN to repeatedly deny all claims of famine before the reporter gets around to asking about it, but this doesn't seem applicable to an entire state-run propaganda campaign.

  • Your own term propaganda carries some of the meaning you’re after.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 0:07
  • There’s always the Potemkin village, although this is less common in English than it used to be. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potemkin_village
    – user205876
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 5:19
  • @GlobalCharm A Potemkin village refers to physical constructions, not the sentiment behind them. Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 6:36
  • I think it depends on the situation. For institutionalized, mass-media I'd use propaganda or smokescreen, and for more pedestrian situations I'd use the plain old denial Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 9:13
  • 2
    @David How on Earth did you draw that absurd conclusion? Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 21:15

4 Answers 4


Well the phrase- 'Denial ain't just a river in Egypt' comes into my mind.

This phrase is often used as a humorous and witty response to a person who is in denial i.e, in short, is protesting too much about something which he/she may subconsciously know what's correct.

I think it resonates with the phrase- 'The lady doth protest too much' reasonably well provided your audience is familiar with the context of the quote.

Quote History : QuoteInvestigator.com


"Talk is about what is lacking" suggests "empty vessels make the most noise", but again this is mostly aimed at an individual - and also carries implications of foolishness and ignorance.

The Glorious Leader sounds like they're practising doublespeak (from Orwell's doublethink). Something along the lines of “The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”

The most broad interpretation comes under the heading of Political Framing, but I think that's probably too broad for the question asked.


In 2017 Alternative Facts became an ironic term for official positions without hard factual basis, based on an interview response given by US counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, though granted this term is not very applicable outside of American discourse.


I would call this a propaganda facade. Propaganda is the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. A facade is a false or superficial appearance.

North Korea has long been famous for this. In 2012, a wrong turn by a press bus allowed a glimpse behind the facade. The Kim family's propaganda machine has long strove to maintain a public image of North Korea to the outside world that fits their own narrative. But, leaks of this nature show that their image is little more than a facade.

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