I'm looking for a word that I remember reading. The word was describing a child that was being used as a unattackable front-man because attacking the beliefs expressed by the child would not be seen as attacking the belief but rather as attacking the child. Since adults attacking children is taboo, this makes trying to debate the child to express alternate beliefs very difficult.

update 4/20/2020

All I can specifically remember about the article in which I read the word is:

  • The article was about Greta Thunberg

  • I remember looking the word up in some on-line dictionary.

    • I haven't cleared my Google search history but can't find the word that way.
    • I have scoured my history but I can't find the article or word. :-(

After scouring my browser for the umpteenth time I finally found the word, actually a phrase cat's paw.

Very sorry, but I conflated the word with the context in which it was used in an article about Greta Thunberg. I have not been trying to deceive anyone but I felt that I needed to be honest and explain the mistake. I spent 15-20 hours looking for the word too.

cat's paw @ Marion-Webster - one used by another as a tool

cat's paw @ Collins - a person used by another to do dangerous, distasteful, or unlawful work; dupe; from the tale of the monkey who used the cat's foot to rake the chestnuts out of the fire

So I read the word in the context that I described, but gave the wrong meaning. :-(

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    May 17, 2020 at 18:11

3 Answers 3


In a desperate attempt to answer your question, I have pored through many articles about Greta Thunberg and have not been able to find any term that is remarkably different from any of the already suggested terms:

"Human shield" is definitely relevant here. See https://medium.com/@mike.kersmarki/is-left-exploiting-greta-thunberg-as-some-climate-change-human-shield-c26bb78e3504

"Child shield" is another legitimate term that could be used to refer to this type of manipulation. See https://www.redstate.com/clint-fargeau/2019/12/12/greta-thunberg-child-shield/

Then there are the words "pawn" and "puppet", which have also been used to refer to Greta Thunberg. (She has been called a lot of things, by the way.) See https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/09/greta-thunberg-climate-activist-united-nations/

and https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/24/climate/greta-thunberg-un.html

"Political prop" is another one that can be used to refer to the concept you mention. See https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/absolute-madness-pundits-react-to-swedish-teens-impassioned-climate-speech

Besides all of these terms, as well as javiergarval's answer,"poster child" and "cat's paw," as you mentioned, one could simply say Greta Thunberg is being "used as a political shield." See last cited article.


Could it be Poster child?

Poster child (Noun)

Someone or something that is used to represent a particular quality.

Cambridge Dictionary: Poster child

The climate-change cabal has succeeded in making Greta Thunberg a poster child for their movement. Inadvertently, they also have made her a poster child for the cynical exploitation of innocent children. Shame on them.

Faith & Freedom: The Shameless Exploitation of Greta Thunberg

  • No, the word meant more than just being a poster child. It meant that the group for whom the poster child was a spokesperson was being exploited since adults are reluctant to publicly confront a child.
    – MaxW
    Apr 22, 2020 at 19:49
  • I'll give it another try and go with "avatar". dailywire.com/news/… Apr 22, 2020 at 21:27
  • No it wasn't avatar either.
    – MaxW
    Apr 22, 2020 at 23:06
  • Political prop?
    – Naomi
    Apr 23, 2020 at 1:29
  • @MaxW I think you mean "exploitative".
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 23, 2020 at 13:37

EDIT - Previous answer deleted as incorrect.


Liberals & Human Shields (aka – Children)

So where does the “human shield” thing come in? It’s very clear that this is the new move in the liberal playbook. Adult liberals throw a kid or vulnerable person out there to promote their liberal agenda, people get in an uproar about said “cause”, and then the liberal adults tell everyone how mean they are for saying one word about it “because they’re kids!!!”

  • No, the word that I'm looking for specifically meant that the child was being used because an adult debating a child would seem like an attack on the child rather than challenging the ideas themselves.
    – MaxW
    Apr 17, 2020 at 0:36
  • This is a legitimate answer, I think whoever downvoted it should un-downvote.
    – Naomi
    Apr 23, 2020 at 13:22

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