Is there a phrase which describes the situation in which a person supports something that is detrimental for them, and then held out as evidence that the detrimental policy is correct?

For example: Say there is a proposed mandate to require women to work as housewives. Most women do not support a mandate to only work as housewives, but the occasional woman does. Now, the proponents of the housewife mandate hold those occasional women out as evidence that the mandate is fine: "See, these women agree!"

Is there a phrase to describe this scenario, when people take on this role, or when they are held out as an example?

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    There are various specific (and highly offensive) terms, for instance for black people who support racist systems. The term Handmaid/Handmaiden (from Margaret Atwood's book) is sometimes used for women who are seen as supporting patriarchy, but again is controversial and offensive and often used in bad faith. As to generic terms, I'm not sure, beyond the too-general term "traitor" (as in "race traitor", "class traitor", etc).
    – Stuart F
    Mar 22 at 13:18
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    I'm not sure it's quite right, but the term "useful idiot" does spring to mind. (It's also not necessarily fair, since their support for a policy that's not beneficial to them may come from altruism rather than stupidity - eg in the case of a wealthy person who supports higher taxes on the rich to benefit people less well off...).
    – psmears
    Mar 22 at 15:10
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    It's a sub-category of cherry-picking; I'm wondering whether What is a word for deliberate dismissal of some facts? is a duplicate. Mar 22 at 16:10
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    It's as if there are anti-progressives amongst the class being referred to who are like sheep. Being held up examples makes them a kind of prize sheep. Sadly I don't think this idiom exists. Mar 22 at 22:51
  • This involves what is known in general as the base rate fallacy: << Base rate fallacy The base rate fallacy, also called base rate neglect or base rate bias, is a type of fallacy in which people tend to ignore the base rate (ie general prevalence) in favour of the individuating information (ie information pertaining only to a specific case). >>[Wikipedia] But previous questions have given the answers confirmation bias / cherry picking / being economical with the truth to describe the deliberate misrepresentation. Apr 21 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


Not sure if this fits the question exactly, but in political / psychological terms it's often characterized as 'voting against one's self-interest'. You can find articles discussing this in many places by searching with that as a target.


Sounds like you are describing a person 'In Denial'. Reminds me of healthy people vaccinated with MRNA vaccines who suffer extreme adverse reactions (injuries) from first injection, but think a second and third injection should do the trick. They believe the injection worked because they did not contract COVID-19, even though the injection has destroyed their active life and permanently disabled them.

Such people are victims of Mass Formation Psychosis as described by Dr. Mattias Desmet, Professor of Clinical Psychology University of Ghent, Belgium. Victims find if difficult, if not impossible,to admit to themselves they've made a huge, stupid mistake and so they double-down on their psychotic belief in the efficacy of the injections.

Numerous examples of mass formation psychosis have occurred--the insane tulip bulb mania in Holland where people sold their houses to raise cash to buy tulip bulbs. Additional cases can be read in 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds' by Charles Mackay.

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