Dead cat strategy

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The dead cat strategy, or deadcatting, is the introduction of a dramatic, shocking, or sensationalist topic to divert discourse away from a more damaging topic.[1][2] The strategy, or at least the "dead cat" metaphor to describe it, is particularly associated with Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby.[3][4]

Boris Johnson employed Crosby as his campaign manager during the 2008 and 2012 London mayoral elections, and wrote of his advice that "There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief."[4]


A 2013 EU proposal to cap bankers' bonuses was compared to a dead cat by Boris Johnson, who quoted Crosby's story and described the move as "a convenient distraction" from Spanish unemployment figures.[5]

In 2016, Donald Trump was accused of criticizing the cast of Hamilton in order to distract from a legal settlement, with CNN calling this "a particularly malodorous dead cat".[6] In 2017, his actions during the Trump Tower wiretapping allegations were also compared to Crosby's dead cat strategy.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clarke; Kellner; Stewart; Twyman; Whiteley (2015). Austerity and Political Choice in Britain. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-137-52494-2.
  2. ^ Milbank, Dana (25 January 2017). "Don't get distracted by Trump's 'dead cats'". Opinion. Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-03-18. Distraction has long been Trump’s modus operandi. ... When news coverage of his transition was particularly tough, he created a new narrative by attacking the cast of the musical 'Hamilton.' It’s a constant use of the 'dead cat' strategy: throw a dead cat on the table, and prior conversation on any other topic ceases.
  3. ^ Maltby, Kate (22 November 2016). "'Hamilton' is Trump's dead cat". Opinion. CNN. There is a story, popular among British politicians and attributed to the Australian strategist Lynton Crosby, known as 'The Dead Cat.' A CEO is confronted with poor statistics at a board meeting, and to divert attention from this unpleasant news, he suddenly pulls out a dead cat and throws it onto the middle of the table.
  4. ^ a b Delaney, Sam. "How Lynton Crosby (and a dead cat) won the election: 'Labour were intellectually lazy'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Johnson, Boris (3 March 2013). "This cap on bankers' bonuses is like a dead cat – pure distraction". The Telegraph. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "'Hamilton' is Trump's dead cat". CNN Opinion. 22 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Trump and the media - Is it war or love?". BBC. 10 March 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)