Appeal to Obscurity

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    /wiki/Appeal to Obscuritywork

    Bob is arguing with Alice about how doing something will cause her to fail. To further his point, he gives an example of someone who did that thing. She will say that she's never heard of that person.

    He says: "Exactly!"

    A type of logical fallacy, though there may be cases where the obscurity of something is a valid point, such as matters of subterfuge or annihilation. See also Famed in Story. Compare Unperson

    Examples of Appeal to Obscurity include:


    • British TV ad: "If you don't drink your milk, you'll only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley." "Who are they?" "Exactly." (Accrington Stanley is an actual British amateur soccer team, much more obscure than the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea. As of May 2006, it has just been promoted back to UK league football.)
      • This probably in fact references an earlier Accrington Stanley team than the current reformed team, who infamously resigned from the football league mid-season. This is akin to not merely failing, but giving up half-way.

    Comic Books

    • Runaways, when the kids go on a trip to New York.

    Chase: Superheroes are an everyday thing for New Yorkers, boss. For these people, seeing (She-Hulk) is like an Angeleno running into Steve Guttenberg.
    Nico: Who's Steve Guttenberg?
    Chase: Exactly.

    "Yeah - who decided Ashley Judd was a movie star?"
    "I know. Same person who decided Molly Ringwald was."

    Fan Works

    • Played with in some Harry Potter fan fictions regarding the "Eternal Glory" of the Triwizard Tournament. When asked to name one previous winner of the Tournament, the questioned will completely fail. The interrogator will then ask how that qualifies as "Eternal".
      • That's actually an example of 'the obscurity of something is a valid point' as mentioned in this trope entry's header. If previous Tri-Wizard Tournament winners are so obscure that not a single one of them remains in common knowledge, then the claim of "eternal glory" is clearly false.


    Norrington: You are without a doubt the worst pirate I have ever heard of.
    Jack Sparrow: But you have heard of me.

      • Later on lampshaded when its pointed out that a high degree of notoriety almost always gets pirates killed, so the fact that Jack Sparrow is both publicly famous and still alive is a strong suggestion that he's actually highly competent as a pirate.
    • In High School Musical, Chad tries to convince Troy (they're both high school basketball players) that basketball practice is more important than singing:

    Chad: Have you ever seen Michael Crawford on a cereal box?
    Troy: Who's Michael Crawford?
    Chad: Exactly my point!

    • Used in Good Will Hunting as the professor and therapist discuss Will's future. They ask the bartender if he's ever heard of several people who've taken the path they don't want Will to take, including the professor's name. Finally, Robin Williams' character wins with this:

    Sean: Hey, do you know who Ted Kaczynski is?
    Bartender: Unabomber.

    Glynnis: Look what happened to Olivia Nixon when she went to China last summer.
    Clarissa: Who's Olivia Nixon?
    Glynnis: Exactly.

    • In Mr. 3000, Stan Ross warns budding superstar Rex Pennebaker that if he doesn't support his team, he'll end up standing at the end of his career next to "Big Horse" Borelli. When Pennebaker asks "Who?", Ross says "exactly." "Big Horse" Borelli was the obscure no-name player who was the only one of Stan's former teammates willing to speak at Ross's tribute ceremony earlier in the film.
    • I don’t remember the name of the film, but it was about a Broadway producer who really needed his last work to be a success. He and all his family are waiting in the cold street at 4:00 A.M. for the newspaper with the reviews of the premiere, because the only thing that matters is the newspaper's critic opinion:

    Producer’s son: "Why are we waiting here? It was a success! The public loved it, they gave an standing ovation!"
    Producer: "They also gave an standing ovation at the premiere of 'Microheaven' " .
    Producer’s son: "Of what?"
    Producer: "Exactly".


    • Discworld:
      • In The Last Hero, Cohen explains why he a) wants to do something that will ensure he's remembered forever, and b) has dragged a minstrel along to record it:

    "Laugh away. But what about all the heroes who aren't remembered in songs and sagas, eh? You tell me about them."
    "Eh? What heroes who aren't remembered in songs and sagas?"

    'Like, supposing the population is being a bit behind with its taxes. You pick some city where people are being troublesome and kill everyone and set fire to it and pull down the walls and plough up the ashes. That way you get rid of the trouble and all the other cities are suddenly really well behaved and polite and all your back taxes turn up in a big rush, which is handy for governments, I understand. Then if they ever give trouble you just have to say "Remember Nangnang?" or whatever, and they say "Where's Nangnang?" and you say, "My point exactly."'

    Live-Action TV

    • Freaks and Geeks: The heroine doesn't want to go to college. She lists famous people who never went to college, and her guidance counselor adds, "Frank." When she says, "Who?" his response is "The guy who pumps my gas."
    • The Brady Bunch: Carol, trying to convince a discouraged Bobby not to quit his hair-tonic business, lists famous people who became great because they didn't quit, and ends with "Carl Mahakian."

    Bobby: Carl Mahakian? Never heard of him.
    Carol: That's cause he quit.

    Robber: If you're so great, how come I never heard of you?
    Echo: You ever heard of Bonnie and Clyde?
    Robber (thinking she's made a mistake): Bonnie and Clyde got killed.
    Echo: That's because they wanted to be famous.

    Kelly: "If you have a bad day with Deke, you'll be bigger nobodies than Tanyon Labelle."
    BTR: "Who's Tanyon Labelle?"
    Kelly and Gustavo: "Exactly."

      • Who is Tanyon Labelle?
    • Supernatural did the changing-history version (see She-Hulk) when Balthazar prevents the sinking of the Titanic.

    Dean: Why did you un-sink the ship?
    Balthazar: Ugh, because I hated the movie.
    Dean: What movie?
    Balthazar: Exactly!

      • And another one from later in the same episode.

    Balthazar: That godawful Celine Dion song made me want to smite myself.
    Sam: Who's Celine Dion?
    Balthazar: Oh, she's a destitute lounge singer somewhere in Quebec -- and let's keep it that way, please.

    • In a Christmas Episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina heads off to a magical party instead of spending time with her aunts and the partygoers mock those wanting to spend Christmas time together, including her aunts, on a TV. Sabrina cuts it off and storms out but is later told by Salem that she hit "erase" by accident and thus erased Christmas. He informs Sabrina she has 24-hours to fix the damage or Christmas will go the way of Bobunk, a holiday he inadvertently erased and couldn't get back.

    Sabrina: I never heard of it.
    Salem: THAT'S MY POINT!

    • Played entirely straight on an episode of Castle, "A Dance With Death":

    Brad: I'd be off the show. I'd be Brian Dunkleman!
    Becket: Beat Who's Brian Dunkleman?
    Brad: Exactly.

    Newspaper Comics

    Conchy: Is there any chance the war with the East Islanders will reach the nuclear stage?
    The King: Not a chance. North Island tested a nuclear bomb and since then we've all been a little uneasy.
    Conchy: North Island? There is no North Island.
    The King: Exactly.

    • This doesn't quite work in one strip of Candorville. Stephen King argues that Dickens's fictional portrayal of slum life taught more people more about the slums than [mumble]'s factual reporting. Lemont, unable to hear him, asks "Who?" King responds "Exactly," and both wind up confused.

    Video Games

    • The Curse of Monkey Island features a scene where the captive Guybrush Threepwood is trying to convince the Demon Pirate LeChuck not to kill him. At one point, it's possible to argue that if LeChuck kills Guybrush, there will be no more Monkey Island games, and hence LeChuck will wind up just another forgotten game villain. LeChuck scoffs at this, prompting the following exchange:

    Guybrush: Do you know the name "Bobbin Threadbare"?
    LeChuck: Um,
    Guybrush: Exactly.

    Mira: Ever heard of Dersonn III?
    Exile: No.
    Mira: See what I mean?

    Edwin: You assume my death to be inevitable, but perhaps I think beyond those terms. Mortality seems escapable by others, so why not me?
    Haer'Dalis: Edwin, do you remember the name of the ancient Netheril god of the sea?
    Edwin: Eh... no.
    Haer'Dalis: Everything ends, Edwin. Everything dies. The dust of a god looks much the same as yours and mine will.

    Web Animation

    • In the flash series Perfect Kirby, where Neil is talking about how Professor $1.99 is called that because he's cheap but still manages to make things work. His example is how they gave him a million dollars to make a hydrogen bomb. He spent most of it on candy but spent $1.99 making the bomb itself out of a pop can and other household items.

    Kirby: Did it work?
    Neil: Oh yeah. Remember Kaplikistan?
    Kirby: No?
    Neil: Exactly.

    Web Comics

    Merlin: Don't make me mad.
    Space pirate: I'm on the verge of taking over all the territory of all the pirates Arthur's put out of business. I don't think one old man--
    Merlin: Have you heard of the dual dragons of Dinas Emrys?
    Space pirate: No.
    Merlin: They made me mad.

    Faye: You'd better be careful with those drinks, they're what killed Keith Moon.
    Raven: Keith who?
    Faye: Exactly.

    • Sean Tevis, who actually is running for Kansas State Representative on internet donations:

    "And exactly 0.003% know who Dirk Kempthorne is."
    "Who's Dirk Kempthorne?"

    Web Original

    Kaiba: Since he's the star, he thinks he can hog all the screentime to himself. I mean, just look at Bakura.
    Mokuba: Who the hell is Bakura?
    Kaiba: Precisely.

      • Bakura seems to get this a lot

    Yami-Yugi: Hey remember when Bakura was in this show? Neither do I!

    • Used dramatically in Dragon Ball Abridged, after Freeze just kicked the crap out of Nail, one of the few surviving Namekians:

    Freeza: Tell me...have you ever heard of the planet Vegeta?
    Freeza: That's funny...because that's exactly what I expect people will say when I ask them about Namek.

    Western Animation

    • All Grown Up!!, "Brother, Can You Spare The Time?": Tommy has just won an award for a video he's shot, and his brother, Dil, keeps intruding on a video he's shooting about himself because he [Dil] is worried that the fame will go to Tommy's head.

    Dil: Who knows what effects the "cross the fame border" has on sibling symbiosis? Once you're a big time director, the dynamic duel of T and D Pickles will be no more.
    Tommy: First of all, even if I do get famous, who's to say that you won't be the brother that got famous too?
    Dil: Two words, T, Lars Christian Anderson.
    Tommy: Who's that?
    Dil: Exactly.

      • There's a later scene where Dil uses Gabe Ruth to further his argument, and he even takes the argument to a TV talk show.
    • Parodied on The Simpsons; after Lisa fails her audition for first chair in the school orchestra and tells herself there's no shame in being second place, she has a dream about being a member of "Garfunkel, Oates, Messina, and Lisa", the second-most popular band in America. The group is sponsored by Avis Rent-a-Car and has a #2 single called "Born To Runner-Up".
    • Used on Fillmore!, when Fillmore and Ingrid are interrogating an artist suspected of doing graffiti:

    Tommy: I ain't goin' out like Charles Laskey, know what I'm sayin'?
    Ingrid: Who's Charles Laskey?
    'Tommy: That's what I'm sayin, know what I'm sayin'?

    • Used in Frisky Dingo, when Killface's son comes out of the closet and Xander, Killface's rival in the presidential election, wants to use the news against his campaign.

    Stan: Nope, we leave this one alone.
    Xander: Why?
    Stan: Because two words: John Kerry.
    Xander: Who?
    Stan: Exactly.
    Xander: [[[Beat]]] ...He some sort of famous gay dude?

    Yakko: Very Pete Townsend-esque.
    Dot: Who?
    Wakko: Exactly.

      • Plays with this trope, but punnier.

    Real Life

    • Adolf Hitler says: "Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
      • He may have invoked this trope, but the annihilation of the Armenians was a very real event from around the time of WWI.
      • The Armenian Genocide had somewhat fallen into obscurity at the time, so it worked. Only later was it made more famous once the UN adopted laws against genocide and the Armenian diaspora attempted to finally bring it to justice. Due to Turkey invoking the Streisand Effect they only brought more attention to it in their efforts to cover it up.