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Pink Elephant Tactics

Updated on October 3, 2016

Scooby Doo Time

Scare Em Say Boo

Most of us know of Scooby Doo, the animated cartoon show where investigators check out ghost story after ghost story. The stories almost always have the same plot. Strange things are happening in some remote out of the way place. The people in the area are becoming afraid, and beginning to believe claims of supernatural occurrences. The heroes come in, begin investigating and become afraid too, or somehow get trapped. The heroes eventually stumble onto the truth, and discover the explanation for the apparent supernatural occurrences, which usually turns out to be somebody’s contrived cover for some illegal activity in the area. They then all laugh at having once again being fooled into believing in ghosts, and re-assure themselves once again that ghosts are not real.

The stories have the side-effect of keeping us mind-numbingly entertained for about half an hour. But the stories also are an example of one of the sad truths of life. People will make up distractions to keep you from wanting to discover the truth. In cartoon shows, we can laugh at the routine. In real-life, the stories may not be so funny. I call these type of stories ‘pink elephants’.

History of Elephant Tactics – Irresistible Force Beats Immovable Object

No description of pink elephant tactics is complete without a quick reminder of history of the real elephant tactics employed in historical warfare.

The first recorded elephant tactics that I know of are from the times of the Roman Empire. No Empire becomes great without making enemies, and so it was with Rome. The particular enemy we are interested in is Hannibal the Great. Hannibal was located somewhere in the northern part of Africa. Hannibal trained elephants for warfare. He apparently also taught them to swim or ride calmly in boats, because he managed to bring his trained herd of war elephants (and warriors) across the Mediterranean Sea and into Europe to attack Rome. He did well against the Roman legions. He did well because the Roman legion had developed their tactics around forming a strong square of fighters, called legionnaires. The Roman squares were the classical immovable object of ancient warfare. Hannibal on the other hand, had taught his elephants to charge, becoming what will no doubt be remembered as the classical irresistible force of ancient warfare. The first time the two met, immovable object cracked, breaking the square, and irresistible force ran amok amongst the individual legionnaires. Imagine if you can, a berserk elephant with men dressed in armor trying to scramble out of the way.

This tactic worked until a young hero named Scipio came along. The first part of Scipio’s breakthrough in ancient warfare was a stroke of childish genius. When you see a charging elephant, step aside. Charging elephants can’t turn as quickly as you can when you step aside. The second part of Scipio’s breakthrough came from being trained as a warrior. After you step aside, wait until you can see the pink of his flank, and counterattack. I know I know, elephants probably don’t have pink flanks (I really don’t know, I’ve never inspected an elephants flank), but it seems to fit with the story, and brings us nicely back to the topic of pink elephants. In any case, Scipio followed Hannibal back to Africa, and the subsequent battles did not go so well for the elephants.

Elephant Charging on Slippery Grounds

Pink Elephant

Museum of Charging Elephants?  Color them Pink when they embarass themselves this way.
Museum of Charging Elephants? Color them Pink when they embarass themselves this way. | Source

Pink Elephant Stories

So exactly what is meant when a story is called a 'pink elephant' story?

In general, it is just any concocted story that is designed to encourage you to be afraid. It is the type of story that is designed to encourage you give up hope, run from the battle, or degenerate into chaotic behavior. We’ve seen pink elephant stories all through our lives, stories of those scary aliens, UFO’s, global-warming, global-cooling, end-of-the-world, and conspiracies of various sorts. They usually have no basis in fact, or any facts they cite are contrived. There really is no such thing as Pink Elephants.

Fighting the Pink Elephant

There are at least two things we can do when we encounter pink elephants, assuming we recognize them as such. First is, be like Scooby Doo (Scooby Doo!), go investigate, find the facts and learn the truth. Once we have the truth, stare our fear in the face and laugh at it, and prosecute. Second is, if it turns out to be true, it probably will fall into the category of ‘this too shall pass’. Pink elephants are only scary if they are charging, and if they are, simply step aside. Then we can either laugh at the pink flank, or we can counterattack.

Why even talk about Pink Elephants?

Many people of today were raised on Scooby Doo, they learned the lessons, learned them subconsciously, and learned them so well they might not even know they learned them. But not everybody learned the same lesson. Some people learned to face their fears, others learned to create artificial fears as a distraction.

It is my hypothesis that many of those who learned to create artificial fears went into national politics, where they could lead those who fear what they are told to be afraid of. The politician can simply claim to have saved us from the pink elephant. Then when observant rational people claim to have never seen a pink elephant, the politician can say 'See there? I got rid of them for you'.

And that’s why I talk about pink elephants. Remember, there is no such thing as a pink elephant.

Flying Pink Elephant

Who could possibly be afraid of a little old fiscal cliff?
Who could possibly be afraid of a little old fiscal cliff? | Source

Postscript 2013: Fiscal Cliff

Imagine if you can, a pink elephant named Dumbo, jumping from a fiscal cliff hollering "Scooby Doo, where are you?"

How can those wings carry that weight?

Where does he get the energy to flap those wings anyway?

I mean, that is a lot of peanuts.


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    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Thank you LuxmiH,

      I'm glad you liked the talk, and the elephant walk. I couldn't believe my luck when I found that video, and the picture.

    • LuxmiH profile image

      Luxmih Eve-Lyn Forbes 6 years ago from Fort Pierce, Florida

      Brilliant Hub for both content and uniqueness.

      Being from Africa I relate to elephants of all colors. (I played your charging elephant video several times. LOL.)

      A popular use of the pink elephant is a tactic that intentionally distracts attention from what's really going on. Pink elephant fantasies are commonly used by the current adminstration as talking points, for the purpose of directing the thinking mind away from fact. This colorful, entertaining, even appealing distraction technique is effective in blinding many to the real elephant bearing down on them, off camera.

      Voted up and awesome. God Bless The USA!

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 6 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Thanks Big John.

      When I was righting endings to this article, I thought about quoting the President who said 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself.' But then I stumbled across the video of the slip-sliding real-life befuddled elephant that left me with the impression he was thinking 'how dare they laugh at me' as he got up and walked away.

    • WhatBigJohnThinks profile image

      WhatBigJohnThinks 6 years ago

      Fear sets up house in so many varied ways in as many people. It was grand that you encompassed all of them in the "Pink Elephant". A great answer to so many different fears. Good job.

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 6 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Stephen, Thank You. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Credence, I have a hunch that a whole herd of Pink Elephants were created to help push the 17th Amendment. :) Thanks for taking the time to read.

      Thanks Dexter, and thanks for the votes.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Very intriguing hub. Inspirational lesson in combating fear. Voted up, up and away!

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      FJ, I am in heartfelt agreement with the concept of the "pink elephant" Great Article, thanks Cred2

    • Stephen Kalu profile image

      stephen kalu 6 years ago from Nigeria

      I love your story and most especially that of Doo.

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 6 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Thank you gjfalcone.

      The willingness to engage in intelligent discussion and debate, from a number of different perpspectives, was the basis for the founding of the United States. Underlying each persons point of view is a whole history as to why they came to feel that way. Whether each of our own individual history is based in fact, emotion, ideology, or flat out misinformation, the best we can do is to seek to understand why we see things the way we do, and then decide whether to respect that or not.

      To see people manufacture false fears or engage in name-calling is frustrating since it essentially relies on other people to discard their common sense and follow blindly like children being led by the Pied-Piper, perhaps in fear of yet another pink elephant.

    • gjfalcone profile image

      gjfalcone 6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona


      I, as I often do, enjoyed your take on Pink Elephants. Having one of my hubs thus described as a Pink Elephant, it cemented a comment from yours truly. Short of defending my position, I believe the process of debate is instrumental toward achieving realistic compromise. It is an incredible realism on how We the People can come together, as you know we have, on a personal level Sir. Mutual respect needs to be earned, of which, I believe we have accomplished. So whether you see it as Pink, or I see it as red, is really nothing more than a varied shade of gray; fore as we both know the true color of an elephant is gray. gjf