Flag-waving is a fallacious argument or propaganda technique used to justify an action based on the undue connection to nationalism or patriotism or benefit for an idea, group or country.[1][2] It is a variant of argumentum ad populum.[3] This fallacy appeals to emotion instead to logic of the audience aiming to manipulate them to win an argument. All ad populum fallacies are based on the presumption that the recipients already have certain beliefs, biases, and prejudices about the issue.[4]

If flag-waving is based on connecting to some symbol of patriotism or nationalism it is a form of appeal to stirring symbols which can be based on undue connection not only to nationalism but also to some religious or cultural symbols—for example, a politician appearing on TV with children, farmer, teacher, together with the "common" man, etc.

The act of flag-waving is a superficial display of support or loyalty to, for example, a nation or a political party.[5]


  1. ^ Ferrán Valls i Taberner; Chia-Jui Cheng (1993). Ciencia política comparada y derecho y economía en las relaciones internacionales: estudios en homenaje a Ferran Valls i Taberner. Cátedra de Historia del Derecho y de las Instituciones, Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de Málaga. p. 7219. ISBN 9788460460589. Retrieved 10 August 2013. Today, indeed, flag-waving has become a quite common generic term denoting the deliberate appeal to nationalistic emotions and prejudices.
  2. ^ Nicole Hein (7 November 2011). Spinning Coverage: An Analysis of The New York Times' Reporting on the War in Iraq in Light of the U.S. Administration's Spin and Propaganda Efforts. GRIN Verlag. p. 33. ISBN 978-3-656-04831-2. Retrieved 9 August 2013. Flag-waving is a popular propaganda technique, meaning that an action is justified "on the grounds that doing [what is promoted, in this case support the war] will make one more patriotic, or in some way benefit a group, country, or idea.
  3. ^ Daniel Harry Cohen (1 January 2004). Arguments and Metaphors in Philosophy. University Press of America. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-7618-2677-4. Retrieved 9 August 2013. ...ad Hominen ridicule, ad Misehcordiam tears, or ad Populum flag-waving - all logical fallacies...
  4. ^ Kathleen Bell (February 1990). Developing arguments: strategies for reaching audiences. Wadsworth Pub. Co. p. 284. ISBN 9780534121921. Retrieved 9 August 2013. The ad populum argument presumes that the audience already holds a particular attitude and specific beliefs on the issue.
  5. ^ Allied Chambers (1998). The Chambers Dictionary. Allied Publishers. p. 609. ISBN 978-81-86062-25-8. Retrieved 14 August 2013.