Pop Culture dictionary


or non-troversy [non-truh-vur-see] or [non-trov-er-see]

What does nontroversy mean?

A nontroversy is an attempt, often politically or commercially motivated, to cause controversy over something that isn’t contentious, scandalous, or even true.

Related words

Gamergate, Coulter's Law, clickbait, tinfoil hat

Where does nontroversy come from?

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images / Los Angeles Times

If the media or online commentators are trying to drum up outrage, but there’s no “there” there, it’s probably a nontroversy. 

The word nontroversy is a blend of the prefix non, “not,” and controversy, “a public dispute or argument.” Taken together, a nontroversy is “not a controversy,” despite what some may think.

One early instance of nontroversy comes from an article by longtime sports reporter Tom Keegan that ran in The New York Post on August 24, 1998. Keegan was writing about first baseman Mark McGwire who admitted to taking the steroid androstenedione, at that time not banned by Major League Baseball. The admission caused an uproar, but Keegan said of the debate: “It’s not a controversy; it’s a nontroversy … he is not, repeat, not cheating.”

The nontroversy, as a term and concept, spread in the 2000–10s, perhaps as a result of 24-hour news cycles needing more content along with social media creating more outlets for personal information and outrage.

Multiple entries of nontroversy made it onto the popular slang index, Urban Dictionary, in the late 2000s, showing the term’s spread. And, in 2015, KMFX in Lubbock, Texas applied nontroversy to an excellent example of the term: outcry over Starbucks’s red winter holiday cups, whose lack of explicit Christmas imagery is perennially described as “a war on Christmas.”

Another notable instance of what has been dubbed a nontroversy came in January 2019, when an anonymous Twitter user posted a video of Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) dancing in college. The tweet was meant to smear AOC, whose outspoken liberalism makes her a frequent target of conservative criticism, but it was a clearcut nontroversy. That she danced, that she had fun, portrayed her as human and relatable, only winning her more love. That she danced, that she had fun, also just isn’t a controversy.

Nontroversies, more generally, refer to events that are minor, inconsequential, or downright false—such as 2016’s Pizzagate, an utterly bogus, far-right conspiracy theory claiming Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a DC pizza parlor. Yeah, that was a thing. Such nontroversies are seen as efforts by political groups to damage their opponents or by media outlets seeking to drive clicks.

Examples of nontroversy

If we have to have a debate about old videos of current politicians, thanks to the Ocasio-Cortez dancing non-troversy, then this one is king.
Matt Vespa, Townhall, January, 2019
I honestly don’t care that much about celebrity culture and thoughts/opinions actors have and preach. I mostly ignore that. Fake drama, clickbait, outrage/nontroversy stuff. ... But I’ll defend/stick up for Brie making some silly comments or Pratt going to a specific church. 🤷‍♂️
@mcox731, March, 2019

Who uses nontroversy?

People use the expression nontroversy to dismiss or express disdain for some supposed drama, especially in contexts of politics and culture.

Like, when Obama wore a tan suit in 2014 and some Republicans criticized him for it not being suitable? That’s a nontroversy. Or, when golfer Rickie Fowler played a round in an untucked Hawaiian shirt and was considered unprofessional? Also a nontroversy.

Similar coinages to nontroversy are manufactroversy (“manufactured controversy”) and fauxtrage (“faux outrage”).

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of nontroversy like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of nontroversy that will help our users expand their word mastery.