black elephant
n. An unlikely but significant risk that everyone knows about, but no one wants to discuss.
Cybersecurity is like a "black elephant" — a dangerous crossbreed between the "black swan" risk (capable of producing unexpected outcomes with enormous consequences) and the "elephant in the room" (a large problem that is in plain sight).
“Currently,” said Sweidan, "there are a herd of environmental black elephants gathering out there" — global warming, deforestation, ocean acidification, mass extinction and massive fresh water pollution. "When they hit, we’ll claim they were black swans no one could have predicted, but, in fact, they are black elephants, very visible right now."
—Thomas L. Friedman, “Stampeding Black Elephants,” The New York Times, November 22, 2014
Likewise, Samra also ignored the more recent black swans, the financial collapse of 2008 and its continuing aftermath, as well as the rise of China as an economic power without an independent central bank — events so recent and so significant that to overlook them is more like missing a black elephant than a black swan.
2009 (earliest)
The reason the Government cannot admit it is that it has a very large impact and would necessitate hard choices they don’t want to take this side of an election — ie its treated as a "Black Swan" but is actually far more likely than that to occur — what Lloyd Davis coined as a "Black Elephant" event.
—Alan Patrick, “Black Elephant Strategy and Collapsonomics,” Broadstuff, April 25, 2009
"Good day, dear friend ; where do you come from?"
"From the Museum, where I have spent three hours. I saw everything they have there, and examined it carefully. So much have I seen to astonish me, that, if you will believe me, I am neither strong enough nor clever enough to give you a full description of it. Upon my word it is a palace of wonders. How rich Nature is in invention! What birds and beasts haven't I seen there! What flies, butterflies, cockroaches, little bits of beetles! some like emeralds, others like coral. And what tiny cochineal insects! Why, really, some of them are smaller than a pin's
"But did you see the elephant? What did you think of it? I’ll be bound you felt as if you were at a mountain."
"The elephant? Are you quite sure it is there?"
"Quite sure."
"Well, brother, you mustn’t be too hard on me; but to tell the truth, I didn’t remark the elephant."
—Ivan & Krylov, “The Inquisitive Man,” January 01, 1814