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Now that I look back, I realize that a life predicated on being obedient and taking orders is a very comfortable life indeed. Living in such a way reduces to a minimum one's own need to think.


Just Following Orders is a justification for morally questionable actions that a character may invoke when questioned about the rightness or necessity of such actions. This justification holds that the (bulk of the) responsibility for such actions falls upon those who make such decisions and give such orders within a (military) hierarchy; by extension, those who obey and act upon such orders cannot be held (entirely) accountable for their actions. Often invoked with the exact phrase "I was Just Following Orders." Also known as the Nuremberg Defense, this is the Stock Phrase motto/mantra/defense of the Punch Clock Villain, as well as most bureaucrats (obstructive or otherwise), Mooks, and just about any of us during failures of nerve, nous, job security, heroic fortitude...

But we all expect everyone to be a saint. It seems justifiable if you put yourself in their shoes. If your life and/or your family's life was threatened if you disobeyed orders you knew to be morally reprehensible, what would you do? For reference, the concentration camps also housed those convicted of treason. Many of those who used the Nuremberg Defense knew what was waiting for them whether they followed orders or not.

Of course, this trope is by now usually not played straight but instead ironically, sarcastically or self-hatingly. Still, it's one of the tropes that cycles between Dead Horse Trope and Undead Horse Trope, because it always sneaks its way back somewhere, even if you did not mean to invoke it...And even if everyone should know by now that playing this straight (even when fully sincere, which is not always the case) is likely to meet with skepticism and ridicule.

Often also turns up in or close to other guises: My Country, Right or Wrong, people claiming they were Just Doing My Job or "I Did What I Had to Do". Often prefixed by "Nothing Personal", usually said by an assassin.

Examples of Just Following Orders include:

Anime and Manga


Shu: You can't do this! This is not right!
Nabuca: Never mind right or wrong! An order is an order!

  • Fullmetal Alchemist- Ed tries to invoke this when Riza tells him what happened in Ishval, saying that the Homunculi were really the ones behind it. Riza replies that, yes, the Homunculi may have started it, but they were the ones who carried it out, and that is something they will never forget
  • Monster began with this trope. Tenma was ordered to save a man of importance as he was about to perform surgery on an immigrant and did so, and only later found out that the immigrant had died and left a widow who angrily confronted him about it. Tenma is later presented a similar situation, and opts instead to save the young boy he was about to operate on over another man of importance. And oh, what a mistake that was.
  • In the beginning of the anime version of Black Cat this is the defense Train gives to justify attempting to murder Eve.
  • Inuyasha Naraku orders Byakuya to allow Mouyoumaru to live. This forces Byakuya to interfere with Sesshoumaru's pursuit of Mouryoumaru. When Sesshoumaru turns on him, he says "don't hate me, I'm just doing my job" and then beats a hasty retreat.

Comic Books

  • Invoking this backfires spectacularly for one Mooks in Lucifer, where Lucifer must somehow find the red stone at the bottom of a cauldron of molten lead guarded by a Big Nameless Shinto Monster:

Big Nameless Shinto Monster: "You must choose, and I must enact your fate."
Lucifer: Fate's a slippery sort of concept, though, isn't it. I mean, most of the time it's just an excuse for doing what you want to do anyway." (Empties kettle of molten lead over Shinto Monster).
Big Nameless Shinto Monster: Nuuuh! It burns! It BURNS!
Lucifer: Well, that's what happens when you play with fire. Here we are. The red stone, I think you said."


Fan Works

  • The Battlestar Galactica/BattleTech crossover Hunted Tribes gives one of the most epic treatments of this trope ever. Clan Wolverine soldiers refuse to associate with crewmembers from the Pegasus, considering the ship and all who served under Admiral Cain disgraced for abandoning civilians to the Cylons. When someone tries to claim they were just following orders, the Wolverines state that people's conscience should have stopped them, and that they should have killed Admiral Cain for issuing the order in the first place. Roslin tries the I Did What I Had to Do-Defense, only to be told that the Wolverines have been in similar situations without ever compromising their morals, and that that excuse would have been good enough for any number of people, but NOT for them.



Mr. Marcus: We're here in Customs and I have a job to do.
Frances: We're Just Following Orders, are we? Asshole.

  • In Ever After, Danielle has ordered her servant Maurice to be released from slavery.

Cargomaster: I'm following orders here. It's my job to take these criminals and thieves to the coast.

  • The Crazies: The soldiers go on a killing spree against civilians because that's what they were told to do to contain the virus.
  • Outbreak:

Sam Daniels: If you think I'm lying, drop the bomb. If you think I'm crazy, drop the bomb. But don't drop the bomb just because you're following orders!

  • In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond has this conversation after subduing an assassin who has just killed Paris Carver;

Dr. Kaufmann: Wait! I'm just a professional doing a job!
Bond: Me too. *BANG*

    • Considering that by all accounts Kaufmann is a sadist who likes whipping out Cold-Blooded Torture without any justification, this comes off more as a futile attempt to say something that will spare his pathetic life.
  • Used along with a healthy dose of Godwin's Law in Clerks. A man berates Dante in front of customers for selling cigarettes, accusing him of being just like the Nazis since he's "only following orders," and tells customers that they should buy Chewlies Gum instead (because selling a dangerous product to a willing consumer is just like gassing innocent people). The man is later revealed as a Chewlies Gum salesman.
  • A rather pathetic example appears in Aliens Vs Predator Requiem after the military drop a nuclear bomb on the alien-infested town; a soldier says this after a survivor calls him out on it.
  • X-Men: First Class: When Erik is seconds away from throwing dozens of missiles back at the humans who fired them, Charles makes the mistake of using this argument on a Holocaust survivor. He's also unknowingly echoing some Nazi fugitives who tried to use the same excuse when Erik is killing them.
  • Gunner Palace:

SPC Devon Dixon: [feeling bad about killing] I'm not doin' the wrong thing, I'm Just Following Orders, so I'd rather it not be me. So, I had to, you know, I learned to live with it.



  • According to one tale, a sick Gurkha was lying on a hospital bed, dying, so a British officer walked up to him and sternly told him 'don't die'. At that, the Gurkha recovered. After all, Gurhkas follow orders.


  • Given the usual workout in Discworld, not just with the predictable Mooks, Punch Clock Villains and Obstructive Bureaucrats, but also with a number of notable subversions, mainly courtesy of the increasingly morally ambiguous and complex police Captain Carrot, who frequently subverts Just Following Orders by (seemingly) playing it straight.
    • Carrot's affinity for subversions of this trope may also explain how he is the first (and arguably only) character in Feet of Clay to notice that the Golems rebel by following orders.
    • Played straight with the local watchmen from Bonk in The Fifth Elephant where the captain thereof tries to justify the things he's done to VIMES using this. Needless to say this is a futile effort, leading to the invoked aversion of this trope, where Vimes orders Detritus to kill the man, and Detritus, knowing what's up, telling him to stuff it (with all due respect).
  • From Good Omens, the mostly Lawful Good angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley discuss their bad feelings about the coming end of the world:

'It's not that I disagree with you,' said the angel, as they plodded across the grass. 'It's just that I'm not allowed to disobey. You know that.'
'Me too,' said Crowley.
Aziraphale gave him a sidelong glance. 'Oh, come now,' he said, 'you're a demon, after all.'
'Yeah. But my people are only in favour of disobedience in general terms. It's specific disobedience they come down on heavily.'
'Such as disobedience to themselves?'
'You've got it. You'd be amazed. Or perhaps you wouldn't be.'


'All right. All right. I don't like it any more than you, but I told you. I can't disod- disoy - not do what I'm told. 'M'a'nangel.'

    • Ironically, near the end of the book it's Aziraphale who points out, while trying to convince Crowley not to leave the mortals to confront Satan alone, "Lots of people in history have only done their jobs, and look at the trouble they caused."
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Tenn Graneet – the head gunner on the Death Star – while gripped by the enormity of what he did, can't justify it in any way, even if justifications flick through his mind. Following orders to destroy an inhabited planet, even if refusing just would have meant they killed him and got a new gunner to do his job, is unforgivable to the rest of the galaxy... and to him.
    • He does, however, inadvertently save the Rebellion by not firing immediately after ordered. He says "Stand by" twice before Luke's torpedoes hit the reactor.
    • Since the Empire resembles Nazi Germany, sympathetic Imperials wrestle with this trope a lot in the Expanded Universe.
  • Non-military variation; The Grapes of Wrath features an interlude with a bulldozer driver who is employed by the banks and landowners to bulldoze repossessed farms for development. One of the dispossessed farm-owners recognises him as the son of an acquaintance and demands to know how he can do this to his own people. The bulldozer driver replies that it's his job; he has a family to think of as well, and if he quit out of moral outrage all that would happen would be that the banks would get someone else to do his job and he and his family would end up starving as well. Sort of a Deconstruction of We ARE Struggling Together!, if you think about it.
  • Perhaps the most extreme version imaginable appears in Stephen King's The Dark Tower (the last book). One of the Mooks at the Evil Overlord's multiverse-breaking facility blames the heroes for attacking him and his fellows, in reply to which she queries how exactly this compares to the moral status of their working to kill absolutely everyone everywhere. His answer? Go on, guess.
  • In the third book of The Underland Chronicles, Doctor Neveeve says this line while being arrested.
  • Ranga Sanga in the Belisarius Series both plays this straight and subverts it. He fights for the bad guys because of his feudal duties but doesn't commit atrocities for them and turns on them when they go too far.
    • Belisarius himself, goes out of his way to order his men not to commit Rape, Pillage and Burn on random civilians and in fact harshly punishes those who do such things. Those are of course good orders.
  • In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's play Judas Maccabeus, Jason, King Antiochus' appointed High Priest, pleads that he was just following orders. Judah Maccabee basically tells him no dice, the King used him to do dirty work because he is a dirty person – and then orders him exiled from Israel. The whole conversation could have taken place at Nuremberg.
  • In Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, Hanna is prosecuted as a war criminal when she is found to have been a concentration camp guard who oversaw a forced prisoner march. The guards were ordered not to lose any prisoners, and so locked them inside a church on an overnight stop. When the church caught fire, the guards chose to leave the doors chained rather than risk that any might escape, and all 300 prisoners died. When questioned about this, she points to her orders, and asks the judge naively, "What would you have done?"
  • Referenced in World War Z. A unit of the German army has been ordered to retreat to a more defensible location and abandon the civilians they have been defending to the zombies. Despite the fact that he understands the awful necessity of it -their position was in imminent danger of being overrun and to stay would be a futile gesture- the officer being interviewed is appalled that the theatre commander was capable of giving this order, for everyone who enlists in the German military has it impressed on them that their first and most important duty is to their conscience.
  • A variation occurs in the "Dragon" play by Eugeny Shwartz.

{{[[[The Quisling]] Henrih}}:"It's not my fault. They've taught me this way!"
Lancelot:"They've taught everyone. But why did you have to the top student, you scum?!"

  • Said by Marcello Clerici, the Villain Protagonist of the novel "The Confomist" which is set in Fascist Italy and ends on the night of Mussolini's fall from power, when his colleague Orlando wonders how they'll explain their role in the government.

Live-Action TV

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander chloroforms Dawn and kidnaps her under Buffy's orders. However, it turns out Dawn carries a tazer and doesn't care, so she tazes him and drives them back anyways.
  • From the Blake's 7 episode "Headhunter":

Orac: I am obliged to do as you tell me, even though I know it to be wrong.
Kerr Avon: Only following orders? That's not very original, Orac.

  • From Heroes Chapter Nine: "It's Coming":

Elle Bishop: I only saved you so we could use you, like a lab rat.
Sylar: You were Just Following Orders... But I forgive you. Now you need to forgive yourself.


Beata Lindermann: I'm Just Following Orders!
Joseph Byrne: Mmm, they tried that in Nuremberg, it didn't work.


Lincoln Burrows: You wanted me dead, Paul.
Paul Kellerman: Just following orders.

  • In the Docu Drama Nuremberg, Field Marshal Keitel states this after reading the accounts on which he has been convicted.

Wilhelm Keitel: We were just following orders!


Data: Captain, I wish to submit myself for disciplinary action. I have disobeyed a direct order from a superior officer. Although the result of my actions proved positive, the ends cannot justify the means.
Captain Picard: No, they can't. However, the claim "I was only following orders" has been used to justify too many tragedies in our history. Starfleet doesn't want officers who will blindly follow orders without analyzing the situation. Your actions were appropriate for the circumstances.

    • "The Pegasus":

Commander Riker: I wasn't a hero, and neither were you! What you did was wrong. And I was wrong to support you, but I was too young and too stupid to realize it! You were the captain, I was the ensign. I was Just Following Orders.

  • More or less the theme of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Duet", where it is doubly subverted, first when a Cardassian officer gleefully refuses to claim it, and then at the end when it turns out that he's actually just a common soldier who is still tortured by his acquiescence in the atrocities ordered by his superiors, and has been impersonating a dead superior in hopes of shaming his fellow Cardassians.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Equinox: Part 1":

Captain Janeway: I'm putting an end to your experiments, and you are hereby relieved of your command. You and your crew will be confined to quarters.
Captain Ransom: Please, show them leniency. They were only following my orders.
Captain Kathryn Janeway: Their mistake!

  • In The Thick of It, Hapless minister Hugh Abbot is about to introduce a new bill about special needs schooling, and gets uncomfortable around an aide who opposes it because he thinks the bill will fail his own child.

Hugh Abbot: Glenn, the special needs bill. With your particular interest, I... I can't do this.
Glenn Cullen: You know my views, you know inclusion is an illusion, it doesn't work.
Hugh: But you don't mind if I go ahead with it.
Glenn: Of course not, look - you're only following orders.
Hugh: Oh thanks. So you won't make me feel bad, except by comparing me to a concentration camp guard.
Glenn: No, that's right.

    • It continues in Series 3 with incompetent new press officer John Duggan:

"I'm Just Following Orders! Like a Nazi guard, only less gassy! [sheepish pause] You're not Jewish are you?"

  • Averted at least once in Babylon 5. Dr. Franklin is ordered to turn over his notes on Minbari anatomy so that the military can create a biological weapon. He refuses, stating that under military law he has no duty to obey an order if it would violate his conscience.
    • Not so averted. The military locks him up and tears his house and office apart looking for some remnant of those notes. He was just Genre Savvy enough to have destroyed them in advance, knowing in times of war, military law is "Do What We Say And Maybe We Won't Kill You."
    • Delenn raised a whole fleet without the permission of the Grey Council. So much for orders.
    • In the episode "Deathwalker", Sinclair uses this reason, but it is clear he is sickened by Earthdome's actions.
    • Played straight in "Intersections in Real Time". Sheridan's interrogator never uses the exact words, but it's clear that it's how he reconciles what he's doing.
    • Sheridan beats this trope to death by actually seceding and later coming back to overthrow the regime-with the help of Minbari. His crew of course follows his orders presumably because he is a badass.
      • And then he resurrects it by not protesting a blanket pardon for the regime - in Season 5 there are numerous individuals flying starships who bombed civilian targets and slaughtered refugees.
      • And then it's twisted in a knot in "A Call To Arms": a whole crew of pardoned war criminals joins Sheridan out of guilt for their actions during the war, and ultimately makes a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Word of advice, do not invoke this trope around the Doctor from Doctor Who. It will only make him mad. For example, this exchange from "Bad Wolf":

Female Programmer: If you're not holding us hostage, then open the door and let us out. The staff are terrified!
The Doctor: That's the same staff who executes hundreds of contestants every day?
Female Programmer: That's not our fault. We're just doing our jobs.
The Doctor: And with that sentence, you just lost the right to even talk to me. Now back off!

  • An episode of JAG (season 9) involves a Marine who disobeyed an order to "treat everyone as hostile" during the invasion of Iraq, freezing when confronted with a 10-year-old kid, who then exposed his squad's position, leading to the deaths of two Marines. He's accused of dereliction of duty and the "duty to obey unlawful orders" is discussed. At a pre-trial hearing, the judge feels he isn't guilty of dereliction of duty, but there is a change for insubordination, which he pleads guilty to.
  • Used in V, by humans to justify working for the visitors. One woman is called out on this, being told that the same excuse was used at the Nuremberg Trials.
  • Invoked in an episode of CSI: during a murder investigation, Catherine uncovers that while their main suspect isn't guilty of the crime, he is hiding his past as a sex offender (turns out he's really a decent guy that made a stupid mistake, and is trying to start his life over). Although cleared of the murder charge, the man's life is effectively ruined by the revelation. At the end of the episode he confronts Catherine angrily, and she replies "I was just doing my job." He denounces her as a "Blonde Nazi Bitch" and leaves.
  • Used in Rome, in a situation which actually turns out to be for the better.

Centurion Lucius Vorenus: Pullo, report to Princess Cleopatra and do whatever she tells you.

  • Cue a prolonged bout of vigorous and noisy sex.*

Legionary Titus Pullo: Gods, that was something, let me tell you.
Vorenus: I don't want to hear about it. If you're wise, you'll never speak of this again.
Pullo: Why? I was only obeying orders. Bloody good orders, too.

  • Nancy Cartwright in Life On Mars uses this defence - not necessarily as an excuse but as an admission of complicity in the death of Billy Kemble - in this way in the penultimate episode of series 1.
  • Invoked in Episode 6 of Torchwood: Miracle Day when Gwen confronts Dr Patel about the incineration of 'Category One' patients. Dr Patel begins to protest, and Gwen interrupts her.

Gwen: Don't you dare. Don't you dare look at me and tell me you're obeying orders. Don't you bloody dare.

    • And again with Colin Maloney, director of the San Pedro camp.

Rex: They built ovens! And you're the director, so you know that.
Maloney: Look, I'm not in charge of policy...we had instructions that got sent out nationwide, worldwide, and we had orders from above not to say anything. I just did as I was told.



  • In one episode of Old Harry's Game the Professor is interviewing various historical figures for a history book, this includes a Nazi who claims he was only following orders. The Nazi in question was actually Hitler.

Tabletop Games

  • A subversion in the Traveller volume Alien Races 4. The Bwaps are a race whose hat is being Badass Bureaucrats. In one side story a Bwap starport official is processing incoming passengers. The Bwap stopped a mother and her baby, claiming a petty technicality and caused the whole line behind her to become indignant at his supposed stupidity. But as it turned out the passengers behind were terrorists and the Bwap was pretending to be Just Following Orders as a Batman Gambit to delay them so that SWAT could get into place—using stereotypes to divert suspicion. After the incident the Bwap insisted that the mother he was delaying share in the reward.


  • Heinrich von Kleist's play The Prince of Homburg is about a cavalry general put on trial and condemned to death for disobeying an order not to charge in a battle.
  • Franz Liebkind (author of "Springtime for Hitler") in The Producers:

"I vas never a member of the Nazi party. I only followed orders. I had nossing to do with the war. I didn't even know there vas a war on. Ve lived in the back. Right across from Svitzerland. All ve heard vas yodeling."

  • Krupp, the policeman in The Time of Your Life: "All I do is carry out orders, carry out orders." His orders: "To keep the peace down here on the waterfront." His friend, McCarthy the longshoreman, asks him if that means hitting him over the head with a club if he's on duty and standing on the opposite side.
  • The constable in Fiddler on the Roof. It may be worth noting that he tries to keep the violence he is tasked with to the minimum necessary to satisfy his superiors and knows that he could be replaced with someone that would cause more harm if he lost his post.

Video Games

  • In The Punisher video game, one mook yells out "I was just following orders!" when you torture him to his breaking point.

Punisher: (Kill) Orders are no excuse.
Punisher: (Mercy) Think for yourself next time.

    • There's also another variation: "I'm just a soldier!"

The Punisher: (Kill) That's no excuse.
The Punisher: (Mercy) You're in the wrong army.

  • Beat Down:

Jason G: I don't forgive and forget so easily.
Ignacy: No! No! I'm sorry! Forgive me! Please...I was only...following...orders...


Lemina: Keep your eyes peeled and your hands on your valuables.
Ruby: Ronfar! Get your hands out of your pants!
Ronfar: Well... well... well, she said! Just following the lady's orders...


Thomas Holman: I was Just Following Orders.
Lian Xing: Yeah? Well, we were all Just Following Orders.

  • Ninety-Nine Nights. In Tyurru's story, Yesperratt justifies killing civilians by saying that she's just following orders.
  • In Alpha Protocol, Parker and Westridge uses this as their defense for their complicity in the whole Halbech fiasco and for sending Mike to Saudi Arabia with the intention of having him killed once he'd completed his mission.
  • The classic arcade shooter Sunset Riders does this after one of the boss fights. After the beaten but still alive boss falls to the ground, his sister suddenly runs up and says "please don't shoot my brother. He was just following orders." Ever the chivalrous gentleman cowboy, your character can't turn down a request from a lady and agrees to spare him. Note that this is the only time you spare a boss; every other one gets a bullet between the eyes, even if he was just following orders.
    • It's rather odd that she would specifically ask you not to shoot him considering that, in order to beat the guy, you have to shoot him about a hundred times. What's one more bullet?
  • Mega Man 8 features Sword Man, the one robot master who doesn't seem to have any problem with Mega Man; in fact, he seems to respect him quite a bit. He invokes this trope (along with Nothing Personal) right before you fight him.
  • Assassin Blue uses this as an excuse for killing at least initially.
  • If you take The Paragon option, Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 2 can get two prison guards to avert this trope when beating up a prisoner.

Shepard: This degrades you as much as him.
Guard: We have orders.
Shepard: You're not important enough to make your own decisions?
Guard: I admit... I sometimes get tired of this. Does this really get us anything useful?
Shepard: Stop this. For your own sake.
Guard: Yeah, you're right. (To the other guard) Call it off. At least for now.


Shepard: Just doing my job, Admiral.
Admiral Hackett: I wish all my men had your definition of "just doing your job

    • The Turians are implied to have tried to use this defence as justification for performing a pre-emptive strike on Pre-Contact Humanity, stating that were merely acting in accordance with Galactic Law to prevent tampering and activation of a dormant Mass Relay. Given how they are still paying reparations for the brief War that ensued, its clear that the Council didn't let them off the hook for this.

Web Comics

  • In Juathuur, this is the main source of conflict between Sojueilo (who follows orders) and Thomil (who doesn't).
  • Gen. William Howe of The Dreamer.
  • Freefall knows all about this one.
  • Schlock Mercenary had the eponymous amorph explain fine details of "I'm just doing my job".
  • In Escape from Terra a UW gunner who incinerated a defenseless Cerean homestead tried to use this excuse, though to be fair his superior who ordered the attack had assurred him he'd be taking full responsibility. The court did not see it that way, he and the ordering officer were both executed.

Western Animation

  • After being defeated in a water balloon war, one of Nelson's goons says this in The Simpsons episode "Bart the General." Bart spares them and pelts Nelson with the extra balloons instead.
  • In one episode of Johnny Test, Johnny, his friends and enemies start to have a drag race but are stopped by the sheriff. The General tries to fast-talk their way through before yelling, "GO around him! the general rules!" The two secret agents call this trope as they do just that.

Real Life

  • Famously used by Nazi defendants during the post World War 2 Nuremberg Trials. AKA the "Nuremberg Defense".
    • At the Nuremberg trials, it was established that "just following orders" is a valid defense, but only below the rank of lieutenant, and only if the orders in question are not clearly illegal. Many times the accused said that they followed orders because it was either work in the camps or the front line.
    • The US Military specifically states that following an order you know to be illegal (such as shooting civilians) denies you the use of this defense: you knew it was wrong and failed to refuse the order.
  • The New York City Police Department (NYPD) marched to protest a few of their fellow cops being charged with sweeping crimes under the rug. The slogan on their sign was the name of this very trope. Analogues to Nazi Germany were not far behind.
  • Stanley Milgram's infamous psychological experiment in obedience, which tested whether people would willingly administer what they thought were painful, or even harmful, electrical shocks to another person if ordered to do so by an apparently knowledgeable authority. Over and over again, the majority of subjects were seen to follow the experimenter's instructions through to the end, although the "victim" voiced their protests, and even claimed to have a heart condition that could kill them if the shocks got too strong. This means that we are psychologically programmed to submit to authority. To be fair, many of the subjects started showing signs of psychological distress when pressed to keep going. Of course, when you hear the pre-Adler style acting in the recordings played after each shock, you probably wouldn't think of it was a real person either.
  • Another famous experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment, showed that even ordinary people given authority over their peers will invariably become drunk on power, even when they go back to normal lives outside of the prison. More recent experiments have shown that one is more likely to abuse authority if the position involves power without respect and/or prestige (e.g. traffic cops, the DMV, staff managers). This means they won't get in trouble if caught and are unlikely to lose much even if they do. Or they hate the job so much they just don't care.
  • The Watergate burglars used the Just Following Orders defense, and succeeded. Notably, it succeeded because they had what they believed to be a lawful order, issued from the appropriate authority (the President), and they followed the order in the expectation that it was entirely valid. The Watergate scandal erupted and threatened to consume Nixon, but the grunts that actually committed the physical crime were acquitted. Remember, most people asked to do something by the Leader of the Free World tend to listen.
    • The fallout from this is a law referred to as Martinez-Baker, and is still on the books. The precedent is that while you are responsible for refusing illegal orders, you must actually know that the order was illegal before you can be faulted for it. And while any reasonable person knows that (for example) murdering innocent bystanders in cold blood is not kosher, fewer can be expected to telepathically divine that their chain of command is lying to them when they say that there is a valid surveillance warrant to plant this bug and it turns that nope, there wasn't.
  • Jiang Qing, wife of Chairman Mao Zedong, attempted this defense when the Gang of Four was put on trial after Mao's death. It didn't work.

"I was Chairman Mao's dog. I bit whomever he asked me to bite."


"I wasn't trying to do anything to that Parks woman except do my job. She was in violation of the city codes, so what was I supposed to do? That damn bus was full and she wouldn't move back. I had my orders."

  • There was at least one incident of an employee cutting off some branches from a couple of trees, damaging the cars parked underneath them in the process. The employee claimed he was ordered to cut the branches and had no other choice bot to follow the orders, and his boss is responsible for everything.