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"Until it smoulders, these people are traitors and must be made examples of."
—Frollo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This is for when the benefit of what you do to someone isn't so much in and of itself as about the message it sends to others, about what could happen to them. As is implied from this, what happened needs to be known in order for it to work.
It is often associated with governments, especially the more tyrannical of them but not exclusively; see also the deterrence argument for use of this in the context of more democratic societies. Also, forces outside the law, like terrorists, criminal syndicates and Serial Killers, apply this as well.
Note that the "example" is usually more severe than the "normal" punishment, making this Disproportionate Retribution.
Anime and Manga
- In Rurouni Kenshin, a policeman whose hometown was taken over by Shishio managed to escape with his younger brother (even when he died in the process). Shishio's men took revenge via hanging their parents, mutilating their corpses and then hanging them in gallows located at the entrance of the village. When Kenshin arrives with Misao and the Sole Survivor of the family and they see this, he immediately realises that this was done "as a warning" and the mooks basically admit it.
- This tactic is often featured in Disney movies, and often associated with (or at least more explicitly mentioned by) the villains:
- The above page quote, of course, refers to the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The context of the quotation (trying to justify burning down a house with a family trapped inside. Scene viewable here.) is not the only example; Frollo whipping the previous captain of the guard in front of the next one, apparently to show what happens to captains who disappoint Frollo, is likely also an example of this.
- Pixar villains also tend to use this tactic, and a theme that often comes up with them is that they are trying to deter their victims from thinking.
- Hopper, from A Bugs Life, uses this tactic often. He gives a speech to other grasshoppers about how if "you let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up" and to drive the point home, even uses a demonstrated analogy involving grains that results in one of his henchmen getting buried; it's twofold in involving him applying it to his own henchmen in the context of a speech made to get them to apply it to the ants. Later on, he is about to squish the queen so as to "show the ants who is the boss," and also tries to find out whose idea the bird was so as to make an example of him or her.
Hopper: Let this be a lesson to all you ants; ideas can be very dangerous things.
- Lotso, from Toy Story 3, has the few who tried to escape Sunnyside cornered near a dumpster so that if they do not agree to go back to Sunnyside, Stretch could throw them in, in front of Chatter Telephone and Twitch.
Lotso: This is what happens when you dummies try to think!
- Paths of Glory. During World War I, an entire division of French soldiers refuse to go on a suicidal mission. Three soldiers are chosen at random to be tried & executed for cowardice.
- Pirates of the Caribbean provides the page image.
- Total Recall seems to feature this on Cohaagen's part, although being Cohaagen, it is likely there is some spite added in there as well.
Technician: Sir, the oxygen level is bottoming out in Sector G. What do you want me to do about it?
- In The Shawshank Redemption, Byron Hadley beats an emotionally-overwhelmed inmate to death on the prison floor for complaining out loud that he shouldn't be in prison. It is strongly implied that he is doing this to scare the other inmates into keeping their mouths shut.
- In Star Wars IV, Tarkin makes an example of the entire planet of Alderaan, after first rejecting Dantooine (where he was told the Rebel base was) for being "too remote to make an effective demonstration."
- Turkey Shoot. A scene which impressed even Quentin Tarantino is Ritter (played by 6ft, 3" Roger Ward) shadowboxing and then beating to death a tiny female inmate, picked at random as a 'lesson' to the New Meat.
- In Voltaire's Candide, the title character witnesses the execution of an admiral which is explained to him with the famous line: "In this country they find it necessary to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others (pour encourager les autres)." The scene is based on the Real Life execution of the British Admiral Byng, whom Voltaire had met, for alleged cowardice in battle.
- In the Deryni novel Camber of Culdi a tyrannical Deryni lord is murdered and dismembered, with his body parts left in various places. Fifty peasants are taken hostage and all but one executed when the killer(s) fail to turn themselves in.
- In Wyrd Sisters, the Duchess has a thing about having underlings punished as an example to the others. The Duke remarks that if she keeps it up, eventually she'll be having the last remaining guard cut his own throat as an example to himself.
- Visser Three uses this tactic, or *thinks* he is, on the runaway Hork-Bajir in Animorphs "The Change". Only, the real Hork-Bajir are somewhere else, and the two 'dead' ones and the wolves 'eating' them are morphed Animorphs. He intends to do this with Aftran in "The Sickness", but Cassie rescues her before it can happen.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf, as a warning to those who would oppose him, tries to feed all the Gorons to a dragon in the fire temple.
- In Twilight Princess from the same series, Zant executes the Zora queen when he shrouds the Lanayru Province in twilight. This later sets up a subplot when her son, Ralis, falls ill on his way to Castle Town to get help.