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File:No Mere Windmill 4342.png

"The moment their arms spun freely in our air, they were doomed — for Man has earned his right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone totally batshit insane."

"Ah yes, Reapers. An immortal race of sentient starships allegedly waiting in dark space. We have dismissed that claim."

A Windmill Political is a threat that doesn't exist, but some people believe it does or pretend that it does. There are lots of windmills, lots of people who (honestly or dishonestly) Cry Wolf. With so much nuttery and dishonesty going on, how is one to accept a real but really strange threat to be real?

Some threats are easy to mistake for windmills, but they turn out to be real threats.

There are four ways that this can come into play:

  • Type A is the metaphor: The claims about the threat were not literally true, but they described a real threat, although in a metaphorical way.
  • Type B is the straight warning: The threat turns out to be exactly as foretold.
  • Type C is when outrageous claims turn out to be modest: The guy accused of fighting a windmill had actually not yet understood the full magnitude of the real threat — it is worse than the dismissed warnings indicated.
  • Type D is somewhat like Type C, but much worse: The people whom the supposed Windmill Crusader is trying to warn either are the threat themselves or are an even worse theat, and are (understandably) deliberately playing down the threat and/or dismissing the crusader as crazy in order to deflect attention away from themselves.

For something to be No Mere Windmill, it must first be dismissed as a windmill. Thus, the trope is often closely related to Only Sane Man, Ignored Expert, Cassandra Truth and, depending on context, either The Cuckoolander Was Right or Straw Man Has a Point.

In many cases, it is also related to The Conspiracy and Devil in Plain Sight.

Likely to result in various forms of Dying Like Animals. See also Not So Harmless.

Contrast Elephant in the Living Room, where people actually do know that the problem is not a windmill, and Weirdness Censor, where "nothing to see here" becomes a Windmill Political in itself.

Just as with the supertrope Windmill Political: No contemporaty Real Life examples please, and no history examples except ones surrounded by a really thick consensus.

Not to be confused with G Gundam, which includes a Humongous Mecha that disguises itself as a windmill, but is completely non-threatening.

Examples of No Mere Windmill include:

Comic Books

  • Chick Tracts: In this setting, Hell is a literal truth and the Devil is actively hovering over the Earth trying to siphon away as many souls as he can. Only the kewl superpowers that come with being a Christian can save you now. (That and Lil'Suzy.) In spite of fundamentalist Christianity being Captain Obvious truth in this setting, many still mistake the Devil for a mere windmill. These people invariably find out that he is indeed not.
  • Jor-El: "Gentlemen, Krypton is doomed!
  • Type D example: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror story "Immigration of the Body Snatchers" (obivously a send-up of the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers) has Homer trying to warn the authorities in an insane asylum in which he's been confined that "pod people" from outer space are taking over the bodies of everyone in Springfield, inlcuding Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and Marge. Everyone refuses to believe him except for psychiatrist Dr. Marvin Monroe, who finally admits that the threat is true...but that it's nothing to worry about, because he is actually a three-eyed spy from the planet Venus (his doctor's headgear has been concealing his third eye) who has come to lead an invasion against both the pod people and Earthlings. Then one of the police officers who had arrested Homer suddenly strips off his skin to reveal that "he" is actually two Martians who have anticipated the Venusians' plot and are here to foil them. Then another policeman strips off his skin and exposes himself as "a robot ghost clone from the future" who is there to assassinate everybody. And so on, and so forth...


  • In The Day After Tomorrow, the bad weather is only bad weather. It’s only bad weather, it’ll get better soon... or not. This is a Type C, where the main character gets ridiculed for a prognosis that is far less lethal than the situation they are really about to face.
  • In War Games, there’s nothing wrong with the computer. Nope. It’s just a hacker. It’s all his fault. And since this disaster couldn’t have been caused by some random kid, he must have been working with the Russians. No, it was the computer all along: A dangerous case of Garbage In Garbage Out, ascending towards The Computer Is Your Friend. This is a Type B case of Not Merely a Windmill: The main character knows what Joshua is up to, but nobody believes him.
  • In Defendor, the hero appears to be a lunatic going up against an imaginary Super Villain called "Captain Industry". Defendor may or may not actually believe this, but in either case the "Captains of Industry" is actually a metaphor for the very real threat of drug lords — the very villains whom Defendor has been fighting all along. Thi makes it a Type A example.
  • In Terminator II: Judgment Day, we are introduced to a crazy woman who is obviously a paranoid schizophrenic. She even believes that evil robots from the future are out to get her, imagine that. To the great surprise of everyone except the audience, it eventually turns out that the robots are real and Sarah is completely sane (although traumatized). She knows exactly what a terminator really is, a straight Type B of this trope.
  • The 1971 George C. Scott film They Might Be Giants[1] bases its conflict on this trope. The protagonist believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes, and is trying to convince his psychiatrist that not only is his claim true, but Moriarty is also at large in the city. Since the ending cuts out at the last second, it's open to interpretation whether they finally meet and confront Moriarty, or are run over by a train.
  • In Red, this is pretty much Boggs' signature trope. Not long into the film, he's convinced they're being followed by a helicopter, and he pulls over a random middle-aged woman at the terminal and threatens her with a gun (the woman is terrified, and completely unarmed). He's just a paranoid kook, right? However, that same helicopter shows up later and snipes at them, killing their informant, and the woman shows up with a rocket launcher.
  • In Iron Sky, the flying saucer space nazis are very real, but when a certain hobo try to warn people about the threat they all just think he's crazy.


  • In the fifth novel of Harry Potter (as well as the end of the fourth), people cling to the belief that Voldemort cannot have returned. Thus they let the dark lord grow in power undisturbed, while they accuse Harry of being a Windmill Crusader and Dumbledore of being a Manipulative Bastard using this Windmill Political for some shadowy political game.
  • The Dragonriders in the early Pern novels are widely considered to be a useless political relic that no longer serves any functional purpose. Thus, when Weyrleader F'lar starts warning them that the flesh-eating alien spores called Thread are about to start falling again, everyone laughs at him. Naturally, he's right.
  • The Guardians of Selfhood in Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained have been claiming that an alien known as the Starflyer has infiltrated the human Commonwealth and is manipulating it to its own ends for a few hundred years. Most people dismissed the story as a convenient excuse for their acts of terrorism, until a deadly alien invasion. Suddenly the Guardians' claims start lining up with reality and a few people take them seriously. Turns out they are right.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire the Night's Watch is mostly seen as a joke, since while they do defend the realm from wildling raiders, that's not really a job that requires a 900 foot wall of ice, multiple fortresses, and lifelong dedication forswearing all lands and family to do. Their real purpose is defending the realm from the White Walkers,zombifying ice people, but hardly anyone believes in them anymore. They're real, and waking up.

Live Action TV

  • The Degrassi the Next Generation Zombie Apocalypse Halloween Special has a Type C with the genetically modified food in the cafeteria from season 2. Emma just thought they were trying to poison the kids, but it turns out it's a Fate Worse Than Death.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy's mother doesn't believe in vampires. Buffy stopped trying to explain the very real threat of vampires after her mother had her put in a mental hospital for believing such silly "delusions". But in this setting, the vampires are very real.
    • Also, I think this is an example, Buffy's roommate from the first episode of season four is in fact a demon despite everyone but Buffy saying that Buffy is just being neurotic.
  • Type A: In the BBC TV series of The Hitchhiker'sGuideToTheGalaxy, a man with a placard reading "The End of the World is Nigh" is among those seen panicking in the street when the Vogons arrive.
    • The same Type A is Played for Laughs in The Goodies, only it's Tim wearing the placard and it's just an advertising gimmick for his chestnut stall. Of course, the world gets blown up "in an unprecedented show of international military cooperation" shortly thereafter.

Newspaper Comics

  • Another Type D example from a Far Side strip: A seemingly crazed man is standing on a soapbox on a bustling street corner, screaming to the pedestrians all around him that "[T]he vampires are everywhere! Listen to me! Everyone must beware! Vampires!" Everyone just ignores him...and with good reason, because two workingmen walking by carrying a sheet of glass betray that nobody on the streets except for the mad prophet is casting a reflection, meaning that they are the vampires!

Video Games

Web Comics

  • This SMBC strip kind of runs in circles around the idea, first coming in from one direction and then another.
  • This Xkcd strip similarly approaches the "windmill" idea (both literally and in the sense of the related tropes) from an odd angle, but probably goes best under this trope.

Real Life

  • One classic example is the people who kept believing that The Titanic was unsinkable, even while it was actually sinking. The Iceberg was dismissed as a mere windmill, but it most certainly was not. Many lives could have been spared if the leaders had faced reality a bit earlier.
    • It wasn't just the leaders, sadly; in fact, many of the in-charge types (such as the ship's designer, Thomas Andrews) were quick to take action once they were made aware of the situation. Unfortunately, many of the passengers had bought into the hype about the ship's unsinkability and refused to leave the warm indoors and seemingly sturdy ship for a rickety lifeboat in the cold ocean (and many of the officers manning these lifeboats didn't bother to fill them and let them go at times with barely a quarter of their maximum capacity). This, of course, meant that by the time the ship's plight was all-too apparent, most of the lifeboats had gone and there were only a few left.
    • Whilst useful as an example, the claim that Titanic was unsinkable is apocryphal: basically, people were perfectly aware that the Titanic could sink. It's just that during the impact, the passengers barely felt the effect until it became visibly obvious that something was wrong.
  • Most people believed that the warnings about the Nazi Party was a Windmill Political. People read Hitler's Mein Kampf and didn't believe he was serious. We all know how it turned out in the end.
  1. which, yes, is where the band got their name