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Blackmail Backfire
(permanent link) added: 2014-07-27 00:07:28 sponsor: MrInitialMan (last reply: 2014-08-05 11:56:34)

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This is when a Blackmail scheme goes wrong for the blackmailer. It can happen in a few ways.

  1. The blackmailer's information doesn't give him or her much (if any) leverage.
    1. The victim could have no problem with the information being made public, feeling there is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, or actually being proud of their deeds.
    2. The victim decides that the blackmailer's terms are worse than having the information publicized.

  2. The blackmailee is Crazy-Prepared and the blackmailer has bitten of more than he or she can chew.

  3. The scheme doesn't just go wrong for the blackmailer; it goes WRONG and the blackmailer is screwed.
    1. The blackmailer made the unwise choice of blackmailing someone who has no qualms about murder.
    2. The victim has been so ruined he or she has nothing left to lose and only wants one thing: Revenge.

The third is the most common in fiction.

Related to Bribe Backfire and Sub-Trope of Threat Backfire.



  • The Sherlock Holmes story Charles Augustus Milverton, the title character is a blackmailer. Sherlock and Watson are determined to destroy papers that he has that he intends to publish to ruin various powerful men of society. While they're burglarizing his house, a woman shows up ostensibly visiting him to give him more dirt on someone. She isn't—she is a woman whose life Charles has ruined and she's there to kill him so he can't ruin any more lives.

  • In the backstory of The Dark Half, the protagonist Thad Beaumont is a not well-known writer who published several thrillers while using the pen-name of George Stark (said thrillers being a lot more successful than his mainstream work). A man discovers the link between Beaumont and Stark, then tries to blackmail him, threatening to reveal to the media that Beaumont and Stark are the same person. Beaumont was already pondering to stop writing as Stark and this threat definitively decided him to do so. He revealed his second identity to the media himself, staging some mock funerals to symbolise Stark's death, and preventing the blackmailer to gain anything. This was actually a series of events which happened before the novel's beginning. In the proper novel, a being with Stark's mind comes to life and starts a murderous trip to reach Beaumont with the intent of becoming fully human. One of his first victim is the unsuccessful blackmailer, as a revenge because the blackmail attempt is partly responsible for Stark's "death".

Live-Action Television
  • The Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Twelfth Man" involves a man that killed his wife and then hid the corpse, and one of the jurors on his case managing to discover incriminating evidence and then blackmailing him. The juror is a gambling addict and as such continuously keeps on asking for money, and eventually the man decides that killing the blackmailer is the best solution. Of course, he doesn't knows who he is, but he just needs to go through twelve possibilities...

  • On Homeland, Carrie and Saul find out that a Middle Eastern ambassador is gay and try to blackmail him into giving them information. He shrugs it off, saying that his family and his government already know.

  • Elementary: Like the original, Charles Augustus Milverton also gets killed due to his blackmailing. While the murderer invoked this trope in doing it, he had actually killed Milverton and his accomplice to cover up that he had been involved with and wanted to take over the blackmailing business.

  • Svensson Svensson: Gustav is trying to blackmail Max into doing garden work on top of what they had agreed on. Gustav threatens by mentioning the mountain bike that Max wants. However, Max has none of it and explains to Lena about the bribery deal Gustav made with the children.

  • In CSI Crime Scene Investigation's "Pilot", Warrick gave a bad tip on a game to a corrupt judge in exchange for a warrant. A few episodes later, in "Pledging Mr. Johnson", the judge tries to blackmail him into compromising evidence on a rape case, but he confides in Grissom and talks to the judge while wearing a wire.

Real Life
  • The KGB had several women pose as flight stewardesses and seduce Indonesian president Ahmed Sukarno. The orgy was secretly filmed and the KGB showed it to Sukarno with the intention of blackmailing him. Instead, Sukarno thanked the KGB for a lovely night and asked for a copy of the tape—he wanted to release it to Indonesian theatres so his subjects would see how virile their president was.

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