Created By: StevenT on June 28, 2013 Last Edited By: StevenT on July 1, 2013

Blackmailing the Criminal

Someone who can easily prove another person commited a crime decides to blackmail them instead of reporting them to the authorities.

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Alice has witnessed Bob commiting a crime and can prove he did it, but instead of reporting him to the authorities she decides to squeeze some money out of him.

In cases where the crime is murder, the blackmailer usually ends up murdered themselves.


  • Letter to my Killer
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • June 28, 2013
    Please explain how this trope applies in Letter to my Killer, otherwise it violates Zero Context Example
  • June 28, 2013
    Generally depicted as a bad idea, especially when the crime is murder. Seriously, this person solves their problems with *murder*. Often the motive of the second murder in murder mysteries.

    Oh, actual example:
    • In the story "A Fat Tip for Murder" in an issue of Crime Does Not Pay, a nurse has figured out that an orderly has killed a patient, and blackmails him for half the money he gained thereby. The orderly lures her to his apartment for the payoff and kills her.
  • June 28, 2013
    The description in Blackmail makes it sound like it was meant to cover all possible variations of blackmail in fiction:

    The possibilities are endless. To list all the variations and permutations of this trope here would be a lesson in madness. Blackmail is such a key plot device, so intrinsic to the art of storytelling and human nature, that it is used by almost every series at one point or another.
  • June 29, 2013
    ^ So this would be a subtrope then? As a lot of blackmail isn't done using a victim's criminal actions, but rather using actions the victim would be embarrassed about (e.g. unethical business or political actions, weird fetishes, maybe homosexuality) or ruined personally by (e.g. an affair, or (again) unethical business or political actions, or maybe homosexuality depending on the social climate), were they to be revealed. I'm guessing most blackmail depicted in stories isn't referencing criminal acts, but stuff like that, so this trope would be a valid subtrope of Blackmail.
  • June 29, 2013
    Using blackmail on a perpetrator of a particularly serious or heinous crime (say murder, or a rape), rather than reporting the crime and the evidence possessed to the police, would also mark the blackmailer as particularly despicable, as it would actually be like aiding and abetting the crime: he'd be helping that criminal escape justice for a horrific act, but for his own benefit.

    This proposed trope is probably tropeworthy as a subtrope of Blackmail due to added character implications like these--as well as possible Too Dumb To Live elements if, say (as mentioned above) a blackmailed murderer murders the blackmailer.
  • June 29, 2013
    Compare Bluffing The Murderer, if the blackmailer sets him- or herself up as a target so the police can catch the criminal.
  • June 29, 2013
    ^^ Then there's this example which isn't despicable at all (as it was a crime against the blackmailer herself), but a Crowning Moment Of Awesome:


    In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, when Lisbeth gets anally raped by her social worker as extortion for receiving her confiscated wages, a camera in her bag secretly records it. In their next meeting where she seeks her "allowance" money, she tases him, ties him up, and when he comes to she shows him the footage of their previous encounter while shoving a big fat dildo up his ass, and threatens to put this footage on the internet if he doesn't work to persuade the state to free her of his guardianship, allow her to keep her wages no questions asked, and never has women in his home again ever (she gets a key to his place so she can verify this at any time). In the event she dies or gets kidnapped, she has set a Dead Man Switch to release the footage on the internet automatically.
  • June 29, 2013
    ^And in the book she tattooed "rapist" (or something to that effect) on his stomach.
  • June 29, 2013
    ^ Both films (Swedish and US) as well. (Haven't read the books.)
  • July 1, 2013
    Tabletop Games
    • In 1st Edition Paranoia, this was sometimes one of the secret society missions of a pre-generated Troubleshooter. They were told to attempt to blackmail another Troubleshooter into obedience by threatening to report one of their treasonous actions to The Computer.