Hoist By His Own Petard / Real Life

    open/close all folders 

    Business 
  • In the early 70s, the golden rule of jets was that all long-distance flights (two hours or more, both over land and open water) must be flown on an aircraft that has more than two engines. This rule was challenged by Boeing, whose engineers were already working on an ultramodern wide-body long-distance jet airliner that not only had only two engines, but also a cockpit crew of two, with advanced electronics performing the job of a flight engineer and a highly economic performance. The introduction of such a hi-tech aircraft would essentially guarantee Boeing would curbstomp its rivals, so the company's bosses challenged the FAA to revise its rules and allow twinjets to fly long distances. Such a rule, known as ETOPS (Extended Twin-engine Operations), was quickly introduced (the first such flights were allowed over land; from the mid-80s, transoceanic flights were also included). Work on the new Boeing model commenced swiftly and in 1982, the first 767 was flown. However... years earlier, a newly-established company, trying to take advantage of the air travel boom of the late 60s, designed and launched a short- to medium-range twin-engined wide-body jet aircraft, utilizing several techniques pioneered by the Concorde. It was initially a flop - short-distance air travel was popular, but not enough for a 300-person wide-body jet to be profitable. The sales were below expectations, and the company was on its way to bankruptcy when the introduction of the ETOPS was announced and somebody in the company noticed that their aircraft actually could fly long-range routes. When the ETOPS was introduced, the Boeing engineers, still finishing their marvel, were shocked to find out that there was a long-range twin-engine hi-tech wide-body jet airliner already in service - the Airbus A300. Unknowingly, aiming for an absolute domination on the market, Boeing saved its now-biggest rival from bankruptcy and helped it to thrivenote .
  • A router company called Mediabridge tried to sue someone for a libelous negative review posted on Amazon... who promptly proceeded to 86 Mediabridge for TOS violations.
  • Back in 2006, DC Comics unveiled its new logo, the DC Spin, in time for Infinite Crisis. Around that time, they sued shoe manufacturer DC Shoes for copyright infringement as their logo uses the letters "DC" and a star. However, the courts found out that DC Comics never registered the logo and threw the case out. DC Shoes turned around and sued DC Comics for the same thing and won. DC Comics was forced to pay DC Shoes an undisclosed amount for every year they used the logo until they dumped it in 2011 for the DC Flip.
  • At some point prior to August 2014, the Broadway Hotel in the UK beach town of Blackpool adopted a policy that anyone who gave a negative review of the hotel on TripAdvisor or any other major website would be fined £100 for damaging the hotel's reputation. A couple were understandably angry that said fine was immediately charged to their credit card, and went to the press; the story quickly made the national news and did far more damage to the hotel's reputation than any online review could ever hope to achieve.
quite that simply for the eponymous company, it has done in, or nearly done in, some other companies:
  • Tom Peters, the management guru famous for his bestsellers In Search of Excellence and Thriving on Chaos, has actually invoked this trope as something businesses should do on purpose: "Destroy your company before someone else does!"

    Crime 
  • Joke/urban legend: A terrorist once sent a mail bomb which had insufficient postage. It was returned to him, and he, forgetting what was in it, opened the envelope.
  • From Snopes: Two animal rights activists were protesting the cruelty of sending pigs to a slaughterhouse in Bonn, Germany, by freeing a captive herd. Suddenly all two thousand pigs stampeded through the gate they were opening, and trampled the hapless protesters to death.
  • A man in Mexico tried to bomb government offices and accidentally set off the bomb.
  • An Indonesian militant was trying to bomb a police station with a homemade bomb. But on his way in his bicycle it blew up before he got there.
  • An attempted suicide bomber in Moscow during a New Years celebration was killed when her own bomb (triggered by her cell phone) went off prematurely because the cell carrier wanted to congratulate all of their customers with a spammed text message (and the bomber was too stupid to keep the phone off until just before).
  • Happened also to four ETA members while they were driving a would-be car bomb in 2000. In a twofer example, Otegi's tearful speech at their funeral where he described them as "four Basque patriots" probably was the straw that broke the camel's back and led to the passing of a new law of political parties that illegalized his pro-ETA formation, Batasuna, in 2003. As ETA was financed in no small part by Batasuna (who in turn, and as every other party with parliamentary representation, received most of its money from the Spanish government and tax payers themselves), this badly hurt the group's finances and capacity to operate, leading straight to its announced "cessation of armed activity" in 2011.
  • In 2016, a man apparently attempted to perform a suicide bombing on a jet leaving from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The resulting explosion blew a hole in the fuselage and sucked the bomber out to his death. Only the bomber. He was the only fatality of the attack.
  • Security forces in Northern Ireland coined the football-derived phrase "own goals" to describe those times when inept Irish terrorists managed to prematurely blow themselves up with their own bombs.
  • On Christmas Eve of 2008, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo went to a party held by his relatives dressed in a Santa suit, opened fire on them and killed eight, and then set fire to the house with a homemade flamethrower. His original plan was to establish an alibi and flee the country; however, the homemade flamethrower burned part of the Santa suit into his flesh, sabotaging his plans and driving him to commit suicide.
  • Drug suspect kills self with own shotgun booby trap.
  • In an inadvertent application of this trope note , a drug dealer who ordered a hit on someone was instead offed by his own muscle when the intended victim used him as a Bulletproof Human Shield (more details on that page).
  • In a newspaper interview in 2011, British economist Vicky Pryce revealed that her former husband, Chris Huhne (who by that point was the UK government's Energy Secretary) had pressured someone into falsely admitting to a speeding offence that he had committed, which would have caused him to be banned from driving. This kicked off an ugly political scandal that led to Huhne resigning from the government, and he eventually plead guilty to the offence in court, fulfilling Pryce's self-confessed goal of destroying his political career as revenge for breaking up with her. However, the police were naturally interested in who had taken the rap for the speeding offence, and as it turned out, Pryce herself was the person who did that, leading to her being hauled up in front of court on the same charge (perverting the course of justice), and eventually being convicted.
  • A literal example in the case of the Gunpowder Plot. When the other plotters heard that Guy Fawkes had been arrested, they fled London for the Midlands. While staying at a house in Staffordshire, they tried to dry out gunpowder in front of a fire. The results were predictable, badly injuring several of the conspirators.
  • Behold the hilarity of a 419 Scam gone terribly awry... for the scammer. He initially tries to scam a savvy individual and is immediately tricked into giving his intended victim $20 in the exact same way that 419 scammers themselves operate — the scammer is lured by the promise of a potential $500 profit and sends $20 for fees to his victim. The scammer's would-be victim sent the funds to a food bank to feed needy families and reported the 419 scammer to authorities. When the scammer attempted to get his money back by threatening to kill his would-be victim, the unimpressed target revealed the scammer's location, right down to the exact name of the establishment he was in. A hilarious Oh, Crap! response ensued when the scammer thought that he just ran afoul of a US government agent and got nothing but a $20 loss and a short but lovely "The Reason You Suck" Speech for his efforts.
  • After being charged with the murder of state senate rival Tommy Burks, Byron "Low Tax" Looper tried to stave off the date of his trial for as long as possible by repeatedly firing his lawyers, before eventually deciding on a "dream team" of two highly-paid lawyers, one from California and one from Georgia. Before the trial, Looper got three members of his family to provide him an alibi for the time that Burks died, but when his lawyers tried to present them at the trial the judge pointed out that under Tennessee law, any alibis must be registered within a certain amount of time after the initial charge is made. Looper had been so busy firing and replacing his lawyers that the date came and went without anyone noticing, and the two he had with him in court were from out-of-state and so weren't familiar with that requirement. Between that and the prosecutor asking the obvious question of why they hadn't come forward sooner, the alibis were rejected and Looper was eventually convicted.
  • Jerry Sandusky demanded that his adopted son Matthew attend his child molestation trial in a show of solidarity with the family. However, hearing the victims' testimony triggered Matthew's repressed memories of the abuse HE had suffered at Sandusky's hands, and their bravery in coming forward gave him the strength to break from Sandusky's manipulative hold over him. Whereas he had once been prepared to testify as a character witness on Sandusky's behalf (and basically perjure himself as he had before the grand jury, where he claimed that Sandusky had not abused him), he was now willing to testify that he'd been a victim as well. Matthew's plan to refute Sandusky's claims of innocence effectively derailed whatever defense had been planned and sealed his fate. Additionally, Aaron Fisher, the first victim to come forward, admits that he might have never spoken up had Sandusky not begun stalking him in an attempt to either force him to continue the "relationship" (Fisher had finally become fed up with the abuse and begun avoiding him) or to intimidate him into keeping his mouth shut. Furthermore, the boy's mother might not have wised up had she not become alarmed by Sandusky's behavior.
  • While in prison in 1835, French thief Victor Avril made a deal with police, telling them that his one time accomplice Pierre Lacenaire was the author of an unrelated, unsolved double murder during a botched robbery. To Avril's probable horror, Lacenaire never denied his involvement and instead made a more detailed confession that implicated both himself and Avril (Avril held the first victim while Lacenaire stabbed him, then Avril finished him with a hatchet). This resulted in both men being executed.
  • The November 2015 Paris attacks were motivated in part because ISIS didn't want France to bomb them. The attacks caused France to immediately retaliate by bombing and committed themselves to war on ISIS.
  • In October of 2007, young mother Stacy Petersen disappeared. Suspicion immediately fell on her husband, police officer Drew Petersen, who was known to be controlling and abusive and who she had been planning to leave. Unfortunately, with no evidence of foul play, the cops could do nothing. . . except take a second look at the mysterious death of Drew's previous wife Kathleen, previously ruled as an accidental drowning, but now looking more ominous. A second autopsy determined that indeed, the woman had been murdered, and Drew was tried and convicted. Although Stacy has never been found, it is unanimously believed that had she not disappeared, the police would never have become suspicious about Kathleen's death. Petersen further "hoisted" himself by trying to hire a hit man to kill the prosecutor in his case, resulting in him being sentenced to another 40 years in prison and effectively ending his lame protests of innocence in either case.

    Military and Warfare 
  • As mentioned in the main page, the trope is named (by Shakespeare) for the Petard, a primitive breaching charge invented in the 1500s. Petard's were notoriously unstable due to both the volatility of the gunpowder and the crude fusing. Its theorized that Shakespeare intended this phrase as a joke, which really shows how dangerous petards were if even common people knew about problems with them and thought it was funny.
  • In World War II, the Soviets strapped bombs to dogs as a living anti-tank mine. The dogs did just as they were trained, when released in battle, heading under the Soviet tanks they trained with instead of the Germans.
  • When the Greeks invaded the city of Koritza in 1940, they bombed the Italians with their own artillery they had abandoned on their retreat.
  • On one occasion, late in his life, Sir Robert Watson-Watt, considered by many to be the "inventor of radar," was reportedly pulled over in Canada for speeding by a radar-gun toting policeman. He remarked, "Had I known what you were going to do with it I would never have invented it!"
  • King James II of Scotland was a big supporter of the use of then-modern artillery in warfare. He was killed when one of his own cannons exploded.
  • In 1917 the British were having a problem with a particular German-laid minefield off the coast of Ireland. It seemed that however diligent the RN minesweepers were in their duties, ships were still being lost in this field. The Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Sir William Reginald Hall, deduced that the Germans were eavesdropping on the minesweepers' radio traffic, and were simply sending a U-boat out to re-lay the minefield when they heard the sweepers broadcast the 'field cleared' message. The British response? To leave the minefield intact and broadcast a false 'field cleared' signal. UC-44 sailed out to re-lay the field... and was sunk by the mines. The only survivor was her Commander, who was furious that the RN minesweepers had done such an inefficient job of clearing the field.
  • During the Second Battle of Galveston, the Union flagship USS Westfield ran aground and the crew abandoned the ship. During a ceasefire and negotiations, the Union commander, William B Renshaw decided to blow the ship up rather than let it fall to Confederate hands, despite technically not being allowed to do so during a ceasefire. After setting the explosives and a fuse he and the demolition team rowed away... and watched as the Westfield failed to detonate. Worried that he wouldn't have time to properly set another demolition charge but waiting out any potential fires, Renshaw ordered his team to row back and try again. It turned out that the fuse was just burning slowly and the USS Westfield exploded taking Renshaw and his team with it. In the resulting chaos the Union ground forces surrendered note  and the Navy retreated despite the Union not being at any clear tactical disadvantage. The Union was unable to recapture Galveston for the rest of the war.
  • The French puppet emperor of Mexico, Maximillian II, attempted to dissuade the Mexicans from rebelling against him by enacting a law that sentenced every rebel captured in battle to death by firing squad. When he himself was captured by the rebels in 1867, the same law was applied to him and he was executed by firing squad.
  • The F-105 Thunderchief, one of the early US-built supersonic fighters with air-to-air missiles. The seeker heads on these early heat seeker missiles were notorious for switching targets in flight (often from the enemy plane to the ground in Vietnam; especially troubling for those planes that were forced to ditch guns entirely for heat-seeking AAMs), and had another inconvenient property: the top speed of the missile was slower than the top combat speed of the F-105. A number of inattentive pilots attempted to fire heat seekers at enemy aircraft while flying too fast, the missile falling behind and locking onto the engine of the plane that fired it. This was not always fatal, as the type of warheads used in heat-seeking missiles are not particularly effective on larger aircraft.
  • Two from Italy's colonial history:
    • During the war between Ras Mengesha Yohannes of Tigray and king Menelik of Shewa for the Ethiopian imperial throne, the latter received Italian help in modern weapons that allowed him to defeat his enemy and claim the throne, after which he signed an alliance treaty with Italy that granted him some economic help. Upon finding out the internationally-recognized Italian language version of the treaty made Ethiopia an Italian protectorate, emperor Menelik II used that money to buy more modern weapons from France and Italy itself before declaring war, using those very modern weapons to decisively defeat the Italians and win the war (and a new alliance treaty that was basically the Ethiopian-language version of the old treaty, plus some of Tigray given away to the Italians). The pretext of the war? Italy invading and conquering Tigray, thus prompting Mengasha to finally submit to Menelik and give him effective control on Tigray, at least for some time.
    • In 1914 the Senussi started a rebellion against the Italian occupation of Fezzan (south-west region of modern-day Libya). When the rebellion grew and started threatening the coastal region of Tripolitania (firmly in Italian hands), Miani was sent back to crush them but, having been saddled with local conscripts, he lost at Gasr Bu Hadi when these revolted against the Italians mid-battle. The rebellion could have still being defeated easily by the reinforcements being assembled at Tripoli and Misrata (intended to retake Fezzan) had Miani not grabbed the Idiot Ball and brought with him a large supply convoy with 5,000 reserve rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, six machine guns, six sections of artillery with abundant ammunition, and even the fund of the column, that were captured by the rebels and gave them the firepower to occupy the whole of Libya aside for a few coastal cities (it would take until 1922 before the Italians were ready to fight back, and resistance would end only in 1932).
  • During World War II, at least two vessels torpedoed themselves with torpedoes that malfunctioned and made circular runs: the cruiser HMS Trinidad survived its mishap, but the submarine USS Tang (SS-306) did not.
  • The rocket fired by the RPG-7 rocket-propelled-grenade launcher has a rather unsafe impact fuse located on the tip which will cause the warhead to explode as soon as it strikes something, with a 4.5 second time delay at most, and no minimum range at which it will detonate. The warhead sticks out from the front of the weapon, and the only safety against premature detonation from accidentally bumping it into something is a plastic cap that covers the fuse while it's screwed on. Since the warhead is basically disarmed until you remove the cap, and it takes a couple of precious seconds to get it off, users who want to be ready to fire it in case of a surprise attack are known to unscrew the cap and walk around with their warhead sticking out armed, which is just begging for an accident to happen. An American soldier told Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons that he saw an insurgent in Iraq insurgent trip as he was running across a street with the cap off on his RPG, such that he fell on his face and the tip of his rocket hit the side of the curb, blowing him to bits.
  • Rifle grenades are grenades that sit on a special mounting of an infantry rifle and are propelled by the gasses of a blank cartridge. These were popular during both world wars and well into the Cold War because they essentially give a soldier a grenade launcher without having to have him lug around two weapons. However several soldiers have mistakenly loaded normal bullets into the system, which almost invariably cause the grenade to explode feet from soldier's face.

    Politics 
  • Maximilien Robespierre, who was behind much of the Reign of Terror that followed The French Revolution, was ultimately himself executed by the guillotine which he so adored. Along with quite a few others. (Another irony is that several people who participated in Thermidor actually were against the guillotine, as it was too slow— and were more in favour of shooting their victims randomly with a cannon from a distance and throwing them into a mass grave to die.)
  • The Regent of Scotland, James Douglas, introduced the Maiden, a sort of prototype guillotine, to Scotland in the 16th Century. Three guesses how he died...
  • Duke Shang Yang, author of The Book of Lord Shang and notorious in ancient China for his draconian punishments, met his end under a punishment that he himself formulated into Qin law when he was convicted of treason against King Huiwen of Qin (translation: Huiwen wanted revenge against Shang Yang for when the duke had the then-crown prince publicly humiliated as punishment for an offense committed). The punishment, which was reserved for law enforcers who broke the law themselves, called for not only the offender's execution, but that of his family as well. Ouch. In addition, when he tried to hide out in a hotel in an attempt to escape the above fate, he was refused, as the strict laws he had enacted in Qin while in power made it illegal for a hotel owner to admit a guest without proper identification.
  • The infamous Pope Alexander VI, a.k.a. Rodrigo Borgia, died in suspicious circumstances. While many historians attribute his death to a plague, a popular rumor claims that he accidentally drank poisoned wine intended for one of his political rivals.
  • Nikolai Yezhov, the mastermind behind the Great Purges second only to Stalin himself was eventually arrested and through torture confessed to have been plotting against the Great Leader. In the end he was imprisoned and executed by the very system he helped create. The same happened to his predecessor (Genrikh Yagoda) and his successor (Lavrentiy Beria).
  • Back in 1994, after then-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Dan Rostenkowski was indicted for financial improprieties but nevertheless remained the chair, Tom DeLay of the minority Republican Party (at that time) led a successful fight in his caucus for a rule that no member under indictment could serve in a leadership position or as a committee chair. Ten years later, with DeLay having become the very powerful majority leader of the House, he was himself indicted, which would have under that rule required him to resign. His response? He strongarmed most of the caucus into repealing the rule, a move which itself was rescinded after public outrage two weeks later, basically doubling down on this trope.
  • In 1964 US President Lyndon Johnson's administration started a bill that would end legal discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. A southern congressman, not liking the "race" part, added "ending legal discrimination on the basis of sex" hoping that people would decide not to vote for it due to this. As a result, several female members of the House took up the bill, and the bill was passed... protecting race, color, religion, national origin, and sex.
  • The Chinese philosopher, Han Fei Zi, was imprisoned by the leader of the Chinese state of Chin due to a policy of imprisoning and/or killing scholars and intellectuals. Said policy was proposed by none other than Han Fei Zi himself.
  • The Lapua Movement was a radical right, anti-communist political movement in Finland in the early 1930s. By pressuring the Finnish government through kidnappings and assaults, the Movement managed to pass several anti-communist laws, including the Protection of the Republic Act, nominally meant to ban "anti-government entities". After the Movement attempted to overthrow the government, the Lapua Movement was banned under the Protection of the Republic Act, the very legislation the Movement helped to legalise.
  • In 2011, a combination of higher abstention and protest voting due to the ongoing economic crisis resulted in the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) losing the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha, for the first time since the region got autonomy in 1982, to the conservative People's Party (PP) of María Dolores de Cospedal... by one seat. Not believing this result could be replicated, Cospedal used her narrow majority to change the electoral law twice and make her reelection more likely, first by increasing the seats of the more conservative provinces, then by shaving 20 seats off from the total. The reason for this second reform was that polls at the time were predicting that PSOE would still not recover its previous strength in the following election, but that traditional third party United Left (IU) would gain enough seats to allow a PSOE-led government. By slashing those seats, Cospedal was ensuring that IU got no representation and her reelection was given, because PP would still get more seats than PSOE. Her plans were derailed when Spanish politics suffered its most drastic and unprecedented revolution in recent memory, the ascent of two new protest parties, Podemos (left-wing) and Ciudadanos (right-wing). In the following 2015 elections, Podemos punched just above the numbers that had been predicted for IU and gained two seats, which combined with PSOE's, were one more seat than those won by PP, while Ciudadanos, which most pundits predicted to form a coalition with PP and ensure Cospedal's reelection, fell too short and got no representation. This Epic Fail became hysterical when it was revealed that under the former electoral law that had been overturned, PP+C's would have obtained one seat more than PSOE+P's. As a result of meddling to make her reelection more likely, Cospedal had instead destroyed the only way it could have happened.
  • Facing mounting questions over whether his campaign colluded with Russia to give him an edge in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump fired James Comey as head of the FBI to stop the investigation. It backfired. Badly. Not only did Comey's firing convince many that Trump attempting a cover-up, but it lead to Comey testifying before Congress that Trump had lied about the reason for his firing, and to the ongoing investigation led by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller; at this writing, Mueller's investigation has progressed to the point where Trump's former campaign manager has been told to expect an indictment. Even Trump's strategist Steve Bannon later admitted that the Comey firing was "the biggest mistake in modern political history."
    • When it emerged that Trump's son Donald Junior attended a secret Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the campaign, Junior initially claimed that the meeting concerned lifting a ban on Russian adoptions if Trump was elected. To make his case, he went on Twitter and posted the e-mail logs...which instead revealed that the meeting was about the Trump campaign getting "dirt" on Hillary Clinton courtesy of Russia.

    Science and Technology 
  • A Greek brass worker named Perilaus invented the brazen bull, a particularly gruesome brand of execution. The victim would be placed inside a hollow brass statue of a bull, and a fire would be lit underneath. The screams of the victim were turned by the bull's inner workings into the roars of an angry bull. Perilaus presented it as a gift to Phalaris, a ruler of a local city-state. So disgusted was Phalaris with this invention that he ordered its creator to be its first victim.
    His words revolted me. I loathed the thought of such ingenious cruelty, and resolved to punish the artificer in kind. "If this is anything more than an empty boast, Perilaus," I said to him, "if your art can really produce this effect, get inside yourself, and pretend to roar; and we will see whether the pipes will make such music as you describe." He consented; and when he was inside I closed the aperture, and ordered a fire to be kindled. "Receive," I cried, "the due reward of your wondrous art: let the music-master be the first to play."

    Other 
  • During various lawsuits, the Church of Scientology tried to have various documents that had leaked taken out of circulation through copyright claims. However to prove that the documents were the same, Scientology had to provide copies of their own secret documents, which would then be summarized on public record. In this fashion many of Scientology's wackier beliefs were made public, including the infamous Xenu myth. The church has experienced a huge decline in new membership since these revelations.
  • The Collyer brothers, extreme cases of compulsive hoarders, were found dead in their home in New York in 1947. The younger brother, Langley, died by falling victim to a booby trap he had set up, causing a mountain of objects, books, and newspapers to fall on him and crush him to death. His blind brother, Homer, who had depended on Langley for care, died of starvation some days later. Their bodies were recovered after massive efforts in removing many tons of debris from their home.
  • In 2002, a 79-year-old Belgian, who apparently hated his estranged family, rigged his house with 20 deadly booby traps, from tripwire shotguns to an exploding beer crate (set to detonate when a certain number of bottles were removed). Apparently, he was smart enough to realize that his memory was going to Hell in a hand-basket, so he wrote a list of 20 enigmatic clues to remind him where the traps were. Too bad the list didn't help at all, and he ended up being shot by one of his own traps. Thankfully, the police that were used to solve the clues weren't as dumb and, when they could only solve 19 of the 20, opted to just bulldoze the house down.
  • Craig Cobb is a white supremacist who hoped to turn his small hometown of Leith, North Dakota into a white supremacist community and drive out a local interracial couple. But when it was revealed that he had 14% sub-Saharan African DNA, his home was vandalized by the very same racists he invited to his town in the first place.
  • When "Greg_ValveOLS" decided it would be funny to pose as an employee of Valve and try and fool "br0kenrabbit" into handing over his Steam Account password, br0kenrabbit immediately jacked Greg's account and locked him out... by using the exact same tactic. You can read the legendary conversation in its entirety here.
  • Roskomnadzornote  have blocked Comodo. Funny part is that they themselves use SSL digital certificates provided by Comodo. Because of that, they have blocked some of government sites and themselves.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/HoistByHisOwnPetard/RealLife