"The Sun beams down on a brand new day, No more welfare tax to pay, Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light. Jobless millions whisked away, At last we have more room to play, All systems go to kill the poor tonight."
When someone takes Lyndon Johnson
's "War on Poverty" a bit too literally
and fights poverty by implementing the most dubious and amoral methods imaginable.
Instead of seeking to eliminate poverty
by educating and supporting poor individuals and families so they can attain a greater quality of life and income, some believe it would be easier just eliminate the people who are poor through mass execution. On the plus side, this approach would have a whopping 100% success rate
. On the other hand, it's extremely unethical
and counter-productive to having a more prosperous economy.
Less lethal alternatives may involve social leaders suggesting to make poverty illegal and see to it that all poor people are treated as criminals under the eyes of the law; this may involve the poor being forced into slave labor or a similar venture so that they can be put to "better use".
In either case, such positions are usually rife with sociopolitical and socioeconomic Satire
, exaggerating how Upper Class Twits
and other wealthy elites both want
to view the poor and lower classes and, more cynically, how they may actually
view such groups; in this fashion, the concept could be used as a form of Black Comedy
or establish a Cosy Catastrophe
. To other extents, this could involve a character crossing the Moral Event Horizon
and establishing oneself as a Politically Incorrect Villain
of Social Darwinism
and Slobs Versus Snobs
Compare: Disposable Vagrant
, for the murders and vicious exploitation of impoverished people on a smaller or more discreet scale For Science!
and other personal motivations.
Contrast: Eat the Rich
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Anime And Manga
- Galaxy Express 999 takes place in a Crapsack World where rich nobles who have swapped their bodies for mechanized bodies are free to hunt poor humans for sport. (This was how the main character Tetsuro's mother died. She was even stuffed and mounted on a wall.)
- A flashback in One Piece shows this happening in Luffy's home island in an effort to "clean things up" before a visit of the World Nobles.
- Part of the background of the Barsburg Empire in 07-Ghost are campaigns to exterminate the poor and the chronically infirm by rounding them up and burning them alive.
- Light in Death Note hints that, after eliminating crime, he would rid his new world of the unemployed.
- A brief scene in Kingdom Come sees one Anti-Hero, The Americommando, and his cronies declare war on meager immigrants, claiming "the poor, tired, huddled masses camping on our shores, begging citizenship" are the biggest foreign threat to the United States after the disaster in Kansas, though it's suggested that he's under Mind Control.
- The title character in Nikolai Dante once encountered a countess heavily based on the legends of Elizabeth Bathory who insists that the blood she bathes in is "happily donated" by young women in return for tax exemptions. After Dante uncovers a secret lair belonging to the countess in which dozens of young women are being held in captivity and bled for all their worth, it turns out that these particular women are all unemployed and, therefore, couldn't pay any taxes so they get drained wholesale.
- The Mighty showed Alpha One suggesting to his fellow members of Congress a way of helping his planet that involves killing most of the degenerates. They didn't approve.
- In V for Vendetta, the homeless are rounded up and placed in death camps along with other "undesirables."
- A Punisher villain who called himself the Elite was an Upper-Class Twit who terrorized and murdered people he believed "lowered the tone" of his gated community. While he started out targeting actual criminals, by the end of the story he was preaching that all poor people should be sterilized, and killed if they were spotted outside after curfew. This led to him repeatedly butting heads with Mr. Payback, a fellow vigilante whose ideology was Kill the Rich.
Films — Animated
- A pretty child-friendly example pops up in The Great Mouse Detective. Professor Ratigan, who has just claimed supreme power over all mousedom, proposes a heavy tax on all social parasites, particularly the elderly, the infirm, and little children.
- In Robots, Madame Gasket is revealed to be melting down lower-class robots into products for her son's company to sell.
Films — Live-Action
- In American Psycho, sadistic Serial Killer Patrick Bateman feels nothing but ill will and contempt for the lower classes. After he sends one homeless man he meets many mixed signals—from pulling out his wallet and flipping through the money he has to berating him to get a job—Patrick stabs the homeless man to death after he praised Patrick for being "so kind." In his confession to his lawyer over the phone, Bateman claims to have killed "maybe five or ten" homeless people altogether.
- The Danish dystopic comedy Hvordan Vi Slipper Af Med De Andre ("How We'll Get Rid Of The Others"). 'The Others,' in this case, refers to the leeches of society—those who cost more than they pay in taxes, like habitual criminals, people on benefit, and just generally anyone who doesn't pay enough taxes. It's basically about a near-future dystopia where the government decides to get rid of these people by summary execution in order to balance the budget.
- The Mexican film Un Mundo Maravilloso ends with the Minister of Economy declaring poverty illegal so all social services are stopped altogether, the poor are simply written off from all official statistics and all the impoverished people are isolated in concentration camps to fend up for themselves. He wins the Nobel Prize in Economics for this.
- Reno in The Driller Killer originally targeted homeless people because they made him feel disgusted.
- Titanic: When told that half the people on the ship are going to die, which will primarily consist of third-class passengers, Cal says that it won't be the better half that perishes. In fact, keeping the third class passengers waiting behind locked doors to drown while the wealthy passengers are placed on lightly-occupied rescue boats is even more reminiscent of this.
- The titular event in The Purge is explicitly encouraged as a means of killing off homeless people and other "leeches of society" types.
- In the film version of The Running Man, Richards tries to stop his platoon from firing on a group of housewives in the middle of a riot brought on by starvation. Both this version and the novel treat the trope as the reason for the deadly game shows.
- The "lifetime as currency" system in In Time is ostensibly a form of Population Control. In practice, it kills people from the lower classes at a young age so they don't outlive their usefulness while granting the wealthy ageless immortality.
- Jonathan Swift's satirical A Modest Proposal encourages poor parents to sell their own babies and children to be eaten as a delicacy by the rich so that they can have a means of receiving an income with which to rise above the lower class and not have to be burdened by having to raise kids while struggling with poverty.
- Although he doesn't advocate outright killing the poor, in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge does advocate the poor offing themselves...
Solicitor for the Poor: Many would rather die than go there [to prison or to a workhouse].
Scrooge: If they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.
- In The Third Millennium (a fictional history book supposedly written in the early 3000's), the "Age of Crisis" ended in 2180 with the death of "The Lost Billion," over 1 billion missing persons between 2000 and 2180 that were never found; most were poor. The authors imply that their deaths ended up saving the world, not because they were poor but because they lacked either the will or the ability to give up their old ways of life and find new ones, and thus were the last remaining force holding humanity back from the world of the future. Their deaths were not deliberate, barring an Unreliable Narrator, but the explanations lead to some Unfortunate Implications, seeing that it's claiming that poor folk are stubborn and cling to old traditions and that old traditions are harmful.
- The 18th-century rabbi Nakhman of Bratslav wrote a story/folktale/parable in which there is a land where the rich eat the poor.
- In Germinal, as Étienne becomes more "educated" and more disgusted with the poverty surrounding him, he begins to harbor this sentiment.
- In Animorphs, one of the Megamorphs books begins in an alternate universe where the homeless "are rounded up and shot."
- The book Stone Cold is about a serial killer who, after being kicked out of the Army, lures homeless people to his flat and murders them. He does it because he believes that they are "polluting" the country.
- A Song of Ice and Fire mentions offhandedly that Joffrey's proposed solution to beggars and starving poor people in King's Landing is to kill them. He at one point brings a crossbow to the castle walls and starts shooting at the people outside the gates begging for food.
- Futuretrack Five by Robert Westall turns out to be about this. It's what Scott-Astbury was really up to—deliberately trying to wipe out the working class and replace them with a selectively bred version who would be more respectful to their "rightful masters".
- In Robert Southey's poemy "God's Judgment on a Wicked Bishop" (based on the legend of Bishop Hatto, below) a greedy bishop refuses to share his food stocks with famished people and, fed up with their pleas, invites them to a huge barn for a feast, and then burns them all alive.
- In G.K. Chesterton's The Ball And The Cross, the Devil (who is in disguise at the time) incorporates this into one of his false portrayals of Heaven. This serves as the Glamour Failure that tips off the atheist Turnbull to the true nature of his host.
- Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report has, on at least one occasion, equated the "War on Poverty" with the "War on Drugs" and has wondered why we haven't yet made poverty illegal.
- During one banter segment with Jon Stewart at the end of The Daily Show's 10th Anniversary episode, Colbert remarked about how Stewart's show is all about supporting "the underdog" and Colbert can't believe how he ever backed that losing horse. That's why Colbert on his own show now supports "the overdog" (specifically, big business). When concluding his point, Colbert quotes the Trope Namer!
- When offering solutions to help the poor and unemployed without having to raise taxes for the wealthy, Colbert suggested that rich people should buy the natural rights of poorer individuals and took Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal seriously, calling for poor children to be sold as food for extra cash.
- Colbert wants the Occupy Wall Street "pity party" to end so that Wall Street can get back to their own party—snorting the ground up bones of the poor.
- In the Star Trek episode "The Cloud Minders," on the planet Ardana, the poor are enslaved and forced to live out their entire lives in underground mines.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus has this John Cleese vox pop:
Cleese: Well I think they should attack the lower classes, first with bombs and rockets to destroy their homes, and then when they run helpless into the streets, mowing them down with machine-guns. And then, of course, releasing the vultures. I know these views aren't popular, but I have never courted popularity.
- A Saturday Night Live sketch referenced this. It was about the cheerful hosts of a morning news show who start having breakdowns on the air when their teleprompter breaks. Trying to improvise, Will Ferrell's character says that someone should get a bunch of guns to "sweep out those ghettos." Cut to commercial.
- An annual cull of the poor was one of Tim's policies when running for Prime Minister on The Goodies.
- The rich and completely insane killer in the Criminal Minds episode "Legacy" believed he was doing the world a favor by exterminating street people, who he viewed as completely subhuman garbage, tainting everything they touch. When the detective who watches over the part of the city the killer gets his victims from is actually awarded due to the lower crime rate, the killer is insulted, and sends him a letter saying he should be ashamed for stealing the credit for other people's work. In the end, when the killer is surrounded by the police just as he is about to murder someone else, he actually screams "Just let me do my job!" before being shot.
- Slaughtering homeless people on large scales happens so frequently that the culprits have their own nickname: "house cleaners."
- One segment on The Day Today focuses on how London police are clamping down on homelessness... LITERALLY—with car wheel clamps. Any homeless person found asleep or motionless after 9 PM is clamped and forced to stay where they are upon waking up. They are later prosecuted and punished.
- That Mitchell and Webb Look had a sketch all about this where the Prime Minister, in a meeting with two aides over solving Britain's economic troubles, asks his aides if they had tried typing the exact phrase "kill the poor" in the computer to see if it would help. He doesn't say that he wants to kill the poor, he just wants to see if killing the poor would revitalize the nation's economy. It wouldn't.
- The actions taken by the British government in Torchwood: Children of Earth verge on this. When aliens require 10% of the children of the world, the government eventually decides to take those 10% from the most impoverished sections of society. One politician in particular implies that, given the world's overpopulation in general, this may not be a bad thing at all in the long run.
- In Lois and Clark, the homeless are shown to be immune to President Tempus' telephone-linked subliminal messaging, by virtue that none of them own a phone. In response, Tempus passes legislation making it illegal not to use the phone, then lines the homeless up before a firing squad.
- A MADtv sketch had the mayor of a town addressing the press to reveal his new plan for dealing with the poor. He would give them all virtual reality helmets that would show them everything they ever wanted, allowing them to live out their lives in peace. The test subject they put one on sees a beautiful woman in the distance, holding a steak dinner and a bottle of booze. He runs towards her, which leads him into traffic where he is killed by an oncoming truck. It concludes with the mayor declaring "And that's how we'll eliminate the homeless ... problem."
- Dinosaurs has a fair share of cases where the trope is invoked.
- When the bipeds declared war against 4-Leggers, the biped President announced the young and the poor would be drafted.
- In a debate on whether rich people should eat poor people, the proposition's supporters claimed being food was the only thing poor people were useful for and those opposed claimed the poor could contaminate whoever ate them.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had a Time Travel episode where Sisko, Bashir, and Dax accidentally travel back to Earth Twenty Minutes into Our Future. Sisko and Bashir are assumed to be homeless by the police who find them, and they are sent to an internment camp for the indigent. The government of the time claims that it's a progressive measure to help the less fortunate, but Sisko points out that it's really just a way to sweep the poor under the rug so other people don't have to think about them.
- In Arrow, the organization known as Tempest plans to destroy the slums of Starling City known as the Glades using two earthquake-causing machines. Oliver and his allies manage to disarm one machine, but they weren't aware of the existence of another one, which manages to goes off. The stated reasoning behind this is the standard one: To clear out the city's undesirables, those who "cannot be saved because they do not wish to be saved." As it turns out, the Big Bad has a slightly different reason: His wife was mugged and left to die in the Glades—when she was leaving the free clinic she had set up, no less—and not one person stopped to help her in the hours it took her to bleed out. He blames everyone in the Glades for her death, and wants to kill every single one of them, (though it's revealed that he really did think eliminating the Glades would prevent something like that from happening to anyone else). The fact that they're poor is pretty much incidental, from his point of view.
Mythology And Folklore
- Vlad Tepes (AKA Vlad The Impaler — the man who Dracula was very loosely modeled after), allegedly held a banquet for all the poor people in his land (or all the beggars, depending on the version), at which time he locked them in and set the room on fire.
- The reason normally given for hosting the banquet before killing them? It would be inhumane to kill them on an empty stomach...
- Similar to the above story is the folk tale of Archbishop Hatto of Mainz (though the legend wavers between Hatto I and Hatto II) with the further pleasant details that the Archbishop referred to the peasantry as "mice who devoured his grain." The Archbishop himself was, allegedly, subsequently devoured by a horde of actual mice, thus giving the name to the Mouse Tower on the Rhine near Bingen.
- One This Modern World strip shows a post-apocalyptic world where the poor are fattened up on the available food and eaten by the rich.
- Cartoonist Mike Peters (Mother Goose and Grimm) does editorial cartoons as well. One showed Ronald Reagan declaring that he's "going to see to it that the poor are cared for… that they are warm and secure, clothed and sheltered, and all their needs are taken care of..." Then he picks up the phone and orders, "BUILD MORE PRISONS."
- Some of the more radical branches of the Eugenics movement in the 19th and early 20th century.
Tabletop Roleplaying Games
- In Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, The Authority (the group-created villain) frequently victimizes the poor.
- This turns out to essentially be Ultor's big plan to improve Stilwater in Saints Row 2. Only that the Saints beat them to it by actually killing them. Mind you, the Saints are the player controlled gang.
- Present in Lucian's backstory in Valkyrie Profile. Lucian was part of a band of thieves that steals for the poor. Consequently, soldiers were sent to kill not only the thieves but also the rest of the slum's dwellers.
- In Prototype 2, one side mission centers on learning about and destroying Project New Templar, which turns out to be a plot to create a virus that specifically targets the lower classes, "especially immigrants".
- In Dishonored, this turns out to be the reason that Hiram Burrows decided to bring the rat plague to Dunwall. He was unfortunately unprepared for the breeding capacity of the rats, as well as the capability of people to circumvent quarantine, and it became so much worse.
- A Warhammer 40K example found in the Dawn of War expansion Soulstorm has background fluff stating that this is official policy for the Imperium on Kaurava. A regular purge of mutants, heretics, degenerates, poor, etc. every century is done to ensure smooth function of the city planet so it doesn't get too gummed up by undesirables.
- While not exactly said out loud, in Pokémon X and Y Team Flares ultimate plan is to kill everyone not a member of Team Flare. Their membership fee is about 5 million pokedollars, if you can't afford it, then you're worthless filth.
- A Bug strip depicts a bug politician demanding someone end poverty without resorting to evil after he's told that he can't end it by killing homeless people.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the Diabolical Mastermind Lord Doom has ended the problems of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness on the island of Bermuda by declaring it illegal to be unemployed or homeless. If you find yourself in either condition, Doom's regime will escort you to a retraining center where you will learn a needed trade, whether you want to learn a new trade or not. After the retraining and re-education, you will then be put to work where you are needed. If you refuse to learn the new trade (or turn out to be untrainable), you'll be put in a job that requires no training. Some of these jobs, like " biological waste disposal worker", are unpleasant, but survivable. Others, such as "involuntary chemical weapons test subject" are less so.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, when Captain Hammer speaks on the opening of a new homeless shelter, he says that he hates the homeless...ness problem. Once he launches into his song "Everyone's a Hero", it becomes abundantly clear that he does, in fact, hate the homeless and anyone else not as "heroic" as himself.
- The Onion, in the wake of stories of Hurricane Isaac threatening to hit Tampa, FL at the time of the 2012 Republican Party Convention, ran an article titled, "RNC Builds Levee Out Of Poor People To Protect Convention Site"
- In the College Humor video We Are The 1%, the richest 1% of the country decide that since they only control 43% of the nation's wealth, they should own all of it.
- The Simpsons
- In the "Treehouse of Horror XVII" short "Married To The Blob," Mayor Quimby and the town of Springfield reach a compromise with Homer, who has gained an insatiable appetite after becoming The Blob: They keep Homer inside a new "homeless shelter," and any vagrants who enter are immediately fed to him. In a very twisted way, this is effectively supposed to kill two birds with one stone.
- In "Treehouse of Horror V", Springfield Elementary decides to deal with its overcrowded detention hall by serving them for lunch.
- The unemployment problem was "solved" in a much more humane fashion—by making it illegal to be unemployed.
Fry: What if I refuse [to do the job]?
Leela: Then you'll be fired...
- Judge Whitey accidentally filled up all the mental asylums (for non-robots at least) when he declared poverty was a mental illness.
- From Bender's Big Score
Nudar: Like all rich people, we're gonna need weapons to kill poor people.
Other scammer #1: In self defense?
Nudar: Yes, that too.
- The "criminalizing poverty" variant was used in The Zeta Project episode "Hunt in the Hub," where anyone who runs out of money is immediately hunted down by the security guards as a vagrant. The creepiest part is that none of the characters seem to find this strange.
- Tiny Toon Adventures, "Fields of Honey": Babs tries to get money to buy a theater from Montana Max, claiming to be collecting "to help end poverty on Earth." He is about to slam the door in her face when she explains that the plan is to send all the people without money to the Moon. He gives her a bagful of cash.
- In the Family Guy episode "A Picture is Worth 1,000 Bucks," Peter remarks that New York City is a lot nicer ever since Rudy Giuliani secretly had the homeless people killed.
- South Park
- In "Chickenpox'' the boys have to write a paper on how to make America better. Kyle's dad inadvertently gives his son the idea that putting all poor people in concentration camps is the solution. "My dad is the smartest guy in the whole wide world. He has taught me that all poor people are actually things called clods. I wanna live in a world of only gods, so my idea to make America better is put all the poor people into camps. If we get rid of them, there will be nothing but rich people. And there won't be any hunger, poverty, or homeless people. 'Cause they'll all be dead. The end."
- "Night of the Living Homeless" parodies Zombie Apocalypse tropes. Hordes of homeless beggars arrive in South Park, and the adult residents wind up besieged on a rooftop, shooting any homeless who come near them and even a neighbor whose house was foreclosed on.
- To be fair, there was literally something WRONG with those people - they refused to eat (or purchase food) and gained psychic sustenance from the act of receiving money. That could just be the prejudiced Homeless Division manager's opinion, but everyone afflicted would beg for change even if they were staring at a shotgun barrel.
- The Critic: Jay's mother wants to blast the poor into outer space.
- On the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Appointment In Crime Alley", this is Roland Daggett's scheme. He wants to demolish and build on top of the Park Row (or as is better known, "Crime Alley") district and won't take "no" for an answer, deciding to simply blow up the place regardless of how many people it kills.