Villain-by-Proxy Fallacy

When someone takes the term "An Accessory to the Crime" to its logical conclusion. Let's say that someone murders another. You go after the murderer, of course. And the person who paid them to do it. And their parents, who obviously didn't raise them to be good people. And their friends and family, who didn't hold them back. And the people who sold them the weapons they used. And the people who made the weapons they used. And the people who didn't pass laws preventing said weapons from being manufactured and sold. And the society that, through its values, didn't make such a crime unthinkable...

In the more sympathetic portrayals, the Karma Police actually has a legit beef with the Villain by Proxy (who may or may not care either way), even if their methods can range from overzealous to cruel. The less savory examples operate under methods that come across as Misplaced Retribution, with a touch of Evil Is Petty, Never My Fault or as a proponent of Poor Communication Kills.

A hybrid option would be to follow the slippery slope scenario, where it morphs from "directly involved" to "marginally involved" to "only acquainted with those who were involved". This is an effective way to descend the Karma Police into the path of a Complete Monster.

Just for clarification, this is not about whether the audience feels this way about a character. This is about someone in-universe thinking this way and doing something about it.

Sub-Trope of Knight Templar with a touch of Well-Intentioned Extremist (depending on the portrayal). Compare Hitler Ate Sugar, Accomplice by Inaction and Guilt by Association Gag, the former two of which can overlap if things turn really nasty.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Villainous example early in Code Geass: Cornelia executes civilians in Saitama accused of secretly aiding guerrillas in the area.
  • In One Piece, Admiral Akainu destroys an escape vessel that the other Marines had promised to spare on his suspicions that there possibly might be someone who could read the Poneglyphs.

  • The Dark Knight: After Rachel dies, Harvey Dent confronts the people that he felt were responsible for her death, starting with The Joker, the actual killer. The madman wins the coin toss and gets to live, so Harvey goes after the mob men and crooked cops he used to carry out his plan. The last person he targets is Commissioner Gordon, whose laissez-faire attitude toward the corruption in his department made the Joker's plan possible. But instead of taking it out on Gordon, Harvey attempts to kill his son, in order to make Gordon feel the pain of losing a loved one like with Dent with Rachel.
  • Law Abiding Citizen: Clyde Shelton's family are murdered during a burglary, and the District Attorney cuts a deal with the burglar who carried out the murders, offering him a lesser sentence in exchange for him testifying against his accomplice (which sends the latter to the death row). Shelton decides to take matters into his own hands, first by taking brutal revenge against both burglars, then by initiating a campaign of terror aimed at bringing down the entire justice system, which he sees as responsible for a miscarriage of justice.
  • In Unforgiven, the working girls put out a $1,000 bounty on the heads of two cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Bunting. While this is understandable in Mike's case (he cut up one of the prostitutes pretty badly), Davey's only crime is his poor choice of friends.
  • In Now You See Me, The Fifth Horseman/Dylan's plan involves taking revenge on everyone who played a part in his father's death. He uses the Four Horsemen to get his revenge. This includes stealing money from the man who cheated his family out of insurance money and framing the man who drove Shrike to his comeback for robbing a bank.

  • A major point of contention between the Space Wolves and the Inquisition in Warhammer 40,000. After the First War for Armageddon, the Inquisition decided that the Guardsmen and civilians who'd fought might be corrupted by Chaos (or start talking about what they'd seen about Chaos), and enacted a mass sterilization and forced labor program for the civilians and shoot down the Guard transports. This did not sit well with the Space Wolves, who had fought alongside these men and women, and took it upon themselves to rescue all those that they could without opening fire on Inquisitorial ships. The Inquisition failed to take the hint and almost started a civil war with the Wolves.
  • In the first book of The Saxon Stories, Ragnar tracks a man who betrayed him and attempted to murder his adopted son to a monastery. The bishop there tries to explain that the man is dying from his wounds and that anyone who seeks protection at a church is entitled to it. Ragnar grows more and more furious at the priest sheltering a man who betrayed his lord and attempted to murder a teenage boy, until he eventually decides that the priest and church must be evil if they allow evil men to take shelter, and slaughters the bishop, the rest of the monastery, and the man in question.

    Live Action Television 
  • An unusual example occurs on Angel with the Vampire Hunter Holtz, who seeks vengeance on Angelus for murdering his family and forcing him to stake his own daughter. In this case, Holtz comes after Angel even after acknowledging that Angel is essentially a different person than the soulless Angelus. The trope is played straight in that Holtz's vengeance also encompasses Angel's infant son and his allies in Angel Investigations. Holtz's assistant, Justine, is also a clearer example, int that she hates all vampires because one of them killed her sister.
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Warren shoots and kills Tara and is in turn apparently killed in revenge by Willow, after which she also vengefully targets his former partners Jonathan and Andrew despite their lack of involvement in the shooting...and when Buffy and the Scoobies prevent these murders, she blames and attacks them!
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Sisko is an inversion, feeling this way about himself after playing a part in tricking the Romulans into declaring war on the Dominion. This includes bribery, manufacturing evidence, covering up the murder of a high-profile Romulan ambassador and framing the Dominion for a crime they hadn't committed. It's easy to see his point, except he can live with it, if it meant preserving the Federation. At least, that's what he tells himself.
    • Ilon Tandro in the episode "Dax" is obsessed with finding and punishing the traitor who was responsible for the murder of his father, General Ardelon Tandro. He strongly suspects his father's friend Curzon Dax, who could have carried out the murder and was never able to provide himself an alibi, but since Curzon is dead, he decides to place the symbiotic lifeform that lived in his body, and its current host Jadzia Dax, on trial in Curzon's place. He (correctly) assumes he'll be the only one to see things this way and tries to straight-up kidnap Jadzia before demanding extradition when that fails, with Sisko basing his defense on this. When it turns out Curzon had an alibi after all, being in the general's wife's bed at the time, the argument is abandoned.
  • The Wire:
    • Part of the utter, systemic failure of the drug war comes about because the police tend to treat anyone living near a drug-dealing operation with considerable brutality whenever one such operations harms or even simply embarrasses a police officer or a public official, and in turn most people living in drug-affected areas behave as if every police officer is a brutal thug or a Corrupt Cop because some of the police fit that description.
    • In another example, when Corrupt Cop Major Valchek becomes enraged that stevedores' union chief Frank Sobotka has gotten a coveted stained-glass window at their church before Valchek, he sends his officers to harass the entire union with selective enforcement. Later still, frustrated that the investigation he instigates has moved on from Sobotka and the union to chase international drug and human traffickers, he calls in the FBI knowing that they will focus on busting the stevedores' union first and foremost. By the end of the season, the union is gone, and by the end of the series at least some of the members are homeless after losing their jobs. Really, it's safe to say that the world of The Wire runs on this trope.
  • CSI: New York: The Compass Killer. Driven insane from the grief and the brain damage that ensued from a madman entering his office and blowing away everybody inside with a shotgun (including his wife) before killing himself, architect Hollis Eckhart started killing everybody that had anything to do with it. The guy who sold the madman the gun, the shrink that didn't diagnose the shooter as an unstable man, the guard that didn't search the shooter thoroughly... and himself, for putting his wife in danger. It didn't helped in any way at all that the madness which made him decide to perform these acts also made him identify innocent people as those that were the targets of his vengeance.
  • Sons of Anarchy: When Opie's wife is killed by Clay and Tig, he blames and seeks revenge on the ATF agent who led the Sons to believe that he (Opie) was a rat, while forgiving those who actually orchestrated and carried out the attack.
  • Law & Order has numerous examples where the actual murderer gets a plea bargain relatively early in the episode so that the prosecutors can go after the "real villain"; these "real villains" included gun manufacturers/dealers, doctors/psychologists who prescribed/didn't prescribe medication, girlfriends who bought their boyfriends a jacket of the wrong color...

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: New Vegas: The antagonist of the Lonesome Road DLC, Ulysses, hates the Courier because he blames them for the nuclear explosion that destroyed the Divide; it turns out the courier once delivered a package to the Divide which contained the nuke's launch codes. The Courier, who makes a living out of delivering packages without knowing their contents, can't even remember the package clearly when Ulysses tells them what it was used for.
  • From the very beginning, Ghost Trick makes a large deal out of the fact that various parties are trying to kill the female protagonist Lynne. At one point, the Big Bad tries to frame her for murder. Why? Back when she was a child, he was fleeing the police when he came across her playing in the park, so he took her as a hostage. If she hadn't been there, he would have never gone that far. Therefore she was partially responsible for ruining his life, even though it was his choice to take her hostage from the cops that were already chasing him.
  • Final Fantasy XIII has Hope. During his character arc he blames his motherís death on Snow, who in fact saved her life and tried to dissuade her from leaving her child to take up arms, instead of the military that not only sentenced her to death in the first place but fired upon and killed her.

    Web Comics 
  • In Goblins, Kore's Fantastic Racism extends not only to members of the 'monstrous races', but also to members of the 'civilized races' who could potentially harbor sympathy for monsters. This results in him executing a child whose 'crime' was being orphaned and Raised by Orcs, while delivering a speech about how allowing the child to live would result in the potential for greater evil to exist in future.

    Western Animation 
  • Notable aversion: in Batman: Year One, Bruce Wayne is turned off of studying the law when he learns about Accessory/Felony Murder laws, specifically a getaway-car driver being judged equally guilty of murder if his partner kills someone during a bank robbery even though the driver wasn't even in the bank and doesn't know it happened.
    Wayne: That isn't justice!
    Professor: No, Mr. Wayne, that is the law.
  • A tendency for Double D in Ed, Edd n Eddy, who is often punished along with the other Eds by the other vengeful kids, despite most inconveniences they make are caused by Eddy's callousness or Ed's oblivious stupidity. This usually counts as a non lampshaded Misplaced Retribution, though in at least one episode, Sarah points out that Double D probably didn't have any part in the Ed's antics, though decides to let him take the fall anyway.
    Sarah: It's like they say, give those cute ones an inch and they'll take a mile!
  • TRON: Uprising has Cyrus, who believes that It Is Beyond Saving while the grid is under Clu's control and tried to eradicate everything, including the programs who don't support the occupation.
  • The trope is parodied in The Simpsons episode "Brother From Another Series", when Sideshow Bob, actually innocent and reformed for once, actually helps Bart and Lisa thwart his criminal brother Cecil from sabotaging a construction project he and Bob are working on together. In the aftermath, Chief Wiggum sends him to prison along with Cecil on general principle.

    Real Life 
  • More a justice by proxy failure, but this is a common fallacy of numerous Moral Guardians in that they not only want revenge or justice on someone who had killed after watching a television show or playing a Murder Simulator, they want revenge or justice on the show or game that was watched or played, on the writers, on the producers or developers, on channels who broadcast the show or stores that sell the game, anyone who had advertised in the production or promoted the show or game, on other similar shows and games, similar genres, books and films that are similar, musicians that had their songs used or have similar music, fans who had watched any of these shows, or films, or played any of these games, or listened to any of this music...
    • A similar, quintessentially American/US demand made by these groups is that gun-sellers should be prosecuted if the people they sell guns to commit suicide, murder, rape, murder, etc - especially in case of violentally insane people, who in most European societies are barred from buying or owning weapons. Expect said guardians to immediately point out that firearms are weapons which make suicide and mass-murder almost laughably easy if you question them as to why the manufacturers of sleeping pills and ropes shouldn't be held responsible when people use them to commit suicide or (mass-)murder.
  • The Soviet Union - particularly under Nikita Khrushchev - condemned the USA, Britain, and France not just for their overt acts of imperialist repression (such as in Algeria and the Mao-Mao Rebellion in Kenya) but also for propping up tinpot dictatorships like the Shah's Iran (which had an exclusive agreement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company) and funding various unsavory types such as the Taliban (active during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan). Of course the Soviets' hands were far from clean either given their support for nationalist Algerian terrorists and rebels attempting to liberate their people from the French empire, anti-apartheid rebels in [1], and various communist insurgencies which attempted to topple the American-backed dictatorships of Latin America. Even further, the Soviets had very imperialist relationships with their own constituent republics and satellite states in Eastern Europe.