With Us or Against Us
gray area between black and white, but that everything that isn't white is still as bad as black. A Sub-Trope of False Dichotomy. In fiction, a Writer on Board will hammer this point home through the use of Strawman Politicals and Demonization to show that not being on the side of right is bad, no matter what other side you take. The only hope of these people is to turn to the side of right as fast as possible. The Knight Templar and The Fundamentalist are characters prone to holding this particular belief due to their belief that they are "right" and the other people are "wrong." Totalitarian regimes love this trope, if your subjects have this mentality they will beg for your protection, thus a common theme in Dystopian fiction. Note, this trope is not about whether any particular side is right or wrong, even the middle side. It's just about the views of people that the only right answer is their side, and nothing else. Truth in Television, as anyone who has gone to a Flame War on a political or religious Message Board can attest. The Other Wiki can attest, too. See also Black and White Insanity and Activist Fundamentalist Antics. This may lead to Neutrality Backlash.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- One Piece, but not if you are a main character: your Bad Ass status allows you to be supportive or enemy of the World Government with abandon. Neutral countries, on the other hand, have to accept Government leadership, or their whole population will be deported and enslaved. Because the alternative is pirates.
- The Atlantic Federation of Gundam SEED does this with regards to Orb. Orb has a mass driver, which the Atlantic Federation needs, so they give them this trope as an ultimatumnote . It happens all over again in Gundam SEED Destiny, (albeit done by Blue Cosmos / Logos this time) when the Destroy Gundam is unleashed on the western Eurasian Federation for being too sympathetic to ZAFT. Durandal also pulls this at the end of the series, stating that anyone who doesn't agree to his Destiny Plan is a threat to world peace, in with the aforementioned terrorists and deserve to be eliminated via Kill Sat.
- Kira himself also shares this view to a point. Or at least this is what he tells Athrun after he repeatedly tries to justify his siding against Orb, and Kira promptly shuts him down by saying regardless of how he wants to view it, he's still attacking soliders of their nation and that makes him an enemy. He doesn't kill Athrun though, and in fact is largely forgiving of anyone fighting against him, unlike most of the other factions.
- In the Shaman King anime, this is the reason the X-Laws hunt down Yoh and his friends. Like Marco said, they become "too powerful to let [them] be."
- In the Chick Tracts, anyone who does not agree with Jack Chick's particular breed of fundamentalist Protestant Christianity is doomed to burn in hell. Even other Christians who have slightly different views are completely evil.
- When Steve Ditko took a heavy turn into Objectivism, his heroes started to preach his viewpoint. That "Mr. A" Alan Moore sings about? That was one of Ditko's, who claimed that man can either be good or evil with no in-between.
- Spider-Man: Brand New Day has The Extremist. To him, you are either with the heroes or with the villains, and anyone who dares to criticize superheroes or even laugh at them is evil and schemes to blur the line between good and evil— and therefore, must be eliminated. He even tried to kill the guy who made a website dedicated to laughing at Spider-Man— who happened to be Peter Parker, himself.
- Forever Evil: The Crime Syndicate deals with any dissenters with extreme prejudice. Including their former alternate universe.
- Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: If all his other methods fail, Prowl will try this option, even trying to use it on Ultra Magnus when the guy tries to call him on his BS before Megatron's trial.
- Granny Hina's general attitude in An Alternate Keitaro Urashima is that anyone who doesn't go along with her scheming to set Keitaro up as manager is a 'horrible disappointment'. Most of the Hinata Girls have shades of this as well; Shinobu is the only exception, which causes problems as she struggles with her mixed feelings about the whole awful situation.
Films — Animated
- Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, when he's roused the villagers into a Torches and Pitchforks mob against the Beast while Belle is trying to talk some reason into them ("If you're not with us, you're against us!").
- In Aladdin and the King of Thieves (third movie), the song "Are You In or Out?" is devoted to this trope.
Films — Live-Action
- Parodied in Monty Python's Life of Brian, where the splinter groups against the Romans hated each other as much as the Romans. While this was originally intended as a satire on the increasingly-fractured British Left in the late '70s (the Pythons were all for Labour at the time, although John Cleese has since become a Lib Dem), it turns out that the Jews in Jesus' day really were quite fractured and always squabbling against themselves instead of the Romans.
- The page quote is from Revenge of the Sith. When Vader throws that line at Obi-Wan, he simply responds, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes" (which, ironically, is itself an absolute) and ignites his saber.
- In Ben Hur, this mentality is what drove Messala to sentence Judah Ben-Hur to slavery. Messala wanted his friend Ben-Hur to turn in the Jews who were speaking against him and the Roman occupation. Ben-Hur refuses, so Messala tells him, "You're either with me or you're against me." Ben-Hur replies, "If those are my choices, then I am against you."
- Avatar: Colonel Miles Quaritch while fighting Jake Sully at the climactic battle of The Tree of Souls.
"Hey, Sully, how does it feel to betray your own race? You think you're one of them? It's time to wake up."
- The world in the Apocalypse film series is divided into who's believing who is God: Franco Maccalusso or Jesus Christ. Neutrality on the issue is brutally dealt with by the One Nation Earth agents and officers.
- In X-Men: First Class, Sebastian Shaw attempts to convince the young mutants on Xavier's team to join the Hellfire Club, and he warns them:
Choose freely, but know that if you're not with us, then by definition, you are against us.
- From Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides:
Pirate: You're either with us or against us!Pirate: Can he do that?Jack: He's religious; I believe it's required.
- In The Rock, Captain Frye makes this claim to Major Baxter during the Mexican Standoff. Baxter hesitates, then draws on General Hummel, but spins and shoots Captain Darrow instead. He takes a bullet for his trouble.
- In The Matrix, this is explicitly stated; any human seen in the Matrix who the Resistance hasn't unplugged can, at any time, become an indestructible monster capable of killing an entire team in seconds. An Exact Words twist comes up in the sequels; Some Machines, such as Seraph and the Oracle, are not inimical towards humans, and Smith actually finds a way to download himself to a Resistance fighter and raise havoc in the Real World.
- Transformers: Age of Extinction: Harold Attinger's rant, his last words, at Cade Yeager are him going of about how "there are no good or bad aliens, just us or them, and you choose them!" This only paints him before his death as a massive Hypocrite as he was completely fine with letting so many of "us" die for his greed and prejudice towards Transformers.
- The concept of "War is Peace" in 1984 boils down to this trope.
- In the Sword of Truth series, one of the explicitly stated Aesops is that our lives are our own, and we should do with them as we choose. Not a horribly warped lesson, right? Yet Goodkind turns this into a Broken Aesop with parts of the rest of the books that claim the only "real" choice for our lives is to fall in line with his views, and that any other choice just makes you as wrong than the bad guys. Even if people have been lied to all their lives, like the Hakens in Soul of the Fire, they either side with Richard, or they have crossed the Moral Event Horizon, and should die like the evil swine they are.
- Similarly, the bad guys' whole belief system is based around the exact opposite idea, that your life should be spent only serving others, and if you are special in any way or, God forbid, try to enjoy life, you deserve everything the evil army is going to do to you. In fact, it's not so much "any other choice makes you wrong," as the only choices: Side with Richard (and probably be steamrolled by the Order anyway), be willingly oppressed by the Order and (probably) live, or get caught in between them and die either way. This is a world with no middle ground.
- Invoked by both sides near the end of Deryni Checkmate, during the acrimonious Interdict debate in the Curia which began the schism in the Gwyneddian Church. At one point, Cardiel addresses a couple of junior bishops: "Siward? Gilbert? Do you stand with us? Or with Loris?" Loris finally hangs the lampshade when Cardiel (host of the assembly in Dhassa) orders him to leave: "Then it is war. All who side with the enemy shall be counted as the enemy. There can be no other alternative."
- In The Illuminatus!! Trilogy, Hagbard Celine says, "People who say, 'You are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution' are usually the former."
- In Thud!!, the narrator discusses the increasing dwarf/troll conflict and its effect of causing dwarfs and trolls to resign from the watch:
Some people would be asking: Whose side are you on? If you're not with us, you're against us. Huh. If you're not an apple, you're a banana!
- In The Thrawn Trilogy, Borsk Fey'lya sees his political rivals as his enemies. He's not above leaving them to die, and thinks that everyone else thinks in similar terms. Thrawn in fact counts on Fey'lya acting this way to paralyze the New Republic and dispose of the people who pose a real danger to him, like Admiral Ackbar.
- It's a trait that most Bothan share. Bothan society is based around a system where the pursuit of power and influence were paramount, and it was quite normal to use backstabbing, political maneuvering and character assassinations against others to gain influence. However, they previously only did it within their own society; Borsk was either unable or unwilling to see that other races didn't operate this way. Thrawn, having analyzed species' psychology based on their artwork, knew and took full advantage of it.
- Belgarath defines the battle at the core of the Malloreon as "them and us" at one point (as opposed to "good and evil", which he considers a dangerous game to start playing).
- In A Song of Ice and Fire Melisandre believes that people either are on the side of her god R'hllor or that of the Great Other. She uses the analogy of a half-rotten onion to prove to Ser Davos that a man who is half-evil is still evil, not good.
- In the Left Behind books, during the Tribulation, it eventually comes down to joining God or joining the Global Community, as both sides end up squashing any sign of neutrality on the issue.
- In Darkness at Noon, Rubashov recalls having enforced the principle that not to be absolutely with the Party was to be against the Revolution, and realizes he is doomed by that same principle now that the Party has decided to destroy him.
- The basis of Stephen Colbert's life philosophy. "You're either with us or you're against us. It is either Coke or Pepsi. You're either gay or you fight it." Finally he states he divides the supermarket into "cheese" and "not cheese". He also tends to badger people, including guests, who do not fall into one of his two categories, with "Pick a side—we're at war."
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Commander Kira tells this lesson to the Cardassians when they've started a rebellion. She's reminded in the same episode that Odo (her lover) used to be against the Bajorans while the Cardassians were occupying her planet.
- Also, Kira to Odo: "We used to have a saying in the resistance, 'If you're not fighting them, you're helping them.'" Kira holds a very dichotomised view of "collaborators", particularly in the days immediately after the Cardassian Occupation, and one which is challenged on several occasions through the course of the series.
- In The Darkness and the Light members of her former terrorists cell were killed. Eventually she found that it was a Cardassian wounded in one of their bombings seeking revenge. He stated he'd been a civilian servant, not involved with the crimes against Bajorans, and worked in a building they bombed. Kira doesn't care-she considers them all guilty, as none of them should have been there on Bajor to begin with. Yes, there is a reason she admits to being a former terrorist...
- Although later in the series she does learn to be bothered by it when it's pointed out that Odo worked for the Cardassians, even after he learned that they had no real interest in "justice", and was therefore a "collaborator" by the very vague definitions she used.
- Russel Hantz tried this phrase on Sandra during Survivor : Heroes Vs. Villains. Backfired spectacularly when Sandra immediately told him she was against him, something those on the Survivor Jury loved.
- Dominion: During the Extermination War, the higher angels declared neutrality, something that Michael respected. However, now that many of them have joined Gabriel, that agreement has been invalidated; Michael tells the higher angels living in secret in Vega to either stand with him, or leave the city.
- Parodied in a 2014 episode of The Daily Show, as Jon Stewart tries to talk about Israel's actions towards Palestine, only to be immediately shouted down by the Daily Show correspondents, who criticize him for being anti-Israel, one of whom even calls him a "self-loathing Jew". This leads Jon to mention that being critical of Israel's actions does not imply approving Hamas' actions. However, this leads to the correspondents shouting at him for ignoring the plight of the Palestinian people.
- 'Which Side Are You On?,' the classic union-organizing song from the 1930s.
They say in Harlan CountyThere are no neutrals thereYou'll either be a union manOr a thug for J. H. Claire
- On The Coodabeen Champions, one-eyed Collingwood fan Digger once complained about how the umpires were running the game: "The way they were umpiring, you would have thought they didn't care whether Collingwood won or they didn't!". Tony pointed out that they weren't meant to care, prompting an angry rant.
- The Bible: Playing with a Trope. It's not so much as "us or them" as Jesus saying that neutrality on Him simply does not exist. You pick one side or the other, and it is impossible not to choose a side. Anyone who does good deeds is "for him" even if they're an atheist because God Is Good. Anyone who does evil deeds (i.e sin) is against Him because sin is basically "an offense against God" even if that person is an atheist.
- Luke 11:23 ' "He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth."
- Luke 9:50 "Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." note
- An unfortunate example happened with TNA Wrestling president Dixie Carter, giving a big speech to the wrestlers before an episode of iMPACT! in which she acknowledged the awful decisions being made by the company, and rather than do anything about it, told the wrestlers to shut up or leave. Either they were behind her, or they could leave the company. This did not go over well with anyone at all.
- A Kayfabe example would be the Catchphrase of The Nexus. You're either Nexus, or you're against us!
- Warhammer 40,000 demonstrates what happens when you mix this trope into a setting that runs on Black and Grey Morality. The results, from the Imperium of Man and Tau Empire, are not pretty. In the Horus Heresy novels, this kind of view is expressed by many who are joining the traitors.
- Tarik Torgaddon: If those are my choices, then I am against you.
- Forgotten Realms has a paladin Order of Samular. Once they hunted a demon and an elven community that happened to be between them — surprise! — didn't allow a little army of human heavy cavalry to crash through their territory just so... "thus allying themselves with the evil tanar'ri". More than a generation (human) later elves were still upset about the resulting bloodbath and paladins "wary of elves and their unknowable, inhuman ways".
- The Crucible: "A person is either with this court or against it, there be no road between."
- In A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More does not like King Henry VIII's actions, but rather than complain, he keeps his mouth shut and refuses to say anything one way or the other. Unfortunately, Sir Thomas is widely known as one of the wisest and most honest men in the kingdom, and his silence makes his position on the issue pretty obvious to everybody. King Henry then lays down the gauntlet, and makes everyone in England swear an oath affirming his support of the King's actions, prompting the film's main conflict.
- In Dragon Age II, tensions between the mages and the templars in Kirkwall reach a peak when Anders blows up the Chantry that Hawke is forced to either side with the mages and protect them from the templars or side with the templars and exterminate the mages.
- By Act III, Meredith is so paranoid that she believes that anyone who disagrees with her is a blood mage's slave. She refuses to acknowledge the possibility that her fellow Templars might disagree with her entirely of their own free will. You're either with her, or with the blood mages. This gets even more pronounced when she whips out her lyrium idol sword, which was the cause of Bartrand's insanity and also what pushes her to the edge.
- By the end of the game, Anders has deteriorated to the point that anybody who does not explicitly share his exact opinions on mage freedom fighting is just as bad as an enemy. It's difficult to say how much of this is from Anders himself and how much comes from Vengeance.
- The AI in the Civilization series often act like this: trade with them, or be considered enemy, trade with their enemies and also be considered enemies. This is particulary visible in IV there its near impossible to stay neutral unless you have the forces and tech advance so noone want to wage war against you anyway, except you have a different religion as Isabella, who envokes the With Us or Against Us on your state religion.
- Ulfric Stormcloak of Skyrim is like this. In the words of Jarl Balgruuf:
Balgruuf (paraphrased): To not fight with him is to side against him!
Delphine: It's your choice Dragonborn: us or him.
- To Ulfric's credit, he understands that people in general have more nuanced reasons for not necessarily joining his cause. On the other hand, his second-in-command, Galmar, quotes this trope nearly verbatim
- Jarl Balgruuf of Whiterun is desperate to try remain neutral in the conflict. When first asked what side he supports, he replies "Whiterun's". He eventually is forced to choose, however and lends his support to the Empire.
- After a certain point in the main quest the Blades discover that the Dragonborn has been working with Paarthurnax, who is a dragon and the former right hand of Alduin, and they refuse to cooperate with him any further unless he kills Paarthurnax for his past crimes against mankind. The player doesn't have to do this to finish the main quest, but the Blades cannot be convinced to let their grudge go.
- The Scarlet Crusade of World of Warcraft believes its holy purpose is to destroy the Scourge. However, they believe that anybody who has not joined the Crusade is likely a carrier of the plague and is thus their enemy as well. Only when preparing to face Kel'thuzad have they grudgingly worked alongside other groups.
- Garrosh officially adopts this philosophy as of Tides of War, declaring that all members of the Horde, even those who aren't in a military occupation (including civilians and shopkeepers) must swear absolute loyalty to him and him alone, or be put to death.
- In Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, this is the reason for Good!Cole Macgrath starting up a rivalry with Raiden.
Good!Cole: You're either gonna help me, or I'm gonna stop you... here.
- A few of the more Anvilicious episodes of Captain Planet and the Planeteers were like this.
- Zapp Brannigan in Futurama views the Neutral Race this way. "With enemies you know where they stand, but with Neutrals, who knows?" Therefore he decides to crash the Planet Express ship into their capital. "Another heroic battle in the war between Good and Neutral!"
- Demona says this in the pilot of Gargoyles: "If you are not my ally, then you are my enemy."
- Lock-up in Batman: The Animated Series actually says, "If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem." (Throughout the episode, he also blamed the "liberal media," as well as "gutless police, mindless bureaucrats, and coddling doctors" for society's problems, so he's really more of an outright criticism of conservative argumentation.)
- In one episode of Daria Jane begins dating a guy named Nathan who is really into 1940s nostalgia, to the point that she begins dressing in 40's styled clothing on a daily basis. Eventually, Nathan proves to be a Straw Fan after his passive aggressive insults to Jane's clashing wardrobe leads an exasperated Jane to state "it's a fad, it's just for fun." Nathan counters about how he's one of the true believers left after everyone else moved on to a new fad, and Jane is either with them or against them. Jane kicks him out after he makes a disgusted comment about her owning sweatpants.
- The Legend of Korra: Used repeatedly throughout Book 2, usually by Korra herself, most frequently on Mako when he's less than one hundred percent supportive of her efforts to get someone, anyone to fight the Northern Water Tribe's occupation of her homeland.
- It also gets turned against Korra when she gets between a group of Northern and Southern Water Tribesmen about to fight one another. The Southerners get angry at her for not taking their side.
- This sort of thinking is a documented psychological phenomenon, more specifically ingroup and outgroup thinking.
- Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote: "If anyone dared to say now, 'whoever is not for me, is against me,' he would immediately have all men against him.—This does our time honor." Depressing, huh?
- This is one of the central ideas of the Objectivism philosophy upon which The Sword of Truth, see above, draws heavily. "A is A" and all that—see the quote above. Ayn Rand, the philosophy's founder, was a lot like this in real life—if you disagreed with her even slightly, you were out of her little collective. As she stated: 'When a man declares: "There are no blacks and whites [in morality]" he is making a psychological confession, and what he means is: "I am unwilling to be wholly good—and please don't regard me as wholly evil!"' Although this was more to do with the theory of morality associated with the philosophy than "being a part of her little collective", that there is only good and evil but not quite-good and quite-evil or slightly-good and slightly-evil.
- Some laws have it as a required concept that this is sometimes if not always the case. If you welcome a distressed family member into your home, feed them, try to help them calm down, and then later find out that they are on the run from the cops, you have two choices. Report them to the cops, or be legally considered an accessory after the fact to whatever crime they have committed. (However, some jurisdictions will allow you to protect family members without punishment.)
- A very slight extension of this extends to states who harbor elements like Al Qaeda. President George W. Bush used the Trope name in a speech speaking to other nations, stating that if they willingly harbored the enemy, they would be considered the enemy. He hardly invented that line of reasoning: it's always been an act of war to willingly give one of the belligerents in an ongoing armed conflict safe harbor in your nation. That's why neutral powers during wars are required to intern combatants of either side that stray into their territory.
- George W. Bush famously said, "Either you're with us, or you're with the enemy; either you're with those who love freedom, or you're with those who hate innocent life."
- As mentioned earlier, Message Boards. This mostly applies to religious and political boards, but can (and usually will) extend to everything else. Anyone who has spent enough time on boards will know that there's often topics where you either agree with a completely insane statement or you're branded as whatever is the opposite of the poster's ideology/beliefs/whatever (examples of popular insults: communist / selfish capitalist, Satanist/superstitious nutjob, far-left/far-right, homosexual / homophobe [this one usually appears just for opposing ANY opinion]). Trolls are often to blame for this.
- In Canada, the federal Public Safety minister tried to bully criticism about a pending online snooping act with the line "You either stand with us or the child pornographers" in the House of Commons. This statement caused howls noting that he is smearing every provincial Privacy Commissioner who expressed deep concerns about the bill and provoked online retaliation with many people twittering their minute personal details to the Minister while another threw all the court info of his messy divorce online.
- During the Rwanda genocide, moderate Hutus were targeted in addition to the Tutsis.
- Bernadine Dohrn, a prominent member of the Weather Underground during the Black Power movement and the protests against the Vietnam War, famously stated: "White youth must choose sides now. They must either fight on the side of the oppressed, or be on the side of the oppressor."
- In 1956, Hungarians revolted against the harsh Communist dictatorship. The revolution was crushed by Soviet troops, but a much milder regime was established under János Kádár. In 1961, he inverted this statement, saying that "whoever is not against the People's Republic of Hungary is for it."
- One of Ghenghis Khan's winning strategies, thus why he is the Trope Namer for Genghis Gambit. The ones who joined up became his friends who helped him obliterate the ones that refused.
- Neutral or indifferent parties tend to universally be the victim of this, as they frequently get the brunt of the grief from both sides. Sometimes it actually will stop them from being indifferent or neutral... by frustrating them into Taking A Third Option and becoming hostile to both.
- The Arab-Israeli Conflict can pretty much fall into this. Taking sides with either party will get a really negative grudge from the other side. The United States's support of Israel is one of the main reasons why it's extremely difficult to maintain good diplomatic relations with many Arab states, even with their "allies" like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt note . Likewise, many Israelis hold some negative grudge against Russia for the Soviet Union's support of the Arab states, Russia's bad history of antisemitism, and the Russian government's support of Assad's Syrian regime.
- Wikileaks supporters are particularly bad about this. Criticize any aspect of the organization, or Julian Assange in particular, and expect to be castigated as a CIA or NSA spy, even if you support the goals of Wikileaks in general.
- This attitude is one of the defining traits of cult groups.
- 9/11 conspiracy theorists subscribe to this big time. If you question their beliefs, they accuse you of being a Bush administration stooge, regardless of your politics and opinion of George W. Bush himself.
- Brand names heavily fall under the trope, whether it's for foods, video games, cars, clothes, or anything else. If you don't like one thing, then it's assumed you like the other thing (Playstation 4 to Xbox One as an example).
- A common quality of internet social justice warriors. If you don't agree with them, that automatically makes you an "oppressor" in their eyes.
- Martin Luther King Jr himself noted that if there is an oppressed group trying to overcome an oppressor, any bystanders who proclaim themselves neutral have, by their inaction, sided with the oppressor. This is perhaps a rare instance of this mentality being truly appropriate.
- "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." Militias on both sides brutalised prisoners and supporters of their enemies to this end.
- American Politics can be like this. Ever since Obama became president, GOP politicians in state government have had a tendency to use laws to negatively affect certain groups like racial meteorites, teachers, union workers, etc with things like voter ID laws, and ending collective bargaining. And all of these groups are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. Whether or not this is entirely true is another matter.