A common punishment for police officers who screw up big time, but just short of Turn in Your Badge big, especially if firing them would draw too much attention. An example would be reassignment to crossing guard duty or some other menial police task where the unreliable officer can't do much PR damage.
Irish politician Seán Doherty, when caught drinking in a pub after hours, once infamously asked a garda (policeman), "Do you want a pint or a transfer?"note Doherty was Minister of Justice at the time, so he was in a position to make good on his threat.
San Francisco police officers who screw up badly are often said to be sent off "to walk a beat in the Farallones" (a rocky island group that is technically part of the city of San Francisco, but 27 miles (43.5 km) off the coast and inhabited only by research teams).
In the Denver Police Department, the Antarctica equivalent is reassignment to the airport. Denver International Airport security detail is as low as you can go and still be on the force. It's said that an officer who goes to the airport is "on their way out".
Every nation's military has at least a couple highly undesirable bases or postings said to be dead-end assignments for problem soldiers.
In the US Air Force, two such locations are the surveillance station at Thule in Greenland (which is above the Artic Circle and provides very little to do besides staring at a radar screen for incoming missiles) and the refueling station on Shemya Island in Alaska. Shemya is considered to be a worse posting than mainland Alaska. Purportedly, the wind never drops below 60 knots (110 km/h; 70 mph), the temperature never rises above -20 °C (-4 °F) and there's a 10-foot (3 m) visibility fog 300 days of the year. Primary duty there is clearing the runway of obstructions and running the radar station. Legend has it that every time someone leaves, they take a rock with them so someday there will be no more island and no one will ever have to go back.
The United States Marine Corps has 29 Palms, a remote training base located in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Although it's not as remote as it used to be, and is a fairly prestigious posting (the second-largest Marine Corps facility on the West Coast and third-largest in the nation), it's still in the middle of the Mojave Desert...
Canadian soldiers make this joke about Cold Lake, Alberta, because it's a small isolated town that gets nasty winters. Even new recruits from Basic Training, who can pick three posting preferences, jokingly claim that no matter what they pick they'll get "Cold Laked" for lack of seniority.
A proverb that originated in the Soviet officer ranks conveys the typically Russian philosophical approach to the problem: "They can't send you further than Kushka [a town in Turkmenistan and the Soviet Union's southernmost point] and they can't give you less than a platoon to command." (The wartime version of the proverb substitutes the frontline for Kushka.)
The threat to "send someone to Coventry" has become an idiom for Reassignment To Antartica. During the English Civil War, the highly pro-Parliament population of Coventry refused to talk to Royalist prisoners of war who were being held in the city and thus acquired a reputation of hostility towards the military.
In World War II, each of the combatants (except for the Soviets, who only ever had one serious theater—although that was a brutal one) had at least one theater they particularly reviled.
The Japanese hated the Burmese front the most: it had minimal strategic worth, the British had them outnumbered and outgunned, and the dense jungle strained supply chains to their limits. A joke among Japanese staff officers in Tokyo made the rounds: "I've upset Tojo, it's Burma for me."
The Western Allies felt the same way about the CBI (China-Burma-India theater) for all the same reasons. In the US Armed Forces the number one threat was "You fuck up one more time, I'll have you sent to CBI!" The broader Pacific theater was also viewed this way: the Western Front was much more fortified, yes, but it wasn't nearly as hot and disease-ridden, you still got some of the comforts of civilization, and enemy troops would surrender after defeat. The opposition in the Pacific might be low-tech but their fighting style was fanatically bloodthirsty and dedicated.
Similarly, the Eastern Front was this for the European Axis Powers. German, Italian, Romanian, and Hungarian troops hated the Eastern Front, due to the brutal fighting, urban combat,muddy or frigid weather, guerilla warfare, 'collective drastic reprisals' against civilian communities, and tit-for-tat Soviet mistreatment of POWs note "They're trying to exterminate every last one of us" is not an excuse for treating POW poorly, but it is a very understandable reaction. On the other hand it does seem very reasonable in comparison to "We want them to die", the German Army's excuse for killing 2 of the 3 million POW they took in the first six months of the war. The survivors and all POW captured after that point were conscripted to kill people in The Holocaust and serve as slaves, with 1.3 of 2 million of them dying. As many as three hundred thousand Axis POW (of more than 2 million) may have died in prison from wounds and diseases they had when they were captured, which they did not all receive adequate food and treatment for.
The threat to send somebody in Sardinia has become a common saying in Italy.
Camillo Cavour (the Italian Bismarck) was such a troublemaker during his time in the military that he was reassigned to a remote post.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was caught embellishing some of his stories to make them more dramatic. After he served a six month suspension, he lost his position as the anchor of America's Number 1 news broadcast and was transferred to struggling-in-the-ratings MSNBC to become the cable channel's "breaking news anchor", having no guaranteed air time and only being allowed in front of the camera when higher-ups feel that it's necessary. He's sticking with it, however, and there are now talks of giving him a regular broadcast for at least the duration of the 2016 US Presidential Election.
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln had had enough of Simon Cameron, his corruptnote Prior to appointing Cameron, Lincoln asked Thaddeus Stevens, who like Cameron was a Republican Member of Congress from Pennsylvania, what he thought of Cameron; Stevens responded, "I do not believe he would steal a red hot stove." (Lincoln ended up appointing Cameron anyway; the politics of rejecting him were just too complicated). For his part, Cameron once said, "An honest politician is one who, once bought, will stay bought." and incompetent Secretary of War. So he decided to appoint him ambassador to Russia. Lincoln famously quipped regarding this decision, "I know of no further place I could send him."
Earlier, Andrew Jackson had sent James Buchanan to that post for the same reason, allegedly saying, "If we kept a ministry at the North Pole, I would have sent him there." (Bear in mind that in the 1830s, people hadn't reached the North Pole yet; it was as far away as the Moon for people of the time.) This backfired spectacularly: people thought the ambassadorship meant Buchanan was experienced in foreign affairs, and his extended absence meant he hadn't pissed anyone off in recent memory, so he was elected President. He then proceeded to completely fail to address the tensions over slavery, industrialization, and secession that broke open in The American Civil War just weeks after he left office. The nation voted for him because he had no opinions or principles to object to, and he remained that way throughout his term in office.
Russian governments from the Czars through the Soviet era have used Reassignment To Siberia (or some other remote corner of the empire) to quash dissent. This was particularly effective given Russia's massive yet sparsely populated land area. Josef Stalin used appointment to ambassadorships or other obscure bureaucratic posts as a punishment for opponents who didn't warrant execution, assassination, or The Gulag.
In Czarist Russia, troublesome aristocrats were often sent to Siberia to live in permanent genteel exile (their standard of living was still far above commoners, who went to straight-up prisons). A popular euphemism for this was "to be sent to count trees", as the exile might be explained away as a bureaucratic posting or scientific expedition. In some cases, counting trees was almost literal. Russian Prince Pyotr Kropotkin, who was an anarchist philosopher, an army officer, and a trained biologist, developed his perspective on evolution based on the principle of mutual aid for group survival while on a "science mission" in Siberia.
Alexander Pushkin was exiled from St. Petersburg to Kishinev (now Chişinău, the capital of Moldova), very far away. Kishinev, which had a large Jewish population, was proverbial in Yiddish slang for "very far away"- if a child was gone for a while, their parents would ask if they had been in Kishinev.
Georgy Zhukov became a decorated Soviet general on the Mongolian frontier after waging an undeclared war against Japanese-occupied Manchuria, and gained influence and name-recognition as a prominent and successful commander during World War 2. After the war, Stalin saw Zhukov as a big enough threat to his leadership to reassign him first to southern Ukraine, then to the Urals, far from Moscow's power politics.
Iosif Apanasenko was reassigned to the Far East theater to discourage the Japanese from pulling a surprise attack on the USSR as the Germans had in 1941. While he was a successful commander and someone trustworthy needed to be watching the eastern border, it was also the frozen ass-end of the Soviet Union and Apanasenko had a tendency to overstep his authority and talk back to high-ranking party officials.
Stalin's first attempts at neutralizing Leon Trotsky were reassignment away from Moscow and exile from the Soviet Union. Unfortunately for Stalin, Trotsky turned out to be just as much of a loud, troublesome pain-in-the-arse dedicated to causing grief for Stalin regardless of where he was. Unfortunately for Trotsky, Stalin eventually got so fed up with him that he decided on a more permanent solution to the problem... permanent as in an icepick through the skull.
Khrushchev used this as his preferred method for disposing of political enemies. After former premier Georgy Malenkov and foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov unsuccessfully plotted to kick him out in 1957, Khrushchev appointed Malenkov as a manager of a hydro-electric plant in the grim industrial city of Ust-Kamenogorsk in a remote area in Kazakhstan, while Molotov was appointed Ambassador to Mongolia. Nikolai Bulganin was also sent to Stavropol when he fell from power.
Alexander Yakovlev, head of the Communist Party's Department of Ideology and Propaganda, published an article criticizing anti-semitism in the USSR and was reassigned to Canada. Quiet, boring, faraway Canada. This may have ended up coming back to bite the Soviets in the end: While there, he had an opportunity to meet and strike up a friendship with a visiting Soviet official, one who was willing to listen to Yakovlev's ideas on reform... an official by the name of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev.
In the French colonial empire, deadend postings were most often in the barren North African desert.
Félix Éboué, a trailblazing Afro-Frenchman who achieved high office in France's 1930s colonial administration, up to the status of governor of the valuable Guadeloupe colony, ultimately pissed off the wrong people and was reassigned to what is now Chad, a sparsely populated desert colony with only the south under de facto French rule. This backfired when World War II started and, perhaps to some extent out of spite, Éboué became the first French colonial governor to refuse to recognize the Vichy regime and throw his support behind Charles De Gaulle's Free French government.
When French Lt. Colonel Georges Picquart uncovered evidence that fellow officer Alfred Dreyfus had been framed for the crime of high treason in 1896, he was hastily reassigned to Tunisia in order to keep the matter quiet. It didn't work.
Low-ranking Catholic priests who incur the wrath of the Vatican may be sent away to remote "contemplative monasteries" (formerly known as "monastic prisons") or assigned to impoverished rural parishes. Fictional portrayals of this may be seen in Father Ted and The Thorn Birds. Senior church officials may receive a similar but more subtle treatment: Jacques Gaillot's liberal views made him unpopular with the Church hierarchy, so he was demoted from Bishop of Évreux, France to Bishop of Partenia. Partenia is a titular diocese note A titular diocese used to have enough Catholics to justify a bishopric, but can no longer support a cathedral. Most are in areas that converted to Islam in the Middle Ages, and they are usually given to senior Curia officials in Rome so they can carry the rank of bishop without pastoral responsibilities., a town in Algeria that was buried by the Sahara in the 5th century. Similarly, Cardinal Raymond Burke was reassigned by Pope Francis from his post as Cardinal Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura to being the Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (an order with only 13,000 members), a purely ceremonial role. Normally the Patron is a retired cardinal, while occasionally the title is granted to an active cardinal who retains whatever other position he already held. Burke being not particularly old for a cardinal and in good health, this reassignment is widely presumed to be a response to the conservative Burke's criticisms of Pope Francis's relatively liberal reforms of the Church.
The Emperor Augustus dealt with potential scandals — including within his own family — by banishing the perpetrators to remote outposts of the empire.
He exiled the Roman poet Ovid to Tomis, a port in Black Sea (now modern-day Constanţa, Romania). For a Roman citizen born on the Italian peninsula, Tomis was, if not Antarctica, then at least Alaska.
Augustus exiled his daughter Julia (and his grand-daughter, also called Julia) to the minute and previously uninhabited island of Pandateria, far off the coast of Latium, with no men and no wine (what he found embarrassing in her was that she partied constantly and allegedly had numerous affairs—including liaisons in a temple, according to the gossip of the day).note We should bear in mind that "she had sex in a temple!" was fairly common invective for the Romans (and the Greeks for that matter) against women who were already known to have stronger-than-average sexual appetites; the same thing was later said of Claudius' wife Messalina, although in her case, historians suspect it might have been true.
When Napoleon was first exiled from France, the Sixth Coalition sent him to the island of Elba, a popular tourist destination right off the coast of Southern Italy. When he returned to France to retake power, the British exiled him again within just 100 days, but this time to St. Helena, a small volcanic island in the South Atlantic, about halfway between the coasts of Southern Africa and Brazil.
General Douglas MacArthur, famous for commanding Allied forces in the South Pacific during WWII and UN forces during the Korean War, was first sent to the Philippines as a Brigadier General in 1922 by General Pershing, for becoming involved with a woman that the higher ranking officer had been pursuing. At least, that was the rumor of the time. Conversely, it was also rumored to be either a reward or a punishment for his attempts to reform West Point during his two years as superintendent. Purportedly, FDR also kept MacArthur in the Philippines to avoid having to talk to him in person. This turned into a Reassignment Backfire when war broke out with Japan and MacArthur was in the middle of the action. However, MacArthur was such a Miles Gloriosus that he considered his command of the entire South Pacific Theater to be a Reassignment To Antarctica, because he thought he should have been put in charge of the whole war. Fortunately for the whole civilized world General Marshal knew better. But this also ended in Reassignment Backfire as MacArthur's role in defeating Japan (and his greater skill with the press than the other generals and admirals involved, making MacArthur's role better known to the public) and resulting fame gave him a lot of clout he probably shouldn't have had. This in turn led to MacArthur's well-publicized confrontation with President Truman over the use of nuclear weapons against China during the Korean War. When Truman had had enough, he prevented further Reassignment Backfire by just firing MacArthur outright.
After one too many clashes with Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca was moved from president of Ford Motor Company to some impressive job title - with a run-down office in a parts warehouse in a rough part of Detroit (mind you, this was in The '70s, before "rough part of Detroit" became tautological). A job offer from Chrysler moved him from this to being the first modern "celebrity CEO."
TBS tended to use WCW (the backstage, behind the scenes, staff part) as Antarctica. Most of the people that worked in it were either Kicked Upstairs, put out to pasture, or unsuspecting newbies who had no idea what they were in for. For complex reasons that can be summed up very very loosely as "too many egos and not enough common sense", WCW was a horrible place to work.
In 1977, a Russian oil tanker ran aground on the Swedish coast. The Swedish Maritime Administration blamed the captain, but an employee discovered that the maps didn't include that particular shallow. He brought it up to his superiors, but when they ignored it, he took the information to the press. End result? He was reassigned from "cartographer" to "engineer" at a desolate lighthouse◊.
The SS and Foreign Ministry each had a plan todeport all the European Jews to Madagascar. This largely because Hans Frank's Generalgouvernement (Occupied a huge part of Poland) successfully opposed the deportation of any more Jews into his province, but also because Madagascar was much further away. The SS also favoured Madagascar because of the higher number of deaths that would result from tropical disease, as opposed to the more mundane diseases found in the marshy areas of the Generalgouvernement originally selected. Ultimately France's refusal, Germany's food deficit, and Germany's need for industrial workers resulted in them... cutting the dead weight... of all Undesirables unable to serve as slaves in German firms. Pretty much every firm in Germany made some use of slave labour (whether Undesirable, Soviet POW, or French POW) including Siemens, Volkswagen, and Hugo Boss.
Although he headed the development for the hugely successful Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi was given a "window job" after its disastrous follow-up, the Virtual Boy. Without any direct influence in the company, he left to develop the Wonderswan with Bandai.
Apple did this to Steve Jobs in 1985, moving him to an office that was even nicknamed "Siberia," before he actually quit.
Near the end of the Cultural Revolution in China, this was the fate of many of the Red Guards, whose rampages were becoming counterproductive and an embarrassment to the Communist regime. Mao hit upon the idea of sending the mostly urban, intellectual Red Guard youth out to the remotest regions of China to be "reeducated" by the peasantry. The program ended up creating a "lost generation" in China, made up of college-age youth who were essentially exiled internally for doing Mao's will too well. Needless to say, many Red Guards felt betrayed and lost their "revolutionary" ardor.
Historically China has a long tradition of using this trope; central government officials that lost favor were often reassigned to posts in Guangdong, or worse, Hainan, both at the extreme south of the country: high levels of malaria, a subtropical climate that people coming from Northern China couldn't stand, and their task usually involving "securing the Chinese fortress so that the indigenous peoples won't rebel" all made this kind of assignment unfavorable indeed. "Being exiled to Xiamen Island" was considered the epitome of being sent to a faraway place of much hardship during Tang and Sung Dynasties. Not so much of a punishment now, as Xiamen is one of the richest parts of the country.
Post-Chinese Civil War Republic of China (you'll know it better as Taiwan) had its share of these kinds of "promotions" as well. One notable example is General Wang Sheng, who served as Director of the General Political Warfare Department near the end of the presidency (and life) of Chiang Ching-Kuo (son of Chiang Kai-Shek) in the early eighties. Chiang sought to shift authority and power within the ROC government away from mainland refugees who fled following the Communist victory and towards the new generation born in Taiwan. When Wang visited the United States in 1983 to seek support for his own succession to the presidency, Chiang seized upon the trip as "secret" and "unauthorized". By that November Wang found himself the ROC's ambassador to Paraguay, allowing Chiang to pick Taiwan-born Lee Teng-Hui as his new Vice President and successor. (Lee went on to lead Taiwan's transition to democracy.)
The former Edward VIII of Great Britain, aka the Duke of Windsor, was living in France when World War II broke out. He was known to have fascist sympathies and had visited Germany against the advice of the Prime Minister before the war. After a German diplomat accused him of leaking plans for the defense of Belgium to the Nazis, the British government began to see the Duke as a major liability. When Germany invaded France, Edward moved to Spain and Portugal and continued to associate with Nazi sympathizers. Fearing that the Nazis would either subvert or abduct the Duke and set up a puppet monarchy, Churchill had him forcibly removed. He spent the rest of the War as Governor of the Bahamas, a non-job thousands of miles from any potential entanglements in Europe.
The ruling Kim dynasty of North Korea has a history of sending sons not in the line of succession out of the country on diplomatic missions, to prevent a power struggle from arising.
After the Boshin War that paved the way for Meiji Restoration, the Aizu domain—best known for being the The Shinsengumi's direct leaders—were displaced to Tonami "Just south of the Big Dipper" Domain, which occupied the eastern half of today's Aomori Prefecture. There's a good reason why that nickname stood — it's the northernmost point of Honshu, relatively underdeveloped compared to the rest of Japan to this day, and at the timenote Hokkaido was not yet considered an integral part of Japan it was as far away from the centers of Imperial power and influence as you could get without actually leaving the country.
It was in the Arctic, not Antarctica, but being sent to a DEW line station surely felt like this.
For the Union, Irvin McDowell started the war commanding at First Bull Run, was demoted to corps command, then wound up in the Department of the Pacific, hundreds of miles from any fighting. John Pope lost the Battle of Second Bull Run and spent the rest of the war fighting Indians in Minnesota. Nathaniel Banks moved from the Virginia theater to Louisiana, where he still managed to botch the Red River Campaign. In many cases, these generals were well-connected politically and couldn't be outright fired.
The Confederacy typically reassigned failed generals to the Trans-Mississippi theater, encompassing Arkansas, Louisiana and Eastern Texas. While some good generals like Richard Taylor and Edmund Kirby-Smith emerged from this theater, most were washouts like Sterling Price (failed invasion of Missouri), Earl Van Dorn (loser at Pea Ridge and Second Corinth, demoted to cavalry command), Theophilus Holmes (supremely incompetent division commander under Robert E. Lee) and Henry Sibley (failed invasion of New Mexico).
While many people think that the Second Spanish Republic was caught unawares by the 1936 coup d'état, the government had already realized that Generals Franco, Mola and the exiled Sanjurjo were likely co-conspirators. So the generals were separated by sending Franco to the Canary Islands, more than 2000km away from mainland Spain. This was not, however, the best laid of plans as it put Franco only a short flight away from Morocco and control of the Army of Africa, the best, most prepared and most modern troops the Spanish Army had.
Just what is considered "Antarctica" can and has changed several times in the past. This is part of the reason for Reassignment Backfire, after all. From the time the US acquired it in the Mexican-American War to the construction of the transcontinental railroad California was seen as a remote deadbeat place in the middle of nowhere, where no one in their right mind would want to go. One of the reasons why Ulysses S. Grant is often portrayed as a washup with nothing to do and no purpose in life prior to the Civil War is the fact that he was posted first to a small town recently renamed from Yerba Buena to San Francisco and later Fort Vancouver, then in Oregon territory. Today many people born in Ohio would give a lot for such postings. Back then, not so much. Having nothing to do there, he took to the bottle and hence his reputation of being The Alcoholic.
According to an infamous 2015 report by the Nikkei, Konami punished developers either for not being useful or committing infractions as petty as liking a former coworker's Facebook announcement that he had gotten a new job with reassigning them to work as security guards, assembly line workers in pachinko machine factories or janitors in Konami fitness clubs.
The United States Vice Presidency was used as this for a while. In ordinary circumstances, the VP's only real duty is casting a tiebreaking vote in the Senate, so politicians that the party base wanted out of the way but couldn't just send off were appointed as Vice Presidency, where they couldn't do too much harm and couldn't run for any other office. This most famously happened to Theodore Roosevelt.