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Excuse Boomerang

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The culprit has been caught red-handed and is about to receive a well deserved punishment. But, he objects, it wasn't his fault. He had no control over his actions. He had to commit the crime.

Unfortunately for him, the authority figure also has no control over his actions, and has to deliver the punishment.

An Excuse Boomerang is used as a rhetorical shortcut. Rather than argue with the culprit about whether or not the culprit can be held responsible, the authority simply claims that for the same reason he can't be held responsible for the punishment he is about to deliver.

Related to Ironic Echo, Culture Justifies Anything, Just Following Orders, Original Position Fallacy, and Appeal to Inherent Nature.


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    Comic Books 
  • Fables: When the Arabian fables are being integrated into Fabletown society, they insist on being allowed to maintain their ancient tradition of keeping slaves. Old King Cole agrees but says that the Western fables will maintain their ancient tradition of putting all slave-owners to death wherever they find them. Probably based on the Real Life Charles Napier example below.
  • One installment of Harvey Kurtzman's Hey Look! had the taller of the two main characters loudly chew on his snacks in the movie theater under the reasoning that it's a free country and he therefore has the right to crunch as loudly as he wants. The guy he's bugging then proceeds to clobber the man and throw his excuse back at him for why his retribution was justified.

  • In the first tome of Artemis Fowl, when Mulch tries to claim he cannot help himself burgling Mudpeople's houses, Holly retorts that LEP officers can't help arresting thieves.
  • This Ambrose Bierce poem from "Epigrams of a Cynic" in A Cynic Looks at Life:
    "There's no free will," says the philosopher;
    "To hang is most unjust."
    "There is no free will," assents the officer;
    "We hang because we must."
  • In Jingo:
    Oh, no doubt the man would suggest there were mitigating circumstances, that he had an unhappy childhood or was driven by Compulsive Well-Poisoning Disorder. But I have a compulsion to behead cowardly murderers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Law & Order (and its various spin-offs) will often have something like this happen when an Amoral Rules Lawyer has some scheme backfire and get their words thrown in their faces. A particularly satisfying example happened in "Manhunt", an episode of SVU, when a Serial Killer facing a bullet-proof capital punishment case for his crimes in the USA was arrested in Canada, whose constitution forbids extradition on capital charges. When a Canadian judge questioned his defense attorney about the risk of Canada becoming a haven for capital offenders if they set this precedent, he smarmily replied "I prefer not to speculate on a hypothetical situation which may or may not result from the high court's ruling". Alex Cabot's response is to amend the extradition charge to possession of stolen property, which is not a capital charge. When the defense attorney says that his client is obviously going to be charged with the capital crimes the second he's back on American soil (which Cabot doesn't even bother denying), the judge uses his exact words to justify extraditing the murderer on the charges actually brought, barely concealing how much he enjoys it.

    Newspaper Comics 

  • There was an early PvP strip in which Cole attempted this unsuccessfully. His employees were in the habit of neglecting their jobs to play video games. At one point, he told them that he was too busy playing a certain game to finish the payroll, only to decide a moment later that he actually should get it out of the way.
  • This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic, in which a woman protests that arresting her ego for smoking marijuana is unjust, when other parts of her mind and body were responsible for the deed. The police officer handcuffs the woman and tells her his hands are just obeying the frontal lobes in Congress.

    Western Animation 
  • Unsuccessfully attempted by Hank in King of the Hill, in the episode "Junkie Business". A new employee turns out to be a drug addict and gets his lawyer to invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act to keep his job and demand special accommodations. This inspires other employees to claim to suffer from a variety of outlandish disabilities and demand inconvenient and time-consuming accommodations with the help of the same lawyer. Hank tries to get a handle on the situation by claiming he suffers from "Good Worker Syndrome", which allegedly makes him sick to his stomach unless everyone around him is giving 110 percent. The lawyer accuses him of trying to abuse the system.
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer And Apu", Apu is fired when his habit of selling spoiled food is publicly revealed. He protests that selling spoiled food is actually the company's policy, and his superior retorts that blaming all PR disasters on someone else is also company policy.

    Real Life 
  • Charles James Napier (attributed), during his governorship in British India:
    "You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
  • There's an Older Than Feudalism story about Zeno of Citium chastising a slave for stealing. The slave argued that it was his fate to steal. Zeno informed him that it was also his fate to be beaten.
  • This is a response some have made with the Real Life claim we have no free will, and thus criminals aren't responsible for their actions, so they shouldn't be punished. Well, just like Ambrose Bierce put it, neither are government officials punishing them responsible.
  • Moral relativism (the view that all morals are simply a product of culture or society) is sometimes used to argue that we cannot judge other cultures for things which seem wrong to us. Yet, as critics note, tolerance towards other cultures isn't a universal moral value and would make moral relativism false if it was.