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Just Giving Orders

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Hitler: [Through a translator] All those people who did the killing for me weren't atheists. I didn't actually kill anybody, I just gave the orders.
Jack: "The Reverse-Nuremberg Defense". I like it, I like it a lot.

When one plays the Blame Game, you either win... or you die!

The Reverse-Nuremberg Defense (as opposed to the Nuremberg Defense) is when a person within a position of authority commits a horrible deed by proxy (arson, murder, jaywalking, etc.) and places total responsibility on the person the authority figure ordered to commit.

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When something bad needs to be done for one's own agenda, it is best to keep one's own hands clean and thus you select someone to do the dirty work. When they are caught in the act, it is only inevitable that it traces back to you. While being an assassin is definitely not a legal profession in most parts of the world, hiring an assassin is just as frowned upon. When the hitman squeals and outs you in-front of the fuzz, you'll start to file through every excuse in the book. "I didn't do it." "Someone with the same name as me hired him." "Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal." Eventually you'll run out of cue cards and you will go with the final gambit: "So I hired him. I still wasn't the one that shot that kid. The Smoking Gun was not in my hand. I did nothing wrong."

Often the result of an Uriah Gambit failing.

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Contrast Just Following Orders. Related to Gaslighting and Victim Blaming.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • In one Marsupilami story, the villainous Mrs. Oldskin's henchman tells her that he didn't do anything to hurt the heroes (after locking them in a slowly-flooding room in a Mayincatec pyramid), he just closed the door when they went inside. She whistles admiringly at the ease with which he clears his conscience.

    Films — Animation 
  • After Simba from The Lion King gets his Heroic Second Wind and has the Big Bad cornered, Scar tries to weasel out of his comeuppance by placing all blame for the coup on Mufasa and subsequent overrun of the Pridelands on the hyenas. "It was the hyenas; they're the enemy." While Simba does spare him (it's debatable if said excuse mattered), Scar's words invite a hell of a Backstab Backfire when Simba pushes him off a cliff, leaving him surrounded by hyenas.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The conclusion of the 1980 film Borderline is landowner Richards being convicted of trafficking in unlawful migrants. His boss, Henry Lydell, however, dodges justice by being acquitted of all charges, despite masterminding the trafficking ring.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2: John Wick is coerced by Santino D'Antonio to assassinate his sister Gianna so he can take over her seat at the High Table. Unsurprisingly, Wick himself subsequently becomes a target not only for Gianna's people but Santino's as well, who actually has the gall to claim to be doing it in his sister's honor.
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    Literature 
  • In Mr Monk In Outer Space, a man kills an assassin just in time to stop him from killing Monk and Natalie (who were getting too close to the truth). When Natalie questions if he means to kill them himself, he says he's not a killer; he only hired one to kill his crooked boss.
  • In October Daye, one of the major laws is to never kill pureblood fae. Hence, following the letter of the law, the villains of Once Broken Faith have their hands clean while the servant whom they blackmailed to kill purebloods would be condemned to die although she takes them with her instead in a suicide leap. Toby appeals to a room full of pureblood nobles that the villains were counting on this when their servant would inevitably be caught.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Arachnids in the UK", Corrupt Corporate Executive Robertson pins the blame for his businesses' corner-cutting (which has led to a Giant Spider infestation) on his subordinates, denying responsibility himself.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Kilgrave from Jessica Jones (2015), being a Psychopathic Manchild with the power to make other people do things for him, repeatedly uses this excuse. Whenever Jessica calls him out on the trail of destruction he leaves behind (or anyone else capable of calling him out for that matter), he claims that he is not responsible for killing anybody because he has other people do the killing for him. Whenever someone points out that he compelled people to kill, he will try to gaslight them into thinking that it was somehow their fault. For example, Jessica confronts him that he made her kill Reva Conners, he claims that he only told her to "take care" of her, and that Jessica was the one who interpreted this as killing her.
    • After Black Mariah crosses the Moral Event Horizon and embraces her Godmother persona in Season 2 of Luke Cage (2016), she makes the claim that all of the murders she has ordered are not her problem because she did not pull the trigger (even Anansi).
  • In The Purge, Jane initially tries to rationalize that hiring someone to kill her boss isn't the same as personally killing him herself, but soon changes her mind after watching one of her subordinates murder a co-worker.

    Video Games 
  • In Silent Hill 3, Claudia shifts the blame for Harry's murder toward the Missionary monster. Heather doesn't really care.
    Claudia: He's the one who killed your father. I merely gave the order.
  • After Screwball is arrested in Spider-Man (PS4) after subjecting Spider-Man to the "Screwball Challenge" (involving hired thugs to attack him, engineering a fake kidnapping and wiring actual live bombs), she claims that they have nothing on her and that she herself did not commit any crime and that it was "her fans" (the thugs she hired) despite having broadcasted the whole thing online. One of the cops that arrest her thinks she has a point.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All, Phoenix's assistant Maya gets kidnapped close to the beginning of the final case as ransom to get you to defend a famous film star, Matt Engarde, in a murder trial. Phoenix happens to have a magical lie detector and when he asks Engarde if he did it, he responds that he never killed anyone. It later turns out that Engarde actually hired an assassin, and he reveals his dim-witted laid-back personality was all a façade by reintroducing himself. ("How do you do, mister lawyer? I'm Matt Engarde.") The lie detector didn't work because he didn't believe that hiring an assassin counts as murder.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Disenchantment: When a pair of angry Dankmirian hillbillies are about to cook King Zog for being the king of Dreamland, who started a war over making Dankmire pay for a canal built on the hillbilly land, Zog tries to defend himself by saying "I was just giving orders!"

    Real Life 
  • Rather ironically, the Reverse Nuremberg Defense had one partially successful use during the Nuremberg Trials. Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments during the latter part of World War II, managed to shift blame for his commission of foreign slave labor by pinning it on his subordinate Fritz Sauckel. The judges were savvy enough to see through this and still gave Speer a twenty-year sentence, but were more lenient with Speer because of his public atonement, while Sauckel got the death penalty.


 
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DarkMatter2525

In "The Secret Lives of Atheists", Adolf Hitler manages to save himself from being killed by his associates in the World Domination Atheist Network for letting his atrocities be traced back to him (since the narrative is meant to be what an ultra-conservative Christian family think atheists are like), he manages to save face by making the claim that even if he was an atheist, he technically did not kill all of those people and that he just gave the orders.

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