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Just Ignore It

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Murdock: Lieutenant... How would you handle this?
Lieutenant: We could try ignoring it, sir.
Murdock: I see... Pretend nothing has happened and hope everything's all right in the morning?
Lieutenant: Just a thought, sir.
Murdock: I've considered that. There's got to be a better angle.

In a world where innocent people are dying left and right, some people take it on themselves to be willfully ignorant. These folks tend to believe that all you have to do is ignore the problem and it will solve itself.

Sometimes, they're right. Specifically, ignoring the situation just happens to be preferable to any other solution.

How is this possible?

When this strategy fails, it fails hard. Sometimes played for comic relief, as when the ignoring character thinks it's just an attention ploy, and they're in for a nasty surprise.

Compare Sheathe Your Sword, where the only way to defeat a foe is to not attack it. Also see Head-in-the-Sand Management.


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    Comic Books 
  • The first time the Fantastic Four fought the Impossible Man, they stopped him by not paying attention to his antics. Eventually he called Earth boring and went home.
  • The final issue of Paperinik New Adventures, significantly titled "If...", at one point had Paperinik and the US Army face an army of Evronian Super Soldiers with immense strength (enough to tear through tank armor bare-handed that, having been created with Angus Fangus' DNA, have an uncanny ability to find and feed on negative emotions, with them being defeated this way the moment Paperinik realizes their immense strength requires their opponents to have hostile thoughts.

    Fan Works 
  • In the essay-fic Equestria: A History Revealed, the Lemony Narrator takes this approach when citing sources that clearly contradict her own theories. At her worst, she demeans the opposing author's intelligence, and crosses out the offending text with a strikethrough.
  • In The Vinyl Scratch Tapes season 2 part 1, the mane characters at one point react to Prince Blueblood's phone call threatening to bring down their radio station by discussing where they want to have lunch, paying no attention whatsoever to Blueblood's rant. Of course, this was after hanging up on him repeatedly, then threatening to punch out his remaining teeth.
  • The Parselmouth of Gryffindor: Sometimes on purpose, sometimes unwittingly, this is how Hermione approaches most problems that stumped the characters in canon. Thoroughly ignoring Draco's taunts over and over throughout first year gets them mostly rid of him by Second Year, and Hermione and Ron aren't involved at all in First Year's Troll shenanigans, which end up being easily solved by Peeves.

  • The movie 15 Minutes is about a pair of foreign terrorists who seek to videotape their murders, give the footage to the news, and become infamous that way. The ad campaign used the line "the only way to stop them... is not to watch."
  • Used in the first A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): the Final Girl actually turns her back on Freddy Krueger just as he is about to stab her, and he promptly ceases to exist. At least, until the sequel. (Or just the Revised Ending, at that.)
  • Freddy vs. Jason had a local Government Conspiracy involving a massive cover up of everything Freddy Krueger had done, down to interring all the surviving kids in an asylum and medicating them so they can't have dreams, because Freddy gets his power from kids being afraid of him. Freddy averts this trope by setting lose another serial killer, causing the kids to hear about Freddy when the Revealing Cover-Up begins to unravel due to the adults wondering if Freddy is back.
  • At the end of Sphere, in order to get rid of the destructive abilities the namesake Sphere had given them, the protagonists agree to use their power to make themselves forget about the Sphere and all of their activities involving it. In the original novel, at least, this works because the Sphere, by its own admission, didn't grant them these abilities — they already had them, but it took the Sphere to make them aware of it so they could use them. Yeah, it's kind of a weird book.
  • Untraceable's plot revolves around a website with streaming video of murders. The more hits on the website, the faster the victim dies.
  • Airplane II: The Sequel: Captain Buck Murdock of Alpha Beta Base is debating with a junior officer whether they should do anything about the impending crash landing of the lunar shuttle.
  • High Spirits: a group of guests and staff in a haunted castle decide to deal with the haunting by ignoring them. They all steadfastly ignore the props of the theater's oceanic performance coming to life...until the giant wooden octopus grabs one of the kids. For the next few minutes everyone is desperately trying to free him whilst avoiding tentacles and getting drenched with water. They finally succeed, at which point one of them yells: "It's a bloody good thing we ignored it!"
  • Carry On... Up the Khyber: Used to great comic effect where the senior officers and ambassador have a dinner party and steadfastly ignore the pitched battle just outside, even when explosions blow in the windows and make plaster fall over the meal.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact Commander Riker notices a red light come on the instrument panel of the Phoenix (Earth's first warp-capable ship, which was a rattletrap built on an old nuclear ICBM frame). Zephram Cochrane slaps the side of the panel with his hand, then tells Riker and Commander LaForge to "ignore it".
  • Labyrinth: You have no power over me!
  • Lawrence of Arabia. When Damascus dissolves into chaos late in the film:
    Brighton: Look, sir, we can't just do nothing.
    General Allenby: Why not? It's usually best.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • A two part episode of uses a similar weapon: a device that can kill anyone with a single thought. However, being a Vulcan invention, it only works on the aggressive. It is rendered useless when the protagonists stop (conventionally) fighting and empty their minds of aggressive thoughts.
    • Something similar was done in another episode involving a group of soldiers that had been genetically engineered and mentally programmed as perfect killing machines: but are not programmed to kill people who don't fight back. If you don't fight then, they can't/won't do anything. The episode ends with them forced in to a stalemate with the government that created them (and wasn't nice enough to UNprogram them afterward) leaving them with the option of "cooperate or everything stays screwed."
  • Scrubs: J.D. found out that the best thing he could do for the patient who was turfed to every department in the hospital is to do nothing and let things heal themselves, since the patient was not actually suffering from any disease at all, but rather had a high fever that resulted from the rapidly increasing medications he was being given as he was moved from department to department, each department unable to find a problem and giving him generic medication in the hopes of fixing whatever was wrong with him. Since there was no disease, nobody could find a disease, and kept transferring him to a new department in the hopes that they could fix him, and he eventually ended up with JD, who actually forgot about the patient entirely, and was told after the fact that his "treatment" was brilliant since the fever broke when he stopped being stuffed with drugs. Apparently this happens in real life.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: At the end of "Twisted," with an incredibly powerful entity twisting and altering the ship, their ultimate solution is the decidedly odd, but logical (Tuvok said it, so it must be!) "solution" of not doing anything. That said, nothing else the crew had tried worked and all they could do was to repeat already ineffective moves. So, the best option remaining would be to wait and see if things change.
  • Inverted in the Doctor Who episode "Blink": the monsters for that episode are "quantum locked" meaning that they only exist when not being observed. If you look at them (or if they look at each other) they turn to stone. But if you look away (or blink), you're dead.
    The Doctor: Don't blink. Blink and you're dead. Don't turn your back. Don't look away. And don't blink. Good luck.
  • Merlin (1998): Queen Mab is defeated using this method. When people stop believing in her and refuse to acknowledge that she is important anymore, she fades away.
  • There are a couple Star Trek: The Original Series episodes where this stratagem is used to weaken the Monster of the Week before taking further measures to finally defeat it:
    • In "Wolf in the Fold", an entity that feeds on fear is neutralized by tranquilizing the crew, after which it is beamed into space with the transporter set on wide dispersion.
    • In "Day of the Dove": an entity that feeds on hatred is weakened when a truce is made between Federation and Klingon combatants, then driven off when the two sides start laughing at it.
  • Scott from Teen Wolf has the ever-frustrating habit of doing this to anything that even remotely interferes with his ability to spend time with Allison. Anytime someone besides Allison tries to contact him via cell phone, there is a 95% chance Scott will either ignore it; look at it and not bother to respond to its urgency; and/or even hang up on the person on the other line. Even if it's Stiles trying to warn him about something important like someone dying in the near future if Scott doesn't do something critically important soon.

  • Shows up in a few Discworld books.
    • Hogfather: Teatime's plan to assassinate the eponymous Santa Claus pastiche is to control the children's thoughts so that they no longer believe in him.
    • Additionally, it's well-known on the Disc that putting a blanket over your head repels the bogeyman. This is all fine and good, but as seen in Feet of Clay and Hogfather, if you put the blanket over the bogeyman's head he'll be briefly overcome with doubt as to his own existence.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal is so stupid that it assumes that if you can't see it, then it can't see you. The best way to escape is to place a towel over your head. It will then get confused and wander away.
    • Indeed, in the text adventure, this bit of information is relevant, but not enough in and of itself; to get the Beast to stop chasing you, you need to first say your name when he asks, then, with the towel over your head, carve your name into the list of his previous victims. He'll conclude that he ate you in a fit of absent-mindedness (as his mind is very frequently absent), and go to sleep. If you don't do all this, the Beast will eventually realize his mistake and eat you.
  • The Last Unicorn: "You mustn't run from anything immortal. It attracts their attention."
  • Sword of Truth has a variation in a monster called a Screeling. It will chase down and disembowel anything that runs away from it, but calmly walking away as if it isn't there will confuse it for a while, giving you time to escape, or at least put some distance between you and it and come up with a plan.
  • In The Wheel of Time, this is how Semirhage is finally broken.
    • That or her being simply humiliated by being spanked.
  • While the events of the first two books in the Knight and Rogue Series were personal, the third book has them just happening across a series of crimes. The Michael insists on helping, Fisk believes the best way to handle the situation is to go about their daily lives.
  • Dean Ing's Soft Targets, a group of TV executives enact a plan to weaken terrorists by either ignoring their activities or covering them in a way that makes them into laughingstocks. When this starts to impair terrorist recruiting and funding, several of the executives are kidnapped in an attempt to lift the informal interdiction of terrorism news.
  • Hundreds of years before Galaxy of Fear: Spore, the Actual Pacifist Ithorians managed to seal Spore up and bury it in an asteroid behind a Door of Doom with some warnings. In the present day foreign Asteroid Miners are poking around those asteroids looking for minerals with the Ithorians' permission, and they don't do a thing to prevent the miners from digging too far into that one. They have one Ithorian watching, who does nothing to stop them even though she and most other Ithorians know about and dread the thought of Spore's escape. She only acts after it gets out.
    • In part we see that keeping quiet would have been a good idea, since that Ithorian had told someone from The Empire, which promptly sends someone who's clueless about how Evil Is Not a Toy, and the Imperials wouldn't be the only ones who'd want to break it out to use it. But not telling the miners meant they thought there might be treasure in there. This all could have been avoided if they'd picked a more remote asteroid.
  • Hober Mallow's strategy for the war against Korell in Foundation consists of not making any major offences. The Foundation defends its territory, but that's basically all. How does this work to win the Foundation the war? Korell is economically dependent on the Foundation — thanks to Hober Mallow, as it happens — and so Korell finds itself without any population-unifying bombardments, just a steadily worsening economy and quality of life as more and more things shut down without spare parts from the Foundation.
  • Whateley Universe: From Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind:
    David was really excited about his birthday party, and about moving up so he was ‘only one year younger than Shrimpy’.
    “David!” Mother didn’t allow that sort of language in public, much less at the dinner table. “Apologize to your brother at once!”
    “Mother, it’s all right. I am a shrimp,” I calmly admitted. It wasn’t that I was trying to protect David. No, I was going to be quite happy to see him get in trouble in a few seconds. For several weeks, I had been trying a new strategy: if none of his insults appeared to bother me, he might eventually give up.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In a FoxTrot storyline, expert video gamer Jason spends a long time struggling to defeat the "Red Orb Guardian," but when he finally puts the controller down his eternally clueless sister Paige gets past it in moments — she just walked right by, and the monster didn't attack because she didn't attack it. When she explains what she did, Jason is flabbergasted at the thought of an incredibly powerful enemy you're not supposed to fight.
    • It gets a lampshade when Jason calls this counter-intuitive, and Paige points out that he still harasses her despite the fact that her response is always to pound the snot out of him.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This was Allison Danger's advice for Leva Bates when Regeneration X discovered MsChif was sneaking through the SHIMMER locker room on volume 44 and ended up breathing down their backs. This proved pretty hard to do as they discovered MsChif had no sense of personal space but luckily for them, "Chif" had no malicious intentions.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Uru: Path of the Shell, the penultimate puzzle comprised a room with a large, rollable ball on a large,-rollable-ball-sized track. The understood goal was to get past the ball to the end of the track. The solution, which had to be deduced from a series of abstruse clues littered throughout a five-volume set of prophetical books, was to stand right next to the track and do absolutely nothing for fifteen minutes.
  • Seems to be the solution to Pandora's Box in Street Fighter X Tekken. Those who seek to destroy it, such as Ryu, end up consumed by it. Those who seek something out of it get a Jackass Genie result, such as Hwaorang fighting an army of Akumas or it making Rufus and Zangief handsome and slender. Those who really, truly do not care about it (such as Poison) cause it to disappear in a Puff of Logic.
  • The entire point of slender is to collect the 8 pages/clues. If you pay attention to slenderman or look for him, you lose.
    • Alternatively, if you get lost in the house/bathroom thing, you lose (mostly due to slendy finding you)
  • At the end of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, the Prince confronts his dark side in his mind. However, as the Dark Side is made out of the Prince's desire to fight, (and other negative/destructive emotions), fighting him only causes him to multiply. The solution is to walk past him.
  • The attack of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy video game can be stalled, if not actually defeated, by the same means listed above under Literature.
  • The beginning of Wario Land II has the Black Sugar Gang causing a ruckus in Wario's Castle as they steal his treasure. The level is normally played by waking up and investigating. However, if you instead decide to ignore the commotion and continue sleeping, you unlock an alternate story path where the sleeping Wario is carried out of the castle and must barge back in to reclaim it.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's, you have a rare chance of seeing a poster that spawns Golden Freddy, an animatronic that will crash your game if you stare at it for too long. The way you get rid of it? Look back at the monitor, and it will vanish.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 3 has this in the form of Phantom Freddy, one of the hallucinatory enemies. He appears to be staring at you through the window and creeping into your office, but since it is just a hallucination it can't actually hurt you. Falling for the distraction, however, will let the very real Springtrap get closer to the office.
  • In Undertale, this is one way to defeat the Greater Dog miniboss without killing it. Repeatedly selecting the "Ignore" Act will eventually cause it to get bored and go away.
  • Played with in Just Ignore Them. The title suggests that not acknowledging them will help, Mark's mother suggests to ignore them to make them go away and actually talking about them increases the risk of them harming you or those around you. But they are manifactured beings that aim at specific people for specific reasons, so ignoring them is not an option, if you are their target or in their way. This shows quite well when the pilot and all business class passengers around Mark got killed, yet Neason from economy and Brea who had been on the toilet didn't even notice anything happening.

  • Webcomic Elf Only Inn, being set in a chat room, makes this strategy extremely sensible in reality, but very odd in roleplay. Check here (actually, read the entire arc, starting from here, and especially this strip) for an example of its use.
    King Herman: I have a very hard time listening to your speech about ignoring the long-term dangers of deforestation... WHILE A BIG RED DEVIL IS WASHING THE WALLS OF YOUR INN WITH BLOOD IN A VILE ORGY OF CARNAGE!!!!
    Lord Elf: ((No one is role playing with the Lord of Dorkness. [...] All he wants to do is make himself the center of attention by killing everyone and eating their soul. Just pretend he's not there.))
    And an earlier strip:
    Lord of Dorkness: *eats Lord Elf's soul*
    Lord Elf ignores him and goes on talking.
    Lord of Dorkness: HELLO? I'm eating your SOUL, here!
  • In a Penny Arcade strip guest-authored by Scott Kurtz, Gabe uses Time Travel to get goods from the 1980s, then says this trope's title when Tycho expresses concern over the ominous hole in space/time hovering just behind them.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: A halloween episode included the story "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores," about giant advertising mascots that come to life and destroy Springfield. As discovered by Lisa and Paul Anka (!), the key to survival is "just don't look." Because any ad that doesn't get attention, quickly vanishes.
    Lisa: (to the one holdout being distracted by a donut ad) Don't make us poke your eyes out, Dad!
  • In one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the '80s series), the heroes use the technique of "wu wei" (basically, "do nothing") to stop the Technodrome. Understandably, this technique was never used again. This itself is a rather... unusual interpretation of the idea of wu wei, which is more along the lines of "don't waste time thinking, just act, guided by intuition." Basically, the opposite of doing nothing. In this case as many, the Rule of Funny wins out.
  • What's New, Scooby-Doo?: an egotistical computerized house appears as the villain. The only way to make it stop was to completely ignore it, causing it to overheat in its efforts to get attention.
  • In the Justice League episode "Hawk and Dove," the more passive of the brothers stops Ares's war machine in the end by refusing to fight it. To clarify, the machine was powered by aggression.
  • In The King and I (the animated film), the heroes' tactic against a giant sea monster that is about to eat the ship is to Whistle a Happy Tune. It works - the monster is just an illusion produced by the bad guy.
  • The Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes episode "Impossible" had the Four resort to this to deal with an annoying cosmically powered alien when nothing else would work. Counts as a Mythology Gag as said brat was the Impossible Man mentioned above.
  • A later episode of the Legend of Zelda cartoon played this trope smoothly. Ganon's minions overthrew Ganon and attempted to attack North Palace by themselves, which for them ended in hilarious disaster.
    Zelda: Wait a minute, Link. We might not need to fight this one... fact, we might not even need you.
  • In the South Park episodes "Cartoon Wars" (Part I and Part II), the people of South Park decide to literally bury their heads in the sand, so as to show Islamists that they have no part in the insult to Muhammad.
    • In another episode, everyone decides they've had enough with Cartman's horrible attitude and behavior and decide to ignore him knowing that he craves attention. The act causes Cartman to believe he is dead and is a wandering spirit.
  • In an episode of The Mask, the city unveiled a new policy for dealing with The Mask: "Just Ignore Him, Maybe He'll Go Away." It was starting to work, too, but the episode's plot intervened.
  • One episode of Family Guy had the family using this approach to deal with a giant squid.
  • Phineas and Ferb: At a steamroller convention, the Wilkins Brothers showed up to state trolleys were better. The tactic worked. Then again, it's stated the Brothers were already known for doing that kind of thing during steamroller conventions so that wasn't necessarily the first time the plan worked.
  • Wander over Yonder: In "The Troll", Wander and Sylvia are called to aid the warriors of Baaa-hala protect their food sack from a troll that attacks them once a year. The troll starts out puny, but is obnoxious, and gets bigger and stronger the more the warriors get tweaked by his insults. By the time he reaches Wander, the troll is the size of a building. But when Wander doesn't react, the troll starts shrinking. This inspires the others to do likewise, and the troll shrinks back to its original harmless size.
  • On Gravity Falls, Ford and Dipper are exploring an alien ship when they accidentally activate its security droids. Since they react to adrenaline, the most effective method is to control your fear and ignore them, but Dipper can't. Dipper eventually faces one down, but since he no longer fears it, it simply shuts off.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: In "Mxyzpixilated", Superman puts on a show of indifference when Mxy transforms the rest of the Daily Planet staff into animals and threatens to expose his Secret Identity. This provokes the imp into accepting a higher-stakes challenge, where he will have to go away forever (instead of just for ninety days) if he loses.
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse, a group of lesser villains form a superhero team of their own to steal Ben's thunder. Rather than fight or even expose them, Ben just puts himself on the sidelines, even going as far as to watch paint dry. Sure enough, without Ben to unite against, the villains' clashing egos causes the team to fall apart, which was what Ben was gambling on.

    Real Life 
  • Many minor diseases, most notably the common cold, are best treated with relaxation and time. The same goes for aches and pains. Some doctors, naturally, will suggest additional methods that have a placebo effect... It's where we get the saying, "If you get a cold and stay at home, you'll be sick for a week. If you get a cold and go to the doctor, you'll be sick for seven days."
  • Trolls, on forums: "Dont Feed The Troll!" The idea being we don't reward kids for pooping their pants.
    • This saying is very true, but is very hard to put into practice when the forum has a large community. Trolls know that the more active the forum community are and the more members there are, the easier it will be for the troll to bait someone into responding to their antics because there is always at least one person who can't ignore the troll. Small communities in forums or forums that are very closed off (or has a very active moderation team) usually will have less trolls because everyone knows what to do when they encounter one.
  • "Wei wu wei," in Taoist belief, is often translated as "creative letting be."
  • This is the only known way to get an excitable terrier to calm down. This also applies to Genki Girls and Keets.
  • Zits. Popping them only makes it worse.
    • On that note, scabs. Picking at them can reopen the wound. Best just let the scab fall apart on its own.
      • This is actually inverted in larger wounds, where it is best to be left open (though bandaged and cleaned to avoid infections) rather than letting it scab over. This results in faster healing and less scar tissue forming. Can be recommended by doctors in cases where stitches should have been received but doctor was not seen until after healing has begun, meaning stitches are no longer an option.
    • Diseases like Chickenpox. Picking at them too much can cause infection, making it much worse.
  • It has been argued that the best way to fix the economic problem is for everybody to pretend that there isn't one, since stock prices - and through them, the health of the economy - are determined by the confidence that the marketplace has in the companies who issue them.
  • Subverted with bullying. Anybody who's been bullied can probably tell you how often they're told to do this. It's terrible advice, though; at best, it only seems to work in relatively mild cases - not the ones where real help is most needed.
  • Toddlers and tantrums. Provided that there's nothing they need (not hungry, not tired, not in pain, not frightened, etc), ignoring a toddler's tantrum is usually enough to make them stop. Of course, if said toddler is throwing a tantrum due to not receiving enough attention...
  • There's a social phenomena called the Bystander Effect where people will ignore someone who needs help. Reasons why this happens include people not wanting to take the responsibility, fearing backlash if said person who needs help gets worse in their care, or the person who needs help has some dangerous element to it and the person would rather not put him/herself in danger.
  • This happened with the landing computer of Apollo 11's Lunar Excursion Module during its descent. It continued to go off with an error that basically meant that it was overwhelmed with data and couldn't process it in the time available. Mission control's solution: reset the computer, and assume that there was nothing dangerous in the data it wasn't able to process. The rest is history.
  • This applies to anything you don't want people seeing. Trying to stop people from seeing it will likely just attract attention to it. See Streisand Effect, No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, and Revealing Cover-Up. Compare, for example, Disney ignoring Escape from Tomorrow rather than filing legal action, resulting in it barely making a splash, to North Korea's response to The Interview, which simply got it a lot of attention.

Alternative Title(s): Dont Feed The Troll