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Properly Paranoid

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Hastur was paranoid, which was simply a sensible and well-adjusted reaction to living in Hell, where they really were all out to get you.

Bob is convinced that there's someone, or a group of someones out to get him or someone else. He takes incredible precautions to protect himself. For his efforts, Bob is called paranoid, insane, a Cloudcuckoolander, a Control Freak, a Conspiracy Theorist, or any of a host of other (most probably rude) names.

There's just one problem: Bob is absolutely right.

There is someone out to get Bob and his family and friends — and they are using all sorts of devious devices and schemes that would succeed… if the person enacting the security lockdown weren't doing her job. Sadly, only Bob, the opposing forces, (and sometimes the audience) know that the full-body frisking of the girlfriend and the security questionnaires that nobody can pass clean are mandatory for survival.

If this doesn't make Bob look crazy or paranoid, it might overlap with Crazy-Prepared. For that extra dash of irony, Bob may turn out to be Right for the Wrong Reasons when the whole truth of the matter comes out.

Also, if Bob is ever wrong, if he's paranoid enough, he will soon be right.

See also Cassandra Truth and You Have to Believe Me!. Sometimes overlaps with Omniscient Morality License. Contrast with The Complainer Is Always Wrong and The Paranoiac, whose fears are generally proven wrong, and Improperly Paranoid, which is what happens when someone thinks he is being this trope but instead is letting his paranoia push him to (often conflict-enabling) conclusions. This is one of the ways through which The Cuckoolander Was Right.

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    Comic Strips 
  • Candorville: Subverted. Saxon Knechu describes himself as justifiably paranoid, but within two panels he admits he's even more paranoid than a Dhampyr outcast needs to be. Lemont thinks he's Axe-Crazy and delusional, but he's completely sane, and the story he's telling is true.
  • In For Better or for Worse, Therese was suspicious of her husband's friendship with his ex from high school. Since said husband mooned over said ex constantly and they ended up getting married, Therese was right to be wary.
  • Gahan Wilson did a one-panel comic for Playboy which shows a psychiatrist asking his patient "When did you first become aware of this imagined 'plot to get you,' Mr. Potter?" ...while crooking his finger at two grinning black-cloaked assassins who are creeping in through the office door.

  • The last verse of Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings":
    Just because you're paranoid
    Don't mean they're not after you
  • Geto Boys hit song, "My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me", is about how the street life has made the members of the group paranoid. The music video shows that all of their fears are in their own mind.
  • In Bruce Springsteen song Murder Incorporated, dealing with hitmen of organized crime:
    Out on the street your chances are zero
  • The narrator of Olivia Rodrigo's "traitor" and "drivers license" describes how her ex-boyfriend was friends with another girl, and she always worried it was more than that, even as he assured her that wasn't the case. After they broke up, he got together with the other girl in practically no time at all. The narrator is hurt because it shows her concerns were valid all along—even if he wasn't technically cheating on her, he was never as committed to her as she was to him.
  • The POV character in Sparks's "The Existential Threat" — especially in the official music video, animated by Cyriak — initially seems to be just a paranoid, anxious man, alone in a dingy apartment and seeing shadows. Numerous disasters happen in the meantime, and by the time he's vindicated, it's too late.
    "Nothing's happened yet today, and yet I have to feel..."
    "Lots of things have happened and I seek an even keel."

  • In the Red Panda Adventures, the Red Panda enlists in the army to help the effort against Hitler. He's assigned to a group of superheroes called the Home Team, led by Colonel Fitzroy. Fitzroy reveals that there are files detailing his and the Squirrel's identities, prompting them to go around replacing originals with fakes of their own making. Each fake is even made different so that if copies turn up they'll know where they started from. When the Nazis launch an attack on the Secret Identities of the Home Team's super members, the Squirrel is able to get a lead on who's responsible because one of the fatalities was Colonel Fitzroy, who shouldn't have been targeted since he wasn't one of the superheroes but was named as the Red Panda in one of the fake files.
  • The Magnus Archives: When Jon first takes the job of Head Archivist, he's told by Elias that his predecessor, Gertrude, died in the line of duty - but at the end of season 1, he finds her body in the tunnels under the Archives, and it's clear that she was murdered. For the entirety of season 2, Jon is The Paranoiac, refusing to trust anyone and stalking his coworkers in order to prove his suspicion that one of them is Gertrude's killer. This causes major rifts between him and the rest of the team, until it turns out that he was right: Elias murdered Gertrude. Later, Elias kills Jurgen Leitner as well, and frames Jon for it, forcing him to go into hiding.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Rocky Romero's message to the opponents of Forever Hooligans.
    "Collecting titles, we beat legends. Paranoia all around when you're in our presence."

  • In the series 2 finale of Undone, the protagonist takes a pill to make her paranoid enough to work out the plots and counter-plots surrounding her half-sister's wedding, just in time to stop them.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • While many of Josephine's conspiratorial theories are as ludicrous as one may expect, she's right on the money when she suspects the newly acquainted Sarah Travers of being a government agent.
    • A teacher at the school, Mr. Morrison, worries that his knowledge of the empowering incident will cause the government to do something to him. It's dismissed by Irene as him being paranoid. Four days later, he's missing from school and replaced by the above Sarah Travers.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Anyone who is not this in Warhammer 40,000 should be, because the entire universe REALLY IS out to get you.
    • The treatment of psykers is among the most brutal in fiction: they are hunted down and shipped off to Terra in ships crewed by blanks (extremely un-psychic Humanoid Abominations, from the psykers' perspectives), where their potential is tested. If they're too weak, they're used to fuel the God-Emperor's spirit to keep the Astronomican lit, if strong enough, they get to enjoy Training from Hell (Not Hyperbole) and a lifetime of fighting the many, many horrors and evil creatures the galaxy has to offer. And even after all that, they're viewed with contempt, mistrust if not hatred by their superiors and the soldiers they fight alongside. All of this is entirely justified: an untrained psyker has no defense against the daemons of the Warp, and those who escape the Black Ships are basically time bombs until they're murdered by suspicious civilians, fall to Chaos, explode into a portal that lets daemons pour through, or any combination of the above.
    • There are people stupid enough to hire Chaos forces, Dark Eldar or orks as plausibly-deniable mercenaries, and are still surprised when they find themselves betrayed by the biggest Always Chaotic Evil / sadist pricks / Omnicidal Maniacs in the galaxy.
  • Dark Heresy, the roleplaying game of Warhammer 40000, is a game system where Paranoia is a talent; it grants bonuses and you have to pay XP to acquire it. To contrast, in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, it's a crippling mental disorder.
  • As the name implies, this is completely justified in Paranoia. The skill High Alert / Focused Paranoia / Scam Radar isn't about asking if there's a threat — there are loads of them all the time — but which one is most immediately relevant.
  • Chaotic Evil creatures in Dungeons & Dragons — as well as anyone living close to them — usually are leery to the extreme.
    • The Drow are justifiably paranoid about their enemies and as such tend to get killed by their friends. Conversely, if one spends too much time looking over the shoulder at one's allies… according to Drizzt Do'urden, "Those who watch their backs meet death from the front." Even technically Chaotic Good followers of Eilistraee tend to be very jumpy, as most of them are ex-Lolthites and know what to expect all too well. Any non-disguised Drow outside of their territory — above ground or below — usually are attacked on sight, without asking for their purpose or something, by almost anyone else not too busy running away, which usually is a Properly Paranoid reaction as well.
    • Dispater, one of the Archdukes of Hell, is paranoid and cautious in the extreme. He never leaves his impenetrable fortress, has both halves of his court spying on each other, and even the way he fights is more defense then offense. The thing is, in Hell, everyone is out to get you (even Asmodeus has people plotting against him, but he is aware of every plot), so he's smart for doing all of that!
    • Most players also tend to become this. In a world where monsters look like rocks, plants, items, clothing, walls, ceilings, and other innocuous objects, attacking the treasure chest isn't paranoia, it's good tactics. You never know what might be a Mimic…
  • A way of life (or perhaps the only way of life) for the Mages of Mage: The Awakening. Personal information can be used as an ingredient for more powerful spellcasting, so Mages take great pains to make sure that they leave no hairs anywhere, that their old clothing is either properly disposed of or burned, and that no one ever, under any circumstances, discovers their real name.
    • Changelings, meanwhile, are refugees from the hellish domain of god-like entities. They're fully aware that their former captors can leave near-perfect imitations of the people they've taken, that they have agents operating on this side of Arcadia, and that — while mercurial — many of them would very much like to get their property back. Much of their society is based around institutional structures that effectively throw up cloud cover for the Gentry.
    • Judging by the fluff thus far, demons operate like this as well. They're former agents of an all-encompassing occult superintelligence that plays with causality the way a child plays with blocks. They know their former boss has agents in all facets of the world, and that said agents are looking for defectors so that they can be reintegrated (forcefully, if necessary) back into the God-Machine. Also, they and all their kind have such perfect control over their emotions, they can tell lies that no supernatural power can discern as falsehoods. There's a reason most of their local institutions are modeled after spy rings.
  • In Adeptus Evangelion (Think Neon Genesis Evangelion by the way of Dark Heresy). You can take Paranoia as a strength. Not a weakness, a strength.
  • In Amber Diceless Roleplaying, this is used as an example of how the PCs have no chance whatsoever of defeating any of the NPCs from the original series. Benedict cannot See the Invisible, but his Implausible Fencing Powers are so well-honed that he can anticipate an attack by invisible people and kick their asses anyway.
  • In the Illuminati card game, the Paranoids are one group you can control, and give you protection against all attacks except natural disasters.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • It's actually kind of funny when you go back to replay Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and realize that Manfred von Karma was paranoid enough to retrain a parrot, on the off chance that somebody *coughcough* might cross-examine her. Guess what happens. However, while the parrot was retrained to not say the most incriminating thing, Phoenix managed to use the other things it says to link the owner to DL-6.
    • In the last case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, the international spy known as "the phantom" is terrified of having his identity revealed, insisting that there are assassins nearby who will kill him if he's discovered. As it turns out, he's shot by a sniper on a nearby rooftop through the roof of the courtroom the phantom himself bombed the moment he takes his last mask off, though he survives the shot.
    • In The Great Ace Attorney, toward the end of the game, it is revealed that while Genshin Asogi(Kazuma's father) was on death row, he requested an important favor from Yujin Mikotoba(Susato's father)— find Klint van Zieks' pregnant wife and see to her and the child's well-being. Yujin agrees and considers involving their mutual friend Seishiro Jigoku(the judge for the Japanese trials), but Genshin insists that only Yujin be involved. Seishiro was workng for Mael Stronghart, the Big Bad of the game, so Genshin's instincts ended up being right.
  • In Double Homework, Dennis is the first character to get the idea that something's fishy about the summer school class. He thinks something bigger is at play, and he goes a step further: the object of whoever is behind the class is aiming to humiliate him. He's not completely wrong on either count: Dr. Mosely, who runs the program, is actually a scientist conducting an experiment on the class, and Dennis's role in the experiment is to creep out all the girls in the class so they'll fall into the protagonist's arms.
  • Ivan, much to Gian's surprise as Ivan appears to be the opposite at first appearance, from Lucky Dog 1 turns out to be incredibly paranoid about the people around him — he's forced his men on a number of occasions to eat the food they bring in case it's poisoned. This is because, when he was younger, somebody he was close to set him up and he almost died, and he doesn't feel completely welcomed into the mafia. As it turns out, some of the people betraying the mafia were his own men and his overly precautious nature saves his and Gian's lives on multiple occasions.
  • In Fate/hollow ataraxia, Sakura has no way of knowing that Rider really is attracted to Shirou, but she fears Rider will 'steal' him away anyway.

    Web Animation 
  • Flaky might come across as being irrationally nervous and the character has a boatload of phobias in Happy Tree Friends, but considering what usually ends up happening to the HTF gang, and the somewhat unusual delivery mechanisms of said fates, her fears seem rather justified… but unfortunately, her caution rarely pays off due to Finagle's Law being in effect.
  • RWBY:
    • Ironwood's Fatal Flaw is his paranoia and mistrust, but it also means he's right about a lot of things, too. He's right to suspect Ozpin hiding something from his own Benevolent Conspiracy, he's right about Haven being the second target after Beacon, and he's right not to trust Leo. He's right to suspect that the villains are using an Atlesian hacker and that they would be willing to use a refugee evacuation as a cover for infiltration and sabotage. Unfortunately, many of the decisions he makes in response to his paranoia turn out play into the villains hands, dooming the Kingdom of Atlas instead of protecting it. Some of things the heroes could have used for their own plans therefore get missed because of how unstable and unreliable Ironwood becomes; this leaves them vulnerable to being infiltrated by Cinder and Neo when they're evacuating the kingdom's refugees, the very thing Ironwood feared.
    • After spending years alone in the Ever After with his trauma from Atlas and experiencing new betrayals while waiting for Team RWBY to arrive, Jaune Arc starts going through Sanity Slippage and becomes increasingly mistrustful of Afterans. This causes problems for Team RWBY, and the Afterans themselves, as he won't listen them due to his belief that they're too clever, too stupid or too manipulative. Once Team RWBY realise how unstable Jaune has become, they begin to listen to the Afterans more than their old friend... until it turns out that Jaune's instincts were right all along. Jaune is adamant that the Curious Cat cannot be trusted. The Cat is manipulative, appears to help Afterans Ascend to the Tree for its own motives and sugar-coats a process that is really a form of death through Loss of Identity and Death of Personality. In Volume 9, Episode 8, the Cat's true motive for helping Team RWBY go to the tree is revealed; they've been deliberately breaking down Ruby's state of mind with the intention of possessing her in order to travel to Remnant and confront the gods for abandoning their world.

    Web Comics 
  • Bastard: In an early chapter, Jin's father helps an old lady cross the street and the woman's grandson is played up as being overly angry and suspicious. Of course, we the readers know that there is something very wrong with the man who helped his grandmother and that his comments about there being many kinds of weirdos out there were justified.
  • After discovering that they are werewolves, the main cast of Cry 'Havoc' (with the exception of Hati) become paranoid that the Vatican and Aesir churches are out to get them, this even goes so far that they tactically sweep and clear rooms they enter, carry multiple weapons on them at any time, and plan on how to kill their only allies should they be surprised.
  • You don't need enemies to be properly paranoid. Florence of Freefall is an engineer specializing in nuclear power plants and space ship engines. She considers four independent fully-redundant safety systems an absolute minimum for anything important. She developed this habit contending with nothing worse than Murphy's Law. Considering how destructive a nuclear or space ship catastrophe can be, it's good to be that paranoid.
    Sam: Are all engineers as paranoid as you?
    Florence: We call it being properly cautious.
  • Girl Genius: Tarvek warns Gil that he has a lot of nasty cousins who would be eager to take the Lightning Throne if Tarvek doesn't do so and that Gil would definitely prefer Tarvek to any of them. Martellus then shows up to claim the crown and proves Tarvek very right with his incredibly violent ways.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Jack believes that the Court tracks students through their food. Naturally, even a student quite disillusioned with the Court asks him why they would do it in such a ridiculous way. Jack's right.
  • The Guy Upstairs: Rozy is noted by many to be very paranoid, especially in regards to her best friend Hawa's safety. However, she's completely right about Adam; too bad for her he seems to enjoy messing with her and making her look unreliable.
  • Homestuck has this in the form of Beta Bro Strider. This character takes some actions that are absolutely horrifying to those around them, and even now with the information we have they are still considered excessive force, but to see the motivation they have knowing that Bro was being tortured by Lord English's presence in Lil Cal his entire time with Dave makes you think.
  • Golden, the anti-hero from M9 Girls! is right in thinking there is more than meets the eye with the Girls' internship at the Professor's lab.
  • In Narbonic, after Dave goes mad, Helen tells him that the nice part of going mad is that "You realize you weren't paranoid after all."
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Lord Shojo, ruler of Azure City. Best summed up by this:
      Shojo: Paranoia? I rule a city where I have to fake senility just to avoid being assassinated. I took Improved Paranoia like 5 levels ago.
    • Also, Haley. Her father raised her to trust nobody but family, and while this made it difficult to open up to her new friends within the Order, it also helped her identify whether or not new people they meet were Evil or not.
  • Narrowly averted in Plume - Aricon, terrified of assassins, went to such lengths in order to prevent his murder, Corrick started to daydream about killing him.
  • In Sam & Fuzzy, Malcolm has various crazy cryptic rants about a conspiracy involving the hunter in white, the corporation that kills to control the message, the man with two faces and space gophers. They all turn out to be a true (even the space gophers) and a result of his hairstyle accidentally picking up secret transmissions from Sin records
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Yes, there is in fact a Jerk Society out to get you.
  • Schlock Mercenary, in wide range.
    • Lieutenant Shore "Pi" Pibald, paranoid to the point of insanity - or "as irrational as his namesake" — though fortunately, in a mercenary company of violent sociopaths, this isn't a bad thing. However, he's intelligent enough that he's been correct about his suspicions on at least three notable occasions.
      Narrator: It's a good thing he's not in therapy. This would undo months of progress.
    • Kevyn does not expect much good surprises from the Universe or people, either. As he said to another Mad Scientist:
      Kevyn: I went straight for the most reckless, potentially-deadly activity I could imagine. It looks clever, but it's actually paranoid pessimism.
    • The one book almost everyone in the setting has read, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries, also encourages a policy of relentless mistrust of anything and everything.
      Maxim 30: A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the further you'll go.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Riff spends a good chunk of the comic paranoid that Aylee will revert to her "primal instincts" and go on a killing spree. While this paranoia is unusually assholish for Riff, the inventions he's made out of his paranoia have ultimately saved the group multiple times.
  • Everything involving the Rash Illness in Stand Still, Stay Silent.
    • Are buzzsaws on a train really necessary? God, yes. As for why… WARNING- Nightmare Fuel ahead.
    • The official guide for clearing land:
    • In the prologue, Iceland for closing its borders and the two families from Sweden and Finland who deliberately decided to spend the worst of the outbreak in an isolated area. The other future groups of survivors either already lived in an isolated place or got stuck in one such area due to the massive closing of borders with only a few hours of warning.
  • One mezzacotta character says this is why you humans cannot be allowed to leave Earth.
  • Unsounded: Leysa warns Duane several times not to hit Counciler Bodie before he leaves to meet the man, and Duane repeatedly assures her that even though the man is a despicable bigot he wouldn't hit him since the man runs the country. He loses it and hits Bodie when the warmongering councilor suggests "sharing" a deadly mystical plague, is beaten for it and then is killed on his way home.
  • Of a sort in We Are The Wyrecats. Bryce's gradual loss of reality resulting from his brain tumor causes him to react with extreme paranoia at times, but given the conspiracies surrounding him and his teammates, his paranoid outbursts would almost seem reasonable coming from a healthy person.
  • One xkcd comic has the character announce "I know you're listening" to empty rooms, on the off chance he's right.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe:
    • Whateley Academy is actively trying to instill a form of this attitude in its students. As staff members have been heard to state outright, the point of the school isn't so much to produce superheroes or — villains — or even provide a formal education (though it does that, too) as to train young mutants to survive in a world in which many people are out to get them.
    • Phase is paranoid, and rightly so. He grew up in an ultra-wealthy family, and so has spent his whole life watching for conmen, hucksters, golddiggers, false friends, you name it. He bought a high-end utility belt after only a couple weeks at Whateley Academy. The one time he wasn't wearing it (because the powers testing guys insisted on experimenting on it) he really, really needed it.
  • Gaia Online, true to form, has at least three known examples.
    • G-Corps Labtech 957, several of whose numerous conspiracy theories about the place are eventually revealed to be true. He'd even stashed a bigass shotgun for the Zombie Apocalypse.
    • Johnny Gambino sent his son Gino into hiding the night before Halloween 2k7's vampires came looking for them both.
    • Gambino, again, went to his friend Edmund with concerns about his security force being absent early in March 2010. Edmund dismissed him as paranoid and told him to go home and get some sleep. Cue vampire assassin...
    • The entire population of the Gaia universe refuses to attend Louie's Halloween party in 2011, on the basis that Halloween festivities in Gaia tend to end badly. Naturally, there's an outbreak of lycanthropy at the party.
  • The Salvation War reveals that tinfoil hats actually work against demonic mind powers.
  • Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons: Minerelle becomes terrified by, and obsessed with, a figure named 'Alfonso de Tambor' who she happens to read about in an old book. It increasingly becomes clear that her paranoia over him is completely irrational. Until he shows up, by which time she's forgotten who he is.
  • Worm:
    • When the insects around a police station so much as move strangely, the cops take it as a sign that the Skitter is spying on them, and freak out accordingly. As the reader knows, she is.
    • When dealing with the Simurgh, it's literally impossible to be paranoid enough. Whatever plan you make to counter or contain her influence, she has already forseen and accounted for.
    • There are also Master/Stranger protocols. Masters have the ability to control people or minions of some sort, so protocols usual involve pass-phrases or similar verifications to ensure people are who they say they are. Stranger powers are generally related to stealth in some way, but the most problematic ones are those that prevent people from noticing the users or the threat the present. Often times having someone off-site viewing footage and giving instructions to those present is a partial mitigation to this, as the power won't work through cameras.
  • In the Creepypasta, "Psychosis", the protagonist becomes increasingly convinced that everyone but him has been abducted and replaced by shapeshifting monsters assuming their identities, and that he's next. It certainly seems like it's all in his head and that he's just going crazy, and the ending confirms that he is in fact wrong. Everyone is being controlled by Puppeteer Parasites instead.

    Web Videos 
  • Invoked by Gordon Freeman in episode 28 of Freeman's Mind. While his paranoia does allow him to accurately predict enemy strategies and avoid traps, he proceeds to delve into the absurdly paranoid… including telepathic owls.
  • The characters in The Last Stage by Nat One Productions exhibit this trope throughout the story by necessity.
    • Cell leader PATRICK makes sure that his teammates are really themselves every time he meets them again by spraying them with dangerous chemicals that have the added benefit of showcasing whether or not someone has been affected by the paranormal.
    • The entire crew constantly are checking for tails, making sure their hotel rooms aren't bugged, and are actively suspicious of almost every person they encounter out in the field.
  • In Marble Hornets, Alex starts constantly filming himself midway through producing his student film. After J watches the tapes, he starts filming himself as well. What they find is disturbing, to say the least.
  • The Nostalgia Critic becomes paranoid that his allies will seek to oust him as President of Kickassia. He's right, but it's only after he threatens them with twenty tons of dynamite! Subverted with The Nostalgia Chick, who he never really notices making several thinly-veiled assassination attempts for her own ends.
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Jane senses that something is off from the moment she came to be Adele Rochester's tutor. In episode 13, her suspicions are confirmed as far as the strange happenings in the house go, though she doesn't know the mystery yet. However, it's also the episode when she admits that Mr Rochester is all right, and she expected him to be horrible — neglectful or abusive to Adele and possibly to herself.
  • Markiplier is horrified by mannequins and suits of armor. Any time he walks into a room where either or both are present, he will freak out. Unless, of course, the angel statue is somewhere around.
  • The Flying Man: Mike is afraid that the murderous vigilante will crash their arms deal. Rob tells him not to worry. Guess who shows up?
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, Lord Vyce is determined to hunt down and kill the Entity, despite Linkara's insistance that he killed it. And "The Sleepwalker" arc reveals that Vyce is indeed right, as a fragment of the Entity has possessed Linkara since its defeat. However, he loses the "Properly" part when he once again thinks it's still alive, even after witnessing the Entity kill itself again.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Proper Paranoia


Lieutenant JG Hazing

Mariner, Rutherford and Tendi are tasked with finding a broken isolinear chip in a room full of them and replacing it by hand. Oh, and the room they're in has nitrogen coolant gas spray out every hour, Billips' pet ferret Lancelot is roaming around and likes to bite, and there’s a second wall of chips behind the first. Tendi rightfully deduces they’re being hazed, but Lt. Dirk is able to convince them otherwise.

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