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Real Stitches for Fake Snitches

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Organized crime thrives on secrecy and is by definition opposed to the forces of law enforcement. In this kind of environment, nobody likes The Stool Pigeon. Those who inform on their superiors or conspirators can quickly find themselves injured or dead.

And those who keep their mouths shut? They can be marked for death too, if the right people think they snitched. In this trope, people involved in crime are framed for tattling. There can be a number of motives. Someone may be seeking revenge for an unrelated offense. Their removal might be good for someone else's career advancement. In some cases, police will manipulate things this way to get a target who seems immune to legitimate prosecution, perhaps as a counterplay to the crime boss's reliance on fear.

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Examples

Film - Animation

Film - Live Action

  • Played with in Bad Boys 2. The protagonist detectives get a man connected to an ecstasy-smuggling ring to talk by taking a picture with him and threatening to show it to his fellow criminals. To make things worse for him, both detectives are black and the man is a member of the KKK.
  • In the 1995 remake of Kiss of Death, Ronnie Gannon gets Jimmy Kilmartin re-involved with the car theft racket, leading to his arrest. Then he's indirectly responsible for Jimmy's wife Bev getting killed while Jimmy is inside. Jimmy gets revenge by offering the cops details on an old job he helped pull, coming clean about his own involvement but excluding all mention of Ronnie. When everyone involved is arrested except for Ronnie, their boss Little Junior Brown assumes he's the rat and beats him to death.
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  • Running Scared (1986). Police detectives Hughes and Costanza threaten a criminal named Snake to make him cooperate with them. They tell him that if he doesn't, they'll arrest his boss and him, then drop the charges against him. His boss will think Snake turned state's evidence on him and have Snake killed. Snake agrees to cooperate, but later turns the tables on them.
  • The Usual Suspects. Kujan threatens Verbal with this to get him to flip. The results are mixed.

Literature

  • Invoked in Bloodsucking Fiends. Detective Cavuto gets a suspect (who's in the hospital) to comply with his inquiries by writing a "Thanks for all your help" message on his cast, and promising to erase it if he actually helps. The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • The Wheel of Time: The Forsaken are a Quirky Miniboss Squad bound in service to the Dark One, a God of Evil. After The Chosen One Rand finds a way to sever the Forsaken Asmodean's connection to the Dark One and another Forsaken spreads the lie that Asmodean intentionally betrayed his oaths, Asmodean realizes that the Dark One will inflict a Fate Worse than Death on him at the first opportunity (including if he dies before the Dark One is defeated) and joins forces with Rand to try to save himself.
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Live Action TV

  • Danny Reagan invoked it on Blue Bloods to set up Delgado. As other gang members are arrested, Delgado is unexpectedly let go and thanked for his cooperation, making it sound like he ratted the rest of them out. The epilogue reveals that the gang members had taken care of business.
  • Invoked on Brooklyn Nine-Nine: The team stages an attempt on the life of a corrupt FBI agent who refused to testify against the mobster he was working for to make him think the mobster was trying to kill him to make sure he couldn't testify. This causes the agent to give up an incriminating file that brings down the mobster's organization.
  • This is one of Team Westen's more common tricks on Burn Notice:
    • In episode "Mind Games", Micheal tries to convince loan shark Wallace that his thug Carter is a undercover Police Officer, even hiding a kit in his house. Wallace has Carter's house searched, but instead finds Carter's real kit, revealing he was an FBI Agent the whole time.
    • They get rid of a drug cartel enforcer who is trying to kill a witness to him beating up a pizza delivery driver by planting a fake recording of him discussing turning state's evidence. The cartel ships him back home in the trunk of a car.
    • Team Westen deals with Raul, an enforcer for a Columbian drug cartel who is stalking an undercover DEA agent, by framing him for trying to go to the cops and trying to assassinate El Jefe. He quickly surrenders to the DEA to save his own skin.
  • Threatened on Good Girls. Agent Turner picks up an injured hoodlum in Rio's money laundering operation. The guy won't talk, so Turner offers to take him out to lunch... at a public place where all his other cronies hang out. He flips at that point, so Turner doesn't have to carry out the threat, but subsequent dialogue between Rio and Beth suggests that the mob found out anyway and fixed the "problem".
  • In the pilot episode of Justified, Boyd Crowder is working with Jared Hale, a newcomer to the gang who'd just moved from Oklahoma. Boyd becomes suspicious after Jared recommends blowing up a federal bank that's under construction. The suggestion clearly requires more explosive ordinance they have, gains them no money, and avoids any loss of life. Suspecting Jared is a cop sent to spy on their gang, Boyd shoots him in the back of the head only to have his second-in-command, Devil, call moments later saying that Jared's story checks out and his cellmates from Oklahoma confirmed he was who he claimed to be.
  • On Law & Order, Fontana once got a scared bartender to talk by threatening to drop money on the bar while Green would smile and say "thank you" within plain view and earshot of the people he was scared to talk about.
  • In the New Tricks episode "Last Man Standing", Gerry tries to run a Dirty Cop working for a mob boss out of town by framing him for double-crossing the mob boss and warning him to leave or face the boss' wrath. The cop is too slow to run and gets killed by the boss.
  • On NYPD Blue, Detective Diane Russell goes on an undercover operation to bring down gun runner Jimmy Liery and his bosses. Liery gets into her head, which concerns Detectives Simone (Russell's fiance) and Sipowicz. To bring her investigation to a quick close they stage an argument in a mob-owned bar that implies Liery has agreed to turn state's evidence. Liery is promptly executed by his own organization.
  • A recurring plot threat in Sons of Anarchy where various club members struggle to deal with Law Enforcement officers who attempt to coerce them under the threat of making it look like they're snitches even though the club member has been loyal and refused to cooperate.
    • In season 1, Opie's wife Donna is murdered after dirty ATF Agent Stahl makes it look like Opie is informing on the club. She does this despite multiple local law enforcement officers warning her that she is putting Opie's life in extreme danger. Donna is killed in a case of mistaken identity because she was driving Opie's truck late at night.
    • The club is able to turn this threat around on Stahl in season 3 when she uses the threat of imprisoning Jax's mother on charges of murder she didn't commit if Jax doesn't inform. He feeds Stahl the information she wants in order to make sweetheart deals for all the club members who are facing time, but has long since told the club what he's doing. Despite believing that revealing Jax's status as an informant will guarantee his death, she does it anyway just to be petty. However, her actions provide an alibi for the remaining club members who are supposedly out of town in hiding but actually double back and murder her.
    • In season 6, Gemma murders Tara because she inaccurately believes Tara informed on Jax to the police.
  • Patrick Jane has pulled this a few times on The Mentalist. Most notably with the head of a biker gang, where Jane arranged for it to look like the man was taking payments for informing on the gang. We don't see the final result, but it's implied that the gang's leader won't be around for very long.
  • On American Vandal, Lou gives Gonzo a nasty black eye because he thinks Gonzo has been revealing Lou and DeMarcus's secrets. That attack prompts Gonzo to spill the beans for real.
  • The Bill.
    • After being arrested, a criminal tries to blackmail Dave Quinnan into letting him go. At the same time the detectives convince a minor associate of this man to grass their boss up. To preserve his cover, they arrest the grass on a minor charge, then let the other man think his blackmail plan has worked by releasing him without charge, knowing that suspicion will fall on him when his boss is arrested.
    • While a school class is visiting the Sun Hill police station, a child notes that an identikit sketch looks a lot like his dad. They check out the dad and find he has a criminal record, so bring him in for questioning along with two of his associates so his son won't be blamed. But dad tells the detectives to stop wasting their time; he's been waiting to be arrested because his son told him all about his trip to the police station and what he saw there.

Video Games

  • Sleeping Dogs has a scene in which undercover cop Wei Shin successfully reverses an accusation that he is a snitch, resulting in the accuser (actually a loyal gang member) getting murdered on the spot by a crime boss.

Web Original

  • Decoder Ring Theatre:
    • Black Jack Justice: "No Justice" opens with Trixie and Lieutenant Sabien hassling a numbers man named Ricky for information on where to find Jack and Freddy the Finger, who have been missing for two days following their snooping into mobster Chick Mason's fight fixing racket. When the guy makes the mistake of saying he's more afraid of Mason than Sabien, Trixie suggest that the guy be commended as publicly as possible and hailed for his assisting police with apprehending the Mason Gang. Ricky folds almost immediately.
    • Red Panda Adventures: In "The Red Squirrel", the Flying Squirrel interrupts a heist by thugs working for a supervillain known as the Genie. She knocks out all but one, ironically nicknamed Fink, and proceeds to question him about the Genie's plans. When he resists, the Squirrel offers to simply let him go while showing she knows perfectly well what the Genie will assume when Fink returns alone and without a mark on him. Indeed, when outside interference allows Fink to escape, the Genie assumes Fink betrayed him and is only dissuaded when Fink's account of how he escaped includes details he believes Fink too stupid to make up.
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