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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 bring down a target who seems immune to legitimate prosecution, create dissention within the mob, and/or exploit underlings' fear of their boss to force them to actually cooperate by threatening to make it look like they did.


Comic Books

  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Roman Agent, the titular Roman agent Convovulus has managed to turn the village against each other until they think Asterix and Getafix are on their payroll and even sold them the secret of the magic potion (by staging fights between huge and tiny legionaries where the Gauls can see them). Once the Gauls are shamed into getting their act together, they trounce the Romans, and loudly congratulate Convovulus for his part in the Roman's defeat. He denies it, but of course now the Romans are turned against him and have him sent to Rome in chains.

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.
  • 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.


  • 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.

Live Action TV

  • 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.
  • Blue Bloods:
    • Danny Reagan invoked it 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.
    • Jamie Reagan does this to a cocky, sexist slug named Tommy who first harassed and later assaulted Eddie. As they are approaching him, Eddie protests to Jamie, "I don't want you to do this," and Jamie responds that Tommy has been asking for a beating. The dialog sets the audience up to think Jamie is about to throw a few punches, right? Wrong. Jamie then thanks Tommy in front of his cohorts for his cooperation; the information he gave the police in exchange for him walking helped them arrest the drug dealers. Tommy's friends begin to freak out, and Jamie walks away fully satisfied that the well-deserved beating is about to take place.
  • 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", Michael 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.
  • Daredevil (2015) provides a twisted variant of this. After snitching on an Albanian syndicate to gain Ray Nadeem's trust, Wilson Fisk pays Jasper Evans to shank him, just good enough to convince the Feds that he's been targeted for snitching, so that they'll move Fisk into a hotel penthouse suite that he's bought through a series of shell companies. Helping sell his fake story to Nadeem is that the convoy transferring Fisk is coincidentally attacked by an Albanian hit squad, who almost come close to killing Fisk before Dex intervenes and kills them first.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. In reality, Jax had confessed to keep Tara and his kids safe.

  • Bodie from The Wire survives five seasons of the show by sticking to the street code, and even has to kill one of is friends who snitched, but meets his end because he's seen getting into a car with McNulty after being released from lockup.


  • The Notorious B.I.G. mentions this in "Ten Crack Commandments" as a reason for the prospective drug dealer to not to be seen with police unless he's being arrested:
    If you ain't gettin' bagged, stay the fuck from police
    If niggas think you snitchin', they ain't tryna listen
    They be sittin' in your kitchen, waiting to start hittin'

Video Games

  • Sleeping Dogs (2012): Undercover officer Wei Shen does a string of helpful deeds to ingratiate himself with a Sun On Yee Red Pole, Winston Chu, as part of the HKPD's operation to take down the triad, but despite his attempts to seem like he walked in off the street, suspicions that he's a "rat" brew until it culminates in the arrest of a notorious drug dealer in Winston's territory. That gets him grabbed and threatened with death for snitching and possibly being a cop, but Wei turns it around on his accuser (actually a loyal member of the gang) by pointing out how he's still managing to sell despite the police's crackdown on the drug supply, making it seem like he's in with Dogeyes, another gang member, and exploiting Winston's rivalry with Dogeyes to play both sides. Winston gets angry enough to shoot the man dead and let Wei live.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, as part of three of the faction quest-chains, the Courier investigates a series of murders committed by the Omertas, one of the Three Families on the New Vegas Strip, operating the Gomorrah casino. Investigations eventually result in the Courier being confronted by the family's co-leaders, Big Sal and Nero, who make it no secret that they want to kill them for knowing about their plan to detonate a chlorine bomb and kill the occupants of the Strip for the Legion during the Final Battle. One possible solution is to convince Big Sal that the Courier is actually working for Nero, who plans to betray him to Mr. House and eliminate him, resulting in the two killing each other.
Web Comics
  • Dean & Nala + Vinny: Dean buys a pink octopus to for the dogs (Yasuki and Charlie) he is fostering. Afraid they will destroy the octopus, she hides it for its own safety. As Dean wonders out loud where it is, Nala unsheathes her claws in Charlie's face:
    Nala: House rule #1: Snitches get stitches.
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.