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Tautological Templar

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You keep telling yourself that, man.

The Emperor: These warriors shall be my generals, and they will lead my great crusade to the furthest corners of the galaxy.
Uriah: Didn't you just tell me of the bloody slaughters perpetrated by crusaders? Doesn't that make you no better than the holy men you were telling me about?
The Emperor: The difference is that I am right.
Uriah: Spoken like a true autocrat.

Considering all the dog-kicking and in some cases murdering, the Knight Templar gets into, sooner or later a(nother) good character is going to get the courage to ask them something. How on earth do they believe themselves to be "absolutely good", given just how spiteful and needlessly cruelnote  they are?

The Knight Templar's answer is simple: they are good, and their every action is good because they are good.

That headache you're feeling right now is the mounting frustration most characters feel at the realization that they're dealing with a Tautological Templar, a character who has been radicalized to a cause for so long that they cannot comprehend the idea that they could be immoral or that what they're doing could be wrong. Alternatively, this could be an outright villain who is deluded enough that they can justify completely selfish behavior as being for the greater good, such as claiming that The Hero is the evil one because they keep foiling their plans which are, of course, going to make the world a better place, because they are the one who will be running it.

Tautology is a term meaning that something is true in every possible interpretation; a Tautological Templar, then, is a character who can justify absolutely any sort of behavior to themselves because no matter what it was, they are arrogant, fanatical, or Ax-Crazy enough to interpret it as being the right thing.

In the eyes of a Tautological Templar, they are incapable of committing atrocities, even if they do the exact same thing they hate others for doing (murder, arson, rape). If someone else commits a crime, it's evil, but if a Tautological Templar commits the exact same deed, they justify it or even go as far as to say they did a good thing instead of a bad. A Knight Templar would be at least nominally aware of the moral implications of their actions, and would have a justification that acknowledges that - I Did What I Had to Do, the outcome will vindicate them, brutality and atrocity is the only language that evil understands, and so on and so forth. A Tautological Templar would never say that, because they are incapable of envisioning a scenario where they are morally in the wrong.

This character may look like a Hypocrite (they probably are, but are too stupid, self-righteous, deluded, and/or willfully ignorant to understand it), but in reality, they are far more dangerous than that. Because they can't comprehend the concept of Moral Myopia, they will throw themself into any struggle with the same force, conviction, and resolve that The Hero shows against the Big Bad. That's because, in their worldview, every enemy they have is twirling a handlebar mustache, madly cackling while tying orphans to the railroad trackseven if said enemy is The Hero.

Can often come about unintentionally as a result of a Designated Hero, most often when a writer is trying to rationalize the character's action but is having trouble doing so. A Well-Intentioned Extremist may also be one of these, provided they're genuinely oblivious to the suffering they have caused in the name of the greater good. At the same time, however, overlap with the latter is rare, as they are far more likely to be what particularly desperate, battle-weary, or dogmatic WIEs turn into - generally, if you can apply both labels, it is usually the point where the WIE is on the verge of He Who Fights Monsters and will lose any sort of reasonable justifiability. This is because a WIE who has crossed into this territory can justify anything, no matter how heinous, and neither understands nor cares that they are committing atrocities.

In general, if you feel inclined to put on a page "Well-Intentioned Extremist: This character thinks they are this", then you are probably dealing with this trope.

Sometimes related to What Is Evil?. People generally don't think of themselves as evil, but following the true way. In Real Life, this may result from cognitive dissonance, the psychological discomfort produced by holding beliefs that conflict with one's actions. In order to relieve this discomfort, people may subconsciously modify their beliefs to justify their actions. Or they may simply be practicing Doublethink.

A form of It's All About Me mixed with Never My Fault and Obliviously Evil. Such characters are also prone to Believing Their Own Lies, and for their followers to do so with Blind Obedience. If the Designated Hero is called out for acting this way, it's What the Hell, Hero? See also Superdickery, For Great Justice, Lawful Stupid, Holier Than Thou, Screw the Rules, I Make Them!. If the hero really IS a hero, but fans see him like one of these, you may have a case of Ron the Death Eater on your hands.

If a character comes across this way despite the author's intentions, you might have a case of Protagonist-Centered Morality. Compare Hitler Ate Sugar, an equally flawed argument that any given action is bad because the person doing that action is a bad guy.

A subset of Moral Myopia as well as Informed Attribute.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill! has Seryu Ubiquitous, who works for the highly corrupt empire at the heart of the story's conflict and champions justice above all else. Completely blind to her own nation's faults, the way Seryu metes out this "justice" defines Disproportionate Retribution: on one occasion, she has two petty thieves eaten by her Right-Hand Attack Dog Koro and personally dispatches the woman who was forced to help them steal when she begs Seryu for a fair trial. According to her insane worldview, any crime is considered punishable by death.
  • The angel Ashe/Angela from the anime adaptation of Black Butler. S/he declares everyone impure and that they must be Cleansed With Fire, but doesn't see anything wrong with murdering children and banging demons and Devil Dogs.
  • Bleach:
    • Tousen is revealed to be this, though not too surprising as he'd turned out to be The Mole and had long appeared to be a Knight Templar anyway. It was known that he became obsessed with justice when a friend of his was murdered by her Shinigami husband who managed to get away with the crime; it transpires that the reason he turned against Soul Society was for revenge (he has previously implied it was because Utopia Justifies the Means, though this was still somewhat true), believing that forgiveness of any sort was a mockery of justice and feeling he was completely entitled to take revenge on Soul Society and all of its inhabitants, even if that means helping the Big Bad become a god and not really worrying about the countless innocent lives he was killing or planning to kill along the way.
    • Mask de Masculine's defining trait is that he is fiercely loyal to the Quincy cause, quick to label anyone who stands against him and his comrades as a villain. In his eyes, he is a hero and a champion, and because he believes he's a hero, he also thinks he is undefeatable by anyone he calls a villain. That he himself could be a bad guy is so beyond his comprehension that he is killed off before coming even close to the realization.
  • Death Note:
    • Light Yagami is firmly convinced that everything he does in pursuit of his goals is justified and necessary, he himself is justice, and anyone who goes against him or his plans is evil. This contrasts him with L, who freely admits when he engages in Dirty Business.
    • There's also Light/Kira's followers— when Misa is introduced, even Light thinks she goes too far when she kills innocent newscasters and police officers for just speaking out against Kira. That in itself is in an instance of templar tautology because Light did more or less the same thing when he killed FBI agents, but naturally it's only okay when he does it. When Misa tries to defend her actions and dares to ask "isn't that what you did?", Light sends her a withering Death Glare and seems angrier that she called him on it than the fact that she killed people.
    • Then there's Mikami—when Mikami's mother scolds him for fighting with the bullies at school, Mikami decides she's an enemy of justice, and when his mother and the bullies all die in a car accident, he thinks that means that God is looking out for him. He takes the Kira mission even further than Light and Misa, killing reformed criminals and lazy people in the name of justice. Though when Light sees that in the news, he mentions that he might eventually have gone on to kill lazy and unproductive people himself, just not quite that soon.
  • Dragon Ball Super: Zamasu believes that he is righteous and correct about mortals being evil and it's his duty to promote the gods' justice by wiping them out. Even if this means murdering his fellow gods. When he is called out on this by Gowasu and Vegeta, he states that they could never understand him. Zamasu freely admits that what he's doing is evil, but is firmly convinced that his actions will lead to a greater good.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016), Link's Acquired Situational Narcissism reaches its peak when he concludes that receiving the Master Sword is proof he's become an Ideal Hero and thus can do no wrong. When Midna realizes she can no longer get through to him, she disappears on him so he can learn the hard way that he's far from the hero he thinks he is, even if it nearly kills him.
  • One Piece:
    • The majority of the World Government, at least at the highest echelons, engages in this. They believe themselves to be enforcing "Justice", and so anything they do in support of that Justice - up to and including deliberate genocide - is also just.
    • The midpoint of the Whole Cake Island arc reveals that Big Mom is this. Her dream is "world peace". Nominally a laudable goal, Big Mom has twisted it — she believes that it is so infallibly righteous, that any actions she takes are above reproach and suggesting otherwise is "selfish". Said actions include outright genocide. This mindset was the result of falling into the care of enablers like Mother Carmel and Streusen who ignored teaching her a conventional moral code in favor of encouraging her destructive habits. As a result, Big Mom developed an It's All About Me attitude that severely skewed her view of the world.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, Gin gives a perfect definition of this trope in relation to Kuyou: "Kuyou is the kind of guy who mistakenly believes that, without a doubt, everything he does is for the sake of justice. Anyone who goes against him is going against justice and is an evildoer, and he believes that he can do anything for his own sake because he is justice."
  • Anna Nishikinomiya from Shimoneta is a staunch believer in the setting's extreme moral values and anti-obscenity laws. Not only has her sexually repressed upbringing left her with a truly staggeringly high libido, she's completely ignorant of what sex even is and is incapable of distinguishing between love and lust. This leads her to repeatedly attempt to rape Tanukichi, the object of her affections, all while believing that her actions are "pure and just".

    Comic Books 
  • Batman, Depending on the Writer. The man has pulled off some truly serious Nineteen Eighty-Four-esque moves (i.e. Brother Eye) in his attempts at keeping crime under control, he is a complete Control Freak that needs to have a plan to take care of any obstacles (even if the "obstacle" is a trusted friend that would get immensely hurt from finding out that he did this, psychologically when not physically) and when it comes to Thou Shalt Not Kill he is completely unwilling to budge and has come to blows with people that he considers allies and even family because the mere thought of applying it (even if they make a point of deciding it will be applied if there is absolutely no other choice, i.e. any time The Joker is involved) is completely inexcusable (beating criminals to the point that, realistically, some would be dead and causing massive collateral damage (that, again, may have killed people) with his antics seems perfectly okay, though). Booster Gold once put it best:
    [Batman] won't apologize. He would need to admit he's wrong first.
  • John Horus of Black Summer is accused of being this by his former teammates, that despite all his power he decided the only way to save the day was killing the president and probably thinks only the bad guys are the ones who are against him. Tom Noir explcitly calls him out on this during their final confrontation, calling him a "simple assclown" for thinking this way during his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Contest of Champions (2015): An alternate universe version of Tony Stark appears, who went through Civil War (2006) but never got deposed by the Skrull Invasion insists he doesn't make mistakes "anymore". Turns out that he has a Reality Stone concealed in his armor, which he uses to immediately Ret-Gone any snafus he pulls off, starting with the accidental murder of Bill Foster... and including the various times that Steve Rogers has died, some of which were deaths by his own hand. Laser-Guided Karma comes upon Mr. Stark when he is yanked into Battleworld and does not remembers the Stone's Crippling Overspecialization (that it only works in its universe of origin) until after he has spilled the beans to his own Rogers and is a nanosecond away from being splattered by the Maestro.
  • Norman Osborn fell into this territory in Dark Reign, insisting that all of his actions were for the greater good and the heroes shouldn't be uniting against him and have no idea how much he has been doing to protect everyone. The fact that he started it by trying to kill all the heroes in the first place, that he tried to murder his own son for ratings, that he's been killing or locking up everyone who has a bad thing to say about him, that his own superhero teams comprised of supervillains he was allowing (and often ordering) to commit all sorts of murders and atrocities, and that the crisis in question he was referring to (The Sentry turning back into The Void) was all his fault in the first place, or the fact that his own Superpowered Evil Side was slowly taking over and he was starting to lose his mind and covering up the fact... Yeah, none of that really mattered.
  • Empyre: At the start of the event, Iron Man thinks of Carol Danvers that she has a particular expression which reads "I'm Carol Danvers and I'm always right." He then admits he thinks the same thing... before adding the difference is he is right. It should be noted Tony very quickly turns out to be under alien mind control making him think this way,
  • Fantastic Four: DOOM IS ALWAYS RIGHT!!! This, in a nutshell, sums up everything about Doctor Doom's character; he sincerely believes he's the smartest man in the world, a veritable god, and that his brilliance means he deserves to rule over the world. Depending on the Writer, sometimes, the authors seem to agree with him.
  • The Flash: Zoom (Hunter Zolomon) thinks he's performing a vital service by putting heroes through utter hell under the belief that Misery Builds Character and will make them "stronger" heroes. Unfortunately, however, his beliefs absolutely do not match up with reality, he is profoundly disturbed, and his moral code is completely incomprehensible to others. Furthermore, he's probably up there with the Joker in terms of how dangerous he is to his own allies as he is to heroes, as he will brutally attack anyone who he thinks is impeding his progress with "improving" his current target.
  • In Green Lantern, the Guardians of the Universe fall into this behavior on their worst days. It became worse and worse over Geoff Johns' run on the series until it came to a head in Rise of the Third Army, wherein they decide that the problems of the universe are caused by emotion itself, and thus Emotion Suppression and removal of The Evils of Free Will will remove the problems. This is in the face of the fact that the problems of the previous two armies were pretty much entirely their own fault. The Manhunters were created by them (and replaced by the extremely similar and also eventually evil Alpha Lantern Corps), and the Green Lantern Corps were led by misinformation and factors completely beyond their control, with their last "problem" being that one of them managed to kill a rogue Guardian.
  • Superboy Prime from Infinite Crisis jumped pretty quickly from "Dark Age heroes are too violent and amoral" to "Time for me to start killing them." After getting dragged into another dimension, he couldn't even manage that, and just goes around killing anything in reach.
    • Alex Luthor was much the same, believing creating the perfect Earth justified anything, including organizing an army of super-villains, setting the Spectre on a murderous rampage, and starting an intergalactic war. When confronted by the heroes he snarled that it was okay because he was the only real hero in the universe.
  • Depending on the Writer, Judge Dredd is aware that sometimes strict adherence to the letter of the law results in injustice; whether he accepts it as I Did What I Had to Do or exercises Loophole Abuse varies. There have been other Judges every so often who actually believed, "Because I'm a Judge, everything I do is right/legal." One of the Arc Words of the comic is "Who Judges the Judges"?
  • Lex Luthor sometimes has this attitude with Superman -and to a lesser extent Supergirl- especially evident in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. He justifies his crusade to bring down the hero by proclaiming that Superman, as a godlike alien, is a menace to humanity who impedes our progress by dint of his existence, and more crudely that Luthor is capable of solving all the Earth's problems but he can't until Superman is dead, and to be more specific dead at his hands. Doesn't seem to have any problem teaming up with other aliens like Brainiac or even Darkseid, even if those aliens really are out to enslave us all and make no secret of the fact. His supposed belief in the potential and value of humanity also doesn't seem to stop him from planning atrocities which, in attempting to destroy or 'expose' Superman, usually ratchet up a pretty hefty body count in human lives in the process.
  • Poison Ivy is often depicted as this with her "eco-terrorist" depictions, being too obsessed with either making people go Green now, too willing to sacrifice human lives in favor of the environment or both. She completely fails to realize that this only hurts her position and that she has more viable options in her arsenal thanks to her powers because she sincerely believes that she's protecting Mother Earth and is totally justified.
  • For the most part, subverted by The Punisher who's well aware that what he's doing is perfectly illegal (and when caught by heroes, his defense is usually along the lines of "kill me or I'll kill more criminals in prison". More than once he kills other vigilantes, although in this case it's (somewhat) justified in that they don't do the same obsessive prep work that he does to prevent civilian casualties and/or are even more monstrous than Frank.
  • Ra's al Ghul is going to make the world a better place, so in the meantime, he should be treated like God. Notably, he is trying to murder billions of people so that his family can inherit the Earth, on his terms as well.
  • Spider-Man: Venom believes that he's the good guy and anything he does to Spider-Man is justified because he "ruined his life." The fact that Spider-Man hadn't even met the man before he got his powers does nothing to dissuade this view.
  • Chief Justice Tyrest is clearly this during the events of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, declaring their actions perfectly valid, legal, and the right thing to do, guided by their beliefs but self-justified using their role in the justice system. Let's quickly point out that this is the same individual who believes indiscriminate genocide will somehow absolve him of his guilty conscience, and actually carries out that plan.

    Fan Works 
  • In 3 Slytherin Marauders, Neville gains this twisted worldview as a result of both nature (his mother, Alice was a Knight Templar) and nurture (he grew up resenting Harry Potter and living in constant fear of his life from his Evil Uncle Algie.) No matter what he does, he is justified in his own mind, and no matter what anyone says or does, he believes that Harry is evil.
  • In The Bridge, this is behind the falls of both Bagan and Grogar, particularly the latter, they came to believe that as gods, they were incapable of making mistakes and that any course of action that they took was automatically correct, due to their Pride. Harmony, on the other hand, is fully aware that God Is Flawed, and will admit to having made mistakes, which is probably a major part of why she's still good while the others are not.
  • In many The Conversion Bureau stories, especially those written by Chatoyance, Celestia and the ponies completely fail to see anything wrong with forced conversion and why the human race is so pissed off at them and fighting so hard against them.
  • In Cursed Blood, this causes Katsuki Bakugo to make multiple mistakes. As he believes himself to be the next great hero and his former friend Izuku as his villainous nemesis (on account of the latter's Quirk, the eponymous "Cursed Blood"), he ends up nearly killing several other students in an attempt to kill Izuku just because he lost to him in the Hero Training class. Not even getting sent to a psychiatric institution does push him out of his delusions.
  • Fade: L. His logic for using the Death Note and becoming as bad as Kira in the story that came with it amounts to this. In his mind, he is Justice, and thus, if he were to die, there would be no more Justice in the world. Hence, every life he takes to subvert fate and save his own, be it that of a criminal or an innocent, is for Justice.
  • Dumbledore is this in Heir. As far as Dumbledore is concerned, he's good and therefore all his actions are good by default (actions such as leaving an innocent child with his abusive relatives). In his world-view, all the "light families" are inherently good and all "dark families" are the cause of all problems, and if a member of a "dark family" happens to be a victim well they must have deserved it.
  • Until he is defeated at the end, Titan, the Big Bad of the Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Immortal Game, never stops to think that maybe, JUST MAYBE, he's the one being an overall self-righteous bastard. All he really seems to care about is (A) what he claims to be the "natural order" and (B) all of ponykind acknowledging that he is their GOD simply because he says he is.
    Twilight Sparkle: You're a god because you're a god because you're a god. You let your mind fall into the same grooves you've carved for yourself over millennia of thought. It's a circular argument, and one you've used to justify the slaughter of numberless innocents, all of them no less endowed with a mind and soul than you.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3: Final Stand: The Insurgos, hands down. As far as they're concerned, everyone in the royal family of Radiant Garden is evil purely because they're related to Hanako, a tyrant queen, anything and everything they do to get at them is justified, and anyone who sides with the royals for any reason is their enemy. It's actually revealed in Moons of Fate that Yamato Kazekiri's father approached them, offering to negotiate with the royal family for them and make things easier; rather than take his offer, the Insurgos openly accused him of "kissing up to the royals" and murdered him on the spot before killing his pregnant wife.
  • The Lost Child Of Azarath: Raven encounters quite a few of these during her travels with the Doctor. She considers them her biggest Berserk Button.
  • The Moon Cries in Reverse (Naruto) makes this one of the central issues with the shinobi of Konohagakure: they cling desperately to the notion that everything they do is ultimately meant for "the greater good", no matter how awful their methods. Even those who are more cognizant of the flaws in their leadership and the shinobi system, such as Jiraiya and Shikaku, do their best to gloss over their concerns and take a My Country, Right or Wrong attitude. So when Naruto, Sakura and Shikamaru decide to defect after suffering Training from Hell and horrible mistreatment at the hands of those they once trusted, Jiriaya, Shikaku and the rest convince themselves that the kids were always monsters in the making rather than facing how they were driven to defect by the abuse they suffered.
  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic: The Space Ponies believe themselves to be Always Lawful Good, which means they're fine with flaunting their superiority, imposing their beliefs, and condemning other species as Always Chaotic Evil because they think they're always in the right. Becomes particularly notable when they cart Ace Ray off to an asylum to be locked up indefinitely in III, and when the figures in IV reveal that they've been psychologically torturing Cadance and causing potentially lethal mishaps for half the story; no one gets called out on either of these, because they're Space Ponies and Space Ponies are always right.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Lady Inanna says anyone who opposes her is wrong and deserves to die for disrupting her World of Smiles. The dead have no right to interfere with the affairs of the living. Therefore, it's impossible for her to be wrong.
    Inanna: I didn't do anything wrong, the men who held the guns and fired didn't do anything wrong; the only people who did something wrong were the ones gathered in the Skytree for the sake of undermining this World of Smiles. The only people who were in the wrong are dead, so there shouldn't be anything wrong with talking about it, right?
  • Null: In-Universe, Jaune/Null is infuriated that Team RWBY can basically get away with anything they want (up to and including unlawful killing) and be hailed by the media and public as heroes, whilst Jaune is constantly screwed over and is loathed by the world as a rampant serial killer whilst taking the same measures. Team RWBY themselves, despite having very little if any love for Jaune, are outraged themselves at the injustice of it after they've gotten a brutal understanding of Jaune's point of view.
  • Red Sadie: Lieutenant-Colonel Bradshaw, the leader of Task Force Gem, acts in what he believes is the best course for the United States. In practice this includes spying on the Crystal Gems, Earth's frequent saviors, for any advantages to steal; put Beach City under martial law and arrest anyone with tangible connection to the Gems, allow Seraphinite to take Steven, Connie, and Sadie despite the three being US citizens plus offering his subordinate Major King despite the Gem saying she has no interest besides experimenting, and shooting Barb in the leg when she tries to rescue her daughter, the last of which he smugly claimed was to preserve "diplomacy."
    Steven: I thought you're supposed to be protecting people! This isn't protecting humanity!
    Bradshaw: It is. In a very pragmatic way.
  • Adam Taurus gives off shades of this in Resurgence, calling out Blake for attacking her fellow Faunus and accusing her of turning her back on her own kind completely, when not only has he himself has been trying to kill Blake all along, but he personally killed Sun, both of whom are his fellow Faunus. When Blake rightfully calls him out on this, Adam simply brushes Blake and Sun off as obstacles.
  • In Sex Note, Souichiro Yagami believes that it's impossible that any of his men are raping people because they are the police, the good guys, so of course they'd never abuse their authority like that. So he decides it all must somehow be Kougoukan's fault, that no rapes actually happened, and it's all a plot to embarrass the police.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: As far as he's concerned, Judge Frollo is Holier Than Thou, so anything he does is justified by default, even if it's immoral. He cares more about his own salvation and purity than those of others, as he thinks they are beneath him. Ironically, it means he's not the pious Christian he thinks he is and repeated attention is drawn to his hypocrisy, including but not limited to flagrantly ignoring the Church's authority, tossing the Archdeacon down a flight of stairs, and directly attacking Notre Dame. Due to his bloated ego, he doesn't realize that he's a loon who irrationally blames others for his issues and ignores the Bible's true message on pride being the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, leading to his eternal damnation in Hell. Even in his own Villain Song, the Latin choir tells him to have some repentance at the exact same time he blames God himself for his own lust and threatens to torch Paris if Esmeralda won't surrender herself to him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Judge Dredd: Although an effective officer in curbing crime and doling out proper justice, Judge Joseph Dredd is an ardent dogmatist of The Law of the Megacities, claiming it is the only thing that matters to a Street Judge (even presenting it with a subtext as if it was a Bible), even though it does not recognize extenuating circumstances or evidence, leading to false arrests. However, Dredd gets a metaphorical slap-in-the-face about this when the very supposedly airtight system he sought to defend and praise has him arrested for the presumed murder of a news critic and his wife since the DNA imprint on the weapon matched his. (It was actually Dredd's brother, Rico, who fired the weapon.) Herman "Fergie" Ferguson, a harmless repeat offender that Dredd arrested earlier in the filmnote , temporarily wakes him up to the problems inherent in The Law, as they travel to the prison:
    Fergie: [after noticing Dredd is sitting next to him] What are you doing here?
    Dredd: I was convicted of a crime. Wrongly convicted.
    Fergie: [laughs, sarcastically] Really? That's kinda weird! What are the odds? Two wrongly convicted guys sitting right next to each other?
    Dredd: You received the sentence the law required.
    Fergie: Five years, just for saving my own ass? That was a mistake!
    Dredd: The law doesn't make mistakes.
    Fergie: Really? Then how do you explain what happened to you?
    [Dredd turns away stoically, trying to think of a reason]
    Fergie: You can't, can you? Great. [mimics Dredd's voice and accent] Mister "I Am ThE LAw" can't. [normal voice] So maybe this is some kind of typo. Maybe it's a glitch. Or maybe it's poetic justice!
  • Lock Up: The Warden is determined to destroy Frank's life. He'll go to any means to assure this, because he seems to think that as the Warden, he's always the hero and as the prisoner, Frank is always the bad guy. This goes to the point of justifying the murder of Frank's friends as another means to provoke Frank into getting himself "the punishment he deserves".
  • Subverted in Serenity. The Operative readily admits that he's a monster and that there won't be a place for him in the "better world" for which he's killed so many.
  • The Jedi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy sometimes come off like this, especially Obi-Wan's line of "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." Explored in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith. While debating Palpatine in the balcony seats of the Mon Calamari Ballet on Sith vs. Jedi philosophy, Anakin's only answer to why the Sith are wrong is eventually "Jedi are GOOD. That's the difference!" and can't point to any specific reasons supporting his assertion, in spite of the fact that historically, Jedi have served as protectors of the innocent and keepers of the peace for centuries, to the point they defanged themselves to regain the trust of the galaxy after a particularly nasty war wrecked their reputations, while Sith, without any real exceptions, always seek to rule and dominate others through their powers, have traditionally been slavers, and have a propensity towards racism. This likely says more about Anakin than the Jedi, especially given how he winds up. It also goes some way towards explaining why seeing Mace Windu make a morally grey decision was such a turning point in his fall; the tautology was the only thing keeping him even nominally on the good side, so seeing it falsified let him take a running jump off the slippery slope without a backwards glance.
  • Thank You for Smoking has a scene where Nick extols the virtues of the Chewbacca Defense for his son, explaining that he has to be this trope in his work as a tobacco lobbyist.
    Joey: what happens if you're wrong?
    Nick: Well, Joey, I'm never wrong.
    Joey: But you can't always be right.
    Nick: Well if it's your job to be right, then you're never wrong.
  • In Vice, the oft-repeated "unitary executive theory" is that anything the President (or the US) does is, by definition, legal/moral. Why? Because it's done by the President/US.

  • C. S. Lewis, though a devout Christian, wrote that theocracy is the worst possible form of government. As Lewis described, a secular dictator has a chance, even if an infinitesimal one, of realizing he's wrong, whereas a theocrat wholeheartedly believes God is on his side, and thus, how could he be anything other than right? After all, God would stop him if he were to do anything wrong!
  • Catch-22 has Sgt. Milo Minderbinder, who believes capitalism is the ultimate expression of good, and as such will do anything up to and including getting his own squadmates killed to promulgate it. It's Blue-and-Orange Morality enough (as far as we know, he's completely honest in this belief) that it's still possible to like him somewhat, unlike other antagonists such as serial rapist Captain Aardvark.
  • Discworld:
    • Lady Lilith in Witches Abroad. She runs a police state and feeds people to stories to increase her personal power. But her understanding of her own story is that she's the fairy godmother, and Granny Weatherwax is the wicked witch, and therefore everything she does is okay.
    • This is discussed a number of other times in the Discworld series, mostly by Vimes but also by Granny Weatherwax and the wizards. Some character will suggest an action and justify it "because we're the good guys", only to have it pointed out that being the good guys depends on not doing certain things.
    • Vetinari nails it in The Last Hero when he concludes that Cohen the Barbarian is supposedly "heroic" when he commits theft or arson because it's Cohen the Barbarian doing it.
    • The cunning argument for why the Unseen University's Department of Post-Mortem Communications is absolutely not necromancy is that only bad wizards do necromancy. One of the determining features of whether a wizard is bad or not is... whether they do necromancy. Because they're not bad wizards, what they're doing cannot be necromancy.
    • Inverted by Lord Vetinari. To him, everyone is evil (or at least bad), it's just that some people are less evil than others. He also deliberately sets up Ankh-Morporkian society to be a series of counterbalancing forces, to prevent anyone (including himself to a certain degree) to go power-mad without someone to oppose them.
    • In Night Watch, Vimes acknowledges that how he justifies bending the rules is that it's him doing it — and that this isn't a good reason, because people like Carcer use the same reasoning. Vimes, at least, watches himself very carefully to make sure he doesn't truly cross the line.
    • The Quisition in Small Gods runs on this. If the Quisition suspects you, then you must therefore be totally guilty, because the Great God Om would not have placed suspicion in their minds otherwise. Deacon Vorbis wholeheartedly believes that every atrocity he commits is by the will of Om and that even when he deceives he never lies — instead he is acting in service to a "greater truth". It's revealed in the end that he had honestly believed he was a prophet his whole life when it really was just his own thoughts; the realization breaks him.
  • The First Law:
    • Black Dow, a Card-Carrying Villain, accuses Barbarian Hero Logen Ninefingers, the "Bloody Nine", of being this, and says it makes him even worse than him because Logen is capable of absolutely anything while Dow can show that Even Evil Has Standards, such as when Logen slaughters a couple of kids and his own allies in the middle of a siege after the enemy breaks through, and thinks nobody noticed. Subverted though, since in fact Logen is just a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who happens to have a Superpowered Evil Side that is the real source of his wicked reputation and (most of) his evil deeds, including the above, and he just doesn't want anyone to know that both out of fear that his allies would turn on him because he's too dangerous, and conversely because even his allies are nearly all former enemies and he worries that, even though he is a formidable warrior in his own right, they might turn on him because he's not as dangerous as they all thought he was.
    • Played utterly straight with Bayaz, however, who justifies centuries of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and callous manipluation as being for the betterment of mankind, in spite of his paradoxical utter contempt for humanity in the first place. He seems to see himself as a Dark Messiah, though a lot of his actions seem to be entirely selfish, and though he can accurately claim that he is protecting the world from a Knight Templar Evil Sorceror and his Corrupt Church of cannibalistic ninja wizard clerics, he neglects to mention that it really all started as a private blood feud between two powerful mages and that he is actually guilty of everything the other guy accuses him of and more, including all of the Black Magic that supposedly makes the latter the bad guy. By the end of the story, you'll be wondering who the real villain was.
    • "I am First of the Magi. I am the last authority and I say... I am righteous. Power makes all things right. That is my first law, and my last. That is the only law that I acknowledge."
  • Angron, Primarch of the World Eaters, accuses the God-Emperor and Leman Russ of this in Horus Heresy: Betrayal, noting that the Primarchs and the Space Marines are being ordered to slaughter billions in the Emperor's Great Crusade and then conscript billions more in the name of bringing "freedom" to the galaxy—something Angron, a former gladiatorial slave, considers abhorrent. He says that Russ only considers himself "free" because his definition of it matches the Emperor's. Whereas Angron only even participates because the Behavioral Conditioning of the Butchers' Nails permanently embedded in his brain makes it fun: if he were a moral man like Russ claims to be, he probably would have turned on the Emperor to try to free the galaxy from him already.
  • In the Imperial Radch series, Lord Anaander Mianaai is the absolute ruler of the Radch and is generally believed to personify the Radchaai values of Justice, Propriety, and Benefit; so Mianaai quite sincerely believes that all of her actions are, by definition, for the good of the Radch. Those actions include massacring entire planets, summarily executing citizens for minor inconveniences, and using the entire Radch as pawns in a covert civil war between two factions of her thousands of cloned bodies. Notably, this latter situation arose from a disagreement over the above: Anaander Mianaai — or, rather, a part of her — was unable to reconcile the destruction of Garsedaai with the values of Justice, Propriety and Benefit. This internal disagreement (with the part of her that could) eventually matured into a shadow war against herself, and eventually a full-blown civil war. The faction that couldn't manage to reconcile those two ideas is marginally less tautological as a result.
  • The Locked Tomb: The Eighth House mainlines this. At one point, Silas insists that since they are the only pure ones, they are not obligated to keep their promises to the representatives of the other Houses - a move that strains even his cavalier Colum's Undying Loyalty. Silas is also noticeably willing to declare the forms of necromancy used by other houses to be blasphemous, even though he himself specialises in soul siphoning, the only one the God-Emperor ever actually denounced.
  • It is possible that Sauron from The Lord of the Rings started out as this, wanting to bring order to a chaotic world. He was the only one who knew what was the most appropriate course of action according to him, after all. Then he underwent severe Motive Decay and ends up as one of the evilest villains in Literature.
  • The Malleus Maleficarum uses such "reasoning" as a proof that the witches do actually fly on broomsticks and cast evil spells, rather than it happening in their imagination, as per some more reasonable claims. It goes like this: "If they didn't do those things in reality, there'd be no reasons for us to burn them. But we couldn't possibly be wrong on this accord, hence they do fly on broomsticks in reality. Burn the Witch!!"
  • In The Redemption of Althalus, at one point a priest is burning local girls for witchcraft since they use it to put shameful and lusty thoughts and urges in his head. He's convinced that they must be using wicked magic for this since he's too pure to experience those things — the idea that he's just having the normal male reaction to pretty girls doesn't even occur to him. It's rather frightening when you realize how long he's been doing it without anyone stopping him. It's even more frightening when you realize that after the heroes have rescued his latest victim (because they needed her for their group) and she gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, they leave without stopping him permanently.
  • Rhythm of War: Adolin is warned that the honorspren have started to slip into this. As spirits of honor, they must by definition behave honorably... but with the god Honor dead, there is no longer anyone to provide a single objective definition of what honor is, and so some among the honorspren have started to simply define "acting honorably" as "acting like an honorspren" and doing whatever they want.
  • The Big Bad of the Safehold series, Zahspahr Clyntahn, is the Grand Inquisitor of the Church, so in his mind, anyone who opposes him must be evil. He comes up with all kinds of propaganda about his enemies to justify his atrocities, and he actually believes the lies he himself invents, which the other characters (including most of his allies) find incredibly disturbing.
  • Doctor Impossible, the Villain Protagonist of Soon I Will Be Invincible, discusses how petty and mean the "heroes" act and suggests that the only real difference between heroes and villains is that villains are on the losing side.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch novels, one member of a group of Vulcan fanatics who reject the recent discovery of Surak's true writings has fallen deep into Believing Their Own Lies, with her internal monologue consisting entirely of reassuring herself that she is perfectly logical, and therefore anything she wants to be true must be logical because a perfectly logical person believes it.
  • Discussed in the first book of The Sword of Truth, in which the villain is described as having this mindset. (Unfortunately, in some of the later books, the author eventually starts using the same kinds of logic to justify the actions of the protagonists.)
  • In The Traitor Son Cycle, the Archbishop of Alba justifies making use of a hermeticist (something he otherwise condemns and being of the Devil) by stating that because he's an agent of God, everything he does must be for God's cause.
  • Big Jim Rennie in Stephen King's Under the Dome. He is afflicted with a particularly bad case of Moral Myopia. God intends for him to lead and protect the town... no matter how many townspeople need to die to make it happen. As far as he's concerned, the town of Chester's Mill is his by divine mandate, anything that threatens his absolute control of the town threatens the town itself, and any action up to and including murder and inciting a riot is justified if it helps him stay in control. To wit: it doesn't matter how bad for the town it is; if it's good for Jim Rennie, it's good for the town.
  • In Villains by Necessity, the side of Good is actually pretty damned evil. Not only is the world becoming "mystically unbalanced" by their actions, but they've turned it into a horrible theocratic dictatorship and most of them still insist that they are Good and all who oppose them are Evil. The so-called "heroes" are also pretty blasé about rape — at least when they're the ones doing it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied in a mockumentary by Les Inconnus, in which hunters are presented as a bunch of inbred morons. When asked what the difference is between a good and a bad hunter, they are quick to answer that the bad hunter shoots anything that moves, while the good hunter... shoots everything that moves, but he is a good hunter still (that joke has reached memetic status in the French-speaking world, by the way).
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Comes the Inquisitor", we meet the Vorlon Inquisitor Sebastian, who once held this belief while doing God's work. The Vorlons made sure to show him the depth of his error.
    Sebastian: The city was drowning in decay, chaos, immorality. A message needed to be sent, etched in blood, for all the world to see: a warning. In the pursuit of my holy cause, I did things, terrible things, unspeakable things. The world condemned me, but it didn't matter, because I believed I was right and the world was wrong. I believed I was the divine messenger. I believed I was...
    Sheridan: Chosen?
    Sebastian: I was found by the Vorlons. They showed me the terrible depth of my mistake, my crimes, my... presumption. I have done 400 years of penance in their service. A job for which they said I was ideally suited. Now, perhaps, they will finally let me die.
    Sheridan: I think that might be wise.
    Sebastian: Good luck to you in your holy cause, Captain Sheridan. May your choices have better results than mine. Remembered not as a messenger, remembered not as a reformer, not as a prophet, not as a hero, not even as Sebastian... Remembered only... as Jack.
  • Cobra Kai: A lot of the main conflict in the series stems from Daniel LaRusso, thanks to his experiences in 'The Karate Kid trilogy, refusing to view the Cobra Kai dojo as anything but a Villain by Default Thug Dojo and always assuming the worst of Johnny Lawrence and the students' motives. Daniel goes on to pass this view to his own students and, as a result, they believe that when it comes to their own conflicts with the Cobra Kai students, they are always in the right even as they escalate the tensions and partake in actions that go against Mr. Miyagi's Martial Pacifist teachings.
  • The Colbert Report: Stephen Colbert is this trope Played for Laughs. "Great X or the Greatest X?"
  • More modern stories of Doctor Who — both on TV and in spin-off media — have shown that the Doctor relies on his companions to ensure that he doesn't go so far as to become this, particularly in stories such as the Fifth Doctor audio Time in Office (though it should be noted in total fairness that this isn't a straight example, as the Doctor independently recognises the tautology he's faced with in this story and rejects it himself, though he does thank his companion for her prudent advice) or the Twelfth Doctor episode "Hell Bent".
    • We get to see what happens to the Doctor when he strays too close to this in "The Waters of Mars": he concludes that, as the last of the Time Lords, it is his right to twist and turn the flow of time however he pleases, damn the consequences. It takes the suicide of someone as a result of his actions to set him straight again.
    The Doctor: 'It's taken me all these years to realise it, but all those laws of time are mine. And they will obey me!'
  • Rance Burgess in Firefly has shades of this. He frequents the local brothel, but when he impregnates one of the girls, he's disgusted at the thought of his child being raised by a whore and is entirely willing to massacre the entire brothel to ensure that the child has a decent, proper upbringing in a respectable family. There's no rationalization or justification of why he's better than the prostitute he was sleeping with, just the rock-solid belief that he's a righteous family man, so whatever he does for his family is inherently right.
    Mal: Nothing worse than a monster who thinks he's right with God.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Vadic believes that the attempted genocide of the Founders by Section 31 is proof that the Dominion was right to strike first and start the war.
  • Supernatural:


    Myths & Religion 
  • The Euthyphro Dilemma is something of a deconstruction of this trope as it applies to God (or the Greek Gods, in the original version). Basically, it asks "Is X good because God says it's good? Or does God say X is good because it is good?" While some people pick the first option, most believers find that rather unsatisfying precisely because it turns God into a tautological templar (and raises a lot of other questions, such as: if God changed his mind and said murder is good and kindness is evil, would that then be the case?)
    • Philosopher Thomas Aquinas sought to resolve the Dilemma by posing that God is His Goodness, inseparable from His very Being. God need not decide what is Good, it flows out of His divine nature. In the centuries since Aquinas his contention is still debated - God may have a certain characteristic He or his worshippers call Good, but what makes that good?
  • The Divine Command Theory of ethics holds that the ultimate morality of actions is based on God's commands, and that the actions that God commands are, ipso facto, good. The Christian philosopher William Lane Craig has famously (or infamously, depending on your view) defended the Biblical account of the slaughter of the Canaanites as a literal historical event by arguing that, although intentionally killing innocents would be wrong for human beings to do on their own, God, as the Author of life, is free to take human life as He sees fit; thus a command from God to kill innocents would have to be obeyed.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This is a trait of heel commentators throughout wrestling, excusing or justifying almost anything wrong a heel does. The inverse is also true, as some face commentators will justify the actions of the face wrestlers, even if they do something morally ambiguous.

  • ElvenQuest: The White Wizard, the most powerful embodiment of good in Lower Earth. Since he is the embodiment of good, he reasons that everything he does and approves of must be good itself, and that disagreeing with him makes someone evil, however mild that disagreement.
    Penthesilea: I'm not evil just because I disagree with you!
    White Wizard: Yes, you are!
    Penthesilea: No, I'm not!
    White Wizard: There you go again!


    Tabletop Games 
  • Beast: The Primordial has, appropriately enough, Heroes. Heroes are tied into the monomyth that creates Beasts, and arise when a Beast's hungering Horror is so rampant that it causes a psychic disturbance over a large area. Heroes aren't called, they're traumatized... and most of the time, it shows, as Heroes have a tendency to ignore little things like "public image" or "collateral damage" in the name of killing Beasts. It's explained that Beasts and Heroes once served as counterbalances meant to enlighten humanity, with the Beasts serving as the fear of the unknown, and the Heroes going into their lairs to slay them and bring back knowledge that would help humanity as a result. Unfortunately, the monomyth tilted to the point that many Heroes could only focus on the "kill the Beast" bit.
  • Exalted has the Immaculate Order, a religion which says that enlightenment leads to a better reincarnation, ultimately resulting in being reincarnated as a Dragon-Blooded; therefore, anything the Dragon-Blooded do is for your own good and it is right and proper that the Dragon-Blooded rule over you as cruel overlords, enslave you, beat you, burn down your house for kicks, etc. Also, the "Anathema" (actually celestial exalted, and they have a mandate straight from heaven saying that they should rule) are all utterly selfish and evil, so anything they do is part of an evil plan, even curing horrible diseases and saving small children. Yeah.
    • To be perfectly accurate, the Immaculate Philosophy teaches that it is possible for a Dragon-Blooded to do things that are morally wrong, and which they will need to atone for in their next life. However, even when a Dragon-Blooded is being undeniably wicked, it is still wrong for mortals to disobey or oppose them in any way, since it is not their place to judge the actions of their betters.
  • This was the hat of the Mercy Killers in Planescape. They believed that the guilty must be punished for their crimes, and they would use any means necessary to do so. And considered any crimes they committed along the way to be completely justified.
  • This is the path to damnation for several darklords in Ravenloft, most notably Elena Faith-hold. She routinely slaughters entire villages, convinced that she is "cleansing evil from the world."
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Just about every Radical Inquisitor is in danger of (eventually) becoming this. The important distinction between Radicals and Puritans (who will happily nuke a planet if the slightest whiff of heresy is found) is that the Radicals are willing to tread the thin line between heresy and non-heresy (as dictated by the Imperial Creed), as well as turn the tools of the enemy against it, e.g. Chaos against Chaos (daemonically possessed weapon and hosts, etc). Of course, many such Radicals are overconfident enough to always think they can control it, fall under the Daemon's control without realizing it, and then get surprised/outraged when another Inquisitor comes to investigate and/or assassinate them. Of the different types of radicals, Xanthians may risk becoming this while Oblationists already are ones. Others such as the Seculous Attendos and Xeno Hybris completely dive into heresy because they believe that the Imperial Creed is actually holding humanity back and therefore aren't an example. The main reason these two forms aren't is that they don't try to use chaos. Seculous Attendos want the Imperium to become secular while Xeno Hybris think that humanity is better off trying to cooperate with some speciesnote  of Xenos.
    • The Flawless Host are a Chaos warband who originated this way. They believed themselves to be pure and perfect, and so could do no wrong. Eventually, they started massacring entire planets for no reason, because if they wanted to do it then it must be right! They're now devoted to Slaanesh.
    • The Emperor of Mankind maintains that killing people who don't share your beliefs and worldview is awful except when he does it because he's right. He has been called out on his hypocrisy.
      The Emperor: It is my dream. An Imperium of Man that exists without recourse to gods and the supernatural. A united galaxy with Terra at its heart. [...] These warriors shall be my generals and they will lead my great crusade to the furthest corners of the galaxy.
      Uriah: Didn't you just tell me of the bloody slaughters perpetrated by crusaders? Doesn't that make you no better than the holy men you were telling me about?
      The Emperor: The difference is that I am right.
      Uriah: Spoken like a true autocrat.

  • In Antigone, after Creon has sentenced Antigone to death, Haimon urges him to relent and learn from those who can teach, and Creon is offended by Haimon's boldness at suggesting that an adult should be counseled by a child, and Creon asserts his authority that as king and the leader of state, the city's authority is subject to the king:
    Creon: You think it right to stand up for an anarchist?
    Haimon: Not at all. I pay no respect to criminals.
    Creon: Then she is not a criminal?
    Haimon: The City would deny it, to a man.
    Creon: And the City proposes to teach me how to rule?
    Haimon: Ah. Who is it that's talking like a boy now?
    Creon: My voice is the one giving orders in this City!
    Haimon: It is no City if it takes orders from one voice.
    Creon: The State is the King!
    Haimon: Yes, if the State is a desert.
    Creon: This boy, it seems, has sold out to a woman.
    Haimon: If you are a woman: my concern is only for you.
    Creon: So? Your "concern"! In a public brawl with your father!
    Haimon: How about you, In a public brawl with justice?
    Creon: With justice, when all that I do is within my rights?
    Haimon: You have no right to trample on God's right.
  • Doubt: So what if Sister Aloysius has no evidence that Father Flynn is a child molester? She has her certainty and that's all she needs.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • When they are not just in it for the power, the Templars are literally this. Why are Templars' Creed good? Because they strong-arm the world from falling into chaos, but only if it's them who gets to exercise being heavy-handed. If it's by anyone else, it will breed chaos! Best exemplified by Dr. Warren Vidic, who believes that his actions are not only pardonable but righteous all along — unlike "those Assassins, who only take and take."
    • The Assassins can also fall under this, believing that killing a Templar is justified no matter what. This is what caused Shay to join the Templars in Assassin's Creed Rogue. Of course, considering that the Templars seek to remove free will from everyone else in the world, it's understandable why the Assassins fell into the mindset as well.
  • BioShock
  • BlueSkies: Cael is a Celestial spy just like Nimir, but he believes himself to be morally superior to humans even though he proves to be just as genocidal and cruel as Gwir while having no redeeming qualities. He also believes he knows better than the other Celestials, since he ignores any condemnation of his hypocrisy and considers any Celestial who opposes him a disgrace to the species who deserves to be purged.
  • Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. In his own mind, he's the hero of the story, doing whatever it takes to bring about a better future for Pandora. Therefore any action he takes, no matter how horrific, is just and righteous. His Virtual Ghost in Tales from the Borderlands seemingly undergoes a Heel Realization in the final episode after his conflict with Rhys destroys Helios, in addition to accessing the Hyperion databanks and reading that his daughter was voluntarily killed by the vault hunters in the second game just so she could escape the life of confinement and eridium dependency that Jack had pushed her into (which happened after his creation so he had no personal memory of it until reading about it) — he quietly contemplates what's led him to this point and solemnly tells Rhys that "everyone is the hero of their own story." Unfortunately, he's still so hellbent on killing Rhys that he plugs himself back into his temple port and he takes control of Rhys' cybernetic arm in an attempt to make Rhys strangle himself to death, thereby killing the both of them.
  • The Reapers in Diablo III, a renegade faction of angels led by Malthael, the Angel of Death. They believe that angels are inherently good, demons are inherently evil, and humans (who are half-breeds of the other two races) have free will to choose between the two, a choice they are not worthy of making. Therefore, when the Reapers decide to commit genocide against humans, it must be a course of action that will ultimately benefit the universe.
  • In Diablo IV, the angel Inarius murders his son Rathma in a fit of rage. Reverend Mother Prava, leader of the Cathedral of Light which worships Inarius, insists Inarius did not murder anyone because murder is a sin and Inarius is opposed to all sin.
  • Since the demons in Disgaea insist they're evil no matter how much good they do, multiple villains have served as their foil by insisting in their goodness no matter how much evil they do. Aurum in the third game is a particularly spectacular example: having killed the last and most powerful demon overlord, he's spent two hundred years molding a young demon into the "perfect overlord" for him to fight and defeat. He thinks he has to do this because, without villains, heroes are no longer relevant. Not until the very end does he realize that, since he's trying to create a threat to humanity, he's now a villain.
  • Dragon Age: The Templars will execute anyone who is a mage but not a member of the Circle of Magi because there is a chance that they may know forbidden magic. However, they are revered as heroes since they are the militant wing of the setting's dominant religion.
    • Knight-Commander Meredith of Dragon Age II gets worse as the game progresses partially due to the influence of her red lyrium sword, but believes she is always in the right because she is keeping people safe from blood mages and demons. By Act III, she's decided that anyone who disagrees with her at all is a mind-controlled blood mage puppet. Every decent Templar still alive has realized what she is, but they're all too afraid of her to speak out. Thrask tries to form a mage-templar alliance to depose her, but picks exactly the wrong person to be his right hand. When Meredith goes completely off the deep end, the entire Templar Order (except Cullen, and possibly Carver) runs out of sight and lets Hawke's group do all the work.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • This is a trait of Meridia, a Daedric Prince whose sphere is obscured to mortals, but is associated with Life Energy, Light, and Beauty. She is considered one of "good" (or at least benevolent) Daedric Princes by most mortals, but definitely has a number of Good Is Not Nice traits. She is very much a Knight Templar toward anything undead, as well as any other entities of cruelty, darkness, rot, filth, or decay. Thus, she will stop at nothing to destroy them, even if it means causing collateral damage to innocent people or her own followers, bordering on being a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Because of this, she feels that any actions she takes is therefore good and anyone who opposes or abandons her is evil. She will thus deal with them appropriately.
    • The Alessian Order was a rabidly anti-Elven religious sect which established a Theocracy in the 1st Era that wielded nearly as much power as the Emperor at its height. They taught that resisting the Order was equivalent to resisting the gods themselves.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Vauthry, one of the Big Bads of Shadowbringers, is the ruler of Eulmore. A Fat Bastard Psychopathic Manchild with an ego as big as his waistline, Vauthry believes he's the undisputed master of all he surveys because of his ability to control the sin eaters that are ravaging the rest of Norvrandt... Until it's eventually revealed that he's part sin eater himself, having been infused with one's light by Emet-Selch while in his mother's womb, and was groomed from birth by his father to be the conqueror he is by the time the Warrior of Light meets him. As a result, he's completely incapable of understanding the difference between "right" and "wrong"; In Vauthry's mind, he is justice and righteousness, and it's everyone who disagrees him that's evil. Because nobody taught him otherwise. Even when he's finally defeated, his final moments are spent crying and whimpering, unable to comprehend why these "villains" oppose him, why his "goodness" can't thwart them, or where he went wrong in any capacity. It's why his true form is called Innocence: because he believes himself to be truly innocent of any sin, and indeed the fact his upbringing groomed him to be this way makes a very good case for why he may well be.
  • Hero King Quest: Peacemaker Prologue: The doctrine of the Light Spirit preaches that all problems the human nations suffer can be traced to the Dark Ones and that humans are justified in committing atrocities against them. The rank-and-file Cerulean knights truly believe themselves to be heroes fighting against Always Chaotic Evil Dark Ones, though it's implied the king only preaches these ideals to maintain his own power.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us has an alternate universe's Superman take up this madness after one particular event sends him over the Moral Event Horizon. He then decides that because he is the Man of Steel, whatever he does in service to "saving" his world is justifiable because he says so, even coldblooded murder of other heroes who might call him out on this.
  • Knight Bewitched: At the start of his Final Boss fight, Typhus insists that he's still the savior of dragonkind and that all of his actions are justified, which means he's going to "save" his brethren from humans, whether they like it or not. Strasza points out that Typhus himself is responsible for the near extinction of dragons by igniting a pointless war with humanity, showing Typhus is either a Straw Hypocrite or is so insanely prideful that he believes his own lies. In the Enhanced Edition, he's trying to gain the favor of a divine being and considers himself a prophet for supposedly gaining knowledge of dragonkind's extinction from the latter. He refuses to accept that his master sees him as a failure, despite the evidence that his master intends to replace him with Morgoth. During the final battle, the divine being sends Lilith to aid him, and he declares that Heaven itself is on his side, implying that he worships Zamas.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Jolee Bindo argues that the Jedi believe that since they follow the Light Side of the Force, that they can do no wrong. In the sequel, Atris unknowingly falls to the Dark Side because of the extreme methods she used to lure out the Sith.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero: The D∴G Cult condemns the Septian Church as a power-hungry organization whose goddess won't save everyone equally and believes that the best path for humanity is to create a true god. However, they hypocritically perform deadly experiments on children and pimp them to blackmail politicians into servitude, all while believing themselves to be righteous because their belief is "real." The High Priest, Joachim Gunter, refuses to believe the cult's would-be deity when she rejects him and claims that the protagonists must be manipulating her.
  • Samara in Mass Effect 2. Her philosophy as a Justicar is that so long as she follows her Code, all of her actions are just, even when that action happens to be killing a helpless enemy simply for refusing to give her information or potentially killing a police officer for being ordered to take Samara into custody. Unusually, she recognizes that this is a problem in a galaxy of Grey-and-Gray Morality and her code even has some deliberate loopholes for situations when "kill the hell out of everything in my way" would not be a good idea.
    • Note that Samara is not the only Justicar. It's an entire order of asari following this Code, and asari law enforcement officers on planets with multiple species living there dread the thought of a Justicar arriving on their world, as while asari will understand not to poke the Justicar, other species don't have a proper understanding of the sheer starkness of the Justicar Code and the officers will end up having to arrest the Justicar. Justicars do not go quietly when this happens.
    • However, Samara does note that by the time a Justicar is involved, the time for discussion has long since passed.
  • In Mega Man Zero, Copy-X believes that he is a "perfect copy" of the legendary hero X, and because he's perfect, all of his decisions are perfectly correct and beyond reproach. That includes the mass institutionalized genocide of Reploids for the human populace.
  • Team Plasma from Pokémon Black and White is against people owning Pokémon, but one of the grunts stated that it is perfectly okay if Team Plasma has Pokémon. In the end, subverted; Team Plasma, or at least Ghetsis, want people to release their Pokémon so that Team Plasma are the only ones with Pokémon, which in that setting would make them the most powerful people in the world. By the end, some of the grunts have turned against this idea. The sequel averts this all together with most of New Team Plasma, who are more overt about their aims.
  • Resident Evil 6: Derek C. Simmons honestly seems to believe that everything he does, no matter how evil or crazy, is for the sake of preserving global stability. In trying to preserve said stability, he infects Tall Oaks with the C-Virus, zombifying President Benford in the process and forcing Leon to put him down, and then nukes it to cover his tracks, believing that Benford revealing the truth behind the Raccoon City incident would destroy that stability. Leon and Helena justifiably call him out on it, pointing out he caused an actual disaster to prevent a possible one.
    Leon: I can't see how killing the President is good for the country!
  • Saints Row: The Third has STAG, a government agency that tracks down and destroys gangs which pose a danger to the public. Senator Monica Hughes calls them in to Steelport when the Mob War between the Saints and The Syndicate has got out of hand. STAG's commander, Cyrus Temple, openly states that they're willing to do anything to get rid of the Saints, but somewhat jarringly, despite the countless people they've killed, he only cites the murder of Jessica Parish from Saints Row 2 as an example- never mind the fact that Jessica was a Rich Bitch who was complicit in the brutal torture and murder of the Boss' friend Carlos. Additionally, despite his claims, Temple's soldiers end up causing more damage to Steelport than the gangs they're supposed to be fighting, placing the city under martial law, and bringing out a gigantic aircraft carrier called the Daedalus and strafing the streets with it to get at the Saints. Additionally, Temple's second-in-command Kia goes behind his back in kidnapping Shaundi, Viola and Mayor Burt Reynolds without trial, and tying them up on a national monument loaded with explosive weaponry, so she can blow it up and frame the Saints for it, giving STAG a reason to destroy Steelport. If the Boss decides to foil Kia's plans, the public hails them as heroes, and STAG is publicly shamed for their actions. Refusing to believe that he did anything wrong, Temple defects from the US military, and by the time of the next game, he's joined a bunch of Middle Eastern Terrorists and fired a nuke towards Washington DC, to spite the government for treating the Saints like heroes when they "ruined America" in his eyes. Temple doesn't seem to get that nuking Washington DC will end up ruining America more than anything the Saints have ever done. Because of that, no tears will be shed when the Boss kills him and leaves to defuse his nuke, foiling his plans.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: The Law faction invariably has a few of these. YHVH, in His worst moments, dives straight into this. In many games, YHVH feels that he has the right to do whatever he pleases to Earth by virtue of having created it.
  • Spec Ops: The Line features a Character Arc that seems to be about a character waffling between being a Tautological Templar and being afraid of becoming one. "Do you feel like a hero yet?"
  • The Pope from Tales of Symphonia believes that all half elves deserve to be executed or be slaves because he's The Pope, he never gives any further explanation than he's the Pope; he doesn't even care that The Chosen, a centerpoint of the religion, disagrees because HE'S RIGHT. Essentially, he bases his racism entirely on being The Pope. His DAUGHTER is a half-elf, and that didn't stop him from putting her in a chamber because that's just how things are! His daughter IS the reason he hates half-elves. He started out on the half-elves' side until his daughter was born, and after she grew up, then stopped aging, he "realized" how different half-elves really were from humans, and it terrified him. Xenophobia at its worst.
  • This is Megatron's entire schtick in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Despite the fact he's forced Cybertron to go into a coma-like state that's resulted in the loss of the entire planet's supply of Energon, effectively killing his own world, forced millions of Cybertronians to evacuate for the millions of years it will take for Cybertron to recover, and murdered countless millions more in the war that he started, he's still absolutely convinced that he's the hero and the savior of Cybertron. Throughout the game, he can be heard ranting and raving about he will save Cybertron and how Optimus' resistance to his tyranny is the true evil.

    Visual Novels 
  • Angie Yonaga, the Ultimate Artist, in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. She is a very religious upbeat girl, who believes her actions are being guided by her god, Atua. Tenko will mention that, because she genuinely believes that Atua is guiding her every move, she doesn't reconsider or feel regret for her own actions, because if Atua is guiding her, then it must be the right thing to do. This comes to a head when she creates the student council, which is basically a cult, insisting that the council will end the killing game; the members of the council are tasked with enforcing a set of rules she made up, with the council members themselves being exempt from those rules (the logic being that they can apparently be trusted to not kill anyone, by virtue of being Angie's followersnote ). In practice, this means that Angie and her cult feel justified in harassing, bullying, and making decisions for other students because Angie has convinced the council that this is both Atua's will and necessary for the greater good.

    Web Animation 
  • GoAnimate: Pick any adult character. Nine times out of ten, they fit squarely in this trope (particularly Boris). They have no qualms about grounding/assaulting/killing their own children for any perceived slight (regardless of how minor), and always see themselves as in the right (whether the viewers are supposed to root for or against them, which depends on the video).
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • Lord Inquisitor Karamazov is purposefully baited as an embodiment of this trope by the Emperor. He issues a decree disbanding the inquisition, knowing that the extremists such as Karamazov would disobey and retaliate. Which they do, Karamazov declaring "Heresy!" upon even the places, organizations and people that are supposed to be the very root of the faith he is supposed to be protecting. Emperor proceeds to inflate Karamazov's ego even further, to the point he believes he's the reincarnation of the Emperor himself, which would be heresy for anybody else. After being dropped into the warp, he proceeds to do things even he acknowledges as heresy, except they aren't heresy as long as it is him doing them.
    • The second Podcast takes the page quote and runs with it, to the point that the Emperor gets called out on it by his Custodes. And then Daemon Uriah shows up and really lets him have it.
    • Series proper get a punch along that line to Emperor himself as well. When The Star Child, a lost soul fragment of the Emperor is about to possess aforementioned Karamazov, he notes that the inquisitor's mind feels just the same as the Emperor's.
  • RWBY:
    • General Ironwood devolves into this as the series goes on, firmly convinced that only he knows what the greater good is, that everything he does is justified as long as it combats Salem, and readily turning on longtime friends and potential allies the instant they don't agree with him. Even when Winter tells him point-blank that his methods haven't helped anyone or done a thing to impede Salem, Ironwood is adamant that everything he did was for the good of Remnant and accuses everyone else of being ungrateful for his efforts.
    • Hazel believes Ozpin is evil because he is encouraging people to fight Salem when he knows she's unkillable, and that his Huntsman Academies are just getting children like his sister killed for a cause that has no victory. Every time he takes a life, and attacks or tortures children, he blames Ozpin for it; Ozpin only reinforces this problem by agreeing that he deserves to be tortured. Only after Oscar convinces him that Ozpin is telling the truth about Salem planning to destroy the world does he decide to turn on Salem; even then, he still justifies his past behaviour by telling Oscar to ensure "no more Gretchens" ever happen.

  • Bruno the Bandit: In the satirical story "The Good Guy", there's a character actually called the Good Guy who's the main villain. That is pretty telling. He insists that he's supremely rational and plainly states that he has irrefutable proof that he is the good guy and therefore must be in the right, the irrefutable proof being that his sword has "Good Guy" written on it.
  • Siegfried in Dominic Deegan, "Oracle for Hire", starts as one of these. Not just him, either. This seems to be the modus operandi for all of the Knights of Callan. They were all duped into damning themselves by an insane President Evil.
  • In El Goonish Shive, this is deconstructed. Damien believed that as a god he had an Omniscient Morality License and was Driven to Suicide upon realizing that he wasn't one.
  • Existential Comics: Philippa Foot tries to teach a US Army general about handling ethical questions in combat. The guy is utterly convinced that any target must be a terrorist though, so this falls completely flat on him. He says smart bombs only target terrorists from a database, but when she asks whether this means they won't fire assuming they aren't there the general says no, it adds them. The hoverover text drives this home: "We are actually the most ethical army in the world, we only kill bad guys. Who are the bad guys? Our enemies. Why are they bad guys? Because they kill us, the good guys."
  • Freefall: When asked what's the difference between his and Florence's viewpoints, Blunt answers that he's right.
  • Goblins: Kore The Paladin murders innocent and villain alike if he perceives them as evil, abiding evil, or having been in the same room as evil. Why no higher power has intervened and revoked his paladin powers is a mystery to other characters and readers alike. Eventually revealed that he is cheating the alignment requirements via captured souls.
  • I Don't Want This Kind of Hero: Young Jeong is considered the greatest hero of the century and she knows it. Unfortunately, this means it's utterly impossible to convince her that she's wrong of anything—after all, everything she does, she does as a hero.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Paladin Miko Miyazaki ends up being one of these, though at first, this impression appears to have been wrought from circumstance. Time and again, she is portrayed as believing Violence Really Is the Answer in regards to even minor crimes, shows hypocrisy about lawfulness in battle and must be given multiple commands by her legitimate lord, Shojo, to even consider taking a less extreme course of action. This finally reaches its head when she kills Lord Shojo, believing him to be the head of some nefarious anti-good conspiracy. Even when stripped of her paladin powers by good-aligned Gods, she still refuses to believe she's crossed the line, instead concluding that she's facing an even more elaborate conspiracy and the stripping of her powers is some sort of trial.
    • Arc Villain General Tarquin is an inversion; instead of believing he can only be good, he refuses to accept that he could be anything less than the villain, the Big Bad, and that the Story is all about him and his heroic son, Elan. That Elan refuses to go along with this narrative and insists on deferring to party leader Roy and acting as if there are other things much more important than defeating Tarquin, drives him to rage. It eventually culminates in Elan just completely abandoning Tarquin, rather than engaging him in some form of final battle like Tarquin wanted.
  • Paranatural gives us Isaac's spirit, some kind of weather elemental with an interesting definition of moral righteousness.
    Montezeusma: "GOOD" is what EVIL FEARS — and JUSTICE is when YOU MAKE THOSE FEARS A REALITY!
  • According to Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, the last stage of the life cycle of groups:
    1. "I'm gonna form a group to do good things."
    2. "As the goodest of groups, we must make sure we do good things."
    3. "We are the good group! We!"
    4. "Things are good because we did them.
  • Ken and most of the Zedi from Space Blood are at worst killing people who they considered as "sinners," like people of the Blood Side, transsexuals and people who are homosexual. The Zedi think of themselves as "Good" for doing this killing. At one point Zalda Len when she was Rei Skykiller, called Ken out on it.

    Web Original 
  • Some Star Wars exaggerate Obi-Wan's memetic "Only the Sith deal in absolutes" by making it his way of detecting hidden Sith whenever he runs into someone making an absolute statement, or by it being proof that he's a Sith himself.
  • Worm discusses this quite a bit. The protagonist is a "villain" but is a much better person than many of the self-professed heroes, who range from narcissistic jerks to one of the very bullies who made her life miserable, unlocking her powers in the first place. Meanwhile, other "villains" fell into their situations by happenstance or just generally being victims of someone else, or were offered a job by another villain, and many are agreeable, polite, and kind in their own ways.

    Web Videos 
  • Badman portrays Batman as a Manchild, but the video with The Penguin shows that he still abides by his one rule. Unfortunately, he doesn't actually know what death is, thinking that burying a batarang into a baddie's face just knocks them out. Trying to convince him otherwise leads him to equate sleep with dying.
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog:
    • Captain Hammer, the Narcissistic Jerkass Bully, is a Hero, or so he believes. He also believes that all nerds and Goth kids are supervillains and should be reported to the police.
    • Dr. H himself doesn't have any illusions about which side he's on... he's trying to get into the "Evil League of Evil", after all... but he still apparently believes that once he's in charge, everyone (or at least the vast majority) will be legitimately better off than they are now. "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it." He seems to be somewhat confused as to his actual goals; he once described his ideal world as "Anarchy which I run."

    Western Animation 
  • Stan Smith from American Dad! is always confident that his way (which is often shockingly bigoted, even by his own family's standards) is the good, righteous, and just way, by simple virtue of being his way. He often comes around by the end of an episode, but the show actually lampshades how the lesson never sticks. As a gung-ho CIA agent, he also feels this way about the United States itself — he doesn't believe that America can do no wrong so much as he believes that anything it does is justified by being America. Although ironically, despite his Aesop Amnesia, Stan has undergone more Character Development (along with Characterization Marches On) than anyone else on the show; in later seasons, this aspect of his character is less habitual and more a series of Compressed Vices.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: As shown in The Promise, Fire Lord Ozai firmly believes that whatever the Fire Lord does is right by definition, so he has absolutely no compunctions about his war crimes or horrible parenting. When Zuko is conflicted about his actions after taking up the throne, Ozai berates him for not thinking like a proper Fire Lord.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: One episode revolves around a god-like alien named Allen taking over the world, and killing anyone who behaved badly so "the Earth can be good". Master Shake of all people calls him out on his obvious Moral Myopia.
    Shake: Well, when you destroy the stuff, that's bad, right?
    Allan:Shut up.
  • The leader of F.O.W.L., Bradford Buzzard, from DuckTales (2017) genuinely believes himself to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to eliminate dangerous chaos from the world by taking over, ruling over it with an iron fist, and destroying anyone who stands in his way, never comprehending that this is an inherently evil plan. Not even when his organization is only filled with bombastic, Card Carrying Villains or the fact his ultimate plan involving literally eliminating all chaotic elements from existence, he, and he alone, remains absolutely insistent to the very end that he is not a villain. It's always everyone else's fault he ever has to resort to morally dubious means to achieve this goal.
  • Demona from Gargoyles wants to Kill All Humans because she blames them for enslaving and wiping out her species, specifically the eponymous clan she used to belong to, and for all the persecution she personally has suffered. All of that was entirely her fault, though it transpires that there actually are other Gargoyles in hiding around the world anyway. In truth, Demona has always hated humans, deeming them inferior and resenting how her clan was serving them (when in fact it was much more like a mutually beneficial alliance), and her poorly thought-out plan to "free" them is what got most of them killed in the first place. Her problems stem from a serious case of Moral Myopia combined with Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, and she can't (or rather, refuses to) fathom why her old clan keeps trying to defeat her.
  • In Hazbin Hotel the angels suffer from a bad case of Light Is Not Good as the more extreme among them think that the sinners in Hell are all depraved and irreversibly broken, and thus are deserving of death at their hands. Original Man Adam gleefully partakes in slaughtering his fellow former humans, despite having been a sinner himself. In Episode 6 it's revealed that none of the angels actually know the criteria for entering Heaven and just assume that everyone in Hell deserves it. While other angels are shown not to be as depraved as the ones charged with exterminating sinners, Charlie Morningstar and Emily bring this up as a problem for heaven and hell in general: If souls are judged once and for all at death, then not only can sinners get no chance to be redeemed (which is Charlie's goal), but angels are left to act with impunity without being cast from heaven.
  • Coop from Megas XLR just assumes he's always the good guy, regardless of what he actually does. This isn't out of arrogance or insanity though, mostly he's just too dumb to realize what the consequences of his actions are. The Season 2 finale shows the logical extreme of this attitude, where an alternate universe Coop has become a vicious galactic dictator because he beat all the "bad guys" and eventually went after others for doing things of ever-decreasing severity until he finally just decided to be evil. Regular Coop actually seems to learn from this, and Season 3 would have showed some character development had it not been cancelled.
    Coop: I'll prove I'm a good guy even if I have to destroy this entire city and beat you to a pulp!
  • In My Adventures with Superman, Iron Lady Amanda Waller is a firm believer in My Country, Right or Wrong, and thinks that since the government is good by extension everything they do is also good which her lackey Deathstroke happily goes along with if it means he gets to kill people. When General Ripper Sam Lane points out the flaws in her logic she refuses to entertain the idea that she might be wrong and has him demoted.
  • Emperor Belos from The Owl House is fully convinced that his plan of eradicating witches and demons is for the betterment of mankind and is incapable of taking the blame for his atrocities. Even when he murdered his own brother and made clones he inevitably killed, not once does he acknowledge it was his fault. Luz even calls him out on it when he rants that Caleb stabbed him in the back. Belos spends his final moments demanding Luz save him, honestly insisting she's worse than him otherwise.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: The villains in "The Siren's Song" are a group of environmental activists who planned to get rich using an abandoned oil platform which had been shut down when it was proven to be dangerous to the environment. The activists justify their actions with the logic that this was a small price to pay in order to get money to save the environment.
  • In one South Park two-parter, Eric Cartman, in the guise of his "superhero" Secret Identity The Coon, manipulated Cthulhu (yes, that Cthulhu) into working for him and used it to kill and destroy everyone and everything he didn't like (and then got mad when Cthulhu was getting all the media credit), justifying it by saying that he was making the world a better place. When Kenny, as the superhero Mysterion, confronts him and angrily tells him that he's only making a better world for himself, Cartman simply and in all honesty just says "Yes, that's what heroes do", and didn't really get Kenny's point. He seriously thought Kenny and the other boys were only trying to stop him out of jealousy.
  • Steven Universe: White Diamond's entire worldview turns out to be based around the idea that she is a perfect and flawless being, which means that she knows best and justifies her enforcement of a caste system that ultimately just makes everyone miserable, and even her taking control of other Gems to remove what she sees as their flaws. It's only when she realizes that she isn't perfect that Steven is able to reason with her.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Leo has a brief Knight Templar phase in the fourth season after suffering a crushing defeat to Shredder and Karai the previous season. He's constantly angry and sullen, uncharacteristically violent, and becomes obsessed with training himself and his brothers to perfection so that they never risk defeat again. When several characters try to call him out on his behaviour, Leo insists he's only acting to protect himself and his family. He only finally acknowledges the problem when he wounds Splinter in a fit of rage during a sparring match.