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Mortons Fork / Real Life

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Morton's Forks in real life.

  • The trope namer, Morton's Fork. The attempts to wring every penny out of the nobility proved so unpopular that immediately after his accession the young Henry VIII was forced to execute two of his father's advisorsnote  to prevent a revolt. The historical circumstances of this are important. Henry VII had just finished a very expensive war to get hold of the Crown and was nearly broke. The use of the Fork was to transfer a large portion of the wealth of the nobles to his own coffers. It worked, and he became the richest man in England by a substantial margin.
  • Joan of Arc's trial involved several in an attempt to ensure her condemnation.
    • She was asked if she believed she was "in God's Grace." If she said yes, her overconfidence would brand her as a dangerous fanatic since no one but God is supposed to know who's in his grace or not. If she said no, however, then it would mean she had been masquerading as a religious figure for trivial ends. Joan, however, figured out the trap quickly enough to answer: "If I'm not, may God put me in it; If I am, may God keep me there." The wording was considered both humble and pious. Centuries later, this witty reply was actually considered as an argument in favor of her canonization.
    • Given only men's clothing to wear, she had a choice between wearing it (and being condemned for impropriety) or going naked (and being condemned for impropriety, as well as exposing herself to certain other dangers in the enemy prison that she was held in).
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  • The medieval and early colonial practice of "dunking" those accused of witchcraft could very easily become this. The accused would have a rope tied to her waist and get thrown into a body of water. If she floated, pull her out and, depending on the region and era, either imprison, hang, or burn her at the stake. If she sank, pull her out and let her go... and if she happened to drown, at least she died innocent. This was actually mocked in one episode of The Fairly OddParents, where Timmy undergoes it but when he survives and is accused of being a witch, he retorts "Or a kid who can swim!"
  • The Salem Witch Trials were also this. If you were accused of being a witch or being in league with the devil, you had two options: refuse to admit your guilt and be hanged, or wrongfully confess it, then accuse someone else of being a witch... in the process perjuring yourself and then get killed by that person's family in retribution. Giles Corey is famous for taking a third option: as he was being crushed to death by stones, he refused to break down and admit his "guilt" or accuse anyone else. His last words were "More weight." and in doing this he managed to protect his family's well being. At that time, a trial could not start until a plea was given, and if found guilty, all property would confiscated by the court. Since the trial never started, he could not be found guilty, and his children would keep their inheritance.
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  • In 1858, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Dred Scott had no right to sue for his freedom because he was a slave, Abraham Lincoln engaged in a series of debates with Stephen Douglas for a seat to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate. At Freeport, Illinois, Lincoln posed the question of whether the people of a territory could exclude slavery. If Douglas answered yes, he would appear to support the Supreme Court's Dred Scott ruling and popular sovereignty;note  he would stand a better chance of gaining the senatorial seat, but lose Southern support in the presidential election; if he answered no, Douglas would appear to turn his back on popular sovereignty, which would be welcomed by the Southerners, but could cost him support for the Senate (as Illinois was a free state). Douglas tried to Take a Third Option and came up with the Freeport Doctrine, in which he accepted the Dred Scott ruling, and suggested that slavery might be discouraged if the voters failed to pass laws to keep slaves under control. This response, which passively allowed a territory to nullify the Dred Scott decision, allowed Douglas to gain the Senate seat, but cost him the Southerners' support in the 1860 presidential election against Lincoln. Rather unfortunately for Douglas, the South wasn't interested in third options, and only full support for the Dred Scott ruling was acceptable to them; Lincoln's election to the Presidency was considered The Last Straw which started the South on the path to secession and eventually The Civil War.
  • The "Jonah Complex" in psychology. If you fail at something, you beat yourself up over it because you're not skilled enough. Yet if you succeed at something, you attribute it to pure luck or cheating, and still beat yourself up over it for not being skilled enough.
    • Sufferers of "impostor syndrome" frequently have this mindset as well. "Impostor syndrome" is a psychological phenomenon in which a successful person cannot internalize their own success, and thinks of themselves as a fraud. Even when the supposed "impostor" does succeed, all signs of their own competence are dismissed by that person as pure luck, good timing, the work of someone else, or deceiving others into thinking the person is smarter than they really are. Surveys indicate that between more than half of people in the Western world feel like this at times, so this is much more common than you might think.
  • In the United States, taxpayers are required to report to the Internal Revenue Service any "illegal income." If you have any and don't report it, then you're evading taxes. Al Capone was famously caught using this tactic. If you do report it, the IRS is not supposed to turn you in, but there are loopholes that usually mean the IRS will tip off other agencies that will arrest you. One man tried to argue that the Fifth Amendment protected him from having to admit to illegal income,note  but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the IRS can require you to divulge how much you made from illegal enterprises, as long as they don't require you to specify your criminal activity.note 
  • Not Always Right
    • This story is where a customer at first complains that their Heath bar topping isn't crunched up enough. When the ice cream is remade with the bars crunched smaller, the customer then complains that they can no longer see the Heath bars.
    • Some jerk tries to steal a teenage girl's camera, which happens to contain some provocative selfies, and is found out via I Never Said It Was Poison. The would-be thief then tries to insist it's still his camera. As the security guard puts it, either the thief continues to say it's his own camera, in which case he goes to jail for stalking and child pornography, or the thief admits he's lying, in which case he goes to jail for theft.
    • From spinoff site Not Always Legal: An armed police officer guarding a nuclear stockpile is threatened by a man in an explosive vest, who suddenly tries to surrender and claim that he's an actor from the contracted security firm doing an unscheduled training exercise. If the officer shoots, he may mistakenly kill a civilian. If he doesn't shoot, and the man is a terrorist, he's put the country's nuclear assets at stake. He doesn't shoot, and while the contractor confirms the bomb threat was a training exercise, the police officer is terminated for risking national security.
  • In Nazi-occupied Poland, helping Jews (even selling them food) was a capital crime (typically for your whole family), and if you lived in a village hiding Jews, not turning in neighbors hiding Jews meant you and your male relatives would be fair game for execution if they were caught (if many villagers hid Jews, your whole village might be destroyed in reprisal). On the other hand, if you did decide to inform on Jews, it was considered treason by the Polish Underground State, and by extension the Polish Home Army and also punished by execution.
  • The communist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) operated out of the Kurd-controlled portion of northern Iraq, and primarily targeted Kurds living in neighboring Turkey who didn't support it. The Turkish military targeted Kurds who did support the PKK. Worse, both knew the policy of the other, which put you in the sights of one if the other didn't attack you.
  • An issue for US soldiers for quite some time in The Vietnam War - their M16 service rifle, in addition to firing bullets that tended to ricochet away from vegetation rather than plowing through it, was an example of Reliably Unreliable Guns at the time that frequently jammed from propellant residue fouling and the stock of it easily broke which meant it didn't even make a good club, allowing their enemies to kill them while they were liable to be unable to fight back with their rifles. Soldiers that took the enemy's Chinese Type 56 rifles would be more able to fight, but the distinctive sound of the enemy's rifles firing made it likely they would be subject to issues of Friend or Foe and subsequent friendly fire.
  • Some international lawyers have been appealing the Nuremberg defense on the grounds that its rejection places soldiers in a Morton's Fork situation: either follow the orders and be thrown in prison and possibly executed for war crimes by the other side later, or refuse to follow the orders and be thrown in prison and probably executed for insubordination by your own superiors now. That's why nowadays there is a clause that allows the Nuremberg defence if the defendant did not have a moral choice. The Nuremberg Defence is named after the trials after WWII. In the German army at the time soldiers had the right (but not duty) to refuse to carry out any illegal orders. There were German soldiers who refused to carry out such orders with little consequences, which was why the Nuremberg Trials were as harsh as they were; if those men had the ability to refuse orders, then those trying to claim they were just following orders had the same ability to refuse orders and chose not to.
  • In ancient Rome, Marcus Licinius Crassus set up the world's first organized fire brigade in response to the high risk of fire. But it was entirely privately owned and not really a blessing for the victims. Whenever a fire broke out, Crassus would move out and give the burning house's owner the choice: He could sell Crassus his house for a ridiculously cheap price, and Crassus would then put out the fire, or not, in which case Crassus would just let it burn to the ground. Neither option was, of course, in any way favourable for the (former) owner.
  • Erwin Rommel, Field Marshal of Nazi Germany, was faced with one of these upon being implicated as a supporter of the 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Rommel was given the option of committing suicide, and receiving a hero's state funeral,note  or choosing to stand trial and be executed anyway. In the latter case, his family would have been included in being punished as well. Logically, he chose the former, killing himself with a Cyanide Pill.
  • In the period leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein's regime was accused of manufacturing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Saddam responded to the accusations with a mixture of bluster and bluff, and in retrospect he was faced with an impossible situation. If he had explicitly denied possessing such weapons the international community would not have believed him, and furthermore he would have appeared weak in the face of other Middle Eastern powers and Iraq's majority Shia population, who were kept from overthrowing Saddam by fear. If he had admitted to producing such weapons - a tactic used later by the Syrian regime - he would have been compelled to publicly dispose of them, which was impossible, as he had none left after using his chemical weapons on ethnic minorities, which constitutes a crime against humanity. In retrospect nothing short of voluntarily relinquishing power would have saved Saddam's Iraq from invasion and military occupation.
  • Saddam Hussein had a copy of the Quran written in his blood as a "tribute to Islam". However, writing a Quran in blood is actually considered blasphemous by most Islamic authorities (blood is considered unclean). The problem is that, now that it exists, destroying it would also be blasphemous. It sits in storage and no one is sure what to do with it. As Islam has no priesthood class, no one actually has the authority to make such a decision.
  • A semi-example in animal husbandry: Because it is illegal to shoot endangered predators such as wolves or eagles, the US Government pays ranchers and farmers if their animals are killed by said predators. All the rancher has to do is present the animal's corpse as evidence. Since the predators kill livestock in order to eat it, there is almost never a recognizable corpse left to present, and since these animals are also scavengers there's no way to prove the animal didn't die of natural causes and merely get scavenged later, even if there's enough of the corpse to show teeth marks (even an eagle will leave nothing but bits of a sheep's spine after killing it). This has the sad consequence that many ranchers simply kill endangered animals on the sly because the losses can be financially crippling and it's nigh-impossible to get paid for them.
    • If you buy undeveloped land which you later find has an endangered species on it, you cannot build (without going through tons of red tape for a small chance that your building project might be approved) on the land because it is a habitat for an endangered species. You also can't sell it now because the land is totally worthless. This also results in a similar situation to the above of people just killing the animals and never telling a soul, a method that's become known as "shoot, shovel, and shut up".
  • Robert Rauschenberg's Canyon is a grisly painting that is worthless because it cannot be legally sold, but worth enough for the IRS to demand over $29 million of inheritance tax on it. The reason it cannot be sold it that it incorporates a stuffed bald eagle, and trading in endangered species is illegal, dead or alive. The artist's heirs eventually reached an agreement with the IRS to donate the work to a museum for public exhibition and take no deduction for the donation. In return, the IRS dropped the tax assessment.
  • When Visceral Games was advertising Dante's Inferno, they sent out a bunch of trick boxes pertaining to one of the Seven Deadly Sins, the one for greed was 100 dollars with a note that read "If you keep this, you're going to hell for the sin of hoarding, if you give it away, you're going to hell for the sin of wasting." This was an even more impressive Morton's Fork even outside of the one presented in the box. Anyone who received the box was put into the situation where either they mentioned that they had received the money and turned it down, thus giving Visceral Games free publicity, or alternatively stay quiet about it, and thus when other journalists revealed that they had been sent money, it looked like the ones who had stayed quiet about it had pocketed the cash.
  • In 2011, a twenty year old woman claimed that she had got knocked up by Justin Bieber the year before, and sued to be compensated. The problem was, if she lost her case she could easily be tried for fraud; if she won the case she could be tried for statutory rape, since Bieber would have been under the legal age of consent at the time of conception. Oops. Not surprisingly, the case quietly went away...
  • R. D. Laing, as a member of the "anti-psychiatry" movement within psychology, proposed a hypothesisnote  that schizophrenia is, rather than a mental disorder, a form of Morton's Fork. The schizophrenic attempts to reject an unlivable condition or else face the pain of that unlivable condition. This is not accepted by the current psychiatric community.note 
  • The US's threatened invasion of Syria over the issue of chemical weapons. If Syria didn't disarm itself, the US would invade and take their weapons away by force. As Syria had no realistic way to stop the US from doing just that, they were forced to give up their chemical weapons to their ally, Russia, who wouldn't defend them against the US in case of a war. So either the US got to remove the Syrian regime, or take away their weapons without a costly invasion.
  • The CTA in Chicago adopted the Ventra System, which was riddled with issues months after being announced and introduced. A journalist asked the then head of the CTA why he would adopt a system that was known to be problematic and insecure in every other major city it was used in; did he know about these problems? If the head of the CTA answered yes, then he had willingly instituted a faulty system for Chicago transit. If he answered no, then he would have been seen as irresponsible for not thoroughly researching an entirely new transit payment system.
  • In the run-up to the 2015 UK election, Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls went on record stating that if he became full Chancellor, he would leave the Conservative party's ideological austerity policy intact, and praising the current Chancellor for its implementation. This backfired when large percentages of the voting public spoke out against the policy: if Ed Balls was voted in and changed nothing, the public would continue to suffer under the same policy, but if he spoke out against austerity to court public favor, he would be seen as 'flip-flopping' and incompetent for endorsing it in the first place.
  • In his last season as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Brady Hoke got into a heap of trouble during a game. The quarterback took a nasty hit and exhibited very visible signs of being concussed. The signs were so obvious that even the crowd booed for him to be taken off the field. However, Hoke kept him in for several more plays. After the game, Hoke was asked if he saw that his QB was concussed. This was a question that Hoke could not answer without looking bad: Either he saw that his QB was concussed and irresponsibly decided to leave him in the game, or he was not paying enough attention to see that his QB was concussed. Hoke was let go at the end of the season.
  • In a meta example, when Douglas Adams adapted The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy from radio to a novel he had some people do the same things as in the original script, some people do different things, and some do the same thing for different reasons "which works out to the same thing but it saved having to rewrite the dialog."
  • New Zealand Rugby Union player Grant Fox said of England, "The English know no humility in victory or defeat. If you beat them, it's because you cheat. If they beat you, it's because they've overcome your cheating."
  • The ILO was faced with the prospect of something akin to this towards the end of World War II: their charter defined them as an autonomous organization under the League of Nations. That autonomy stretched to almost every aspect of their work and organization except changing the charter itself, which required League approval. If the League ceased to function (or even exist), then the legal identity of the ILO would be in question unless the charter was altered — which couldn't legally be done since there was no League to ask approval to change the charter from. Pragmatism won out — ILO's internal discussions came to the conclusion that external circumstances invalidating the ordinary procedure were reason enough to allow bypassing it, and when the League was formally dissolved, ILO's charter was altered to make them an autonomous organization under the United Nations.
  • A version was played For the Evulz by guards in Nazi concentration camps: a guard approached a prisoner, grabbed his cap and threw it on the grass by the fence, ordering the prisoner to pick it up. If the guy refused, he was shot for disobedience; if he followed the order, he was shot for an escape attempt.
  • Sweden had conscription for most of the 20th century. Most recruits tried to avoid deployment at the army base in Boden, because of the cold, darkness, and long distance from home. One story told that they had little chance of being sent somewhere else:
    Officer: Can you ski?
    Recruit #1: Yes, sir!
    Officer: You will be sent to Boden. Next! Can you ski?
    Recruit #2: No, sir!
    Officer: You will be sent to Boden, for ski training. Next!
  • Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale faced this in the early 80s as they tried to pitch Back to the Future to various studios. Disney turned them down because they thought the film was too risque for them (primarily, the subplot with Lorraine becoming infatuated with Marty); other studios turned them down because they thought it wasn't risque enough, since, at the time, the most popular movies were raunchy teen-sex comedies (e.g. Porky's and Revenge of the Nerds). Even after being made, many trailers used the line "Are you telling me that my mom has got the hots for me!?" as a selling point.
  • During his tenure as Governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey was faced with this trope regarding crime boss Lucky Luciano, who helped prevent enemy sabotage on the waterfront during World War II with Mafia-controlled lockdowns in exchange for a shortened sentence and a promising bid for parole. If he didn't release Luciano, the Navy would've continued and continued to pressure him. If he did do what he was asked, not only would his presidential prospects be severely damaged, he also would be remembered by many as "the man who successfully prosecuted Lucky Luciano, but also the same man who released Lucky Luciano." So he deported him to Italy, as Luciano was from Italy.
  • This can be said for former LAPD officer Mark Fuhrman, a key witness for the prosecution in the murder trial against OJ Simpson. When mounting evidence of him being racially abusive toward African Americans surfaced, he could've admitted fault, but that would have ended up ruining his credibility in and out of the courtroom, infuriating the racially-mixed jury into siding with Simpson's defense team and turning the murder trial into a "race card" extravaganza. But when he instead lied in his testimony, a few months later, the defense played audio tapes of Fuhrman (aptly known as the "Fuhrman tapes") repeatedly using the N-word a total of 41 times; not only did he get charged with perjury, which he pleaded no contest to, he still ended up ruining said credibility in and out of the courtroom, infuriating said racially-mixed jury into siding with Simpson's defense team and turning said murder trial into said "race card" extravaganza that saw OJ being declared not guilty.
  • Disney was faced with this when deciding the race of Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog. If they made him black, like Tiana, people would have cried "Disney hates interracial relationships!" If they made him another race, it would have been "All the other ones had princes of their own race! Disney hates black men!" They decided to make him Ambiguously Brown and from a fictional Mediterranean country, but this only led to them being hit with both accusations depending on how the viewers saw the character.
  • Similarly, during the writing and casting of Doctor Strange (2016), Marvel were faced with a dilemma regarding the Ancient One, Strange's tutor. If a male actor was cast, matching the Ancient One's gender in the comics, the film would be accused of under-representing women (the only other major female character was Christine Palmer, Strange's ex-girlfriend). If an Asian actress was cast, matching the Ancient One's race in the comics, the film would have been accused of racial stereotyping. Marvel thus cast Tilda Swinton in the role... and the film was then accused on whitewashing, not to mention the usual criticisms about straying from the source material.
    • An additional problem was that in the comics, the Ancient One was Tibetan. The difficult political history between Tibet and China meant that portraying the Ancient One as Tibetan would have likely gotten the film banned from China, now the second-largest box office source in the world. In addition, any Chinese actress who portrayed a Tibetan would have been severely punished in her home country.
  • eBay has done this to legally back up their ban on people trying to sell their souls on the website: if the soul does not exist, then nothing is being sold and the transaction is fraudulent; if the soul does exist, then it is a part of the human body, and eBay does not permit the sale of human bodies (or parts thereof) on their website.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2016 campaign logo went through a little of this. When it was first released, it was mocked in some circles because the arrow (in the logo for a left-wing candidate) points to the right. Obviously, it was intended to be pointing "forwards", i.e. the direction people read, thus implying a progressive candidate. If they had pointed it to the left, it likely would have been mocked for pointing "backwards" (thus implying regressive ideas). Either way, the logo concept was a little flawed.
  • The debate on universal suffrage comes to a Morton's Fork as well. The United States began with the power to vote being restricted to significant landowners but expanded this right as time passed to the point nigh any citizen over the age of adulthood (18 in this case) can vote. History has shown you can't win; a restricted voting base of the knowledgeable still disenfranchises a lot of people, but universal suffrage creates a huge pool of easily-swayed voters ripe for exploitation by a Villain with Good Publicity.
  • Ottoman Sultan Murad II was told by his son, Mehmed II, to come out of retirement. Murad refused. Mehmed replied, "If you are the Sultan, come and lead your armies. If I am the Sultan, I order you to lead my armies."
  • 20th Century Fox found themselves in this situation regarding the Fantastic Four film rights: the main reason why they produced the 2015 film was to prevent the character rights from reverting back to Marvel Studios. When the movie came out, it flopped critically and commercially, effectively killing off the possibility of a sequel or another reboot, leaving Fox with the only option of giving back the rights to Marvel. Here was where this trope came into play: if Fox churns out another Fantastic Four movie within the next few years, they would likely lose money on it, forcing them to give up the rights. Had they sat on the rights for too long, they would have lose the rights (and any money as a result). In the end, the whole thing was rendered moot in 2018, when Disneynote  bought Fox's film and TV assets, thus acquiring the Fantastic Four rights, meaning they can now be placed back into Marvel Studios.note 
  • This trope is how the term "white elephant" came into being: according to legend, the King of Siam would give an obnoxious courtier a white elephant as a punishment. Since white elephants were (and are) considered sacred and symbols of royalty, the courtier could not put them to use doing normal tame-elephant stuff (hauling things, carrying important people, maybe some fighting if the strategy called for War Elephants). For the same reason, the courtier could not return it or give it away. Hence, their only option would be to keep the animal as a drain on their resources.
  • Voting literacy tests were (and are) notorious for this, as they were designed to be vague and entirely up to the examiner whether the answer was correct, who could then proceed to pass or fail it entirely based on their opinion of the person taking the test (i.e. if they were black, failing them). For instance, one test might offer the question "draw a line around the shortest word in this line." If a person drew a line around "a", the examiner could fail them for not drawing one around "the shortest word in this line", or declaring that "a" is a letter and not a word, and they should have drawn one around "in." Conversely, if they did do either of the above, the examiner could fail them for not drawing one around "a." If they circled all three, the examiner could fail them for trying to give three wrong answers. The examiner could also declare that, since they drew a circle and not a line, they failed the question (of course, never elaborating what else they were supposed to draw). If they asked the examiner for clarification, then they were wasting precious time (the tests were usually thirty questions in ten minutes) and were bound to fail at least two more questions even if the examiner did give a good answer. This is why voting eligibility tests have been banned in the United States under the Voting Rights Act (which uses the 24th Amendment's ban on poll taxes as its basis).
  • As a child, Tokugawa Ieyasu was taken captive by Oda Nobuhide and a ransom was sent to his father, Hirotaka, demanding that he break a crucial alliance or else his son would be killed. Hirotaka responding by spearing Nobuhide on Morton's fork. He noted that if they didn't kill his son then Hirotaka would be the most trusted man in all of Japan (quite an asset during the Warring States period) for not giving in to the threat and that if they did kill his son it would have exactly the same result. No matter what Nobuhide did it would result in Hirotaka's positioning strengthening. Ultimately Ieyasu was kept as a useless hostage for three years (though the friendship he developed with a child who would be later named Nobunaga eventually led to the Tokugawa shogunate).
  • The practice of the Consummation Counterfeit, in places where Honor-Related Abuse is common. Fail to bleed on your wedding night, and everyone will know or assume you're not a virgin, and you'll be executed or banished. Fake it and get caught, same result. (Hence the practice of faking the blood and hoping for the best.)
  • In 2017, there were just under 15,000 college students (both male and female) who were falsely accused of rape or other forms of sexual assault by fellow students (both male and female) and as a result were expelled from their colleges because they "refused to confess to their crime." (All of them were later exonerated after a police investigation — and in some cases, multiple police investigations.) Of course, had they falsely confessed, the college would have expelled them.
  • Former US FBI director James Comey was in this position in October 2016. The FBI had just quietly reopened the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server for her duties as Secretary of State had violated any laws, after some of those emails were found on computers seized during a sexting investigation into former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who at that time was still married to Hillary's assistant Huma Abedin. Since releasing information like that so close to the election could affect the result, the Justice Department has a policy against it. But... Comey was hardly the only one in the bureau who knew this, and there were many agents who hated Clinton and supported Trump. It was likely that if he didn't make it public that the investigation had been reopened, it would be leaked to right-wing news outlets with the implication that Comey was covering for Hillary... very damaging to him since the FBI's earlier decision to clear her of any wrongdoing (though he took the time to say that using the private server was "reckless", which itself went beyond DoJ guidelines) had been seen as politically motivated by Republicans.

    Comey decided to release it... and then just the weekend before the election announced that no incriminating evidence had been found. Republicans still thought he was covering up for a likely future boss; Democrats accused him of helping Trump regardless of his intentions. The ironic twist came when Trump won, and several months into his administration fired Comey, supposedly for the reasons Democrats were mad at him.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court's Garrity v. New Jersey decision created this for government employees who are investigated internally for administrative violations, whether or not the alleged misconduct might potentially be a crime. The logic is that, while citizens have the right not to be compelled to incriminate themselves, the government also has an interest in employees cooperating fully with internal investigations. So, the Garrity warning given before questioning in that situation, in addition to reminding the interview subject that they do not have to say anything, warns them that if they do exercise that right, they can nonetheless be disciplined by their employer, even terminated, for refusal to cooperate. So, if you're a government employee at any level facing charges for something you actually did, you can either cooperate and incriminate yourself, or keep your mouth shut and be disciplined for it.
  • Numerous news outlets have assumed this was what caused the 2018-2019 US government shutdown. On December 19th, the Senate passed a bill to fund the government, but only allotted less than $2 billion for President Trump's much-talked-about border wall. Trump was actually initially fine with this, and stated as much, expressing his willingness to sign the bill into law. However, shortly before he signed off on it, he suddenly changed his mind - $5.7 billion for the Wall or the Government enters shutdown. Many people on Twitter took notice of various right-wing supporters for Trump such as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh decrying such a move, claiming he would be seen as "weak" and a "coward" for capitulating for such a low amountnote , and stating that he threatened to shut down the government if he didn't get his way, and where was that empty threat now? As a result, many have assumed that Trump's about-face on the issue was a result of a Morton's Fork he created for himself: either he follows through on the threat of shutting down the government to get his way, which would be deeply unpopular, or he fails to follow through and alienates his base, and also gets exposed for his empty threat, which means he wouldn't be taken seriously again (a dangerous political proposition). So he followed through and shut down the government.

    The shutdown then dragged on because both sides had a Morton's Fork: the President and his Republican allies could not capitulate for the reasons that they started the shutdown in the first place - they did not want to be seen as weak or cowards for refusing to fund the border wall - but they also had to deal with the fact that not capitulating would keep the government shut down. The opposition Democratic party, led by Nancy Pelosi, refused to capitulate on funding the border wall because the border wall is wildly unpopular with their base and generally unpopular among the electorate, but not capitulating would keep the government shut down. Either one side gives in to the other and is excoriated by their base for doing so, or both sides entrench and get attacked by everyone for failing to reopen the government.note 

    Ironically, 35 days later, Trump finally caved, reopening the Government without his Border Wall money, not even the initial total agreed on. And he was attacked by his base for doing so.
  • The Brexit vote has turned into this:
    • When Britain leaves the European Union then the British economy is at risk and thousands are at risk of losing their jobs. If the government changes its mind and stays in the EU, then they have to abide by EU regulations and will not be able to return to the way they had it before. The government also risks looking like it has "betrayed democracy" by going against the public vote, due to a heavily-biased media over-hyping the nationalist propaganda of Brexit while ignoring that the 2016 Referendum was non-binding and has actually been ruled fraudulent in the High Court; and the only reason that the High Court didn't strike down the result of the Referendum was because it was non-binding.
    • The issue surrounding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, in particular, became a huge problem because it would either (a) become a hard border that could restart The Troubles, (b) be so open as to make a EU-UK border meaningless, (c) treat Northern Ireland separately from the rest of the United Kingdom, or (d) lead to Irish reunification. No Brexit-supporting British Nationalist supports any of these options, leading to the government trying to work out a "smart border" to solve it.
  • One of the criticisms of the FOSTA-SESTA package involves this. To go a bit into some details, if a site is reported to have sex-trafficking through it, the admins get legal trouble and, unfortunately, the admins can't report that there's sex trafficking as, doing that means they have to acknowledge that there's sex trafficking on the site, leading to, again, legal trouble.
  • The documentary "The Problem With Apu" created a situation for the creators of The Simpsons. If they modified Apu to appeal to political correctness or remove him outright, then it'll offend nostalgic fans for "pandering to SJW's" or make them afraid of what can happen to other beloved characters in the series. If they didn't change Apu, then they'll be blamed for ignoring complaints or accused of promoting their accusations through inactivity. They decided to go with a mix of both options: Apu remains in the series, but is now voiced by an actor of Indian descent.
  • When YouTube introduced their new system to resolve issues with COPPA, which ensures that websites don't keep personal information of children visiting them, many YouTube creators were upset that they would be stuck in a huge fork if they produced content which was deemed too "kid friendly". If they declared that their content was for kids, their video could no longer have comments or targeted ads, which hurts the video's chances of being picked up by the algorithm, and makes it harder for them to monetize their channel. If they don't, their video might become classified as being "for kids" anyway and they might risk legal issues for not properly declaring their content.
    • The aforementioned COPPA issues combined with the ongoing "Adpocalypse" and subsequent demonetization of content not deemed "advertiser friendly" have yet another fork for creators. If you make content that is raunchy or adult, YouTube will demonetize you for creating non-"advertiser friendly" content, but if you make content that is clean and family-friendly, YouTube will find you in violation of their COPPA system and demonetize you. Glove and Boots has notoriously been the victim of both ends of this particular fork.
  • In the Roman Empire, Emperor Commodus would fight in rigged gladiatorial combat for entertainment, and would do so since before he took the throne. This forced the gladiators into an even more unwinnable situation than just normally being a gladiator would be.note  Were the gladiator to win and kill Commodus, then either Commodus' father would want his head on a pike (back during Marcus Aurelius’ reign) or else he’d be guilty of regicide and the authorities would want his head on a pike (had this been during Commodus’ own reign). Either option would force the gladiator to surrender instead. If the gladiator loses; then he’s at Commodus' mercy. Fortunately, Commodus would always spare his gladiator opponents but only because it was custom for him to kill his practice opponents while preparing for the fight.
  • While adapting The Boys into a TV series; Eric Kripke faced a struggle with adapting the controversial scene where Starlight is sexually assaulted by members of the seven because of its controversy and because of the growth of the MeToo movement. If they directly adapted the scene, then it would face backlash from the public for using sexual assault for shock value. If they ignored it, then they'd be ignoring the problem itself while also becoming unfaithful to the source material. After discussing the matter with women who have gone through the same experience; Kripke decided to reimagine the scene so it reflects a dark, disgusting reality and so Starlight's character arc can be fulfilled within the first season.
  • While creating Mafia III, the developers were confronted with the subject of racism since the game is set in the 1960s and the protagonist is a black man by the name of Lincoln Clay. If they added the racism of the era, then people will be appalled by the behavior and it will generate controversy. If they didn't add it, then it would be disrespectful towards the people who actually endured the racism of that time period. The devs chose to address this concern at the start of the game and chose to add racism to the game so it doesn't sanitize that dark part of history.
  • Gun control advocates tried to have the Maxim 50 banned or commercially thrown away by subjecting it to this. The Maxim 50 is a large-bore muzzle-loading rifle with a suppressor built into its barrel. Since the weapon is suppressed, the gun control advocates claimed, it must be subjected to the NFA rules on suppressors (tax stamp and/or further regulation). If it is regulated, people won't buy it. If it isn't regulated, it will be banned as a criminal weapon. However, SilencerCo pointed out that muzzle-loaded guns do not quality as modern firearms since they cannot use modern metallic cartridges. Muzzle-loaders require three separate objects to be loaded into them in order to fire one shot (gun powder, projectile, and primer). Furthermore, the Maxim 50's reason for suppression is noise reduction, as anyone will find out at the shooting range. Even with the in-built suppressor, the Maxim 50 has been proven to be very loud, making it useless for a "silent" murder. Thus, it cannot be banned.
  • Flying Fish have the ability to leap out of the water and glide to escape aquatic predators... and become prey for flying ones. If they dive to avoid the flying ones, they become easy prey for the aquatic ones.
  • In wake of the Covid 19 pandemic and the deployment of vaccines in closing month of 2020; politicians, religious figures, minority group leaders, business men, and leaders in general have faced one on whether to take the first wave of vaccines or wait with everyone else. With mistrust in medicine rearing its ugly head throughout the whole pandemic, many have chosen to have been filmed receiving the vaccine to prove it's safe. Cue accusations of elitism and a lack of concern for the common man. If they decide to wait with everyone else, anti-vaxxers will question why none of the elite are taking the vaccine if it's safe or they might be accused of being an anti-vaxxer themselves.


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