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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.
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    • 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, where if you fail something you beat yourself up over it because you're not skilled enough, yet if you succeed you attribute it to pure luck or cheating and still beat yourself up over it for not being skilled. Perfectionists and sufferers of "impostor syndrome"note  frequently have this mindset. Surveys indicate that between 50% and 70% of people in the US 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 incomenote , 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 activitynote .
  • 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 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 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 Trial was 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 organised 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 funeralnote , 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 to dispose of. 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.
  • 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 inheritence 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...
  • Bullying:
    • One of the revelations from a crusade against school bullying is that many victims are punished the same as the bully even if they never throw a punch in returnnote , this is why there's a large crowd of parents who encourage their kids to fight back, if they'll be punished all the same, they may as well make an attempt at beating said bully up so maybe they'll stop. A similar situation can occur when a child's parents punish their kid for "fighting" even if they never hit back, but are simply roughed up/suspended by the bully's fault entirely.
    • This trope can be a real problem for people who consistently have problems with bullying. If they rise to any insults the bully throws at them, that might be what the bully is trying to do, usually because said victim's reaction is amusing to them. If they ignore the bully then it's highly likely that they'll just keep doing it anyway (or even escalate the bullying), either because they just don't like their target, or they know that if they have to keep putting up with it without doing anything, even if they don't explode, said victim makes a lovely verbal (or physical) punching bag for stress relief or will break down from all the hate they've received, ensuring the bully has power over them.
    • Being bullied or harassed by a tween as an adult (or teen). Not many people will take your claim seriously due to the age gap and adult responsibility (i.e use your words, be the bigger man or handle it yourself). In an extreme case where you get into a fight (in self-defense or otherwise), it'll come down to this: If you win, you've beaten up a child; if you lose, you got beaten up by a child.note 
    • In some cases of workplace harassment, letting the authorities know about it can lead to more harassment by fellow employees if they don't agree with your argument against the offending coworker(s).
    • If students get bullied in school, but not injured, then telling the teacher will usually result in a minor punishment (if at all) for the bully and more severe bullying for the victim. Not saying anything is equally bad, of course.
  • R. D. Laing, as a member of the "anti-psychiatry" movement within psychology, proposed a hypothesis note 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.
  • Every school student's worst nightmare: remembering late at night that you forgot to do your homework. If you stay up late to do it, your parents will yell at you for not doing it earlier, and you will potentially lose sleep, making it more difficult to focus in school the next day. If you don't do it, you lose credit for the assignment, possibly fail the course, and still get yelled at.
  • 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. However, 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.
  • Some real life examples of the Education Mama can result in a no-win scenario. If one gets a perfect score on a test, they get yelled at that they had better keep it up or not to get arrogant. If one doesn't get a perfect score, they get yelled at and punished. If they fail, they get yelled at and severely punished.
  • 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.
  • Abuse-related examples:
    • Victims of Abusive Parents can end up in this kind of situation. Either they keep taking the abuse, leading to emotional/physical/mental injury or worse, death or suicide. Or, they try to get help, leading to being taken away to a sometimes horrible foster home, or being brought back after the police believe the offending parents have been rehabilitated, resulting in some serious punishment on the child who got them in trouble. Lastly, if they try to fight back in defense, usually the law will blame the child for harming their own parents regardless of why placing them in jail where they'll suffer severe harassment once again.
    • Abusers have been known to sabotage birth control (often secretly) in order to trick their victims into having a child with them. This can lead to such things as blaming the victim for a failure of birth control that the abuser caused and beating a (female) victim severely enough to induce a miscarriage then blaming her for it. If the pregnancy goes wrong, the victim is blamed and punished for it, but if it goes right it's even harder for them to get away and there's a new victim.
    • Financial Abuse: If your abuser controls the purse strings (a common example is an abusive breadwinner husband), it's that much harder to escape the abuse, for the simple reason that checking into a hotel or motel, or signing a lease on a new apartment costs money. And many times, if the abuser is controlling the money, they're controlling other things too: how their victim spends the money they are given (if any), where they go, whom they see or talk to, access to phone/Internet/other means of communication, etc. The victim may have lost their support system by their abuser's isolating them or trying to turn their family/friends against them. (So crashing with a friend or a relative may not be an option...and even if it is, it may put the friend or relative in danger, too.) This is especially bad for minors, as already mentioned above. Even trying to turn to the police may not be an option. If the breadwinner gets cuffed for abuse, who's going to pay for the groceries?
  • 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.
  • Transgender people have three cases:
    • Either they keep their transsexuality hidden and try to conform to what society believes they are and consequentially risk severe depression, gender dysphoria, and even suicide. If they reveal themselves, not only does the risk for hate crimes increase a lot, but they are at risk of exactly the same issues due to the high chance that they will be abandoned by friends and disowned (or even abused) by their family.
    • Transwomen who act too feminine are accused of fetishing femininity and acting like a parody of a woman, not the real thing. Trans women who act too masculine will have their masculinity used as proof that they're actually men. Either way, you'll be seen just as a man pretending to be a woman.
    • Trans men with the desire for full body transformation are stuck in one. They can decide to not get the genital surgeries and not only feel horrible in their body but also be viewed as a Ladyboy or similar, are forced to always out themselves towards new partners and are limited in accessing places such as pools, saunas, etc. If they proceed with the surgeries, they are at incredibly high risk of severe health issues as most surgeries have a 5-60% chance for fistulas and stenosis, a 10-20% for necrosis and a 5% risk for straight up losing the penoid (which is usually the modified clitoris, which will have to be amputated if the penoid is lost, making a second attempt impossible). Quite a few trans men currently hope for a third option by looking at the improvement of organ transplantation, though that is currently nothing the scientific community seriously looks into.
    • Trans minors have a bigger issue, assuming discrimination isn't a (major) issue in itself; their minds and biology are still developing, so going through with surgery too soon can cause severe damage, but waiting too long could lead to the aforementioned depression, gender dysphoria, and suicide. If the latter is before the former, damage is inevitable.
  • Creators whose works have a Broken Base may find themselves in one. Making any changes at all will attract the ire of the They Changed It, Now It Sucks! fans or prompt requests for even more extravagant changes. And not making any changes will irritate the It's the Same, Now It Sucks! fans. This is why some creators don't directly communicate with fans. This turns into a four-pronged fork for creators who are already communicating with their fans, especially for the community relations team of large video games since this is their job. If changes are made, they get yelled at. If no changes are made, they get yelled at. If they don't talk about changes, they get yelled at. If they stop posting altogether, they get yelled at.
  • The history of early psychiatric theory tended towards this. A (demonstrably false) truism is that if one genuinely worries about one's mental health, one's probably not crazy - and that one sign of a mentally unhinged person is that they're absolutely certain they're sane, it's just the world around them that's gone mad. Worse yet were the states of asylums in those days. As Nellie Bly wrote in an 1887 exposé where she voluntarily committed herself, the conditions in sanitariums of those times were sufficient to drive anyone not already insane completely mad. So for those concerned about their state of mind, there was no good choice, and is part of why Madwoman in the Attic exists as a trope - it was genuinely considered more humane than the asylums.
  • Chavs often use such a tactic to start fights. For example, "Did you look at my girlfriend?". If you say yes, you get accused of ogling her. If you say no, you get accused of thinking she's ugly. And if you try to Take a Third Option and reply as if you never noticed her, you get accused of lying. It is a catch-22 situation; the chav wants to fight regardless, he just wants an excuse.
  • 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!
  • "Resign or be fired" ultimatums. When given these options, the employee knows that he or she will inevitably be out of the company's map in the future.note 
  • The Innocent Prisoner's Dilemma. If you admit that you are guilty of wrongdoing, you get a lighter punishment and the possibility of early (conditional) release. If you proclaim your innocence (real or not), you can be punished more severely and then some as you'll be seen as not owning up to your wrongdoing. Zigzagged because research shows those who admit guilt are more likely to offend again and those who pled guilty to avoid serious punishment have been called out, being told if they didn't do it, they shouldn't have pled guilty.
  • 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). And 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.
  • In the US legal system, death vs. life imprisonment without parole. If you are sentenced to death, then you are executed for your crimes. If you sentenced to life in prison without parole, then you don't die initially but you are required to be incarcerated until you die. The law does not consider you to have paid for your crimes until the moment you are dead. Nothing else short of escape (which will invariably result in a manhunt that won’t stop until you’re recaptured or killed), pardon, or exoneration (assuming you are innocent in the third case) can get you out of prison.
    • In states that have abolished capital punishment, the fork becomes "what do you do with a criminal, sentenced to life without parole, who kills an inmate or prison guard?". Sentence them to life again isn't helpful, since they can only die once, and you cannot sentence them to death, because you are legally barred and you cannot let the crime go unpunished. This doesn't typically work in the reverse, as death row inmates are kept apart from general populations. The general answer is putting them in isolation, but this has the common side of effect of slowly making them nuts, leaving you with a mentally ill lifer on your hands.
    • Cross jurisdiction of crimes when the death penalty is in play can also be a factor. Between two jurisdictions that have the death penalty, who gets to kill the guy is a big deal. Between a jurisdiction that does not have a death penalty and one that does, the deference to the pro-death penalty is a big issue in the one that does not (to those with fiscal concerns, letting a death penalty state have first go means they don't have to go to trial which saves the taxpayers money BUT does not give the victims of the crime their day in court.)
  • Without mentioning any specific examples, politicians believed to have engaged in chicanery get a three-prong fork: if an investigation shows wrongdoing, this is obviously an indication of wrongdoing; if an investigation clears the person, this indicates they "got to" those doing the investigating and/or were able to effectively cover their tracks; if there is no investigation, they are protected by their power and/or intimidated anyone who is in a position to investigate.
  • 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.
  • In law enforcement contexts in the U.S., the question "Am I being detained?" (or its inverse, "Am I free to go?") presents a big one for police officers. When asked that question, an officer can't answer "Yes" unless they have reasonable suspicion to detain their suspect that would actually hold up in court. But if they answer "No", it's essentially an admission that the suspect is free to go whenever they wish, and that the officer can't do anything to stop them. If they try to Take a Third Option by not answering "Yes" or "No", it's a red flag that the officer wants to detain them, but doesn't have sufficient evidence to do so—and can thus be used as evidence of unlawful harassment. For that reason, "Am I being detained?" is often recommended as an Armor-Piercing Question for situations when a citizen suspects that an officer may be violating their rights by trying to detain them without cause. Again, this applies in the U.S.; in other countries, the question may not be such a problem.
  • 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.
  • Happens a lot in battles where one side has combined arms and the other doesn't. For example, at the Battle of Falkirk, the Scottish support troops were driven off early in the fighting. This gave the spearmen, the bulk of the Scottish force, the choice of remaining in tight formation and being shot to pieces by the Welsh archers, or scattering and being ridden down by the English cavalry.
  • 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.
  • This trope is a major reason why electoral reform in the American Political System is such a frustratingly complicated issue to tackle. One of the strongest arguments against the proposed abolition of the Electoral College is that such a system would give a disproportionate amount of voting power to the most populous states in the Union, while rendering votes in smaller states effectively worthless, and implicitly encouraging Presidential candidates to ignore states with populations too small to affect election results. But one of the strongest arguments for abolishing the Electoral College is that most of those flaws are already present under the current system: so-called "swing states" (like Ohio and Florida) already have a highly disproportionate amount of voting power, while a huge portion of votes in solidly Democratic or Republican states are already effectively worthless, and candidates are already implicitly encouraged to ignore states that they have no realistic chance of winning; because of the realities of the "winner-take-all" system, all of a state's electoral votes go to the candidate with the majority of popular votes (no matter how slim their majority is), while votes for the opposing candidate are not factored into the count of electoral votes at all, and many states with solid track records of voting Democratic or Republican are virtually guaranteed to go to that party's nominee. The electoral college has also been criticized for every instance of an electoral split having the Democrat take the popular vote and the Republican win the presidency (where the Republican narrowly took the swing states but the Democrat won landslides in states like California and New York, while the red states were either won very closely or were too small to make a difference). In a nutshell: whether the United States chooses its Presidents through an electoral vote or popular vote, some states will always hold more power than others, and some votes will have minimal or even negligible effect on the overall results.
    • Funnily enough, 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.
  • A common criticism of 24-hour news networks: the prize of any news network is to get the story first to air. While breaking news is a big ratings draw, it may be a few hours between knowing something is happening and knowing what is happening. In this time, the news has to rely on what eyewitness and unnamed sources close to the story to get something to air, all of which can be unreliable due to being a partial part of the story or the source wanting his or her 15 minutes of fame, which can shape the story into something it is not in the public mindset. The resulting fork becomes get it to air first and correct later, or get it right first but hold the story. The former will have the public cry foul of news bias for trying to fit the story to a narrative. The latter will have the public cry foul of news bias because you weren't interested in the story until after it was over.
  • 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 is where this trope comes 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. If they sit on the rights for too long, they would lose them (and any money as a result). In the end, the whole thing was rendered moot in 2018, when Disney note  bought Fox's film 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 use them in practical use. 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.
  • This is often a situation for boys who end up in fights with girls, particularly when young. Due to the unsaid rule that a proper man Wouldn't Hit a Girl, you find yourself in a situation where you can either lose to your female combatant and be made fun of for it or end up with horrified reactions that you beat up someone who, going by average strength statistics, could be weaker than you. Obviously, this is kicked when older folks know that this demeans both genders in different ways, but many men still attest to never readily fighting women as to not get caught up in this dichotomy (not that you should go readily looking for fights to pick in the first place, mind you). That said, there are outs, such as letting the girl throw the first punch or do something else unladylike, thus allowing the out of, "I'm not supposed to hit a lady, but you're no lady."
  • 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). And 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).
  • The "Have You Ever Been Convicted of a Felony?" question on job and renters' applications, assuming you actually have been convicted. Check that box, and you'll be denied the job/apartment/loan/whatever, no matter what sort of felony you were convicted for. Lie and get found out when the prospective employer/landlord/lender/etc. does the background check, and you'll still be denied anyway. Some want to "ban the box" for that very reason, but the pushback is that convicted felons have betrayed trust somewhere, and trust is important in any workplace; if employers can't ensure trust, they can't ensure they can stay in business. Some applications actually attempt to remove the fork, by stating that answering yes to the question is not immediate disqualification, and provide a place to explain, but that simply means that it depends on what the felony is whether you get rejected, and a truly repentant criminal is still likely to get the short end of the stick.
  • 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.
  • 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 places where FGM is practiced, girls and their parents are put in a terrible position: be cut and suffer with health problems and childbirth complications for life note , or don't be cut and forever be thought of as "disgusting" or a whore, and forced to live alone on the fringes of society.
  • Politicians visiting with victims of a disaster can become this. Do it and be criticized for using the victims for a photo-op, or don't and be criticized for being unsympathetic to their suffering.
  • Dealing with unwanted advances can be an example of this for a lot of people: indirect refusals, sometimes called the "soft no", can lead to accusations that the reject-er is being manipulative or dishonest with the reject-ee, while firm rejections ("hard no") get the label of being unnecessarily cruel.
  • Break up with your partner after a period of trying to work things out in your relationship? You toyed with their emotions, wasted their time and should have dumped them outright. End things unilaterally? You should have given them a chance!
  • This is part of the problem for casting directors for live-action adaptations of Anime and Manga that use Mukokuseki. If they cast based on what the characters actually look like, they're accused of whitewashing and not giving Asian actors/actresses a fair chance in Hollywood. If they cast based on the characters' actual ethnicity (Japanese, unless otherwise noted), they're accused of not being true to Canon, because the characters don't look like that. They also face the additional hurdle of getting funding: Hollywood has a few big-name actors, and most of them are white (for reasons we won't get into here), but they're the ones that draw in the most viewers (and thus revenue). Taking a chance on a lesser-known actor makes Hollywood nervous, and many studios may be reluctant to fund a movie that uses lesser-known actors (of any color or ethnic background). Conversely, using a big-name white actor risks the movie being Overshadowed by Controversy, which isn't exactly friendly to box office numbers either.
  • Parenting, especially motherhood:
    • Breastfeed too long, especially if your baby is a boy? You're promoting unhealthy and creepy attachments. Don't breastfeed at all? You're feeding your baby "toxins," and depriving them of the nutrients they really need to grow strong and healthy.
    • Have a C-section or an epidural? You didn't really give birth. Did a completely natural birth? You're just some kinda crazy Granola Girl, aren'tcha?
    • Choose not to be a mother? You're not a "real" woman! Just one kid? Only children are spoiled brats; siblings are part of a healthy childhood. Choose to have a "big family" (which in industrialized societies can be as few as three)? "It's a uterus, not a clown car!"
    • Options for people who can't have kids the usual way: fertility treatments are a waste of money for obsessives, if not outright unnatural; adoption means your kids are never really "yours", and surrogacy or egg/sperm donation combine both those problems. And childless couples are selfish hedonists.
    • Spank your kids? You're scarring them for life! Don't spank your kids? They'll just be spoiled little hellions who just run amok and do whatever they please. And so on and so forth.
  • Membership in a Cult, or even just a religion that's not working for you. Do you stay, and endure spiritual abuse, or do you leave and risk ostracism, or people trying to bring you back to the "flock," harassment, financial ruin or lawsuits (in the case of the Church of Happyology or someone like them) or even losing your own spouse or family because they want to stay?
  • Where Arranged Marriages are concerned, since they usually involve socioeconomic or even political considerations (with love and companionship either a distant second or not even on the radar), refusing one can have negative consequences, up to and including being killed or injured. So it becomes a Sadistic Choice between Honor-Related Abuse for refusing the marriage, or possibly getting trapped into an abusive marriage.
  • Particularly if you are a girl or a woman, if you choose to have sex, you'll be seen as a slut. If you don't choose to have it, you'll be seen as a prude. Either way, your reputation is trashed, and you are dehumanized.
  • An unplanned, out-of-wedlock, unwanted pregnancy, such as a Teen Pregnancy. Choose to abort? You're a murderer, you'll always regret it, and you refuse to take responsibility for your actions. Choose to carry to term and raise the baby? You're going to wind up living in poverty, probably relying on government assistance to get by and support your baby, and unless you have a Shotgun Wedding to your baby-daddy, no man will want you because you have Baggage (and incontrovertible proof that you're not a virgin anymore) now. If you choose to put the baby up for adoption, you'll always regret it...and you're dumping your parental responsibilities on someone else.
  • Reporting a rape. If you come forward, you'll face ridicule, Slut-Shaming, bullying, and people not believing you, or accusing you of being after your rapist's money and/or (if he/she is a public figure) fame. You'll have to relive the traumatic memories time and again, as you tell your story in graphic detail (to police, to the court, the nurse or doctor who performs the SAFE kit, people in your life, etc.) If you go to the hospital and have a SAFE kit done, it's possible (even likely) that the forensics lab will take their time getting that kit processed...or never get around to it at all. And there's a chance that even with witnesses, DNA evidence, and even a detailed confession from the rapist, your rapist might get off scot-free or only get a slap on the wrist. (There's a reason that far more rapes go unreported than falsely reported.) However, if you don't come forward, your rapist will never face justice of any sort, and will probably rape someone else, or rape you again.
  • In some places, childcare is so expensive that, depending on your job, it can take up literally all of your paycheck. Staying home with your child is free, but doesn't bring in any money. So either way, you're broke.
  • College.
    • Don't go, and you won't be able to get a job that isn't something like food service or retail. Go to school and get a degree, but come out with tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars in student loans...and you still might not be able to get a job that isn't food service or retail, depending on what the job market is like when you graduate. Even a STEM degree could be rendered A Degree in Useless.
    • Attendance in college also suffers from this. Don't attend class because of outside factors like illness, family, or unexpected problems? Teacher will likely not cut you any slack and mark it as a permanent tardy that will catch up and get you dropped from the class if it happens too often, on top of being behind in assignments and grade. Show up anyway despite delays? Some professors won't count you in attendance despite perhaps a valid reason for being late, and you'll waste your time and money to get there, on top of missing some of the lecture anyway.
  • Up until the advent of no-fault divorce, you had three options: stay in an unhappy or abusive marriage, find (or make up) legal fault to divorce your spouse, or commit suicide. By some estimates, removing the requirement for legal fault reduced suicide rates among women in the US by 20%.
  • The subject of racial or gender diversity be a nightmare for an author or creator given the sensitivities surrounding the subject and a good heaping dose of Positive Discrimination. Not having a diverse cast will get you yelled at by fans and accused of discrimination. Having a diverse cast and attempting to make character-based jokes or give them flaws will get you yelled at by fans and accused of stereotyping. Having a diverse cast and not making such jokes or giving flaws will get you yelled at by fans and accused of blandly writing characters. As Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert learned with characters like Asok and Tina (Just to name one of many examples), sometimes you just can't win.
  • Some species of birds practice brood parasitism, laying their eggs in the nest of another species. If the host bird accepts the egg, the brood parasite chick will eventually eject her own chicks from the nest to get more food. If the host destroys the egg, the parasite's mother will destroy the host's nest and eggs in retaliation.
  • 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.
  • Commenting on the feminized reboots of classic films, like Ghostbusters (2016) and Ocean's 8. If you like the films then people will call you a traitor or uncultured. If you disliked them or refuse to watch them, then people will brand you as a stubborn sexist or misogynist.
  • Animal Care:
    • As noted on the Serious Business page, the idea of buying a pet vs adopting. If one adopts a pet, people ask why one didn't just buy one, considering that adopting a pet tends to come with fees, and, if you brought a pet, people will accuse you of not giving a shelter animal a chance or accusing you of signing an animal's death warrant, as, more often than not, a shelter animals are put down because they aren't/won't be adopted. In a similar vein, there's the idea of surrendering a pet to a shelter, as doing so means the owner was selfish and irresponsible ("pets are commitment") and not doing so, when circumstances don't permit pets, one is still seen as irresponsible and selfish ("pets are a luxury" and or "don't have one if you can't afford one").
    • As anyone who rents an apartment (or, less commonly, a house) can tell you, some animal clauses have this, especially when its found out that the terms were violated, in which case, one could either rehome their pet or get evicted and then having to rehome their pet, when another home cannot be found for both.
  • 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.
  • This can happen if you have a boss or a teacher who's bigoted against you. Either you fail to do your job/classwork properly, and you are fired/fail the course, or you successfully do your job/classwork and are fired/fail the course when the boss/teacher decides you must have secretly had someone else do your work, or otherwise cheated.
  • The psychology principle of enablement acts like this, as, the enabled will continue the self-destructive/negative behavior either because they're encouraged to or because they're not being stopped.
  • Having a rough life due to circumstances outside of your control. Since you're not controlling the circumstances, your only option is getting outside help, which runs the risk of not working. So it's either gamble all your money on the outside help with the possibility of getting let down and having it all be for naught, or save your money (or your own mental well-being from false hope), do nothing, and get called lazy. And if you try to argue with people who are giving you bad advice, you'll be called ungrateful.
  • Helping a vilified criminal turn their life around. If you associate yourself with them, you'll be vilified yourself. If you're not willing to risk your reputation, said criminal isn't getting the help they need and there is the possibility you might be punished for Bystander Syndrome.
  • Getting into a conversation about Alpha Males and Beta Males online. If you're an Alpha, congratulations you're a douchebag whose confidence is emasculating to men and demeaning to women. If you're a Beta, congratulations you're a spineless nobody who needs to grow a pair. Overall, if you have to define your masculinity online, chances are, you never had any masculinity to begin with. An Alpha will lose credibility and Betas will emphasize a lack of manliness.
  • 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 betrays years of democracy by going against the public vote.
  • Job searching:
    • On one end, getting an education to get a job would be ordinarily okay, however, since a good number of jobs require experience, one isn't going to get the job if they don't have it (as detailed on the Catch-22 Dilemma page) and, on the other hand, if one's credentials for a certain occupation or career checks out, one might not get the job anyhow if the market is oversaturated (as is the conundrum with going to trade schools instead of college). Then there's the subject of being overqualified, as, if one is overqualified, one might not get the job anyhow, as employers might dismiss you, as, odds are, you'd be doing the job too well or you might not fit in.
    • Volunteering info. You don't win either way, as, if one is honest (especially before an interview), you might get passed over and, if you withhold some details, you might get passed over or fired. Tying into this, there's issue of trying to get a job if an employee has a condition and need accommodations, as it follows the same problem of the aforementioned, as disclosing could land one without a job, as employers might not want to bother or employers don't have the means to accommodate the employee and not disclosing could lead to not the getting help and so getting fired. Regardless, you're out of a job.
  • Recently, certain website that allow public commentary have come into this situation regarding hate rhetoric. If they didn't shut it down, then they are accused of allowing this sort of this to perpetuate and fester. However, if they did, then they are accused of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and people begin to wonder when they'll start stiffing other types of speech.
  • Being pulled over while driving in the U.S. often has this issue for a driver. When the officer asks "Do you know why I pulled you over?", the driver is put into a bad situation where they can either say no, which usually leads to the officer trapping the driver into being told what they did wrong and thus getting a ticket out of ignorance, or say yes, which essentially is them admitting they know they did something wrong and getting a ticket for ignoring the rules. There are ways to get around this issue a little bit, such as answering that you have an idea but are not sure, or just in general seeming apologetic, but in most cases, its recommended to simply admit to not knowing what you did as in some cases they might instead give a warning if you provide a reasonable reason why (Ex; being out of state/country).
  • 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. We're not going to say how it went.

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