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"Oh, we usually murder our way to the top and claim victory whilst astride a pile of mangled bodies. But we're heroes so it's okay when we do that."
Fighter, Eight Bit Theater

Considering all the puppy-kicking the Knight Templar gets into, sooner or later another good character is going to get the courage to ask her something. Considering how petty and mean she acts, often toward people who have only committed minor crimes, how can she really be a "good" character?

The answer is simple. Her actions are good because she is good.

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

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

This character may look like a Hypocrite (She probably is, but she's too stupid, self-righteous, deluded, or willfully ignorant to understand it) but in reality she's far more dangerous than that. Because she can't comprehend the concept of Moral Dissonance, she will throw herself into any struggle with the same force, conviction, and resolve that The Hero shows against the Big Bad. That's because in her worldview, every enemy she has is twirling a handlebar moustache, madly cackling while tying orphans to the railroad tracks -- even if said enemy turns out to be The Hero himself.

Can often come about unintentionally as a result of a Designated Hero, most often when a writer is trying to rationalize the character's action but is having trouble doing so. A Well-Intentioned Extremist may also be one of these provided she's genuinely oblivious to the suffering she's caused in the name of the greater good.

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

Sometimes related to What Is Evil?, Often that people don't think themselves as evil, but following the true way. Like one man's rebel is another man's savior. This credo in general is also known as cognitive dissonance.

A form of It's All About Me mixed with Never My Fault. Such characters are also prone to Believing Their Own Lies. If the Designated Hero is called out for acting this way it's What the Hell, Hero? See also Super Dickery, For Great Justice!, and Ron the Death Eater for when the hero really is a hero but fans see him this way. If a character comes across this way despite the author's intentions, you might have a case of Protagonist-Centered Morality. Expect these characters to use Insane Troll Logic to justify their crimes.

Examples of Tautological Templar include:


Anime

  • Light Yagami of Death Note, has the following to say on the subject: "Me? Evil? I am JUSTICE! Those who oppose me—they're the evil ones!" Contrast L, who readily admits when he engages in Dirty Business.
  • Tousen from Bleach is revealed to be this, though not too surprising as he'd turned out to be The Mole and had long appeared to be a Knight Templar anyway. It was known that he became obsessed with justice when a friend of his was murdered by her Shinigami husband who managed to get away with the crime; it transpires that the reason he turned against Soul Society was for revenge (he has previously implied it was because Utopia Justifies the Means, though this was still somewhat true), believing that forgiveness of any sort was a mockery of justice and feeling he was completely entitled to take revenge on Soul Society and all of its inhabitants, even if that means helping the Big Bad become a god and not really worrying about the countless innocent lives he was killing or planning to kill along the way.
  • Ashe/Angela from Black Butler. S/he declares everyone impure and that they must be Cleansed With Fire, but doesn't see anything wrong with murdering children and banging demons and Devil Dogs.
  • Most of the World Government in One Piece is very much this; the World Nobles/Celestial Dragons and Admiral Akainu even push it Up to Eleven. You can easily spot the sympathetic ones among them -- they're the ones who call the others out on their bullshit.
  • Rosario to Vampire: Gin gives a perfect definition of this trope in relation to Kuyou:

Gin: Kuyou is the kind of guy who mistakenly believes that, without a doubt, everything he does is for the sake of justice. Anyone who goes against him is going against justice and is an evildoer, and he believes that he can do anything for his own sake, because he is justice.

Comics

  • Depending on the Writer, Judge Dredd is aware that sometimes strict adherence to the letter of the law results in injustice; whether he accepts it as I Did What I Had to Do or exercises Loophole Abuse varies. There have been other Judges every so often who actually believed, "Because I'm a Judge, everything I do is right/legal."
  • In Spider-Man Venom believes that he's the good guy and anything he does to Spider-man is justified because he "ruined his life." The fact that Spider-man hadn't even met the man before he got his powers does nothing to dissuade this view.
  • Lex Luthor sometimes has this attitude with Superman, especially evident in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. He justifies his crusade to bring down the hero by proclaiming that Superman, as a godlike alien, is a menace to humanity who impedes our progress by dint of our existence, and more crudely that Luthor is capable of solving all the Earth's problems but he can't until Superman is dead, and to be more accurate dead at his hands. Doesn't seem to have any problem teaming up with other aliens like Brainiac mind, even if those aliens really are out to enslave us all and make no secret of the fact. His supposed belief in the potential and value of humanity also doesn't seem to stop him from planning atrocities which, in attempting to destroy or 'expose' Superman, usually ratchet up a pretty hefty body count in human life in the process.
  • Norman Osborn fell into this territory in Dark Reign, insisting that all of his actions were for the greater good and the heroes shouldn't be uniting against him and have no idea how much he has been doing to protect everyone. The fact that he started it by trying to kill all the heroes in the first place, that he tried to murder his own son for ratings, that's he's been killing or locking up everyone who has a bad thing to say about him, that his own superhero teams comprised of supervillains he was allowing (and often ordering) to commit all sorts of murders and atrocities, and that the crisis in question he was referring to (The Sentry turning back into The Void) was all his fault in the first place, or the fact that his own Super-Powered Evil Side was slowly taking over and he was starting to lose his mind and covering up the fact...Yeah, none of that really mattered.

Film

  • Judge Claude Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame lives and breathes this trope. He more or less believes that he is God's favourite person in the entire world, and that he is incapable of doing anything wrong. Thus, everything he does- up to and including rape, murder and genocide- has the blessing of God, because Frollo is doing it. He is also prone to blaming others for things that are clearly his doing. His reason for killing Quasimodo's mother? She ran and he pursued. His reason for falling for Esmerelda? God has allowed the Devil to corrupt him. Naturally, multiple characters chew him out for his deluded mindset, especially Esmeralda.

Esmeralda: You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people. You speak of justice yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help!

Literature

  • Lady Lilith in Witches Abroad. She runs a police state and feeds people to stories to increase her personal power. But her understanding of her own story is that she's the fairy godmother, and Granny Weatherwax is the wicked witch, and therefore everything she does is okay.
    • This is discussed a number of other times in the Discworld series, mostly by Vimes but also by Granny Weatherwax and the wizards. Some character will suggest an action and justify it 'because we're the good guys', only to have it pointed out that being the good guys depends on not doing certain things.
    • Vetinari pretty-much nails it in The Last Hero when he concludes that Cohen the Barbarian is supposedly "heroic" when he commits theft or arson because it's Cohen the Barbarian doing it.
      • Noting later however:

  "Even barbarian heroes generally draw the line at blowing up the world...they're generally not civilised enough for that"

    • The cunning argument for why the Unseen University's Department of Post-Mortem Communications is absolutely not necromancy is that only bad wizards do necromancy. One of the determining features of whether a wizard is bad or not is...whether they do necromancy. Because they're not bad wizards, what they're doing cannot be necromancy.
      • However, Dr Hix, the head of Do PMC is allowed (even required), by university statute to be slightly evil (on the playing pranks and cheating at card level).
    • Inverted by lord Vetinari. To him, everyone is evil (or at least bad), it's just that some people are less evil than others.
    • In Night Watch Vimes acknowledges that how he justifies bending the rules is that it's him doing it - and that this isn't a good reason, because people like Carcer use the same reasoning. Vimes, at least, watches himself very carefully to make sure he doesn't truly cross the line.
  • The Children of the Light from Wheel of Time.
  • Doctor Impossible the Villain Protagonist of Soon I Will Be Invincible discusses how petty and mean the "heroes" act and suggests that the only real difference between heroes and villains is that villains are on the losing side.
  • In The Redemption of Althalus at one point a priest is burning local girls for witchcraft, since they use it to put shameful and lusty thoughts and urges in his head. He's convinced that they must be using wicked magic for this, since he's too pure to experience those things - the idea that he's just having the normal male reaction to pretty girls doesn't even occur to him. It's rather frightening when you realize how long he's been doing it without anyone stopping him. It's even more frightening when you realize that after the heroes have rescued his latest victim (because they needed her for their group) and she gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, they leave without stopping him permanently. Wait, what?
  • In The First Law, Black Dow, a Card-Carrying Villain, accuses Barbarian Hero Logen Ninefingers, the "Bloody Nine", of being this, and says it makes him even worse than him because he is capable of absolutely anything and Even Evil Has Standards, such as when he slaughters a couple of kids and his own allies in the middle of a siege after the enemy breaks through, and thinks nobody noticed. Subverted though, since in fact Logen is just a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who happens to have a Super-Powered Evil Side that is the real source of his wicked reputation and (most of) his evil deeds, including the above, and he just doesn't want anyone to know that both out of fear that his allies would turn on him because he's too dangerous, and conversely because even his allies are nearly all former enemies and he worries that, even though he is a formidabble warrior in his own right, they might turn on him because he's not as dangerous as they all thought he was.
  • Discussed in the first book of The Sword of Truth, in which the villain is described as having this mindset. (Unfortunately, in some of the later books, the author eventually starts using the same kinds of logic to justify the actions of the protagonists.)
  • The Big Bad of the Safehold series, Zahspahr Clyntahn, is the Grand Inquisitor of the Church, so in his mind anyone who opposes him must be evil. He comes up with all kinds of propaganda about his enemies to justify his atrocities, and he is noted as actually believing the lies he himself invents, which the other characters find incredibly disturbing.


Live Action TV


Video Games

  • The Templars from Dragon Age will execute anyone who is a mage but not a member of the Circle of Magi because there is a chance that they may know forbidden magic. However, they are revered as heroes since they are the militant wing of the setting's dominant religion.
    • Knight-Commander Meredith of Dragon Age II is probably the best example. She gets worse as the game progresses partially due to the influence of her red lyrium sword but believes she is always in the right because she is keeping people safe from blood mages and demons.
      • Subverted in Act III, however. Even her underlings agree that she's batshit insane, but they're all far too afraid of her to speak out. And those that do tend to get killed by Blood Mages anyway, which she was trying to eradicate, thus giving her more reason to be paranoid; and the cycle repeats itself.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Jolee Bindo argues that the Jedi believe that since they follow the Light Side of the Force, that they can do no wrong. In the sequel, Atris unknowingly falls to the Dark Side because of the extreme methods she used to lure out the Sith.
  • Team Plasma from Pokémon Black and White is against people owning Pokemon, but one of the grunts stated that it is perfectly okay if Team Plasma has Pokemon. In the end, brilliantly subveted; Team Plasma want people to release their Pokemon so that Team Plasma are the only ones with Pokemon, which in that setting would make them the most powerful people in the world.
  • The Pope from Tales of Symphonia believes that all half elves deserve to be executed or be slaves because he's The Pope, he never gives any further explanation than he's the Pope, he doesn't even care that The Chosen, a centerpoint of the religion, disagrees, because HE'S RIGHT. Essentially he bases his racism entirely on being The Pope. Hell, his DAUGHTER is a half elf and that didn't stop him from putting her in a chamber because that's just how things are!
    • His daughter IS the reason he hates half-elves. He started out on the half-elves side until his daughter was born, and after she grew up, then stopped aging he "realized" how different half-elves really were from humans, and it terrified him. Xenophobia at it's worst.
  • Bioshock: Sofia Lamb just wants to push mankind into its next evolutionary stage. It's for the Greater Good, and nothing could be more evil than trying to stop this noble goal. Ask yourself: are Rapture, human consciousness, individuality itself and Eleanor's mind really such high prices to pay for paradise?


Web Comics

  • Paladin Miko Miyazaki from Order of the Stick ends up being one of these, though at first this impression appears to have been wrought from circumstance. Time and again she is portrayed as believing Violence Really Is the Answer in regards to even minor crimes, shows hypocrisy about lawfulness in battle, and must be given multiple commands by her legitimate lord, Shojo, to even consider taking a less extreme course of action. This finally reaches its head when she kills Lord Shojo believing him to be the head of some nefarious anti-good conspiracy. Even when stripped of her paladin powers by good-aligned Gods, she still refuses to believe she's crossed the line, instead concluding that she's facing an even more elaborate conspiracy and the stripping of her powers is some sort of trial.
  • Siegfried in Dominic Deegan, Oracle for Hire starts as one of these.
  • Heavily implied in Goblins with Kore, who murders innocent and villain alike if he perceives them as a force for evil in the world. Although why no higher power has intervened and robbed him of his powers is one of the comic's biggest mysteries.


Web Original


Western Animation

  • Stan Smith from American Dad! is always confident that his way (which is often shockingly bigoted, even by his own family's standards) is the good, righteous and just way, by simple virtue of being his way. He often comes around by the end of an episode, but the show actually lampshades how the lesson never sticks. As a gung-ho CIA agent, he also feels this way about the United States itself - he doesn't believe that America can do no wrong so much as he believes that anything it does is justified by being America.
  • In one South Park two-parter, Eric Cartman, in the guise of his "superhero" Secret Identity The Coon, manipulated Cthulu (yes, that Cthulu) into working for him and used it to kill and destroy everyone and everything he didn't like (and then got mad when Cthulu was getting all the media credit), justifying it by saying that he was making the world a better place. When Kenny, as the superhero Mysterion, confronts him and angrily tells him that he's only making a better world for himself, Cartman simply and in all honesty just says "Yes, thats what heroes do", and didn't really get Kenny's point. He seriously thought Kenny and the other boys were only trying to stop him out of jealously.
  • Demona from Gargoyles wants to Kill All Humans because she blames them for enslaving and wiping out her species, specifically the eponymous clan she used to belong to, and for all the persecution she personally has suffered. All of that was entirely her fault, though it transpires that there actually are other Gargoyles in hiding around the world anyway. In truth, Demona has always hated humans, deeming them inferior and resenting how her clan was serving them (when in fact it was much more like a mutually beneficial alliance), and her poorly thought-out plan to "free" them is what got most of them killed in the first place. Her problems stem from a serious case of Moral Myopia combined with Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, and she can't (or rather, refuses to) fathom why her old clan keeps trying to defeat her.


Real Life

 Frost: So what in a sense, you're saying is that there are certain situations ... where the President can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.

Nixon: Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.

Frost: By definition.

Nixon: Exactly. Exactly.

    • That script specifically is more a self-assumed (by the president) case of To Be Lawful or Good, since illegal doesn't necessarily mean evil.
    • Signing Statements are a key mechanic that allows this. Bills passed by Congress must be signed into law by the President (or have his/her veto overridden), and it's common to add a statement describing what the President considers the law to mean and how it will be implemented. Congress often passes extremely vague laws, so clarification from the executive is useful... but recent Presidents have begun to take rather unusual views of what laws mean and how they should be implemented. Like that laws don't affect members of the Executive Branch when they don't want them to. Nowadays this happens depressingly often.
  • The Malleus Maleficarum uses such "reasoning" as a proof that the witches do actually fly on broomsticks and cast evil spells, rather then it happens in their imagination, as per some more reasonable claims. It goes like this: "If they didn't do those things in reality, there'd be no reasons for us to burn them. But we couldn't possibly be wrong on this accord, hence they do fly on broomsticks in reality. Burn the Witch!"
  • My Country, Right or Wrong sometimes leads to this: acts by 'our' country and/or its friends are condoned, even encouraged, when the exact same actions done by 'them' or their allies get roundly condemned. Let's not get too specific about examples.
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