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They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
—Martin Niemöller

 Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. - Tacitus

(Translation: Where they create desolation, they call it peace.)

The bad guys (or the good guys) are currently in the process of executing a Final Solution or similar process. Alternatively, they are simply going about their business, and some pesky population happened to get in the way and got exterminated as a side effect. In either case, let's not be rude!

The operation may not be called "genocide" or otherwise truly be made to sound bad. There are three basic ways in which this can come into play.

  • Type A: Call it Victory, call it Justice. The people who got slaughtered were surely Always Chaotic Evil, and anyway A Million Is a Statistic. You might want to put narrative focus on how happy and relieved the people of the good races are that the evil race no longer exists to pose a threat. You might also bring more focus to how many members of the good races were killed while the evil race was defending itself and inflate the number to hide who the real victim was. Later, you can claim that it was just an icky time for everyone involved and it should be left at that.
  • Type B: Downplay it. Be polite about it, and maybe politely imply that murdering a population is not a very nice thing to do. For bonus brownie points, either use some fancy euphemism or aggressively play the "It's offensive to mention this" card.
  • Type C: Leave none to voice a protest. Obviously, nothing inappropriate is going on when no one protests. Right? So, make sure you kill or otherwise silence anyone who might protest, and all will be well. (Of course, you'd better make damn sure that you Leave No Survivors; otherwise, things will get nasty.)

Of course, these three ways can easily blend into each other. And as the page quote shows, Type A and Type B easily become Type C.

Simply letting a genocide go noticed only by Fridge Logic is not this trope, that's Inferred Holocaust. Also, a villain using his Propaganda Machine to claim Type A or B is not in itself this trope. However, people conforming and buying into the propaganda can be this trope. Would Be Rude to Say Genocide is not about a genocide or similar being claimed to be no big deal, it's about a genocide or similar being treated as no big deal. Treated by the main characters, by the story itself, or by the general population in the society in which the story takes place.

Characters who play out this trope without having their author behind them are likely to regret it later. However, the author is often in on it - slaughter tends to be more fun than ethics & angst.

As for using euphemisms as a way of doing Type B, this is likely to backfire. In Real Life, words like "Final Solution" and "Ethnic Cleansing" were originally euphemisms intended to sound softer and less frightening. Today, however, these words are perhaps stronger Nightmare Fuel than the word Genocide. In a fictional setting, this mechanism can pop up with people reacting with fear and disgust to whatever neat phrase that the Evil Empire currently use as their euphemism of choice for genocide.

The option to play insulted is an interesting one.

- How dare you accuse me, my country, or my Lord of genocide?

- But it's true!
—That's not the point. The point is that I get offended when you say such horrible things!

Compare Villain with Good Publicity, Devil in Plain Sight, Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word, No Except Yes, and From a Certain Point of View.

While the obvious way to have a genocide while averting this trope is to make the perpetrators unambigously evil without invoking Type C, there is also the option of including a Genocide Dilemma or a heavy dose of What the Hell, Hero?. It's also possible to invoke Blue and Orange Morality with Guilt-Free Extermination War.

Not to be confused with killing Geno, a character from Super Mario RPG.

Please be careful with Real Life examples; only use ones where there is now an international consensus that it was indeed a genocide. Yes, we realize that makes this a Self-Demonstrating Article. For those who are curious, the official U.N. definition of genocide can be read here. However, please do not get stuck in semantics on the definition of the word "genocide": This trope is not limited to any certain definition - note that it says "Final Solution or similar" and "genocide or otherwise", not just "Final Solution" and "genocide".

Examples of Would Be Rude to Say Genocide include:


Anime & Manga

  • After Frieza single-handedly exterminated the saiyan race in Dragonball Z, he came up with a fake story about their home planet being destroyed by meteors that even his henchmen who were there stuck with, probably to avoid Genocide Backfire from the few surviving saiyans left. It didn't work, of course. He was none too secretive about his other genocides, however, which just went to show how afraid of the saiyans he was.
  • In Code Geass Princess Euphemia is accidentally Brainwashed into wanting to kill all Japanese people, and the Brittanian military follows her orders to slaughter them. While the genocide is eventually called off, the Brittanians seem to consider the Japanese "a dangerous, belligerent race" because they dared to fight back when faced with annihilation.


Comicbooks

  • In the Lucifer volume Mansions of the Silence, Lucifer annihilates billions of souls as a side effect of saving the life of one single person. (That one person was someone he owed a favor, his billions of victims were not.) Of all the people who witness this tragedy, only Bergelmir says anything about this action being immoral, and even he is quite polite about it. Even so, everyone else simply ignores him as they would a person who's being generally rude, impolite and socially inappropriate.
    • Those present know that annoying Lucifer is really not the best course of action if your plans involve seeing another day, so they're probably staying quiet out of simple self-preservation. But in any case, elsewhere in the comic it is mentioned that it's impossible to destroy a soul - it simply unravels and then rewinds itself over millennia. And considering that the Mansions of Silence are in some ways worse than Hell, it could just as well be said that Lucifer granted their inhabitants a break from their usual torment.
  • In the Strontium Dog arc "The Final Solution", The New Church publicly claims that they're moving the mutant population in New Britain to new homes in another dimension where they can live in peace away from normal human beings. What they're really doing, however, is rounding up mutants from their ghettos and dumping them in a dimensional wasteland to be stranded and killed by an Eldritch Abomination, but they know that nobody would make much fuss if they make it sound like a peaceful relocation program.
  • From X Men:

 Magneto: I require a more...definitive solution [than having a single mutant country, Genosha].

Xavier: I think the word you were looking for was "final".

Magneto: *takes offense*

    • A particularly nice bit of calling-out, given that Magneto is, famously, a Holocaust survivor.


Fan Fiction

  • The Conversion Bureau has ponykind forcing mankind to "convert" en masse into ponies. If they don't, they're killed. That this is genocide is ignored by both the ponies and the authors, who see it as the best possible thing that can be done.
    • The fact that the authors gleefully ignore this and in fact treat it as a good thing (sometimes going so far as to vehemently defend it) is actually frightening.


Film

  • Star Wars: A New Hope uses a Type C: The Evil Empire regime removes the galactic senate just before they destroy the populated planet Alderaan. Thus, there is no Senate that can protest against this atrocity. While they don't say outright that the upcoming demonstration of the Death Star's firepower is the reason why they removed the senate, it sure is convenient timing.
  • Never Let Me Go: People "are completed" on an industrial scale. And "completed" actually equals harvested for their organs. The main characters are clones who have been created specifically for this task.
  • In X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto interrupts a mutant committee meeting over the development of a "cure" for mutation to deliver a scathing appraisal of the chair's avoidance of this issue, drawing from his own experiences with mass extermination:

 Speaker: This cure is voluntary. Nobody's talking about extermination.

Magneto: No one ever talks about it; they just do it. And you go on with your lives, ignoring the signs all around you. And then one day, when the air is still and the night is fallen, they come for you.

Speaker: [interrupts] Excuse me-

Magneto: Only then do you realize that while you're talking about organizing and committees, the extermination has already begun.

    • Magneto is exploiting this trope, however: he is using fear of genocide to widen the divide between mutants and humans and perpetuate his war against humanity, ostensibly to protect the mutants from just such an extermination.
  • Played straight to the very end of the Critters quadrilogy. Even in the last movie, where they hint at this trope being in place, when the crites have almost completely been annihilated but cannot be completely made extinct because galactic law prevents doing this, those trying to protect the last of the critters assume the role of the 'bad' guys, even though one of them, the shapeshifter 'Ug', was a returning 'good guy' from all the previous movies. In the end, the 'bad guys' are defeated and the last of the crites are destroyed and that evil bastard Ug who was trying to save them from extinction is killed as well, and there is much rejoicing. Ug had the upper hand in the situation, but the 'good guys' took him down by pointing their guns at the last of the crite eggs, and he had to make a fatal mistake trying to protect them. Isn't it nice when the 'good guys' use sleazy bad guy tactics to kill the virtuous bad guy?


Literature

  • R. A. Salvatore's novels about Drizzt feature Type C as a social institution for the dark elves of Menzoberranzan, although usually conducted on a smaller scale then genocidal: Killing a group of people is a crime, but only members of that group can make the official complaint. Thus: If you successfully kill everyone, so no one is left to protest, no crime can be said to have been committed. Ironically, this institution is also a part of how they maintain social order: If one of the royal houses falls out of favor with their evil Goddess, then other houses will use this system to gang up on them.
  • Type B is played with in The Illuminatus Trilogy. In one of the many versions of the backstory, Gruad has just destroyed Atlantis, wiping out its entire population: "But deep inside, he knows that what he has done isn't nice".
  • All the cases of Final Solution in The Bible use Type A: God is the definition of goodness, so whatever population of human beings he chose to exterminate (or have exterminated by his followers) automatically qualifies as Always Chaotic Evil.
    • Note that the Old Testament was written in the notion that Yahweh wasn't ultimate goodness, so while there is a moral justification aspect, it's pretty much Blue and Orange Morality at the very least.
    • In The Bible, the Israelites are depicted invading the Promised Land and destroying every ethnic group inhabiting it. Although it's depicted as a righteous act commanded by God, needless to say this would considered horrific today.
    • It was called Herem (no, not harem), meaning consecration through destruction. The idea was that everything in a conquered city (ie. Jericho) already belonged to Yahweh as spoils of war. This included the buildings, the livestock, the crops, the supplies, and every man, woman, and child that was captured. And since it all belonged to God, the idea was to send it all to Him the quickest possible way. Usually by smashing it to pieces and setting it on fire.
  • In the Animorphs series, the Andalites plan to "quarantine" planet Earth to keep the Yeerks from using the resources (especially the Human Resources) of Earth to conquer the galaxy. But it's not actually militarily possible to enforce this quarantine—so everyone treats this as a Type B euphemism for genocide.
  • Ender's Game used Type A. Throughout the book Child Soldiers are being trained to fight in case an alien race known as the Buggers invade like they'd done twice before, the last time being 70 years prior. It turns out in the end that the Child Soldiers were actually being trained to launch an invasion against the Buggers, resulting in the extermination of their species via Earthshattering Kaboom while tricking the children into thinking they were only playing a game. The Buggers themselves, thought to be Always Chaotic Evil by most Earthlings and portrayed as such in propaganda, were actually peaceful, having ended their hostilities against mankind generations ago. And the initial hostilities were a honest misunderstanding. They didn't mean to start a war, they were just saying "hello" by introducing their drone-soldiers to our territory and having them fight a bit. Drone-soliders killing each other is roughly analogous to a hand-shake because each individual drone has no mind of its own. They had no idea that ALL of our drone-soldiers were actually individual Queens. How insane is that, an entire race of Queens and nothing but Queens? Who could possibly have predicted such a form of intelligent life existed? They became passive when they realized this, in the sense of only now fighting a defensive war. They may no further attacks and merely tried their best to not be wiped out by the vengeful hand of Mankind, who they were trying desperately to communicate their apology to. (It nearly worked.)
  • In the children's book The Inventors, the two main characters Nate and Cat have won a scholarship with the world's greatest inventor Ebenezer Saint, who they discover is planning to destroy humanity and start rebuilding society from scratch. At one point, Saint begins rolling out a list of euphemisms for what he's about to do, before asking for suggestions for more. He accepts Nate's suggestion of "Begin the genocide", but calls him a drama queen for it.


Live-Action TV

  • If you consider allowing a race you could have effortlessly saved to die because of a non-interference policy to count as genocide, Captains Picard, Janeway, and Archer from Star Trek all committed Type A, in this case calling it principle (they justify it as not interfering with evolution).
  • Doctor Who has the Daleks, whose goal is to implement Type C on anything that isn't them. EX-TER-MIN-ATE!!!
    • It is also worth pointing out that the Doctor has tried repeatedly to use a Type A justification on this race, while only once ever indicating the slightest remorse, and that preventing him from carrying it out the only time it might have actually worked.
      • The Daleks aren't avoiding the word for PR reasons, they just don't consider any non-Dalek to be anything more than pests. Killing off pests isn't genocide, it's extermination.

  Dalek Caan: ++THIS IS NOT WAR. THIS IS PEST CONTROL++

  • While people are getting slaughtered by the thousand in Equatorial Kundu on The West Wing, C.J. Cregg is not allowed by the White House legal counsel to say the word "genocide" in front of the press.
  • In The Event, when the only possible refuge left for the aliens is Earth and its resources clearly won't suffice for both them and the humans, Sophia concludes that "we need to make room". One of her henchmen, who had until recently acted as The Mole inside U.S. government and gradually grew to sympathize with the humans, immediately calls her out on it: "You mean GENOCIDE!"
  • When the human fleet of Battlestar Galactica discover a disease that could wipe out the entire Cylon race, Helo seems to be the only one willing to publicly describe using it as genocide. Adama does admit in private that he views it as genocide, however.


Videogames

  • In Starcraft, Mengsk crosses a Moral Event Horizon by having the entire civilian population of the planet Tarsonis slaughtered by the alien Zerg so that he can crown himself emperor. In Starcraft II, he starts out as a Villain with Good Publicity who have managed to erase all traces of his crime. His loyal lackeys all shut up about it (or did he have them all assassinated?), and in the public social life of the empire it's out of line to point out that the Zerg invasion of Tarsonis was convenient for Mengsk's powergrab. To imply that the emperor was actually behind the attack is surely out of the question. Of course, there is one single exception to this dreadfully polite silence: Our hero, the main character, the "Traitor & Terrorist" Jim Raynor. Oh, and the genocide really backfires on Mengsk once the hero's forces have taken over the television network so the truth can no longer be suppressed.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had a planned-but-deleted zone called Genocide City, which was renamed to Cyber City, then replaced by the third act of Metropolis Zone after the Japanese developers bothered to look up what the word meant.
  • In the US version of Captain Commando, the Big Bad Genocide was renamed Scumocide.
  • In Halo 2, after the changing of the guard, the remaining Prophets initiate an Order 66-style genocide of the Elites, disguised as a Brute uprising.
  • Yggdra Union has lots of Type A when you get to the part where Yggdra has finally forced the Empire out of her country, then decides to invade Bronquia and destroy it. Even after Kylier tries to get her to realize that she's going to become the new 'evil invader', Yggdra tells her "This is Justice." Then the game forces you to mow through the 'Bronquian Militia', which is a basically a bunch of level 1 units trying to defend their homeland, and makes you feel very bad about it. "What is Justice?" is a question that a lot of people are asking throughout the game.
  • A gameplay mechanic in Age of Wonders. When you take over a town, you have the option to "migrate" the race currently inhabiting the town, replacing it with a race that's friendly to you. It's a very useful option - say you're a good-aligned race but just took over an undead town and want to replace it with another good-aligned race - but you're still basically committing mass deportation and resettlement...
  • World of Warcraft surprisingly goes into this, but not overtly, such that many players aren't aware of it, but if you read the quest text, you realize what's going on. In short, the Black Dragons are a genocidal breed of dragons that have been corrupted by the Old Gods, and now serve their insane master on his quest to kill everything. In the face of this universal genocidal threat, the Red Dragons, Protectors of Life, after many attempts and years of conflict, decide the only thing to do is to declare every single Black Dragon corrupted and beyond redemption, and to exterminate every last one of them. That's every Black Dragon, Drake, Whelp, and Egg. And the player helps them do this, even personally dispatching the last fertile Black Dragon female and smashing her eggs. There is obviously a moral question here, and the irony of the Protectors of Life declaring indiscriminate oblivion on an entire species, down to their unborn young, is not lost. However in a far distant and unrelated quest, there are signs that the Red Dragons have taken steps to purify a small clutch of Black Dragon eggs and to restart the flight anew.


Webcomics

  • From The Order of the Stick we get: Familicide. An Epic-level Necromantic spell that leaves nobody to come after you to get revenge if they are blood-relatives of your target. Oh, and coincidently leaves whole villeges, towns, countries and, possibly, continents depopulated as a niggling and lesser-known side-effect, if the family in question is numerous enough. Oops, Vaarsuvius. Maybe destroying a Gate's whole line of defence in a fit of rage was not such a good idea, eh?


Web Originals


Western Animation

  • Titan A.E. uses a Type A at the end, with the Drej being annihilated and recycled as fuel for a great project. And never mind the demise of the Drej, just look how useful their life energy turned out to be for the humans!
    • In defense of the humans, genocide was an act of self-defense.
    • Bitterly ironic as well, as their prophecy wound up becoming self-fulfilling due to their paranoia. If the Drej hadn't chased the humans to Titan, then it would have been just a very large derelict within an asteroid field, as there wouldn't be nearly enough power to activate it.
    • The film starts with the Drej committing genocide against humans by destroying Earth. Only a few thousand humans are left, scattered among the stars and treated as scum. All because humans figured out how to make new planets.


Real Life

  • The term "Genocide" originated in the mid 1940s, so it would be impossible for anything predating that to be called such by contemporary sources, though debates on ascribing the term to certain historical atrocities are still waged between the descendants of those involved.
  • The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide compels all nations that have signed it to act with full force to stop and prevent any acts of genocide in the world. Most modern versions of this trope are usually countries trying to cop out of this agreement since they do not have the resources to/have the desire to get involved in a long, drawn out conflict with little apparent gain to the intervening countries ("It's a civil war, not a genocide!"):
    • The genocide in Rwanda: while a huge part of the population were slaughtered for their descent, the UN and big nations insisted on calling it genocide-like acts. This was possibly a way of loopholing out of doing anything. The USA was a particular abuser of this - since the Somalian intervention in 1993 blew up in their face, they didn't want to risk another failure. It got to the point at, shortly after leaving the presidency, Bill Clinton traveled to Rwanda to apologize for the horrible mis-handling of the situation.
      • The situation is incredibly complex; the US, France, Belgium, and the United Nations itself—among others—are implicated in the whole Rwandan Genocide fiasco. Probably the best account of this is Michael Barnett's Eyewitness to a Genocide, which documents the whole clusterfuck from the perspective of someone who actually worked at the UN at the time (it isn't pretty).
    • During the genocide in Darfur, European authorities were very reluctant to call it a genocide, instead repeating the cop-out from Rwanda and calling it "Genocide-like acts". In this particular case, intervening would make them look bad, as intervention has become a very dirty word in light of recent events. Thus it was not a genocide. This didn't prevent the International Criminal Court from issuing a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir specifically indicting him for three counts of genocide (as well as five counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes). The arrest warrant has not been served, as al-Bashir has made a point of not visiting any country that might arrest him.
  • During World War II, most Germans and a lot of people in the allied nations as well refused to acknowledge that the concentration camps were really death camps—even if they knew the truth for certain, it was so much easier to pretend it wasn't happening. To this day, there are still people who cling to the fantasy that the holocaust didn't happen at all, or that it "only" happened to the Jews—thus retconning away the other victims: the gays, the intellectuals, the romani, the mentally disabled, and so on.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Roman destruction of Carthage and its entire population was widely lauded by Romans of its time as both just and necessary, with the worst aspects of Punic culture used as added justification for their annihilation.
  • The Armenian Genocide, which was a Trope Codifier for 20th century genocides to come. The country of Turkey passionately denies it was a genocide to this day, mainly to protect their reputation and dodge having to pay reparations. There are citizens in Turkey who want the government to acknowledge the genocide, though they may not be the majority since the country is very nationalistic. This gets tied into international politics because Azerbaijan, an avowed enemy of Armenia and close ally of Turkey, actually demands that Turkey refuse to acknowledge the genocide.
    • Situation is similar with what happened to the Pontic Greeks, considered a Genocide in Greece and of course not in Turkey. The Assyrians suffered a similar fate as well at around the same time.
  • In at least two cases this was Invoked because the guilty party was an Israeli ally:
    • A major controversy ensued when Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, urged the U.S. Congress not to recognize the Armenian Genocide; unsurprisingly this was not considered becoming of one of America's most respected civil rights organizations. The internal conflict proved to be too much and the ADL has since downplayed the issue, though they're still against recognition.
  • According to Azerbaijan's propaganda, Armenia is a nation of Complete Monsters at least in part because the Armenian army deliberately killed civilians during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. In particular, the Khojaly Massacre was the most infamous one, which was seen as completely uncalled for in the international community. The Armenian government continues to deny the massacres committed by the Armenian army on Azerbaijan's citizens. There were pogroms on both sides of the conflict too such as the massacre of Armenians in Baku, though Khojaly was still worse.
  • French historians still have been known to debate whether or not the "intent" to exterminate a population is the clear and absolute objective: when people are killed so their neighbours will flee the country (Darfur, Bosnia...), it's not considered to be a genocide. When civilians are starved or indiscriminately killed in order to stave of a rebellion (Ukraine's famine, War of Algeria...), it's not considered to be a genocide. When a population is destroyed as a result of uncaring colonization or outright incompetence (Native Americans, Easter Islanders...), it is not considered to be a genocide. While intent is a main component of the definition of genocide it's hard to debate that the intent wasn't there for a lot of these examples.
  • The disappearance of a significant part of the Muslims from Greece and the Balkans in general (to be fair, a lot of them left in exchange for even more Christians leaving Turkey) can be described as this, with some national movements killing or expelling many Muslims upon victory, though there are still many more Muslims in the Balkans that there are Christians in Turkey (over a hundred times more, to be exact). This is one of the reasons the Armenian genocide is a Berserk Button issue in Turkey, being seen by many as a Double Standard.
  • The systematic extermination and/or relocation of indigenous people in the United States was generally depicted by contemporary writers and newspapers as justifiable, necessary, and inevitable, with few exceptions, and they were mythologized as a Dying Race to more or less cover up the fact that it was being done on purpose. In fact, this was a common way of excusing a lot of murderous colonial regimes.
  • In Israel, it's a case of "Would be rude to say 'Holocaust'". You see, the term actually means a ritual burned offering or sacrifice to God—the implication being that the Jews murdered by the Nazis were martyrs for the Jewish faith. Because of the Unfortunate Implications, even non-Israeli Jews prefer to use the Hebrew term current in Israel, Ha-Shoah (The Catastrophe).
  • The colonisation of Australia has overtones of this, although there seems to have been a fair bit of Assimilation involved as well. Calls to have the 'Stolen Generation' labeled as Attempted Genocide were, however, rejected on the grounds that it was - when considered objectively - nothing like Genocide at all. Actually, it was a misguided attempt to stop the perceived widespread abuse of half-white Aboriginal children and bring them into White Australian society and save their souls by ensuring they were brought up Christian. Well, that was the idea. In practical terms, it gave us thousands of dysfunctional people with psych problems.[1]
  • Peru has a similar story with Alberto Fujimori's "ligation days", but it's not Peru that denies it. Like Iran and a few of Israel's other friendly neighbors with the Holocaust, this one involves countries unrelated to the actual perpetrator: The United States (mostly because of some American companies who supported Fujimori) and Japan (because Fujimori currently resides there).
  • In the early 2000s, the Japanese government approved textbooks that downplayed and denied their own war crimes during World War II. The Chinese and both North Korean and South Korean governments were not amused.
  • Colombia's civil war which the government (wisely) insists on calling "Colombia's Armed Conflict". The reasons for not declaring it openly a war have to do with advantages that the FARC guerrillas would take if such a thing is done (like having more open support from the international community).
    • To be fair, while the guerrillas certainly are very nasty, the Colombian government itself is far from white and pure. It has been involved in some horrible things that would definitely be labeled war crimes if the civil war was labeled as such.
  • There is a new book co-authored by Edward Herman called The Politics of Genocide. It details a whole bunch of these types of cases. One major example is the Indonesian dictator Suharto. Even to this day, he still has many fans in media and academics, domestic and abroad (particularly in the West), who suspiciously do not refer to his mass killings of his own people and his devastating invasion of East Timor as a genocide in the slightest. In fact, many often act as if these atrocities never happened.

Notes

  1. To be fair, psychology was kind of a new thing at the time and a popular belief was that since suffering made you tougher, the best way to prepare children for life was to make them suffer. Hence the culture of bullying encouraged at Public Schools, the administration of beatings, etc.
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