Alternatives for guillotines

As useful as it has been as a sort of shorthand, I do think it’s time to look for other things we can use, if only to keep things interesting. So here’s my (admittedly weak) contributions to get the ball rolling.


Gotta love Daniel Dancer for being such a weird little miser. Well, maybe not love, because a guy like this would not be a nice person to be around, but he did provide a template for misers:

Or this image from Hieronymus Bosch, of an unnamed miser:

Violence against strikers

I am sure we can also find more images where the rich fat cats and their Pinkerton goons committed atrocities. Google reveals such interesting tidbits as the Ludlow Massacre, for example. Here the result of a few minutes of rummaging:

And so on. Any other ideas?

Continuing the discussion from UPDATE: New York State goes after the Sackler family's opioid fortune, claims they funneled their Oxy millions through offshore laundries:


Yep, I didn’t have time to find a better image of Pinkertons or others shooting down unarmed strikers. The disadvantage of doing this as a form of procrastination. But I did think it would be an interesting tack, to present “them” as getting ready to open fire on protestors. Just brainstorming.


Actually, my thought was that we don’t need antiquated pictures of misers and violence beneficial to the affluent. We’ve got plenty of modern examples.



In one sense, that is true. But what I saw with @doctorow’s guillotine was a reminder that history repeats itself. His was a shorthand for how imbalance led to the French Revolution, and I was thinking of whether there was something from the 19th century, from the times of robber barons that would apply.


Perhaps an image of redress would be more useful then. Rather than the moneyed classes acting shitty.


Which is why I created this thread. So that we could play, post ideas. I know mine are not up to the task, and I am hoping we can collect new ideas here. :face_with_monocle:

I stumbled across this image of the Lawrence Textile strike. For some reason, this makes me think of Kent State as well.


Never let it be said that I’m not here to help:



I’m still going with gibbets.


The difficulty is that the message of guillotine imagery is “your wealth will not protect you from consequences”. Unless the substitute conveys that message, it is not doing the job.


Yeah, it was never going to be easy. And the guillotine is useful because it is an instrument of the state, not so much a threat of violence but a threat of condemnation. And no matter what we choose, the lawyers will whine and pretend it calls for violence.

But we are creative mutants! We can at least try!

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Right. Misers selfishly hoard their own money, but they are not necessarily out to steal everyone else’s. Images of the strong abusing the weak just sends the message that the weak are losers and it’s better to be strong. For the strong, and for those who want to be, that’s just encouragement.


Thanks for making this topic. If you can put an end to all the hand-wringing and pearl-clutching concern here over @doctorow’s use of the guillotine image you’d do us all a great service. This can also be a good reference topic to avoid the derails caused when these delicate souls drop to their fainting couches.

To start, though, we need to be clear on:

  1. the concept that he and others here are trying to represent with the image

  2. what his and others opinion of the concept is

  3. whether and why the icon is an effective respresentation of the concept and one’s opinion about it.

I’ll let Cory and others speak for themselves. Copying and pasting from one of the endless discussions, here’s my own summary:

  1. Concept: image is iconic shorthand for “historically, barbaric political/ideological violence is what happens when unchecked inequality gets so extreme that poor people start dying and are otherwise subjected to unbearable misery because of actions or inactions of the ultra-wealthy.”

  2. Opinion of Concept: for a generally pacifist liberal like myself who enjoys a peaceful lifestyle and who wants to go about his life without various mobs of People’s Heroes™ engaging in revenge killings of others, something to be avoided and warned against.

  3. Effective Representation of concept and opinion thereof: the guillotine is a single-purpose device historically associated with the concept described above. The image is recognisable as such to most people with a passing knowledge of history. At the same time, the device is archaic, over-engineered, and cartoonish. It is darkly humorous and ridiculous to the point that it is not something any reasonable person would think that the rare reader here whose answer to question 2 would be “I want it to happen!” would choose it over other well-known methods used with political violence (e.g. firing squads, nooses, spherical anarchist bombs with fuses, helicopters)

My conclusion is that the guillotine is a strong image in all three regards.

Now, as to alternative images presented so far:

A. The Miser: conveys negative aspects of extreme inequality springing from greed (e.g. the hoarding we see going on) and the wages of sin visited on the miser himself and others (e.g. Scrooge suffers and so does Bob Crachit), but fails to convey the idea of political violence in reaction to behaviour. Also, the iconography is a bit vague and the typical caricature might be construed as anti-Semitic.

B. Violence Against Strikers: here the concept is somewhat reversed, since it is the forces of wealth reacting against the poor and miserable under conditions of inequality. It does represent a specific situation most of us would prefer to avoid, but for those who’d like it to happen the idea of the guard labour of brave tycoons opening fire on ungrateful moochers is one that’s all too possible.

C. The Lamppost (suggested elsewhere): this was a method of political violence that was contemporary to the use of the guillotine. However, the lamppost in and of itself does not really represent the concept in the way the guillotine does. Also, it’s been used much more recently as an instrument of political violence, most notably by the Nazis at the end of WWII, which makes liberals and progressives using it as an image open to accusations that we’re just as bad.

In your listing, you also use the image of the fatcat capitalist. Cory regularly uses an even better one (and various alterations of it):

This is one of Thomas Nast’s cartoons about Boss Tweed, repurposed to represent later Gilded-Age greedpig capitalists. It’s effective, can’t be misinterpreted, it conveys a negative image of inequality. However, it doesn’t bring across the admonitory fact that extreme inequality results in political violence that hurts us all. Which is probably why Cory uses the guillotine image just as much as this one – especially when death or physical injury or incarceration are part of the story.


Ye old classic torches and pitchforks angry mob

Storming of the Bastile (said image remembered personally from PC game Civilization2)

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The Storming of the Bastille is a very good alternative. It’s satisfies condition 1 and 2 above for me, and also a lot of condition 3 (though it’s still not as iconic and recognisable as the guillotine). The violence here is against the mechanisms of oppressive greed (the prison) rather than directly against the greedy (the guillotine), which is also an historical outcome of extreme inequality. This would go especially well with stories on private prisons and the carceral state in general.

Still, that and other torches-and-pitchfork-mob imagery will still upset the hand-wringers, because they portray political violence as a positive thing.


This is precisely why I started this. Not because I have good ideas — I don’t! I posted ideas I myself was unsatisfied with, so that it would be easier to make improvements. No, I started this thread because it keeps popping up and derailing, so why not make a thread where we can discuss this?



Or coming together to destroy the semi-sympathetic monster.


“Won’t anyone think of the monster? He threw that little girl into the pond with the best of intentions!”

[that scene was often cut in local screenings as being too disturbing for audiences]