Times In History When The Heroes Lost And The Villains Won

List Rules
Vote up the stories where you agree the wrong side won.

Imposing moral categories on history is a risky business. Terms like "heroes" and "villains" are highly subjective, and any reading of history is apt to be distorted by our innate desire to associate ourselves with the "good guys." Still, it is possible, at least provisionally, to apply moral standards to the past and to conclude that some actors were more on the "good" side and some were more on the "bad" side.

While we'd like to think the good side always wins, even a cursory glance at history textbooks gives the lie to that hopeful fantasy. Here are some suggestions for moments in the past when the bad guys won the day. Vote up the perspectives you agree with!


  • 1
    374 VOTES

    A Small Farmer Went Up Against Monsanto... And Lost

    From Redditor u/Antmon666:

    A heap of farms in Western Australia changed their seed to Monsanto seeds. One farmer didn't, he wanted to stay with his organic seed.

    One of the other farms seed blew into his farm and mixed with his crop (70% I think), so now he can't sell the product as organic but also can't sell it at all because it's the property of Monsanto. So he has to dump it.

    He sues the other farmer for loss and Monsanto pays for the defence and it's a lot more than he is asking for, just to make him loose.

    So YAY, the big bully wins.

    Context: In 2014, Australian farmer Steve Marsh lost a lawsuit against his neighbor Michael Baxter, in which he claimed wind blew Baxter's GMO seeds onto Marsh's farmland, contaminating his crop. (Under Australia's strict organic certification rules, Marsh was no longer able to claim his produce was organic.)

    Marsh sued for $85,000 AUD, but was ordered to pay $804,000 AUD in court costs. Monsanto admitted to helping Baxter with legal fees.

    374 votes
  • Batman's Co-Creator Was Sidelined For 75 Years
    Photo: Bob Kane / DC Comics
    269 VOTES

    Batman's Co-Creator Was Sidelined For 75 Years

    From Redditor u/arcaneformula:

    Bob Kane, the supposed creator of Batman, actually ripped it off of an idea from a man called Bill Finger. Bill was the one who shared his idea with Bob, had roughly sketched Batman, and discussed his abilities as a superhero with him. Bob took it to Detective Comics, and cut out Bill from this process.

    Bob Kane then went on to become super successful, meanwhile Bill Finger spent his life deprived of this credit and somewhat impoverished. He is lain in an unmarked grave somewhere no one knows of (speculated).

    The only solace I find through this story is that lately, since a couple years, DC and WB has finally started crediting the creation of batman to Bill Finger (along with Bob Kane).

    (Watch the documentary “Batman and Bill”)

    Context: Although Bob Kane was traditionally credited as the creator of Batman, and reaped financial rewards accordingly, his colleague Bill Finger made key contributions - not only to the superhero's look, but to his origins and the comic's cast of supporting characters. Finger was paid for his work, but unlike Kane, did not receive creator credit or royalties.

    The value of the Batman franchise has been estimated at over $26 billion.

    269 votes
  • Leopold II Brutalized The Congo And Never Faced Justice
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/DubiousPeoplePleaser:

    King Leopold getting away with brutalizing Congo.

    Context: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, King Leopold II of Belgium ruled the "Congo Free State" as a personal possession. His administration extracted immense wealth in rubber and other commodities from the region, while violently suppressing the local population and committing atrocities to keep productivity high.

    Although this regime was ultimately denounced by other colonial powers, and Leopold relinquished the colony in 1908, he remained in power until his 1909 passing. Controversially, there are still many statues of him in Belgium.

    328 votes
  • Spartacus Fought For Freedom And Lost
    Photo: Hermann Vogel / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/MansfromDaVinci:

    Spartacus was just one of many escaped slaves who fought to keep their freedom and free other slaves and lost. He was a Thracian, enslaved and trained as a gladiator, he and about 70 slaves organised themselves, armed themselves with tools and kitchen knives and broke out of the gladiator academy, killed the soldiers guarding them, took what weapons they could and escaped into Capuan countryside. They were besieged on Mount Vesuvius but they climbed down the side of the mountain using ropes made of vines and surprise attacked the Roman militia camp in the rear.

    After that they built up numbers, trained themselves and defeated everything Rome sent against them, consular legions and praetorians until eventually Crassus came against them with 8 legions. Spartacus tried to escape to Sicily with some of his men and raise the island but the Cilician pirates they hired to ferry them across betrayed them.

    Context: The Third Servile War took place in the Late Republic period, from 73-71 BCE. A band of escaped slaves, led by the Thracian Spartacus, swelled to a formidable army and won a series of engagements against Roman forces, even threatening Rome itself.

    When they were finally defeated by Crassus's legions, thousands of the captured insurgents were crucified. The story was dramatized in the 1960 Hollywood epic Spartacus.

    284 votes
  • Andrew Jackson Wrote A Dark Chapter In American-Cherokee Relations
    Photo: Thomas Sully / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/HotSpicedChai:

    Andrew Jackson signing the Indian Removal Act.

    Context: In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized forcible relocation of Native Americans from regions inside US States to areas further west. This enabled the so-called Trail of Tears in 1838-39, when thousands of Cherokees and other tribes were forced to migrate, causing some 4,000 deaths.

    342 votes
  • The Chinese Communists Under Mao Zedong Defeated Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    295 VOTES

    The Chinese Communists Under Mao Zedong Defeated Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists

    From Redditor u/ShadowCobra479:

    Chinese Civil War, Nationalist China fought and bled against the Japanese for 8 long years while the Communists fought only a small portion of the Japanese military. After WW2 the PLA defeated the Nationalist forces who had defeated them in the 30s and took power.

    Context: The Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang), led by General Chiang Kai-Shek, had been embroiled in civil war with the Chinese Communist Party since 1927. While the hostilities were more or less suspended in 1937 so that both sides could fight the invading Japanese, the conflict resumed after the latter's defeat in 1945.

    The ultimate success of the Communists led to the establishment of modern China, a regime that has often been critiqued as authoritarian and has enacted atrocities both past (the famine resulting from the Great Leap Forward; the Cultural Revolution) and present (ongoing crimes against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang).

    295 votes