People Share The Biggest Jerk Moves In History
The reason we study history is so that we can learn about the mistakes of our predecessors and ensure they don’t get repeated. But that’s definitely easier said than done—sometimes it seems we just never learn our lessons. Do you see any of these historical jerk moves being repeated in modern times?
#1 No Heart
A New York City landlord, Denise Lyman, demanded more than $27,000 from the estate of a September 11 attack victim, her tenant, Danielle Kousoulis. She complained that the lifeless woman failed to give three-months notice that she was leaving, and refused to let the family into their daughter’s apartment to get a hairbrush for a DNA sample to identify her. The family later obtained the sample with the assistance of the police.
#2 The Last Median King
The last Median king Astyages invited one of his generals (Harpagos) to a banquet and secretly fed him the flesh of the general’s own son. After he was finished, Astyages asked him if he enjoyed the meal, and when Harpagos said yes, he presented him with a covered basket and told him to help himself to some more. Naturally, Harpagos was pretty miffed about the whole thing.
#3 Don’t Shoot The Messenger
Genghis Khan sent an envoy to Ala ad-Din Muhammad of the Khwarezmid Empire in hopes of establishing trade. Ala ad-Din Muhammad instead ended the entire envoy in hopes of discouraging the Khan from attacking. Enraged by this, Genghis wiped the entire empire off the face of the planet sparing no one. Don’t shoot the messenger.
#4 Burning Boats And Bridges
Cortez burning all of his ships after landing on the shores of the Yucatan. He wanted to make sure his men were entirely committed, and doing this made sure there was no other option except to defeat the Aztecs. It worked, but definitely a jerk move. He just read his Sun Tsu: “When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.”
#5 The Railway Car
The railway car used to sign the armistice after WWI was kept in a museum. Once WWII started and the Germans invaded France the railway car was found. The Germans had it moved and forced the French to surrender in the same car. As things went south and the war was coming to a close, the Germans had the railway car demolished.
#6 The Omen
In 1440, the 16-year-old William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas and his younger brother were invited to dine with the ten-year-old King James II of Scotland. Later called the Black Dinner, the occasion was organized by the Lord Chancellor, Sir William Crichton. While they ate, a black bull’s head, a symbol of death, was brought in and placed before the Earl. The two brothers were then dragged out to Castle Hill, given a mock trial and their lives were ended.
#7 From Oak To Iron
In 1801 and 1807, Denmark was a major naval power and England wanted to stop that. There was a war with France, and Denmark and France were allied (IIRC). Lord Nelson lead some charges on Copenhagen and destroyed the entire battle fleet in the harbor. Denmark surrendered and moved on. But it had to rebuild the fleet and long-sighted as they were, they realized that they had spent all the oak wood (for ships) in the kingdom except 2%, so a plan was made to replant the oak population. Thing is, oaks take a long time to mature to loggable and in the 1980s, a forest admin dutifully arrived at the Queen to report that the forests were indeed ready for logging and disposable for the Royal Navy. So 180 years of prep and then people started using iron for ships instead!
#8 Too Close For Comfort
I forget the details, but a mother set out to end her entire family. After finishing her husband and one child, the police were on to her. She attempted to end another daughter and forged a note that took the blame for all of the crimes… but the girl lived! That’s a jerk move. I live right down the street from her old house where one of her husbands lost his life. It’s so weird driving by it.
#9 Shady Caesar
Caesar, the Roman general, agreed to a three-day ceasefire and then attacked during the night, which technically did not violate the terms. The three-day ceasefire was against a large group of Germanic refugees who were fleeing war. They offered to settle land in exchange for giving taxes and supplying military support. Caesar saw it as a delay of his expedition to Britain so he wanted to destroy the group as quickly as possible. There was political pushback within the senate to his actions but it was inconsequential.
#10 The Yaqui Story
When the Mexican government rounded up thousands of Yaqui natives, made them walk over 300 km to the coast, put them on boats, and sold them as slaves for about 25 cents. Most ended up on plantations in Veracruz where they were worked to death. Slavery was already illegal in Mexico at the time. A lot of people are not aware of it, I only know it because I’m part Yaqui and I majored in Latin American history in college.
#11 The Ultimate Scam
You gotta look up the details to get the full picture, but Leopold II of Belgium (one of their kings) basically claimed ownership of Congo (the entire country) and got the claim legitimized by the rest of Europe under the guise of improving the local inhabitants’ lives. Instead of doing that, we messed their lives up, basically enslaving an entire nation, stealing all their resources and using it to make nice stuff in Belgium.
#12 The Roman Republic
Going way back in history. Roman general Pompey got wind of general Crassus (and a young Julius Caesar) smashing Spartacus and the slave rebellion in huge campaign success. Fearing for what power it may bring them over himself back in Rome, he rushed back to the capital and claimed the victory as his own. As a result, he was appointed consul, which was the highest political position in the Roman republic at that time.
#13 Got Off Easy
Probably when King Henry the Eighth didn’t want to be married to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, anymore because he thought she was ugly. So he friend-zoned her and said that she was like a sister to him after the annulment and she continued to live with the Royal Family. I’ve always thought she got off the easiest of Henry’s wives, though.
#14 Failed Plots
The religious cult of Rajneeshpuram attempted to use tactics like assassinations to achieve their political ambitions under the orders of Sheela Silverman. I call this a “jerk move” more than a heinous act because Sheela sucked. She was a failure and every one of her plots failed. I don’t think the Rajneesh ever ended up assassinating a single person.
#15 Unit 731
Unit 731 of the Japanese Army. They conducted experiments and illegal operations that would even make the Germans blush. After losing the war, they made a deal with the US government to turn over all their results in return for not being prosecuted. So many were not and ended up being pretty powerful people in Japan. I guess both are jerks.
#16 History Repeats Itself
In America, I would say the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, Japanese internment camps during WWII, and most recently, “detention centers” for immigrant children separated from their parents. The fact that our country hasn’t learned from its past mistakes is shameful. History is important to learn about so that we don’t repeat it, and here we are repeating it.
#17 A Shameful History
Everything we did to the Natives was absolutely disgusting. We shouldn’t even have so many people vehemently against “illegal” immigrants considering our country was started by people ending Native Americans and taking their land, then later (in the 1800s) oppressing and eliminating so many again. The history of this country is pretty shameful, honestly.
#18 The My Lai Massacre
The attempt to cover up the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam by the (unsurprising) Nixon administration. Not only was most of the people responsible for the massacre never charged, but the main few who did get charged had very light sentences, one being pardoned by Nixon himself. Also, the man responsible for stopping the massacre, Hugh Thompson, was charged for treason while he got death threats from Americans.
The man responsible for the massacre was given praise by the American people and was only given house arrest. Hugh Thompson’s charges were dropped, but his damaged reputation wasn’t, and he had received hate for years until he went off the grid, and suffered from PTSD from the massacre. Thankfully though, he was awarded the Army’s Soldier’s Medal decades after the massacre.
#19 The Chavez Ravine
The Chavez Ravine where Dodgers stadium now sits. This was a largely Mexican American community that was forcefully evicted from their homes with the promise they would be given first dibs on a new public housing project once it was built. Then a conservative mayor came along and stated that public housing projects were basically communism and the land was sold for the recently relocated Dodgers. The people who had been evicted were SOL despite the promise the government had made to them. A few holdouts who remained in their homes were famously dragged out of their houses when construction of the stadium began.
#20 Too Tipsy
The time Liam Gallagher showed up too tipsy to Oasis’ MTV unplugged concert to actually sing and threw a tantrum when the band decided they would try anyway to get through the show with Noel taking over the vocals. They offered the audience a diplomatic apology for Liam having lost his voice, and Liam, watching the show in the audience while sipping beer, proceeded to heckle his own bandmates between songs. And then there was the time Liam bailed on their first US live tour hours before their flight was scheduled to depart because he suddenly decided it was more important to go house shopping.
#21 Primitive IEDs
In 1562, an Italian noble sent gift boxes to members of a rival family that happened to explode and spray shrapnel everywhere when you opened them. He synchronized these IEDs to be delivered on the same hour and the same day to his victims in several cities in Italy. These “gifts” ended nine people, wounded more, and ticked off a bunch of people. He was never caught but the Duke was so mad about the whole thing he had a statue carved of this noble burning with a noose around his neck and put it front of the man’s family palazzo, where it stayed until the 19th century.
#22 The Poles
The Poles were the fourth biggest army fighting on the Allied side during the war. Polish pilots literally saved Britain, making the majority of the most efficient division during the Battle of England. After the war ended, Allies made a big parade. All nations fighting against the Germans were invited, even the most exotic ones from some colonies. The Poles weren’t invited just to not offend Stalin.
#23 Edison v. Tesla
When Edison offered Tesla $50K dollars, (the modern equivalent of $1 million) to redesign DC current. Tesla did this in two months. When he asked Edison for the money, Edison smiled and said: “Tesla, you don’t understand our American humor.” Tesla made around $18 a week, so $50K is a large amount. (Edison offered him a $10 raise after the modification of DC). Tesla naturally was ticked off and left the company. He ended up digging ditches for a living after his company failed to take off for a while.
#24 Hide The Doritos
When I was younger, I wasn’t allowed food or drinks in my room, because it usually would result in them everywhere. But I had a bag of Doritos in my room and my sister had seen me eating them. I told her, “Please don’t say anything,” and she promised not to. Two minutes later, my Grandma came in with my sister and said: “You better not be hiding anything in here.” I lied and said I didn’t, but then my sister smiled at me and crossed her arms. My grandma started yelling at me about lying to her and sneaking food into the room.
#25 Birth Of A Stereotype
During medieval times, the Jewish people basically had no rights. The only jobs they could legally have was money loaning and borrowing. This is where the stereotype that Jewish people love money started and it spread around. That being said, whenever the local lords or king were short on cash, they could legally claim all the Jewish people’s money, basically their only livelihood, and give them nothing. Despite basically having everything taken from them constantly and being poor as heck, the stereotype of them being greedy just kept spreading.
#26 A Performance Artist
There was a man named Timothy Dexter in early American history. For years, he pretended his wife was dead, but she wasn’t. When people pointed out to him that she was in fact in the room with him, he would say: “Please ignore the crabby presence.” Among the many very strange things he has done, one was to fake his own death to presumably see how much he was missed. His wife and children went along with the plan because it wasn’t the strangest thing he ever had done. So, when his “dead” wife did not mourn enough at his fake funeral, he revealed the hoax and canned her for not being sad enough about his death.
#27 Knob Hill
In 1878, when a mortician named Nicholas Yung wouldn’t sell the land he built his house on to Charles Crocker, one of the four Barons of the Union Pacific Railroad, Charles Crocker built a 40-foot tall “spite fence” around Yung’s property. This property was on California Street Hill, later to be known as Nob Hill. It overlooked San Francisco Bay
#28 The Beatles Bamboozle
Paul McCartney: “Yeah, Michael. Owning your own music is the most important thing. You should get ownership of yours as soon as you can.” Michael Jackson: “Thanks Paul, I’ll keep that in mind.” Michael Jackson then buys the entire Beatles catalog. Paul: “What the heck?!” And that’s how Michael Jackson basically bamboozled The Beatles.
#29 It’s A Trap
In 1956, the Communist Party of China launched the Hundred Flowers Campaign, encouraging its citizens to openly criticize the communist regime, using phrases of Mao Zedong like: “This is for the progression of education and science”. After a brief period, he jailed and ended all of those who challenged the government.
#30 Brexit Drama
David Cameron was worried that he would lose seats to the UK, so he held a referendum on Brexit assuming it would not pass. It did. All the leadership of the campaign quit after the vote. Now the country is splitting itself into pieces and is about to make a catastrophic mistake. Cameron, meanwhile, as soon as it passed, quit as well, whistling to himself as he walked away.
#31 The Austrian Dupe
In 1848, a series of revolutions broke out across Europe, and the country worst affected was Austria, which saw not only a populist revolution against monarchist rule but a huge nationalist revolution by Hungarians who wanted their own state. Russia, which will continue to have a battered wife relationship with Austria for the rest of that century, came to Austria’s aid, sending in a massive amount of troops to put down the rebels and to restore Austrian authority. After the revolts were done with and the soldiers returned to Russia, the Austrian foreign minister said of the entire affair: “We will astonish the world by our ingratitude.”
#32 The Indigenous Reality
There was an active program in Australia in the early 1900s to assimilate so-called “half-breeds,” force the native language out of them and strip them from their families to attend boarding schools thousands of miles away. The movie “Rabbit-Proof Fence” follows a based-on-real-life story about three girls who escaped one of these schools and followed an “underground railroad” of sorts to get back to their family.
#33 Petty Moves
There’s an old story I heard about Fidel Castro when he first took over. There was a local priest who protested him. Fidel had the man executed over a fine. Once he was martyred, he sent the man’s wife the old fine, plus a bill for the single bullet used to end him. She couldn’t pay it, so this went on for several family members until they all passed away. The church managed to scrape the funds together to pay the final bill, at which point the bodies were released for burial (for a small fine, of course).
#34 Plagiarism At Its Finest
Watson, Crick, and Wilkins straight up stole their female coworker’s data to create their Nobel winning DNA double helix model. The college was known for patronizing female scientists and Rosalind Franklin never got credit for her work because she was essentially run out by the faculty. She passed away before 1962 when the award was issued. Make no mistake, though: her work was the key to the discovery.
#35 Not Cool, Japan
Japan bombing Pearl Harbor. Not only a jerk move to the US, being all neutral and stuff but also to the Axis Powers, since they were about to literally conquer all of Europe. Then Japan ticked off the one country that could kick the living heck out of all of them. Good job guys. It was like “Germany to Japan on December 7th, 1941: You did what?”
#36 Promises, Promises
The British, French and Russians had already a secret pact of how they were gonna split the Middle East after WWI. The twist comes that, at the same time they were promising independent countries to the Arab indigenous people (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, etc.), and at the same time making promises to zionist Jewish Eastern Europeans a piece of land, they started initiating a chain of events that led directly to all the problems in that region right now, all of it!
#37 The 38-Minute War
The Anglo-Zanzibar war has a dubious record as being the shortest war in history. It started at 09:02 on 27 August 1896 and was over by 09:40, 27 August—lasting a whole 38 minutes. To add insult to total destruction, the English then demanded the Zanzibars pay for the cost of the shells used. It begs the question: why start a war if you’re only going to go at it for 38 minutes?
#38 Waiting Around
Roosevelt and Churchill promised Stalin to open a second front against the Germans in Europe in 1942. Then, they proceeded to wait over a year and a half before D-Day, messing around in North Africa, while hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers got massacred. North Africa was needed to gain allied troops and leadership experience for the invasion.
#39 The Computer Wars
One recurring example is Intel abusing their near-monopoly and using illegal and underhanded tactics, as well as bribery, to keep AMD at bay. At one point, AMD offered an OEM (computer builder like Dell, HP) 1 million free CPUs. The company declined, as making any AMD products would cause Intel to stop bribing them and go bankrupt since they were not doing well.
#40 The Founder
When Ray Kroc finally took over McDonald’s from the actual McDonald brothers, part of the deal was that the brothers got to keep their original store, but they had to change the name of it. All they wanted to do was keep and run one operation; it was Kroc who had the vision to expand it across the country. After the deal was official, Kroc opened a McDonald’s near the brothers renamed restaurant, “The Big M,” and put them out of business.
#41 Exploiting The Genie
Robin Williams asked Disney not to use the Genie to promote Aladdin. They ended up using him in 75% of the marketing for the movie. Robin Williams only came back into the role once the guy who had broken his word left to start Dreamworks, and only then if they made an educational game he would voice Genie in. That is why he was missing for the second movie.
#42 Steve’s Secret
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak worked on the original Atari together, agreeing to split the $1,400 they were getting paid. Jobs presented the prototype to Atari, and they were so pleased they upped the pay to $5,000 dollars. Jobs never told Wozniak. He just gave him his $700 and took off. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but considering how big Atari became, it’s a pretty jerk move.
#43 Elton’s Cunning
Rod Stewart was offered the part of the Pinball Wizard in The Who’s Tommy. He went to his friend Elton John and asked for his advice. Elton told him that he shouldn’t take the part and Stewart declined. Elton John got the part. On Rod Stewart’s greatest hits collection album, there’s an amazing version of Pinball Wizard with orchestra accompaniment.
#44 The Fourth Crusade
As an unholy culmination to a number of historical ‘story arcs’, what was supposed to be a pious, Christian, movement to free the Holy Land from the infidel ended up sacking the greatest city in Christendom, Constantinople, and ushering in the end of the Byzantine empire, which had served as a bulwark against first the Arabs, then the Turks, protecting a nascent, and fractured, Western Europe from Islamic conquest.
#45 Anger Issues?
Everything Vlad the Impaler did. He wanted his holdings to be free of the destitute and hungry, so he prepared a grand hall, and a feast to match. He then had the entrances barricaded and the hall burned. Turkish diplomats refused to remove their hats, so he ordered the hats to be nailed to their heads. He had a literal forest of the impaled, in which he would often eat breakfast.
#46 The Useless War
I’d say the US war in Vietnam was a pretty jerk move. They destroyed millions of lives (on both sides) and had no consequences. The effects are still being felt today (Agent Orange exposure passed through generations), and yet they do seemingly nothing (or the extreme minimum) to help those who have been affected. They also have not apologized in any way. Pretty disgusting.
#47 What A Snake
Thomas Edison screwing Nikola Tesla for $50,000 after he not only fixed but greatly improved several DC engines on a ship. Tesla idolized Edison and he flat-out betrayed him. If I could go back in time and make somebody pay, it would be Edison. Edison was a horrible inventor as well. It was by sheer stubbornness that he invented the light bulb. Not long after, Tesla invented the fluorescent light bulb that wirelessly lit up when next to a Tesla coil.
#48 The Last Welsh Prince
The Prince of Wales. The last recognized Prince of Wales that was actually Welsh was Llewellyn ap Gruffydd (also known as Llewellyn the Last). Hee died leading a rebellion against Edward I of England (Edward Longshanks). After his death, he was disposed of. Since then, the title “Prince of Wales” has been given to the oldest son of the British Monarch.
#49 Human Lab Rat
Hisashi Ouchi was exposed to the most severe form of radiation poisoning in the history of mankind and was kept alive for 83 days as a practical lab rat. He begged to be ended every chance he had when he was conscious. After they allowed him to pass away on the 83rd day, they said: “We wanted him to have a peaceful death and not to suffer.” I call that a major freaking jerk move.
#50 Taking Credit
Bob Kane took all of the credit for creating Batman and everything Batman related from Bill Finger. Bill Finger is only remembered for co-creating Green Lantern, and now there’s a documentary about him. It’s a real shame. That guy could’ve been a millionaire, but he passed away alone in a horrible apartment. He was almost forgotten. Makes me choke up every time.