I'd like a metaphor/allegory which depicts a situation where one is compelled to not act. As an example (of such a situation), a company CEO, surrounded by and probably partial towards protecting certain parties accused in a company scandal and obviously partial towards protecting company image, being appointed to investigate the scandal.

Although the 'fox in the henhouse' metaphor is sometimes used to refer to conflicts of interest of all kinds, the situation it depicts is one where the fox is compelled to act (eat the chickens!) rather than not act, so it doesn't fit very well with the idea in that sense, and the result is that when translated into other languages the meaning gets lost (or inverted).

  • "You can choose whatever colour you want so long as it's blue." That's the first thing that came to my mind. But I don't know if it's relevant. I also fail to understand how "fox in a henhouse" implies forced action or inaction on of any kind on the part of the fox. Further, why are you equating a conflict of interest with action or inaction? To me, the question isn't very clear. – Jason Bassford Sep 3 '18 at 17:16
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    Um, it's "as long as it's black". It's Henry Ford talking about the model T. – Phil Sweet Sep 3 '18 at 21:57
  • This isn't a conflict of interest. It is ensuring a particular interest is served. You really should change the title to indicate that. – Phil Sweet Sep 3 '18 at 22:00
  • Not quite, but still: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marking_your_own_homework – We oath to creation Feb 2 at 22:04

Although I'm having some difficulty understanding your question, the thought occurred to me that a CEO in the situation you describe is hobbled by his inability to act.

Hobbling is a rarely heard term derived from the practice of limiting the movement of an animal--a horse, for example--for training purposes or simply to prevent it from wandering off.

The equivalent in the human arena, particularly in slavery, is a device with two rings, joined together with a chain. The fetter can be fastened to ankles or wrists (or both) to limit the movements of a slave or prisoner.

Since your CEO is relatively powerless to ameliorate the fallout from the scandal in any meaningful way, he has effectively been hobbled in the situation you describe. Here is a sample sentence which includes the "hobbling" metaphor:

In the wake of the scandal, the CEO of Widgets, Inc. was effectively hobbled by public perceptions of the inappropriateness of any attempt on his part to ameliorate the crippling effects of the widespread scandal.


Perhaps you can say metaphorically that 'the CEO is a bird/man with clipped wings', in the light of the idiom "clip someone's wings".

Clip someone's wings:

To restrict one's freedom, power, or full potential. A reference to the practice of clipping a bird's wings to prevent it from flying.



How about saying he’s ‘like a parson in a whorehouse’?

Note: parson is a similar word to ‘vicar’ it is not a typo of ‘person’.

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