Two Way Tapping
Surveillance bugs are revealed when the eavesdroppers start answering.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-12-30 00:41:13 sponsor: Chabal2 (last reply: 2014-01-16 20:13:49)

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A comedy trope where the presence of eavesdroppers is revealed because the bugs work both ways. Compare The Television Talks Back.

Examples

Literature
  • Dave Barry
    • "Crack U.S. counterintelligence agents in Moscow begin to suspect that the U.S. Embassy, constructed by Soviet labor might be bugged, when one of them sneezes in the ambassador's office and six chairs say "Gesundheit" ".
    • Several other gags include a politician telling people they are not bugging private homes... and then reminding a citizen his wife wants him to pick up groceries on the way home.
  • 1984: When Winston and Julia have a quiet conversation after one of their illicit encounters in Charrington's flat, Winston muses about a Prole woman they're observing outside, "Hers is the future, we are the dead", and Julia echoes "we are the dead". A voice from the direction of a painting on the wall immediately responds "you are the dead", revealing that there was a telescreen hidden underneath and that they'd been caught in their forbidden activities and discourse. Moments later the Thought Police arrive in helicopters and arrest them.

Live-Action TV
  • An episode of Monk had the title character on hold with customer service while having a conversation with his assistant. During this conversation, the "This call is monitored for quality assurance" rep interjected herself into Monk's and Natalie's conversation.
  • In the Comic Relief Doctor Who parody with Rowan Atkinson, the Doctor overhears the Master's Evil Gloating while the Master is spying on him because of this.
  • One episode of Chuck had him accidentally reveal the bug he'd planted when he got tired of a love interest's friend bashing him and snarkily said that he makes twelve dollars an hour, okay?

Newspaper Comics
  • In early strips of The Boondocks, Huey's politically-charged phone conversations would often be interrupted by wiretapping agents asking him to repeat what he just said, as there was too much to write down in one go.
  • In the wake of the NSA eavesdropping scandal, many political cartoons have portrayed the NSA (sometimes the President himself) as listening in on private phone conversations having nothing to do with national security and chiming in.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons
    • Chief Quimby puts a wire tap on Bart. He then blows the cover when he hears Fat Tony through the wire and goes "Fat Tony, is that you?"
    • Ned Flanders & Co. volunteer to watch the surveillance cameras posted everywhere. They're supposed to be looking for crime but they end up nannying everyone, making sure nothing "naughty" happens. If they see something there's a speaker they talk through to tell the perps to cut it out.
    • During the episode where Homer buys (and is absurdly reckless with) a revolver, Marge leaves the house with the children because she's fed up and goes to a pretty lousy hotel, with things like corpses on the pool, lousy beds, and an an incredibly obvious ceiling-mounted camera that tells Marge to ignore it and go to sleep when she points it out.
    • When Homer & Ned go to Las Vegas Ned isn't sure if it's the right thing to do, so he prays. A surveillance bubble in the ceiling responds.
    Ned: Aw, leave me out of this, Homer. Games of chance are strictly forbidden by Deuteronomy 7.
    Homer: Seven, eh?
    [Homer places his chips on seven; the ball lands in the seven slot]
    Homer: Way to go, Flanders! The Bible's finally pulling its weight. Got any more holy numbers?
    Ned: Oh, I got a bunch, Homer, but I just don't feel right. Oh, Lord, what should I do?
    [Ned looks up at the ceiling, staring at a black bubble camera which quietly says "Keep gaming"]
    Ned: What?
    Security Man: [speaking through bubble] It means gambling. Keep gambling.
    Ned: Oh. Righty-O!

Real Life
  • Two BBC correspondents allowed to visit North Korea were fed up with the inevitable round of heavily chaperoned official visits to model factories, Potemkin villages, and only being allowed to see what their minders permitted them to see and only being able to talk to Party members who had state security officers monitoring them to ensure they only heard the desired Party line. Alone in their hotel room late at night, the older and wilier reported shushed his younger colleague and silently pointed out a very obvious microphone, badly concealed in the ceiling light fitting. The older reporter then loudly said "I bet if they don't want us to sit up late at night discussing what we saw today, they can switch off the lights and force us to go to bed." Five minutes later, the power supply to the hotel was cut and the room was plunged into darkness...

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