Created By: KoverasFebruary 23, 2013 Last Edited By: KoverasJune 24, 2013
Troped

Sabotage to Discredit

Sabotaging an invention or any new technology to turn the public against it.

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A plot revolving around an attempt to sway the public (or just The Government's) opinion against a new technology or invention by sabotaging it, preferably during its initial presentation to show that New Technology Is Evil. Often an invoked example of Disastrous Demonstration.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • NERV does this to the rival JetAlone project prototype in Neon Genesis Evangelion to prevent an outside organization from ruining their Angel-fighting plans and, ultimately, Gendo's plan to direct Instrumentality.

Film
  • In the sequel to the 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor, the villain steals some of the protagonist's formula and adds plant food to it (which, for some reason, causes the hamsters in the demonstration to grow to giant size and attack the audience) so he can sell it instead.
  • In the Luisa Rey segment of Cloud Atlas mysterious deaths connected with a new nuclear plant end up leading to the reveal of a scheme by oil companies to deliberately cause a meltdown at the plant in order to discredit nuclear power (insert Strawman Political reference as needed).
  • Invoked in the film version of Sgt Bilko, when two of Bilko's men bluff the Major into thinking the hover tank works. The major takes out the "fire control and super elevator board", to try to sabotage the tank, the demonstration, and his rival. However, Bilko has already rigged the demonstration, so when the major protests that the demonstration was a sham, and tries to prove it, all he manages to prove is that he himself sabotaged the tank.

Literature
  • In The Flying Elephant by Boris Akunin, von Theofels sabotages the heavy bomber "Ilya Muromets" while it is being shown to the Tsar, thus successfully preventing its use by Russia in World War I.
  • Done for nobler purposes in Racso and the Rats of NIMH, the sequel to Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The construction of a dam threatens the lives (or at least the displacement) of the rats of Thorn Valley and is also cited as threatening Mrs. Frisby and the farm she lives near. The rats concoct an elaborate scheme to sabotage the dam to get both public support against the dam and convince the builders that a new one is too costly.
  • In the Wiz Biz series, Wiz provides a spell that repels magical creatures for the common people to protect themselves. However, an unknown person alters it into a spell called demon_debug that kills magical creatures, which the people, tired of living in fear, happily turn on anything that moves, including friendly and innocent creatures. In order to stop it, Wiz and the other programmers send out a swarm of demons that turn into harmless but extremely obnoxious creatures upon exposure to the demon_debug. They blame the problem on the poor quality of demon_debug, and convince everyone to stick to official spells from then on.
  • In The Robots Of Dawn, a humaniform robot is disabled in a manner which could only be done by its creator, Dr. Fastolfe. The latter's political opponents claim he did it, among other things, to discredit such robots (not helped by the fact that Fastolfe insists it was a random glitch), because he disapproved of the proposed uses for them.
  • In Echoes of Honor, part of the Honor Harrington series, an Admiral attempts to sabotage the introduction of a new LAC Carrier warship design by unfairly setting the simulation parameters to stack the deck against the officers trialing the new weapons systems.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of The Dukes Of Hazzard the government is looking for alternative fuels. Boss Hogg remembers that Jessie's moonshine can run an engine, so he convinces Jessie to make a batch for the contest, then swipes it when the Duke boys try to drive it to the testing area. But it doesn't work! Then the Dukes show up and mention in passing that Hogg's demo engine is filled with water [they had switched the bottles], so they use another, where it works just fine.
  • In Smallville Aquaman is introduced as an ecoterrorist trying stop a sonic weapon being developed by LuthorCorp from entering production. In the end he and Clark sabotage it so it blows up during a demonstration, and the contract is summarily canceled.
  • On Lois And Clark, Lex Luthor sabotages the pipes running under Metropolis to make the city swelter in the middle of winter, to make it appear that Superman's activities are heating up the city. When Superman leaves town Lex turns down the heat.

Tabletop Games
  • Just one of the many things Mr. Johnson will ask you to do in Shadowrun.

Video Game
  • The final missions of Deus Ex Human Revolution revolve around Hugh Darrow's attempt to sabotage human augmentations worldwide and show how dangerous they can be. Depending on your decision, this message can be delivered as intended, or twisted towards the opposite.

Western Animation
  • The villains in Cars 2 sabotage a race to promote Alinol, a non-petroleum fuel, by firing a ray that causes Alinol to explode, thus discrediting all alternative fuel. It turns out Alinol was just modified gasoline and that its alleged inventor and promoter of the race was the Big Bad all along.
  • In The Batman, the Riddler's Start Of Darkness involves him developing a revolutionary device that can enhance human brainpower, which goes disastrously wrong when he tries to display it to the public. The Riddler suspects sabotage by a businessman who constantly hounded him to sell the rights to his inventions, but he eventually deduces that the real culprit is the scientist who helped him develop the device, trying to keep the profits of the invention for herself.

Will go under Tropes On Science And Unscience.
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • February 23, 2013
    TonyG
    The villains in Western Animation/Cars2 sabotage a race to promote Alinol, a non-petroleum fuel, by firing a ray that causes Alinol to explode, thus discrediting all alternative fuel. It turns out Alinol was just modified gasoline and that its alleged inventor and promoter of the race was the Big Bad all along.
  • February 23, 2013
    Oof
    "Sabotage" seems too strong a word; it makes me think of especially physical tampering. Perhaps it should change to "Discredit The Invention"?

    Real Life:

    • Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison: averted, but for a long time Edison attempted to discredit Tesla's alternating current and to push his own direct current instead.[1]

    (The thought of Edison always make me angry. What an insufferable Jerk Ass.)
  • February 23, 2013
    Bisected8
    • In the sequel to the 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor, the villain steals some of the protagonist's formula and adds plant food to it (which, for some reason, causes the hamsters in the demonstration to grow to giant size and attack the audience) so he can sell it instead.
  • February 23, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ Nah, "discredit" also includes proper scientific discrediting, with experiments and logic. This is specifically about people pushing things too far, into the illegal/unethical zone. I do think that Edison's public electrocutions could count, but they are not "discrediting" as much as a smear campaign.
  • February 23, 2013
    Oof
    ^ Point. "Discredit" risks a too-literal interpretation. If the sabotage has to be illegal, then my RL example seems not to fit.
  • February 23, 2013
    Bisected8
    Whoops, that should have been "hamsters" in my example, not "hampers".
  • February 23, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ At the very least, Edison's actions were unethical.

    ^ Fixed.
  • February 23, 2013
    Astaroth
    • In The Batman, The Riddler's Start Of Darkness involves him developing a revolutionary device that can enhance human brainpower, which goes disastrously wrong when he tries to display it to the public. The Riddler suspects sabotage by a businessman who constantly hounded him to sell the rights to his inventions, but he eventually deduces that the real culprit is the scientist who helped him develop the device, trying to keep the profits of the invention for herself.
  • February 23, 2013
    MaxWest
    Done for nobler purposes in "Racso and the Rats of NIMH", the sequel to Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The construction of a dam threatens the lives (or at least the displacement) of the rats of Thorn Valley and is also cited as threatening Mrs. Frisby and the farm she lives near. The rats concoct an elaborate scheme to sabotage the dam to get both public support against the dam and convince the builders that a new one is too costly.
  • February 23, 2013
    Specialist290
    Anime and Manga
    • NERV does this to the rival JetAlone project prototype in Neon Genesis Evangelion to prevent an outside organization from ruining their Angel-fighting plans and, ultimately, Gendo's plan to direct Instrumentality.
  • February 23, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of The Dukes Of Hazzard the government is looking for alternative fuels. Boss Hogg remembers that Jessie's moonshine can run an engine, so he convinces Jessie to make a batch for the contest, then swipes it when the Duke boys try to drive it to the testing area. But it doesn't work! Then the Dukes show up and mention in passing that Hogg's demo engine is filled with water [they had switched the bottles], so they use another, where it works just fine.
  • April 25, 2013
    Topazan
    • In the Wiz Biz series, Wiz provides a spell that repels magical creatures for the common people to protect themselves. However, an unknown person alters it into a spell called demon_debug that kills magical creatures, which the people, tired of living in fear, happily turn on anything that moves, including friendly and innocent creatures. In order to stop it, Wiz and the other programmers send out a swarm of demons that turn into harmless but extremely obnoxious creatures upon exposure to the demon_debug. They blame the problem on the poor quality of demon_debug, and convince everyone to stick to official spells from then on.
  • April 25, 2013
    StarSword
    TV:
    • In Smallville Aquaman is introduced as an ecoterrorist trying stop a sonic weapon being developed by LuthorCorp from entering production. In the end he and Clark sabotage it so it blows up during a demonstration, and the contract is summarily cancelled.
  • April 25, 2013
    CaveCat
  • April 25, 2013
    SharleeD
    Often an invoked example of a Disastrous Demonstration.
  • April 25, 2013
    Hodor
    • In the Luisa Rey segment of Cloud Atlas mysterious deaths connected with a new nuclear plant end up leading to the reveal of a scheme by oil companies to deliberately cause a meltdown at the plant in order to discredit nuclear power (insert Strawman Political blue link as needed).
  • April 25, 2013
    randomsurfer
    On Lois And Clark Lex Luthor sabotages the pipes running under Metropolis to make the city swelter in the middle of winter, to make it appear that Superman's activites are heating up the city. When Superman leaves town Lex turns down the heat.
  • April 26, 2013
    Koveras
    @CaveCat: I don't see how that example is a technological sabotage, sorry...
  • April 26, 2013
    partner555
    Is Rigged Invention Display adequate as the trope name?
  • April 26, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ That would limit the examples to inventions only, excluding other new technologies.
  • April 26, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    Just one of the many things Mr. Johnson will ask you to do in Shadowrun.
  • June 14, 2013
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • June 14, 2013
    Omeganian
    • In The Robots Of Dawn, a humaniform robot is disabled in a manner which could only be done by its creator, Dr. Fastolfe. The latter's political opponents claim he did it, among other things, to discredit such robots (not helped by the fact that Fastolfe insists it was a random glitch), because he disapproved of the proposed uses of such robots.
  • June 14, 2013
    Alvin
    Film: The Absent Minded Professor has the flubber engine replaced with a hamster-on-a-wheel driven engine. Live-Action TV: Happened at least twice, I think, (once with a tank, once with an airplane engine) when an inventor demonstrated an invention at Stalag 13 on Hogans Heroes.
  • June 19, 2013
    Jonti
    Literature : In Echoes of Honor, part of the Honor Harrington series, an Admiral attempts to sabotage the introduction of a new LAC Carrier warship design by unfairly setting the simulation parameters to stack the deck against the officers trialing the new weapons systems.
  • June 19, 2013
    robbulldog
    Invoked in the film version of Sgt Bilko, when two of Bilko's men bluff the Major into thinking the hover tank works. The major takes out the "fire control and super elevator board", to try to sabotage the tank, the demonstration, and his rival. However, Bilko has already rigged the demonstration, so when the major protests that the demonstration was a sham, and tries to prove it, all he manages to prove is that he himself sabotaged the tank.
  • June 21, 2013
    Koveras
    Bumping for last hat.
  • June 24, 2013
    Jonti
    Seems like this one has everything but the last hat?
  • June 24, 2013
    Koveras
    Exactly.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable