Created By: AFP on March 19, 2011 Last Edited By: MorningStar1337 on May 11, 2013
Troped

Benevolent Conspiracy

The Conspiracy works to help the greater good.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
"We are the Invisible Hand. We are the Illuminati.
"We come before and after. We are forever.
"And eventually... eventually, we will lead them into the day."
-- Morgan Everett, Deus Ex

Essentially, this is when The Conspiracy is good rather than evil, though perhaps not Lawful Good, depending on who runs the Government. Indeed, a Benevolent Conspiracy might actually be run by the the Government, in order to discreetly fight against evil, or at least to protect the interests of the people they lead. One such goal of this conspiracy might be to work against a more powerful enemy without provoking an all out fight against them, or to prevent the populace from breaking out in a counterproductive panic by revealing things too them before they are ready.

Despite their intent a Benevolent Conspiracy can still be antagonists. Well-Intentioned Extremism is a danger for any viewpoint, and there's always the possibility of a Renegade Splinter Faction developing. It's even possible they just screwed up and designated the protagonists as enemies when they were really on the same side. And regardless of whether they're really the good guys they probably don't appreciate being revealed and will take steps to prevent it (though the truly good ones will probably just steal the evidence rather than Make It Look Like an Accident).

Contrast the Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy, which is very definitely evil. If run by the government it's likely a case of No Such Agency. Like a regular conspiracy, may be headed by an Omniscient Council of Vagueness. May overlap with an Ancient Order of Protectors, particularly when a Sealed Evil in a Can is involved, though they're more often an Impartial Purpose-Driven Faction.

Examples:

Film

Literature
  • The NSA is portrayed as one in Digital Fortress.
  • The Foundation series, from Isaac Asimov:
    • The series initially presents the titular Foundation as being one of these: a hidden organization that, through it's machinations, is attempting to steer human society through the dark ages into a new prosperous age. Later on, the Second Foundation is somewhat presented like this.
    • And, of course, at the end of the series it's revealed that the robots from tens of thousands of years ago, who had seemingly disappeared from the galaxy, have been benevolently guiding humanity's path the entire time.
  • Isaac Asimov's short story "The Dead Past". The government is secretly trying to prevent anyone from developing a time viewer device (a device that can show the past). The protagonists disagree and not only develop such a device but distribute the plans widely. A government agent then explains to them the reason for the ban: such a time viewer could be used to spy on anyone, anywhere in current time. The widespread availability of such viewers means the effective end of personal privacy for the human race.
  • The Dresden Files: The White Council of wizards attempts to be this for humanity, though opinions are strongly divided as to how well it succeeds. In fact, the official party line's denial of the existence of an evil conspiracy in their midst (despite strong evidence) prompts some characters to form a Benevolent Conspiracy of their own, so they can act against the evil one without censure from their higher-ups.

Live Action Television
  • Babylon 5, the heroes and their supporters form what they call a "Conspiracy of Light" against The Shadows and their minions and pawns.
  • The watchers in Highlander. The greater good is writing a history book, but some members have their own agendas.
  • Stargate Command and its associated organizations, which fought and won three separate interstellar wars in defense of Earth without any Earthling not cleared being any the wiser. They've been known to protect the secret by simply beaming the evidence away, or by buying off a news company with the promise of an exclusive when the program goes public.
  • The Warehouse Agents in Warehouse 13 are a secretive millenia-old organization that finds and hides artifacts so they can't harm anyone and so unscrupulous people can't use them.
  • UFO: The organization known as SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization) uses land, sea and air units to intercept and destroy attacking/invading UFOs. It also acts to keep the alien attacks a secret, sometimes by erasing the memories of people who encounter aliens or UFOs.

Tabletop Games
  • The title agency in Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic. It's a secret U.S. Government agency devoted to tracking down and dealing with evil supernatural forces.
  • The S.A.V.E. (Societas Argenti Viae Eternitata, or, The Eternal Society of the Silver Way) organization in Chill. It fights against dangerous creatures from the Unknown.
  • Delta Green. The title group is an illegal organization inside the U.S. government that investigates and deals with Cthulhu Mythos related threats.
  • Firewall in Eclipse Phase is an inter-faction conspiracy dedicated to preventing the extinction of what's left of transhumanity at all costs.

Video Games
  • The Assassins in Assassin's Creed Try to stop the Templars from instilling a One World Order. On the other hand The Templars have many Type III Anti Villains and seem to think that Utopia Justifies the Means but they have some questionable methods of reaching their goals (starting WW2 for example) and they believe that Humans Are the Real Monsters.
  • Morgan Everett tries to portray the Illuminati as this in Deus Ex. To be fair, they really come across as one when compared to the more immediate and malevolent conspiracy at hand, set in motion by their spin-off organization Majestic-12. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, however, doesn't portray them quite as kindly.
    Everett: You and me, JC. We'll rule the world in secret, with an invisible hand, the way the Illuminati have always ruled.
    JC Denton: Don't you think it's time we end the tyranny -- for everyone?
    Everett: There's such a thing as a compassionate conspiracy.
  • The Keepers from the Thief series. They're more apathetic than benevolent, but they're (in theory) dedicated to preserving Balance of Power. They just decided that not interfering was the best way to do it.
  • X-COM and XCOM: Enemy Unknown have the player as the head of the military division of a secret global initiative to defend planet Earth from invading aliens. Complete with an Omniscient Council of Vagueness to report to.

Web Original
Community Feedback Replies: 54
  • March 19, 2011
    Grain
    Light Is Not Good. Call it Benevolent Conspiracy.
  • March 19, 2011
    AFP
    Heh, funny thing, I coulda sworn that Benevolent Conspiracy was already a Trope before I tried to use it.
  • March 19, 2011
    Koveras
  • March 19, 2011
    Bisected8
  • March 20, 2011
    AFP
    @Koveras: Not quite, and that is one awkwardly titled trope. This is basically a Conspiracy, whatever kind it might be, which tends to be more towards the "good" end of the spectrum.
  • March 21, 2011
    Audun
    Wouldn't this in most cases be a subtrope of La Resistance?
  • March 21, 2011
    Glucharina
    Or the Masquerade?
  • March 22, 2011
    Koveras
    @AFP: Except that a conspiracy is defined as a crime. :-/
  • March 22, 2011
    Glucharina
  • March 22, 2011
    AFP
    I'm not really sure how a conspiracy would be a subtrope of La Resistance just because it's not an evil conspiracy. Presumably it could be a conspiracy that is running the whole show, just with good intentions.

    And the thing about conspiracy being defined as a crime is one of the two definitions. The other definition defines it basically as "Acting towards a common goal". Nobody was ever convicted of conspiracy by itself, but rather conspiracy towards some illegal act, such as conspiracy to murder or conspiracy to incite rebellion. It's what you're conspiring to do that makes it a good or bad thing.
  • March 22, 2011
    Koveras
    "Acting towards a common goal" is the definition of The Organization. The Conspiracy must do so in secret, and there are only so many good things that must be kept away from general public. In fact, I can only think of one trope that would justify a benevolent secrecy, The World Is Not Ready, and that is usually covered by Ancient Tradition. Or if it is a Counter Conspiracy for a traditional evil conspiracy.
  • March 22, 2011
    Jmacq1
    The Marvel Universe had a small cabal of several of the most intelligent and influential heroes secretly gather together to try to guide the course of metahumanity and superheroes in general. It didn't end up working too well.
  • March 23, 2011
    AFP
    Eh, I guess this is covered by various other tropes. Still, was a neat idea. Also, The Organization does not appear to be a trope itself so much as an index.
  • March 23, 2011
    krssven
    I think it may still be valid as a trope or at least a subtrope of Ancient Conspiracy, if you read the definition. That trope deals mainly with evil groups, or 'greater good' groups that still do evil things. It is distinct from the others quoted above. I would say go with it.
  • March 23, 2011
    Koveras
    Well, I can see how this can be a separate trope but I just cringe at the sight of "benevolent" and "conspiracy" in the same line. Per "Villains Act Heroes React" fomula, a conspiracy cannot be benevolent unless its purpose is to combat a traditional evil conspiracy or evil masquerade while maintaining secrecy out of necessity. In that case, I would call it "Counter Conspiracy"...
  • March 23, 2011
    Glucharina
    Secretly opposing tyranny or Lawful Stupid ruler who doesn't see necessity of reforms?
  • March 23, 2011
    RodrigoVega
    • The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense from Hellboy (the movies, it's no secret on the comics)
  • March 7, 2012
    goldenerasuburb
    The values by which we judge good and evil today are by no means universal over the vast span of time and space that is history. The Underground Railroad was a conspiracy to do what the slaveholders would have seen as evil, but which we now regard as good. In a work of fiction, a conspiracy can be any organization with a goal which the audience will agree is benevolent but which the setting is not ready for. So the organization actively works to mold the setting to the point where it will be ready.

    The other scenario in which I can envision a good conspiracy is less "The World is not Ready" and more "The Extremist is Right". In this case the conspiracy's goal is something agreed to be good in-universe (not necessarily true for the [I]whole[I] setting), but it employs methods which are morally suspect at best in order to achieve this goal. The kicker is that given the circumstances this is exactly the right thing to be doing. Two examples are as follows:

    - Section 31 from Star Trek DS 9: Sought to protect the Federation at all costs, even those of which the Federation would not approve.

    - Project Firewall from Eclipse Phase. It's purpose was to protect transhumanity from the myriad risks to it's survival by any means necessary.

    The key is that the dangers are real and the conspiracy really is necessary in order to deal with them. Are either of these options sufficient to justify a good conspiracy?
  • March 7, 2012
    Bisected8
    May overlap with Mysterious Backer (a shady source of support for The Hero).
  • March 8, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • The title agency in Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic. It's a secret U.S. Government agency devoted to tracking down and dealing with evil supernatural forces.
    • The S.A.V.E. (Societas Argenti Viae Eternitata, or, The Eternal Society of the Silver Way) organization in Chill. It fights against dangerous creatures from the Unknown.
    • Delta Green. The title group is an illegal organization inside the U.S. government that investigates and deals with Cthulhu Mythos related threats.
  • March 8, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Sylvia Engdahl wrote a trilogy of young-adult SF stories set on a planet where a feudal order maintains a caste system of elites and peasants. Some youths who rebel against the system discover that it's because they're descendents of interstellar travelers stranded on a planet with no metals, and the elite are trying to preserve scientific knowledge and their irreplaceable store of heavy elements.
  • March 13, 2012
    AFP
    One I just thought of:

  • March 13, 2012
    Shnakepup
    • The Foundation series, from Isaac Asimov, initially presents the titular Foundation as being one of these: a hidden organization that, through it's machinations, is attempting to steer human society through the dark ages into a new prosperous age. Later on, the Second Foundation is somewhat presented like this.
      • And, of course, at the end of the series it's revealed that the robots from tens of thousands of years ago, who had seemingly disappeared from the galaxy, have been benevolently guiding humanity's path the entire time.
  • October 4, 2012
    m8e
    Edited this a little.
  • October 4, 2012
    ShadowHog
    • Morgan Everett tries to portray the Illuminati as this in Deus Ex. To be fair, they really come across as one when compared to the more immediate and malevolent conspiracy at hand, set in motion by their spin-off organization Majestic-12. Deus Ex Human Revolution, however, doesn't portray them quite as kindly.
    Everett: You and me, JC. We'll rule the world in secret, with an invisible hand, the way the Illuminati have always ruled.
    JC Denton: Don't you think it's time we end the tyranny -- for everyone?
    Everett: There's such a thing as a compassionate conspiracy.
  • October 4, 2012
    saintdane05

    I don't know how, though. I've only gotten half way through AC 2...
  • October 4, 2012
    tardigrade
    "The Adjustment Bureau" is basically about a team of angels making sure things turn out for the best in a conspiratorial way, that initially appears to have darker motivations. I assume this is also true of Philip K Dick's "Adjustment Team", the short story upon which the film was based.
  • October 5, 2012
    ShadowHog
    This might work as a page quote - if you do opt for it, putting The Illuminati in spoilers up there might not be necessary anymore.

    We are the Invisible Hand. We are the Illuminati. We come before and after. We are forever. And eventually... eventually, we will lead them into the day.
    --Morgan Everett, Deus Ex
  • October 7, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Tabletop Games
  • October 7, 2012
    norsicnumber2nd
    Now, it's sort of backwards in Hot Fuzz. Yes, the conspiracy are working for the 'greater good' (as they keep eerily reminding us), but it's their version of the greater good, which is having Sandford win the village of the year contest.
  • October 8, 2012
    Vamplord392
    Video Games
    • The Keepers from the Thief series. They're more apathetic than benevolent, but they're (in theory) dedicated to preserving Balance of Power. They just decided that not interfering was the best way to do it.
  • October 9, 2012
    AFP
    The Hot Fuzz example seems more like what happens when a Well Intentioned Extremist and Serious Business collide like a trainwreck.
  • October 18, 2012
    StarSword
    Live Action TV:
  • October 18, 2012
    m8e
    The laconic "The Conspiracy works to help the greater good." makes it sound like The Conspiracy is working for the same greater good as the good guys.

    Can we change it to something like "The Conspiracy works to help a greater good" or "The Conspiracy works for a greater good"?
  • October 18, 2012
    TBeholder
    One, it's disneying tropes into "viillain - hero" pair of shoes. Again. Two, we already have Hero Secret Service.
  • October 18, 2012
    zarpaulus
    @T Beholder: The default assumption with most Conspiracies seems to be that they're menacing, the trope description for The Conspiracy even states "a secretive villainous group with an evil plan", but as the page has shown there are some fictional examples that are not. And "Hero Secret Service" is when major characters are essentially bodyguards for the hero (as with the real Secret Service and the POTUS).

    @m8e: It seems that in about half the examples the "good guys" are part of the Benevolent Conspiracy.

    Live Action TV
    • The Warehouse Agents in Warehouse13 are a secretive millenia-old organization that finds and hides artifacts so they can't harm anyone and so unscrupulous people can't use them.

    Web Original
  • October 19, 2012
    StarSword
    Since it's Up For Grabs, added examples and fixed links and namespaces.
  • October 19, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Film

    The premise behind The Adjustment Bureau was that the Bureau was needed because, when their interventions in human affairs were withdrawn (after Rome reached its peak, and again in 1910), humankind descended into dark or dangerous periods (The Dark Ages, and two world wars and the near-miss of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, respectively) and needed to be "rescued" by them again. The morality of their mission and interventions is left open to the viewer, however, especially in terms of the morality of interventions in personal lives.
  • October 20, 2012
    Random888
    The first National Treasure film has its premise based on the Conspiracy Theories about Freemasonry. In this version, however, the Freemasons are good guys who set up a Linked List Clue Methodology puzzle so that Only Smart People May Pass into their Treasure Room.
  • April 26, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Anyone interested in reviving this one?
  • April 26, 2013
    ilniaj
    Shouldn't it be mentioned that just because their benevolent doesn't mean that they're not villains. The conspiracy could be run by well intentioned extremists.
  • April 27, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^I actually forgot about it completely somehow. I'll get back on top.

    ^That's kind of against the definition of the trope. Does anyone else think this should be expanded to cover Well Intentioned Extremists?
  • May 2, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^ Considering how many tropers apparently forgot the "villain" part when adding examples to the Well Intentioned Extremist page I suppose so.
  • May 3, 2013
    Arivne
    If the Benevolent Conspiracy is in charge of the government, they can be a Good Secret Police.

    Literature
    • Isaac Asimov's short story "The Dead Past". The government is secretly trying to prevent anyone from developing a time viewer device - i.e. a device that can show the past. The protagonists disagree and not only develop such a device but distribute the plans widely. A government agent then explains to them the reason for the ban: such a time viewer could be used to spy on anyone, anywhere in current time. The widespread availability of such viewers means the effective end of personal privacy for the human race.
  • May 9, 2013
    Raconteur
    Would Watchmen work as an example? I mean, there is a conspiracy afoot, even if it is orchestrated by one man, who just happens to be Well Intentioned Extremist?
  • May 9, 2013
    Raconteur
    Honestly, the only thing that stops this trope from getting that fifth hat is the examples. It'd be nice to get more.
  • May 10, 2013
    zarpaulus
    It has five hats, who added that last one?
  • May 10, 2013
    StarSword
    Dunno. I added another paragraph to the description to deal with how Good Is Not Nice.

    Also, I'm pulling a hat because this has a number of Zero Context Examples that need expansion.
  • May 10, 2013
    arbiter099
    X-COM and XCOM Enemy Unknown has the player as the head of the military division of a secret global initiative to defend planet Earth from invading aliens. Complete with an Omniscient Council Of Vagueness to report to.
  • May 10, 2013
    Karalora
    The Dresden Files: The White Council of wizards attempts to be this for humanity, though opinions are strongly divided as to how well it succeeds. In fact, the official party line's denial of the existence of an evil conspiracy in their midst (despite strong evidence) prompts some characters to form a Benevolent Conspiracy of their own, so they can act against the evil one without censure from their higher-ups.
  • May 11, 2013
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Series/UFO. The organization known as SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization) uses land, sea and air units to intercept and destroy attacking/invading UFOs. It also acts to keep the alien attacks a secret, sometimes by erasing the memories of people who encounter aliens or UFOs.
  • May 11, 2013
    DracMonster
    The Ancient Order Of Protectors could be this sometimes if they're trying to guard a Sealed Evil In A Can, though they're usually an Impartial Purpose Driven Faction.
  • May 11, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    I expanded the Assassins Creed example. BTW Can I launch this YKTTW?
  • May 11, 2013
    StarSword
    I'll give it another hour if anyone has any input and plan on launching at 8PM EST.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=li739vvrogiwyi4grj86xlqz