Through secrecy and infiltration, the Ancient Conspiracy
has grown powerful. They control the government
, big business
, they routinely pull off complicated plans
and never make a mistake
. Still their purposes are best served by remaining hidden from public knowledge, always working from the shadows. Now, they begin their latest diabolical scheme - to display their official logo on every street corner... wait, what!?
is the tendency of fictional conspiracies to display hidden clues to their identity where they can be found by the heroes, like Product Placement
only coming from an organization that by definition should be trying to avoid
exposure. These clues are generally hidden well enough that they will not be spotted by the general public, but you have to wonder what the point is of having such clues at all. Sometimes the story will try to justify the existence of these clues, for example by saying that finding them is a test to gain membership of the group, or a way for conspirators to identify each other, but more often it just seems to be showing off.
This can be considered Truth in Television
, for a very loose definition of "Truth". If you look hard enough
you can find Illuminati symbols everywhere
, or connect anyone you don't like to the number 666
. There are those who actually believe
that real undiscovered, world-controlling conspiracies do this. They're called nuts.
May overlap with Sigil Spam
if the logo placement becomes really
Anime and Manga
- One Piece has the criminal organization Baroque Works, a conspiracy devoted to overthrowing the country Alabasta. Despite having members who've infiltrated government organizations, a lot of their members have a tattoo with their organization name on it.
- The Invisibles has a secondary character go on about occult imagery in Speed and Pulp Fiction, taking it as a symbol that there are others out there who are on their side. The others don't take it so seriously.
- On the other hand, Tom O'Bedlam, an urban shaman and Dane's magical mentor, believes cities are sentient and communicate with inhabitants through secret messages. "You ever see the word 'IXAT' reflected in a puddle late at night? That's one of their names..."
- The vampires in the Blade movies use vampiric glyphs to mark their territory. The second movie show that they've learned something from Blade cutting them up en masse, as the glyphs are much better hidden, even invisible to the naked eye.
- The Net had clickable pi links on web pages. Clicking on one pretty much meant you would get hunted down by them. Schmuck Bait at its finest. Though the point of them was that they would open up anything on the web, which meant anything in the world. The bad guys just didn't like it when someone else tried one.
- Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code both revolved around hidden messages pointing to Ancient Conspiracies. Partially justified in that some of the clues really were intended as puzzles (and the clues serves no real purpose except the members of the Conspiracy finds them interesting and amusing). Of course, Dan Brown tries to find conspiracies connected to the Holy Grail in completely unrelated things that aren't actually puzzles, but just brief asides that come off as an Author Tract.
- In Isaac Asimov's Foundation, members of Korellian SECRET Police wear tattoos that say "KSP". And then they wonder why their agent's disguise as a priest failed.
- VFD does this compulsively in A Series of Unfortunate Events.
- The Illuminatus! Trilogy uses this in multiple places as part of its unholy Mind Screw. For example Landmarking the Hidden Base by hiding the Illuminati headquarters under the UN Headquarters in Manhattan, and sending a insulting message to ex-allies in a rock song.fnord
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon features a secretive underground postal service (which may or may not exist) who are apparently more concerned with spray painting their logo on every wall than they actually are with delivering the mail!
- Parodied with The Areas of My Expertise, where "hobo signs" were really a secret signaling system for the hobo revolution.
- Appears in R.A. Salvatore's The Cleric Quintet, where all emissaries of highly secret order of Talona, that plans a conspiracy, wear Talona's insignia. Even the lowest rank orks and goblins wear it on their gloves, which makes it simple for heroes to tie in all the bad guys' attacks that seemed unrelated otherwise.
- Played with in Alexey Pekhov's Pod Znakov Mantikory (Under Mantico Sign), in its very name and plot. The mantico sign appears on the site of a king's general murder, then protagonist finds a mantico jewelry on the necks of mooks who atacked him... And then he discovers the real Mantico Order, and its members do not wear the sign at all.
- Possibly the RNA symbol from Heroes, although to date it has not been explained who is causing that to appear or why. Word of God says that, although it was planned to have this sort of significance, they never got around to plotting it, and it exists now only as a Running Gag.
- In the first season of the new Doctor Who, the words "Bad Wolf" seemed like this initially until they turned out to be sent back in time by the Time Vortex possessed Rose to guide herself.
- Torchwood are the epitome of this trope as the most conspicuous secret organization of all time. A now ex-Prime Minister in the Whoniverse's version of Great Britain knows about them, even though she's not supposed to, one of their staff orders pizza under the name "Torchwood" and the Cardiff division as a whole use an SUV with the word Torchwood written on the side, on the roof with bright neon yellow lettering and the initials TW on the front in red neon. Furthermore, at least one conspiracy theorist knows enough about Torchwood to recognize both their car and their staff on sight. As of Torchwood series 2, even a regular pensioner knows who they are. The fact that a Doctor Who episode set in the year 2012 reveals in passing that Torchwood is now a public institution due to its name being used in news broadcasts might constitute Hilarious in Hindsight as it speaks volumes of the organization's inability to keep a secret.
- However, even early on in the series they're shown as being officially recognised by the police. So it seems more likely that they're not actually trying to keep their entire existence secret, but merely exactly what it is they do.
- Pops up in many, The World of Darkness variants:
- Hunter: The Reckoning and Promethean: The Created both use sigils based roughly on "hobo signs" for subtle communication. For the Prometheans, this makes a bit more sense, as a) their condition requires them to constantly be on the move, and b) they have powers that can make the sigils glow for other Prometheans.
- Geist: The Sin-Eaters has the Twilight Network, a constructed method of communication between Sin-Eaters that relies on web pages, stray radio transmissions, street flyers, and whatever means are available.
- In Mage: The Awakening, Mage Cabals can place their symbol in locations showing that a particular neighborhood is under their protection as well as what assistance the Cabal can lend to a fellow Mage in need. The symbols are usually Invisible to Normals, so only Awakened can see them.
TV Tropes Wiki
- Not a conspiracy per se, but a surprising number of Transformers display their faction symbols in their alternate mode, which somewhat defeats the point of being robots in disguise. In the first wave of toys, most instead had "rubsigns", stickers that would reveal the symbol if warmed up by, for example, a human finger pressed on them.
- The versions from the live action movies could be looked at like this, as the emblem is hidden in a way that suits this trope, hiding them 'in plain sight' as it were. Barricade's police shields are the most obvious one. Prehaps the most hilarious one in the second movie, the cement truck has the Mack truck dog hood ornament, with its head distorted into a Decepticon emblem.
- Played with in some instances. War For Cybertron Megatron has the gears and panels on his back form the Decepticon logo. It's not immediately obvious. Optimus has his faction on his back too, though his is even less obvious. Also, Vector Prime's head is shaped like the Autobot insignia.
- Area 51 plays with this one. A hidden document explains that the conspiracy hides these symbols everywhere precisely because anyone who thinks about it for a second will realise how stupid that is and dismiss the conspiracy theorists as raving crackpots.
- Metal Gear: The Patriots use Conspiracy Placement as a type of security measure. Those under them(which includes most of the world's population by MGS4) are implanted with nanomachines that censor any mention of the Patriots' name into "La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo".
- In Anachronox the Dark Servants wore their symbol and put it on all of their ships and such. Even The Mole, Grumpos has the symbol on him, although it is obscured until the final cut scene.
- In The Conduit, finding the seals of The Trust leads the player to secret caches with One-Hit Kill weapons and arms. Justified in that the seals are Invisible to Normals and can only be seen by the player's ASE.
- The lambda signs in Half-Life 2 and the Episodes, used by the Resistance to identify where they have stashed supplies. The Orange Box version added a Bragging Rights Reward for finding them all.
- In Assassin's Creed II, entrances to Templar Lairs are marked by red crosses, but those aren't sufficiently unusual to make them completely obvious. On the other hand, the entrances to Assassin Tombs are marked by wall decorations that look like a skull within a stylized letter A.
- Cerberus in Mass Effect 2. Their bases, uniforms, equipment and the Normandy SR-2 all have their logo prominently emblazoned, despite being considered a terrorist organization by the authorities. No-one on the Citadel, the seat of Galactic government, will so much as bat an eyelid when you pull into dock in the SR-2 with Cerberus' symbol right there on the nose of the ship.
- Shandor's cult has a distinctive motif that looks like a gaping-mouthed face (think comedy/tragedy masks). This extends to the machinery on Shandor Island and the Cultist ghosts.
- All of the front companies for the SCP Foundation have initials that spell out "SCP", like "Soap from Corpses Products, Inc".
- American Dad! had symbols all over the place for the Peanut Butter Conspiracy episode.
- Phineas and Ferb: Dr. Doofenshmirtz's evil operation for some reason has its own jingle, sponsored a blimp in a racing event, has its own building with its name printed right on it in the downtown area, and several other buildings all branded with his company name or something like that, like "Doofenshmirtz Abandoned Annex Building-K", which sometimes even have their own jingles.
- Of course, the good guys are just as bad at this. Take Perry; yes, secrecy is vitally important, and he goes to great lengths to hide his agent status from his family. But then, as Phineas says "he has his own logo?!?"
- MAD puts either the word MAD or its demonic-cat-face insignia onto EVERYTHING. It's irritating in that Penny's the only one who notices.
- The "Jesus fish" symbol commonly found on cars was originally used by early Christian congregations (we're talking thousands of years ago here.) The Greek word for "fish", "ikthus", happens to form an acronym that translates to "Jesus Christ, God's son, savior." Christianity was persecuted back then, so the churches placed the fish symbol on buildings around town: members of the congregation knew to follow these to the current secret meeting place, while those not in the loop just thought someone was doing fish graffiti.
- And for identifying each other, dragging a foot through the dust in a curve, then having the other person continue it into a fish.
- Also in Real Life, organised crime and hate groups have a tradition of "secret handshakes" and codewords, including the Ku Klux Klan tendency to turn K's and C's in words into KL's. A lot of these practices (such as the Kiss of Death and the Yakuza's method of chopping off fingers to punish failures) have been dropped because they realized what a bad idea it was to advertise their membership.
- But the Crips and the Bloods avoid their respective enemies' names' first two letters when talking, among other more obvious identifiers.
- According to Urban Legend (aside from the illuminati symbols), gangs use different methods to mark turf an membership from sneakers thrown on telephone wires to air-fresheners in cars. Of course, seeing what the police can make of gang colours, more covert methods are advised.
- There was a conspiracy theory that claimed an fake Alien Invasion would happen during the 2012 London Olympics, panicking everyone into a state of emergency and giving up our freedoms so that the New World Order could Take Over the World. The evidence? The logo can be rearranged to spell "ZION", and the mascot-things look like aliens.