You have The Mole
on your team. Perhaps you even know who he is, feeding information to the Big Bad
, or (if Divided We Fall
) to The Rival
. How convenient! You can now spread whatever (dis)information you want spread
! You may even manage to trigger an Enemy Civil War
This trope is when a group that has been infiltrated by The Mole
ends up exploiting that Mole by deliberately spreading information, or more usually disinformation. There are at least two reasons why they'd do this:
- Someone in the group thinks there's a Mole but doesn't know who it is, so they devise a Secret Test by picking out individuals and giving each one different information. The idea is that the loyal members will keep it to themselves, whereas The Mole will pass it on to their boss on the other side. By watching what the boss does, the one who started the test can then gauge which information the boss heard and therefore deduce who The Mole is. Feeding different stories to different suspects is a classic way to determine which, if any of them, is The Mole.
Alternatively, or additionally, seeing which of your enemies reacts as if in possession of a piece of false information determines which of them is the boss, if that is unknown.
- Someone in the group knows who The Mole is, but hasn't exposed them yet (if they ever will). He simply arranges matters so that The Mole ends up passing on bogus information to whomever they work for. The information is always to the other side's detriment. Perhaps it's useless or designed to throw them off the scent. Perhaps they'll act on it, in which case they may get caught in a trap or be led to their deaths. Perhaps, if they're getting more than one report, the information confuses them, and thus buys the group some time as their enemies (it's usually an enemy) try to work out which of their contradictory reports are true and which aren't.
Valid and accurate information that nevertheless causes useful reactions is another route, one that tends to prolong the usefulness of the mole.
A "Mole" who willingly feeds the information you want is a Double Agent
. A Mole who is Becoming the Mask
may slowly move to being a Double Agent
— though if the mole doesn't know you have twigged, there is the little problem that they will choose their own misinformation. Feed the Mole
may lead to a You Have Failed Me
moment for the unlucky Mole concerned, if their boss ever figures out what they did. The boss may even accuse the Mole of doing it of their own free will, when really the Mole had no more idea what was going on than the boss did.
On the other hand, if the Big Bad
figures out, or guesses, that you know about the Mole, he will know that you are feeding him information, false or manipulative, and therefore what you want him to think. If counterploys start forming on each side, this might tumble over into I Know You Know I Know
and a Gambit Pileup
Note that this isn't exclusive to the hero - the Big Bad
, The Dragon
or The Rival
could just as easily manipulate a Reverse Mole
in this fashion. The Chessmaster
and the Magnificent Bastard
are quite likely to use this tactic to confuse or to trick the hero. If that's the case, then the tactic will generally be condemned more strongly by the audience as playing dirty than if the hero had used it, obviously because the audience is usually (Designated Hero
notwithstanding) on the hero's side, or because it's more likely an opponent will be more ruthless by, for example, using it to get the hero killed. Might make for a good Reveal
when the hero or the Reverse Mole
says "My God, What Have I Done?
This is one of The Thirty-Six Stratagems
, making it Older Than Feudalism
. Compare Bluff the Eavesdropper
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Anime and Manga
- In Blood+, Amshel tells Solomon Diva will be at Christina Island to shoot a video in a week. The latter told Red Shield, who arrived on the island. By that time, Diva left the island. James was waiting for them to attack.
- In Vinland Saga the mole is given information that the group would find no harm in giving to the enemy the king. This was a test to see if the person was a mole. Simultaneously they use it to get the enemy to do what they want.
- During Eren's first outside-the-walls expedition in Attack on Titan, Commander Smith, suspecting there might be a mole in his unit, gives different members different information regarding Eren's position in the formation. When an attack, indeed, comes, Smith is able to narrow the suspects down considerably (and eventually expose The Mole) by comparing its direction with his earlier misinformation.
- Kanta of Desert Punk, when asked to guard a town about to become an oasis from the Edo River Gang, starts partying around the village and gains a Professional Butt-Kisser in the process. When it's revealed said ass-kisser was a spy, Kanta explains that he knew this, and lead the spy to believe the villagers would all be defending the side of the village facing an abandoned city, when they were really defending the side facing the open desert. Unfortunately for Kanta, the Edo River Gang were smart enough to spot bad intel, and attacked from the city anyway, forcing him to fight them all himself.
- In Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: The Steel Seven, the heroes become aware that Europa is an unwitting mole for the enemy, because the Big Bad can read her mind whenever he wants. As a result, they take the prudent measure and lock her up (at her own request). Then when Tobia comes in with her meal, he tells her exactly where they're going, and why they think the item they're after is in the area. When Europa protests this action, Tobia smirks and replies "What guarantee is there that I'm telling you the truth?" As it turns out, he actually was telling the truth, but the Big Bad took the bait and didn't trust his words. When they do end up meeting and fighting, the Big Bad had figured out the heroes' location through other evidence.
- In 9 Chickweed Lane, Edda's grandmother tells how she was sent to sing for German prisoners of war to get them to give up sensitive information to her. They pretty quickly figure her out, but continue to feed her information simply because they like her. When she finds out, she asks if the information was correct. The answer is somewhat ambiguous.
- In The Darkness Series Dumbledore controlled Trewlawny with the imperious to make her spout out a fake prophesy while he knew Snape would be listening in.
- In the original Police Academy film, Copeland and Blankes intimidate Barbara into asking Mahoney where the shore leave party is being held. Mahoney realizes fairly quickly that Barbara is too introverted to party, so he gives him the name of a tough Gay Bar.
- The Guns of Navarone does a variation where one of the loyal men is wounded, and the team medic can't treat him as he is. The team realize he'd get better treatment as a POW, and then Captain Mallory feeds him false information on their plans in case he is interrogated.
- In The Rainmaker, Rudy discovers that the opposing legal team have tapped his phone. Instead of removing the tap, he stages a fake conversation which leads his rival to accuse one of the jurors of conspiring with him, thus making his rival look foolish and removing a potentially troublesome juror.
- The mole himself suggests this approach in The Departed. Of course, since he's in charge of the search it's all just part of keeping the other cops off his scent.
- This is how George Smiley finally narrows down the identity of the mole in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, as the book. He arranges for the mole, one of an increasingly-shorter list of suspects, to catch wind that the man who knows of his existence—if not his identity—has resurfaced and wants to reveal the information to the Circus. That causes the mole to request an emergency meeting with his Soviet handler at the prearranged safehouse, where Smiley is waiting for them.
Live Action TV
Mythology and Religion
- Samson clearly knew his wife was trying to kill him, because every time she asked for the source of his super strength and he fed her a lie, armed soldiers would show up to test the lie.
- The Blue Sun mod for 7.62 High Caliber adds a mission strand with the Sagrada police department, and one of the relatively early missions involves identifying a mole by telling two different suspected officers a different location where they'll be transporting a briefcase of money and seeing which town has mercenaries ready to attack.
- Planescape: Torment has an In-Universe example with the story of Vilquar; the Githzerai figured out he had sold them out to the Illithids, so they tricked him into believing that they had given up on their rebellion to fool the Illithids into becoming complacent.
- A Modest Destiny shows that you can use this even on a non-mole ditz, as seen when Gustav is deliberately given bad information so (when asked politely by a disguised villain) he'll accidentally lead the enemy into a trap.
- Average Joe is likely showcasing a version of this, as most of the strip is a prolonged flashback story being told by The Hero to The Mole - whereby the Hero has recently noted (not to the mole) that he knows she's working for the Unknown Enemy...
- Subverted in The Trenches; Q knows there is a mole in the company, leaking secrets to their game's user base, in particular what they plan on doing about an Infinite Gold Bug that slipped through QA and got released. He tells each of the QA testers something different, and then fires Marley when his version goes public. The subversion is that Marley isn't the mole, Cora is; Isaac figured out what was going on and leaked Marley's info himself. He did this for two reasons: A) to protect Cora, who ultimately had the users' best interest at heart, and B) to punish Marley, the QA tester who let the bug go live in the first place by getting too stoned to do his work.
- In Worm, Wards member Chariot is a known agent of Coil, a local Diabolical Mastermind. The Wards become aware of this, and decide to use Chariot, because as a powerful tinker with a specialization in transportation he's highly useful, and so that they can feed Coil misinformation. Coil may or may not have been aware of this, but in any case, it's irrelevant to his plans, which only needed Chariot to be present in one specific battle.
- Honoré de Balzac and his friends do this as a prank in The Dead Skunk.
- In Skunk Fu!, a ninja monkey who pretended to be kicked out of the mountains by Baboon, so he could spy is given bad info from the animals in the valley about when they'll attack next and who'll be leading to report back to Baboon.
- The Bots Master: When Paradigm found out a mole planted by The Hero, he used it to give Zulander misleading information.
- She Ra Princess Of Power: In "Birds of a Feather", Kowl's cousin Red-Eye sought employment at the Horde and Shadow Weaver used a spell to enable Red-Eye to see and hear what Kowl does. She-Ra took advantage of this to give the Horde misleading information.
- The British planted a spy in Ben Franklin's staff in Paris. When Franklin found out, he proceeded to send bogus information to him, and thus back to London.
- More or less all the German spies which were captured in World War I suffered this fate, if they didn't defect or end up executed.
- Again in WWII every spy Nazi Germany sent to England was caught and turned into a double agent. The Nazis never caught on, and were fed false information for most of the war.
- The second time around was even easier since they'd got a mole of their own: one of the instructors in the spy school.
- The SIS (British) spy Kim Philby was accused of being The Mole for the KGB (Soviets); he was exonerated, but still not completely trusted. Then he came under greater suspicion, and he had to leave the SIS, and joined the KGB for real. The thing was, the KGB were quite suspicious that he was a Fake Defector, so they didn't trust him either. Philby regained contact with the SIS, and in the end both the SIS and the KGB used him for Feed the Mole purposes. Philby was no longer so much a spy or mole; rather, he was more like a messenger. Each side simply relied on him to deliver their messages, and they didn't have to worry about what his real loyalties were.
- On a more mundane note, this is a good way to quickly filter out your junk mail. Any time you fill out a form where your information will most likely be sent or sold to companies that send junk, give a false name (or at least a different form of your own). If anything comes addressed to the name, you can throw it away without opening it.
- A few celebrities have done this when they've suspected their publicists were leaking stories to the press. They'd just make up a fake story, and if it ended up in the media...
- By early 1942, the US had already broken the Imperial Japanese Navy's JN-25 codes, and they found out that they were planning an operation around "objective AF". On a hunch, they had their base at Midway begin sending false messages saying that its distillation plant had been damaged and that they were short on water. When Japanese messages began stating that "AF" was short on water, the US knew exactly where the IJN was going, giving them the element of surprise that the US utilized to great effect at the Battle of Midway that June. The result was the loss of four Japanese carriers to one American one, and from that point forward Japan was on the defensive in the Pacific War.
- Subverted in the 1960 U2 Crisis. The Soviets shot down and captured an American spy pilot, Gary Powers, who was flying over Soviet airspace. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev originally gave the impression that they had no idea exactly what the plane was and were merely annoyed that it had been in their airspace without their permission, whereas in actual fact Powers had told them everything. The Eisenhower administration, relieved due to thinking they'd got off the hook, claimed it had been a weather plane. The Soviets then revealed that they knew what the plane was for all along, making the Americans look like liars as well as spies.