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Staged Populist Uprising
There is a revolution against the King/Emperor/President claiming to be for the people. But wait, who's this? It's the disgruntled nobleman/Evil Chancellor, and he's giving the leaders of the revolution money and weapons and rhetoric. Do you still think it's for the people?

Many of the more cynical writers see all revolutions this way; it doesn't really help that most countries that have had their governments overthrown ended up with more tyrannical regimes than their predecessors, and that many rebel groups throughout history have been dependent on outside help for supplies, leadership, and funding.

See Astro Turf and Agent Provocateur for common tactics in such revolts. Often results in The Revolution Will Not Be Villified.

Examples:

Anime/Manga
  • In Code Geass, when the Black Knights discover that Zero is Lelouch vi Brittannia, exiled prince of The Empire that they are fighting, they come to the conclusion that he was just using them. They're actually wrong, but since he has a death wish at that point, he does not refute them.
  • In the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Big Bad's plan is an artificially created version of the eponymous spontaneous event from the first season, created by brainwashing a few people. His aim is to make refugees rebel, making it appear that they had a nuke and thus being able to blow them all up with one. The first season had a subversion; while there was never a "Laughing Man" (Aoi, the "original" says he just came across an email some guy sent), he came about because of Memetic Mutation and Gossip Evolution. Not some huge conspiracy (although a few did crop up to take advantage of it).

Film
  • The Dark Knight Rises features Bane passing off a foreign terrorist occupation of Gotham as Gothamites liberating their city from outsiders.
  • In the Star Wars prequels, it transpires that Palpatine/Sidious was behind both sides of the Clone Wars.

Literature
  • 1984 claims that all revolutions are just the middle class using the lower class as tools to supplant the former upper class. Or at least, an In-Universe book claims this.
    • It turns out that The Party is actually behind the counter-revolutionary group "the Brotherhood", having staged the uprising itself in order to weed out dissidents.
  • The Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword" features just such an uprising. Of the "Rebel Four," only the poet Rinaldo has no ulterior motives for supporting the assassination plot against Conan, with his reason for hating Conan, according to Ascalante, being that "poets always hate those in power." All of them are being manipulated by Ascalante, a schemer who wants the throne of Aquilonia for himself.
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium novel Go Tell the Spartans. Senator Bronson of Earth wants to overthrow the leadership of the planet Sparta and take over. To accomplish this, he sends in supplies and advisers to organize Sparta's convict underclass into a rebel army.
    • It backfires spectacularly: Not only does the "Helot" rebellion fail, but it also prompts Sparta to become The Empire.
  • In Night Watch, the rebellion against Lord Winder is actually being subtly masterminded by Madam Meserole, and revolutionaries like Reg Shoe don't really have anything to do with it
  • The "Vengeance" organization in the Star Wars Hand of Thrawn duology is ostensibly a massive grassroots organization, with a huge membership scattered across multiple important worlds. In fact, it's all masterminded by about half a dozen Imperial Intelligence agents, which the heroes eventually catch on to.

Live-Action TV
  • In one episode of Andromeda, Beka's ex-boyfriend incited an indigenous species to rebel against the human mining colony on their planet, the intent being that they would make him their king. Captain Hunt managed to convince one of his native henchmen of his true intentions.
  • In the Historical Drama/Korean Drama Emperor Wang Guhn, based on the Later Three Kingdoms period of Korean history, during the breakup of Silla (the former kingdom which later becomes Korea) Yang Gil sets up an uprising to overthrow the king and place himself in as king. But Gung-Ye, one of his generals, is very popular amongst the masses and they declare him emperor instead. (It also helps that Gung is the bastard son of a former emperor.)
  • In Stargate SG-1 the Jaffa rebellion against the Goa'uld really took off only when they acquired a charismatic leader who encouraged his followers to throw their lives away for the cause, including suicide bombs. At the end of the episode Teal'c kills him in a duel for leadership and he turns out to be a minor Goa'uld in disguise, he was attempting to use the Jaffa to take over the Empire for himself.

Tabletop Games
  • Classic Traveller:
    • In the supplement 76 Patrons, two of the missions involve a rebel uprising in the country of Anisinta on the planet Porozlo. The PCs are hired by a group of business executives to either create a rebel force to overthrow the government or take over an existing rebel group for the same purpose. The executives intend to profit by making the government more friendly to business.
    • In the Third Imperium's Spinward Marches, the Ine Givar rebels are under the control of and supplied by the Imperium's enemy, the Zhodani Consulate.
      • Adventure 7 Broadsword. On the planet Garda-Vilis the Tanoose Freedom League was originally a home-grown rebellion against off-world control by the planet Vilis, but eventually came under the control of the Ine Givar rebels and switched to an anti-Imperial stance.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Genestealer cults often do that, usually by Running Both Sides, to "soften up" a world for the upcoming Tyranid invasion.

Video Games
  • During a mission in Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, a peasant revolt erupts in the township of Tyr's Hand while the Alliance is still fighting the Horde. It's later revealed that it was started by spies from Alterac, whose king had been working with the Horde the whole time.
  • A Republic storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic centers on an uprising on a prison planet. The rebels are the descendants of convicts and are quite angry that they are treated like prisoners even though they themselves have committed no crimes. However, you discover that the insurgents are manipulated by Imperial agents who want to use the uprising to destabilize the planet.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the Empire tries much the same strategy as the above 1984 example, staging a revolution to draw out dissidents into the open. Unfortunately for them, The Mole becomes the mask and the fake revolution becomes a real one.
    Emperor Palpatine: You must be relentless, Lord Vader. If even a single rebel survives, this Rebellion that we unwittingly made... will be our undoing.
  • Inverted in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. The Vanguard is formed after the unification of the two worlds, as a way for the Sylvaranti to oppose and resist their status as second-class citizens to the Tethe-Allans, and their systematic oppression by the Church of Martel and the protagonist of the previous game, Lloyd Irving. Later, it is revealed that the travesties carried out by the "church" are actually being staged by the Vanguard as a way to generate grassroots support
  • Roleplayed fairly often in Imperium Nova
    • For example: On the Capricorn server following the recent formation of Satraps, the minor house Narcissus published a paper claiming that the new reforms would allow the Imperial Houses to treat planets as feudal fiefs (no duh), disband private shipping and security companies (already run by the Houses), and allow the 1% to run rampshod over the 99%. Ironically, that reform was intended to break up the stranglehold the major Houses had on the galaxy by giving each house one guaranteed seat on the senate.
  • In Suikoden V, the Lordlake uprising turns out to have been manipulated by Lord Barrows so he could distract the royal family long enough to steal the Dawn Rune.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins Awakening, if you don't stop the nobles' conspiracy against you soon enough, then the peasant uprising turns out to have been orchestrated by them. Subverted if you do stop the conspiracy, as the peasants revolt on their own volition.
  • This is revealed to be the main crux of the Rapture Civil War in Bioshock, with Atlas leading disgruntled renegades against Andrew Ryan and his ideals. Except that Atlas was really Frank Fontaine and said rebels were merely used as cannon fodder for his planned takeover of the city. And the player is his final key...

Webcomics
  • The Knights of Jove conspirators in Girl Genius claim they are trying to reinstate the rightful Storm King for the sake of Europa. Really they're just a bunch of scheming nobles who resent Baron Wulfenbach.
  • In Champion of Katara, "Clancy the Darned" started a war between Katara and Dogonia, claiming a populist uprising along with general chaos.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Tarquin's former adventuring party are now working as the Evil Chancellors to several bordering city-states, with puppet rulers installed as figureheads. Any time one of these regimes gets unpopular enough, they allow a revolution to foment and topple the figurehead with help from their neighbouring "rivals", and they install a new puppet under a new name, but with the same Man Behind the Man (or, if people are too suspicious to buy that, two of the chancellors just swap places with each other). This setup has allowed them to hold positions of power over most of the continent for decades despite apparent political instability.

Web Original
  • Referred to as "Rat-revolt" in Look to the West, short for Rattenfaenger Revolt, Rattenfaenger being the German name for the Pied Piper (i.e. the rebels are dancing to someone else's tune). Appropriately this is because one such revolt takes place in Germany, secretly influenced by the conservative Saxon government which can then take advantage of the chaos to expand their own power.

Western Animation
  • In The Legend of Korra the Equalists seek to end all bending, their leader, Amon, has the power to remove someone's bending abilities permanently and claims that his family was murdered by firebenders who also scarred his face. Turns out, he's actually a bloodbender and the son of an infamous gangster, and his "scars" are just makeup. Though according to his brother, he genuinely thought he was improving the world by destroying bending, so the degree to which this trope applies is somewhat unclear.

New Media
  • From Cellblock A of the Evil Overlord List:
    109. I will see to it that plucky young lads/lasses in strange clothes and with the accent of an outlander shall regularly climb some monument in the main square of my capital and denounce me, claim to know the secret of my power, rally the masses to rebellion, etc. That way, the citizens will be jaded in case the real thing ever comes along.

Slave LiberationCivil Unrest TropesThe Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized
Speak Ill of the DeadAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Stop Worshipping Me

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