Dazzle camouflage can be considered a literal form of this. During World Wars I and II, ships were painted in a confusing pattern of high contrast colors that, instead of hiding ships from the enemy as regular camouflage would, attempted to actively confuse the enemy's targeting systems, primarily enemy submarines that relied largely on visual measures like identifying the type of ship and the direction it was pointed relative to them, to work out their complicated firing solutions.
Jack Churchill, in World War II, once took a German bunker by rushing it with a Claymore sword, with bagpipes on his hips, and screaming "COMMANDOOOO!!!!"
Jack Churchill was this incarnate. He was captured (while playing said bagpipes) and sent to a prison. He just walked out. He was captured again. Once again, he walked out and made it back to England.
And upon his arrival, he demanded to be put back on the front lines. Unfortunately for him, the war was over by that point... which also explains how he was able to walk out of the prisons. He was in Yugoslavia fighting as a British liaison among partisans, and formed a thousand-man strong partisan army to raid an island in the Adriatic. He was the only man in his unit not to ultimately be killed, and the Germans found him playing a mournful tune on his bagpipes. Existing in the company of Partisans was a kill-on-sight offense for the Germans, but they thought he was of more use alive, and so interrogated him in Berlin before consigning him to Sachsenhausen. Sachsenhausen theconcentration camp.Sachesenhausen, theinfamousconcentration camp. Sachsenhausen, the infamous concentration camp designed to be able to be effectively and securely guarded byone machine gun if necessary due to the camp's panopticon design. He escaped. He was recaptured, and was transferred by the SS to the Tirol with 139 other high-value prisoners. There, a regular army unit, concerned that the SS would execute the prisoners out of hand, intervened to save their lives, and after the SS decided not to contest the issue, set the prisoners free. Churchill and a companion walked down German-occupied Northern Italy, finally being rescued by an American armored unit in the last days of the war. After recuperation, he was to be sent to Burma, but Hiroshima and Nagasaki intervened. His reaction? "If it wasn't for those damned Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years." This man was certtainly a walking, talking breathing example of Refuge in Audacity.
Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg rescued as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews from being deported to the concentration camps using nothing more than a printing press, his expense account, and sheer audacity. He rented buildings in Budapest, declared them to be auxiliary embassy facilities — technically Swedish territory, and therefore off limits to the Hungarians and their German allies — and used them as safe houses. He also printed up thousands of "protective passports" identifying the bearers as Swedish citizens, and handed them out to every Hungarian Jew he met — even, on one occasion, those locked in the boxcars on a train departing for Auschwitz! At one point, he ran on top of a train carrying Jews to be killed and stuffing papers into the cars that the Jews could use to semi-legally escape. While Nazis shot at him.
There are two things that add to this. First, immediately after being shot at while stuffing papers into the train, he walked up to the German guards and demanded that they let everyone with a passport off the train... which they did immediately. The second is to make it clear that he had absolutely NO legal authority to do any of this on behalf of the Swedish government. It was all smoke and excellent forgeries.
While not as outrageous as Wallenberg, Oskar Schindler's similar work on behalf of the Jews deserves recognition here. Schindler's Crowning Moment of Awesome was successfully ordering Nazi soldiers to return a trainload of Jewish children en route to the death camps, through sheer force of personality, by declaring the children to be "essential workers" (a protected class of Jews with skills vital to Germany's war effort) in his munitions factory. A munitions factory that he operated for several years using (and protecting) many Jewish workers, while deliberately never producing a single working artillery shell. Yes, this is the same Schindler that Steven Spielbergwrote a film about.
Far less well-remembered than either Wallenberg or Schindler was John Rabe, a German diplomat in Nanjing who created a safe zone to keep Chinese civilians out of the way of the Nanjing Massacre. He's credited with saving between 200,000 and 250,000 civilians by basically standing up and telling the Japanese not to come into his zone, with no backup, military force, or way of enforcing it. It worked.
Albert Göring, the younger brother of Hermann Göring, who actively helped Jews to escape the Third Reich - and is today remembered as one of the Righteous among Nations in Israel. This was a man who brazenly forged his brother's — Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering — signature on release forms for dissidents, actively sabotaged his own munitions factory in Czechoslovakia, and dealt with the Czech Resistance, and who at least once, was able to get a group of Jewish women released from being forced to scrub a street by joining with them... and then telling the Nazi thugs who were about to arrest him that he was Goering's brother. His better known notorious brother was well aware of his actions, and turned his eye. Hermann Göring once said "I decide here who is a Jew", and allowed Air Marshal Erhard Milch (whose mother was Jewish) and Rear Admiral Bernhard Rogge (whose grandfather was a Jew) to rise in high positions.
Giorgio Perlasca is the incarnation of this trope: he was an Italian businessman who posed as the Spanish consul-general to Hungary when the Spanish embassy was moved to Switzerland. Apparently him and Wallenberg were the ones going and constantly saving people (Perlasca was in Budapest too). He saved thousands of people without any authority at all and menaged to fool the Nazis, the Hungarian government, and everyone else. For three months. His best Crowning Moment of Awesome was naming himself Spanish consul, but another memorable one was saving two children from Adolf Eichmann, throwing them in his car and saying the car was Spanish jurisdiction and taking them would have caused a diplomatic incident between Spain and Germany. Even Wallenberg was without words, and that means a lot.
The Danish resistance as well: How do they save the country's thousands of Jews from deportation? What would be the most obvious plan? How about rowing them across to Sweden, through the Baltic Sea, effectively a German lake at this point? Sure, why the hell not, break out the kayaks lads. It worked.
More war stories; Juan Pujol managed to convince the Germans that he was a highly placed British spy with inside information on shipping movements and an extensive network of agents. In actual fact, he had never been in Britain in his life and all the information he gave the Germans was based on film footage and library research. He created a fictitious network, just so the Germans would believe him and he'd be able to work for the British cause as a double agent.
For his efforts, Pujol was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire ... and received the Iron Cross, becoming one of the very few people decorated by both sides in WWII.
On a much darker note: the Nazis used this trope to conceal the Holocaust. They deliberately made the concentration camps sufficiently horrific that anyone who told another country about them would be assumed to be exaggerating irresponsibly...
In a newspaper article dated 5 years before WWII started, in which Hitler announced to the world that if they didn't accept the Jews deported from Germany, every one of them would be killed.
Hitler was probably also counting on the "once bitten, twice shy" reaction that the world had had to the mostly false reports of German atrocities on the Western Front during World War I (stories such as Belgian nuns having their breasts cut off by the Hun, for instance) and probably assumed that they would not so easily believe another series of reports, even if these turned out to be all too true.
One of the real tragedies of that approach is that reports of the atrocities early in the war were accused by prominent Jewish figures of being nothing more than anti-German propaganda. Individuals reporting the atrocities were often denounced for creating such unbelievable exaggerations, and accused of harming their own cause, because no sane person could possibly commit such monstrous acts.
There were also Jewish and anti-Nazi groups who refused to believe actual survivors of the camps telling them about their experiences- - again, monstrosity on such a scale simply couldn't be anything but fantasy.
Hitler described the Communist tactic of the "Big Lie" in Mein Kampf — claiming something enormously, outrageously false as true, because people are used to lying about minor things, but they find it hard to believe that anyone would lie about something major. (Being Hitler, he insisted that it was a tactic of the "international Jewish-Communist conspiracy," you know, the one that not even the Soviet Union's archives document.) What makes this Refuge in Audacity is that, having described the tactic in so much detail, he used it himself — and got away with it until the Western Allies started physically overrunning concentration camps.
When using a Big Lie, it helps immensely to talk oneself into believing it. Hitler apparently managed to do that with his "international Jewish-Communist conspiracy" — although some of his lieutenants had rather more sense.
This was also how Hitler got the drop on Stalin in Operation Barbarossa. Stalin was planning his own surprise attack, and as a prelude to that, he had filled Nazi territory with GRU spies. (The Gestapo was much less good at its job than they wanted you to believe.) The GRU was — still is! — a very professional organization, so they assumed that no sane leader would attempt to invade Russia, even in the summer, without making preparations for the winter: slaughtering enormous numbers of sheep for coats, and, in the Nazi case, adding antifreeze to the gasohol mix they burned in their tanks (and to their soldiers' rifle oil). They were correct: no sane leader would have even tried it. Read all about it here.
Some of the escape attempts from various POW camps in World War II were utterly ludicrous yet (on occasion) successful. At Colditz alone, one man almost escaped by crossdressing (being foiled alas by a fellow-POW's politeness), others nearly made it out via a tunnel exiting in a high-ranking German's office and one man simply vaulted the wire acrobatically and legged it. And the glider built by a group on inmates including Douglas Bader (a man worthy of many a trope himself) near the end of the war.
In fact, just go read The Colditz Story and The Wooden Horse (another escape book that really happened). The sheer audacity and cunning of the prisoners is worthy of any fictional character.
The TV show Hogan's Heroes (and the play and film that inspired it, Stalag 17) was, in part, inspired by real-life POW exploits. The authors of the original play had, themselves, been captives of the Nazis.
Operation Chariot where in WWII, a group of British Commandos and sailors had to destroy the gate of a German-controlled dry dock in France by ramming it with a disguised, obsolete destroyer filled with explosives. The estuary they had to pass through to reach the dry dock was so heavily defended that the army, Royal Navy, and RAF command believed it to be impossible, and it would be a waste of resources. The commandos, the naval personnel, and Lord Mountbatten (Head of the Combined Operations Headquarters) believed that it was the impossibility of the operation that made it possible, as the German soldiers defending the dock wouldn't believe anyone would have the audacity to try it. Indeed, the destroyer sailed down the estuary virtually unchallenged until just a few hundred yards from its target, rammed it successfully, and later exploded a few hours behind schedule. Despite a catalogue of errors, leaving most of the commandos and sailors dead or captured, the mission was considered by all to be a success, as it rendered the dry dock useless to Germany's larger and more fearsome ships.
So daring was the raid, along with countless incidents of Crowning Moment of Awesome, five Victoria Crosses were awarded to the raiders, more than in any other operation.
Operation Chariot, aka The Saint Nazaire Raid, is taught today at military academies (but otherwise virtually unknown) and is called The Greatest Raid of All Time.
When a large group of commandos were ready to leave, they saw that almost all of the small escape boats had been destroyed and decided on the spot to fight their way through the town, through several thousand heavily armed German troops, and make their way to Spain. It was in the process of this that their dwindling group decided to charge across a well-defended bridge, while the majority were low on ammo and seriously wounded. The Germans, awestruck by such audacity, couldn't keep them back. When the fighting was over, the Germans congratulated the plucky Brits for their guts.
The hits just keep on coming with this: Lieutenant-Commander Beattie, who had gallantly guided the HMS Campbeltown into its target while under heavy fire, was being interrogated by an English-speaking German officer. Just as the German officer was telling him how futile it was to use such a flimsy ship to ram such a great and strong dock, the several tons of explosives hidden in the ship's bow, which the Germans still didn't know about, exploded and blew the office windows in.
This is a man who, when successive people were being shot at the helm and replaced five or six times, continued to stand at the conning position and calmly give helm orders with a complete lack of excitement. Total sangfroid and utterly nails.
When the Nazis gained power and began cracking down on the German film industry, Jewish actor Peter Lorre and one of his friends drove out to an isolated area to destroy various documents that "incriminated" their friends as prime blacklist material (or worse). When a policeman caught them burning the documents, Lorre successfully convinced the cop that they were filming a scene for his next movie and asked for his help. The policeman happily helped them destroy all the documents and left with an autograph. The best part? The pair had no film equipment with them whatsoever.
One group of German prisoners in an internment camp during WW 2. They weren't allowed to have radios, but wanting to know how the war was going, they built a radio into the seat of a chair. The camp commander suspected they had a radio and had their rooms searched repeatedly. Each time, the commander came along to see that the search was done properly. Each time, the prisoners offered him a chair — the one with the radio in it. Each time, the chair wasn't searched, because the commander was sitting on it. After the war, one of the ex-prisoners told the commander how it was done; the commander apparently thought it was pretty funny.
During the Ardennes Offensive, when the Germans asked for the surrender of the encircled 101st Airborne Division, their famous reply was only the word "Nuts!", which might count as Refuge in Audacity. But the real example is the German demand for surrender. Bastogne was surrounded by a single infantry division, the 26th Volksgrenadiers, made up of poorly trained recruits and exhausted from over a week of hard fighting in winter snow. They only had a few units of support troops and were very likely outnumbered by the Americans in Bastogne. Their corps commander Von Lüttwitz realised he had no reinforcements to spare for an assault on the town. He realised American reinforcements in massive numbers were on their way. So what did he do? He demanded the American surrender.
Adrian Carton de Wiart, a British officer whose biography reads like a very unlikely movie plot, escaped from an Italian POW camp at Vincigliata. While on the run, he pretended to be an simple 'Italian farmer' - despite having an eyepatch, missing an arm, being riddled with scars and old bulletholes, and not being able to speak a word of Italian. He kept up the charade for eight days..
This is actually a common occurrence with psychopathic personalities, after their deeds get exposed — from violent criminals to the (much more common) con-men, fraudulent powerbrokers, corrupt politicians, and others, often to the point of appearing so convincing in their outrageous claims, even when the truth has already become clear, that observers and sometimes even their victims can actually start doubting their own reasoning. Doctor Robert Hare, the leading researcher into psychopathy, has suggested that an explanation of this phenomenon — in addition to the psychopaths' lack of emotions, guilt, and remorse — is that at least some of them will actually genuinely believe their own words and impressions over facts, and will do anything they can to show you that they are right and the truth is wrong.
Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair, and his outrageous list of suggestions for cutting costs on his airline. One of the best was the idea of increasing the number of passengers by replacing some of the seats with standing room. When this was mocked in the press as being utterly ridiculous, a spokesman responded by saying it was just a joke, but one gets the impression that if it had been better received, there would be people standing for their plane journeys right now.
Also a recent ad campaign suggesting having only one pilot flying the plane.
All of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's characters — Ali G (a white guy pretending to be black who does interviews in character with very important political figures), Borat (a clueless and, let's face it, tactless most-of-the-time news reporter from a fictional version of Kazakhstan), and Brüno (a Flamboyant Gay fashion reporter for Austrian Gay TV); most of the sketches focus on real people not in on the joke taking their outrageous statements at face value. Since no one living above ground is taken in anymore, Cohen no longer uses them in public.
King Julien XIII.
This and Bavarian Fire Drill were Frank Abagnale's bread and butter. Exploits include taking charge of his school's French class on his first day, and bluffing the agent chasing him by, when asked for his identification, giving him a wallet filled with soda bottle labels and chatting with him as he walks right out the door. All when he was a teenager.
Vassilis Paleokostas. Greek bank robber and kidnapper for ransom. Escaped from prison with a helicopter. TWICE. FROM THE SAME PRISON.
Many of the attempts to cross the Berlin Wall would fall under this category. Such attempts included leaping over low parts of the Wall in broad daylight, stealing an APC and driving it through the Wall, using a sports car modified to pass under the checkpoint barricades at full speed, and building ultralight planes and hot air balloons to fly over the Wall.
And the two guys who escaped over a different wall out of Communist Eastern Europe, using home-made chairs that ran along high-voltage power lines (the kind you find up the tall steel towers). (The just had to climb up the last tower before the border, hook on the chairs, cross to the next tower, and climb down in a different country. The first half of the trip across was easy. Getting up the slope to the other tower, not so much.)
When Henri IV of France and Navarre was excommunicated by the pope, he retaliated by excommunicating the pope. Which is technically completely impossible. Possibly the most epic use of, "No, you are!" in the history of the world.
Nope. That one is easily topped by the Pope and the Patriarch excommunicating each other after a spat, resulting in a rift between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches that has continued to the present day.
After the family of Eluana Englaro (who had been comatose for 17 years) succeeded in having her right to die recognised by the judges and getting doctors to start the process of allowing her to die in the way established by the court, Berlusconi issued a decree to stop the doctor from letting her die. Stating that, "This is murder. I would be failing to rescue her. I'm not a Pontius Pilate", Berlusconi went on to defend his decision by claiming that she was "in the condition to have babies", arguing that comatose women were still subject to menstruation.
At the opening of the European Food Authority in Parma, June 21, 2005, asked to explain how Italy managed to get the support of its biggest competitor (Finland) over the EU Food Authority dispute, he claimed: "I used all my playboy skills and courted the Finnish President". The Finnish parliament took the claim rather seriously and questioned the President about it. Berlusconi then attempted a saving throw by using this very trope... only to make it worse. He said something in the line of: "Of course I was joking, I mean look at her: do you seriously think I could...?"note The President of Finland from 2000 to 2012, Mrs. Tarja Halonen, was famously ugly.
This was the essence of Attorney General Philander C. Knox's advice to Theodore Roosevelt when TR asked him to come up with a legal justification for America's having assisted Panama in gaining her independence:
"Mister President, do not let so great an achievement suffer from any taint of legality."
Apparently, Breanna Manning (a US soldier of second-to-lowest rank) could successfully access and smuggle out hundreds of thousands of classified intelligence documents of devastating international importance, just using his workstation and a Lady Gaga CD and acting normal, for Wikileaks to publish online.
A fan dressed in a rooster costume interrupted an interview during the 2012 US Open. He didn't have any media credentials, even fake ones, to be where he was, apparently this trope was just responsible for nobody stopping him.
You'd be surprised what parents will swallow, if you pass it off as a joke. "Whatcha doin', kiddo?"
"Oh, I was just gonna get stoned and party naked until I pass out from sexual exhaustion" *Laugh*
Eric Raymond advises in hacker culture, particularly in open source mailing lists, that because subtle emotions don't carry well in text, it's better to flame so openly and over the top ridiculously, if you're going to flame at all, so that everyone knows you're just being silly. Haha, only serious.
Many of these test answers qualify as well, with varying degrees of success.
The Three Toed Sloth, one of nature's better animals. Mr. Sloth harbors no less than four separate kinds of algae in his fur, causing him to mold green during the wet seasons, allowing plenty of delicious ecosystem for bugs, moths and worms that decide to infest his fur. Even better, the sloth's digestive system is so slow that he's just a mobile compost heap wrapped in a moldy sweater... how does this crazy critter survive living in the Amazon, where there are more predators than leaves? Simple: No predator would ever want to eat Mr. Sloth, due to his extremely revolting niche lifestyle.
Unfortunately, sloths have evolved against every conceivable predator except cars. They are being roadkilled out of existence. To be fair, there are anecdotes of people trying to move the sloths out of the road that didn't end well. Nobody expects to hear "sloth" and "disemboweled the guy" in the same sentence.
Then again, the algae in its fur probably will wind up making the perfect biofuel for future cars - -but only if it's grown in the sloth's fur, meaning that they'll have to be farmed carefully.
A corollary to this trope is something too crazy not to be true. This was used to advantage in Ancient Athens, when the tyrant Peisistratos managed a comeback by dressing a tall woman up as Athena and then riding into the city in a golden chariot with her, fooling the masses into thinking he had the goddess' favor. (Peisistratos then failed in that particular coup. He was forced to retreat, invest in gold mines, and use the money to hire a private army to take back his tyranny.)
The book Cops: Their Lives In Their Own Words has one interviewee mentioning that middle-class juries would acquit people simply because they couldn't believe human beings were capable of the things they did ... like a mother sewing her baby's rectum up because she got tired of him defecating all the time.
During the Uruguayan Civil War, the Uruguayan army was crushed at the battle of Arroyo Grande, in December 1842. Garibaldi, living in Uruguay at the time, led the defense of the Uruguayan capital Montevideo with a few thousand newly-freed slaves and a few hundred immigrants, against the victorious troops of Argentina's caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas and former Uruguay's Manuel Oribe. Garibaldi led the city's defense for 6 years remaining undefeated, and his side eventually won the war, causing, among other things, the fall and exile of Rosas.
Actually, that's precisely why it did work. The defenders thought they were facing the British (famous for their red uniforms).
Actually, no. Most of Garibaldi's soldiers didn't wear red shirts, and those who wore them used a very different design that everyone in Italy knew. He conquered the whole kingdom because the king of Two Sicilies and his generals thought it was just another group of pro-Italian unification patriots they could dispatch by simply telling the locals they were bandits (it had already worked once), but the Sicilians knew Garibaldi's face and didn't lynch him long enough for him to declare he was there to conquer the place and cut the taxes. By the time the king and his retinue started taking him seriously, he had already conquered the Sicily proper (half of the kingdom) and increased the force of his army to fifteen thousands, and most of the Sicilian army had either deserted or switched sides. The last battle of the war was between Garibaldi's army, now increased to thirty thousands (about thirty times than the one he started the war with) between volunteers from Sicily proper, the continental part of the kingdom and former military, and a very demoralized Sicilian army of twenty thousands...
The Franco-Prussian War: In this war, tactfully summarised as "The German states play the role of drunken fratboy to France's ugly girl home on a Saturday night", Garibaldi raised a volunteer legion to fight for the new French republic. The reason there was a new republic was that the Emperor had already been captured by the Germans, along with most of his army, and they were setting off to besiege Paris and proclaim their own empire. In Versailles palace, too, just to rub it in. Sounds like a less-than-ideal time to pitch in with a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits? Well, he didn't quite save France, but Victor Hugo called him "The only undefeated "French" general of the war".
Although he was turned down, the fact that when, offered a position as a Major-General for the Union in 1861, he demanded total command of the US Army serves as a good example of his Modus Operandi.
Ralph Fiennes having unprotected sex with an air hostess in the bathroom of the plane on his way to an AIDS awareness convention as their spokesperson. And he was allowed to continue being their spokesperson.
Many scams — a recent example is Bernie Madoff. As one commenter said: "The SEC is very good at rooting out sophisticated fraud, especially in accounting gimicks [sic]. But they, like most human beings, are simply not that good at identifying accounting statements that are simply made up out of whole cloth."
In 168 BC, the Egyptians petitioned the Romans to aid them in fighting off the Syrian Empire. The Romans sent a small delegation headed by Gaius Popilius Laenas, who travelled to the Syrian camp and demanded an audience with Antiochus IV, the king of Syria. There, he wordlessly handed him the Roman Senate's ultimatum: Withdraw, or face war with Rome. To make sure that Antiochus understood the stakes, he then took a branch, and drew a circle around Antiochus, telling him that he could have all the time he needed to think, but that he had to reach a decision before he left the circle. The Syrians decided to heed the warning of the Senate and withdrew from Egypt.
He probably would have left anyway, though; Rome was the most powerful state in the world at that point and had proven it during the Punic Wars.
That same kid, 14 years old at the time, was later arrested for driving off with a Lexus from a Lexus dealership. He was caught three hours later after a car chase ending in a crash against a telephone pole. He tried to get away by grabbing a stroller and casually walking away.
Darius McCollum, who was obsessed with the New York transit system. At 5, he had memorized all of the routes. At 15, he hijacked a train and drove it along its ordinary route. Passengers did not notice. To this day, he is still being arrested for impersonating transit workers.
The creator of Scie- Happyology revels in this trope, and has cited it as a defense against its critics.
Happyology's Sea Org contract goes for a billion years, including future reincarnations. An NCAA (all sports, not just football) contract for the use of a player's image lasts "forever and throughout the universe". At least the college won't sue the player if they decide to leave...
Josef Fritzl successfully imprisoned his daughter and their eventual seven children in the basement of his house for 24 years without his wife or their other children or neighbors noticing anything. Really, the idea is so outlandish and monstrous that no rational person would ever entertain the idea of someone doing it. To be fair, apparently his wife is 95% deaf and has cerebral atherosclerosis, so not all there either.
In the late 1950s, the Navy was determined to launch the first US satellite with their Vanguard rocket. Which meant that even though Wernher von Braun had built better rockets for the Army, he couldn't launch anything into space, only launch tests. So, without getting permission from his supervising officer, von Braun moved one of his rockets out to the pad and decided he'd launch it into space and then go "Woops, it was an ACCIDENT!" The supervisor found out before he could actually do the launch, but man, that took GUTS!
In an example from the animal kingdom, this. A mouse, caught on camera, stealing meat from a leopard. Right in front of the leopard.
The Wankers on Countdown was recorded but not broadcast, and The News Quiz is a radio show (the watershead only covers television).
Radio broadcasts in the UK supposedly don't allow any swearing at all, but this varies: Radio 4 (home of the aforementioned News Quiz, among others) has more leeway as a non-commercial adult-oriented station, but you still can't drop a Cluster F-Bomb before 9 pm.
Every scheme listed here is flat-out insane. This did not stop people from trying them. See if you can spot which ones are simply stupid and which are stupid yet take cajones.
Zhuge Liang was a general in China's Three Kingdoms period with an unparalleled knack for audacious feats of strategy that always caught the other army off-guard and always worked. Then he gets caught off-guard: Sima Yi, an opposing general, managed to annihilate the forces tasked with protecting Zhuge Liang's flank and marched an overwhelming force to the gates of the city Zhuge Liang was in. There was no way to win the battle. Zhuge Liang walked out of the city, unarmed, and sat down in front of the walls in full view of the army and started playing his lyre without an apparent care in the world. Convinced that Zhuge Liang had some nasty trick up his sleeve and he was facing annhiliation, Sima Yi turned his army right around and went home without even attempting battle. Which he would have easily won.
There's an old story of two strangers sitting at a table and eating their lunches. Alice looks up and notices Bob is eating a cookie from her bag. So Alice reaches out and takes another cookie, with a meaningful stare. Bob helps himself to another cookie. Alice takes another. They go all the way to the bottom of the bag, and there's one last cookie. Bob breaks it in half, gives Alice half, and leaves. That's when Alice looks again in her lunchbox and sees her own, untouched, package of cookies. She was eating Bob's cookies all along.
Our very own Ad Of Lose page is typically displaying at least one, and frequently two, ads for marketing services. What else could this be?
T. E. Lawrence based his entire millitary career upon this principle.
Napoleon Bonaparte, when he returned from his exile to Elba island. He essentially decided one day that he'd had enough of this 'exile' silliness and caught a boat back to France, where he gathered an army of volunteers while heading for Paris. When Louis XVIII sent his army to kill the renowned general, Napoleon left his own forces behind, walked up to the attacking army, and asked if they were really thinking of trying to kill him. He captured Paris two weeks later.
On an earlier occasion, Napoleon's army needed to seize a vital bridge that the Austrian army was preparing to blow up. Two of Napoleon's marshals, Murat and Lannes, ride up and demand to know what the Austrians think they're doing. Didn't they know that this bridge had been ceded to the French under the terms of the armistice? One Austrian sergeant on the scene did realize that they were bluffing, but Murat then demanded of the Austrian officer if he took orders from sergeants. Suffice it to say that the French were able to seize the bridge.
This was the only reason why Skippy, from Skippys List, wasn't beaten up, court martialed, or drummed out of the army, according to him.
When it was first proposed, Quantum Physics was this. Or, as Niels Bohr put it:
In 2007, Timothy Rouse escaped from jail in Kentucky on some very serious charges by having a friend send a fax from the corner grocery store claiming that a court order demanded his release. The 'order' was incorrectly formatted, on plain paper, with no identifying marks or seals. He was promptly released from jail.
In social-engineering attacks, the easiest way to break into a secure facility is to act like you belong there. If there's a "code of the day" system, strike preemptively by asking the other person for the password. Someone broke into an army base by dressing as an officer and ordering his way in.
Phillipe Petit, when arriving in America with his equipment to walk between the Twin Towers, was asked by a customs official what it was for. He responded that he was going to use it to put a wire illegally between the Twin Towers and walk across. The custom official laughed at him, wished him luck, and called for the next person.
A more disturbing rather than awesome example: As documented by United 93, one of the chief reasons the FAA and the military were slow to react to the 9/11 hijackings was that a hijacking was simply absurd. It had been decades since the last one, and no one anticipated a hijack on that day, much less four.
John Giles, the Alcatraz escapee who verifiably made it to dry land before being intercepted. While washing military clothing in the prison laundry, he managed to purloin a complete Army uniform one piece at a time; thus disguised, he simply stepped onto a military launch as if he belonged on board. Had his absence from the prison not been noticed immediately, or had the launch not been bound for Angel Island rather than the mainland, Giles would've been the guy Escape from Alcatraz was written about.
In the case "R. v. Sharpe", Canadian Chief Justice openly admitted that "person" has a clear definition given in the Canadian criminal code, but that she will impose a separate definition for this one law.
Ignoring the plain text of the law is surprisingly common for courts to do in order to prevent Loophole Abuse and blatant miscarriages of justice.
Darkly averted in recent news: a Qatari diplomat traveling into the United States snuck cigarettes aboard his plane and started smoking in the restroom. Eventually, one of the air marshals noticed smoke drifting out through the door and asked what he was doing. The diplomat's response? "I'm trying to light my shoes on fire."
Yeah, while we're at it: DO NOT attempt Refuge in Audacity with airport security. Ever. Seanbaby put it best when he wrote: "Federal regulations require them to have no idea you were only joking as they riddle your body with bullets."
Sad but true with atrocity-commiting dictators and terrorists-turned-public-figures being given little more than a judiciary "slap on the wrist" (if that) because slaughtering people by the village-load and establishing a military junta apparently makes you untouchable. As the saying goes, "You kill 1 person, you go to prison. You kill 20 people, you get institutionalized. You kill 100,000 and you're granted political asylum."
Not if Mossad has anything to say about it, though.
Many [alleged] Mossad operations qualify for this trope.
Gordon Thomas' "Gideon's Spies" details an interesting mix of fact and speculation about the Mossad.
The state of Georgia finally caved into the pressure to change its state flag in the early 2000s because of its depiction of the Confederate battle flag. The new flag is simply a recreation of the less-famous Confederate national flag with the state seal within the blue field of stars.
In an interview, Johnny Depp recounts a story in which he buys some paint with the intent of defacing a billboard with his face on it because he doesn't like the picture. He is caught by a security guard, who, upon realizing who he is, tells him to get on with it.
"That's ... you!"
"Yeah, I know!"
From that same interview:
"On rollerskates... It's such an absurd thing to do, you have to try and top yourself."
Halloween relies on this. It is the only time of year you can dress in sexually charged and/or bloody costumes without the police trying to arrest you. Hence committing a crime should be easier. Right?
An Arizona restaurant called the Heart Attack Grill has food items like the Quadruple Bypass Burger or Flatliner Fries, dresses their servers as sexy nurses, and bears the slogan "A taste worth dying for." Its Youtube commercial offers the warning that side effects "may include sudden weight gain, repeated increase of wardrobe size, back pain, male breast growth, loss of sexual partners, lung cancer, tooth decay, liver sclerosis, stroke, and an inability to see your penis. In some cases, mild death may occur."
The Quadruple Bypass Burger is too big to be eaten by hand, because the human mouth doesn't open that wide, yet it is still actually ordered.
eBay sellers that charge something like $100 for an item or more when there are others selling for way less. Possibly justifiable if you're the only one who ships internationally or something, but otherwise, who do they think they're trying to kid?
John Wilkes Booth managed to escape capture at the Ford Theater due to the simple fact that what he did was so outrageous nobody realized what he'd done. He had time to jump onto the stage, breaking a leg, deliver a Bond One-Liner, and then limp to his horse on the aforementioned broken leg before riding off into the night... while the majority of the theater was still trying to figure out what he'd done. (That is, shooting Abraham Lincoln.) He even did this while there were military personnel at the theater!
It seems the Pakistani government may be attempting one of these. Bin Laden was found a couple hundred yards from their largest military academy, in a massive house on an even more massive lot, surrounded by 10 to 18 foot high barbed wire topped walls with no phone lines, in a city full of retired military officers 30 miles from their capital city, and they had no idea.
Or, to look at it from another angle, the most wanted terrorist in the world escaped detection by hiding in plain sight, living alongside the same military that was hunting down allied militants in Balochistan and the NWFP. It's like Benedict Arnold buying a summer cottage just down the road from West Point.
For that matter, the bin Laden raid was one of these as well. Worth noting is the Pakistani government wasn't informed of the operation. The famous photo of the White House staff watching a live feed in shock was because everyone feared a Battle of Mogadishu-type situation in a politically allied country. Part of the reason for this was the (not unfounded) assumption that bin Laden living within sight of the Pakistani military academy was more due to social, political, or financial influence rather than just sheer daring.
Hizzoner Da Mare Richard J. Daley of Chicago could have listed an example every day. His son, Richard M. Daley, as mayor, wanted to get rid of Meig's Field Airport on the lakefront, so he could reclaim it as parkland. The rich folks who enjoyed their airport pulled every loophole in the book to prevent this. As a result, Daley sent bulldozers to the runway in the middle of the night to carve huge X's into the runway, rendering it unusable. This circumvented a restraining order that prevented him from closing the active airport, and allowed him to condemn the now-unusable site.
One anecdote tells of a white undercover FBI agent who successfully infiltrated a black gang in South Central Los Angeles and got them all busted for drug trafficking. Later interviews established that the gang members trusted the agent because they didn't think the police would be stupid enough to send a white guy to infiltrate a black gang.
The same agent was also famed for keeping a country music tape in his car that contained a song with the lyrics "He's an undercover agent for the FBI" in it and ensuring that as many people as possible got into the car and heard that song.
This song in question is "Uneasy Rider" by Charlie Daniels and itself is a musical example of this trope
Quite a lot of internet phishing (not to be confused with hacking) relies on Refuge in Audacity. Not as common now that the average joe knows about scam letters and phishing methods, but in days when the average AOL'er and secretary was less savvy, it was quite common for accounts or entire systems (occasionally very big systems) to be compromised simply by someone calling/emailing pretending to be a serviceman asking for their information. They did it by burying their intentions under technical jargon and functioning on the premise that it was assumed that no one with bad intentions would simply call and ask for your password or to be keyed into your system.
Copyright-lawsuit outfit Righthaven, after losing a case because the 'right to sue' that they had obtained from their parent company cannot exist under law, as you need to hold the copyrights before you can sue over them (a thing called 'standing'), then argued that, as they lacked standing, the court lacked standing to order them to pay defendants costs. The judge didn't find their arguments persuasive, surprisingly.
Steven Jay Russell, the con man who inspired the movie I Love You Phillip Morris, certainly counts. It takes some balls to fake your own death from AIDS in order to escape from prison.
Ricky Gervais' hosting duties during the 2010 Golden Globe Awards would have been enough to get anyone, regardless of their star power, blacklisted in Hollywood for eternity. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, desperate to get its ratings back up, hired Gervais to host the ceremony. Gervais then proceeded to mock every Hollywood institution in the room - he made jokes about The Tourist (right in front of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp), heavily indicated that awards could be bought from the HFPA, mocked Mel Gibson (who was facing charges of abusing his then-wife and child under the influence of alcohol) right in front of him, pimped his own film The Invention of Lying, drank several glasses of beer during the telecast, told everyone that he would never host again, and generally mocked the entire concept of the award ceremony. To the HFPA's surprise, ratings went through the roof, and Gervais was asked to come back and host the 2011 awards (where he did more of the same).
This attack by Anonymous, known as "Military Meltdown Monday." Not only did Anon break into the US military's database and make away with some 90,000 military email usernames and passwords, they also left an invoice for their "audit" of the security company's encryption, totaling to $310.
In January 2011, a man in Russia managed to get off of being charged with armed robbery for stealing a truck containing a shipment of vodka by arguing that he was stealing the Vodka and that the truck just happened to be how he was transporting the Vodka.
The (fake) sale of the Eiffel Tower. Victor Lustig managed to convince six moguls that the (then) pre TV/Radio landmark was a costly waste of money, space, and metal. And the government JUST realized this. So the government was quietly looking for buyers to get rid of it. Bonus for making it a believable con because he asked for bribes, which was taken as proof that he was genuine because everyone knows the government is corrupt.
Even better: when the victim (he scammed just one of the moguls for realism) didn't press charges out of shame, he chose six other moguls and did it again. This time, the chosen victim had the sense to check, and the conman had to run...
[HitmanForHire.net]. If it hadn't been for a terrified woman going to the FBI after the "hitman" tried to blackmail her, they might have never realized the man behind it was soliciting actual offers.
In his Dress to Kill show, Eddie Izzard points out that "[Hitler] was a mass murdering fuckhead, as many important historians have said. But there are other mass murderers who got away with it. Stalin killed many millions, died in his bed. Well done there. Pol Pot killed 1.7 million Cambodians, died under house arrest, age 72. Well done, indeed. And the reason we let them get away with it is because they killed their own people. And we're sort of fine with that. Oh, help yourself, you know we've been trying to kill you for ages, so you kill your own people... Seems to me Hitler killed people next door. Oh, stupid man. After a couple of years: well we won't stand for that, will we? Pol Pot killed 1.7 million people. We can't even deal with that. I think we think that if someone kills someone, that's murder, you go to prison. You kill ten people, you go to Texas they hit you with a brick, that's what they do. Twenty people, you go to a hospital and they look through a small window at you forever. And over that we can't deal with it. Y'know? Somebody's killed 100,000 people, we're almost going 'well done! You killed 100,000 people? You must get up very early in the morning.'"
While ultimately unsuccessful, the arguments put forth by Charles Guiteau during his trial for the murder of President James Garfield, ranging from accusing the latter's doctors of the actual killingnote which was, strictly speaking, true to seeking the intervention of President Chester A Arthur on his behalf in return for the raise he got due to Garfield's death, essentially defines this trope.
The person that calmly walks into a public restroom, straight past the queue, and into the cubicle that just opened up. They get away with it because by the time people's brains catch up to the idea that someone would so blithely ignore the queue, they're already in the cubicle and safe.
There are several well-known stories (possibly urban legends) involving celebrities who do insane feats in front of random people, then dare them to tell someone about what just happened. One such story involves Bill Murray, who supposedly walked up to a random customer at a fast-food restaurant, took one of his fries and ate it in front of him, then said, "No one will ever believe you" before walking away. For his part, Murray has heard the stories before, and said in a GQ article in 2010 that he himself thinks it's "crazy and unlikely and unusual". The myth may have stemmed from a biography of James M. Cain in the mid-80's, which featured a passage where the actor and a group of friends (including a famous actress) were driving on the Pacific coast and stopped at a roadside diner — as they were getting up to leave, the actress walked up to a customer, exposed her breasts, and walked off, saying to her friends afterwards, "C'mon! No one will ever believe him."
After one too many "OJ is guilty" weekend update jokes, Norm MacDonald got fired from SNL, only to be inexplicably brought back as a guest host 18 months later. To say Norm revelled in the irony would be an understatement, as he used his opening monologue to point out he hadn't become any funnier in the interim and had no intention of curbing down the Black Comedy that got him fired to begin with. He then hilariously proved his point, using guest host immunity to prevent the NBC execs from pulling the plug.
Peter Wessel Tordenskjold, a Norwegian naval officer in the Danish-Norwegian navy, fought a Swedish frigate 'De Olbing Galley' twice the size of his own ship in July 1714. After a having fought a whole day and night, he was running out of ammunition. He then sent out an envoy to the Swedish ship asking to borrow some more gunpowder, so they could continue fighting. The request was refused, but the captains drank to each other's health and promised to meet another day.
A story taken from Tumblr: "When I was in preschool, there was this really weird system of time-out where they’d put you in this giant plastic bucket [..] And the rule was you couldn’t leave the bucket for ten minutes. In case you didn’t know, I was what the teachers referred to as a “difficult child” which is code for “walking entity of sass”, so I was in the time-out bucket quite a bit. Once they put me in the bucket for thirty minutes, and I thought that was incredibly unfair, so I grabbed the handles and shifted my body repeatedly until the bucket and I were out of the classroom, in the hallway, and through the front door. They found me in the parking lot scooting to freedom in the time-out bucket. The teachers were furious and I said, “Hey, I never left the bucket”. So they called my mum and told her what I did and she just said, “Well, he never left the bucket.”"
During World War I, the German light cruiser Emden needed the keel cleaned and the machinery overhauled. Seeing he was near the British base of Diego Garcia and that the locals didn't know about the war yet, captain von Müller claimed there was a war game and had the British personnel clean Emden's keel, overhaul the machinery, supply him with coal and food, and touch up the paintjob. He paid in cash before leaving.
The Brazilian Constitutionalist Revolution. The Paulistans, who were opposing the government at the time, had very low resources and couldn't afford weapons, so instead, they've gone to war equipped only with instruments known as "matracas" (wooden rattles that made a noise similar to that of a machinegun) to scare their enemies.
And of course, people who edit Wikis with ridiculous claims, knowing full well that said ridiculous claims will be assumed as true. This is especially common with "list of notable residents" sections.
It's not uncommon for businesses to hire shills to represent them. However, some will hire reverse shills that will go to forums and sites that are aligned against said business and derail threads by acting like either a very VERY angry customer that needs to be cooled down or a sympathizer who just "wants to play devils advocate". This involves a large dosage of ham and balls. It works too.
Italian Warrior Poet (in the sense he was a poet that had joined the army) Gabriele D'Annunzio pulled a few of these in World War I, including: charging at an Austrian trenchline with a gun in each hand, a knife in his mouth, and a Badass Cape; entering an enemy harbor with three torpedo boats, firing torpedoes, and leaving messages in which he dared the enemy fleet to come out and fight (he didn't hit any ship due the Austro-Hungarian having extensive torpedo nets to counter this exact kind of raid, but him entering the harbour and getting away with it was still a morale blow); flying over Vienna and dropping leaflets in which he praised the Italians for not bombing the city into rubble when they could and suggested the citizenship to overthrow the government and sue for peace.
The Italian navy loved this. There was a shortage of patrol ships? They strapped torpedoes on small motorboats and used those to patrol and torpedo anything they encountered. The reason the Austro-Hungarians had extensive torpedo nets when D'Annunzio attacked? The Italians had already used their torpedo boats to sink a pre-dreadnought battleship in harbour. Two of those torpedo boats encounter an enemy fleet of two battleships, one destroyer and six normal-sized torpedo boats? They fired torpedoes and sunk the Austro-Hungarian flagship (after this, the Austro-Hungarian fleet didn't dare to leave the harbours anymore). The Austrian harbours are too well guarded for the torpedo boats? They sent in men in diving suits and no breathers and sunk a battleship and a freighter with mines (this doubled as Kick the Dog, as the Austro-Hungarian army had just dissolved in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto and the Empire was begging for peace). In World War II, the Royal Navy is superior to the Italians and can easily counter the torpedo boats? They sent men in diving suits (this time they had breathers) into Alexandria's harbour to sink two battleships (including the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet!!) and damage a tanker (they had three mines, but there were just two battleships and no carrier) and a destroyer (by accident). Needless to say, both the Austro-Hungarian Navy and the Royal Navy started expecting anything...