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Easily Swayed Population

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"This is, like, the most easily-led crowd in the world. Hey, everybody, childbirth is bad! (footage of a crowd booing) But genocide is good! (footage of people cheering)"

Populations and groups have their own cultures. Their own thoughts, and their own ideas about how their little part of the world or universe should co-exist with each other, or how they should live.

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This is not it. This is a group that seems to be so lost and unable to think for themselves that they:

  • will latch onto anything,
  • will not question its veracity,
  • do not know anything outside of their sphere of influence,
  • may change their opinion at the drop of a hat to their, or the main characters', detriment,
  • are completely naïve, sincere, and unknowledgeable about being controlled, needing complete guidance without thinking for themselves, or that their system of living is actually doing much more harm than good for themselves.

And...

It's a wonder that this population still exists, as they probably would have been destroyed by their own stupidity long ago.

May overlap with Cloud Cuckoolander, Apathetic Citizens, Ungrateful Townsfolk, Easily Condemned, Lawful Stupid, and Too Dumb to Live. See also Easy Evangelism, Gullible Lemmings, Democracy Is Flawed, and Democracy Is Bad.

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Related to Civilians Are Irrelevant, because the populace are incapable of thinking or accomplishing anything for themselves. They only exist to make things easier or harder for whoever's in charge, trying to help, or themselves.

If the civilization gets too deep into something like this, maybe It Is Beyond Saving.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • My Hero Academia: The populace of Japan. If the aftermath of the heroes' raid on the Paranormal Liberation Front is any proof, all it took to make them turn against their devoted protectors was one slanderous broadcast from Dabi about Endeavor's past life. This is despite one part of Dabi's broadcast (the claim that Hawks murdered Best Jeaninst) being immediately proven a lie when Jeanist showed up seconds later to fight Dabi and Shigaraki on live TV. Which surely should've left the public at least wondering how many of Dabi's other claims were also lies. They decide to take support items into their own hands, and in doing so, end up causing more harm to the city than good; heroes are scorned and belittled, and some even shamed into retirement. The most harrowing sign of this is that they vandalized All Might's statue in Kamino with a sign about his neck reading "I AM NOT HERE".
  • In Remina, the titular girl becomes famous when her father discovers a planet emerging from a wormhole in deep space, which he named after her. However, once the "planet" turns out to be a planet-eating Eldritch Abomination, all of Remina's former fans turn against her and try to kill her in the belief that this will make it go away.

    Comic Books 
  • This trope is the bane of Spider-Man's existence. For all the heroic acts he performs on a near-daily basis, all it takes is a few negative articles in the Daily Bugle to turn much of the population of New York City against him.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: A pair of Saturnians kidnap and impersonate Queen Hippolyte and order the Amazons to prepare to attack the United States. Despite a few Amazons bringing up that this will violate the oaths of never killing humans or engaging in earth's wars and will thus render them mortal regular humans again rather than Amazons the Saturnians are able to get the Amazons to build weaponry and modify their fleet and are only stopped at the last minute as they set of to attack by the return of their queen who has to work a little bit to make them believe she's the real Hippolyte.
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    Films — Animation 
  • Beauty and the Beast: Because Belle spurned Gaston's advances, Gaston does a dick move by rousing the townsfolk to commit Belle's nutty inventor father to the loony bin.
  • Megamind: The citizens of Metro City latch on to the idea that Metro Man is, and always will be their savior, with the implication of the populace having an unhealthy dependency on him. For him, though, this creates an existential crisis, in that he and Megamind were performing the same villain-hero performance moves over and over day-in and day-out, without any regard for what he wanted to do in his own life, and it was getting extremely tiresome for him. So, he fakes his own death and decides to take up music instead. When Roxanne finds out that he's still alive, she's absolutely furious, breaking not just his trophies, but his guitars and even a person-sized speaker over his head, claiming that he let the city down and cowardly deserted them, while Metro Man is completely unfazed, and has a completely drained and exasperated expression on his face that just says "You're just proving my point, you do have an unhealthy dependency... Why are you doing this?"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian: A group of followers latch onto the idea that an ordinary man named Brian is their messiah (when around the time the film takes place, it should be Jesus). No amount of convincing makes them change their opinion otherwise, which frustrates the title character to no end.
  • In various Batman films, the endlessly gullible citizens of Gotham City can be as much of a danger as Batman's rogues' gallery:
    • Batman: After killing dozens of people with poisoned beauty products, all it takes for Joker to fix his image is to throw money out to Gothamites during a parade. And he still tries to kill them all again with Smylex gas in the balloons.
    • Batman Returns: The city rallies behind Penguin's mayoral campaign despite his grotesque appearance and behavior, and easily believes Batman killed the Ice Princess; Batman quickly turns them against Penguin by simply playing a recording of him insulting them.
    • The Dark Knight: Joker's plans hinge on Gotham City fearing his wrath and acting violently against each other, ironically to prevent him doing further damage. It works up until the end, when they finally stop playing his games... Only to completely buy the notion that Batman is responsible for Two-Face's killings (although he volunteered to take that responsibility to preserve Harvey Dent's image).
  • A Face in the Crowd: "Lonesome" Rhodes quickly rises from obscurity to fame and influence as a media celebrity, and just as quickly falls when his contempt for his audience is broadcast. Mel Miller tells him that in a few years the spotlight will move on to somebody else.
  • The Israelites in The Ten Commandments (1956) quickly agree to Dathan's plan of building an Egyptian idol and going back when it looks like Moses has gone missing at Sinai. This is after the plagues, the Pillar of Fire and the parting of the Red Sea.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Gullibility of the ordinary people is discussed by the protagonist and the antagonist who is successfully pretending to be a hero:
    Peter Parker: How could you do all of this?
    The Big Bad: You'll see, Peter. People... need to believe. And nowadays, they'll believe anything.
  • A rather sad instance in Galaxy Quest, as an alien race, the Thermians, that the television stars of the titular show help, are completely pacifistic, take everything at face value, have a naivety close to that of a 6-to-7-year-old child, and have no concept of fiction. They believe it is a form of deception and lying, which they do know, as they've seen in their gruesome encounters with an insectoid warlord, Sarris, who is bent on the genocide of the Thermians. Because of this, the Thermians believe that the crew of the fictional show are the real deal, and that the show itself (and television in-general) is an "historical record" of their travels and explorations.
    Gwen DeMarco: They're not ALL "historical documents." Surely, you don't think Gilligan's Island is a...
    [All the Thermians moan in despair]
    Mathesar: Those poor people.

And later, after torturing Mathesar to within an inch of life, Sarris forces Jason Nesmith, the "Captain Kirk" analogue on the show, to tell him he's an actor, by playing one of the episodes on a nearby computer terminal:

Jason Nesmith: I'm not a Commander. There's no "National Space Exploration Administration." We don't have a ship.
Mathesar:[looking at the screen, idealistic] But there it is...
Jason Nesmith:[gesturing with his fingers, three inches across] The ship is that big.
Mathesar: But inside, I see many rooms.
Jason Nesmith: You've seen plywood sets that look like the inside. Our beryllium sphere is... is wire with plaster around it. And our digital conveyor is... it's Christmas tree lights. It's a decoration. It's all fake. Just like me.
Mathesar:[still clinging to ideals] But why...?
Jason Nesmith: It's difficult to explain. On our planet, we, uh... we pretend to... to entertain.
[Mathesar turns away in downtrodden horror]
Jason Nesmith:[pleading] Mathesar, I am so sorry. God, I am so sorry.
  • In a darker fashion, The Purge is a badly-done example of this. When a previously-unknown political party seizes control, to prevent crime from running rampant all year-round in the United States, for 24 hours, crime is legal, and emergency services are suspended. What makes this stupid is that people are expected to follow through with this, and are expected to return to normal as if nothing happened, as if acquaintances are expected to trust each other after an attempted murder to their person the night before; plus the hypothetical societal collapse, property damage, death toll, and infrastructure damage has been researched to be enormous.
    • The later films show the Purge is actually a subversion of this trope; the murders committed on Purge Night are rigged by the New Founding Fathers, who drop off loads of weapons and paramilitary killers in vulnerable areas because people won't dish out enough violence on their own (while many civilians are seen indulging themselves in murder and mayhem, an equal amount are shown only fighting to protect themselves, and the vast majority simply hunker down and wait for it to end). Additionally they plant false news on the Purge's economic benefits, and use it as a way of keeping various ethnic groups divided from each other.

    Literature 
  • Much to the chagrin of the three Baudelaire protagonists in A Series of Unfortunate Events, the average citizen of the Land of Districts is very easily fooled or manipulated by the villains of the stories in question, forcing the children to have to solve the problems themselves. It's practically a Once Per Book occurrence.
    • Artistic License – Law aside, not one person notices that Olaf's "Marvelous Marriage" play is a ploy to marry Violet and gain the Baudelaire inheritance, despite people pointing out the realistic props (namely the marriage certificate), and the fact that a justice of the peace is playing the wedding minister.
    • At one point, the Baudelaires themselves do this to a mob in the Village of Fowl Devotees by explaining mob psychology to themselves (and the reader) and then strategically spacing themselves out in a crowd that wants Jacques (falsely believed to be "Count Omar") burned at the stake specifically so that they can steer the crowd toward demanding he be released. It almost works.
    • Played With in "The End" where Ishmael told the residents of the Island the exact opposite of everything about himself, and the islanders just believed him. However, the islanders are able to sniff out Count Olaf's disguise a mile away, noticing everything he does to cover up his real identity, just as the children have been desperately trying to get the adults to believe over the course of the series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "A Taste of Armageddon", a war has been raging between two planets, Vendikar and Eminiar VII, for 500 years. The only odd part? The war is computerized. No missiles, no bombs, no ground infantry/army/invasion. The "attacks" are recorded within the computer, and probable deaths are counted. The treaty between the two planets stipulates that those "affected" must report to disintegration chambers within 24 hours, and even one miscount means that either side will begin attacking with real weapons. (The alternative being that the culture and infrastructure survives with the computerized war.) What makes this especially stupid is that seemingly every single individual on the planet "has a deep sense of duty" (implied for the other planet too) and will walk straight into euthanization without question, or others will allow their friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. It's only after Kirk destroys the computers on Eminiar VII and explains that war is supposed to be Hell that they finally put an end to it.
      Spock: Yeoman Tamura, you stay here and prevent this young lady from immolating herself. Knock her down and sit on her if necessary.
    • The Iotians in "A Piece Of The Action" are described as a very intelligent, but highly imitative and adaptive, people. An Earth ship, the Horizon, left behind some books when they visited the planet in the pre-Prime Directive days. The Iotians took one about Prohibition-era gangsters and based their entire society around it. When Kirk and company visit, the entire planet is a replica of 1920's Chicago with various "bosses" controlling territory and people paying them a "percentage" to have basic services like electricity and water. At the end of the episode, Dr. McCoy admits he accidentally left his communicator behind. Spock points out that if the Iotians disassemble it and figure out how it works, they could easily begin to duplicate Starfleet technology and Kirk remarks they could then come for "a piece of our action".
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "The Storyteller", a village on Bajor annually relies on their beloved "Storyteller" to tell the story of their battle with the ancient enemy in order to fight off an energy being known as the "Dal'Rok" that appears for several nights in a row each year. However, the way this is done is all a performance: The Dal'Rok is not an intelligent or malicious being just a dangerous mass of energy generated by a fractured piece of a Bajoran Orb, the Storyteller wears a bracelet with a another piece of the same orb that allows him to focus the psychic energy of the villagers, and his "story" whips up their confidence and faith in themselves and each other to generate the psychic energy needed to disperse the Dal'Rok. The whole tradition was created by the first Storyteller centuries earlier in order to unite the then fractured village against a common enemy and remind them that they were better off working together. The crisis arises when the current Storyteller, nearing the end of his life due to extreme old age, tried to pass the mantle to his apprentice. When his first performance didn't inspire adequate confidence in the village members, the Dal'Rok was not driven back, causing the town to lose all confidence in him and thus leaving the town completely vulnerable and unable to defend itself against the Dal'Rok. The aged veteran Storyteller has to call on an outsider, in this case Chief O'Brien, as a new heir to force the issue. O'Brien does even worse than the apprentice, who then rises to the challenge and faces the Dal'Rok bravely, successfully rallying the townsfolk who finally accept him as the new Storyteller.
  • The Orville, "Majority Rule": The Orville visits a planet, Sargus 4, where two anthropologists have gone missing. They are found lobotomized, in unwitting bliss from brain damage from the punishment of the justice system. Punishment for offenders, decisions on social discrimination, as well as decisions in normal society, are doled out according to public opinion/absolute democracy (upvotes and downvotes), similar to modern social media, which is the only thing that is keeping this society alive, and no-one has questioned the problems inherent within. After John LaMarr is recorded performing a dirty dancing act on a statue of a well-known and celebrated historical public figure, he is ostracized by the entire planet and forced to be taken on an apology tour, where it seems, even to their own people, no amount of apology or attempts to be friendly have any effect in changing the angry negative opinions of the population, with some attempts even being twisted into interpretations of attack. Lamarr is only able to escape with his mental faculties intact when one of the inhabitants, Lysella, discovers who the Orville crew really are, and helps them to manipulate the social media Master Feed, to improve John's image.
    • "Future Unknown" revisits the concept, if only just, when Lysella decides to ask for asylum. Her reasons are that the situation has actually gotten worse on Sargus 4, with individuals afraid to speak up, and even being blamed, arrested, and corrected for almost no real legitimate reason, because of mass-downvote events happening from random personal offenses. Two of her friends underwent the behavior-correcting procedure, without a trace.
  • Doctor Who: "The God Complex": Gibbis, one of the characters trapped in the hologram ship in the episode, is from the planet Tivoli, a planet with a cowardly population (even looking somewhat like rats) that seems to like being conquered. The name of their anthem is "Glory to <Insert Name Here>", and they let any invading force do as they wished. One invading leader, the Fisher King, and his population, was defeated by another, the Arcateenians, who had come to liberate the Tivolians. However, the Tivolians actually got angry at them removing the Fisher King from power, who was oppressing them. The Arcateenians got so frustrated that they decided to enslave the Tivolians as well.
  • Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams: In "Kill All Others", the protagonist, Philbert, is shocked when politician The Candidate announces during a speech "We need to kill all Others." He's even more shocked when nobody else seems at all disturbed by this. At first it's implied that there's some sort of Subliminal Seduction going on, but no, it turns out that everyone else heard it loud and clear — they all just figured, "Well, if the Candidate says so, then obviously Others are a dangerous threat that must be destroyed." Indeed, the fact that Philbert did not have this reaction makes him an "Other".

    Video Games 
  • This is at the core of Republic: The Revolution's gameplay: In each level, you have to convince people of a large city to support your political agenda, and no matter their prior beliefs (expressed in their support for rival political factions), you can convert entire districts to your cause within a day or two, if you pour enough resources into it.
  • Played for Drama in Persona 5 as the people of Japan are so unwilling to think for themselves that they will believe anyone, even when those people confess their crimes. It isn't until the Phantom Thieves steal the hearts of everyone in Japan in the final dungeon that things change. It is later revealed that this is due to a god.
  • In Frostpunk, during the main Scenario (A New Home), the population New London falls into despair after learning of the collapse and destruction of Winterhome, regardless of how well the city was doing prior to discovering Winterhome's fate. Some citizens get the idea to head back to London — by now completely fallen to the winter apocalypse — and it is your job to stop more people from getting on board with the suicide mission of the "Londoners", while limiting the damage they cause to New London in their efforts to spread the word and prepare for their journey. In your own efforts to counteract this, you can end up taking advantage of the easily-swayed population yourself, establishing yourself as an absolute dictator or the purported voice of God, who inspires unquestioning loyalty from the general population while suppressing and executing any dissenting voices.

    Web Comics 
  • Subverted in this Awkward Zombie strip. Photos of Raiden's mission get leaked to the internet, accompanied by angry comments about Pakistan. Raiden thinks this will mean war, but Kevin reassures him that it's not a problem. Kevin then shows Raiden the comments for a video of an adorable puppy, which is just as vitriolic, and even contains a completely irrelevant rant about Pakistan.

    Web Video 
  • In Final Fantasy In A Nutshell's episode for Final Fantasy XII, Vayne Solidor's first speech to Rabanastre shows this trope in effect.
    Vayne: People of Rabanastre, you may hate me...
    Crowd: Booo!
    Girl: Eat a dick!
    Guy: Who does your hair? It's fabulous!
    Vayne: But I'm gonna try, so just... okay, chill? I got this.
    Crowd: Woohoo! We're easily swayed!
    Girl: Have my baby!
    Other Guy: What about his policies?

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Every time the Flim Flam Brothers attempt to con ponies out of their money, they easily attract large numbers of customers before the episode's protagonists expose their scheme. From selling All-Natural Snake Oil in "Leap of Faith", to selling shoddily made "Holly the Hearth's Warming Dolls" in "Best Gift Ever", to running a for-profit ripoff of Twilight's School of Friendship (advertising free tuition but charging exorbitant prices for the necessary worksheets) in "Friendship University", the ponies of Equestria serve as a textbook example of the saying "There's a sucker born every minute".
    • In "Spice Up Your Life", it is explained that a famous food critic Zesty Gourmand has convinced the residents of Canterlot to eat only at restaurants which meet her standards — despite the fact that said standards involve tiny portions of bland food which no pony other than her is shown to actually like.
    • In "The Summer Sun Setback", the villains find that it takes very little — mostly a few words to the right individuals — to turn earth ponies, pegasi and unicorns against one another. In "The Ending of the End", they put this in action by spreading rumors in Equestria that each of the tribes is conspiring against the others. Within a few days, the ponies of Equestria — who had been living in harmony and peace for over a millennium — have been entirely swayed against each other, leading to widespread racial resentment and distrust boiling up seemingly overnight.
  • In The Simpsons, it seems the people of Springfield live by this trope:
    • In "Bart After Dark", A mob of Moral Guardians surround Springfield's best cathouse: the Maison Derriere (House of Ass). But before the mob can begin their arson, the madame makes a plea in the form of a song, reminding the menfolk of the fun they'd had putting trains in tunnels there. By the end of the song, the cathouse is declared a town landmark by everyone. Except Marge Simpson, of course, as she'd gone off to rent a bulldozer.
    • In "Marge vs. the Monorail", a civil forum is held by Springfield townsfolk over what to do with an unexpected windfall in civic funds. The local politicians want to line thier own pockets as usual, but Marge makes a reasonable and rational case for spending the money on repairing their badly-in-need-of-maintenance roadways. However, before she can get people onboard, a slick pitchman, Lyle Lanley, takes the floor and hawks a solution to their problems: a monorail. After a catchy tune, everyone present is convinced that a monorail will usher in a golden age for Springfield. Everyone except Marge Simpson, that is.
    • In "Whacking Day" a performance from Barry White and some anecdotes from Bart are enough to get the citizens to abandon the titular holiday, booing Mayor Quimby when he tries to boost his image by showing off the snakes he allegedly whacked. Quimby then calls the crowd "a bunch of fickle mushheads," an assessment to which they agree.
  • King of the Hill: The citizens of Arlen, Texas are often easily manipulated into bad ideas, such as embracing inefficient low-flow plumbing, banning Halloween because of Satanic panic, and playing up the town's history of prostitution to draw in tourists. It's usually up to the Only Sane Man Hank Hill to get everyone out of their self-inflicted jams.
  • Sonic Boom: The villagers are able to be easily swayed by any sort of claim Eggman or anyone else makes, no matter how outlandish it might be. Sonic and the others are usually the ones who have to try and talk some sense into them before things get too out of hand.
  • The Transformers: In "Megatron's Master Plan", the people of Central City go from loving the Autobots enough to hold a parade for them to utterly despising them after the Decepticons provide faked video footage which claims that the Autobots are the evil ones, and used a device to brainwash the Decepticons into doing evil deeds. The humans buy this incredibly flimsy premise so completely that they force the Autobots to leave Earth, and embrace the Decepticons as their new heroes.
  • In Devil May Care, Hell's new social media platform turns William McKinley into a star overnight thanks to a bunch of viral videos. He then falls back into obscurity a few days later when The Devil and Beans publicly humiliate him.

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