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Engineered Public Confession

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I will never tell the hero, "Yes, I was the one who did it, but you'll never be able to prove it to that incompetent old fool." Chances are, that incompetent old fool is standing behind the curtain.
— Rule #189 of The Evil Overlord List

It's a Just Between You and Me moment: the villain, secure in his superior planning or intellect, is monologuing in exquisite detail how his Evil Plan is going to profit him by screwing over all the people who trust or depend on him — completely and blissfully unaware that the hero or an associate has arranged a Hidden Wire, PA microphone or other relay of the villain's words, which are heard with perfect clarity by a figure of authority and/or the villain's dupes.

They, of course, realize just how they've been deceived and turn on him (or line up to get their crack at him). Alternatively, the hero may be concealing a tape recorder, and will replay the villain's words in front of authorities just when it seems as if he'll get away with it all. Turns out that the hero has recorded the whole thing, and the proof of the villain's evilness is Caught on Tape.

Often accompanied by a priceless Oh, Crap! from the exposed villain when he realizes what's happening, and he usually has a Villainous Breakdown from being so outed (as well as outwitted), if he hasn't had a breakdown already (in many cases, the breakdown may cause the confession, since he is not usually in control of himself). Regardless, he usually gets fired from his job and/or sent to the slammer.

Variation of Right Behind Me, but done intentionally, and usually with more people listening. Also similar to Bluffing the Murderer, but it relies on overconfidence rather than panic on the part of the villain.

Usually the moment of demise for the Nice Character, Mean Actor, the Straw Hypocrite, and the Villain with Good Publicity. Has also been the bane of The Chessmaster and the downfall of the Manipulative Bastard on many occasions.

Compare Did I Just Say That Out Loud?, Is This Thing Still On?, Endangering News Broadcast, Staging the Eavesdrop, Spanner in the Works. and "We're Live" Realization. Contrast Made Out to Be a Jerkass when a hero standing up to a villain results in this and Accidental Public Confession for cases without the prearranged recording/broadcasting element.


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    Films — Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: Terry gives the police the sound byte of Jordan Pryce telling the Jokerz that he gave them the security codes in exchange for hiring them to kill/ice Bruce Wayne.
    Pryce: ...I want my lawyer.
  • This is combined with Accidental Public Confession in Cats Don't Dance, after Darla Dimple's attempt to ruin the animals' show-stopper completely and utterly fails, the frazzled starlet crawls up to Danny and grabs him by his shirt, growing "I'm the star, you stupid cat! I should've drowned you all when I flooded the stage!", not realizing that a live microphone was tangled around her, letting the audience know she was behind the "Lil' Ark Angel" incident earlier.
    Audience Member: I can't believe it.
  • In Coco, Miguel's aunts man the camera at the Sunrise Spectacular and turn on the sound to reveal the crimes of Ernesto de la Cruz to the audience. Not only does the crowd hear of his past crimes, the cameras catch de la Cruz throwing Miguel to his apparent death.
  • Hey Arnold! The Movie: After Scheck burns the document that declares the neighborhood, the location of the "Tomato Incident," as a national landmark in front of Arnold and Gerald, Arnold gets around not having the actual document by using Scheck's own security camera footage of him burning the document to reveal the truth to everyone about both the neighborhood and Scheck himself. After the boys show the townspeople the video, Scheck is forced to flee and tries to run over the angry mob, including Arnold and Gerald, but finds that his tires were stripped, and he is then arrested.
  • Justice League: Throne of Atlantis: After capturing the Justice League, Orm gloats to Arthur about murdering their mother Queen Atlanna and using a False Flag Operation to goad Atlantis into attacking the surface world. Cyborg uses his built-in computers to record it and then later play it to the Atlanteans, causing them to desert Orm.
  • Done by Mike Wazowski to Mr. Waternoose in Monsters, Inc.:
    Waternoose: I have no choice! Times have changed. Scaring isn't enough anymore!
    Sulley: But kidnapping children?!
    Waternoose: I'll kidnap a thousand children before I let this company die! And I'll silence anyone who gets in my way! (He knocks Sulley out of his way)
    Sulley: NO!!!
    (Waternoose attempts to grab Boo, but it's revealed he is caught on camera in the simulation room from the beginning of the movie)
    Mike: Well, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I spotted several big mistakes.
    Waternoose: (Bewildered) But, but... But how did you-?!
    Mike: You know what? Let's watch my favorite part again, shall we?
    (Mike replays the tape of Waternoose saying the kidnapping sentence over and over, ultimately resulting in his arrest by the CDA)
  • My Life as a Zucchini: Camille's aunt is trying to adopt her for the money and acts nice in public while treating her badly in private. Luckily, Camille records her aunt's insults on tape and plays it for the judge.
  • Zootopia: Officer Judy Hopps blackmails Con Man Nick Wilde into helping her investigation by tricking him into boasting about his success at raking in cash that hasn't been properly taxed and then playing it back with her novelty recorder pen. At the climax, this is how Judy and Nick take down the Big Bad cornered by Bellwether and her goons, she shoots Nick with her Night Howler serum gun, and as he menaces Judy, she gloats about how she'll turn the whole city against predators... at which point Nick and Judy reveal that he was faking having been affected (in fact, they'd managed to switch out the Night Howler pellets with blueberries), and Judy had recorded Bellwether's gloating, just as the police arrive.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Allison Danger stole the key card to rival Lexie Fyfe's hotel room to obtain video evidence Fyfe had previously volunteered to face Portia Perez when it was revealed she only had one SHIMMER match left.

  • In the finale of Old Harry's Game Season 6, Satan engineers Rosemary's confession to Edith's murder ... live on Radio 4's Today programme.
  • At the climax of the Radio 4 Afternoon Play Camberwell Green, Vincent is ranting that he has perfectly framed bus controller Marilyn and her husband, former bus mechanic Steve for robbery and a revenge attack on the bus network, and once they're dead everyone will believe it. Marilyn points out that her radio is on and every driver has just heard this.
  • The Lone Ranger loves this tactic. Since he has no actual legal authority to arrest anyone, he often talks the sheriff or marshal into waiting within earshot but out of sight while whatever plan he's created to get the villain to confess plays out. That way the sheriff can hear the confession and arrest the guilty party.


    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the final case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney you put all of the clues together and they point to Kristoph Gavin, who gloats because they don't believe the evidence to be strong enough to convict them, and they believe that's the only way you'll be able to save the defendant... then they're reminded that the trial is the first one in which a jury gets to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant, and the defence believes that they've given the jury enough reasonable doubt. This cues the start of a Villainous Breakdown as the guilty party rants, raves, and insults the members of the jury...who are all watching, live.
    • In the final case of The Great Ace Attorney duology, the Big Bad is taken down by a variant; only one person outside the courtroom (and there's no jury because it's a closed trial) sees his attempt to cover up him using his position as Lord Chief Justice to orchestrate a series of murders, but that one is enough since it's Queen Victoria (watching from Buckingham Palace as Sholmes was secretly broadcasting the trial to her) who outranks him and is having absolutely none of his attempts to abuse his authority to get away with murder. This cues that start of a truly spectacular Villainous Breakdown which ends with the villain covered in soot and ash.
    • Ace Attorney has played with this trope before as well, by having a number of killers engineers a public confession for someone else, by confessing themselves while in disguise. For example, Florent L'Belle, the killer of case 5-2, told the defendant's daughter "I killed alderman Rex Kyubi." Due to extremely complex and elaborate reasons involving the etiquette of masked wrestling, L'Belle was able to trick her into thinking he was her father, despite looking and sounding nothing alike.


    Web Original 
  • Groom: William records his father admitting that he amassed his business fortune by cheating.
  • Manga-Waido:
    • The girl who stole my ex-BF came to my wedding to stir things up…: Saho entered Ayumi's dressing room and gloated about having doctored both her picture sleeping with Sora and a photo of Ayumi cheating on him and even announced she was pregnant with his baby to rub it in. Much to Saho's dismay, Ayumi laughs it off and reveals she has been recording her the whole time. After showing the guests said recording, Sora verbally assaulted Saho for tricking him and eventually divorced her when he realized the baby wasn't even his.
    • My girlfriend falls onto the ground with a red arm as a lady screams at her!: Fuyuki defended Aya from a beachside café waitress as the latter assaulted her and accused her of stealing her older sister's husband. While Aya convinced Fuyuki to not believe what the waitress said, the latter tells Fuyuki to listen to a recording of her conversation with Aya on her phone.
      Waitress: So you knew that he was married but you went and seduced him, yeah?
      Aya: Because he said that he'll increase my salary if I go out with him! It's not my fault I seduced him so I'm not wrong!
      Waitress: It's all your fault that my sister is crying everyday!
      Aya: So what? Kazuya picked me over your sister because she wasn't as attractive as I am!
      It's all her fault for being ugly and introverted! I paid the alimony so stop bothering me! [Ugh,] You two sisters are so annoying!
  • Red vs. Blue: The Chorus Trilogy: Knowing that Felix loves to gloat, Tucker picks a fight he knows he can't win and baits him into bragging how he and Locus have been manipulating the Rebels and Feds into an unending civil war on Chorus with his helmet cam. Which Church/Epsilon then broadcasts to the Capital for everyone to see and hear.
  • "Fairest Of Them All", the third episode of Star Trek Continues and a direct sequel to "Mirror Mirror" and set entirely in the Mirror Universe, ends with this gambit. Kirk, enraged at Spock's mutiny against him, rants that his crew are nothing but pawns to be used and sacrificed for his own enrichment. Spock simply steps away from the wall, revealing that the communications panel was turned on and that the entire crew heard his rant.
  • Youth & Consequences: During the Student Council President election, Farrah takes out one of the candidates, Hope out of the race by playing an incriminating part of an earlier conversation during one of Hope's speeches.

    Real Life 
  • Roger Clemens tried to do this by secretly taping a phone conversation between former trainer Brian Mcnamee so that he would admit that Clemens did not take hGH; all it proved was that Mcnamee was either telling the truth or not a complete idiot.
  • In 2006, Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány held a private speech telling his own colleagues in the Hungarian Socialist Party that they had lied to the people about the state of Hungary in order to win the elections, how they had done pretty much nothing in the previous four years, and how they "fucked up" and needed to get themselves together to make things work again. Once the recorded speech was leaked to the public, all hell broke loose as massive protests flooded the country, followed very quickly by the prime minister's resignation after being defeated in a vote of no confidence.
  • A recording of (former) Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was leaked. In it, he discussed his plan to sell the Senate seat vacated by newly-elected President Barack Obama to the highest bidder. Later, he would apologize for swearing so violently in the tape. He would eventually be convicted of (among many other things) misuse of power and corruption.
    • Note that of Illinois' ten governors between World War II and Blagojevich's term, five were tried for corruption and four were convicted. Of them, Blagojevich was the only one to be impeached and removed from office (the others had all resigned before things got that far).
  • Linda Tripp, as stated above, taped Lewinsky's confession. Though she caught a lot of flack for it, it should be noted that a previous Clinton mistress had confided in Tripp and when Tripp had to go public with it, she was smeared in the press, and poked fun at with regard to her weight as in the latter example because it was her word against the president's. Call it Crazy-Prepared, but it's not that crazy under the circumstances.
  • Hugh Grant helped bring down the News of the World by secretly recording a meeting with one of their former paparazzi, who spilt the beans about the phone-hacking affair. Doubles as a Take That! and a Moment of Awesome for all the stick the British tabloids have given him.
  • WikiLeaks and Anonymous seek to be the Internet version of this. In fact, the HB Gary Federal leak is a fitting example. Edward Snowden has also ventured into this territory. In 2016, the "Panama Papers" documents that exposed tax haven activity set records for the sheer amount of data involved.
  • The "Teapot Tapes" in New Zealand. Ironically the politicians at the centre of it have accused the media of "News of the World"-style tactics. Initially it wasn't completely played straight - the tapes are in the hands of the police after the initial controversy and the cameraman who made the original recording is fighting for his reputation and bank balance in the courts. In early 2012, however, it was subsequently inverted when the recording was leaked onto the Internet.
    • Still in New Zealand, investigative journalist Nicky Hager's 2014 book, Dirty Politics, was sourced from secret correspondence of a controversial blogger given to him by a suspected hacker. To Hager's supporters, he's blown the whistle on corruption and dirty tricks; to his detractors, he's a recipient of stolen property. Subverted twice, however; firstly when the hacker who supplied the documents to Hager leaked further dirt on Twitter, only to go into hiding after legal threats from the controversial blogger loomed; secondly, Dirty Politics came right before a general election and was intended to influence the outcome, which didn't happen. Hager, however, insisted in a post-election essay that it was only the beginning, given the ongoing investigations being carried out, and his legal victory over the police detectives involved.
  • A number of public racial abuse incidents have been caught on smartphones. In the words of Will Smith, "racism isn't getting worse, it's getting filmed."
    • In 2011, a woman named Emma West went on a racially-charged rant against passengers while riding the bus. The incident was recorded by another passenger and uploaded to YouTube, which got West in all kinds of trouble with the court.
    • Also, Tennessee radio talk show host Thaddeus Matthews made racist as well as rude comments towards one of his guests, all caught on tape.
  • The British Holocaust denier David Irving holds the unusual achievement of self-engineering his confession. When the Jewish-American historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote in her book Denying the Holocaust that he was a Holocaust denier and had deliberately falsified historical evidence, he sued her for libel. Unfortunately for him, Lipstadt's lawyers asked Richard J. Evans, one of the finest historians in Britain (if not the whole world) and a team of experts to go through Irving's work with a fine-tooth comb and found that it was patently obvious that he had lied and cheated in order to show Nazism in a better light. His personal diary also revealed numerous instances of anti-Semitic and racist screeds, which he wrote down and freely let them have, seemingly not thinking they would manage to get through it all. At the end of a humiliating trial (ironic, because Irving had hoped to humiliate and financially ruin Lipstadt by suing her in the first place), he accidentally addressed the judge as "Mein Führer." Hilarity, and a well-deserved comeuppance, ensued. He had to declare bankruptcy after the court ordered Irving to pay Lipstadt's fees for the suit.
  • The infamous video of 2012 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (not knowing that he was being recorded) saying that 47 percent of US citizens don't pay taxes and he wouldn't bother trying to sway them to his side. Romney, of course, lost the election, and only ended up receiving... wait for it... 47 percent of the popular vote.
  • Defied by the Illinois Eavesdropping Act. Attempting to catch corrupt officers through recording them was made a felony. Courts have responded in various ways to challenges to the law, ultimately resulting in the law being declared unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court.
  • The "Mister Big" sting used by Canadian law enforcement (where it is legal, unlike in the US) creates this situation. If the police are confident they know who the murderer is but don't have enough evidence to be confident of a conviction, they set up an elaborate operation where an undercover officer will befriend the suspect and gradually convince the suspect that the undercover is a member of some organized crime group, eventually leading to the suspect witnessing supposed crimes and sometimes becoming a participant in them, all faked and staged by the authorities. If it works, they reach a point where the suspect wants in on the operation and is taken to meet the boss ("Mr. Big"). The suspect is told that the only way into the organization is to prove they won't lie to the Boss and the way they can prove that is to reveal details about the murder, with the Boss insinuating that he already knows all about it and won't tolerate being lied to. Ideally, the suspect then confesses to the crime (while being secretly recorded) and reveals things only the real killer could know, and sometimes more evidence the police didn't know about.
  • The greatest of them all is now accepted to be apocryphal - children's radio host "Uncle Don" who supposedly signed off (on a still live microphone) with "Well, that should hold the little bastards." In Poland, an urban legend has it that a radio host finished his teddy bear show in a similar fashion, stating "And now, dear children, you can kiss the bear's ass goodbye."
  • In 2020, online clothing retailer Teezyli was stealing artwork and selling it on their merchandise. The internet figured out that an algorithm was collecting these artworks based on comments saying things along the lines of "I would love this on a shirt". They began baiting the algorithm by spamming those comments on images warning people about the art theft, along with things like copyrighted characters begging to be sued, and soon enough, their store page was flooded with automatically-generated shirts proudly bearing these admissions of theft.


Video Example(s):


The "Awesome Audio Appliance"

Garfield exposes Mama Meanie and the All Buying Stuffs Channel by recording their admission that everything on the channel is junk with the Awesome Audio Appliance, which is itself just a old tape recorder from the junkyard.

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