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False Flag Operation
aka: False Flag Attack

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3rd & 4th Messengers: My Lord, news: the Swiss have invaded France.
King Richard IV: Excellent! Wessex, while they're away, take ten thousand troops and pillage Geneva!
Lord Chiswick: But the Swiss are our allies, My Lord.
King Richard IV: Oh yes... Well, er, get them to dress up as Germans, will you?

Whenever people from one nation or organization pretend to be members of another, to stir up trouble. Common scenarios include:

  • Pretending to be an enemy and attacking another enemy, to get them to fight;
  • Pretending to be an enemy and attacking yourself, to justify a counterattack;
  • Secretly being an ally of the villains and having them "attack" you in order to shift suspicion away from yourself;
  • Pretending to be a member of a terrorist organization and attacking your own people, to better control them;
  • In espionage, pretending to be from either the victim's nation or an allied one to fool someone into betraying secrets.
  • With Pirates, pretending to be the same as a victim's nation to get in close and attack the enemy.
  • Using the Web's anonymity to pretend to be someone from the opposite side of a debate and post something really extreme and then proceeding to paint your opponents with the same brush.

It's not limited to violence; spreading misinformation or committing sabotage in someone else's name can work wonders too. Basically it is a Frameup scaled up to target large organizations and nations. Heroes typically end up trying to Prevent the War or Avoiding the Great War.


This is an example of Truth in Television since false flag operations have been used in real life to do all of this. It's generally frowned upon by the Geneva Convention. The term comes from naval warfare, where your ships are allowed to approach their target under a different flag but have to raise their true colours before attacking.

Any False Flag Operation can be used to generate a Pretext for War. If a False Flag Operation is perpetrated by an individual villain or group start a war for private benefit, it's a case of War for Fun and Profit. If the attack is directed against the guys you're posing as (as opposed to your own), it's Dressing as the Enemy. When they disguise someone else, it's Disguised Hostage Gambit. If the intent is to incite two villainous groups to wipe each other out, it can either be Evil vs. Evil or Enemy Civil War. Thus, it is the third of The Thirty-Six Stratagems.


Compare Staged Populist Uprising.

WARNING: Because this is often used as a plot twist, there will be spoilers below, many of which will not be covered.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Aldnoah.Zero, the assassination attempt on the VERS princess was planned by a faction among the Orbital Knights to provide a Casus Belli for their invasion of Earth.
  • Attack on Titan: Armin, thinking out loud, suggests causing a disaster and blaming it on either the Monarchy or the Brigade in order to get the populace as a whole to regard the Survey Corps as their saviors. He then looks up to the shocked and horrified faces of his comrades. He claims he was just joking. And the series doesn't like to leave Chekhov hanging: shortly afterward, the Brigade murders Edward Reebs and tries to blame it on the Survey Corps.
  • In Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts, Hideyoshi dresses up as his twin sister (the vice-representative of Class A) in order to goad Class C into attacking Class A.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the shape-changing homunculus Envy took the form of an Amestrian soldier and fired the shot that started the Ishballan War.
  • Gundam
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO, the Zeons made a Zaku disguised as a GM for this purpose. It was so good that it was shot down by its own ship on the way back from its mission.
    • In the flashback arc of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, the Zabi family use the death of former leader Zeon Deikun to stir up anti-Federation sentiment (it's never stated outright if they poisoned him or simply seized the opportunity when he died of a heart attack). Then, during his funeral, Kycilia Zabi kills her brother Sasro with a car bomb because he hit her during an argument and blames it on Deikun's Old Retainer Jimba Ral.
    • The "space pirates" who attack the Capital at the beginning of Gundam: Reconguista in G are really Amerian irregulars in disguise so that they can conduct raids without starting a war, and so they can violate the laws against technological development without the SU-Cordists in space cutting them off from Photon batteries. As multiple other factions start colliding with each other, it ends up as an Open Secret as the "pirates" are usually aligned with Amerian forces in battle.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans there are a group of Dort colonists protesting for better working conditions. They are armed but simply demand the right right to negotiate. It turns out Gjallarhorn actually planned for the protest. They set off a bomb at the protest site, blaming it on the protesters and using it as an excuse to butcher the entire protest. Then Gjallarhorn allows protesters on the other Dorts to steal Gjallarhorn weapons, which had been rendered unusable so that Gjallarhorn could then butcher all of THOSE protesters too. Even some members of Gjallarhorn were disgusted by the underhanded brutality.
      • And at the same time, Kudelia's own financial supporters attempt to kill her to blame Gjallarhorn and make her a martyr.
    • Gundam Wing: OZ leader, Treize, puts a plan into play by having the Gundam pilots think they're attacking an OZ base when in really it's a conference where most of the Alliance is trying to aim for peace with the space colonies. When Heero destroys the ship carrying the delegates who were going for that option. The surviving Earth Alliance takes it as an act of war. Whoops.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the Earth Alliance learns of ZAFT's Operation Spit-Break, the invasion of the JOSH-A base in Alaska, and decide to do a little house cleaning. They let the invasion occur, but by that time, most of the bigwigs in the Atlantic Federation have skeedadled, leaving the base defended by their Eurasian counterparts and the remaining crew of the Archangel while they activate the Cyclops System hidden underneath and eradicate everyone there. Mu La Flaga discovering the Cyclops and Kira's arrival allows the Archangel and some of the forces to escape, but the death toll was high enough that the Atlantic Federation now had control and their controllers within Blue Cosmos can change the war into one of extermination.
  • One Piece had several people and countries do this.
    • Baroque Works occasionally pose as Alabastan troops attacking civilians in order to discredit the real army. Later, one agent actually transforms to look like the King of Alabasta to drive people into violent rebellion. Baroque Works agents were also placed among the rebels; agents on both sides are tasked with shooting key people on the other side if the Alabastan civil war appears to be reaching an end so that the war can continue. The organization's goal is to weaken both sides as much as possible so their leader, Crocodile, can take over the country with minimal effort.
    • Don Krieg has also been known to use this strategy, specifically wanting to capture the Baratie to do it more easily.
    • This was how the crooked and greedy king of Yvneel Kingdom screwed over Montblanc Noland after he "led" him on an apparent wild goose chase to what was supposed to be an island with a land of gold. He planted a fake member of Noland's crew from his servants and made him a "credible" source that Noland was a liar. In truth, the Knock-Up Stream blasted part of said island, Jaya, into the sky in between the time he left and returned. Too bad it was the part with the golden Shandora civilization.
    • A big part of Fishman Island arc's flashback was that mermaid queen Otohime was apparently shot by a human. In the present, Fishman pirate Hody Jones, near the end of his takeover, gloats that it was him who shot Otohime and framed a human pirate to instigate the Fantastic Racism between humans and fishmen.
    • Doflamingo did this to King Riku when he took over Dressrosa. Claiming to Riku he'll leave the country be if Riku gets a large sum of money to pay him off. Since the people of the island trust the king, they willingly give it up. Only once they nearly had the money, Doflamingo used his string powers to take control of Riku and his soldiers and attack the kingdom, making it seem like he had gone mad until Doflamingo comes in and "stops the villainous king", gaining the people's favor and taking the throne.
  • In Transformers: Robots in Disguise, the Predacons disguise themselves as Autobots and fire on the Decepticons, hoping that the two groups will annihilate each other.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS: During the formation of the Tower of Hanoi, an unknown force had destroyed Cyberse World. Lightning—the leader of the Ignises—and Windy—his dragon—suspected that Aqua—the Water Ignis—was a spy who led Cyberse World to be destroyed. Turns out Lightning was the one who had destroyed Cyberse World. He wanted to escalate the human-Ignis conflict by provoking his fellow Ignises into hating humans and going against them.
  • In Zoids: Chaotic Century, a member of the Guylos Empire hired some mercenaries to pose as members of the Republic to stage an attack on their own forces to start the war the Empire's been itching to have. While it worked initially, the commanders from both sides fortunately knew it was a False Flag Gambit and found an excuse to stop the fighting.
    • Later, the same person hires the same mercs to kidnap and kill Prince Rudolph so he can take over the Empire and re-start the war. He didn't count on them falling in love with the target and nearly getting themselves killed trying to protect him. They later become his bodyguards.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In The Church and the Crown, Buckingham stages a series of attacks designed to have the Musketeers and Cardinal's Guards at each other's throats so no one will be in a position to prevent his troops invading Paris.
    • In Mistfall, Solus is making his acts of sabotage look like the work of Outler radicals. He has even set up a naïve Outler to be killed and take the blame for the attacks.

    Comic Books 
  • Baker Street: In "Honour Among Punks", Davenport and his ally Boxe—who is a lieutenant in the Gothics gang—murder members of the Gothics and place the blame on rival gang the Towers: looking to ignite a gang war between the punk factions that they can use as a cover for their robberies.
  • Batman: The GCPD pulled a few of these to get various gangs to fight each other during the No Man's Land arc by painting over the territory markers of Gang A with the markers of Gang B and vice versa.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Haazheel and Greldinard stage the death of Wismerhill's father at the hands of the empire so that Wismerhill will join the forces of evil in the final battle for the fate of the world.
  • A hideous version in Civil War II: afraid that someone will find out that he's The Mole for HYDRA and was unable to kill Ulysses after Iron Man kidnapped the boy, Captain America gets Erik Selvig to write a letter to Bruce Banner, who had been cured of being the Hulk, asking for help as an anonymous scientist to help get rid of other gamma-powered beings. This ends up setting up events for Bruce Banner's death at the hands of Hawkeye, which in turn keeps Ulysses from finding out the truth.
  • An early issue of Daredevil featured the Masked Marauder having a bunch of minions dressed as Daredevil harass Spider-Man — to get him to pick a fight with the real Daredevil when lured to him. It worked.
  • Deff Skwadron: When Uzgob and his boys commandeer an enemy bommer to escape the sinking battleship they just sabotaged, he decides to take a little detour to hit the airfield of a rival Skwadron on his own side on the way back. Both sides are already at open war, just... fuck those guys!
    Uzgob: We've got a bommer 'ere painted with enemy markings, so who's gonna know it's really us if we bombs da place ta zog?
  • In the The Dresden Files comic miniseries Wild Card, Puck's plan is basically just a series of these — he kills random civilians (and tries to kill Murphy) and makes it look like the work of the White Court, kills several White Court members and makes it look like Marcone did it, and kills one of Marcone's men while disguised as a police officer. All this causes the various factions of Chicago to act on their natural hate of each other and go to war.
  • One of the stories in Fear Itself: The Home Front starred Jason Strongbow, the American Eagle, and involved rising hostility between the Navajo at the local reservation and the (mostly white) people in the surrounding area. Eventually strange Native American spirits start committing nightly raids on the town, but American Eagle exposes them as white townspeople trying to drive up anti-Native sentiment.
  • The origin of the Golden Age Western heroine Firehair involved a group of whites disguising themselves as Dakota Indians and attacking a wagon train to steal the shipment of rifles on board.
  • In an issue of G.I. Joe: Special Missions, the G.I. Joe team breaks a group of Russian soldiers out of prison in Afghanistan while posing as Russian military, and then gets the Russians to undertake a mission for them in the Middle East, posing as members of G.I. Joe in a bizarre double case.
  • In Green Arrow #49, the Patriots (an anti-Warg group) help a murderous Warg to escape from prison - killing several guards in the process - and leave behind evidence that other Wargs were responsible to give them an excuse to start a full-scale hunt for the Wargs.
  • Hunter's Hellcats: In Our Fighting Forces #117, the Nazis stage Suicide Attacks on French trains, and then claim the resulting destruction is the result of Allied bombing raids.
  • This gambit was used by the Justice League of America in JLA #100,'' in which the League fakes defeat to a group of radicals to unite the world's governments against them, in order to impress Mother Nature. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • In the Marvel Universe, one version of the terrorist group the Mutant Liberation Front was in fact organised by anti-mutant fanatic Simon Trask, and consisted of normal humans given drugs or wearing costumes to give them superpowers who masqueraded as mutants in order to convince the general populace that mutants were a dangerous threat that needed to be eliminated.
  • Monstress: At the end of Issue #24, the Lord Doctor destroys the Holy City of Aurum with an infernal energy bomb. And as he expected, the Federation blames the Arcanics for this, destroying the fragile peace and kickstarting the long-looming war, which will provide an opportunity for his private army to swoop in and take over.
  • In Prelude to Civil War, Iron Man hired his old enemy the Titanium Man to make an attempt on his life in order to provide a cause for not passing the registration act (basically, America's enemies would take advantage of the division and wipe them all out).
  • There was a Spider-Man arc that proposed that the Superhero Paradox is due to billionaires conspiring to engineer supervillains for heroes like Spider-Man to fight superpowered blue-collared crime to keep them distracted from their white-collar crimes. Norman Osborn was a part of it but went off the rails because he went crazy and decided to become a supervillain.
  • As shown in Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, the Coalition for Progress (the Empire's Propaganda Machine) routinely stages attacks on planets so that the military can swoop in and play hero, thus enhancing the Empire's public image. When Aphra realizes that the "raider" attack which killed her mother was one of these operations, she takes revenge by sabotaging the Coalition's attempted coup against Palpatine.
  • In Superboy (New 52), Templar arranged for one of N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s own bases to be attacked in order to set up his agenda.
  • In Supergirl story arc The Hunt for Reactron, villains Reactron and Metallo magically disguise themselves as Supergirl's friend Thara Ak-Var -Flamebird- and attempt to kill her. As Supergirl seeks and attacks the real Flamebird and Nightwing, Metallo and Reactron attack and appear to kill Mon-El in front of a multitude disguised as Supergirl, Nightwing, and Flamebird so people blame his murder on the heroes.
  • In Superman: Birthright, Lex Luthor fakes a Kryptonian invasion, with his mooks and war machines all wearing Superman's symbol. It almost works, as the public thinks Superman is with the invaders, but then Jimmy Olsen takes a picture of Superman protecting a child from them and spreads it.
  • During John Byrne's run on Superman, Darkseid tried to take out Superman and Wonder Woman by sending Kalibak, disguised by Apokalips tech as Superman, to attack Wonder Woman, and Amazing Grace, disguised as Wonder Woman, to attack Superman. His plan was to get Superman and Wonder Woman to each believe the other to be an ememy in disguise, so that they would fight each other when they next met. And indeed they did fight each other...all the way to Darkseid's throneroom, whereupon they dropped the act. As Superman told Darkseid, "Just because we're mere mortals, that doesn't mean we're stupid!"
  • In the Tintin book Tintin: The Blue Lotus, Japanese agents dynamite a section of the Shanghai-Nanking railway and immediately report it as the work of "Chinese bandits," which serves as a pretext for Japan to invade and occupy the region. (Cf. the Mukden Incident in the Real Life section below.)
  • The Stunticons of all groups pull this in the course of the original The Transformers Marvel comic run. They end up realizing that the anti-robot human organization RAAT and their Psycho Electro Broken Bird Circuit Breaker are indiscriminately targeting Transformers, completely blind to faction affiliations. They wise up to the fact faster than the Autobots, and during a battle with the Aerialbots, the Stunticons rally around the Autobot Skids, pretending to protect him from his allies, and ultimately convincing the mentally unhinged Circuit Breaker that her hunch was right—all the robots were working in concert to overthrow Earth and that the factions are just a ruse. Naturally, she attacks the Aerialbots while the Stunticons make a hasty escape. This is a case of an inverted false flag operation, with one faction pretending to protect their enemies in the middle of a clear fight between the two groups in order to have their mutual enemies start blindly attacking. Now bear in mind that this is the Stunticons we're talking about here.
  • In IDW's The Transformers, Prowl sets up one with the mad scientist Mesothulas. The two bomb a neutral city in order to drive up Autobot recruitment efforts.
  • In The Transformers Megaseries, the Decepticons start using their vehicle modes to provoke international conflicts. Skywarp and Thundercracker bomb a Middle Eastern powerplant while disguised as American F-22 Raptors, while Blitzwing opens fire on Brasnyan border troops in the guise of a Russian tank.
  • Ozymandias pulls one of these in Watchmen by creating a psychic "alien" to attack New York City. The idea was to create an outside threat to the entire world in order to pull the United States and the Soviet Union into an alliance, thereby cutting off the Cold War before it went hot.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Eviless and Hypnota tried to start a war between the Empire of Saturn and the United States of America by making it look like the American military attacked the Saturnian ambassador and that the Saturnian ambassador was abducting US citizens, both actions the two villains were actually behind.
  • In the early issues of X-Factor, the original five X-Men thought it would be a good idea to locate mutants to save by pretending to be a mutant-hunting organization called X-Factor, Inc., and a group of mutant terrorists informally known as the X-Terminators.

    Fan Works 
  • Atlas Strongest Tournament: Since the final match of the tournament, between Rarity and Scootaloo, is in a multi-leveled arena, when they're separated, it gives Aurelia and another changeling a chance to lure them both into thinking the other is outright trying to kill them, leading to Scootaloo nearly killing Rarity with her finishing move.
  • In Code Geass: Lelouch of Britannia, Lelouch's company is deliberately under-supplied by the logistical higher-ups due to Lelouch being the Black Sheep. Thus, a supposed "enemy raid" on a Britannian supply column by EU Knightmares was totally not perpetrated by Jeremiah and the Black Knights operating captured machines.
  • A very complex version is used in Code Prime at the climax of R1Megatron has Airachnid capture Euphemia the day before the SAZ is to go live and replaces the princess with a Pretender. At the SAZ opening ceremony, the Pretender slaughters several of the gathered Japanese. Then, Soundwave impersonates Charles and gives Bismarck the order to wipe out all of the Elevens in the SAZ (which Bismarck passes down to the rest of the Britannian Army), ensuring that even if the Autobots and Black Knights stop the slaughter, Britannia is complicit in the Massacre, with it looking like they were in on from the beginning. This triggers a Japan-wide rebellion that proceeds to tie up the Autobots, Black Knights, and Britannia, giving Megatron an opening to invade and conquer Pendragon.
  • In the Derelict campaign for FreeSpace 2, this happens accidentally when the Shivans attempt to reach a jump node blockaded by the GTVA. When Shivan capital ships larger than the blockade can handle start showing up, it seems like the Shivans will rip through them like paper. Cue the MMC-controlled Auriga, an Orion-class destroyer modified to have More Dakka, ripping through the Shivans like paper as it runs for the node. The Shivans, unaware the Auriga isn't friendly to GTVA interests, assume the GTVA is far better equipped than they actually are and retreat.
    • Played straight in another (otherwise unrelated) FreeSpace 2 campaign - In Sol: A History, a group of Earth Alliance pilots use ships generally used by another faction (the Independent Peoples of Pluto) and attack a Neptunian convoy, causing the two groups to start fighting each other.
  • Subverted in The Divide — Chrysalis tries to take advantage of Cloudsdale's secession from Equestria and trigger a full-scale civil war by sending several changelings disguised as Royal Guards to attack the city. However, Swift Storm is smart enough to realize that if Celestia really wanted to attack Cloudsdale, she'd be a lot more effective at it.
  • An interesting version of this happens in Emperor: the Northern Sun, which has managed to get several magical bombs that cause EMPs and great destruction, puts these bombs in several places around the world and pins the blame on the Death Eaters (who are actually running around), later revealing that they have special technology hardened against those bombs. The plan is to provoke France into declaring war over that technology, and then invade and add France to the Northern-dominated European Treaty Organization. They call this Operation SUCKERPUNCH.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the Conspiracy Theorist narrator seems to believe that nearly all the big events that happened in the show were a result of this, with either Celestia orchestrating a deal with the villains, or subtly manipulating them behind the scenes. Of course, given that she justifies these theories with a great heaping load of Insane Troll Logic, it becomes increasingly obvious that this is clearly not the case.
  • In For The Glory Of Irk, The Conspiracy is fond of using these to further their goals:
  • Equestria being framed under one in Just Before the Dawn drives a lot of the story's conflict.
  • Lightning Only Strikes Once has this trope invoked at least once. Lexa assassinates Charles Pike but does so in a way that appears for all intents and purposes to have been an unintentional consequence of being attacked by troops from Mount Weather.
  • Peace Forged in Fire: The Tal'Shiar try to break up the talks by attacking an Imperial ship under Republic colors, but Jaleh Khoroushi sees through it right away: one of the warbirds' names they used belonged to a vessel that was destroyed fighting the Undine over Qo'noS. They later attack the talks directly flying Republic colors, but the Republic had sent out an update three hours earlier for their IFF transponders that was missing from the fake ships.
  • The Powers of Harmony: According to the world-building forums, Discord started the Blood War between Metallic and Chromatic dragons by killing the dragon leader/progenitor Io and planting evidence that made each side think the other was responsible. Celestia and Luna eventually exposed the truth, but the war has left deep distrust between the two types of dragons ever since.
  • Son of the Seven Kingdoms: Littlefinger, with Lysa Arryn's knowledge and consent, stages one of these to turn the Vale against Prince William in the Civil War, hiring an assassin to stage an intended-to-fail attempt on Robert Arryn's life, get caught, and then "confess" to having been hired by William to punish the Vale for staying neutral. Fortunately, Mya Stone and William's other spies in the Vale catch wind of the plot and spin it in his favor, killing the assassin before he can "confess" and planting evidence that he was hired by the Mythic Dawn cult.
  • In The Swarm of War, in the second story arc, a Zerg force is lost in a minor Warp anomaly and lands on an Imperium world. Investigation reveals Laser-Guided Amnesia in the colony's memories, which implies artificial causes with hints pointing toward the Eldar and their psyker powers. However, Volran guesses correctly that the real culprit is the Overmind, since only he could have done such a precise work.
  • In The Unabridged Memoirs of Darth Plagueis the Wise, Dooku bombs the Senate and plants evidence that the Rim Liberation Front is responsible, in order to convince the Republic and the Jedi to take action against them. Initially it fails in this regard, as both groups note how convenient the evidence is, how little damage the attack did, and most tellingly, how the RLF hadn't actually claimed responsibility (which doesn't fit their MO). Ultimately, though, they do go to war anyway, and more importantly, this all provides an opportunity for Dooku to claim the office of Chancellor, the previous Chancellor having been killed in the bombing.
  • Upon a Falling Feather: The Shadowbolts fuse together and disguise themselves as Shining Armor before attacking Cadence, thus turning the whole Crystal Empire on the heroes.
  • Vader's Folly: As part of his overall plan to screw over Palpatine's schemes, a time-displaced Vader attacks Jabba's palace and leaves evidence behind implicating the Trade Federation, cementing the illusion by stealing all of Jabba's money and leaving a digital trail leading to the Federation via the Banking Clan. This leads to the Hutts declaring a war of vengeance on the Federation, severely damaging the Separatists' war effort.
  • In The Warmistress of Equestria, the sequel to The God Empress of Ponykind, the deer have apparently done a few of these over the years against the griffons and ponies, in order to keep them busy fighting each other and their attention off of the deer.
    • The Traitor Legions and their griffon co-conspirators take advantage of this trope as well they send a "pony" assassin after the Griffon King and a griffon assassin after Celestia, in order to start a war between Equestria and the griffons that the Traitor Legions can take advantage of.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 8th Wonderland, the countries opposing the virtual nation initiate bombings and blame 8th Wonderland for them.
  • Aquaman (2018): Orm hires Black Manta to steal a submarine for him. Then he has the submarine on remote control attack Atlantis, in order to justify a "counterattack" on the surface world. For bonus points, he singlehandedly defeats the submarine to make himself seem like a hero and get the Atlanteans on his side. Nereus sees through it immediately but goes along with it because he wanted to attack the surface world as well.
  • In the Woody Allen comedy Bananas, the dictator of San Marcos (a Fictional Counterpart of Cuba) attempts to assassinate a bumbling American tourist and frame a revolutionary group, in order to obtain American aid against the insurgents. It backfires, ultimately leading to the tourist becoming the leader of San Marcos.
  • Body of Lies (2008) features the CIA creating a fictional terrorist group and orchestrating a bombing (with fake victims) in order to draw a real terrorist out of hiding.
  • In Terry Gilliam's Brazil, random bombings occasionally erupt, implied to be false flags.
  • In Canadian Bacon, the government wants to create another Cold War, this time with Canada, in order to shift the blame from the current President to the hypothetical enemy. Besides a massive propaganda campaign, they send a squad of troops in Canadian uniforms to sabotage the Niagara Falls power plant. Unknown to them, the local sheriff believes all the anti-Canadian propaganda and organizes a militia to defend his town, including the power plant. The saboteurs are caught before they can do any damage. Despite this, the operation still succeeds, as the news of the attempt achieves the same result as actual sabotage.
  • In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Koba shoots Caesar and burns down the apes' home, pinning the blame on the humans, in order to both take control of the apes and start a war to wipe the humans out.
  • Four Lions: One of the Muslim terrorists proposes bombing a mosque to unite the Muslim world against the west. In preparation, he records a message taking credit for bombing a mosque and admitting that he's a Muslim terrorist. His compatriots point out that this contradicts the whole concept of a false flag operation and ultimately nix his plan.
  • Hercules (2014): It turns out that Cotys attacked his own villages, and framed the rebels (who he claimed followed a warlord) for doing this.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, a bomber painted to look like a Capitol ship drops aid canisters containing fire bombs. This makes it look like Snow bombed his own citizens just to slow down the rebels trying to overrun his mansion, causing his troops to turn on him and handing the rebels victory.
  • A favorite of Big Bads in some James Bond movies.
    • You Only Live Twice has S.P.E.C.T.R.E. running a dual false flag operation against both the US and the USSR space programmes, making it look like each nation is hijacking the other's capsules out of orbit with the goal of sparking a nuclear war between them so that China will be the only surviving superpower in the world.
    • The Spy Who Loved Me has a similar plot, with two nukes being simultaneously launched towards Moscow and New York, prompting nuclear war. The Big Bad plans to ride it out in his undersea base and then rebuild the world in his image.
    • For Your Eyes Only had one on a smaller scale, with Locque pretending to be working for Colombo when he is really working for Kristatos.
    • Octopussy has rogue Soviet General Orlov attempting to smuggle in and detonate a nuclear bomb on a US military base in West Germany. Since there will be no detected missile launch, he hopes it will be assumed the explosion was an accident and that the European powers will respond by demanding removal/disarming of all stockpiled nuclear weapons. Once they are gone, Orlov plans to launch a massive land-based invasion of Western Europe, confident that without nukes, NATO will be powerless to stop him.
    • The Living Daylights featured a fake KGB defector blaming his superior, General Pushkin, for assassinations of Western agents that he himself had caused. It's all planned to provoke the British into killing Pushkin before he uncovers said underling's illegal weapons and drug smuggling operations.
    • Tomorrow Never Dies also reused this plot, with an evil media mogul trying to provoke a war between Britain and China.
    • Spectre: The titular criminal organization is up to its shenanigans once again by staging terrorist attacks so that they could secretly seize control of the world's major intelligence agencies through their network of moles, which would enable SPECTRE to permanently stay ahead of their enemies and to counter-act on investigations into their illegal operations.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen starts with the Fantom and his Mooks attacking the Bank of England in London disguised as Germans and speaking German. They then attack a zeppelin factory in Berlin disguised as British soldiers. This is done for two purposes. First, the Fantom wants to escalate the animosity between the European powers in order to start World War I. Second, he wants the gold and plans for the foundation of Venice in the Bank of England and German scientists to design new war machines. Once the war starts, he wants to sell advanced weapons to both sides. The league is created by MI6 attempting to avoid an early start to WWI. Supposedly. The League's formation is actually part of a whole other gambit by the Fantom, intending to obtain the abilities and technology used by four of the League's members so he can reproduce and supply said abilities and technology to the warring nations.
  • The League of Gentlemen (1960). While stealing weapons from a British army base for The Caper, the protagonists have a couple of men speaking in Irish accents, knowing that the IRA will get the blame.
  • In The Lone Ranger, Butch Cavendish and his gang disguise themselves as Comanches and attack white settlements in order to make it look like the Comanche have violated the treaty.
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight has a plot of the CIA staging a terrorist attack and "blaming it on the Muslims" so as to justify a budget increase.
    CIA man: During the trial, one of the bombers claimed the CIA had advance knowledge. [Chuckling] The diplomat who issued the terrorists visa was CIA.
  • In Machete, Machete is hired to carry out a Conspicuously Public Assassination on Senator McLaughlin. However, the attempted assassination is part of a false flag operation to gain public support for McLaughlin's secure border campaign by leaving Machete dead and McLaughlin a wounded hero shot by a dangerous illegal immigrant.
  • Shown accurately for Naval Warfare of the time period in Master and Commander, where the crew of the HMS Surprise disguises the ship to look, and act, like a whaler ship, which the Acheron (the ship they'd been hunting for months) was hunting. The Acheron falls for it, the captain issues one order, and within a minute, the colors are raised, the Marines take aim, and the Surprise manages to get a full broadside off while the Acheron's crew was still reeling from the Oh, Crap! of seeing that the whaling ship they were after was in fact a British Royal Navy Frigate.
  • Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident: The Baron's plan is to detonate a nuclear bomb and let the superpowers blame one another and retaliate in both directions.
  • The November Man: The CIA is revealed to have committed the bombing which caused the Second Chechen War. It was blamed on Chechen terrorists.
  • The massacre of the McBains in Once Upon a Time in the West is carried out by Frank's henchmen (really working for Morton's railroad company) while dressed in dusters like Cheyenne's outlaw gang. A posse spends the first part of the film unsuccessfully tracking Cheyenne.
  • In Prince Caspian, King Miraz has his general kill several of his own men in order to be able to blame their deaths on Narnians, thus justifying a "retaliation" against them.
  • The Princess Bride has the bride-to-be almost becoming the victim of a False Flag Operation when her fiancé, evil Prince Humperdinck, hires agents to pose as enemy soldiers and murder her. This, so her death can be blamed on the neighboring country of Guilder, whom the Prince wants to go to war with.
  • In Prince Valiant (1997), the vikings of Thule raid Camelot and steal Excalibur while dressed in Scottish garb (The Dragon even rips off a piece of his kilt note  and drops it on the floor). Naturally, King Arthur and his knights assume Scotland was responsible for the attack.
  • The Quiet American: The bombings Pyle orchestrates are blamed on Communists to justify further American involvement. The same may also be true of the village massacre earlier.
  • The white renegades in The Rawhide Terror conduct their raids disguised as Indians.
  • Moriarty's plan in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows revolves around starting a War for Fun and Profit between France and Germany; first by manipulating a group of Bomb-Throwing Anarchists into destroying several carefully chosen targets in Strasbourg and Paris, so that each nation blames the other, then by disguising one of his mooks as an ambassador with Magic Plastic Surgery and getting him to shoot another ambassador at point-blank range during a peace summit.
  • In Siege of the Saxons, Duke Edmund betrays King Arthur by dressing his own troops up as Saxons (while also being allied to the actual Saxons), ensuring that the people thinks of him as a loyal and legitimate successor.
  • Sleeping Dogs has a member of the government pay thugs to shoot soldiers during an altercation with pro-union protesters to escalate tensions and give them an excuse for creating a police state.
  • Standoff At Sparrow Creek: The police funeral shooting was actually the police themselves staging a shooting by firing into propane tanks with automatic weapons, all to drive the nearby militia members into paranoia and make create a standoff where they would be justified in gunning them down.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had Khan and his crew using the hijacked USS Reliant to sneak up on and attack the Enterprise, effectively disguising themselves as Starfleet officers.
    • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country there were a bunch of false-flag operations going on, with Klingons firing on themselves to kill the Klingon Chancellor to try and start a war, then (at least in the video releases) Humans pretending to be Klingons to assassinate the Federation President at a peace conference. (Both incidents were part of the same conspiracy: Humans, Klingons, and Romulans coming together to prevent peace. Awww...) Not to mention the Enterprise pretending to be a Klingon freighter in order to rescue Kirk and McCoy from Rura Penthe.
  • Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy is all about false flag operations. To trigger the creation of the Republic Grand Army for instance, to later become his own Imperial Army, and one huge galactic, totalitarian dictatorship, Palpatine/Sidious plays off both sides, both of which are controlled by him.
  • Gabriel Shear in Swordfish is part of a secret U.S. government agency that plans to attack terrorist states in more horrific ways than attacks they have supported, ostensibly as right-wing terrorists themselves. The idea is the terrorist states will become too afraid of a group that can carry out such attacks that none would dare support a group for attacking the U.S. Of course, it first requires they make a terrorist attack on US soil themselves, partly to seize a DEA slush fund for their bankroll (since the secret government money gets cut off), which helps establish their terrorist bonafides at the same time.
  • In The Terror of Tiny Town, Bat Haines rustles Pop Lawson's cattle and leaves behind a branding iron to make it look like it was the work of Tex Lawson.
  • In Total Recall (2012), it turns out that the series of supposed Resistance bombings across the UFB were actually organized by Chancellor Cohaagen in order to justify expanding his Synthetic army, until he has enough to launch a full scale invasion of the Colony.
  • V for Vendetta has the British government stage a biological warfare attack against the London Underground and a primary school, also imitating the Reichstag incident.
  • Watchmen: Ozymandius' plot is to fake an atomic attack by Dr. Manhattan to unite the world against a common threat.
  • In We Summon the Darkness, the villains are fundamentalist Christians led by the televangelist John Henry Butler who are carrying out a cross-country killing spree and making it look like the work of a Satanic cult, all in order to spur a religious revival by making their propaganda about Satanists menacing society look genuine.
  • In Where Eagles Dare, the British shoot down one of their own planes, containing a (fake) American general, over Germany as a pretext to sending in a team of undercover agents in a convoluted effort to flush out a mole.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • In X2: X-Men United, Stryker has the brainwashed Nightcrawler attack the President in order to provide an impetus for his campaign against the mutants.
    • X-Men: First Class: This is the villains' plan, to use their powers to escalate the Cold War so the superpowers will resort to nukes to wipe each other out so that mutants will be the only ones left.

  • In Animorphs: Visser, Visser Three has two of his Hork-Bajir controllers attack during his trial of Visser One, along with an ordinary starved bear and tiger, so that he can end the "Andalite Bandits" while in front of his bosses and look good. Visser One doesn't buy it and calls Marco (who she knows, at this point, to be one of the "Andalite Bandits") to attack for real, discrediting his attempt.
  • In Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident, Opal Koboi has the B'Wa Kell goblin gang torch several of her own facilities as a "smokescreen", to hide the fact that she's the one arming them.
  • The Arts of Dark and Light: A conspiracy of this sort is a major part of the plot of Summa Elvetica. A group of warmongers with backing in the Senate intend to assassinate protagonist Marcus and Bishop Claudo and blame their deaths on the elves, thereby destroying the peace negotiations they are attending and providing a casus belli for renewed conflict with the elf-kingdom Elebrion.
  • Variations on this theme were a favorite tactic of Murgo infiltrators in the Belgariad and Malloreon, to the point where several characters make cracks about the Murgo lack of originality.
  • In Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Carlo and Francesco are sent to carry out such an operation. They are not told this is what they're doing and (as they realize when they figure out what they've actually done) they weren't supposed to survive it.
  • In the Cloud Atlas anthology, the fabricant Sonmi-451 (protagonist of the eponymous story "An Orison of Sonmi-451") is entrapped by a false resistance movement created by the Unanimity corporate-state, which is ultimately designed to galvanize public opinion against the "threat" of an ascended fabricant rebellion.
  • Vladimir Vasilyev's Death or Glory: In No One but Us, a group of Space Marines are forced to pretend to be rogues and pirates in order to invade a planet of Human Aliens in another galaxy in order to secure a cache of extremely-powerful portals left behind by Precursors. This gets to the point that they're forbidden from using official ranks or even words like "army" and "division" (these being replaced with "cohort"). This is despite the fact that the Human Aliens in question have never even seen an alien before and would probably assume the heavily-armed invaders were part of a government anyway.
  • During the Time of Troubles in the Deverry novels, Lady Merodda arranges for her brother and his warband to kill one of her rivals while using enemy equipment to make it look like the result of a raid rather than a deliberate assassination. Unfortunately for her, Merodda's daughter figured it out and told the rival's husband what had really happened, prompting him to defect.
  • Dr. Gorner in Devil May Care hates England so much he wants it to be destroyed. Initially he was going to produce and sell as much of drugs as he can to destroy it slowly from the inside, but he wants faster results, so he is going to frame them for an attack against Soviet Union by destroying Stalingrad and Trekhgorniy, thus locking them into a nuclear conflict which they can't win.
  • Discworld:
    • Subverted in Jingo. There is an assassination attempt on a ArabiKlatchian dignitary, and the evidence that the Klatchians themselves were behind it (i.e. the assassin was paid with foreign currency and there was sand on the floor) is so insultingly obvious, Commander Vimes assumes someone in Ankh-Morpork was framing them to make it look like they were trying to provoke a war. A Klatchian turns out to have planted the evidence to hide the fact that he did hire an assassin for this very purpose. After a couple hundred pages of messages against racism, the author points out that true equality means giving minorities the chance to be bastards.
    • Small Gods: Omnia goes to war against Ephebe because the Ephebians killed one of their emissaries. In fact, he was murdered on Vorbis' orders as a Pretext for War.
  • There was a book called something like The Double Invasion in which Earth had learned that a warlike species planned to attack a planet of Human Aliens soon. Instead of telling the targets, Earth's government sent a force to invade a year or so in advance, claiming to be the bad guys and committing "atrocities" just bad enough to piss off the locals and make them willing to mobilize and increase their industry to wartime levels. The fake invaders then allowed themselves to be "captured" and agreed to help improve the locals' defenses. The defenders were very surprised when the real alien invaders arrived and, after getting clobbered, were shown to be quite nonhuman.
  • The Fall Of The Galaxy, the rebelling biomechanical ships of the Bargon Empire are invading the Solar System - the heart of the Galaxy (yes, that is the name of one of the human galactic powers). The fleet of the Seven Systems' Union arrives to help the Galaxy defend Earth. However, as all three human powers distrust each other, the biomechanical ships use it to their advantage to trick the Galaxy into thinking that they are allied with the Seven Systems' Union. This causes additional confusion and more loss of life before the biomechanical ships are finally defeated.
  • In Dale Brown's Fatal Terrain, the Chinese set up and/or stage attacks on their own resources to create the impression that Taiwan and the US are attacking them. In Warrior Class, the Big Bad Pavel Kazakov stages a Macedonian attack on Albania to get the two countries to fight. In Edge of Battle, Zakharov attacks illegal immigrants using the same weapons as the American Watchdogs in order to make it seem that they killed the immigrants.
  • Firebird Trilogy: In Crown of Fire, the Shuhr were planning to fake a Sentinel attack on Tallis in order to turn the Federacy against the Sentinels, the only people who could stand against the Shuhr.
  • In the Frederick Forsyth novel The Fourth Protocol:
    • A Soviet spy pretends to work for South Africa to get a British official to reveal secrets. The British official was a staunch anti-Communist who felt that South Africa needed to know information to help fight the USSR and that South Africa was being denied information because of their "minor" problems with oppressing blacks. So he tells the spy classified information to help South Africa fight Soviet influence.
    • The Russians plot to detonate a nuclear bomb near a US Air Force base, to cause the election of an anti-nuclear, pro-Soviet government (Labour at that time were anti-nuclear. While not pro-Soviet, they had quite a few fellow travelers attempting to influence them from within. In the novel a faction of these are thus waiting in the wings to take control and remove the US nuclear missiles from the UK, eliminating this threat to the Soviet Union).
  • The main plot of Hammer Of The Witches starts rolling when someone commits a massacre of a refugee camp to frame Hexenhammer, the nationalist anti-terrorist vigilante group led by one of the main characters.
  • Hammer's Slammers: In Paying the Piper Steuben and a unit of his White Mice dress as members of a rival mercenary company hired by the other side and assassinate an anti-war politician, who was being paid by the enemy.
  • The intelligence-based version is mentioned in the backstory of the Harry Potter books. During the First Wizarding War, a wizard named Rookwood, who worked for the Department of Mysteries, set up at least one agent (Ludo Bagman) to pass along intelligence for the war effort, ostensibly to help the Ministry. Of course, Rookwood was actually a Death Eater spy who was passing this info on to Voldemort, and after the war Bagman was hauled in front of a tribunal and accused of being a Death Eater as well, but acquitted, partly due to his being a dim bulb and popular athlete who they saw could easily be taken in.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • The Harris Assassination that led to the Committee of Public Safety's rule over the People's Republic of Haven was masterminded by committee chairman Robert Pierre, but he and his co-conspirators arrange things so that the People's Navy seems to be responsible, allegedly attempting a coup d'état, by the simple expedient of having naval personnel who are part of their conspiracy carry out the actual attack. All so that Pierre and his co-conspirators becoming the new leaders of the government is widely accepted by the general public.
    • This has been the Mesan Alignment's MO for the last few centuries. In recent years they've run multiple False Flag operations intended to heat up the shooting war between Manticore and Haven whenever it starts to cool down, and more recently to start a war between Manticore and the Solarian League.
      • Mesan agents pull a particularly nasty one during Shadow of Freedom, in which they visit planets on the Verge and promise their various La Resistances aid in Manticore's name against the local and Frontier Security forces exploiting them. It's essentially a Xanatos Gambit because the Manticorans, upon finding this out, will either stretch themselves thin out of an obligation to help people who genuinely thought they were receiving Manticoran aid, or leave them to their fate and look like they stirred up rebellions and hung them out to dry. The fact that they do in fact provide significant (but typically insufficient) material aid to the rebels also serves to further inflame relations between the Manties and the Sollies, as the Solarians believe the Manticorans are helping the numerous uprisings.
  • Horatio Hornblower:
    • While still a midshipman, Hornblower takes part in a cutting-out expedition to capture the Papillon. His own ship, the Indefatigable, is attacked by 3 French corvettes before the Papillon can get away, and so Hornblower (having wound up in command by an unlikely series of events) orders the Papillon to engage the corvettes, taking advantage of the fact that the boarding party had yet to replace the Republican tricolor with the Blue Ensign (or rather the Ensign over the tricolor). He (and pretty much every RN officer) deems it a legitimate ruse de guerre. In the television adaptation, he instead claims ignorance of the rule when warned against this strategy by one of the more experienced sailors, sarcastically offering to let the sailor show him the rule after they save the Indy.
    • He does this again as a Captain in Ship of the Line, intentionally creating a fake French tricolour to get close to a group of Spanish ships. This comes back to bite him in the next book when he is convicted of piracy in absentia by the French and sentenced to be executed after his ship is captured.
    • In Lord Hornblower, he does this yet again: A small vessel has been taken by mutineers who intend to seek offered refuge in France. Hornblower finds himself aboard that vessel's sister ship, and has the rigging modified to match before launching a raid on the nearby French port, guaranteeing that the mutineers' ship will now be presumed hostile by the French. This sets in motion a chain of events climaxing in Hornblower seizing control of the port for the British and leading into the fall of Napolean.
  • Mockingjay, the final book of the Hunger Games trilogy, describes a bomb attack on children from the Capitol using a plane with the Capitol's emblem. Katniss recognizes the attack as a strategy developed by Gale and District 13.
  • In The Initiate Brother, false flag operations are apparently a favoured tactic of Jaku Katta, the Emperor's guard commander. Some are small incidents - arranging for Lord Shonto to be attacked at home and Lady Nishima to be detained while travelling, in both cases allowing him to come to their "rescue" and win their trust. He tries a bigger one when he arranges an attack on Shonto's army in the expectation that his boss the Emperor will be blamed for it, hoping to exploit the resulting outrage. However, it falls apart when the attack fails miserably and the Emperor finds out what he was up to.
  • Jack Ryan novels:
    • In Executive Orders, China heightens political tensions in Asia by orchestrating an air battle between their air forces and the air forces of Taiwan. It fits this trope, in that the Taiwanese pilots were tricked into opening hostilities when they were caught in the middle of a Chinese "training mission".
    • The terrorists in The Sum of All Fears have several False Flag operations going, first trying to frame the Russians for nuking Denver, and starting a shooting war in East Germany, and when that falls through, blaming the Iranians (who in this case actually had nothing to do with it) for being behind the whole thing.
    • Also discussed in The Bear and the Dragon, when China is preparing to invade Russia. The Chinese Defense Minister suggests that they shoot down a Russian recon plane, and then claim that it had invaded Chinese airspace as a justification for the invasion. Whether that actually happens is not mentioned (but it probably doesn't, as the Russians stop their recon flights in favor of the American UAVs).
  • Kentucky Fried Politics: Bulgaria attempts this in 1971 by having agents commit arson against Orthodox churches in Turkey in order to fan tensions with Greece, in the hopes of destabilizing NATO and forcing America to pick sides between them in any resulting conflict (and therefore draw whichever one loses into the Warsaw Pact's orbit). Fortunately, the agents are caught in the act and the plot exposed, bringing the two countries closer together instead.
  • KG 200 by J.D. Gilman and John Clive is about a Luftwaffe unit that specializes in flying captured Allied aircraft (the unit actually existed, but used them for long-range reconnaissance and dropping enemy agents). In the novel however the intention is to use American aircraft to attack London, to sow discord between the US and British forces.
  • Libra by Don DeLillo portrays the assassination of John F. Kennedy as an attempt to fake a Communist assassination attempt on JFK, only for postmodern confusion to twist the false flag operation into a real, successful assassination.
  • Magic, Metahumans, Martians and Mushroom Clouds: An Alternate Cold War: The Americans give the Lazarus zombie virus to a cabal of rogue Haitian generals to unleash on their own population, so it will look like Duvalier is using voodoo to enforce his regime, and thus lead to his downfall. Unfortunately, good ol' Papa Doc does have access to voodoo, which he uses to put down the viral zombies with zombies of his own, and thereby stay in power.
  • Alan Dean Foster's Kees vaan Loo-Macklin, The Man Who Used the Universe, created a false attack by a previously unknown alien species to prevent war between humanity and the Nuel by forcing their militaries to work together against the new threat. In the interests of making the deception convincing, he had himself shot repeatedly to the extent that he lost an arm.
  • Mortal Engines: In A Darkling Plain, Lady Naga is attempting to negotiate a lasting peace between the Green Storm and the cities of the Traktionstadtgesellshaft. The more war-like supporters of the Storm send their agents to assassinate her, wearing uniforms stolen from the Traktionstadt, in the hopes of collapsing the peace process.
  • In Crux, the second book of The Nexus Series, it's discovered by Dr. Holtzmann that the Posthuman Liberation Front's failed assassination attempt on the President was in fact designed to fail, with the assassin's targeting program adjusted to fire half a meter to the left of the president. After some digging, Holtzmann realizes that this and several false flag operations were planned and executed by then ERD director Maximilian Barnes. Later, Holtzmann is killed by Barnes for figuring this out, but not before Holtzman has used his secret Nexus application to upload all his evidence to the Internet and, for good measure, record and transmit Barnes explaining his role in the operations and forcing a heart attack pill down Holtzmann's throat.
  • George Orwell in 1984 had The Government use agents who posed as anti-government dissidents to recruit real anti-government dissidents who are then rounded up for torture and liquidation.note 
  • In Warrior Born, the first book in the Nova Refuge science fiction universe: The empire of Xarkon, one of the four largest factions on Terra Nova, the planet which humanity has fled to after our solar system's destruction by the Sun going supernova, orchestrate this on one of their major cities in order to frame and suppress an independent city-state micronation called Mordark located north of their country. They lock down the city, called Shardasha, and when all major human factions join in the fight, send in their Enomeg super-soldiers to take down Mordark's alien leader Lord Zegaldorph, who is visiting Shardasha. Following the events, at a meeting among the major human factions in the CONON space station (Council of Nations of Nova Refuge), Lucas Augustus Mars, High Commander of the Armed Forces of Xarkon, a Lawful Evil, Honorable Villain a firm believer in the philosophy of War is Natural and the de facto ruler, declare the nation's emperor a weak and cowardly leader and proceeds to execute him by decapitation while the rest of the nations watches. Subsequently, he declares war with the rest of the nations and the CONON station, usually known as a Placeof Protection and peace, becomes a scene of bloodshed. Many of the Xarkonian soldiers involved in the coup are not even aware of the truth behind the incident, including the Enomeg super-soldiers.
  • In events leading up to the events of The Osmerian Conflict the Terrans attack their own people to conjure enough sympathy that the populous would support a war with the Osmerians as part of their Pretext for War operation.
  • In "The Warsaw Document" by Adam Hall, Quiller is assigned to babysit an Embassy official investigating an impending Polish uprising that might disrupt East/West peace talks. Quiller conducts his own investigations and is surprised to find the Poles believe the British government is backing their revolt. It turns out the Embassy official is a KGB Double Agent manufacturing evidence that the entire uprising is a Western-instigated plot, thereby justifying a crackdown by the Soviet military.
  • In Red Storm Rising, the KGB sets up a bombing of the Politburo to manufacture a casus belli as part of their "maskirovka" (Russian for "camouflage" or "concealment").
  • The Reynard Cycle: In Defender of the Crown, Reynard captures the fortress of Kloss using this technique. It helps that all Calvarians wear uniforms, even the civilians.
  • Done several times in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. One of the most important ones was the raid on Wuchao (the climactic incident of the Battle of Guandu) which has two of these occur. First, Cao Cao disguises his troops as Yuan Shao's soldiers to get to Wuchao in the first place. Then, once Wuchao has been raided and burnt to the ground, he sends several soldiers in the guise of the Wuchao garrison to tell Yuan Shao that Cao Cao's raid has been successfully fought off. This causes Yuan to divert forces that would have gone to the defense of Wuchao to help raid Cao Cao's headquarters camp... where the rest of Cao's forces were waiting in ambush. This victory is almost enough to transform Smug Snake Cao Cao into a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Rogue Warrior: Richard Marcinko's special forces Navy SEALs group Red Cell operated as terrorists conducting mock attacks on military installations in preparation of a real attack. So the story goes, there was also a covert side to the team where while most of them were off playing fun and games a few would slip off and execute high value targets, such as going after car bombers in the Middle East while helping with American security.
  • Rollerball, one of the Commander Shaw spy thrillers by Philip McCutchan, has a flanged sphere twelve feet in diameter, with a bomb inside, rolling on an unstoppable course towards a Soviet base. As the rollerball was built in Britain, the Soviets naturally accuse the British government of building it, especially when a Soviet diplomat walks alongside the rollerball and finds UK departmental markings stamped on it. When it's pointed out that the British government would hardly put their own markings on a Secret Weapon, the Soviets argue that bureaucratic incompetence is responsible.
  • Safehold: Played with near the end of At the Sign of Triumph. After a planned uprising in Chisholm collapses miserably, an Inquisition agent provocateur and one of the nobles involved in the plot (try to) flee the country. They're expecting to be picked up by a Desnairian privateer, so when they see a schooner flying Desnair's flag they think they're safe. Then the schooner lowers the Desnairian flag and raises that of the Empire of Charis. It seems the privateer in question had lost an argument with the Imperial Charisian Navy a few five-days prior, and its secret orders captured. The naval schooner was specifically sent out to collect the last two conspirators.
  • A convoluted example in Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves. The titular Army of Thieves is an anti-American militia/terrorist group and seizes an old Soviet atmospheric weapon to use against the United States. It turns out that while the Army itself is genuine in its beliefs, its leader is a ruthless CIA agent manipulating them and aiming to protect America's interests. While the weapon will damage the US, it won't be crippling. On the other hand, the harm done to China, which everyone is overlooking, will be far more severe, preventing China from replacing America as the world's dominant superpower.
  • Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent involves a combination of false flagging and an agent provocateur — the main character is a member of the Tsarist secret police and he joins an anarchist group in London and plants a bomb in the Royal Greenwich Observatory to discredit them.
  • False flagging of this sort happened (or was suspected to happen) all the time in those days. The infamous Protocols of Zion was in fact written by a Tsarist secret service agent to discredit revolutionary groups as working for an "international Jewish conspiracy." This has been disproven repeatedly, but it keeps resurfacing nonetheless.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not: In "The Angel of Truth", Sherlock Holmes discovers that a seeming Catholic plot against Queen Elizabeth I was in fact instigated by her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham to allow him to continue his crackdown on Papists.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: Tansen and his men pretend to be assassins, leaving shir at the scenes of attacks against waterlords which implicate others, setting them against each other.
  • In one of Daniel Silva's novels about an Israeli spy, the hero is captured by Palestinian terrorists who want to place him at a suicide bombing in France they carry out as a False Flag Operation framing Israel for another, like the odious conspiracy theory Israel was behind 9/11. Sadly, it works at least temporarily all too well.
  • In Son of the Black Sword, this is done multiple times to frame Ashok and turn public opinion against him.
  • Star Trek: The Lost Era: Serpents Among the Ruins has John Harriman (the captain of the Enterprise-B) take part in a Starfleet Intelligence false flag operation against Federation outposts in the Foxtrot system (which were all automated and whose crew manifests consisted of dead officers) by sneaking aboard the Romulan flagship Tomed, commanded by his arch-nemesis Admiral Aventeer Vokar, and rigging it for a suicide run against the Federation outposts. When the ship enters the system at high warp, the rigged artificial singularity powering the ship breaks containment and destabilizes space-time in the area, destroying the outposts and a single Federation ship. The incident is recorded as a terrorist action by a crazed Romulan admiral (who conveniently perished in the attack), which causes the previously-neutral Klingons to take the Federation's side in the Treaty of Algeron. Facing this alliance and the possibility of the Federation developing some kind of "superwarp" drive (the test flight is faked using a cloaking device and an unstable transwarp drive), the Romulan withdraw and close their borders. This was what SI planned all along. Harriman himself is forced to resign, though, leaving Demora Sulu in command.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the Hand of Thrawn duology, Supreme Commander Pellaeon of the Imperial Remnant is preparing for a Peace Conference with the New Republic. Some of his people disagree, violently. Pellaeon sends an envoy in a shuttle to request the talks and then quietly takes his flagship to a neutral part of space to wait for a response, preferably the Corellian New Republic general he respects the most. His dissidents capture the envoy's shuttle and prevent it from sending any messages, and later pay a pirate force to disguise their ships as a midsized Corellian force and then attack Pellaeon's ships before retreating. Pellaeon, who studied under Grand Admiral Thrawn, is not fooled; he determines that these are not the Corellian general's forces based on their tactics (they fall for the same trick invented by said Corellian general), then destroys most of them and sits back to wait, aware now that there is treachery among his people.
    • Meanwhile, the fake returning Thrawn and his associates assign Imperial Intelligence agents to trigger speciesist riots on Bothawui and eventually frame Han Solo for murder.
    • Most of Isard's plots in the X-Wing Series consist of losing the galactic capital planet, leaving terrorist sleeper cells and a virus which only affects nonhumans behind, to fracture the young New Republic's human and nonhuman factions.
    • In Shatterpoint, Mace Windu steals a pair of enemy gunships and uses them to launch a Macross Missile Massacre at a swarm of droid starfighters harassing his clone troops' landers. Because of High Speed Missile Dodges and Beam Spam, only nine out of fifty-nine missiles hit, but that's not the point: by droid logic, a coordinated attack from two "friendly" gunships is evidence of treachery from all sixty-nine gunships, and suddenly the fighters and gunships are too busy attacking each other to worry much about his clones. Later, he uses one of the gunships as a distraction to take the enemy spaceport, by claiming that it's heavily damaged from the battle and leaking radiation, and needs to reach port to protect civilians from a possible explosion. The entire city is so enthralled by this drama that no one notices the clone ships sneaking up on the spaceport until it's too late.
  • In The Survivor, Vermoulin and McCabe plan to detonate a suitcase nuke and then blame it on terrorists. Vermoulin thinks this will alert the United States to the danger of terrorism. McCabe wants to start Armageddon.
  • Done by Darken Rahl in the Sword of Truth series. His forces disguised themselves as soldiers from Westland and began sacking towns loyal to him, making him appear like a benevolent savior and Westland as a nation of Knight Templar fanatics.
  • In Tales from Netheredge, Calistan raiders attacked the nation of Genzies so ruthlessly and stealthily they were thought of as a mythical Eldritch Abomination. After they were defeated, they naturally credited themselves with the victory over "the Horror" — which helped them secure an increasingly unfair protectorate over the Genzies under the guise of "keeping them safe".
  • Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker: Red Prophet has William Henry Harrison offering his old friend Hotch Palmer a hefty sum to recruit desperadoes, dress as Indians, and raid Vigor Church, killing women and children. Fink, after a moment, bursts into laughter; Harrison has managed to find something Hotch won't do.
    • Palmer is ambushed and murdered on his way back to his boat, as he expected, and Harrison's war starts on schedule.
  • Tortall Universe: In The Immortals, Carthak disguises its ships as pirates when they attempt to kill Tortall's Queen and her children. Even though it's dead obvious they're to blame, Tortall can't officially do anything, and instead sends diplomats for peace talks. They attempt to pull this again when they kidnap Daine to try and make it look like she's become part of La Résistance to justify going to war with Tortall.
  • A meta example: Austrian writer Robert Neumann (1897-1975) specialized in criticizing authors by writing one- or two-page parodies of their works. He entitled the second collection of his parodies Unter falscher Flagge ("under false flag") in 1932.
  • In the Warhammer novel Vermintide, Skaven attempt to stir up a war between their enemies by constructing airships mimicking dwarf design and setting them to attack a human city.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Ciaphas Cain
      • In For The Emperor, a Tau ambassador is killed during a fete at the governor's palace; naturally, the Imperials and the Tau blame each other for setting up the murder and nearly come to blows. In truth, the whole thing was set up by an underground Genestealer cult—including the governor himself—in order to provoke a war between both parties and soften them up for the coming Tyranid invasion.
      • Cain's Last Stand: Cain is suspicious of some soldiers and sees they are wearing standard Imperial armor. When one says he has a message for Cain, Cain shoots him: any message would have been sent through secure official channels. With the ploy blown, the others open fire.
    • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, Vedden and his men disguised themselves as Arbites and attacked a demonstration, to produce a riot.
  • In Water Margin, General Qin Ming fails to defeat the outlaws Song Jiang and Hua Rong and is captured. They invite him to join them, but although he is impressed with their gallantry he refuses to turn traitor, and they let him go the next day. He returns home to learn that during the night the outlaws had sent a force led by a man on his horse and dressed in his armor to sack everything outside the town walls. His wife has already been executed, and he is sent away. The outlaws did all this, nearly driving Qin Ming to suicide, with the sole purpose of forcing him to join them, and it works. Note that these are all protagonists, especially Song Jiang. Apparently you're supposed to recognize that they're the "good guys" because they admit to Qin Ming exactly what they did and apologize.
  • In Chapter 16.13 of Worm, we learn about an operation in which Coil used a young child soldier and a device made by Leet to fake a betrayal of the Undersiders by Skitter, thereby allowing him to both kill Skitter and keep his captive seer, Dinah, whom Skitter wanted freed. Unfortunately for his plans, Skitter survived.
  • In the Young Bond novel By Royal Command, the Nazis get British communists to attempt to assassinate the king by pretending to be Soviets.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • In season 2, HYDRA attacks a UN conference while posing as S.H.I.E.L.D., in order to discredit them and get them labeled a terrorist organization officially. Every single member of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels the need to ask the director to make sure it wasn't actually them.
    • S.H.I.E.L.D. gets their own back with much more success when they allow Bakshi to "escape" and convinces him that senior HYDRA leaders are conspiring to seize control of the organization. The result is that three of the four leaders are assassinated by HYDRA kill teams when Bakshi reports their "conspiracy", allowing the last one to be easily killed by S.H.I.E.L.D. when they recapture Bakshi.
    • One of these kicks off the war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans at the end of season 2. During a sit down between S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Robert Gonzales and Inhuman leader Jiaying, she kills him with a Terragene crystal, then shoots herself with his gun. And then on top of that, she has a couple of her lackeys hijack a Quinjet and open fire on the Inhumans' compound, making it appear as if S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to kill them all. This thus allows Jiaying to start the war that they feel is inevitable anyway.
    • In "Uprising", the Watchdogs launch EMP attacks on multiple cities and release a video supposedly from the "Inhuman resistance" claiming responsibility for it. This not only stirs up anti-Inhuman sentiment, but gives the Watchdogs an excuse and opening to hunt them down.
    • In "World's End", AIDA and Ivanov have an LMD of Daisy attack an international intelligence meeting regarding S.H.I.E.L.D.'s latest activities and shoot General Talbot. This not only finalizes the process of destroying S.H.I.E.L.D.'s reputation and getting them rendered terrorists, but because Daisy is an Inhuman, it further stokes anti-Inhuman anger and fear.
  • Arrow: In "Suicidal Tendencies", Senator Cray stages a fake terrorist attack so he can cast himself as a hero to help his bid for President.
  • The Drakh run one to get the entire galaxy mad at the Centauri in Babylon 5.
    • The Earthgov regime under President Clark also plots one of these to implicate Babylon 5 in an attack on a Starfury squadron ("Epiphanies"). Bester, in an Enemy Mine collaboration, warns the Babylon 5 staff about this so they can thwart it.
  • In Babylon Berlin, the 'Communists' who manipulate Greta to depositing a bomb in Dr. Benda's (who is both the chief of the Political Police and Jewish) office desk are later revealed to be members of the Nazi Party's SA.
  • Better Call Saul:
    • In season 4, Gus Fring kills Salamanca button man Arturo and blackmails Nacho Varga into turning Double Agent for him using his knowledge of how Nacho caused Hector's stroke. He comes up with a scheme that allows him to cover up Arturo's death and also make a move to drive the Salamancas out of Albuquerque. He has his henchmen Victor and Tyrus stage a shooting "attack" on Arturo's car, wounding Nacho and riddling Arturo's dead body with bullets, then blow up the car. This accomplishes several goals: it covers up the true cause of Arturo's death, obscures the fact that Nacho is now a double agent conscripted into working for Gus, and makes it look like Arturo's death and a truck robbery Mike had orchestrated on one of Hector's money couriers back in season 2 were the work of a rival gang wanting to take on the Salamancas. To complete the illusion, Gus has his men deliver some of the Salamanca's drugs to the Espinozas gang and then has Nacho "identify" them to the Cousins, who subsequently massacre the Espinozas' compound.
    • In season 5's "JMM", Gus blows up one of his own restaurants so that the incarcerated Lalo will think that Nacho carried out his instructions to attack Gus's legitimate businesses.
  • Parodied in The Black Adder: King Richard tells a lord to attack the Swiss. The lord informs him that the Swiss are on their side. Pondering for a moment, King Richard then tells him to "have them dress up as Germans".
  • The Blacklist: At the end of season 2, the Cabal hires a known agent of the SVR and frames Keen as another one and uses them to assassinate an American senator, all as part of their plan to start a new Cold War they can profit from.
  • Boardwalk Empire plays with this in season 4. Al Capone is almost killed when gunmen open fire on his office. The attack is blamed on Hymmie Weiss and his North Side gang but there are hints that Joe Torrio tried to have Al killed and make it look like Weiss did it. Subsequently, when Torrio narrowly survives an assassination attempt, it is clear that he suspects that Capone was behind it. However, both men agree to blame Weiss for the attacks and the potential conflict is resolved when Torrio retires and gives control of his rackets to Capone. Historically, both attacks are attributed to Weiss.
  • In Burn Notice, Fiona pretends to be a CIA agent in order to get an allied nation's intelligence agent to hand over documents concerning a black flight landing in his home country. She does this because Michael's similar attempt as a pretend Russian agent backfires spectacularly when it turns out that the Polish agent hates the Russians with a passion despite (maybe even because of) the fact that his mother was a Russian.
    • Also, there was an entire episode titled "False Flag" in which an assassin pretends to be a client to get Micheal's help in finding a man in hiding.
    • In Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, Veracruz plans to destroy a medical clinic and blame the rebels. The attack could be used as a justification for receiving greater US military aid.
  • A few episodes of Criminal Minds (namely "Criminal Minds S 1 E 16 The Tribe" and "Criminal Minds S 7 E 15 A Thin Line") involve Unsubs who take a page out of the Manson Family.
  • In Crossbones, Blackbeard arranges to have two men from Sam Valentine's crew attempt to kill him so that he can have Valentine executed without having to worry about the rest of the island seeing him as a dictator.
  • In the first episode of Damnation, Connie Nunn is hired to turn a peaceful protest at a mine into a full-blown riot so that the mine operators can have an excuse to violently suppress the labor strikes that have slowed down their operations. To this end, she snipes at the protests from a distance, killing people on both sides.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • To get himself out of prison, Wilson Fisk sells out a giant Albanian syndicate to FBI Agent Ray Nadeem. Once the syndicate is taken down, Fisk has an inmate on his payroll named Jasper Evans shank him nonfatally and make it look like he's been branded as a snitch within the prison walls. He also arranges for Evans to be quietly released from prison so that no one can question him. Nadeem, seemingly convinced of the danger, pushes for Fisk to be moved to the penthouse of a Midtown hotel that he owns through a bunch of shell companies.
    • The main reason why Fisk hires Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter as a hitman. As part of his first assignment for Fisk, Dex dons a replica of the red Daredevil costume made by Melvin Potter and attacks the offices of the New York Bulletin, killing several of Karen's colleagues, wounding Matt, Foggy and Mitchell Ellison, and then shooting Jasper Evans (who Matt and Karen have been able to track down in the interim after Matt gets his name from some Albanian inmates at the prison) before he can talk on the record about what Fisk paid him to do. Traumatized by the events of this, Karen decides to confront Fisk in his penthouse and tries to provoke him into attacking her by floating the details of how she killed James Wesley in his face. This prompts Fisk to order a hit on Karen, with Dex once again donning the "Daredevil" armor and going after Karen in Matt's church, killing Father Lantom in the course of his attempt. In the season finale, Matt manipulates Dex into turning against Fisk by revealing to him that Fisk killed Julie Barnes, a woman Dex has been seeing. This prompts Dex to don his Daredevil armor once more and attack Fisk and Vanessa's wedding. Dex being captured by Brett Mahoney wearing the armor is what exonerates Matt's reputation.
  • Designated Survivor:
    • The bombing of the Capitol in the series pilot first appears to be the work of an Al-Qaeda splinter faction. However, it later turns out to have been the work of a domestic conspiracy by ultra-right-wing fanatics who want to topple the US government and take over the country.
    • In the Season 2 premiere, Ukrainian terrorists hijack a Russian airliner. An investigation reveals they were actually paid off by the Russian government to provide an excuse to invade Ukraine.
    • In "Fallout", a dirty bomb is set off in a DC subway station, in an attack seemingly engineered by the government of East Han Chiu (a stand-in for North Korea). However, evidence is later discovered that it was actually the work of the Emirate of Kunami, which is hoping to start a war between the US and East Han Chiu that it can profit from by selling the latter black market weapons. Then the following episode "Overkill" ups the ante by revealing that the attack was actually organized by Kunami's ambassador to the US and a rebel leader, who were hoping America would invade and overthrow the emir.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Frontier in Space": Ships from the Earth Empire are apparently being raided by the Draconian Empire, and vice versa; the attacks are actually being staged by a third alien power that hopes to provoke a war that will weaken both Empires and leave them vulnerable to invasion.
    • "Aliens of London"/"World War Three": The Slitheen fake a crash landing of an alien spaceship, then plan to launch nuclear strikes on the rest of the world under the pretense of nonexistent alien threats before selling off the radioactive waste for profit on the black market.
  • Foyle's War: In "Trespass", a British government black ops unit blows up ships carrying Jewish refugees to Palestine, posing as an Arab terrorist organisation called the Friends of Arab Palestine.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Xaro Xhoan Daxos has several of his own guardsmen killed to conceal his involvement in stealing Dany's dragons.
    • In the beginning, Theon's torture is conducted by men dressed like the Ironborn. They are actually Ramsay's men, and Ramsay kills four of them to gain Theon's trust.
  • Gotham: Cobblepot is rather fond of this technique:
    • Early on in the first season, he hires some goons to attack and rob one of mob boss Maroni's restaurants, staging it to look like rival mobster Falcone is retaliating for an early offense, during which Cobblepot "saves" some of Maroni's money from being stolen. This not only increases tensions between the two mob bosses, but also allows Cobblepot to get himself further into Maroni's good graces.
    • In the penultimate episode, he tops himself, as he hires Falcone's best hitmen to take out Maroni, only to sabotage the attempt. This leads to Maroni going to war with Falcone, giving Cobblepot the opportunity to eliminate his rivals and take over Gotham's underworld.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The regime slaughtered Congress and blamed it on terrorists, which gave them the pretext to suspend the Constitution, then take over.
  • In Volume 4 of Heroes, Homeland Security Black Ops leader and evil Jack Bauer Expy Danko attempts to stage a nuclear suicide bombing of D.C., with the intention of blaming the whole thing on Supers to create justification for his anti-Super crusade.
    • Heroes Reborn (2015) opens with a peaceful summit on human-Evo relations being suicide bombed by what appears to be a group of Evo supremacists. It later turns out this was actually engineered by Erica Kravid, in order to turn the world against Evos and justify her measures to round them all up for experimentation.
  • Homeland: An angry young Muslim man who'd been charged with (and cleared of) supporting terrorism is set up to look like a suicide bomber after he was released by some government officials who wanted to stop the President elect's reform.
  • House of Cards (UK). The assassination of a journalist who finds out too much about Prime Minister Urquhart is blamed on the IRA. At one point an explosion is heard in London. The PM looks at his Psycho for Hire, Special Branch bodyguard Corder, who says, "It's not one of ours." The implication being that bombs are being set off to justify Urquhart's harsh policies.
  • In Killjoys, a group of men posing as Scarbacks massacre a number of civilians and claim it was on orders of Alviz, who is forced to confess or have his entire order killed. The massacre was staged by the Company to justify stopping the planned emigration of Westerlings and bombing Old Town, as well as covering up one of the Nine assassinating another royal family.
  • Last Resort features a textbook example in the pilot — whoever in the Government Conspiracy attempted to sink the Colorado pins the blame on Pakistan in order to justify going to war with them.
  • The Last Ship:
    • Late in Season 2, the HMS Achilles — the submarine used by Sean Ramsey — destroys the refugee fleet floating off of New Orleans as the Nathan James comes into port. Meanwhile, Ramsey's followers film the situation, then edit it for broadcast so that it looks like the James destroyed the other ships. This works to turn public opinion among the survivor population against the Navy and towards the Immunes.
    • In the Season 5 premiere, agents of Gran Colombia assassinate the President of Panama right after he meets with Sasha's team. This allows them to frame the US, turning the rest of Latin America against them and serving as a justification for Colombia to launch an airstrike to destroy the newly rebuilt American fleet.
  • In one Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode, part of the backstory involved the well-publicized death of an American woman at the hands of Israeli soldiers while protesting on the West Bank. It's later revealed that, far from being innocent, she was actively supporting Palestinian militants, who set her up to be killed to garner international sympathy. Although Israel is aware of this, they don't say anything and take the bad press because she was actually a spy for them, and they don't want it revealed that they have infiltrated the peace movement by using foreign nationals and were stupid enough to kill their own agent.
    • Clearly this was based on the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, as similar allegations (at least regarding support for Palestinian militants) have been made about her.
  • Leverage: In "The Rundown Job", an extremist attempts to demonstrate that the US is unprepared for bio-terrorist attack by launching his own bio-terrorist attack while posing as Muslim extremist.
  • A group of English football (soccer) fans pull one of these to incite a riot with a rival group of fans in Life on Mars.
  • The Lone Gunmen pilot (broadcast March 2001) had the heroes foil a plot to slam a 727 into the towers. Somebody obviously thought they could do better...
  • Murder in the First: Someone murders gangster Sugar Cascade's sister, making it look to him like a Chinese gang was guilty. The head of the Chinese gang convinces him he wasn't behind it, however, and that someone tried to get them into a war with each other.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "Kommando", Major Cole and his squad murder a British family and pass it off as the work of a Boer militia in order to provide a Pretext for War.
  • The third season of Person of Interest centers around Vigilance, a grass-roots group fighting government oppression. In the season finale, leader Collier captures Finch, Greer, Control, and others for a trial broadcast online where he gets them to admit to creating the Machine and Samaritan. As a gunfight erupts, Collier snaps that it's too late for Greer as the world has seen the truth. At which point, a sneering Greer reveals that his Decima created Vigilance in the first place. All the equipment they used for the broadcast belongs to Decima-owned companies and thus the "trial" has been directed to a secret server and no one has seen it. After killing Collier, Greer sets off the bombing of a federal building that is blamed on Vigilance, thus forcing the government to give Samaritan their full support.
  • On a third season episode of Quantico, the team are hunting what they think are a team of Pakistani extremists planning to set off a dirty bomb in New York during a conference between India and Pakistan. However, after killing a few members, Alex finds one of them has a Hindu prayer bead on him. It turns out they're really from India and even led by an official who thinks his government is "too weak" to do what's needed. By making it look like Pakistan set off a mini-nuke in New York, he'll ensure the U.S. backs India in a war to wipe out their long-time enemy.
  • Revolution: In the final portion of Season 2, this is the main threat that the heroes are trying to prevent — the Patriots attempting to assassinate the President of the Texas Republic and pinning the blame on the California Commonwealth, thus getting the two nations to wipe each other out and clearing the way for the Patriots to take over. After two failed attempts, they succeed, only to then be exposed by an Engineered Public Confession.
  • Snowpiercer: Wilford's supporters do this in Season 2 to instigate a counter-revolution against the Tallies. After mutilating Lights' hand to make it permanently resemble the "W" salute symbol of Wilford's worshippers, they then slaughter the Breachmen (Wilford's strongest supporters on Snowpiercer) to make it look like retaliation from the Tallies. This causes tensions to boil over as the other passengers start rioting and attacking the Tallies.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1: SG-1 themselves try this at one point, in an attempt to sabotage a diplomatic meeting between the System Lords Heru-ur and Apophis, who were negotiating an alliance. It works, and they successfully trick Apophis into thinking that Heru-ur has betrayed him... but it turns out that Apophis has more troops in hiding than anyone knew, and his massively superior forces easily obliterate Heru-ur's, rendering the whole operation moot. Now, instead of an alliance of two System Lords, who distrust one another, they have one System Lord, who has absorbed the other's forces and rules them unchallenged.
    • During the attempted attack on Earth by Apophis and his son Klorel, Bra'tac's plan was for him and a few of his followers to pilot death gliders and use them to stage a (fruitless) attack against Apophis. Apophis would assume that Klorel, true the Goa'uld Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, is using this opportunity to remove his father and take his place, and, hopefully, retreat from Earth. Fortunately together with SG-1, they manage to come up with a better plan.
    • In Stargate Atlantis, after an attempted attack on a Wraith hive ship Goes Horribly Wrong, John Shepherd and his team escape in a Wraith Dart. Shepherd shoots up another hive ship that is working with one he stole the dart from, baiting them into a Let's You and Him Fight that ends with the two hives blowing each other up.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did this in one of its most celebrated episodes, "In the Pale Moonlight". Sisko puts aside his principles to get the Romulans to join the war against the Dominion. First, a holographic recording is faked to make it appear that the Dominion were intending to attack the Romulans, and when this falls through, the Romulan ambassador is assassinated, his shuttle bombed, to make it appear that the Dominion didn't want the truth to be discovered. It is learned that Garak had, without Sisko's knowledge, set it up at a Xanatos Gambit, realizing the fake recording might not pass inspection, with the backup plan being to kill the Senator if he realized that.
    • In another (two-part) episode, a Starfleet admiral brings down Earth's power grid and blames it on Changeling sabotage, so that the Federation will declare martial law (which he thinks is necessary to prepare for a Dominion invasion).
    • The Founders of the Dominion also employ this trope by using shapeshifter infiltrators to manipulate the Klingon invasion of Cardassia, not to mention the withdrawal of the Klingon Empire from the Khitomer Accords, and the Second Federation-Klingon War that results, all in order to weaken the Alpha Quadrant powers for a Dominion invasion. Additionally, the aforementioned Starfleet admiral was motivated in his actions on Earth by a number of attacks launched by Changeling infiltrators. One such infiltrator brags to Sisko that they were able to bring about an attempted coup in the heart of the Federation with only four infiltrators. While appearing to him in the guise of a trusted friend, just to hammer the point home.
    • Also used by the main cast in a captured Jem'Hadar warship to take out a Ketracel White facility.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise did this one when the Romulans used a ship with a holographic display disguising itself as various species around human space to try getting them to fight each other. Brilliantly unsuccessfully, as it turns out, as the joint effort to find and defeat the ship forms the basis for The Federation and Starfleet.
  • Trotsky: The Tsarist government sends agents undercover among the demonstrators who will open fire and give their soldiers a reason to shoot back, rather than it being unprovoked. It doesn't work as Trotsky just has them disperse so that no violence will occur.
  • In Turn, Capt. Simcoe poisons Maj. Hewlett's horse and then arranges for Richard Woodhull to be shot in order to convince Hewlett to give him more discretion in his search for those with rebel sympathies.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "He's Alive", the neo-Nazi Peter Vollmer has his lackey Nick Bloss murdered on the advice of Adolf Hitler and blames it on his enemies in order to attract more support to his growing organization.
  • V (1983): The Visitors use a staged terrorist attack against a Visitor-run chemical processing plant as grounds to institute martial law throughout most of the world. V being loosely based on the rise of fascism in pre-WWII Germany, this incident was inspired by the Reichstag fire of 1933, supposedly set by Nazi operatives posing as Communists. They also claim a conspiracy by Earth scientists is the reason they must take control, to keep order.
  • Whiskey Cavalier: The Villain of the Week of the episode "When In Rome", the leader of an Italian neo-fascist organization, is revealed to be planning to launch a chemical weapon attack in the heart of Rome. He intends to pin the blame for this on immigrants, swinging more of the country towards his way of thinking.

    Myths & Religion 
  • This is basically what Satan originally was in Jewish and early Christian mythology: an angel ordered by God to test people's faith ("satan" literally means "accuser"). Of course, by the time Revelation was written, Satan had morphed into an evil figure in Christian theology, though maybe it's still a ploy by God or something.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • Tessa Cole in Survival of the Fittest believes the titular game to be a false flag operation by the US Government meant to encourage compliance and military support.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Happens repeatedly in the BattleTech universe, where interstellar communications lag makes it hard enough to get accurate intelligence in a timely fashion even without any deliberate trickery. Which doesn't prevent the assorted players from trying their hand at deception anyway, of course. Just three of the better-known examples are: ComStar troops striking at a Davion research center disguised as Capellans, ComStar faking a Davion strike on one of their own installations as an excuse for Interdiction, and rogue Jade Falcons they actually had secret backing from the Khans posing as pirates in an attempt to break the truce between the Clans and the Inner Sphere.
  • In the backstory for Shadowrun, the TerraFirst! attack on Shiawase's private nuclear power plant was one of these, with the real TerraFirst!'s headquarters bombed to destroy evidence that they weren't really responsible.
  • In Warhammer, the Dark Elves used this to set in motion the events that led to the War of the Beard War of Vengeance between the High Elves and the Dwarfs.
    • Later on Manfred von Carstein tried to do it again, by resurrecting dead Dwarfs in an Elf-Dwarf alliance and having them turn on their allies.

    Video Games 
  • Sturm's plan in Advance Wars was to incite a war between various countries with clones of their commanders so that he could sweep in when each faction was at its weakest and attack. He gets found out at the last minute by Sonja, who notices that Orange Star forces (led by Andy) were attacking Green Earth at the same time the real Andy was attacking Blue Moon.
  • Alpha Protocol has the Halbech corporation setting up one of these to trigger increased tensions between Taiwan and China, in order to sell weapons to both sides. The plan is to have an assassin kill the pro-independence Taiwanese president during an independence rally, thus turning him into a martyr for the independence movement, while at the same time having agitators in the crowds incite violence and riots, in order to push the island further toward favoring independence and thus toward conflict. Oh, and you can only stop one of these plans.
    • Likewise in Rome; the VCI are hired to set off a "terrorist" attack, in order to influence an upcoming vote on terror and terror protection device system things. Beyond that, of course, the evil plot is a False Flag Operation writ large; Halbech wants to keep the world angry and scared so they'll continue buying Halbech systems; The China/Taiwan war will make a huge market for weapons, as will the continued hunt for terrorists in the Middle East following the airliner incident that kicks everything off, and the Italian paranoia over terrorists will provide an endless market for terrorist-stopping systems.
  • In the climax of the Black Gauntlet campaign for the Private Military Company DLC for ARMA II the final mission ends up in this. The team discovers that the Takistani nuclears arms program was supported by China, the executives of Ion and western nations tell the team to disguise themselves as Insurgents and ambush the UN inspectors before they can publish the evidence so it won't cause chaos in the international market.
  • In Harebrained Schemes' Battletech, the Perdition Massacre is revealed to be a false flag operation near the end of the game. Director Espinosa orchestrated a terror attack that killed thousands of Taurians, knowing that The Federated Suns would be the first and most likely suspect in any such act, before using a promise of a secure border (and a cache of Lost Technology) to goad the Taurians into an alliance. Discovering the true story instantly changes the fortunes of the war as the tricked party immediately withdraws from the Civil War. Upon winning, Kamea has Espinosa shipped to the Taurians, knowing they will try him for war crimes and execute him.
  • Call of Duty
    • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the level "No Russian". Player Punch and What the Hell, Player? all wound up into one level of endless bloodshed. This is later proved to be a Subversion or a Double False Flag because the American General was behind the massacre the whole time.
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops has Lev Kravchenko conducting Nova 6 experiments that double as these. Using American-made cargo planes and the corpses of US servicemen, he makes it appear that all the horrific things being done to the Vietnamese and Laotians are of American doing, rather than Soviet.
  • Command & Conquer occasionally does this with Nod campaigns. In Tiberian Dawn they steal GDI aircraft and bomb civilian targets to discredit GDI. In Tiberian Sun, the Brotherhood uses stolen GDI units against the mutant faction in order to win their trust. In the Kane's Wrath expansion to Tiberium Wars, Alexa Kovacs runs a double false flag - first she disguises her army as troops loyal to Kilian Qatar, then she has them assist GDI in attacking Temple Prime (thus framing Qatar as a GDI mole).
  • Deus Ex had two (or more) examples of this trope.
    • The Statue of Liberty is reported to have been destroyed (beheaded) by terrorist groups. It is later suggested, and given the context of all you discover, very likely, that the government itself destroyed the Statue of Liberty to raise outrage against "terrorists."
    • The national pandemic "Grey Death" is revealed to be a corporate creation to reap massive profits off a vaccine, weed out the "undesirable" (poor) population, and ensure complete complicity from the population (even, in some cases, the government.)
  • Dragon Age II has one in which Sister Petrice murders the Viscount's son and makes it look as though Qunari had murdered him on holy ground while he was praying in an attempt to start a war with the Qunari, whom she regards as blasphemous heathens.
    • In the first game, Dragon Age: Origins, Loghain intentionally throws the Battle of Ostagar by having his own troops retreat, resulting in a huge massacre. With hardly any survivors, no one is left to dispute Loghain's distorted tale of what really happened. Not only does this weaken the Grey Wardens' authority in Ferelden by shifting the blame to them, the battle also kills his son-in-law King Cailan, nearly making him the de facto ruler of the whole country (second only to his own daughter, the queen).
  • Used in a quest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in which you have to murder the heads of two families and plant evidence on their bodies to implicate a member of the other family as the murderer. Why? Because the quest giver loves strife and wants to see the two families at war for their amusement.
  • Endless Legend's Roving Clans specialize in false flag operations. Because they cannot declare war (it's bad for business), they can instead hire mercenaries to fight for them, and a research item will make the mercenary's allegiance hidden to other players. Other factions can also hire mercenaries and hide their allegiance, but the Roving Clans are by far the best at it due to their mercenaries having twice the health, faster movement, immediate access to the market, and earlier access to false-flag research. Players can infiltrate territory of two neutral powers and attack one to entice it to declare war on the other.
  • In EndWar, a new World War erupts when the European Federation, leery of the United States achieving clear military dominance through completion of a militarized space station, fund terrorist attacks on them and when that fails, they use their anti-ballistic-missile Kill Sat to shoot down the Freedom IV shuttle headed up to complete the station. Actually, the terrorists were funded by Russia, who was leery of being the world's largest supplier of oil once several other nations have hit Hubbert's Peak, and wanted the US to declare war on Europe so they could "aid their allies" in making Europe go away before the United States and Europe would turn Russia into Iraq II for their oil. As false flag operations go, this one is subverted; the plan goes off without a hitch... until the United States wigs right out when Russia starts making gains in the conflict and declares war on them, too.
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • The AVALANCHE crew blows up the Sector 1 Reactor to prevent the mako extraction from damaging the planet, causing considerable life and property damage. A throwaway line later from Jessie implies that that wasn't the original plan, and that she may have made a miscalculation when following the bomb recipe, a hint that all may not necessarily be as it seemed. Final Fantasy VII Remake confirms that Jessie's original bomb did just enough damage to disable the reactor, but Shinra used the attack as an opportunity to cover for their own plan of destroying the reactor entirely and blaming it on AVALANCHE, making it a false flag on their part.
    • The same applies when Shinra later blows up the sector 7 pillar, dropping the upper plate onto the slums, killing thousands, and pinning it on AVALANCHE. In the remake, they step up their propaganda game by posing as troops trying to prevent AVALANCHE from blowing it up.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, Dycedarg Beoulve and Duke Larg conspire to have Princess Ovelia kidnapped (and subsequently assassinated) by agents wearing the colors of Larg's rival, Duke Goltanna. This would remove Goltanna as a rival to the crown and allow Larg to enthrone his own candidate, Prince Orinus. However, the captain of the operation, a sellsword named Delita, is actually a Double Agent working in Goltanna's favor, and instead has Larg's agents die to Ovelia's bodyguards as he rescues the princess himself and delivers her to the Church.
  • Final Fantasy XII begins with this as Gabranth poses as Basch and assassinates King Raminas, preventing him from signing Dalmasca's formal surrender to Archadia, giving Vayne Solidor the pretext to move in and serve as regent to clamp down on the resulting unrest. In a twist of fate, Basch permanently poses as Gabranth at the end.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Twice, leading up to and into the Stormblood expansion.
    • In the 3.5 patch "The Far Edge of Fate", this is the Griffin's, alias Illberd, plan: gathering many of his fellow Ala Mhigans, they don outfits of the Grand Companies and assault Balshir's Wall, the border between Gridania and Ala Mhigo, forcing the Eorzean Alliance into war with Garlemald. In turn, some of his own men would dress as Imperials and help them slaughter their own allies, their grief, rage and desire being used by Illberd to fuel a Primal potentially stronger than Bahamut.
    • In Stormblood proper, the Eorzean Alliance and the Ala Mhigan Resistance pull off this plan: still without manpower, they decided to make a push towards a Castrum and use a glamour prism to make a flag take the form of the Eorzean Alliance, making it seem it was captured. The plan works and Imperial soldiers quickly fall back in a panic.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series is extremely fond of this trope. It starts in the second game when the Rednecks have the player use a Zaibatsu car to run down members of the Scientist gang, then vice versa.
    • In Grand Theft Auto III, corrupt businessman Donald Love wants to create a gang war that will lower real estate values across Liberty City. So, he hires your "services" to assassinate Kenji, one of the heads of the Yakuza in Staunton Island, while in the guise of a Colombian hitman. And you can do this while you're in Kenji and Asuka's (his sister) employ. In fact, Asuka, the ruthlessly intelligent and absolutely terrifying Yakuza mastermind, goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Colombians, and yet she never finds out who really killed her brother.
    • In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Love is shown to have learned the trick from his mentor, corrupt land developer Avery Carrington, who starts a gang war between the Cuban and Haitian factions in Vice City by hiring Tommy to dress up as a member of the Cuban gang and shoot-up a Haitian gang member's funeral.
    • Grand Theft Auto V has foiling a plot like this as part of the storyline instead of committing it: the main protagonists are recruited by the FIB to stop the Agency from unleashing a deadly gas on a populated area and blame it on terrorists to get gain more government funding. However, from the FIB's perspective, this is not done for moral reasons: they want to stop IIA from getting funding over their own agency.
  • During the Guild Wars 2 Charr storyline if you're an Ash Legion soldier, you have to fight a plot of the Flame Legion to attack Blood and Iron Legion leaders while wearing Iron and Blood Legion uniforms respectively.
    • There's also an event where players disguise themselves as Separatists to sabotage a Flame Legion camp, and vice-versa. Since both factions want to overthrow the current Charr leadership for their own reasons (the Separatists want all Charr dead, and the Flame Legion want to reinstall their Corrupt Church), it's better to have them weaken each other than have the Legions face two enemies at once on top of their recurring ghost problem.
  • The intro to Haegemonia: Legions of Iron has tension building up between Earth and its Solar System colonies. A peace summit is set on the Moon. Then unknown high-tech fighters attack and destroy the Martian ambassador's shuttle. Naturally, the colonists blame Earth, and war erupts, making up the first act of the single-player campaign. While some believe it was Earth, it doesn't make sense for the government to do that. On the other hand, it's possible a General Ripper in charge of a shadow organization did that deliberately. Especially since those fighters never appear in the game itself and anything either Earth or the colonists have is inferior.
  • The third mission of Hitman (2016) has General Reza Zaydan planning to escalate the current unrest in Morocco by having some of his soldiers disguise themselves as members of a terrorist organization called Crystal Dawn and attack protestors outside the Swedish consulate in Marrakesh, then use the resulting turmoil to justify his Military Coup. Fortunately, 47 kills him and his co-conspirator Claus Hugo Strandberg before the attack can happen.
  • The premise of Ketsui is that the four protagonists, all pilots hand-picked by the United Nations, fly EVAC prototype helicopters with EVAC callsigns and pretend to be employees of the war-stimulating Mega-Corp in order to successfully infiltrate the company, pose as rebellious employees of the company, and destroy them.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: Jaal's Loyalty Mission has the Roekaar trying to bomb the Forge, a site of historical significance to the angaran people, and blame it on the Initiative.
  • The Cracha Preto from Max Payne 3 use gang-style executions in order to create the impression that the Gang Banger problem is worse than it actually is, and thus encourage people to hire their services.
  • In MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy, the sequel to the original Mechwarrior 2, the player takes the role of a Ghost Bear Mechwarrior and fights their canonical Inner Sphere enemy, the Draconis Combine, whose 'Mechs are responsible for a raid on a Ghost Bear genetics facility. Naturally, the Bears attack the Combine, but in this case, it actually is Draconis 'Mechs that were first captured by the Smoke Jaguars, which in turn leads you to fight the Jaguars, only for the Jaguars to admit they lost the 'Mechs to Clan Wolf's Crusader elements, finally leading you to the real culprits. That's a double false flag op, first discrediting the Combine, then the Jaguars.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: Dead Cell were essentially method actors employed by the Patriots and the US Government, staging impromptu terrorist attacks in order to better prepare a VR-trained US army for war. Eventually they were so good at it that they went rogue.
    • The entire plant mission is revealed to be A thought experiment performed on Raiden, Solid Snake's heir apparent, based on the Shadow Moses incident. An isolated facility, full of hostages, is under siege by terrorists holding the plant for ransom. Even the architectural layout is based on Shadow Moses island, with identical hallways and elevators. The player will naturally dismiss this as a conceit of being a MGS1 sequel. Later, Ocelot openly trolls the gamer during a speech. ("Did you think it was ALL a coincidence?")
    • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Hot Coldman thinks that by causing a Nuclear War, it would scare other nations into submission. When he ends up fatally wounded in the finale, he types in a final command to Peace Walker to send out a false signal that nuclear warheads were launched and Snake can't convince the U.S Military otherwise when they see it on their radars. It's only due to Peace Walker suddenly moving on its own (implied to be the spirit of Big Boss herself) and drowning itself in the water to disrupt the signal that the situation is averted.
  • Saints Row:
    • The first game has a mission where you and Johnny Gat try to break the tentative alliance between the Vice Kings gang and the Stilwater Police Department by dressing up in VK outfits, hijacking a VK car and wreaking havoc.
    • In The Third, the protagonist undergoes drastic plastic surgery to look (and sound) like Cyrus Temple, then heads to the Thermopylae with Pierce and Viola as "prisoners" in an attempt to get Shaundi out of STAG's captivity. It goes well... up until the real Cyrus patches a call through to Kia, whom the protagonist is currently speaking to.
      • In the game's climax, Kia attempts to destroy the Magarac Island statue in an attempt to frame the Saints as terrorists. It backfires, causing STAG to be evicted from Steelport for trying to destroy a national landmark.
  • In Samurai Warriors 4-II, the final stage of Matsunaga Hisahide's story portrays the Honnōji Incident as this: having previously faked his own death, Hisahide marches on Honnōji with his army flying the Akechi clan's banners in order to assassinate Nobunaga while framing Mitsuhide as a traitor.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse reveals that the SMTIV universe's version of Lucifer — known amongst franchise fans as YHVH's archnemesis and opposite — was actually created by YHVH in order to make him and the concept of law/order look better.
  • In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, the Spiritual Successor to Civilization, your Probe Teams can perform various acts of terrorism at your opponents - and with an additional expenditure in Energy Credits, and a somewhat higher risk of failure, blame it on another faction at the same time. Takes a lot of guts and funding, but can truly work wonders.
    • This is also an option for very successful spy missions in Master of Orion'.
      • Or just about any spy mission if you're the Darloks.
      • And in Birth of the Federation. After a successful espionage/sabotage op, you can either leave no trace, or plant evidence incriminating another faction. It's a lot easier for the Cardassians and Romulans to do this than the Federation though.
  • Sniper Elite:
    • Sniper Elite V2 has Dr. Wolff's Evil Plan to prove his loyalty to the Soviets. He supervises the launch of a tabun-loaded V2 rocket at London. To cover-up the whole incident, the Soviets will promptly blame the launch on the Wehrmacht.
    • In the Deathstorm 3: Obliteration Downloadable Content mission of Sniper Elite 4, an optional objective has Karl Fairburne discover an armory's worth of captured Allied tanks and weapons intended for such as purpose, with German documents even calling the operation "False Flag".
  • Star Trek Online:
    • This is the reason the Undine began their campaign against the Alpha and Beta Quadrants: the Iconians had been launching ships resembling Federation and Klingon ships to attack Fluidic Space, pissing the creatures off and causing them to strike back.
    • In the mission "All That Glitters...", it turns out the ship that you first race in to check on with the help of The Doctor, claimed to have a bad but easily curable disease, was actually abandoned and was part of a plan by Gaul to try to get the Alpha Quadrant Alliance to side with him. The Doctor is quite pissed off at such a cowardly tactic.
  • Happens often in the Suikoden games.
    • There's the infamous Kalekka Incident, mentioned a few times in the first Suikoden, in which Scarlet Moon soldiers slaughtered the entire town of civilians, while claiming it was actually Jowston soldiers that had done the horrible deed, in order to rouse support for the coming war among the anti-war citizens of the empire.
    • Early on in Suikoden II, the hero's army of about seven defend their castle from a major arm of the Highland Army, while the nebbishy Yamamoto slips between enemy platoons and plants false information. The immediate result of this false flagging Within one turn-of-play, THE ENTIRE ARMY outside of the main general's platoon- themselves- switch their flags before the player's eyes. The turncoats were actually conscripted soldiers that fought because they had no other choice, since the majority of the City-States have been taken over at that point. Only when they have a chance to win, basically, a hope, do they actually revert to their previous allegiance.
    • Another example in the same game, is the massacre of the Youth Brigade in the beginning. Prince Luca Blight, in order to justify starting a war with the enemy, betrays and slaughters his own Youth Brigade, for the sake of propaganda.
    • According to the Backstory of Suikoden IV and Suikoden Tactics, Scarlet Moon did this before, trying to spark a war with the Kooluk Empire. Unfortunately for them, they weren't aware that a little boy in the town they attacked had the Rune of Punishment, which he used to destroy them all before the Rune ate his soul and jumped to another host. That boy also happened to be the son of one Graham Cray; the empire then blamed him for the incident, causing his Start of Darkness, defection to Kooluk, and setting him up as the Big Bad of IV. So they had a history of pulling this sort of stunt, and having it blow up in their faces.
    • In Suikoden V, the whole story behind Lordlake and the riots before the game started was that Salum Barrows used the riot to incite more violence and storm the castle. During the confusion, Salum had the Dawn Rune stolen.
  • In Tactics Ogre, this is done at the end of chapter 1, by your own side. Whether or not you participate affects the rest of the game.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, this trope is the Vanguard's standard operating procedure. They attack Palmacosta and later Luin, killing dozens while pretending to be Martel Knights who are working to suppress the Vanguard - thus driving recruitment to their cause. It helps that they also have a Master of Disguise in their employ. Tellingly, it is later revealed that Magnar, apparently the Commandant of the Martel Knights, was actually working for the Vanguard the whole time.
  • Grand Maestro Mohs from Tales of the Abyss attempts to do this to restart the war between Malkuth and Kimlasca, using replicas for suicidal bombings, but the attempt is so shabby and poorly thought out that no one is fooled for even a second.
  • Trails Series:
    • At the very end of Trails in the Sky FC, after the battle with Lieutenant Lorence, he says "Your Majesty, you are hardly qualified to feel pity for me. You, who know the name of 'Hamel'...". We don't find out what this refers to until the next game, when Lorence, aka Loewe, one of the survivors of Hamel, tells Estelle what happened that day...
      • Just over ten years before Trails in the Sky FC, in the southern reaches of the Erebonian Empire, there was a village known as Hamel. It was a tiny, quaint little village. There weren't many children there, so Loewe, Joshua, and Karin always hung out together. Loewe dreamed of becoming a bracer, and would often practice his swordsmanship while Karin and Joshua watched. Every day, after Loewe was done practicing, Karin would play her harmonica. Karin could play almost any song on it, but Loewe always had a soft spot for the old Erebonian folk song, "The Whereabouts of Light." It seemed like that feeling of happiness would last forever. They believed that, because they had no reason not to. However, it was not to be...
      • The day began like any other, and then they came. On April 23, S.1192, a small band of jaegers encircled the village. They were garbed in Liberlian armor and wielding Liberlian weapons. After encircling the village, the jaegers began to slaughter everyone in the village. Not a single person was spared. Not the old and infirm, not the young and defenseless... not even infants. The women were sexually assaulted, often multiple times, before being killed. Fortunately, Loewe, Karin and Joshua were able to run to safety. The screams of their families could be heard on the wind. On the outskirts of the village, they split up. Loewe stayed behind to fight off the pursuers while Karin and Joshua continued to escape. When Loewe finally found them, the scene was strangely quiet. The corpse of a single jaeger on the ground with a bullet hole in his throat, a stunned Joshua with a gun in his hand, and Karin, shielding Joshua, with a large wound on her back. She was barely alive at that point. Strangely, Karin was calm and content. With her last breaths, she entrusted her harmonica to Joshua, and made Loewe promise to protect Joshua. And then, she took her last breath.
      • Erebonia invaded Liberl shortly after that. It was almost the perfect excuse. To an outsider, it was as if Liberl had hired the jaegers, equipped them, and ordered them to attack the village. When Loewe and Joshua were found by the local garrison after the incident, the military was adamant that it was Liberl. After the war however, they were told a different story. That the jaegers had turned rogue, and were engaging in pure brigandry. Regardless, they were threatened and told to never speak of this again. After the incident, the Erebonian government quickly and hastily gathered up all of the people responsible and executed them. In the peace agreement between Erebonia and Liberl, one of the requirements was that no one could ever speak of this again, to prevent a rebellion from occuring. Erebonian history texts were changed to say that the village was destroyed in a landslide, and that was that.
      • It was all an excuse by a rogue faction within the Imperial Army to invade Liberl. They executed all the culprits to tie up any loose ends and to cover their tracks. And that is the tragedy of Hamel in full.
      • The Loewe Monogatari manga explores some of the less detailed parts of the tragedy. For instance, we find out more about what happened to Karin. A jaeger followed them, with the intent of raping Karin. As the Jaeger attacked, Joshua struggled with the man and grabbed the man's gun. In the struggle, Joshua unknowingly shot the man in the throat.
    • One happens during Ao no Kiseki when the jaeger corps Red Constellation attacks the city of Crossbell. Earlier in the game, the group was hired by Chancellor Osborne to serve as his personal security, so when the group attacks Crossbell, people are quick to assume that they were once again hired by Erebonia and are trying to destabilize Crossbell. In reality, it was Dieter Crois, Crossbell's mayor, who hired Red Constellation to attack Crossbell, expecting the public to blame Osborne so he could convince the public to support his political agenda of turning Crossbell into an independent nation.
    • Unfortunately, the Hamel tragedy repeats itself on a much bigger scale in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III where a third survivor of the Hamel Incident ends up shooting the emperor with a gun made in Calvard for revenge. Except said survivor is afflicted with a curse in Erebonia, the same curse that started the Hamel Incident in the first place.
  • Clu pulls off a pretty epic one in TRON: Evolution, the video game tie-in to TRON: Legacy, in order to justify the Purging of the ISOs: he forcibly rewrites one of the ISO leaders, Jalen, into a deadly, sentient virus called Abraxas, unleashes him on the Grid, and then turns around and implies to the Basic Program population that all ISOs have this potential, thereby gaining their support for the total elimination of the "simmering ISO menace".
  • In Tropico: Pirate Isle, you can order your ships to sail under false colors when raiding, in order to foster a war between two nations.
  • You can pull this yourself, if you want to, in Uplink. When performing a high-profile hack, you can wipe the records incriminating yourself clean. Or, for added giggles, you can alter them and get some poor sap arrested.
  • One quest in World of Warcraft on the Horde side involves setting the Scarlet Crusade (even more) against The Scourge by burning down their camp and planting a literal false flag.
    • There are a couple of other examples from that game, too. Often, you end up having to gather the flags yourself. Also, a short example from Warcraft III: in the expansion Undead campaign, a couple of banshees body-jack a group of guards in order to get close to Arthas, who is in for some serious hurt from the banshees' leader. They pull it again against a different foe's mooks to get into a fortified city.
    • Occurs again in The Burning Crusade during the Nagrand questline that puts you in service to Lantresor of the Blade. In order to stop the Boulderfist Ogres from attacking Telaar (Alliance) or to gain a powerful Ogre ally (Horde), the player needs to stop the two enemies of the Boulderfist Clan — the Laughing Skull Clan and the Warmaul Clan — from attacking. Obviously, Lantresor of the Blade suggests that you use flags and corpses to create the appearance of a battle between the two. It works.
    • In The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm, some orc members of the Twilight Hammer cult attack a meeting of druids and kill all the night elves present while pretending that Garrosh ordered the massacre. Cairne is outraged at Garrosh's apparent responsibility for the attack and challenges him to a duel for leadership of the Horde.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Attempted partway through the story by Torna, where they commandeer a Mor Ardain superweapon and advance it on Urayan forces. Given the tension between the two nations, Uraya immediately gears up for a counterattack, and Mor Ardain, having no way to convince Uraya that they're not behind the attack, does the same. Fortunately, Indol breaks their neutral stance and interrupts before things escalate into open war, and together with the heroes are able to provide evidence that Mor Ardain was not behind the attack. Peace is upheld, barely.

    Visual Novels 
  • During route 4A (Liberté) of Aviary Attorney an element trying to make sure The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized murder a Disposable Vagrant while disguising themself as a member of the police force. Later they murder a random girl, lure the policeman over to her, and then tell the Rebel Leader it was his fault.
  • In Victor Frankenstein's route of Code:Realize, Queen Victoria stages a "terrorist attack" involving chemical weaponry on Buckingham Palace itself and blames Victor for it, knowing that he will try to clear his own name and thus come to Buckingham to negotiate with her. This is only a precursor to a much larger plan involving several more Zicterium gas attacks on London which will be blamed on agents of other European nations, followed by similar attacks on the capitals of every other major European power, with the ultimate intent of sparking a world war while Britain still has a technological advantage decisive enough to allow them to come out on top.

    Web Animation 
  • Happens on Go Animate when a bad user false flags an innocent user's video from YouTube and giving them a community guideline strike. The innocent user would call the police to arrest the bad user for false flagging.
  • Red vs. Blue; Season 12 reveals that a third party (the Space Pirates) are behind the civil war on the planet Chorus in Seasons 11-13. Their leaders (Locus and Felix) hired themselves and others off as mercenaries for one side or another, supplying them with weapons and alien technology in the hopes that they will kill each other off and allow their employer, Charon Industries, to move in and take all the relics hidden on Chorus for themselves.
  • RWBY:
    • By the end of Volume 3, the four kingdoms are on the verge of a world war, as the last thing anyone got out of Vale before the trans-continental network went down was images of Ironwood's Atlesian military robots attacking the city and shooting people. Of course, the robots had really been hacked by Salem's faction.
    • In "Dread in the Air", Adam murders Sienna Khan, the leader of the White Fang, and claims the humans did it. This gets him leadership and galvanizes the White Fang for his anti-human cause.

    Web Comics 
  • King Steve of 8-Bit Theater tried to hire the Dark Warriors to attack his own kingdom so that he could declare martial law. Like everything else, the plan failed miserably.
  • Fate/type Redline: The story is set near the end of WWII, when many of the Japanese are weary of war and advocate surrendering to the Allies. When one of the military commanders starts to think of surrender, Major Magatsu has him assassinated. He claims the factions talking surrender did it, angering his troops and ensuring they won't surrender anytime soon.
  • Heroine Chic: Side-character superhero The Nation and his sidekick Liberteen foil what appears to be a terrorist attack on the Hudson Yards perpetrated by ISIS operatives in Episode 10. When the terrorists are unmasked, they turn out to be blonde-haired, blue-eyed white men wearing brown-face makeup. The motive for their attack is debated briefly at the end of the episode, but the plotline is dropped and never re-visited.
  • Schlock Mercenary has one that happens right before the public reveal of immortality-granting nanotechnology. While it's presented as an In-Universe case of class warfare, the group (race) ultimately deemed responsible had already been shown to have tried once before, on a space station, with the only known rationalization being "surface dwellers are violent, so let's use that against them."
  • TwoKinds has one that turns out to be two levels deep: Tiger Keidrans and one of the dwindlingly few well-meaning Templars meet up for peace talks, and are attacked by "Templars" that turn out to be wolf Keirdans... and were in turn, hired by a Templar.
  • One happens during the third arc of Weak Hero. Jared, an underling of Ganghak's Wolf Keum, gets two lackeys to steal Wolf's prized bag containing important business files. He also orders them to steal it while wearing Eunjang uniforms and then sets things up so that the Eunjang student Rowan ends up toting the empty bag. This is all to direct Wolf's attention to Eunjang High in the hopes that he'll conquer it.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role Campaign 2 centers on one long operation, pitting the Dwendalian Empire against the Kryyn Dynasty to allow cultists worshipping Tharizdun, the Chained Oblivion, to open rifts between the Material Plane and the Abyss and weaken the boundaries between the planes unopposed—with the end goal of unbinding Tharizdun and allowing it to consume the world.
    • Episode 85 has a more specific, immediate example: The Mighty Nein, having learned that agents of the cult are entering the Empire's capital city of Rexxentrum, teleport there in pursuit. They arrive to learn that the city has just come under attack by the forces of the Kryyn Dynasty. But after failing to ascertain any concrete information on the attack, Jester scrys on another man they know to be a part of the cult...and sees him in a cathedral in the city, delivering a rift-generating device to the church's cardinal, who is also a part of The Conspiracy. The Dynasty attack doesn't exist, and while the Crownsguard is preparing for it, demons will be able to overrun the city and break one of the chains binding Tharizdun.
  • Internet Historian: While discussing The Independence Day Wars of 2014 between Tumblr and 4chan, he mentions at the end of the video the possible Conspiracy Theory that it was in fact 4chan's /pol/ board who originally riled up Tumblr with the "declaration of war" post that called for Tumblr to raid 4chan's /b/ board and start the whole thing, which ended in 4chan's decisive victory when they counter-raided. The reasoning? To watch the fireworks.
  • In Noob, Tabris wants a total war between the factions, so he killed the Coalition's leader and framed spys from the Empire and the Order for it. The Coalition got hit with this again when the members of the council ruling in the dead leader's place all got killed by one of their own while the Coalition was having a Cooperation Gambit with the Empire. The killer pretended to be the Sole Survivor and pinned everything on the Empire via framing its help to fight a mutual threat as a cover for assassination.
  • World War II: One is conducted by German SS officers dressed in Polish uniforms on the radio station at Gleiwitz on the German-Polish border as a justification for the invasion of Poland.
    • The Soviet Union shells the Russian village of Mainila near the border with Finland, claiming the artillery fire to have come from across the nearby Finnish border, despite Finland having withdrawn its artillery to preempt such an accusation.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer
    • Archer's mother, in a drunken fit of jealousy, issues a burn notice on her son after he quits ISIS to work for the agency's nemesis ODIN. To save Archer from being killed by his new coworkers, Lana sends a retraction of the burn notice from a Telex in the ODIN office building. Lana's false flag is compounded, as it implies that the burn notice itself was an ODIN false flag operation designed to discredit ISIS and its best field agent.
    • Also happens in "The Papal Chase", with Lana realizing that the supposed hit on the Pope is a collaboration between the Camorra (disguised as the Swiss Guard) and a likely candidate for the Papacy.
    • The end of Season 5 culminates in a particularly convoluted and pointless one; The CIA has been buying cocaine from Columbia, selling it, using the money to buy arms from Iran, giving the arms to the dictator of San Marcos to fight a long-running communist insurgency which they themselves are currently backing to justify staging a takeover of the country. And all this is being done to pad out the CIA's budget.
  • The Dragon Prince: In the Season 2 finale, Viren conjures up the spirits of the elven assassins killed near the start of the series and sends them after the rulers of the other human kingdoms in order to convince them to join him in his planned war against Xadia.
  • In the first episode of The Legend of Calamity Jane, outlaw Bill Doolin fakes raids by both the Comanche tribe and the Calvary, threatening to cause already-poor relations to flare into war. The long-term implications don't really concern him, though — he just wants to draw security off of a shipment of gold.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Mako stumbles onto a bunch of terrorists who bomb the cultural center. While everyone else believes that the Northern Water Tribe is responsible for the bombing, Mako realizes that it's a False Flag Operation, due to one of the terrorists using Firebending. After some investigation, Mako figures out that it's actually Varrik who is really behind the bombing.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee Easter special had the villain, a rhinoceros looking creature name Mitch, pit the rabbits and the chickens against each other in order for them to wipe each other out so he can take over the holiday (Under the pretense that the holiday was promoting useless things like candy and colored eggs when he could do it better by giving kids things like batteries and socks. He likewise was just tired of looking after the two). Ironically the plan ends up self-defeating since, well, the sides were still kids and not exactly warriors. So at most they just end up slap fighting or general harmless roughhousing until their mothers, whom June had managed to free from Mitch, tell them to knock it off.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, during "The Collector", after (correctly) assuming that the heroes are suspecting him of being Hawk Moth, Gabriel Agreste akumatises himself and makes it look like he was targeted by the villain, successfully throwing Ladybug and Cat Noir off his trail for the time being.
  • It happens in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic of all places. It's revealed in the Grand Finale that Grogar was actually Discord in disguise, who decided to recruit the series other remaining villains and create a conflict for Twilight to save Equestria from to bolster her confidence. This backfires tremendously as they conspire to turn on Grogar, use his own bell to defeat him, discover his true identity, and simply decide to carry on with his plan of razing Equestria without him.
    Lord Tirek: That was unexpected.
    Cozy Glow: Wait. Discord was Grogar? Like, the whole time? Should we follow him?
    Queen Chrysalis: Without magic, he's no threat. Besides, we have plans.
  • South Park: In "The Mystery of the Urinal Deuce" the US Government is trying to convince the world that 9/11 was a False Flag in order to make them look more competent. They do this by posing as conspiracy nuts, and running an actual False Flag campaign. This is subverted in that the plan is apparently to prevent trouble: the idea is that if people are determined to suspect the Government of treachery, those people should believe the Government is all powerful, so that they don't cause problems. What's actually amazing is how many conspiracy theories have similarly sinister origins.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • In the Season 2 Mandalore arc, Pre Vizsla's Death Watch faction commits terrorist bombings on their homeworld, to make it appear that the Mandalorian goverment can't handle the situation on its own, so the Republic would send clone troops to keep peace. This however would turn the terrorists into heroes in the eyes of the public, destabilizing the pacifist government and resulting in the rebirth of the Mandalorian warrior culture. However, this failed when Duchess Satine and Padme exposed the conspiracy, convincing the galactic senate not to deploy Republic forces.
    • In Season 5, this is Maul's plan to get the people of Mandalore on Vizsla's side. The criminals under his command would attack Mandalore and are then "defeated" by Death Watch, who are actually allied with said criminals. Death Watch would then claim credit as heroes of Mandalore and convince the Mandalorian to accept them as the new rulers.
  • Star Wars Resistance: A large part of the first season involves the First Order attempting to take over the Colossus by hiring a pirate gang to attack the platform, with the intent of pressuring the station's owner, Captain Doza, into accepting the First Order's "protection" to prevent such attacks. It comes to a head in "The Doza Dilemma" when the First Order has the pirates kidnap Doza's daughter Torra, and then "rescue" her from their erstwhile pirate proxies, placing Captain Doza in the First Order's debt.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In "Cry for Help", Pearl and Garnet fuse to become Sardonyx to dismantle the Communication Hub. Peridot somehow keeps repairing the Hub overnight, which leads to Sardonyx dismantling it over and over again. Eventually, Steven and Amethyst stay up at night and spy on the Hub to catch Peridot in the act. Turns out Pearl is the true culprit for all but the first time. She was so desperate to share Garnet's power and self-confidence within Sardonyx that she kept repairing the Hub just to manufacture an excuse to fuse again and again. Garnet, to whom fusion is a deeply personal matter for very good reasons, is understandably furious when the truth is revealed to her.
    • In "A Single Pale Rose", it is revealed that the Crystal Gems — the rebellion created to fight against Pink Diamond and free the Earth — was actually created by Pink Diamond in a plot meant to allow her leave the Earth alone and let it to thrive rather than let it be destroyed like all other colonies. When this failed to deter the other Diamonds, she faked her own death to become Rose Quartz permanently.
  • The Transformers cartoon has this happen when Megatron has the Stunticons built. People automatically assume that 'car transformer = Autobot" and think they're the good guys, until the Stunticons go wild. The Autobots are, naturally, blamed for the attacks.

    Real Life 
  • If you head over to the Useful Notes page about Conspiracy Theories, you'll see that for almost any high-profile act of violence (crime, terrorism, warfare, etc.), there's a Conspiracy Theorist who's called it a false flag operation.
  • Police forces have used (and may still use) agents provocateur during demonstrations to start riots and give their uniformed comrades a reason to crack down on the demonstrators. It has backfired occasionally when the uniformed riot cops battered a group of protestors, including some undercover officers. It would have been hilarious, if it hadn't been for the dozens of injured protestors. Unfortunately, this also leads to people reflexively excusing bad behavior on the part of protesters by claiming that it was done by said agents, sometimes with the claim that real members wouldn't resort to violence.
  • Inverted by Hannibal Barca during the Punic Wars, as he was being stymied by the hit-and-run tactics of Fabius. However, Fabius' Boring, but Practical tactics were unpopular with the Roman citizens, who wanted a stand-up fight (that Rome had lost twice at that point), so Hannibal left Fabius' lands untouched during his campaign, fueling speculation that Fabius was secretly allies with Hannibal.
  • The Gleiwitz incident, when Nazi Germany provided justification for its war with Poland at the start of World War II by dressing some soldiers up in Polish uniforms, then attacking a German radio outpost while leaving behind a body, was just one of a number of independent operations collectively named "Operation Himmler". Noteworthy in that this was such an Epic Fail (absolutely no-one believed it), the fact that Germany claimed self-defense as a reason to go to war is regarded as an interesting bit of trivia instead of an important historical fact.
    • Later in 1939, the Shelling of Mainila started the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland. The event was semi-officially admitted as a false flag by the Soviet and Russian leaders from the '70s to the '90s, but under Vladimir Putin, the Russian official stance has reverted to Stalin's version of events.
  • Similarly, there were some account(s) of people doing these to gain sympathy from the Apathetic Citizens. These often involved exaggerating actions of the other side, accusing the other side of trying to do this to gain their sympathy, disguising as Germans or Russians and ransacking villages, or just spreading nasty rumors.
  • Prior to America's entry into WWII, German blockade runners often impersonated American merchant ships to sneak past the Royal Navy. This blew up in their face on November 6th, 1941, when the blockade runner Odenwald, ostensibly the freighter SS Wilmotto out of Philadelphia and hauling badly-needed rubber from Japan, ran into a Neutrality Patrol consisting of the light cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4) and the destroyer USS Somers (DD-381). When Omaha signaled the cargo ship to heave to for inspection, the Germans immediately scuttled and abandoned Odenwald. The boarding party sent from Omaha managed to save the ship, while Somers picked up the German crew (including one Kriegsmarine sailor from the battlecruiser Graf Spee who had escaped internment in Uruguay after the Battle of the River Plate, stowed away on a ship to Japan, and joined Odenwald at Yokohama to get home) and placed them in custody. It is often incorrectly cited as the last time the US Navy awarded a prize bounty for the capture of an enemy ship, but the United States was not yet at war, so the cash bonuses paid to the crews of both warships were in fact the legal salvage value of the ship and cargo.note 
  • The Church of Scientology used stationery stolen from the apartment of author Paulette Cooper, who wrote an anti-Scientology book, to fake two bomb threat letters sent to Scientology facilities, and as part of Operation Freakout were planning on faking some more bomb threat letters to send to (among others) the US Secretary of State at the time, Henry Kissinger.
  • Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" during the 2008 Democratic primaries certainly tried its very hardest to be one of those. The idea was for Republicans to switch their party registration to Democrat and then vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton (the underdog, at that point) in the primaries, in an effort to draw the primaries out and encourage more intra-party warfare between Clinton and Obama supporters, with the end result of a divided Democratic Party, who would then lose to the Republicans in the general election. How well it succeeded in its initial goals is debatable — the primary fight went through all 50 states (an event not seen in American politics for close to 40 years prior), and False Flagging Republicans certainly had some effect, but it's hard to know precisely how much and where. How well it succeeded in the "split the Democrats down the middle and make McCain win" goal is a bit more obvious.
  • In Naval Combat using a false flag is a nom de guerre, a "Name of War" and is a legal tactic as long you hoist true colours prior to engaging, even if it is mere seconds before. This is the origin of the idiom "to show one's true colours".
  • Similarly, but less commonly, wearing the uniform of your enemy is also legal, as long as you discard the false uniform prior to engaging. Such a tactic was used in World War II, with the resulting post-war trials resulting in the tactic being recognised as legal to order, as long as the troops ordered to do so were reminded and advised that they would need to discard the uniforms or potentially be liable to be executed as unlawful combatants, spies or saboteurs.
  • Britain used disguised ships to trap German commerce raiders during WWI. They sailed under neutral flags (often American) with the guns hidden, lured a commerce raider into challenging them, then hoisted the White Ensign and opened fire. Since the raider was 1) at close range and 2) probably surprised, this was an effective tactic. (Supposedly, at least one of these ships had special rigging to let it lower the decoy flag and raise the correct one simultaneously with a pull on a single rope.)
  • In both great wars, armed merchantmen or auxiliary cruisers (the German term for retrofitted fast merchantmen) both operating under false flags from neutral or opposing nations. While the British primarily used these ships in a defensive role to sucker their opponents (as noted above), the German ships would be used against other merchant ships as commerce raiders and minelayers, seeding well-trafficked areas with mines, but particularly in the First World War, British AMCs were also used in a raider role against German ships that had escaped the blockade. Infamously, and demonstrating the confusion that can result from this practice, in the First World War, the armed merchantman RMS Carmania encountered the SMS Cap Trafalgar, disguised as the RMS Carmania. The former immediately recognized the deception and subsequently engaged and sank the Cap Trafalgar in the Battle of Trindade. Accounts of the battle are often embellished by claiming that RMS Carmania was also disguised as SMS Cap Trafalgar. This was not the case, but it makes the story much funnier.
    • HMAS Sydney, an Australian light cruiser was sunk as a result of this tactic being used by the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran (converted from a civilian merchant ship) which had disguised itself as the Dutch freighter Straat Malakka. The use of the false flag, camouflage, and signal trickery combined with slack handling by Sydney saw the two ships enter very close range, at which point the surprise of the Kormoran allowed it to gain an upper hand on the heavy cruiser and pound it with torpedos and heavy gunfire. While Sydney was able to sink the Kormoran in retaliation, the majority of the German crew survived and were rescued, while the Sydney went down with all hands (the largest Allied ship to be lost with all hands) in a major blow to Australian morale.
  • During The American Civil War, Confederate raiders disguised themselves as ships of foreign nations. CSS Alabama, a case in point, disguised itself as HMS Spitfire, a British warship, before the battle against USS Kearsarge. The only requirement, which all legitimate combatants followed, was that they identify themselves as warships of the correct nation before fighting (or, seizing a merchant ship.) It's still done today, in fact - there's a story floating around the interweb of the HMS Illustrious responding to radio challenges in Urdu when on exercises and pretending to be a cruise liner from Pakistan, thus fooling their opponents. This only works when outside visual range, but that isn't such a problem when you are an aircraft carrier.note 
  • The Lavon Affair: In 1954, Israeli agents in Egypt (mostly Egyptian Jews) planted bombs at British and American targets in Egypt, hoping it would be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Communists, or any number of nationalistic groups in the country. The Egyptian authorities found out about it, informing the Brits and Americans, neither of whom were amused. As for the Egyptians themselves, they considered it evidence that their Jewish population was all potential agents of Israel, and could potentially be a threat to security (this was probably wrong, but that didn't matter at the time), and so proceeded to de facto expel the Jews from Egypt (they weren't direct about it of course; mostly, the government let life get unbearable for them). To this day, the episode is often called "haEsek haBish (the Unfortunate Affair)" in Israel. The eponymous Pinhas Lavon, who OKed the plot, was forced to resign as Defense Minister as a result of the botched operation.
  • Operation Northwoods, a Cold War era program declassified in the 2000s, was a series of military proposals to commit false-flag operations and frame Cuba for it to justify an invasion, such as pretending to send a plane full of college students over the Gulf of Mexico, shooting it down, and blaming Castro; and planting false evidence of a Cuban attack should John Glenn be killed in his spaceflight. The scary thing? The plan was approved by all the Joint Chiefs of Staff and sent to the desk of the Secretary of Defense. JFK however, was not at all amused when he found out, as General Lemnitzer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was forced to resign afterwards. Cue conspiracy theories galore in 1...2...3...
  • During the Cold War, the ostensible idea behind NATO intelligence agencies’s alleged Strategy of Tension during Operation Gladio was to cow citizens into rallying behind the anti-communist, NATO-oriented governments of their respective states in Europe through exploiting their fear by backing several ultranationalist and neofascist terrorists and then attempting to pin their attacks, such as the Bologna bombing, on leftist terrorists (who were also active at that time). The twist? The idea itself was a false flag; the entire so-called “strategy of tension” never existed. The alleged leaked documents outlining it were actually Soviet-made forgeries, designed to smear NATO and the US in particular. This hasn’t stopped the proliferation of Conspiracy Theories concerning the alleged use of the “strategy”, however.
  • The Mukden Incident provided the pretext for the invasion of Manchuria by Japan.
  • You know those ads for secrets "the credit card companies don't want you to know"? Most of those companies are owned by credit card companies. The logic being that if one goes bankrupt, they get nothing, but if they arrange even a partial payment, they get some kind of money.
  • The Lindsay Pamphlet Scandal: Prior to the 2007 Australian election, Liberal Party members were caught distributing pamphlets purportedly from a radical Muslim organisation (that did not actually exist) supporting the Labor Party. They were immediately dismissed.
  • Operation Trust, in which the Cheka (the first USSR state security service) ran fake counter-revolutionary groups so they could expose and arrest real Soviet counter-revolutionaries.
  • In 1965, a clandestine group of army officers in Indonesia attempted, and failed, a coup against the military leadership. The army promptly blamed the whole incident on Indonesian communists...not the party, mind you, but all Indonesian communists, leading to the largest mass murder in Indonesian history to kill every last one of them (~500,000 or more). The operation was so successful the mass murder of communists and leftists is largely still unknown, ignored, or blamed on the actual communists who were among the first of hundreds of thousands killed.
  • In 1975, Indonesia then tried to convince the international world that their invasion of East Timor was in fact an independent action by pro-Indonesia factions such as APODETI by giving their paratroopers Russian weapons, and... not much else. If that's too hard for you to believe, consider the fact that during the invasion, Indonesian cargo planes accidentally dropped troops on the sea and the forces on the ground traded so much friendly fire that there might've been more Indonesian casualties from friendly fire than from the poorly-armed Fretilin resistance fighters.
  • In 66 AD, a band of Jewish Zealots known as the Sicarii infiltrated the city of Jerusalem and proceeded to commit a series of atrocities against their own people in order to ensure that they would have no choice but to continue warring with the Romans rather than negotiate for peace.
  • Hostels in southern France inhabited mainly by Muslim immigrants were bombed in 1988; notes were left at the scene of one of the bombings with the perpetrators describing themselves as the Zionist "Masada Action and Defense Movement". Once French police tracked and caught the perpetrators, they found them to be neo-Nazis who were trying to stir up tensions between Muslims and Jews.
  • The Cinema Rex fire in Iran, which was a major prelude to the Iranian Revolution. This one was particularly notable for actually being a Batman Gambit (and something of a double subversion) pulled off by the revolutionaries. The cinema at the time was widely seen a symbol of Western intrusions into Iran's traditional society and was a frequent target of criticism by Islamists. The revolutionaries who burned down the cinema knew that the Iranian government was well aware of their hatred of the institution and correctly predicted that Shah would immediately jump to blame them for the attack. This then allowed the revolutionaries to counter-accuse the government of making a baseless accusation against them without any evidence and, in turn, claimed that the fire was a false-flag committed by the secret police SAVAK. As much of the public was already sympathizing with the revolutionaries at this point and since SAVAK itself was already known for being a not-so-benevolent force that had executed false-flag operations in the past, the event was a huge PR victory for the Islamists and became a lightning rod that pushed the country into further chaos.
  • The Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands, a fake pro-China communist party in the Netherlands set up by the Dutch secret service to develop contacts with the Chinese government for espionage purposes.
  • In the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a Mormon militia disguised themselves as local Ute braves, attacking and massacring emigrants moving through the area. While the massacre was intended to Leave No Witnesses, this failed because one of the participants later confessed to his crimes and identified the ringleaders.
  • There have also been a lot of documented agent provocateur activities, both recently and a while back. In 1977, CBS News obtained a US Army document that detailing plans for dealing with protesters at the 1968 DNC. According to the document, about one out of 6 people at the protests was an FBI operative or some other type of government asset.
  • In June 1968, during the Brazilian Military Regime, several officers of an air force rescue unit planned to blow a bank, a department store, an American embassy, a gas holder, and a dam with remote explosives. One of the objectives was to blame left-wing guerrillas. One officer denounced the attack, and the Government was less than pleased with the news.
    • Later, in April 1981, two Brazilian officers tried to bomb a music concert and blame a group called the "People's Revolutionary Vanguard" (inactive since 1972). The bomb exploded earlier than planned, killing one of the men and injuring the other.
  • The whole goal of the murders committed by the Manson Family were intended to start a race war between the black and white people of the country. Their idea of how to plant "convincing" evidence that the murders of wealthy white victims had been done by black militants included writing in blood on the walls and making a small paw print, referring to the Black Panthers (there are some reports they also left watermelon rinds in the sink but it is hard to verify, so it might be a rumor). Manson and his gang were arrested, tried, and convicted, their clumsy attempt at a false flag horrifying many but fooling nobody.
  • A rather silly example: a Tennessee high school football coach was fired and arrested after vandalizing his own school and spray-painting insults about his own players, in the hopes that a rival school would be blamed and his team would be riled up for the upcoming game.
  • While it's never been proven, there's a theory that many of the supposedly "Soviet" submarine incursions into Swedish territorial waters during the 1980s were actually done by US and British submarines. These happened after the so-called "Whisky in the Rocks" incident where an actual Soviet submarine was grounded in Swedish waters, the theory stating that NATO wanted to create the illusion that the Soviets were continuing to disrespect Swedish neutrality. While the theory has never been proven, former US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger has gone on record that US did regularly enter Swedish waters during that time.
  • It has been widely alleged, with evidence, that the Ukrainian separatists/insurgents/fighters-against-the-government, starting in 2014, have basically been the Russian Army with some upset locals mixed in. Numerous incidents have occurred where Russian soldiers have been found mixed among Donetsk fighters, including an infamous incident where Russian soldiers were discovered in Donetsk, claiming to have 'gotten lost'. If it is a false flag operation, it is almost as much of an Epic Fail as the Gleiwitz incident noted above. The Russian government has Plausible Deniability, though, as all those soldiers are listed as being "on vacation" with all the paperwork properly filled out and signed.
  • In 1956, incensed that Nasser had nationalized the Suez Canal, the British government conspired with France to encourage Israel to start a war with Egypt. The goal of the operation was for Britain and France to step in as peacekeepers and to make sure that hostilities did not spill over from the Sinai Peninsula once that conflict ended, Britain and France would occupy and control the canal. This backfired spectacularly. Israel made it to the edge of the Sinai Peninsula but was forced to withdraw. Alexandria was occupied, but the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. forced Britain and France to admit that they had violated Egypt's right as a sovereign nation to take control of the canal, and forced them to withdraw their forces from the territory they captured. In Britain, Prime Minister Anthony Eden was forced to resign, in no small part because U.S. President Eisenhower warned that the U.S. will in no way support Britain's endeavor in Suez, and warned that the U.S. would decrease military aid.
  • A common internet trolling tactic is to find some Flame War in progress and pose as a member one or both sides of the debate and making ever inflammatory comments toward to other side. This will ensure that the flame war stays hot and both sides don't make even the slightest progress towards reconciliation. Some of the more ambitious trolls will post in the community their identity is in but its often simply as easy as creating an account.
  • This is the whole deal behind swatting (falsifying an emergency to trick a swat team into storming someone's home, typically just for fun). People have been hurt for real and almost died due to this. Fortunately, new laws have been (and continue to be made) to punish scum who engage in this sort of thing, including making them responsible for any property damage caused as a result.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): False Flag Attack


"Centricide 6"

It is revealed that the Radical Centrist killed the Dead Centrist to spur the other Centrists to fight the Extremists.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

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Main / FalseFlagOperation

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Main / FalseFlagOperation