This trope describes situations where a character sets up a flash mob or similar situation for the express purpose of obscuring or otherwise facilitating a separate, secret purpose. This is often, though not exclusively, for criminal reasons. See also All Part of the Show, which is what the perpetrators of the sham are counting on witnesses to think.
- In Red Robin Tim actually screws himself over when he set up a flash mob to disguise his activities and make things more public and then the criminal he's with managed to escape into the crowd since they weren't wearing their distinctive powered armor.
- Tim Burton's Batman (1989): Joker appears among some mimes in order to perform a murder with a deadly quill pen, and he arranges a parade with balloons full of poisonous Smilex gas.
- This became a recurring theme in every Burton/Schumacher Bat-film afterward, from the "giant Christmas package" publicity stunt (Batman Returns) to the high-tech company party at which Batman's true identity is electronically deduced (Batman Forever) to Poison Ivy and Bane dressing in gorilla costumes to infiltrate a tropical-themed party (Batman & Robin). You'd think Gothamites would learn to shy away from public events entirely at some point.
- Subverted in Quick Change. A man dressed as a clown robs a bank and takes hostages. The police chief thinks the man will dress some of the hostages as clowns and then try to escape in the middle of them, making it impossible for the police to tell which one is him. Instead, he changes into civilian clothes and escapes by pretending to be one of the hostages—but just barely, as he overlooks one spot of white greasepaint that his girlfriend (also posing as a hostage) has to quickly and discreetly rub off.
- The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) with Pierce Brosnan has Thomas Crown, inspired by the painting The Son of Man, dressed in suit and Bowler hat escaping by arranging several other men in the same outfit appearing.
- St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold has the girls of the school arrange for a flash mob to provide a distraction so that they can evade the bad guy's surveillance.
- Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow, provides an example of this; the Xnet was used to set up an event based on a vampire LARP in order to provide cover for Marcus and Ange to meet up with a DHS mole.
- In one episode of Castle, a kidnapper requires a ransom payment in a specific make of backpack. When the drop is made, the cops take down a man with that style of backpack, only to find that this trope was in effect.
- Subverted in an episode of CSI: Miami. It appears a Flash Mob was used as a cover for a murder (or to dump the body), however it turns out someone who didn't want to report the body (because they didn't want to implicate a friend) but didn't want to just leave it there arranged the flash mob so someone would find it.
- An episode of CSI: NY, however, played it straight: in "To What End?", a killer who commits a murder while dressed as a clown covers his escape by placing an ad on the internet calling for people to show up on a particular street at a particular time, and saying they'll be paid extra for dressing in his same get-up.
- One of the creatures in Grimm formed flash mobs via text and Twitter to cover up a series of murders committed via bee-sting overdose.
- Two examples from Leverage:
- The season one finale has the team handing out copies of the "little naked dude" statues they're allegedly trying to steal in order to throw off Sterling and his men.
- Another example in Season 4: In "The Radio Job," Nate's father manages to escape by calling up a radio and saying that he will drop a million dollars from the roof of the patent office because he is sick of inventions being stolen, causing dozens of people to crowd the exit and hide him as he runs away from the crew. Explicitly stated in-universe as well, as Nate says the man called up his own flash mob to evade capture.
- Episode "18-5-4" of The Mentalist possesses a similar plot: the killer places an audition notice for clowns who must arrive in full costume, then commits the murder while dressed as a clown. Bonus Points: the victim had a fear of clowns.
- In the NUMB3RS episode "Animal Rites," the villain organized a flashmob ahead of time to distract the authorities at a key moment.
- Inverted in the musical Oliver! in that it's done to prevent a crime. Barmaid Nancy starts giving out beer and getting her customers to sing a rather lively bawdy ballad, in order to let Oliver, who'd been kidnapped by the villainous Sikes, escape unnoticed. It doesn't fool Sikes' dog, however.
- A man placed an ad on Craigslist offering landscaping work, instructing applicants to be at a certain intersection at a certain time, wearing "Yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask...and, if possible, a blue shirt". About a dozen men showed up, and it caused some confusion when a bank at that intersection was robbed by the man wearing that exact outfit. The robber himself used an inner tube to float down a nearby creek. He was caught a few weeks later.