Follow TV Tropes


Milkman Conspiracy

Go To

Den Mother: Would you care to join us in our Rainbow Squirt Pledge of Purpose?
Rainbow Squirts: To promote niceness. To make the world prettier. To share candy with everyone. To obfuscate the true nature of the Milkman. To protect the Milkman at all costs. To destroy all who would harm the Milkman, or threaten to reveal his secret objective.
Psychonauts, in the eponymous level, in a pristine double-barreled example

A Milkman Conspiracy is any conspiracy operating from an organization so pathetically uninfluential that it should by all rights barely be able to overcome zoning regulations, yet is somehow able to sink its fangs into vast swathes of the Earth. Named for a level of Psychonauts in which the paranoid fantasies of one of the characters involves them being a milkman-spy at the center of a war between an army of secret agents and a troop of homicidal Girl Scouts.

If the organization is not secret, this becomes just a Weird Trade Union. If it is not powerful even in the story, this is a Brotherhood of Funny Hats. It may also turn out to be a Mockspiracy.

Compare Almighty Janitor and The Dog Was the Mastermind.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Billy Bat revolves around a Mickey Mouse-esque cartoon bat being the calling card of an Ancient Conspiracy.
  • Kill la Kill takes place in a Japan that is ruled with an iron fist by... a clothing company. Granted, REVOCS is a gigantic international Mega-Corp which produces clothing for people all over the world, with 90% of clothing in the world being REVOCS made, and by the end of the series, it jumps up to 100%. In addition, REVOCS is just one part of the Kiryuin Conglomerate, which presumably has hole in other industries. In addition, the reason they are able to amass this paper is that the clothing is super-powered and contains alien life forms that brainwash the wearer, allowing them to establish a hierarchy by denying them to undesirables.
  • In R.O.D the TV, the governments of the world are all merely puppets, secretly being controlled by that wretched hive of scum and villainy: the British Library.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The ending of The Cobbler has Max discover that Cobblers are secretly an elite group dedicated to fighting crime with shape-shifting powers.
  • In Dr. Strangelove, General Ripper tries to start nuclear war with the Russians over one such conspiracy. While tampering with our water supply would be a good way to deal a lethal blow to major population centers in the United States, Ripper comes to the conclusion that the Russians are doing this because when he tried having sex his "essence" was denied exit from his body. If he had seen people dying or getting sick from drinking water then there would be some validity to Ripper's claim, but as it stands The General brought on nuclear war with Russia just because he couldn't get it up.
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel features a benevolent one in the Society of the Crossed Keys, a clandestine international network of hotel concierges. Based on the examples of their influence given by M. Gustave (himself a member), they normally serve to arrange private appointments and secure highly contested reservations on extremely short notice. After escaping from prison in the latter half of the movie, Gustave calls upon their services to find Serge X., the sole witness to a murder in which the main suspect is Gustave (he is also the victim's butler).
  • In Hot Fuzz, a vast campaign of murder and intimidation is covered up by a conspiracy of the local Neighbourhood Watch, comprising a few village shopkeepers, the local pub owners, and the village Chief Inspector, all for the purposes of ensuring they continue to win the "Village of the Year" award every year.
  • The International is about a corrupt bank that secretly has for clients everyone from democratic governments to dictators, criminals and terrorists, and considered so big and important that Failure Is the Only Option for the heroes trying to bring it down, as if they succeed another such bank will simply take its place. To make matters worse, it was inspired by true events.
  • James Bond:
    • The "purely philanthtopic" International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons is actually a front for SPECTRE. MI6 has Universal Exports, which deals in, well, exports.
    • In Goldfinger, Auric Enterprises, an international jeweler, is engaged in gold smuggling, murder, nuclear terrorism and conspiracy with Red China.
    • Osato Chemicals is actually a front for SPECTRE in You Only Live Twice, being used as a cover for supplying equipment for the terrorist group.
    • In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a laboratory in the Swiss Alps for curing allergies is a front for Blofeld's secret bio-weapons facility for developing bacteria designed to cause sterility in plants and animals of his choice, presumably including humanity itself.
    • Inverted in Diamonds Are Forever, where the billionaire Willard Whyte's enterprises have been hijacked by Blofeld to engage in diamond smuggling and terrorism... all controlled from a hotel in Vegas.
    • In Live and Let Die, the Fillet of Soul Jazz Bars all seem to have secret lairs behind the booths or underground. They are part of a massive heroin ring run by drug baron Mr. Big for Caribbean dictator Dr. Kananga, who are actually the same person, through which is employed nearly every black person everywhere.
    • In The Spy Who Loved Me, the Stromberg Shipping Line hijacks nuclear submarines in a bid to start World War III and restart civilization in an underwater city.
    • Drax Industries' Moonraker space shuttle programme wants to wipe out humanity and start over with a race of ubermenschen astronauts.
    • Zorin Industries in A View to a Kill is engaged in a horse-race fixing scheme where steroids are secretly administered to horses via microchip to win races, as well as a scheme to flood Silicon Valley and dominate the microchip industry.
    • In Tomorrow Never Dies, Elliott Carver's media group blackmails the President into signing bills, sells software filled with bugs to force buyers to constantly upgrade, may or may not have run Mad Cow Disease stories out of revenge because the boss was owed money from a British beef baron from a poker game who refused to pay (and then ran the stories for another year because the French paid him to do so), and engages in murder, conspiracy, and a plot to bring the world to the brink of World War III in a bid to get broadcasting rights in China, for which end it sinks a British navy ship (after luring it off course into Chinese waters), steals a ballistic missile from it, and frames them for shooting down a Chinese fighter jet, before having Stamper machine-gun all the survivors with Chinese ammunition in time for the morning edition. Allegedly able "to topple governments with a single broadcast", and appears to engineer disasters regularly for the sake of ratings, which also allows them to be the first to report on events. The bosses' motto is "There's no news like bad news" which is exemplified in this little exchange:
      Newsman: Floods in Pakistan, riots in Paris and a plane crash in California.
      Carver: Excellent.
    • In Quantum of Solace, Greene Planet, a Greenpeace-style environmental organization, is part of a grander Illuminati-like group called Quantum and is responsible for setting up dictators and monopolizing Bolivia's water supply, causing massive drought, as well as accusing the government of selling thousands of acres of rainforest to greedy developers to cut down even though they actually sold them to Greene Planet, who then resold them to the developers. Manages to get the CIA involved too.
    • Spectre: The Center for National Security aka the "Nine Eyes" joint intelligence program is actually another front for the same Illuminati-like conspiracy that Bond fought in Quantum of Solace. Its head is actually a high-ranking member of SPECTRE and is allowing the criminal group to use the intelligence it's gathering from the major spy agencies to permanently stay ahead of its enemies.
  • Mutafuckaz: Luchadores are black-ops superheroes who work with a genius scientist to stop an alien conspiracy from destroying the world for resources.
  • The President's Analyst features a plot to enslave all humanity masterminded by TPC (The Phone Company). This group, or at least its real-world equivalent, used to have a bit more power and influence than most in this list.
  • The Shadow is head of this. He has allies in all levels of New York society who do favors for him for saving their lives. They all wear a red ring as identification.
  • Subverted in the film adaptation of The Stupids. The eponymous family of ditzes believe they've uncovered one of these, involving the police, garbage collectors, the New York Times, the local deli, the local Chinese restaurant, and bees (my God) to steal all the world's mail and deliver it to a man called "Sender" (because the father, who used to be a mailman, got suspicious about all those letters that said "return to sender"). The twist is that, not only does this conspiracy not exist, but in their efforts to thwart it, the Stupids manage to mess up an actually dangerous conspiracy entirely by accident.
  • In The Uncanny, Wilbur believes that cats are at the centre of a massive conspiracy to control humans, and will murder anyone who discovers the truth. The end of the film indicates he is probably right.
  • According to Zoolander, "the fashion industry has been behind every major political assassination over the last 200 years," including John Wilkes Booth ("the first actor/model") and "those lookers on the grassy knoll" who really shot John F. Kennedy.

Examples by author:
  • Tom Holt's books feature a literal milkman conspiracy as imagined by Danny Bennett, a journalist hellbent on proving that the real power behind world governments lies with... the Milk Marketing Board.
Examples by work:
  • Deconstructed in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Nemo and his crew use the submarine Nautilus as a means to loot lost sunken treasures, which they use to finance insurrections against imperialistic nations, and more directly as a Weapon of Mass Destruction (for its time) against one of those nations. They have severed all contact to the civilized world, get all their resources from the sea, have created their own language, and have reached and claimed the South Pole. The Nautilus is truly a new society with N.G.O. Superpower status composed of... less than sixty persons. Less than four years after its creation, Nemo's existence has been discovered by The Empire, all the Western nations have organized against them and are chasing them implacably. Their numbers are declining because of war casualties and normal accidents, and the leader, charismatic Captain Nemo, is not only bitterly aware that their days are numbered (he plans to use a Message in a Bottle when the last of the crew die, so all his sea research would not be lost), but is slowly breaking down as a result of using a Weapon of Mass Destruction to cross the Moral Event Horizon once and again. In The Mysterious Island, only the arrival of the colonists saves Nemo from dying alone with all of his crew dead and the Nautilus trapped at Lincoln Island — and gives him a new, arguably more noble purpose.
  • Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The librarians secretly control the whole world (or what we Hushlanders know of it, anyway) — though if you think about it, knowledge is power...
  • Catch-22:
    • Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder is only the head of the mess hall, but manages to become more powerful than any of the generals by organizing a vast international trading company through the mess hall.
    • By the same token, ex-PFC Wintergreen (yes, ex-Private First Class; he keeps getting demoted, but at the end of the book he's an ex-Corporal), the mail room clerk, is the most powerful man in the US Army and the de facto European Commander because he handles all significant communications between the brass and every time he sees an order he doesn't like, he chucks it in the trash. At one point, it is claimed that he delayed the Normandy invasion until more armor was committed.
  • The Crying of Lot 49 features a vast conspiracy (W.A.S.T.E — We Await Silent Tristero's Empire) which is either a secret postal service masquerading as a swingers' club, or an eccentric dead man's estate masquerading as a secret postal service masquerading as a swingers' club, for a prank. Needless to say, the protagonist's just as confused as you are. Don't expect anything to be explained.
  • In the Dark Heresy novel Scourge, the Heretic briefly mentions this when it becomes apparent that a people-smuggling conspiracy has its hideout in a former mining shaft now in use for growing mushrooms (by the Fraternity of Comestibles for the Cultivation of Edible Fungi), though it's immediately noted that they probably just don't have any idea what goes on in their holdings.
  • In The Demon Headmaster, the headmaster of a small comprehensive secondary school attempts to take over the world using (in order): a school, a computer summer camp, a Merchandise-Driven TV show, a small-time lab, a university computer lab and, most amusingly, a nightclub. And then, a school. Again. This time a different school, with a different plan, but still a school.
  • Discworld:
    • The Fools' Guild Diary reveals that jesters of the Guild regularly report the public and private doings of their respective royal patrons to Dr. Whiteface, leader of the Guild. In effect, it's a huge spy network that covertly monitors various petty kingdoms in the region, to its own profit and advantage.
    • The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night from Guards! Guards! is made up of one ambitious and cunning manipulator who makes all the plans, and a whole bunch of petty losers who are in the secret society business to get revenge on people like "the lady at the fruit stall who keeps looking at me funny" and "my brother-in-law who just bought a fancy coach that I wouldn't be able to afford".
  • In Illuminatus!, the real Illuminati, the one of which Hagbard Celine is Primus, maintains its control over world affairs by operating through Discordians and anarchists, two groups of people who by their very nature are disorganized and individualistic.
  • In the book Michaelmas, the benevolent secret ruler of the planet is a respected TV journalist in the Walter Cronkite mode.
  • V.F.D. in A Series of Unfortunate Events sometimes resembles this; many of its members work as teachers, librarians, or taxi drivers (hence, it is strongly implied that such innocuous-seeming people in the reader's own life could be involved), and they often carry out plots in bizarre, inefficient ways. Making the whole thing more complicated is that, due to a schism a while back, half of it is a Benevolent Conspiracy working against the other half, but they both use the same techniques which they devised before the schism. Incidentally, V.F.D. turns out to stand for Volunteer Fire Department.
  • The Order of Maesters from A Song of Ice and Fire is just seen as a bunch of learned old men who mentor the children of the nobility. It is becoming gradually however revealed that the Maesters have influenced Westeros history from behind the scenes, and that they, the Faith of the Seven and House Hightower are part of a vast conspiracy to suppress magic and replace it with science.
  • Vaguely implied in Lord Dunsany's short story "Why the Milkman Shudders When He Perceives the Dawn". The Ancient Company of Milkmen seems to be hiding, or be aware of, some dark secret, but we're never told exactly why it is that the Milkman shudders when he perceives the dawn.
  • The eponymous witches in The Witches use the "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children" as a front for their plot to exterminate the children of England.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Avengers (1960s):
    • A literal milkman conspiracy is featured in the episode "False Witness", with the added twist that the dairy produced was absolutely central to their scheme. The series also featured, on other occasions, sinister cabals of nannies, window cleaners, hoteliers, romance novelists, secretaries, farmers, retired Vaudeville performers, butlers, knitters, a cemetery and a matchmaking service.
    • The 'British Fanatics' who kill government ministers by tricking them into getting off trains at disused stations, and then murdering them. Why? Because the trains no longer run on time under the current government...
  • The Blacklist:
    • The Cyprus Agency is an adoption agency for the wealthy that offers to scour the globe in search of your "ideal" infant child- hair colour, ethnicity, sex, name it, they'll find it. In reality, the babies are abducted from their mothers at birth, and the mothers are dozens of abducted women who fit the various genetic profiles and who are kept comatose in a fertility clinic, impregnated by artificial insemination and give birth all while unconscious. What truly makes it this trope is that while most of the agency is in it for profit (or fear), the boss is the father of Every. Single. Child. and he does all this because wants to leave a legacy.
    • The Amnesty Collective, a prison rights organization protesting the death penalty, was co-founded and run by the Judge, a Knight Templar who gets revenge for miscarriages of justice by abducting the officers or officials they hold responsible for the length of time the innocent (or "innocent", as the case may be) is themselves held. If the miscarriage leads to the death penalty, the Judge is prepared to execute in retaliation as well. While most of the organization seems entirely legit, the Judge is helped by at least a few members.
  • Breaking Bad: Los Pollos Hermanos. On the surface, a regional Chilean-influenced fried- and roast-chicken chain, with its head, the mild-mannered Gustavo Fring, a pillar of the community and a friend to law enforcement. Go deeper, and you find that Los Pollos Hermanos is a front for the largest and most sophisticated methamphetamine ring in the Southwest, with an industrial-scale lab producing large amounts of high-quality crystal meth to be distributed in the chain's buckets of fried-chicken batter. And Fring? A truly ruthless, devious, and vengeful kingpin.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Doublemeat Palace", Buffy believes human flesh is being served at the Doublemeat Palace. Ultimately subverted, as its only secret (although a big one) is that the 'meat' is almost entirely vegetarian. Employees keep disappearing not into the meat grinders but into the stomach of a demon who happens to be a regular customer.
  • Community does this hilariously with the Greendale Air Conditioner Repair School, and one of John Goodman's greatest monologues.
    Vice Dean Laybourne: Mr. Barnes, air conditioning repair is an elite, worldwide family dating back to the very beginnings of civilizations. Our predecessors were slaves, fanning the Pharaohs with palm fronds. Over time, we became expert at making our superiors comfortable. We made it our business. And along the way, we learned to make ourselves comfortable. No more palm fronds, Troy. Now we are the Pharaohs.
    Vice Dean Laybourne: That's what we do, Troy. Incredible, invisible, inbelievable things. We're an unseen, unknown, unvincinble fraternity of craftsmen.
  • Done in miniature in The Drew Carey Show when he finds out that all the mishaps that regularly happen to him at the office are caused by four menial workers who hate him for one reason or another.
  • Eerie, Indiana: Milkmen play a subtle but significant role in the series, often appearing in the background or playing an (apparently) unwitting role in the events.
    • In "The Losers", Simon loses sight with the trunk in which Marshall is attempting to Trojan Horse his way into the compound, because his view is obstructed by a milk truck.
    • In "The Broken Record", Marshall and Simon's friend Tod McNulty tries to escape town to see the Pitbull Surfers by commandeering a milk truck.
    • Bertram and Ernest appear in a number of different roles after Marshall liberates them in "Foreverware", including as milkmen.
    • Likewise, the "serial impersonator" originally posing as Mr. Radford appears later impersonating a milkman.
    • In "Heart on a Chain", Devon Wilde collides with a milk truck while skateboarding, as the milkman, among others, attends the scene of the accident. Devon is killed and his heart is transplanted into Melanie Monroe.
    • In "The Dead Letter", Tripp McConnell was hit by a milk truck and killed on November 9, 1929.
    • While this could just be a motif (the show is about suburban weirdness, after all), in "The Lost Hour", Marshall is rescued from the lost hour by a milkman, who implies that he is, in fact, future Marshall.
  • In the French News Parody Groland, there is "Le Complot des Vieux" (the old people conspiracy). They are organized with secret cameras everywhere... to create everyday annoyances like filling buses to the brim so that young people have to stand up when going somewhere, always coming in front of younger people at the supermarket and taking as long as humanly possible to pay for their groceries... Stealing the elevator from younger people...
  • The Invisible Man places its super-secret Agency in a division of the federal "Department of Fish and Game". It is explained they are repeatedly shuffled around on paper to be part of whatever federal organization happens to have a surplus in their budget they can use for their own operation. A later episode briefly sees them operate as part of Weights and Measures Division.
  • The Monk episode "Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation" features a secret ring of chambermaids who use confidential information left lying around in hotel rooms to engage in insider trading. When one of their number wants out (or wanted more money), they kill her and use their position and near-invisibility to disappear the body and cover up the crime to the point that Monk looks like (more of) a lunatic for even trying to investigate.
  • In the "Secret Service Dentistry" sketch for Monty Python's Flying Circus, the hapless protagonist Lemming finds himself caught in the middle of an elaborate spy game between the British Dental Association and a conspiracy of evil dentists working under the employ of the Big Cheese. And then it turned out that Lemming was himself a member of the BDA
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the Devil Fish episode, Mike and the Bots start making fun of dolphins, only to find out that dolphins are a space-faring race that attack the Satellite. Later, Mike gets cocky and starts teasing an electrician, only for him to call in his dolphin buddies to start blasting the Satellite again.
  • The Regents in Warehouse 13 have regular day jobs (one of them is a waitress at a diner), despite being in possession of the most dangerous artifacts in the history of the world. Subverted in that they are not evil and have no goals of world domination. In fact, their goal is to protect humanity from dangerous items and has been for thousands of years. When Artie expresses surprise at who the Regents are, they ask him who he'd rather have this power. A person in power would be motivated by more power. And, of course, there's the revelation that Pete's mom is a Regent.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The title characters in the Modesty Blaise story "The Head Girls" are spies who are trained as secretaries, then placed with high-ranking scientists and government officials, giving them access to their bosses' secrets.

  • From a real-life example: Revolutions discusses the Patriotic Society for the Development of Agriculture and Livestock (which started out as exactly what it sounded like, but was coopted as a revolutionary political organization) in its fifth season on South American revolutions. They even made a t-shirt for it!

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, one of the Sidereal Charms allows them to create these on the spot. As long as the Sidereal Exalted supports it, it avoids being just a Brotherhood of Funny Hats by virtue of, well, being supported by a member of an Ancient Conspiracy that controls the entire world from the offices of Heaven. Should they abandon them, or they and the conspiracy have disparate goals and capabilities, it quickly falls apart.
  • Illuminati has shades of this; while the main secret society you're playing as is usually something as formidable as the Bavarian Illuminati or the Society of Assassins, the groups you control as part of your conspiracy network can be some off-the-wall group (like "Boy Sprouts" or "Furries") that you basically stick on an end of your power structure when you otherwise couldn't make a move. On the other hand, some otherwise bizarre or unassuming groups can help your strategy, and the Church of the Sub-Genius (from an expansion) is an actual playable society that relies on being mediocre.
  • JAGS Wonderland has the Orange-Peel Men, Whirls who gather together to try to control Chessboard Zero, but only influence it in exceedingly strange ways, such as trying to get people to adhere to Red Shirt Tuesday.
  • The setting for Over the Edge can be summarised as Cold War-era Berlin but on an island, and instead of East vs. West, it's almost a hundred of these vying for power while staying hidden — e.g., every fraternity and sorority at the university is pursuing some sort of hidden agenda for power. Just about the only people who aren't involved in one or more of these are the occasional mugger and a quarter of the tourists visiting the island.
  • The Mak Attax cabal in Unknown Armies have infiltrated "the world's largest fast-food chain" in order to spread magic randomly through the population. It is also heavily implied that they saved the world from disaster at least once, by performing a powerful ritual on the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999.

    Video Games 
  • A.E.G.I.S. from Gate Keepers is a secret global unit created to wage a secret war against the Invaders. It has the highest military clearance and has authority over any army. It just so happens its most visible members are high school students.
  • In Killer7, the US vote can be manipulated by the most powerful man in the country: the education minister. Because of this, Japan is able to control the election and brainwash children by taking over a single elementary school in Seattle.
  • The ultimate culprit behind all the events in Persona 4 is revealed in the Golden Ending to be a random gas station attendant who, up to that point, wasn't even important enough to warrant a name or portrait. If you pay attention to said apparently unimportant NPC when they appear (notably only on days when it rains) you may pick up hints that they know more than they let on, but this requires paying attention to what appears to be a single, ordinary NPC in a reasonably-populated small town, with no hint as to their significance except for a single slight cue from outside the fourth wall, about 70 hours of gameplay ago. Ironically, the only people likely to do this are those already in on the spoiler, having got the Golden Ending and are on New Game Plus.
  • Psychonauts:
    • The Trope Namer is the famous Milkman Conspiracy level, centered around a pyromaniac milkman-spy and his secret group of Girl Scouts who are fighting against government agents, with the lone security guard Boyd Cooper trying to unravel the conspiracy. Although in this case the conspiracy is all in the head of the one man who knows about it. No, literally; the conspiracy is carried out by constructs within his mind, who represent the mental blocks that prevent his destructively psychotic, hypnotically implanted alter-ego, the Milkman, from surfacing until he's been given a code phrase, and challenged by other constructs which represent his attempts to sort out what it is he won't let himself know. Except he suspects himself as much as anyone else, so he fears both sets of constructs equally.
    • The real world in the game has one, too — as it turns out, the secret plot to steal the brains of the campers at Whispering Rock and use them to power tanks and Take Over the World is being masterminded by a lowly dentist who escaped from an insane asylum and the chief camp counselor, under the noses of the government itself.
  • Psychonauts 2: The Delugionary mole in the Psychonauts, responsible for resurrecting the Big Bad of the game, Nick Johnsmith AKA Gristol Malik, the crown prince of a tyrannical Eurasian dynasty, is for all intents and purposes an overpaid blue-collar worker (mailman). They manage to completely fool an agency filled with literal mind-readers for years despite being a pathological narcissist.
  • In Resident Evil 4, los Iluminados, a cult led by Ozmund Saddler, are a bunch of Spanish farmers and zealots... with an island fully equipped and devoted to studying the Plaga parasite and creating many types of monsters. It is implied that Saddler hired a bunch of scientists and mercenaries then brainwashed them with the parasite after taking over the villagers.
  • In season 2 of Sam & Max: Freelance Police, the mysterious "Them" that has Bosco living in fear is revealed to be three mariachis (actually, three time-shifted versions of the same mariachi) who travel through time and space so they can perform at every birthday ever. There is some truth in that Bosco is also being watched by Flint Paper. He was hired by Mama Bosco to find the one that ruined her store in the 1960s. Someone's been spying on poor Bosco since before he was born.
  • A rare heroic example in Steel Strider: The organization that deploys the protagonist in their souped-up Humongous Mecha, periodically drops supplies and weapons, and supplies arms to rebellions against tyrannical planetary governments is... an interstellar shipping company.
  • The teams in Team Fortress 2 operate this way. Reliable Excavation and Demolition and the Builders' League United are fronts for two organizations that secretly control every government in the world and are constantly at war with each other. Signs in the game's maps reveal more fronts for these organizations, such as Red Bread and Blu Corn. It's hinted that every major corporation in the world ultimately has ties to one or the other. The core of their schemes is the massive stockpile of Unobtainium intentionally hidden beneath this otherwise worthless land — along with the firearms company using these assets to invent the bleeding edge technology, which is also used by the mercenaries to kill intruders as well as each other. Of course, it reaches a new level when you find out that they're both run by the same handful of people apparently out of misanthropy and spite.
  • World of Warcraft: Cro Threadstrong, an orc who sells leatherworking supplies in Shattrath City, continually rants about how the Fruit Vendor is leading an army of ogres trying to eliminate the Horde. Among other things. (The Fruit Vendor in Shattrath is a sweet old lady named Granny Smith, so it's likely he's just a loon. Still, at least one Guild on one server has called itself Fruit Vendor Army out of inspiration.)

    Visual Novels 
  • The backstory of Danganronpa shows that the entire world was brought to heel and taken into a state of Anarcho-Tyranny by the Ultimate Despair, a cult of high-school students (from an elite academy for the best of the best, but still). In addition, said students manage to capture a major robotics company that they used to build their armies.
  • In Steins;Gate, the French research institution CERN — here called SERN — have secretly been trying to create time travel, killing at least 14 human tests subjects in the process, and have a network of armed agents called Rounders that are recruited through cellphone texts. In the timelines where they complete it, they immediately use it to take over the world and turn it into an impossibly bleak dystopia. The visual novel subverts this by establishing early on that they are merely a front group for the Committee of 300.

  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, a rivalry between raptor-riding banditos and a man so ripped that he grew a fart-fueled jetpack is revealed to have been the result of a sinister plan orchestrated by the local Fox affiliate's 10 o'clock news. The plan is foiled, however, by the weatherman.
  • Girl Genius: Mechanicsburg's 'aristocrats' (crime lords who were rewarded for siding with the Heterodynes and their barbarian horde) had to restructure when the last generation of royalty turned their backs on raiding and villainy. So, they decided that their leadership would be decided by one front organization - the Giant Snail Racing Club. The big races only occur at the end of a leader's term, and the grand prize is secretly the control mechanism for Mechanicsburg's greatest assassins.note  This is partly to add an element of randomness, and because 'investing' *cough*cheating*cough* in the snail races runs the risk of lagging behind in their regular business.
  • In Homestuck, the Betty Crocker brand of baking products is secretly a front for a genocidal alien empress hellbent on conquering the world and wiping out humanity.
  • Narbonic features a vast conspiratorial organization made up solely of guys named Dave. All the guys in the world named Dave. At one point, protagonist Dave Davenport gets kicked out and his name becomes David. The other protagonists don't care and decide to keep calling him Dave anyway.
  • Parodied in Venus Falls with the Interstellar Society of Exceptionally Stupid Old Men in Togas who by some design of Twisted Fate decide who the last 2 "survivors" of a species/race will be and thus end up on Venus.

    Web Original 
  • Arby 'n' the Chief has Eugene Black's trolling clan which, for a Halo: Reach clan, has managed to garner an impressive influence, being able to obtain the Internet history of a copycat troll as well as dissolve some legal trouble that Colin Hunt was in.
  • Several videos from the Bosnian Ape Society channel warn viewers about how to guard against the threat of apparently innocuous inanimate objects, such as military hardware including main battle tanks and aircraft that in truth are plotting to destroy their belongings. One video in particular details the Conspiracy of Mailboxes and how various events in the Cold War related to it.
  • CollegeHumor: Played for laughs in the "Deceptive Deceptions" video, which reveals that the ridiculously massive Conspiracy Kitchen Sink designed to control humanity is being led by the dorky members of the College Humor staff.
  • In Red vs. Blue, a bizarre Milkman Conspiracy is set off when Vic, the obnoxious dispatch operator back at "Blue Army Headquarters," is told, in the past after some time travel, that "Red and Blue are the same thing." Vic takes this literally and it eventually turned out that because of all this, the commander-in-chief of both Red and Blue armies is, in fact, Vic, who has been setting them at war with one another over one offhand comment.
    • The conspiracy deepens: Vic manages to do this because he's actually the computer that's running the Capture the Flag game that everyone is playing. At least, that's what the last episode implies.
    • It should be noted that in the end, it's not really a Milkman Conspiracy, it only appears to be one. The truth is even more complicated. In short, both the Red Army and the Blue Army are made up of rejects from the regular army on training bases controlled by the Freelancer Project. Scenarios are set up on these bases to train Freelancers, all of whom are aware of the deception while the "simulation troopers" are not. However, simulation troopers who do well enough are apparently shuffled back into the regular army, such as Donut (apparently?) and Tucker.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10: The world's last, best defense against the alien supermenaces (apart from Ben and before the Time Skip, at least) are the "Plumbers", an organization formed to plug "leaks" in the Masquerade, incidentally made up of guys who spend most of their time in blue collar jobs such as crossing guards, electricians, schoolteachers and (most likely) actual plumbers. When aliens show up, they drag the battlesuit out from the back of the closet and fire up the laser rays they keep in a false bottom.
  • The Boondocks:
    • Huey Freeman believes that every white man is in on the conspiracy, and that you can't bribe them with cheese.
    • Riley Freeman somehow turns a Girl Scout chocolate selling fundraiser into a virtual criminal enterprise, and the sellers themselves start acting like gangsters. This manages to get him in trouble with real gangsters (of the British variety), who felt that Riley's business operations is encroaching on their turf. Even better, the climax has none other than The Mafia act as a third-party and get into a gang war with these rival mobsters over domination of territories for chocolate selling.
  • In the Centurions episode "Max Ray... Traitor", Max becomes a Fake Defector to infiltrate Gremlin, a network of spies who disguise themselves as janitors.
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • One episode has a Suck E. Cheese's which is a front for a secret organization which makes a We Can Rule Together offer to Dexter.
    • In another episode, Dexter infiltrates a secret lair in pursuit of some masquerade-shattering photos his mother dropped off at the local photo development booth. The zit-faced teen running the booth turns out to be The Man in Front of the Man.
  • In Family Guy, Fu Manchu (or maybe someone who looks like him) is behind the distribution of rice cakes, simply For the Evulz.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero has a few:
    • The well-known "Cold Slither" episode involves Cobra using The Power of Rock via their own rock band (the Dreadnoks) with subliminal messages in music. (Two mistakes here — one, the name of the band is something of a giveaway once trouble starts, and two, well, it might have been a big case of Cut Lex Luthor a Check, seeing how fast the group's popularity spreads.)
    • Another episode has them buy up the Red Rocket franchise of fast food places to turn them into actual rocket silos. This may have worked had they not exposed themselves by being a little too insistent towards the one location that refused to sell (the one belonging to Roadblock's folks).
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: The titular group in the episode "The Secret Snake Club" wants to be one of these: a trio of nerds who will take over the world and issue in geek utopia. They're about as effective as you'd expect until they get hold of Grim and his magical powers. Meanwhile, Billy has been recruited by the junior CIA club at school and finds a real Milkman Conspiracy: the Macrame Club! They're selling their products to fund a giant laser that will alter everyone's vision so they'll all need glasses like Irwin.
  • The villain in the final episode of the first series of Invader Zim masterminds her plan to wreck the Earth from a hotdog stand — which is bigger than an office building.
  • The Question from Justice League Unlimited has an all-encompassing conspiracy theory that includes more typical things (governments, major corporations) and many unusual ones. Girl scouts? Seriously? To make things more screwy, he may have been right about at least one of them (apparently, Baskin-Robbins had been engaged in suspicious activities to cover up the existence of their thirty-second flavor).
  • This happens in The Mask when Stanley becomes Putterware's best salesman thanks to The Mask's antics and is welcomed into its inner circle which is run like a cult, complete with brown robes. Putterware's founder is a Mad Scientist who used to work for a rival company that booted her out for her insane research; To keep food so fresh it's practically alive. She created Putterware for the sole purpose of destroying her former employers... and Edge City.
  • A scene in the Rick and Morty episode "Morty's Mind Blowers" posits that the controllers of the world are squirrels. They even talk about chem trails, Monsanto deals and fermenting unrest in Brazil.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The Freemason-esque "Stonecutters" from "Homer the Great" are shown to have infiltrated the Egg Council, for their own nefarious ends — and also claim to control the British crown, keep the metric system down, and keep Atlantis off the map and kept the Martians under wraps, held back the electric car, made Steve Guttenberg a star, robs cavefish of their sight, and choose the winners every Oscar night. (Something of an Informed Ability, seeing as they really don't do much except sit around and drink beer.)
    • In "Brother's Little Helper", while under the effects of an ADD drug, Bart discovers the secret machinations of... Major League Baseball.
    • The cabal from "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" who fill flu vaccine with some sort of drug to increase sales during the Christmas shopping season.
    • A secret colony of super-powerful elves extend their influence... through horse racing.
    • Every time an Al Gore book is scanned at your local bookstore, it sends a coded message directly to the Pentagon, so they can relay the news to Al Gore's office.
  • South Park falls into this trope with some of the weird conspiracies it's shown. One involves a club of fourth-grade girls whose leaders forge a vote over boys' cuteness in order to get shoes. It ends with a gunfight on the roof of the school, of course.
  • In the Teen Titans (2003) episode "Employee of the Month", Beast Boy discovers that the local burger chain hides intelligent space tofu that kidnaps cows to use as fuel while selling a "Meaty Meaty" substitute through a store front managed by an android made of tofu.
  • Imagine if Cobra Command was a real-life secret terrorist group as well as the famous fictional organization. This is the case in The Venture Bros., except replace "Cobra Command" with "The Guild of Calamitous Intent".

  • The storybook/audio tapes that came with the "Secret Army Supplies" toy line from the late '80s had one of these. The titular military organization is so secret that it officially doesn't exist. It is run from the headquarters of Electronic Export Services, and performs classified missions to kidnap scientists, prevent the Soviets from taking control of the world's oil market and so forth.

    Real Life 

You are a registered trademark of Trope Co.®


Video Example(s):


Squirrels run the world

Morty accidentally finds out that the ones running the world are squirrels. He and Rick have to move realities after being discovered.

How well does it match the trope?

4.91 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / MilkmanConspiracy

Media sources: