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Resistance as Planned

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"Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly which, despite my sincerest efforts, I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control — which has led you, inexorably, here."
The Architect, The Matrix Reloaded

In a Crapsack World, the heroes are fighting to overthrow The Empire. When La Résistance seems close to its final victory, a high official or the Big Bad themself explains to the heroes that it was All According to Plan.

The system is so all-powerful that even the spark of resistance has been meticulously organised as a fail-safe. The entire revolution has been orchestrated by The Chessmaster of The Empire, since they have calculated that rebellion will occur and allow it to be part of the system in order to keep it running smoothly. Or perhaps the resistance exists as a sort of honey-pot, trapping and exposing rebellious sentiment for all the world to see and for State Sec to sort out. Maybe, the whole purpose of 'La Résistance' is to provide the oppressed citizenry with the comfort that they have any power at all. Nevertheless, the Invincible Villain was using the heroes all along.

This trope will often lead to questions concerning free will, as it becomes unclear whether the characters have taken this path out of their own volition or were manipulated into being an Unwitting Pawn by their ruler. The ruler might explain The Evils of Free Will if asked why this is necessary.

Common in dystopian fiction in order to show the hopelessness of resistance and the destruction of individual will.

Compare Eternal Recurrence, where the world is locked in perpetual circles, but on a cosmic instead of a societal scale. Also compare Running Both Sides, Staged Populist Uprising, and The Man Is Sticking It to the Man. Contrast The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified and Flock of Wolves.

Any sufficiently failsafe scheme of this nature can easily spiral into an outright Cosmic Horror Story.

Beware of spoilers in these tropes.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: According to the Queen in volume 3, a lot of the Crapsack World elements of the kingdom were set up deliberately by its founders to subtly encourage an eventual revolution that would abolish the aristocracy in favor of a liberal democracy. It doesn't quite go as planned, but by the end of the war with Fanoss, major reforms towards a more benign constitutional monarchy are underway.

    Audio Plays 
  • The Blake's 7 audiobook "The Logic of Empire" ends with Avon, having been captured and brainwashed, introducing himself to a resistance cell as Roj Blake as per the first episode, implying that La Résistance has been under the control of the Terran Federation the whole time.

    Comic Books 
  • In a Marvel rendition of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Avengers vs. X-Men shows Mr. Sinister, who has created his own society of perfect clones, where even the resistance is part of the system.
  • Every once in a while, Darkseid sends his minion Amazing Grace to trigger a rebellion on Apokolips. It will inevitably fail, causing the would-be rebels to fall into despair and further cement Darkseid's hold on the planet.
  • Downplayed in Serenity: Leaves on the Wind. While the Anglo-Sino Alliance didn't create the New Resistance, they did the next best thing, co-opting it by supplying funding and organizational aid in order to get potential rebels out into the open so they could all be eliminated in one fell swoop.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Matrix Reloaded has the Architect, who explains to Neo how the perfect system he had originally devised was rejected by the humans. Instead, he took the Oracle's idea and created a system which purposefully introduced anomalies to fight the system in order to make it work better. In addition, these rejects would knowingly be allowed to leave the Matrix and fight it from the outside (in Zion), where they would be destroyed every once in a while.
  • Snowpiercer reveals this trope was in play for the rebellion, as a means to cull the population and restabilize the train's fragile ecosystem, though the unexpected deaths of a number of First Class passengers "necessitated" the further culling of some of the surviving Tail Section passengers.
  • This is revealed to be WorryFree's plan for Cash in Sorry to Bother You: to use his salesmanship skills to plant him as the leader of the equisapien resistance, which he can then report back on for WorryFree.


By Author:

  • Isaac Asimov:
    • Foundation Series:
      • "The Mule": In "Part 2", Captain Pritcher attempts to contact the remains of the Democratic resistance to assassinate the Mule in his new palace on Terminus. Unfortunately for him, the Mule's men had already infiltrated the resistance movement, and therefore knew everything about the plan, and used it to collect the last of the Foundation's leadership, especially Pritcher.
      • "Search by the Foundation": Because of the Mule's actions, the scientists of the First Foundation are aware that the Second Foundation is working behind the scenes to actively manipulate them. Dissatisfied with this, Pelleas Anthor meets with Dr Tolan Darell to discuss how to rebel against their unseen masters. They organize a secret cabal of scientists on Terminus and build a weapon to use against those with Psychic Powers, like the Second Foundationers. However, Pelleas Anthor is part of the Second Foundation, and had created this rebellion so that he could maintain control of it. Except he was actually part of a Thanatos Gambit, and his capture and subsequent death was designed to trick the First Foundation into believing that they had killed all of the Second Foundationers so that they could continue operating in secret. Dr Darell's daughter, Arkady, was also manipulated into being part of this plan back when she had been born on Trantor.
    • The Currents Of Space: Terens recalls that, when he first arrived on Sark, there was a guy there recruiting Florinians into an underground against the Sarkites. He left after the first meeting, the rest have soon disappeared. Except for the original recruiter.

By Title:

  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston's struggle to find like-minded rebels against the Party leads him to O'Brien, who is in fact an Inner Party member who provides Winston with The Book to structure and organise his rebellion. The entire Brotherhood is simply a way for citizens to channel their anger and for dissonant thinkers to be funneled into a Party-controlled subsystem.
  • In The Beyonders novels, The Empire uses rebels who are able to find the emperor's Fake Weakness, then asks them to join his inner circle.
  • In the Blake's 7 novel Afterlife, the Terran Administration was aware of the threat of a Military Coup by Supreme Commander Servalan and other factions, and so fomented rebellion to tie up the military in long counter-insurgency operations. They even recovered Blake and planted him on Gauda Prime but were disappointed at his ineffectiveness.
  • In The Book of the New Sun, the rebel leader Vodalus is actually working for the Autarch to provide a harmless safety valve for popular discontent.
  • In Brave New World, the conditioning which removes The Evils of Free Will is fallible, resulting in the odd citizen experiencing discontent with their lot in life. Far from being punished for their rebellion, they are offered a choice between voluntary exile on an island of free-thinkers, or joining the ruling class.
  • A short story called "Criminal Type" is about a utopian society where one individual is designated as criminal. He is even made to smell offensively to make it impossible for him to befriend others.
  • In the Discworld universe, Lord Vetinari is stated to have started almost all the revolutionary and seditious groups which oppose him, the better to keep tabs on them.
    • In Interesting Times, the Big Bad Lord Hong is the one responsible for the resistance, mainly because civilisation in the Agatean Empire is so stultified most of the locals are incapable of actually resisting anything.
  • In the book, Ender's Game, pertaining to the start of Peter's rise to the Hegemony, he sets up Valentine as the counter-argument to his rule in order to deliberately advance his own agenda. This becomes an Achilles' Heel later on though.
  • Gearbreakers: Voxter made a deal with Godolia for the Gearbreaker rebels to only take down nonessential weapons without posing a real threat, giving the people false hope. He later informs Godolia about the Gearbreakers' location when they come up with a plan that has a serious chance of ending their rule.
  • A Gift From Earth. The Sons of Earth are allowed to exist purely so they can be used by Implementation as a source of organ transplants, by providing a constant supply of people who commit death-penalty offenses.
  • In the last book of Left Behind the resistance to the Millennial Kingdom was prophesied to exist, and is effectively allowed to operate as a designated foil, landing the occasional meager success, by a regime that operates on Omniscient Morality License.
  • In The Licanius Trilogy, the revolution that overthrew the Augurs 15 years before the story was planned and secretly orchestrated by the leader of the Augurs, who betrayed his companions for more power.
  • In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy the Lord Ruler has constructed his society so that the slave class sometimes revolts and and has temporary success, despite him being a Physical God capable of crushing the rebellion single-handedly as soon as it starts. He comments that it's good for a bunch of nobles to be slaughtered every so often; it reminds the survivors why they need him.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat: In The Stainless Steel Rat for President, a dictator suggests this trope in a We Can Rule Together speech; the dictator will rule the planet, Jim diGriz will lead the opposition, and they quietly eliminate anyone who's a real threat. Also in one of the prequel novels, Jim discovers that the ruler and the mysterious leader of the resistance are the same person.
  • In the final of Harry Harrison's To the Stars trilogy, Jan Kulozik encounters his brother-in-law Thurgood-Smyth from the first novel, now a powerful Security official on Earth. Thurgood-Smyth claims that he deliberately foisted resistance in the colonies to bring about the downfall of the corrupt Earth government, and proves decisive in their victory. Jan is convinced he's just an amoral Manipulative Bastard, and quietly asks after their victory if this trope was in play or he just changed sides when he saw which way the wind was blowing. Thurgood-Smyth calmly informs Jan that as he'll disbelieve any answer he gives, Jan will simply have to make up his own mind.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Season 2 of Altered Carbon, it's revealed that the Quellist insurrection on Harlan's World is backed by Governor Danica Harlan herself. She found Joshua Kemp, someone from a family that was helped by Quell centuries ago, and recruited him as the face of the movement. The "peons" think it's real, but the war is all just playacting to maintain Harlan's power and prevent the Protectorate looting her planet of its stack alloy. The flaw in this trope is shown when she has Kemp executed to maintain this secret, which means Quellcrist Falconer could just step into his shoes and turn it into a genuine uprising.
  • In the Black Mirror episode "Fifteen Million Merits", Bing's impassioned speech about the corruptness of the system on live television only earns him a primetime slot on the channel, where he can sell his rebellion and denounce the system while firmly being part of the system.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Power of the Daleks": Security Chief Bragen is revealed about halfway through to be the driving force behind the Vulcan colony's rebellion, and that the rebellion is mostly just a tool for him to ascend to the governorship of the colony. His Evil Plan is to kill the sitting Governor and then frame it on the rebels- despite being their leader- and then use this "assassination" to impose martial law and wipe them out, fearing his own position will never be secure if he's dependent on traitors who were willing to turn on his predecessor in the first place. Unfortunately for him, the Lady Macbeth he entrusts this plan to is aghast and another rebel overhears the scheme, and they both agree Bragen needs to be overthrown; of course, even more unfortunately for all of them, the Daleks are the actual villains of the serial, and they are happy to exploit the whole situation while they rebuild their forces in preparation for their own plan to exterminate the lot of them.
    • Subverted in "Robot of Sherwood". The Doctor, because of his cynicism, is convinced that Robin Hood must be a fake rebel leader working for the Sheriff of Nottingham to give the people false hope, but when he says this to the Sheriff, the Sheriff mocks the idea as utterly ridiculous and pointless.
  • Kamen Rider Build: Part and parcel of Evolt's play. He loves to tease Sento and Ryuga with offers of power, cooperation and knowledge specifically to spark an opposition that will fit right into his plans. It mostly builds on stirring their emotional turmoil by suggesting that they might accept one day, which drives them to try and prove him (and their doubts) wrong.
  • The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Deprogrammers" features humanity as brainwashed slaves of an alien race. The personal slave of one of the aliens is kidnapped and has his brainwashing Deprogrammed (hence the title) so he might assassinate his master. Given this trope, the inevitable twist is the rebel leader who brought him in to the plot is a loyal slave acting on his own master's orders, and the main character and his Love Interest are once again programmed to "serve only m'lord."
  • In Person of Interest, the anti-surveillance group Vigilance is fighting against those that have destroyed privacy, exposing The Machine (which is a horrendous invasion of privacy, but deliberately shackled and sanitized to avoid being exploited) and forcing the U.S. government to turn to an alternate—Samaritan, provided by Decima Technologies. Except Decima created Vigilance without any of its members being the wiser.

  • Some might consider this to be the case in some Christian movements when Adam and Eve taste the forbidden fruit. God being omniscient would make one wonder why two of His creations taste the forbidden fruit, are expelled from Paradise, have all their offspring cursed with original sin all in order to make sure devout believers can join with God in heaven.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In The Gates of Hell, Verrier's first attempt to bring the Overlord down was assembling an army of nine million Hellspawn... meaning Lucifer didn't need to hunt them down all over Hell. These days, Verrier is running another resistance, while being hidden by a powerful anti-scrying spell... since Asmodeus is stated to be its source, it can be safely assumed the trope is at work once again.
  • Paranoia. It was stated in older editions that The Computer started most of the secret societies in Alpha Complex in order to give citizens an outlet for their rebellious tendencies. Sometimes a Renegade Splinter Faction will develop, though.

    Video Games 
  • In Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, it's implied that the leader of the rebel group Trinity, Mebeth, is actually acting on the orders of the Regents.
  • Escape Velocity: Nova: In the Federation storyline, it turns out that Frandall, the head of the Bureau, created the Rebellion as a way of getting the worst political dissidents out in the open so they could all be taken out at once. (This differs from the other factions' storylines, where Frandall was head of Federation Intelligence and founded the Rebellion due to office politics.)
  • It's all but stated in Half-Life 2 that the Combine could crush the Resistance at any momentnote , but chooses not to until they can finish their much-coveted teleportation tech. However, once Gordon Freeman and the G-Man get involved, that plan goes off the rail and the Resistance becomes a real threat.
  • In Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising, your two superiors discuss in a cutscene how most resistance groups are actually run by "Central", i.e. the world government. The game plays with the trope, however, in that said world government is a benevolent organization and that these groups, including the very real one that's the Big Bad, work towards restoring the oppressive orders of the twentieth century.
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed shows how the Big Bad has laid the foundations of The Rebel Alliance. In a Xanatos Gambit, this plan made sure that if creating this group failed, the planner benefits because they are weaker as individuals, and if creating this group succeeded than the planner would know who all his remaining enemies are and be able to wipe them all out at once. This way, the Big Bad hoped to control the resistance in the galaxy, but in the end was defeated by the heroic actions of La Résistance.
  • In Tales of Arise, realm of Cyslodia is ruled over by the Renan Lord Ganabelt Valkyris with an iron fist, but a Dahnan resistance movement called the Silver Swords is led by a man called Meneck. Meneck, in fact, turns out to be none other than Ganabelt himself in disguise, having created the Silver Swords himself as a trap for any rebels in his realm.

    Real Life 
  • Kee Games, a subsidiary of Atari, advertised itself as a fierce and hostile competitor in order to work past exclusivity deals that prevented Atari from placing games in multiple establishments. The ploy was discovered in 1974, but by then, both "companies"' arcade games had proved so successful that retailers wanted them, exclusivity or no exclusivity.
  • The Trust was a famous sting arranged by the Red Secret Police during the Russian Civil War to lure as many White resisters as possible into a place where they could be rounded up conveniently.
  • During the Cold War, Bulgaria (a Warsaw Pact country) caught fugitives from the entire Eastern Bloc (as far as East Germany) from crossing into Turkey (a NATO member since 1952) by having border guards dress up in Turkish uniforms and "greet" fugitives at a mock border (the border ran along a river, but instead the guards would wait at another river a few kilometers to the North, which looked very similar and could be mistaken for the actual border).
  • During World War 2 after infiltrating the various Underground Railroads set up to ferry downed airmen back to Britain the Gestapo would prefer to leave them in place, so the people in occupied territories would do the hard work of tracking down those airmen who had escaped the initial dragnet and funneling them into a lifeline where they could easily be scooped up.