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.
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.
Compare Running Both Sides.
- In a Marvel rendition of 1984, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In 1984, 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.
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Foundation Series:
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- Altered Carbon: Season 2 reveals that the Quellist insurrection was orchestrated by Danita, leader of the establishment, from the start. She found 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 allowing for Danita to declare Martial Law.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- In the Federation storyline of EV Nova, 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.)
- 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.
- 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 ally) 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).