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Right Hand Versus Left Hand

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"The Inquisition is a hundred different schools of thought, divided by a single goal."
Lord Inquisitor Nihilus, Warhammer 40,000

Communication is the key to life. Good communication will lead to productivity and fewer wasted resources. Bad communication will only lead to headaches and heartbreaks.

In any sort of story, good communication will often be counterproductive to comedy and drama. But even in a dramatic sense, there are moments when the lack of communication is why two people are enemies, simply because they don't know what side the other is on. In a large organization, the intended goals are not always entirely clear to everyone. Sometimes the project is so secret that the two groups don't know the other is working on it. These will often lead to two parts of the same group doing counter-productive things, not knowing what the other is working towards.

Hence the saying "The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing."

Sometimes this will lead to civil wars, a Face–Heel Turn, a Heel–Face Turn or simply to follow the age-old goal that Hilarity Ensues. If you want to introduce likable but misguided antagonists to tangle with the heroes and villains, this is a good way to keep them fighting everyone and stay relatable. Usually, if it's one side that insists on not comparing notes, it's because they're an Ineffectual Loner who will sooner or later get creamed by the bad guys.

Eventually, you can be sure that the protagonists' side will win out over the other, or both will eventually sit down and talk things out once a member of each group Go Karting and can vouch for the other. Expect someone to note "it could have been avoided". This doesn't need to be limited to two sides either, it gets very common with large casts with characters acting independently of each other, but constantly bumping into each other because they all share the story.

Interestingly enough, there could almost be more Truth in Television examples than fictional examples.

See also Two Rights Make a Wrong, Flock of Wolves, Poor Communication Kills, Let's You and Him Fight, Interservice Rivalry, Calling the Cops on the FBI, Mistakenly Attacked Mole (being unaware that a target is on their side), Civil Warcraft (often a result of this trope), Conflict Ball, Friend or Foe?, and We ARE Struggling Together. A romantic version is the Two-Person Love Triangle.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The final showdown of the third Rebuild of Evangelion movie. Both Shinji/Kaworu and Asuka/Mari were actually trying to save the world. But the first faction was given wrong intel, believing that grabbing two certain artifacts would return the post-apocalyptic Wasteland they live in to a habitable state, when all it will actually do is to devastate the earth for good. Shinji, greatly agonizing about having to fight a former comrade, even tried to talk and explain, but Asuka, probably believing that he was willingly working for the villains (not an unreasonable guess given earlier events), just charges him with a glaive to try and stop him and arrest him, putting him in a hopeless situation where he'd disregard the vague warnings of Kaworu (who'd noticed something was off, but was paralyzed figuring out what and why) and pull the doomsday devices.
    • The original series was no better: the Instrumentality project required a single goal: that all Angels had to be destroyed first. But NERV and SEELE wanted to be the ones in control of Instrumentality by themselves, to the point that they were constantly trying to figure out how to have an edge over the other group without showing their own hand too early (to the point SEELE pretty much tried to counter one of Gendo Ikari's measures (Rei) by allying themselves with one of the Angels (Kaworu/Tabris). And stuck in the middle was the JSSDF (and Kaji pulling double-agent duty), just trying to figure what the hell was going on and doing its duty to try to stop the Angels while distrusting the other groups (that used it as a source for cannon fodder).
  • There's some tragic backstory for a doppleganger in The Vision of Escaflowne. He was impersonating an army soldier during a war, and struck down an enemy soldier, only for the enemy to be revealed as another doppelganger — his brother.
  • In Kino's Journey, Kino encounters a railroad worker who spent the last twenty years of his life cleaning and maintaining a seemingly unused stretch of railroad. When she travels along the same railroad, she encounters another railroad worker who spent the last twenty years of his life disassembling the parts of the railroad the first worker had cleaned and maintained. Finally, she meets a railroad worker who spent the last twenty years of his life reassembling the same railroad after the second worker disassembled it. Ultimately, Kino chooses to tell none of them that they wasted the last two decades of their lives.
  • Jessie, James and Meowth in Pokémon: The Series often become the Spanner in the Works for some Team Rocket plots when they're hatching a scheme of their own, especially if their rivals Butch and Cassidy are at the helms. It probably has to do with how, for a good portion of the anime, the Terrible Trio have been officially booted out of the organization (a fact that only those three don't seem to be aware of). It doesn't help some other Team Rocket members loathe the trio for these incompetent moments and sometimes intentionally target them in their schemes, giving the latter a reason to perform an Enemy Mine with Ash to get revenge.
  • The Mobile Suit Gundam Wing spin-off manga G-Unit has a feud between OZ and its black ops division OZ Prize, the main conflict coming from the fact that Prize answers directly to the Romefeller Foundation, the military-industrial combine that created OZ in the first place. Things only get worse when, after months of Prize failing to deliver, Romefeller hands control of the organization over to Valder Farkill, a talented and extremely ruthless OZ commander, and he starts purging the old guard. The observers on colony MO-V (the object both factions are fighting over) even directly mention this trope when it first happens.
  • Most of the conflicts in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans stem from different factions within Gjallarhorn and their allies outside the organization clashing with each other. Tekkadan are the protagonists, but for most of the series they're both being backed by prominent figures within Gjallarhorn looking to use them for their own ends while being actively opposed by other Gjallarhorn officials.

    Comic Books 
  • The Star Wars comic miniseries Darklighter has multiple cells of rebel sympathizers aboard the same Imperial ship who end up complicating each other's plans. First Mate Darklighter and three TIE pilots plan to desert and end up tying up Second Mate Klivian when he stumbles across them. Klivian is preparing a mutiny to take over the ship and has to launch it early due to the desertion. Both Darklighter and Klivian are partially motivated by Captain Heselik's dismissive reaction to a massacre carried out by a rogue TIE pilot, and Klivian takes Heselik prisoner during the mutiny. But according to another EU story, Heselik himself is a rebel spy whose callousness is an act to maintain his cover. In the end, things work out well for all three men and their respective allies, but not before things get pretty complicated.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: An old Scrooge McDuck story, where the entire plotline focuses on him fiercely competing with another company in some specific area (ultimately, the object was unimportant), spending millions on R&D and commercials in an attempt to increase his market-shares, and yet, the competitor kept coming out ahead. Finally, just when he's collapsing in tears, one of his sub-managers comes in to deliver good news: One of the corporations he owns has delivered a smashing financial report, having seized most of the market... in the same equipment, of course. Meaning he's wasted millions competing with himself.
  • The second issue of the four part miniseries that started Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) has Robotnik telling Sally he lied when she meets with him to bargain for her father's life. As it turns out, Sally had anticipated this and the real plan was to get an analysis of the roboticizer. This plan was screwed up when Sonic rescued her, because Sally didn't bother to tell anyone besides Rotor what she was up to.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón:
    • If Mortadelo and Filemón take separate ways in order to solve a problem (say, capture a baddie, finding things or laying on traps) they will very commonly screw up each other's plans.
    • In some stories El Súper gets tired of waiting and appears on the scene to spy on the duo or to get the mission done by himself. This can only end badly.
  • Monstress:
    • It's eventually shown that the Federation's army and navy are at complete ideological odds with each other. The army, which is run by if not completely composed of War Hawks, is very eager to restart the war with the Arcanics, and is thus aligned with the Cumea, who are pushing for that as well. By contrast, the navy's leadership is more reasonable and realistic about the cost of a war and are thus allied with the Prime Minister, who wants to maintain the peace as long as possible. The resulting political jockeying between these two factions feeds further into the series' Gambit Pileup.
    • The Dawn and Dusk Courts are technically on the same side against the Federation, but each has its own agenda. This is best exemplified in the relationship between the Warlord and the Baroness after they get married to unite their respective military assets — aside from them not sharing information and running independent searches for Maika for their own reasons, during the siege of Ravenna the latter takes command of the former's air fleet to go after a separate target without letting her know in advance.

    Fan Fiction 
  • The Chaotic Masters: In Chapter 17, Captain Black notes how government agencies tend to keep each other in the dark, after he captures Tala carrying out a Cadmus operation in his city without alerting Section 13 about it.
  • Earth's Alien History: Asami Kirk says this trope name word-for-word when it turns out that both the Conspiracy of Light and the Power Rangers have been individually combating Torchwood's corrupt activities without informing each other.
  • The Superwomen of Eva fan fiction series doesn't deviates from the original Anime much in this detail, with the titular super heroines being an Outside-Context Problem for NERV and SEELE (well, not much for the latter group on some stories, having a better grasp of where they got their powers and with countermeasures of their own) that they seek to eliminate in order to put their beloved "Scenario" back on track without showing their hand too early to the other group (such as the aforementioned "countermeasures"). On a few stories the Superwomen ally themselves with the JSSDF because (political bickering and potential backstabbing aside) they are the one major faction that doesn't want the genocide of mankind.
  • In Home (Aragem), when Entrapta's Uncle Coda comes to visit, it is because Hordak contradicting his orders, Hordak unaware of this until after the fact. While Coda turned down a request for funding from the Builders Association, Hordak allowed it.
  • There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton:
    • According to Coulson in Changing of the Guard, it's pretty standard for S.W.O.R.D. and S.H.I.E.L.D. to not communicate and to actively keep each other in the dark about their respective operations. When Julie comments how this seems to reduce their effectiveness, Coulson agrees — and given that S.W.O.R.D.'s withholding of information regarding everything happening in Arcadia means that S.H.I.E.L.D. is caught wholly unable to properly respond to Vilgax's invasion, they'd appear to be correct in their opinion on the matter.
    • In Thanatos Scowled, Doctor Strange sends Nico to Amity Park to try and recruit Danny Phantom for his team of magical heroes. Fury had already known that Danny was living in New York City, and in fact had tried to recruit him for the Avengers after the Chitauri invasion, but got turned down, none of which he seems to have told Strange.
  • Coeur Al'Aran preferring to have multiple concurrent storylines combined with bad communication between them often leads to multiple groups' efforts colliding in a negative manner.
    • Knight of Salem: Ironwood and Cinder both have the same goal - kill Salem - but the one time they try to achieve this goal at the same time they only end up ensuring she survives. As Salem flees Atlas's forces on a boat, Ironwood tries to bomb her ship, only for the bombs to hit the aquatic Grimm Cinder is sending towards her at the same time. The Grimm completely shield her from the blast and ensure she gets away alive.
    • Relic Of The Future: When the fight between Winter and the White Fang comes to a boiling point, she and Adam team up for a complex plan to defeat them, including using her as a Trojan Prisoner and then preempting his men betraying him by betraying them first, all to force Sienna into a bad spot politically. None of that ends up mattering because before they can get there, Jaune gets word that Winter has been kidnapped and goes on a rampage, killing every White Fang member he can find (including Sienna but not Blake) and then burning their camp to the ground. By the time Winter and Adam get there, all they're able to do is have Adam take Blake and then go their separate ways.
    • The Second Choice: Team RWBY and Team JCKP struggle to work together due to their differing methods, with RWBY preferring to charge an enemy head-on and JCKP going by the book through Atlas's guidelines. The result is that Vale and Atlas, and those two teams by proxy, don't communicate their intentions with each other and their plans collide in the worst possible way: JCKP seal the tunnels to Mountain Glenn right as RWBY comes speeding down the track on the train designed to cause the Breach, killing or severely injuring everyone on board.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The bad guys engaging in this saves the Mariachi's life in Desperado. Danny Trejo's master knife-thrower is seconds away from killing him when a bunch of gunmen drive up, mistake Trejo for the Mariachi, and shoot him full of holes. When they get back to base, their boss is on the phone to his bosses, who are telling him about their master knife-thrower who they've sent to town.
  • The entire plot of 2 Guns is driven by the fact that neither of the two leads — an undercover DEA agent and Navy Intelligence officer — knows that the other is undercover as well. The fact that their respective dirty superiors are working together and deliberately keeping them in the dark doesn't help.
  • Discussed in Cube. It's eventually revealed that the giant death maze which the protagonists find themselves trapped in was—bizarrely—built without a genuine purpose. One of the architects who worked on the project concluded that there wasn't a malevolent master plan behind it, but was the result of a bureaucratic mix-up with separate agencies all working on different parts of the structure and putting people in it without knowing about each other's existence. Whether he's right is ultimately left up in the air.
  • In short film Mighty Like a Moose, Mr. Moose gets surgery to correct his ghastly overbite, on the same day when his wife gets a nose job. Neither of them tells the other one. Neither of them recognizes the other one upon meeting again after their procedures. Then, believing each other to be strangers, they make a date. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): The Collector hires multiple bounty hunters to obtain a valuable orb containing an Infinity Stone. Quill gets hired via an intermediary on Xandar known as the Broker, while Gamora gets hired directly and betrays her father Thanos to do so. They end up fighting one another when they cross paths on Xandar (right after the Broker backed out of fencing the Orb due to Quill mentioning Ronan the Accuser's interest in it).
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming: Spider-Man ends up blowing an FBI sting dealing with a weapons shipment related to Toomes. This happens due to a communications breakdown, as Peter acted because he thought Happy and Tony wasn't listening to him, while Tony passed that information to the FBI and didn't tell Peter about it.

  • The Three Musketeers has the rivalry between M. Treville and Cardinal Richelieu, which extends to the Musketeers they command. Technically, they all work for the King of France.
  • Half the plot of The Wheel of Time rests on this trope, for both sides. It would have been a much shorter series if people simply talked to each other. (The other half resting on those same people just not caring and feeling that they alone should be the ones running the show.) This is particularly infuriating from the Aes Sedai, part of whose function is meant to aid co-operation and lead the fight, but who are laughably incompetent and mind bogglingly arrogant, splitting into several factions and still demanding everyone follow their lead alone. Everyone else simply follows their lead in trying to deal with things.
  • Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn runs into this repeatedly, being on the run from the rest of the Inquisition for much of his novels.
  • Dan Abnett's Ravenor has to operate free from the rest of the Inquisition in Ravenor Returned, which results in the Inquisition's declaring him rogue in Ravenor Rogue and hunting him.
  • There are aspects of this in the Honor Harrington Series.
    • Becomes huge issues later with the Peoples Republic of Haven. The fight to overthrow the Legislaturalists has all sorts of issues with differing factions in the government and the rebellion fighting. Later there's State Security and various different factions and heads often not keeping each other in the loop.
    • It only gets worse as the second Manticore/Haven war could have been averted entirely. Granted we now know that most of the communication failures, both inside the Republic's government, between Manticore's allies, and between Manticore and Heaven themselves are all part of a plan to that exact purpose.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. A major gripe of the protagonist, especially in "A Season for Slaughter", vis-a-vis his covert employers the Uncle Ira Group. The Uncle Ira Group on the other hand are constantly annoyed by his habit of going off half-cocked at Obstructive Bureaucrats instead of trusting them to handle things behind the scenes. He is constantly annoyed because for the past three-and-a-half books, they never bothered to correct his assumption that he was The Only One focused on the enemy instead of gaming the system. Very justifiably, too, as the literal previous time he met the actual leader of the group - the first time they metthe UIG tried to feed him to a giant alien worm. And the only reason he survived was because he, on his own initiative, actually learned how to use the weapon they gave him beforehand — a weapon was chosen specifically because it was nearly useless against giant alien worms. The only reason he survived was because he is Crazy-Prepared.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In Grey Knights, the secrecy of the titular Space Marine chapter and their operations is used by the Big Bad in order to set up a Let's You and Him Fight.
  • X-Wing Series: In Starfighters of Adumar, General Wedge Antilles, an Ace Pilot of no small skill, is sent as an ambassador to the largest nation of a neutral world called Adumar, not because of any political acumen, but because the Adumari are pilot-mad. It's expected that the diplomatic liaison will tell him what to do, and Wedge will mostly be there to look good. But he gets shut out of everything but flying duels, and he refuses to kill Adumari in these duels. The liaison tells him that he should kill them; it's native custom and by not doing it he makes the New Republic look weak. The Imperial pilots kill in duels, and they look strong. Wedge refuses. The liaison talks the leader of this particular Adumari nation into going to war with the others to unify the planet, and it's expected that Wedge and his pilots will fight in this war - the Imperial pilots are doing it. Wedge refuses, and the ruler basically calls open season on him and his pilots, letting everyone try to kill them. They escape through a combination Indy Ploy / Xanatos Speed Chess, find that the New Republic flagship in orbit won't respond when they comm it, and go to ground, where Wedge finds that the liaison told the ruler that Wedge wanted to fight, but had been ordered not to and wanted to be killed honorably.
  • In Catch-22, two CID men are sent to Pianosa investigate someone who has been using the name "Washington Irving" on confidential letters. Unfortunately, neither one of them know that the other is on the base, and both are convinced that the other is in fact the person they have been looking for.
  • In almost all of Dale Brown's books, Patrick McLanahan and his team find about as much opposition from American military forces and politicians, at times all the way up to the POTUS, as they do from the actual enemy.
  • Grant finds this problem when he takes command of the Army of the Potomac in The Last Full Measure. He wonders if one reason for Lee's earlier success was that the Union army was simply too big to effectively communicate with itself.
  • From William Gibson's Count Zero, Josef Virek mentions in his first appearance that he's so wealthy that from time to time aspects of his wealth war with one another. Kind of foreshadowing that most of the cast is working for him to some extent.
  • In Sasya Fox's Theta Knoskali has a tendency to tell his agents the absolute minimum they need to know, to the point of mind-wiping one particular assassin before sending him out. And more than a couple orders are received too late due to various factors.
  • This shows up in the Alliance government in the second The Lost Fleet series. Basically, every single project run by the Alliance government is being supervised, but nobody's overseeing the big picture, and none of the people doing the supervising of the individual projects can compare notes because of security compartmentalization. This means that nobody realizes that things are going wrong until they start going spectacularly wrong in a way that nearly starts a war by accident. Victoria Rione explicitly tells Geary that he should refrain from thinking of government as one-giant-mind-many-hands, but instead as many minds with differing objectives and methods trying to control the one giant hand of government.
    • In the backstory of the series, the moon of Europa is now totally uninhabitable and under perpetual quarantine because an organization decided to have their bio labs there create a deadly and rapidly contagious bioweapon that could pass all known bio-sensors... and forgot to tell their own bio-sensor development people about it until after it broke free and infected the entire design team.
  • In one of the main plot lines in City of Blades, the second book of The Divine Cities, the missing explosives assumed to have been stolen from the Saypuri forces by guerrilla fighters were actually taken by Saypuri operative Choudhry in an attempt to prevent a supernatural apocalypse.
  • The end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where Quasi is madly fighting off the Gypsies who are trying to save Esmeralda, believing them to be bad guys, and helping the guards who are trying to kill Esmeralda, believing them to be good guys. What a tragic, tragic setup.
  • Much of John le Carré's Karla Trilogy revolves around Karla's efforts to create his own private "arm" of "Moscow Centre" (the KGB), staffed with his own handpicked men, to handle the various moles in foreign countries that he recruited while traveling abroad in his early career; this "arm" (identified in Smiley's People as the "Thirteenth Directorate") reports directly to Karla, who reports directly to God-knows-who, and the rest of the KGB is left in the dark.
    • Inverted in Smiley's People, when Karla is forced to create an even smaller "arm" (made up of bumbling amateurs), because he has to deal with a personal matter that his own, incorruptible handpicked men wouldn't hesitate to report him for.
  • Who Goes There?: The protagonists assume - quite incorrectly - that you cannot be a Thing if you are attacking another exposed Thing. As it turns out, its imitation is so good that it will attack other Thing-forms just to keep up the appearance, and even replicate the personality and morality of the creature it copied. But once separated, every Thing-form puts its own survival as its priority. This is why the blood test works.
  • Abyss: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 by Max Hastings. One of the themes of the book is that disaster could have been caused by people way down the chain of command acting on their own initiative, despite the national leaders of the USA and USSR trying to avoid a war. To quote Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, "If the United States attacked [Cuba] conventionally, the Politburo would probably not have authorised a nuclear response. So that's not the danger. But what about the second lieutenant?"
  • Eyes of the Calculor by Sean McMullen. After an electro-magnetic pulse stops technology, the government forcibly conscripts anyone capable of operating the Calculor, a human-powered computer. An Underground Railroad is formed, but it turns out to be run by the secret police to scoop up all those who escaped the net — this is only revealed after another agency arrests everyone in the mistaken belief that it's a real underground railway. When the two organisations are given a roasting for not speaking to each other, their leaders protest that they do...just not about their top-secret operations.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: In Part 5, both Rozemyne and Ferdinand want to get the Grutrissheit, a long-lost mark of one chosen by the gods to rule the country, for the royal family. Rozemyne wants to do it by getting adopted into the royal family to get access to the magic tool version that requires being part of said family on top of the standard qualifications, which none of the current royals fulfill. Ferdinand wants to do it via making an entirely new version of that same magic tool, using a Book of Mestionora, which doesn't require being part of the royal family, as a base. They proceed to not tell each other about those specific plans despite having a covert means of exchanging information at their disposal. As a result, Rozemyne ends up stumbling into the last step necessary to get a Book of Mestionora and being in the process of getting hers during the exact time slot Ferdinand was planning to use to do the same and the system in place only allows for one person to do this at a time. This wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that previous events have caused Rozemyne and Ferdinand to be identical twins by the metric the gods use to tell human individuals apart, Ferdinand has acquired a partial Book of Mestionora a decade earlier and Rozemyne gets mistaken for Ferdinand returning to get the rest of his Book of Mestionora. As a result, the two of them end up with a partial Book of Mestionora each.

    Live Action TV 
  • Quoted on Star Trek: The Next Generation by Data almost verbatim in the episode "Conspiracy", when describing a cabal of senior officers that are quietly drafting clandestine orders for a reshuffling of command staff in key bases, without anyone noticing for months until the USS Enterprise gets involved.
  • A staple of Kamen Rider.
    • Pretty much everyone is afraid of Gills in Kamen Rider Agito. Oftentimes, they assume he's an enemy and attack. This is not helped by the fact that Ryou doesn't often wait around to get or give explanations. As a result, he spends at least as much time fighting would-be allies as he does fighting actual enemies.
      • In addition, there was some initial confusion between Agito and G3. The former attacked the latter, branding him as an undesirable in the eyes of the police, despite frequently saving G3 afterwards.
    • In Kamen Rider 555, both Takumi Inui and Yuji Kiba were fighting against the evil Smart Brain corporation. But thanks to a whole heap of misunderstandings, Contrived Coincidences and stolen Transformation Trinkets, each thought that the other was The Dragon of Smart Brain. For a time, they were even friends in their human forms and enemies in their battle forms and never knowing.
    • In Kamen Rider Kabuto, the Heroes "R" Us organization has some highly shady higher-ups that our heroes and their Reasonable Authority Figure don't realize they're fighting, though the viewer does. And it turns out their allies aren't on the level. Then it turns out that the non-shady side of ZECT is unknowingly working for the Natives, that is, the non-shady members of the monster race known as the Worms. But one of them is in fact very shady and has his own plan different from that of anybody else. In other words, it's ZECT versus ZECT from start to finish, Worm vs. Worm with the introduction of the Natives, and Native Worm vs. Native Worm with the revelation of that hidden scheme revealed near the end. On top of that, ZECT has a "with us or against us" policy, and not all Riders are working for ZECT, so it's Rider vs. Rider more often than in any other series other than Kamen Rider Ryuki and its Highlander-like situation despite no Rider wanting the Worms to exterminate and replace humanity.
      • Even the Non-Serial Movie manages to pit ZECT against itself twice over: There's ZECT vs. Neo-ZECT (former ZECT members who want to create an organization that's like ZECT minus the douchebaggery) and then ZECT vs. the higher-up who wants the Worms to win because they store the memories of the humans they replace - he believes this is the only way for something of humanity to survive the post-apocalyptic world that occurred in the movie timeline.
    • In Kamen Rider Kiva, The Beautiful Blue Sky Organization, and especially Nago, are bent on killing Kiva because they think he's an enemy of mankind. They're confusing him with the original Dark Kiva from 1986. Nago and Wataru almost kill each other several times before everything is cleared up.
    • Several versions of this trope occur in Kamen Rider OOO, most of them unusual. In a rather literal example, Ankh and Lost Ankh fight each other at every opportunity, despite technically being the same person. In a still-odd but more traditional example, Eiji and Ankh frequently keep from each other important secrets, like the locations of Core Medals and plans to throw Eiji off buildings as bait. Weirdly, in this instance, the opposition is not at all due to accident and is, in fact, expected. They may have similar goals, but that doesn't mean that they won't undermine each other to reach said goals.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid has this in abundance with all four heroes working to different goals and motivations, and are motivated by their particular medical specialty. Ex-Aid, a pediatrician, attempts to make the Victim of the Week feel better by understanding them. Brave, a surgeon, strives to make no emotional attachments to the victim because no surgeon is right all the time. Lazer, a coroner, is concerned with finding out the origin of the disease as a whole, and keeps things close to his chest as he's not sure of the full involvement of the other players. Snipe, an ex-radiologist is less concerned about saving lives, but "winning" the game, and is just as likely to put lives in danger as he is to save them. As Ex-Aid is the hero, this leads to Brave being the closest to his own motivation, but he can be callous towards the victim, Lazer being the easiest Rider to befriend, but the least trustworthy, and Snipe being the most knowledgeable about the Rider systems, but the most antagonistic of the four. And that's not getting into the motivations of Genm or the Bugsters.
  • Arrested Development: Nearly every episode is a mash-up of characters trying to keep the family out of trouble, but only making things worse. In the penultimate episode the criminal charges were dropped when it was learned that CIA East was using the Bluth family as a puppet for espionage, which the CIA West knew nothing about. The two department desks were right next to each other.
  • During the second half of the first season of Person of Interest, Reese recruits both Detective Fusco and Detective Carter to help him, but neither of them knew the other was working for him until Carter held a gun at Fusco, thinking he is helping HR kill Reese. Fusco admits his affiliation with Reese and the detectives both realize they're playing for Team Machine.
  • One of the funniest M*A*S*H episodes ever had an Army Intelligence officer and a CIA officer both show up in the 4077th — the CIA officer because he thought something suspicious, and the Army Intelligence officer because he assumed there must be something going on for the CIA guy to be there. Pierce and McIntyre have a lot of fun subtly pointing both officers towards Frank and then messing with his file to convince each of them that he was a threat (even more hilariously, they changed the documents so that each of them would see him as a completely different type of threat), culminating in a scene where both barge in and try to arrest him at the exact same time for contradictory reasons.
    • There was an episode where the 4077th is being bombed by the Americans because American intelligence believes them to be North Korean and the one officer they’re able to call isn’t able to get anyone up top to listen to him.
    • Then there's Colonel Flagg. who is a one-man example. Who he actually works for is an open question (he routinely claims different affiliations), but here's a sample quote:
    Flagg: I'm with the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency]. I only tell people I'm with the CIC [Counter-Intelligence Corps]. It confuses them; makes them think I'm with the CID [Army Criminal Investigation Division].
    He also once stated that "No one can get the truth out of me because even I don't know what it is. I keep myself in a constant state of utter confusion."
  • Played to hilarious effect in the episode "The New Judge" of Night Court: a substitute judge filling in for Harry propositions Dan Fielding for a bribe, and Dan goes to the FBI. Hilarity Ensues, until eventually the bribe is consummated, and two groups of FBI men charge in. The first group grabs Dan and throws him to the ground, then the second group charges in:
    Ernie: Bert?
    Bert: Ernie?
    Ernie: What are you doing here?
    Bert: What are you doing here?
    Harry: What are all these people doing here?
    Ernie: It's a bribery sting! We're arresting Fielding, we had the judge wired!
    Bert: We're arresting the judge, we had Fielding wired!
    Ernie: You mean...?
    Bert: Oh, for crying out loud! Ain't that the craziest thing?
    (The agents all laugh heartily and then start catching each other up on their respective families... until Harry interrupts to point out that Ernie still has Dan pinned to the floor with a foot on his neck)
  • Spooks plays with this in the last episode of Season 7 in particular. Section D are trying to stop a Russian nuclear bomb in London, but the FSB are hunting them through the streets. Harry realises the local FSB office probably doesn't have clearance to know about the bomb, since they'd all be killed in the blast. Once he tells them what's going on, they join forces and the FSB take out the bomb carrier so that the weapon can be defused.
  • In the the sixth season of The West Wing, Leo has a heart attack, leaving the White House temporarily sans Chief of Staff. One episode shows Josh and Toby flailing around the capital, making promises that cancel each other out, leading to a Republican complaining that "the left hand doesn't know what the far left hand is doing."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has one particularly amusing example: Spike and Faith have both gone through Heel Face Turns since they last saw each other, so Faith attacks Spike and misinterprets his claim that "we're on the same side".
    • Happened in a similar manner on Angel between Spike and Cordelia in the fifth season.
      Spike: She's evil, you gormless tit.
      Cordelia: Excuse me? Who bit whom?
      Angel: Did you call me a tit?
      Cordelia: I thought he had a soul.
      Spike: I thought she didn't.
      Cordelia: I do.
      Spike: So do I.
      Cordelia: Well, clearly, mine's better.
  • Happens all the time in Power Rangers. Most notable was the season where the series Grew The Beard, Power Rangers in Space, where such infighting was how the Big Bad got defeated.
  • There's a great scene in NCIS when Ziva discovers people spying on her and Tony (they're undercover). The agents and the spies spend a few minutes shouting "Federal agents!" and pointing guns at each other before they realize they have the same goal. This is just one of many episodes in which federal agencies have trouble working together.
  • Played in the Nash Bridges episode "Javelin Catcher". While Nash is trying to locate and apprehend a man before he blows up his former boss with a rocket launcher, Evan arrests the suspect for soliciting a prostitute. After the suspect is released, Nash almost mentions the trope by name.
  • Subverted on Prison Break. Linc and Michael are working at cross purposes during season four, and decide to go after Scylla separate from each other. But because of brotherly love, they still share information.
  • In the Burn Notice episode "Mind Games" Michael and Co. attempt to take down a loan shark. The first step of their plan: convince him that his trusted lieutenant is actually an undercover cop. Unfortunately, the guy actually is an undercover cop. So instead of framing him, they inadvertently blow his cover. Oops.
  • Season 1 of 24: Gaines asking Jack to kill Nina.
  • This is a major theme in The Wire. Time and again, organizations and people within those organizations fail to work together for the greater good of the whole due to personal ambition, poor communication, outright malice and simple incompetence.
    • This is symbolized early on when the Major Crimes Unit cops fail to get a heavy and bulky desk through a doorway until they realize that both sides are trying to push the desk into the opposite room. More and more people kept coming in to help without anyone bothering to check or communicate what they were trying to do, and the result was about half of the officers trying to get it into the office and half trying to get it out, with it going nowhere the whole time.
    • Late in season 2, the Sobotka detail's efforts to bring in one of the Greek's fences is hampered by the fact that Jay Landsman apprehended Ziggy for killing said fence, but failed to inform the detail. The detail have to learn about this through the newspaper. Daniels is not happy.
      Cedric Daniels: Let me ask you, who exactly am I working all these dead girls for? The Homicide unit, right? The same Homicide unit that can't put two and two together and pick up a phone leaving me to read it a day-and-a-half later in The Baltimore Sun. (Beat) What did you take from the scene?
      Jay Landsman: Photos, latents, spent casings...Fuck, they cleaned everything else?
      Cedric Daniels: Even for a supremely fucked-up police department this takes the prize.
    • Not limited to the police, as the Barksdale organization suffers from this in the second season as well. The group's Number Two, Stringer Bell made a deal with rival drug lord Prop Joe to share territory and product, but didn't tell Avon (the kingpin of the organization, who was in prison at that point), because he knew Avon needed more time before he could be convinced that this was the best path forward. Meanwhile Avon (without telling Stringer), used his connections to have Professional Killer Brother Mouzone come down to help the Barksdales defend their territory from "incursions" by Prop Joe and other gangs. Oops.
  • In season 4 of Sons of Anarchy the FBI, ATF and Justice Department are all working together to bring down the Sons who have allied themselves with a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. They do not know that the cartel leaders are actually CIA operatives who are using the Son's IRA connections to gain enough influence in Mexico's drug organizations to avert a possible Mexican civil war.
  • In the MacGyver (1985) episode "Honest Abe", Mac and the titular Abe seek to bring down a Banana Republic dictator and a corrupt Army Major supplying the latter with weapons. One of the Major's two flunkies eventually reveals to the other that he's an undercover FBI agent and offers him immunity if he cooperates... to which he replies he doesn't have to since he's he's also an undercover agent from the Office of Budget and Management.
    FBI Agent: Boy... talk about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
    OBM Agent: We don't even know what our own feet are doing!
  • The Thick of It features endless disasters that could have been avoided if the various participants were willing to coordinate properly, (though admittedly things progress/degenerate so fast in their world that they often simply don't have time for anything but off-the-cuff responses,) but Season 4 has more than the previous ones because half of its time is spent with the coalition government. This latter case is made even worse than usual cases of this trope by the fact that the two ministers hate each other, follow violently opposing party principles, are constantly trying to score political points for their own party (usually at the expense of the other,) and the person who is meant to be liaising between them is a particularly unhelpful Obstructive Bureaucrat.
  • Yes, Minister was mostly based around the conflict between transitory politicians, who want to make a lot of change very quickly, and permanent civil servants, who want to maintain status quo at all costs. However, occasionally it would be shown that the government and Civil Service had constant internal conflicts, with Ministers constantly jockeying for position, and senior civil servants trying to accumulate influence and money for their departments.
  • This comes up on Chuck almost to the point of being a Running Gag. The CIA doesn't like the NSA, and both of them look down on the FBI. And then of course there's the DEA. The very first episode starts with Sarah (CIA) trying to keep Chuck out of Casey's (NSA) hands even though both were ordered by their superiors to locate the stolen Intersect, and the next episode involves Casey convincing Chuck that Sarah may be rogue. The team frequently butts heads with foreign intelligence agencies (MI6, the French Secret Service, etc.) precisely because no one has bothered to tell the team (or Beckman and Graham) that other agencies are even involved (and in at least one case the team was ordered to interfere regardless to get the credit first). And let's not even start on all the ways operations have been fouled up because one or more team members went off on a rogue mission.
  • Get Smart:
    • In one episode, Max infiltrates a KAOS cell, and only finds out at the end of the episode that every single member of the cell is a spy for a different intelligence agency. The only real KAOS agent was the founding member, and he was already dead.
    • In another episode, in order to complete her mission early, 99 sent the KAOS agents chasing her on a Wild Goose Chase to Pier 42. Unfortunately, Pier 42 happens to be where Max and the Chief are performing their mission.
  • The Game (2014): The MI-5 operatives that make up the core cast has a few examples with both MI-6 and Special Branch.
  • The Defenders (2017): Matt, Jessica, Luke and Danny don't exactly start working together right away. They quite frequently butt heads due to conflicting personalities.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In season 1, Matt and Karen are separately investigating different threads of organized crime that both lead back to Wilson Fisk, and it isn't until a conversation Matt has with Ben Urich (who has been helping Karen with her investigation) that he realizes he's got a secondary angle towards exposing Fisk.
    • A lot of the drama that culminated in Nelson & Murdock breaking up at the end of season 2 would've been avoided if Matt had just told Karen and Foggy right away about Elektra being back in town rather than keep her a secret from them. If he had, Foggy and Karen likely could've talked him out of several date night fights with ninjas and made Frank Castle's trial less of a disaster. By not telling them, Foggy ends up being blindsided when Elektra sabotages a key witness in Frank's trial, and Karen is led to think Matt is cheating on her when she finds a wounded Elektra recovering in his bed.
  • Luke Cage (2016): A lot of conflict on the heroes' side involves clashes between Luke Cage and the NYPD regarding methodologies, especially since Luke is doing the sort of thing that the NYPD are paid to do. Likewise, the Stokes crime family are in constant internal strife and conflicts with other crime lords wanting territory in Harlem, and that's before their conflicts with Luke or the NYPD.
  • The Mandalorian: The protagonist gets a contract from a mysterious Client, requesting that he capture a target (preferably alive, but they'll accept dead) and bring it back. Not long into the hunt, the Mandalorian starts running into other bounty hunters from his guild who are after the same target; the Client didn't want to take any chances, so he gave every hunter in the guild the same contract, figuring one of them would be good enough to get it. Further complicating matters, many of the other hunters are content to simply kill the target and be done with it, something that our hero understandably objects to given that said target is a baby.
  • One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has the team perform a sting on a pedophile operation, only to have one of the members reveal that he was undercover with another agency, meaning the SVU just messed up his case. Cragan lampshades that the criminals are the ones working together.
  • In the first episode of Death in Paradise, it's revealed that Inspector Poole's investigation is being undermined by a simultaneous investigation going on, culminating in him inadvertently arresting the undercover detective. The local police commissioner explains to Poole that he was Locked Out of the Loop because they suspected a member of the local department being a Dirty Cop and couldn't risk informing him. Poole then loudly counters that he had only been on the island for less than a week and had spent the previous thirteen years miles away in London, so there wasn't much risk to keeping him informed.
  • Fargo season 4: With the death of Donatello Fadda, there's an immense power struggle between his sons Josto and Gaetano for control of the family, leaving the gang in disarray. The rank-and-file associates are often at a loss as to which brother's orders they're supposed to follow, and senior lieutenants like Violante lack the information to make proper decisions. This comes to a head when Josto and Violante are not told of the aborted hit on Lemuel Cannon that Gaetano authorized, so they fail to take extra precautions to secure an important weapons shipment against Loy's retaliation.
  • The Americans:
    • A group within the KGB hire an assassin to kill fourteen American scientists. Apparently they did so without informing their superiors, who realize that this could start a war and order Philip and Elizabeth to stop the assassin at all costs.
    • Philip invokes this when he is impersonating an FBI agent from internal affairs to get close to Martha, a secretary in the FBI Counterintelligence unit. He complains that the other FBI divisions do not share information with them, and then internal affairs gets blamed because they do not know what is going on. This is a ploy to convince Martha to give him information FBI counterintelligence has gathered on an assassin. It grows even more complicated when he later marries his mark.
    • Phillip and Elizabeth first approach Larrick posing as American intelligence agents, but he sees through the ruse fairly quickly, especially when he later discovers Phillip tailing him.
    • In Season 6, factions within Russia begin working to opposing ends through KGB agents in America. Philip and Elizabeth side with opposite factions, at least for a time.
  • The Rookie (2018): Wesley goes to negotiate for Angela being released, while her colleagues mount a rescue operation. Not surprisingly, their plots turn out to get in each other's way (they end up having to rescue Wesley as well). This could have been avoided if they talked first (since they had the same goal, after all).
  • Lost:
    • Jacob's utter refusal to communicate his intentions to anyone ends up ensuring a ridiculous amount of needless death in the long run. In particular, the Others believe they are fulfilling his orders by attacking the Flight 815 survivors, when it's later revealed that the survivors are the Candidates the Others are supposed to be protecting - every death from seasons 1 to 3 could have been avoided if everyone had known they were on the same side in the first place, which doesn't become apparent until Martin Keamy arrives to force an Enemy Mine.
    • Similarly, Charles Widmore goes from an enemy of the survivors to an ally of the survivors during the three year Time Skip, but he makes no attempt to communicate this to anyone besides Jacob or change his militaristic methods in any way. This means that by the time he actually does bother to explain himself, nobody trusts him and the survivors steal his submarine to try to flee the Island, leading to Sayid, Jin, and Sun's deaths. By the time the survivors realize he was telling the truth and that he's an ally, Ben kills him both to avenge his daughter and keep his cover.
    • When Jack and Locke split the camp in season four, they're both trying to do what they think is right for the group - Jack trusts the Freighter crew will save them, while Locke thinks they have ulterior motives and wants to hide - but their mutual pride means they stop communicating with each other. The result is that the Freighter crew ends up attacking Locke's camp, the camp that was trying to hide in the first place, and almost everyone there dies.
    • Jin and Sun spend the entirety of season six trying to reunite, but because they are both constantly on the move looking for each other, they keep passing each other, some times by minutes, without every finding each other. They do finally reunite, but they die in the sinking submarine the next day.

  • Yureka:
    • Way to not be on the same page, Lotto, Crunade, Whan, Alpha, Jin-Woo, and Elca (and Ah-dol, Boromid and even Mirenne), with the whole save Jang, don't let her kill anybody thing.
    • The cast also did a fantastic job keeping track of the five parties scaling Great Mountain simultaneously, each counting on their being the only ones slaying monsters, therefore leaving enough alive to avoid the summoning of the dungeon's Final Boss. Those five identical plans didn't all turn identically sour or anything.
      Delta (1st to the top): (to the 2nd, 3rd & 4th to the top) "I didn't think anyone would be crazy enough to ascend from the inside of the dungeon...I highly doubt there would be other strange folks such as yourselves."
      Lotto: (appears with 2 others) "Sorry to disappoint you."
      (One finger-pointing freak-out later)
      Delta: "Still, no need to worry! We only killed three of them, that means there are still three left..."
      Lotto: "I wouldn't be so sure! This place isn't lacking in crazy people."
      Ban (8th crazy, appearing with 9th): "So that would make this the gathering place for those crazy people?"

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The saying comes from The Bible, in Matthew 6:3note :
    But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing...

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Far Side had a comic where the left hand was juggling a set of balls while the right hand scrawled out "The Left Hand Must Die" over and over again. The caption, of course was "Truly, the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing."

    Professional Wrestling 
  • According to Jim Cornette the relationship between WWE and their developmental promotion Ohio Valley Wrestling (which Cornette co-owned and was booker of) became this when Jim Ross was replaced as Head of Talent Relations by John Laurinaitis. There were elements of this to begin with, with OVW being run by wrestling traditionalists and WWE focusing more on the entertainment part of "sports entertainment", but while Ross was able to bridge this gap and make this a very productive partnership (see the pages for John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, and Batista for proof) Johnny Ace never really tried, Cornette says he knew they were in trouble when Stephanie McMahon was quoted as saying about Laurinaitis "We now have a head of talent relations that will work with the creative team, not against them." The partnership deteriorated from that point on (though Cornette admits that personal animosities on all sides didn't make things easier), Cornette would eventually be fired, sell his stake in OVW, and actually go back to working with Vince Russo in TNA out of spitenote . WWE would sever ties with OVW and bring everything in house to make sure everyone is on the same page, creating the WWE Performance Center in Orlando and their own developmental promotion in WWE NXT.note 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Take any two major subfactions of the Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40,000. The Space Marines, the Inquisition, the Adeptus Mechanicus... any two. Chances are they're each working to undo something one of the others has done or is going to do. The Inquisition actually has Right Hand Versus Left Hand as departmental policy, and so much factional infighting occurs within that organization that they made an entire game about it. This is partly a pragmatic out-of-universe decision - you need to provide the opportunity for any two armies to be able to fight each other.
    • There is an example in the game's fiction of an incident early in the history of the Imperium, before Imperial Guard equipment and uniforms were regulated (well, closer to regulation) in which two armies of Guardsmen from different worlds encountered one another, each deciding that the other must be a hostile force. Several thousand were killed before the commanders on either side realised what was going on.
      • The Shira Calpurnia novels demonstrate this to almost depressing levels. The first novel alone demonstrates the minutia of political (and literal) conflict and vested interests between the Adeptus Arbites, Ministorum, Ecclesiarchy, Navy, Navigators, Astropaths, Sorroritas, and the Inquisition, all of whom are meant to work together. And this is just in one hive of one planet in one of innumerable sectors in the Imperium.
      • There is actually a good reason why this is the case in the Imperium, during the Horus Heresy, Horus was able to turn roughly half the military (including ships, Space Marines, Mechanicus and Guard regiments) to his side without anyone noticing. This, and other incidents such as the Age of Apostasy, means that all Imperial organisations are encouraged to distrust and compete against each other, to make sure no one man can ever accumulate enough personal power to threaten the Imperium...but it also means that nothing short of the Not Quite Dead God-Emperor suddenly recovering from his corpse state on the Golden Throne will ever allow the Imperium to get out of the shit barrel of problems it's created for itself in the past 10,000 years.
      • The return of Roboute Guilliman is about the closest thing they can get. He was in medical stasis for a long time but he has finally healed enough to make a big return, and to say he is not happy about the state of the Imperium is a massive understatement.
    • The Inquisition gets another special mention, because they're just a gold mine of this trope. The Ordo Originatus wishes to investigate and uncover secrets that have been lost to time regarding the founding of the Inquisition itself, believing it will make the Inquisition as a whole more powerful and help cement humanity's victory. The Ordo Redactus seeks to obfuscate and destroy that very same information, fearing it'll fall into the hands of mankind's most dangerous foes.
    • In fact, this is standard operating procedure for nearly everyone in 40k, to the point that one could argue the only reason any of races in the setting have survived for as long as they have is because everyone else is too busy with internal fighting to commit everything they have to warfare. The Eldar craftworlds regularly kill each other over conflicting visions of different farseers, the Chaos subfactions are, as the name implies, rather chaotic and opposed to each other, the Dark Eldar will rape and kill anything that moves and backstabbing is the primary way of advancement in Comorragh, the two active Necron star-gods (the rest were shattered and in one instance killed by the Necrons near the end of the War in Heaven) are distinctly opposed to each other, while the Necrons themselves have returned to the pre-unification dynastic rivalries after the 60 million year stasis they went under following the War in Heaven, and Tyranid forces from different splinter fleets will attack and consume one another on sight to test out each others' biological enhancements. Orks are always up for a fight, and the nearest other thing that looks like a good fight is usually the Ork right next to him, so they end up constantly fighting eachother unless a powerful Warboss unites them on a WAAAAAAAAGH! and that only goes on until the boss bites it whereupon the Nobs will immediately go at each other. The only faction that seems somewhat united are the Tau, who are about the smallest faction (smallest major faction that is, there are many minor alien species and even some equal powers to the Tau as well) to boot, and they've got Commander Farsight off doing his thing.
      • With the Tyranid example, the winning side will then consume all of the bio-mass out there (from both sides), convert it into new warriors, and end up with a force of the same size of the two individual fleets combined but with only the more capable designs. This is an overall 'bad thing' for everyone else in the galaxy.
      • Often, it's not. This is because dealing with one enemy is much easier than dealing with two. For example, the Imperium regularly wipes out smaller Hive Fleets using genetically engineered viruses. Each Hive Fleet requires a different virus. Therefore one Hive Fleet is easier to deal with than two. And of course, all too often, the new designs are only better for fighting other Tyranids
    • Tzeentch, Chaos god of change, magic, backstabbing and hope, thrives on this. His every plan is designed to cause and/or require another to fail, even those that would ensure his complete victory over all other gods... because that would leave him no one to plot against and he ceases to be. Hell, Tzeentch backstabs himself on a fundamental level by fighting to maintain Status Quo Is God to ensure his own existence while being the god of change and hope.
  • Half the fun of a good game of Paranoia. (The other half is the ensuing hilarity).
    • And it's not just the party...Friend Computer's programming has endured centuries of stress, disappointment, full-on disaster, Computer Phreak fiddling, the rivalries and politics of the Ultraviolet elite, and (naturally) paranoia, and as a result will frequently issue instructions that contradict themselves, such as issuing people with high explosives from R&D, ordering a field test, and announcing that failure to return them intact will be considered treason. (Naturally, this being Paranoia, it's quite likely the explosives will end up being used to kill off the rest of the party at some point).
      • This is a lie spread by Commie Mutant Traitors. Friend Computer has never issued contradictory orders. Please report to the termination center in the nearest Violet section, Red Citizen.
      • Always remember, Red Citizen, that Red Citizens do not have Violet access privileges. Failure to comply under any circumstances will be treated as treason and grounds for termination.
      • Friend Computer wishes you to have a nice day.
  • In Exalted The Empress intentionally ran The Realm's government this way (both the missing information, and clashing agendas variations) in order that it would always need her management to function. This causes problems when she disappears.
    • The celestial bureaucracy has this problem in spades too. Several groups of gods aren't cooperating or sharing information out of spite, jealousy, to hide their own unlawful actions, or because they just don't know what they're doing and nobody's noticed yet.
  • A common feature of The World of Darkness, both old and new. Your biggest rivals are often members of your own supernatural faction due to their proximity to you as well as the wheels-within-wheels plans of your superiors.
  • Blackbirds RPG: The Allmother is a malevolent Deity of Human Origin who kills people and replaces them with "orphans," doppelgangers of the original person who all possess the Allmother's personality and act as the Allmother believes that person should have acted. Unfortunately for her, these doppelgangers also possess free will and the same ironclad certainty that they should be the only one making decisions, leading to them mostly plotting against each other rather than actually advancing the Allmother's schemes. Since they all have the exact same skills, experience, and personality, they also find themselves unable to make much headway against each other due to being stuck in a perfectly even match.

    Video Games 
  • Diablo III has Tyrael commenting on how Diablo and his fellow Lords of Hell could have easily destroyed the High Heavens if they had stopped backstabbing and fighting each other in a struggle for power over the Burning Hells. It turns out Tyrael's right; when they are all united as The Prime Evil in that same game, the Heavens are almost immediately overrun. The only reason Diablo fails is the nephalem arriving in the nick of time to defeat Diablo before it can corrupt the Crystal Arch.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has a lot of this. Two nations are bound by a blood pact which forces them to work for the bad guys and apparently they can't even let the good guys (their former war buddies) know about it, even if they converse on the battlefield. Depending on the exact nature of the blood pacts though, most of that bloodshed probably would have had to happen even with good communication.
  • Similarly in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The Flame Emperor and Death Knight often get in each other's way. The Flame Emperor sometimes seems surprised by DK's arrival during certain battles, and in one of them, will actually make DK desist. This is because the Flame Emperor is Edelgard, and she doesn't want to let the Death Knight hurt her friends. They are on the same "team" though.
  • Halo:
    • Halo 2 had political machinations abound within the Covenant, leading to a power struggle between the Elites and the Brutes to be the honor guard (or the right hand...) of the Prophets. The Expanded Universe indicates that the Covenant in general suffers from this so badly that they don't even have a unified military, just a diverse array of martial organizations, each controlled by one or more specific Ministries, who often wage war against each other. The Hierarchs themselves could and would keep secrets from each other (mostly Truth, which did not assuage Regret's justified fears that he and Mercy would someday wind up discarded by Truth).
    • The expanded universe also shows that various parties within the UNSC do not agree with each other; the Office of Naval Intelligence even ends up acquiring enough power to effectively secede from the rest of the Navy.
  • In Fatal Hearts, The two groups are old enemies, but they have essentially the same goal in the course of the story. However most endings have one or both groups being destroyed in the end. Only one actually has the two groups come together in a peace talk of sorts.
  • Mostly present in the entire Golden Sun and lampshaded in Golden Sun: The Lost Age by Isaac and Felix's respective parties, as well as the party from Prox. If Saturos and Menardi only stated from the beginning that they're on a mission to save the world instead of leading it to doom, perhaps the elders of Vale have considered their pleas. If Felix had stated his motivation in assisting Saturos and Menardi in their mission while everyone was in the Sol Sanctum, perhaps Isaac, Garet, Jenna, and Kraden would have helped convincing the people of Vale in this journey. If everyone spoke up about their motivations while battling in Venus Lighthouse, Saturos and Menardi, and by extension, Agatio and Karst, would not need to die, etc.
  • In Forspoken, Cuff's leaking ambient evil is the source of the Break and the Tantas' insanity, but he doesn't have any actual control over either, which is a challenge for him since he needs Frey to be his MacGuffin Delivery Service, which won't happen if she gets killed by a Break monster or one of the Tantas, and he needs the Tantas dead to take back the parts of his power they took for themselves. Hence why he actually helps the protagonist.
  • Team Fortress 2's War! Update has since revealed that both the RED and BLU team are controlled by the same Administrator. In fact, the whole War! was started just to prevent this fact from getting out.
  • Due to paranoia, many of the assassins in Hephaestus in BioShock thought the others were snitches or rats. A notable example is Kyburz, one of the assassins, turning in Anya Andersdotter who was asking questions so she could get past Ryan's defences.
  • Technically, you and Zeeaire in Neverwinter Nights 2 have a common enemy, but you find yourself at cross-purposes with her soldiers until you kill her at the end of the first chapter and she gives you a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero speech. Depending on your choices you can point out she was being a massive Knight Templar, and her bullheadedness destroyed any chance of an alliance between you.
  • Basically, in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, Saix vs any Organization XIII member who was talented in anyway that could threaten his status as Xemnas' right hand man. And just who does he use to do this? His friend, Axel. He does this so much that Axel gives him a nice little warning:
    Axel: Just remember: I helped you get to the top. Just don't fall on the way down.
  • In Alpha Protocol, one of your missions is to travel to Taipei to stop Omen Deng, a legendary Chinese super-spy, from assassinating Taiwanese President Ronald Sung. As it turns out, Deng is actually a Taiwanese Deep Cover Agent and his real mission in Taiwan is to prevent you from assassinating President Sung. The two of you are so involved in foiling each other's plots that the real assassin is able to get to Sung almost literally under your noses. (He can still survive, but only if you were able to provide him with evidence of the plot beforehand, something that Deng evidently never thought to do.)
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Any time the Player Character has to deal with their faction's Intelligence Agencies. The Imperial Intelligence Ministry is often the Only Sane Employee in a fascist cesspit led by the Sith (an theocratic cabal of Ax-Crazy wack-jobs embroiled in chronic infighting), and supported by the military (a bunch of Sociopathic Soldiers and General Rippers, with the occasional honorable one who will inevitably be sniped by an underling). The Imperial Agent spends a lot of time mopping up after their government. The Republic has the SIS, who tend to operate on I Did What I Had to Do, Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us, and often behave as a Psycho Supporter within the Republic ranks. Neither service is particularly good about getting permission before carrying out some wacky scheme; in the first case, because it's too sane. In the second, because it's likely on a list of war crimes.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: One of HK-47's masters was a low-level executive who learned of a project he believed would ruin him financially. He set HK-47 out to kill those who signed off on the project. What the master did not know was that the project was being carried out by a subsidiary of the executive's own company. HK-47 had dutifully killed over 400 people before the executive realized this.
  • Hypnospace Outlaw has the player run afoul of this later in the game, when they're tasked with sniffing out music piracy on their service, because it turns out Dylan Merchant, the creator of Hypnospace, is responsible. Dylan revokes the player's access and scrambles to delete the report logs after they report his music downloads, which then leads to them being reinstated when Hypnospace is in desperate need of moderation, because nobody else in Merchantsoft knows why they were banned.
  • In Hotline Miami, Jacket and the Biker are both pawns of the same mastermind. The latter is marked for death when he begins to investigate the answering machine messages, and Jacket is eventually summoned to assassinate him. At first, there is a helpful dose of Mind Screw which clouds the revelation of who survived during the fight in the Phone Hom headquarters. However, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number reveals that both of them actually survived, but Biker appears to have lost, considering the gnarly scar across his face, presumably from being whacked with the golf club at the fight's conclusion.
  • Segagaga portrays the relationship between programmers and designers in this way. In theory, both groups should work together in the development of games but in practice they're fighting each other over resources (read: memory) to the point of becoming fierce enemies, making any kind of cooperation between them nigh impossible. It's up to Tarou Sega to patch things between the warring organizations. Easier said than done as the lead programmer lost his mind after an incident that involved a yellow bear suit, an unruly mob of customers and the guys from D. D. Crew and the lead designer became a tyrannical despot who rules over his underlings with an iron fist and executes anyone who dares to question his orders, like modeling a 200.000 polygon trashcan.

    Web Animation 
  • A Fox in Space: The Venomians are running two schemes. Captain Shears, their spy on Corneria, is attempting to acquire information on the Arwing, an experimental new ship being designed by Space Dynamics. To do this, he sends two agents to detain James McCloud in order to interrogate him and steal his personal Arwing. Doctor Andross, their leader, is laying a trap for a Cornerian infiltration team that is about to acquire a set of valuable data disks that Andross needs. To do this, he has a second spy within the team, Pigma, lure the infiltrators into a trap where he can capture their team leader… who turns out to also be James McCloud. As a result, the two schemes end up colliding when Shears' agents accost James right as he's seconds away from walking into Andross' clutches with the disks in-hand. Horrifyingly, Andross responds by just having his agent Pigma kill the loyal agents to lull James into making the final steps into the trap.

  • A lot of problems in Girl Genius are caused by the good and semi-good guys being unable to get together and compare notes and realize that they're on the same side.
    • On the up side, they've pointedly averted this when it comes to lead Agatha and love interest Gil, by spilling the whole weird story to Gil as soon as possible. But this trope is still in full force when it comes to the Baron Wulfenbach, Gil's father - who not only doesn't have the whole story on Agatha, but now has good reason to believe that Agatha is brainwashing his son into following her. And a really good reason not to talk to her.
  • Oglaf had a case where some shapeshifters infiltrate a royal court to assassinate the king. It turns out the king had been replaced by another shapeshifter.
  • In Cheer!, two different attempts to ruin Alex's speech for class president end up canceling each other out: Tamara replaces her speech with utter nonsense and throws Alex's real speech in the trash, while Sharon steals the paper she thinks is Alex's speech and replaces it with "some paper she found in the trash".

    Western Animation 
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "Shiv Katall", a brain pod defects from Zurg's empire, so the evil emperor orders the eponymous hitman to find it. Upon hearing this, Buzz goes off on the mission while the rest of the team is offered a furlough. While XR is all for using it to go Mahambus Six, Mira insists on going after Shiv and drags Booster and XR along. The pursuit of Shiv leads them into Zurg's territory, where Mira decides to ram Shiv's ship to knock it out of the sky, believing it was what Buzz would do. Upon crash landing, the team learns that Shiv actually is Buzz, who was using the persona to ferry Zurg defectors to freedom. While the team does manage to escape and save the brain pod, due to Buzz's cover being blown thanks to Mira's actions, Star Command would need to come up with a new way to shuttle dissidents.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door
    • Inadvertently invoked in an episode where the Kids Next Door are having a cereal party where the "bowl" is the Grand Canyon. Toilenator wants to be a respected villain, angry that he's been Locked Out of the Loop regarding Mr. Boss's latest plan. He manages to flush all the cereal, killing the KND's party... and Mr. Boss' plan to launch a surprise attack on them at said party, as he and countless other villains were hiding in the milk. Whoops!
    • "Operation E.N.G.L.A.N.D" revolves around Nigel running from a group of kids who are trying to steal a parcel that he's supposed to deliver to the British KND. At the end of the episode the kids manage to catch up to him and angrily explain that they are the British KND.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Allowance Day", the triplets and Launchpad are working on clearing the clouds to show it's Friday at the same time Fenton is trying to get the Gizmoduck suit to keep himself and Scrooge from being executed. The Gizmosuit goes straight into Launchpad's cloudplower, crashing it before he can clear the clouds completely.
  • Played for Laughs in one episode of The Flintstones, where it was mentioned that the Rubbles tried to go on a vacation, but Barney explains that while he thought Betty had saved up money, Betty was under the impression that Barney had been saving. Once it became clear that neither of them had any money, they were forced to come home after a single day.
  • Done humorously in the three-episode Pilot Movie for Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, where Wilt, Eduardo, and Coco all fight over Bloo while being chased by a girl that wants to adopt him. When the three end up colliding, they find out that they were all trying to prevent the girl from adopting him.
  • In The Lion Guard, Kion and the guard returned to the Pride Lands when they were told Zira and the outsiders were attacking. By the time they get there, the fight is over, Zira is dead, and the outlanders have joined Simba’s pride. Vitani, Zira’s daughter, makes her own Lion Guard to defend the Pride Lands. Kion and his guard plus the hyenas and vultures run into Vitani’s group and a fight ensues. Kion’s guard still thinks Vitani’s is invading and Vitani assumes the same of Kion’s group due to the outlanders with him. Neither group realizes they’re on the same side until Kiara arrives to stop Kion from using the roar and explain that they're on the same side.
  • Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century has "The Case Of The Man With The Twisted Lip," where Holmes, investigating an apparent murder, comes across a beggar with a torn lip who he thinks is suspect in the case. As per the original, he's right to be suspicious and try to apprehend him—turns out the man is actually the supposed victim. It gets weirder. The now-beggar is actually an undercover British Intelligence agent who had faked his death because his former identity was found out when he infiltrated a criminal organization. Then, British Intelligence shows up to take him away... only the men that turn up are fake British Intelligence agents who want to wipe his memory and ensure that the organization's secrets are lost. The real agent is rescued, however, and he admits he took Holmes for a criminal trying to silence him and fled instead of accepting Holmes' help, which would have gotten him back to safety sooner. New Scotland Yard was never told what was going on by their higher-ups and it very nearly led to a severe loss for them, but Holmes and Lestrade prove crafty enough to figure it out.
  • In the infamous South Park episode "Gnomes", the Underpants Gnomes collect vast quantities of underpants in order to make a profit. Unfortunately, it's a Missing Steps Plan because none of the gnomes have any idea how but believe another gnome knows what the second step is and is keeping it secret for a very good reason.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Droids in Distress", the Ghost crew, short on cash, takes a job from crime boss Vizago to steal a shipment of T-7 disruptors bound for the Empire. During the heist, they cross paths with the Imperial minister sent to retrieve the shipment, and the two droids accompanying her — an undercover R2-D2 and C-3PO, there to prevent the shipment from falling into Imperial hands. The droids wind up aboard the Ghost without the crew knowing their true mission. On the other hand... it results in the crew meeting Bail, which gets them into the greater Rebellion at the end of the first season.

    Real Life 
  • This is sometimes given as the reason for Nazi Germany not using/developing further the technology that it invented.
    • Generally, in Nazi Germany, it wasn't normally the case of not knowing what the others were doing, but more of each department (or leader) wanting to develop it independently and not share any credit with anyone else.
    • Since Adolf Hitler didn't show a great deal of interest in the day-to-day running of his government, his top ministers engaged in what they called "Working Towards the Fuehrer", where they would try to formulate policy based on his vague directives and ranting speeches. This worked out about as well as you can imagine. On the other hand, when Hitler did get personally involved he often made things even worse.
    • It also really didn't help that a good portion of the German scientists that were experts in the field were of the "Undesirables" and had either fled the country, or ended up dead.
    • As a contrast, apparently the Army wanted the Manhattan Project tightly compartmentalized, but Robert Oppenheimer insisted that science didn't work well that way.
      • The Manhattan Project WAS highly compartmentalized, it's just that it got so big (larger than most European Government ministries and some European Governments) that the compartments by necessity had to be pretty big too.
    • Also on the theme of Nazi Germany, there were several intelligence agencies - each run by a different high-ranking Nazi Party official - in direct competition receiving the same information. Hitler's eugenic policies as applied to the German intelligence community didn't end well, suffice to say.
      • The Abwehr was run by one Admiral Canaris, a Navy man and not a Nazi official. As it happens he was actually on good terms with Reinhard Heydrich, head of the SD (the intelligence arm of the SS). Though that friendship turned sour as Canaris was actually a leading figure in the Resistance, whilst Heydrich was quite loyal to the Nazi ideology, and as they started to really appreciate each other's natures each man moved to bring the other down. The Abwehr differs from the other Nazi examples in that it sought to actively undermine the Nazi effort, and probably played a role in Heydrich's assassination, but was not averse to co-operating with other agencies. It just so happens that these agencies were usually British.
    • The entire Nazi army was split up by Hitler in rather insane ways to make sure each part was too weak to overthrow him. Instead of the normal "army, navy, and air-force," set up, each group had varying sizes of battalions from all three, which at times caused confusion over who had command over which troops. This sometimes resulted in debacles such as Operation Wikinger; a simple commerce raid to sink fishing trawlers instead became an embarrassing friendly fire incident because the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe refused to communicate and coordinate their actions, ending in two German ships exploding, a third ship severely damaging itself in the confusion, and six hundred sailors lost. This resulted in a decisive British victory for the fishing trawlers, who were not even present in the waters where the incident took place.
    • Nine different organisations, among them the German Post Office, had a nuclear program.
    • Right at the cusp of the end of the war, a group of Wehrmacht soldiers teamed up with an American unit of soldiers and together fought a battle against the SS to free a group of French VIP prisoners whom the SS was intending to execute.
  • 9/11 might have been prevented if the CIA, FBI and other agencies communicated with each other about the hijackers. But they distrusted and disliked each other.
    • As a rule, pretty much all American federal organizations seem to suffer from a massive inter-agency distrust and rivalry. Then there's the whole inter-branch issues between the different branches of the military.
    • Also usually issues of strict rules on who can do what. The CIA may figure out who the Russians have as a spy in a meeting in Vienna, but have to work with the FBI to do anything. The firewalls between them to prevent abuse of powers mean often the FBI wasn't told what they needed to know.
      • There were also legal issues involved. The FBI's primary mission is law enforcement; its job is to investigate crimes and obtain evidence with which to successfully convict criminals in a court of law. The CIA's primary mission is espionage; its job is to find out things that other nations or hostile groups wish to keep secret. One of these two agencies has to worry about whether or not evidence it gathers is legally admissible in a court of law, and one of them doesn't. This results in the CIA often knowing things that the FBI not only doesn't know, but can't be told — because by the "fruit of the poison tree" doctrine, one piece of illegally obtained evidence invalidates not only itself, but everything subsequently found in the investigation as a result of following up on the original, inadmissible, lead. The problem re: 9/11 lay in the fact that the laws did not take into account that the FBI's counter-intelligence division does not suffer from this mission limitation, as CI's primary mission is not to build a clean criminal case either. One of the purposes of the Patriot Act was to change the rules so that the FBI in its counter-intelligence role could be brought into espionage compartments that the FBI in its law enforcement role couldn't touch.
    • There's also the fact that both the CIA (Aldrich Ames) and FBI (Robert Hanssen) had been infiltrated by high-level Russian spies in the last decade. Hanssen was arrested in February 2001, and so the CIA would have been even more cautious about trading confidential information at the critical time.
      • During the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Army, Navy, and Air Force each wanted to take the lead on getting the hostages out of Iran, so that none of them could hog all the glory. So they came up with a compromise plan. The result? Catastrophic failure. Afterward, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was created out of the special operations branches of all three services. The Marine Corps followed suit... eventually.
    • The 3/11 train bombings in Madrid were also blamed on lack of coordination between the national police corps (civilian) and the civil guard (military-led).
  • Practically standard operating procedure for large IT corporations:
    • While Apple Computer provides dozens of instances of this, the classic example is the near-simultaneous barrage of the competing Apple ///, Lisa, Macintosh and IIGS platforms, all developed alongside each other by different feuding kingdoms within the company. At first Jobs tried to straighten it out, but ended up in one of the factions.
    • Just in the described period it led to the Macintosh XL debacle, when Apple tried to sell the already underpowered and overpriced Lisa as an upmarket version of Macintosh and failed, and their killing of the IIGS simply because it was seen as cannibalizing the Mac's market share: they were similar enough in performance and usability, but the GS was sold at significantly lower profit margin. Apple /// plainly sucked though.
    • Various parts of Sega's American and Japanese divisions all tried to launch an entire solar system of extraterrestrially codenamed products (CD, 32X, Saturn, etc.), plus numerous other, often incompatible, combinations thereof. It didn't help that there was mistrust and a lack of communication between Sega's Japanese and American branches (driven by the Japanese branch's jealousy and resentment at the American branch marketing the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, which was collateral in the Nintendo vs. PC Engine wars in Japan, to massive success in North America and Europe), not to mention general executive failure (mostly from the Bernie Stolar, who is often blamed entirely for killing the Saturn in America by preventing anything that was worth playing on the system from reaching America). The resulting collision landed with a dull thud in the marketplace and was largely responsible for obliterating Sega as a hardware manufacturer (as they were in so much debt, they would've had to sell an unrealistic amount of Dreamcasts to become profitable again, which didn't happen thanks to the hype over the PlayStation 2 meaning everyone forgot about the Dreamcast).
      • This was also part of the reason behind Sonic X-treme becoming Vaporware; the team behind the game was split in two and given different parts of the game to develop, with no communication between them. By time Sega of Japan representatives came to check up on progress, the two parts of the game had been taken in wildly different directions. It didn't help that they tried reusing the game engine from NiGHTS into Dreams… and were denied its use after the fact.
      • This is also what some argue is the reason behind the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise's famously Broken Base: Sega licensed out use of the Sonic characters and settings to practically anybody who asked, and they were given free rein to do whatever they wanted with the license. The result was that dozens of companies created their own Sonic universes with little in common (DiC Entertainment alone created three separate shows, with the Archie Comics being a fusion of the first two early on before mostly going with a uncomfortable blend of SatAM and game elements), and kids of the time chose one of them as their favorite. This wasn't much of a problem at the time, as these fans were united against Nintendo and their mascot Super Mario, but it came crashing down when Sega's people decided they'll have a single continuity instead and tossed all of them out except for their own, upsetting the many Sonic fans who followed a continuity other than that of the video games.
      • Eternal Champions became collateral damage of Sega's in-fighting. Successful enough in the west, SOA was preparing to start production of various licenses for it (including comics and a cartoon), along with a finale appropriately called Eternal Champions: The Final Chapter. However, Sega of Japan was heavily promoting Virtua Fighter as their flagship fighter, and they cancelled anything that might draw audiences away from it, which at the time was just Eternal Champions. Hypocritically, SOJ then went on to produce many other fighters, such as Fighting Vipers, Last Bronx, Golden Axe: The Duel and Sonic the Fighters, which all happily coexisted with Virtua Fighter.
    • Sony seems to be particularly prone to this, likely as a result of its confusing corporate structures (many different divisions in various activities- movie making, video gaming, etc.- plus regional outposts) mucking things up. Sony has been described not only as a feudal kingdom, but as "four separate companies, without a word to say to each other". Examples include:
      • One of the most interesting cases of this was the background maneuvering in the Napster civil suit: Sony, manufacturer of computer products, saw Napster as a profitable way to get more people to use computers, and therefore funded much of their legal defense. However! Sony, entertainment and intellectual property owner, saw Napster as stealing their products through Digital Piracy, and therefore also funded most of the suit!
      • Some Sony DVD players can have their region coding disabled, and user's manuals actually tell users how to do it. The electronic manufacturer division greatly profits from the sales of the DVD players, which are boosted by movies' availability, but the IP owner division loves to wring the last coin from the watchers, which is more easily done by such things as region-specific prices and release dates, hence the regional codes. The ability to disable the codes appears to be a some sort of uneasy compromise.
      • In a tamer example, Sony Interactive Entertainment (the video games arm) has a bitter rivalry with Nintendo in Console Wars. However, Sony's mobile phone arm, Sony Mobile, doesn't have any rivalry with Nintendo and doesn't mind any Nintendo-related Mobile Phone Games to be played on their phones. Sony and Microsoft's rivalry doesn't extend beyond video gaming eithernote .
    • (AOL) Time Warner suffered from this pretty much from the get go. The company was intended to be synergy-friendly by longtime Warner Communications chairman Steve Ross. However, he died in 1992, and his successors, Gerald Levin and Jeff Bewkes (both of whom came from Time Inc. via HBO) discouraged synergy out of the Darwinist belief that competition bred better results, which in turn made the company's various divisions often run up against each other. In 1993, most of the company's entertainment assets (including WB, HBO and Cinemax) were put into a joint venture with telephone company US West called "Time Warner Entertainment". When Turner Broadcasting merged with TW in 1996 this meant that its theatrical production and distribution assets were absorbed into WBnote , but the company remained as a semi-autonomous unit of Time Warner (the aforementioned TWE joint venture ended in 2003 after Comcast sold their stake, having inherited it through various mergers). The company tried and failed multiple times to take advantage of the emerging internet and leverage their properties in the process, as both the Pathfinder portal and the AOL merger backfired hugely (the latter moreso than the former). Even as the company slimmed down over the years, losing its book and music publishing groups, AOL, its cable systems and finally Time Inc. itself, the walls between the WB, HBO and Turner divisions remained rather strong. Ultimately, AT&T's purchase of the company (and subsequent renaming to WarnerMedia) in 2018 finally averted the trope, as they acted to reorganize the company and increase synergy and interaction— Turner and HBO are no longer separate units, instead their assets have been reassigned into new divisionsnote . The major sign that the byzantine bureaucracy of the old Time Warner had been eliminated was when the trailer for the HBO Max streaming service was released, showcasing the vast amount of properties WarnerMedia has to offer and that they're bringing them all together.

      Unfortunately, the acquisition ended up creating a new kind of Right Hand vs. Left Hand, this time between veteran WarnerMedia executives and AT&T executives. Not long after the acquisition was completed, reports began to emerge that the two groups were engaged in a clash of Creative Differences, with the WarnerMedia side alleging that AT&T saw the conglomerate as merely a farm for their platforms, with little knowledge or care for the importance of talent and creative relations within Hollywood. Within two years, many highly-respected WM executives, including HBO chairman Richard Plepler, Warner Bros. TV head of business Craig Hunegs, and WB marketing president Blair Rich were shown the door, and AT&T installed former Hulu exec Jason Kiliar to run all of WarnerMedia. As Kiliar had no experience whatsoever running traditional media, questions regarding his business strategy emerged. This all came to a head in December 2020, when WarnerMedia announced that it would release the entire 2021 theatrical slate to HBO Max the same time it hit theaters, citing the COVID-19 Pandemic (though reports later alleged it was to save WB the embarassment of the low box office performances that plagued them in 2019). The decision what met with widespread condemnation throughout Hollywood, with actors, producers, film directors, labor unions and talent agencies threatening legal action against the studio. Warner Bros. ended up carving out $200 million to many of these groups to compensate for lost profits, but it didn't really matter as AT&T was already starting to have second thoughts on entering the media industry by that point. In May 2021, AT&T announced that WarnerMedia would merge with Discovery, Inc. as part of a spin-off of its media business.

      Though early reaction to the Warner Bros. Discovery merger was enthusiastic, things quickly soured as David Zaslav, head of the combined company, turned out to be perhaps the worst head of a major media company, as everything he's done during his tenure (including ousting Jeff Zucker a head of CNN and replacing him with Chris Licht to ineffectual results at the behest of majority investor John Malone, a botched rebranding of HBO Max as simply "Max", and cancelling all sorts of projects and removing shows from streaming, largely for tax purposes) has basically made Zaslav one of the most hated people in the industry, and his actions were a direct factor in the dual strike by Hollywood unions in 2023. It's since become clear that AT&T played Zaslav and Malone for fools by structuring the spinoff of the WB assets as a "reverse Morris trust", loading the new WBD entity with tons of debt (much of which came from AT&T's equally-shortsighted purchase of DirecTV) while AT&T walked away virtually unscathed.
    • This was a major factor in why RCA's CED/SelectaVision system wound up being released when it did and why it used the sort of technology it had. As Technology Connections can explain, RCA was plagued for years by friction between their laboratories wing and the rest of the company — Labs would invent something that was Cool, but Inefficient and the other parts of the company would have to figure out what to do with it after — and by general resentment over the privileged status that Labs had. Work on what became the CED began as far back as 1964, RCA higher-ups hoping that the efficient, cost-effective methods of making, buying and playing vinyl records and players could be applied to playback of video. But things didn't exactly work out that way, and development slowed to a crawl until the 1970s (by which time they had to invent the plastic caddies that CEDs were encased in because handling the fragile discs by hand led to problems, unlike vinyl records); even then, constant revolving-door leadership at RCA (including an Audience-Alienating Era they never quite recovered from, when under Robert Sarnoff — son of the famed David Sarnoff — they expanded into all sorts of business areas; the popular joke, even among RCA executives, was that the name now stood for Rugs, Chickens and Automobiles) meant the future of the project was constantly in question. The project was nearly cancelled entirely, but a combination of Sunk Cost Fallacy and corporate pride ultimately made them go ahead with the 1981, by which time VHS, Betamax, and LaserDisc had all beaten RCA to market. Sales never went as well as RCA had hoped and they discontinued the system in stages; the players ceased production in 1984, and the final discs were released in 1986, by which time GE had bought RCA (primarily for NBC) and were busy dismantling it.
    • Nokia. The infighting of the Symbian group and the MeeGo group, and then Stephen Elop came, apparently without leaving Microsoft's paycheck. Official statement? "Windows Phone 7 is our way forward and we won't port Qt to it. But we are still developing Qt."
  • Nearly every instance of friendly fire in military history. It's all too easy to mistake a friendly unit for an enemy under bad conditions.
  • Depending on which era of American military history you're studying, the branch rivalries will either equal (semi)friendly competition or this trope, complete with withheld information that ends up killing troops and fierce fighting over funding.
    • One quote by General Curtis LeMay, US Air Force Strategic Air Command: "The Soviets are our adversary, our enemy is the Navy." On the other side of the coin, the so-called Revolt of the Admirals, an unprecedented public protest by high-ranking Navy officers to the shifting of budget priority from aircraft carriers to the Air Force's nuclear arsenal, with the idea that any future war would be just an exchange of nukes and therefore the Navy (and the Army, for that matter) was unnecessary. Part of this was the Navy wanting nukes of their own (they got them, in the form of the ballistic missile submarine) but another was to maintain sufficient conventional forces and flexibility of deployment to fight less-than-nuclear conflicts. Since the number of wars involving nuclear ballistic missiles is currently zero, this is somewhat Vindicated by History.
    • The concept of "Jointness" is designed to try to reduce the branch rivalries. Its success is varied. At budget time, you can pretty much bet each service will receive the same amount of money, regardless of need. And the US Marines always get special treatment, as they really push the "we are Marines" more than anything.
    • And some countries, like Canada, tried to solve the problem by simply amalgamating all three branches into one unified Force with an overarching command structure.
  • This one's often cited as one problem in the GM bankruptcy drama. Eight divisions, each with separate dealer networks, separate bureaucracies right up to very high-level management, all trying to push towards building the same cars for the same customers. Worse yet, they often build exactly the same car with a different name, selling them at separately-owned dealerships in a city too small for the coverage, and have the dealerships spend thousands per car competing with each other to sell the same car to the same person.
    • A similar thing happened when pretty much every single British car company (not owned by foreign concerns, such as Vauxhall being owned by the aforementioned GM; Rolls-Royce/Bentley and a few others were also unaffected) merged into British Leyland in the 1960s. None of the companies involved knew how to work with each other, and combine that with inept workers, bad build quality and design, constant labor strikes and horrible management, led to BL becoming a national joke in the 70s, resulting in the government stepping in to nationalize it. Eventually it broke apart completely in the early 80s and most of the brands it had have been consigned to history as a result. The only real survivors were Jaguar and Land Rover, who got snatched up by Ford for a while before being sold to Tata Motors of India.
  • A literal example of this trope is people who have their corpus callosum severed. It's possible for someone to be buttoning up their jacket with one hand while the other hand is unbuttoning it. This is known as Alien Hand Syndrome.
  • This is a very important issue to look out for in the computer science industry, as there are often many individuals/groups contributing to a single project but not actually working together and great pains must be taken to ensure all their code will work together smoothly.
  • Mao Zedong often deliberately encouraged this among key players in the Chinese Communist Party (withholding critical information, being deliberately ambiguous, or feeding them outright lies), so that none of them could gain enough traction to challenge his power or discredit him after his death. Even more cunningly, he often permitted his wife or his really trusted lieutenants to speak for him, so that he could maintain some semblance of plausible deniability.
  • Somewhat common with pro sports teams. If the general manager (who signs the players) and the coach (who has to figure out how to use those players) aren't working together the results usually aren't pretty. Most often ends with the owner just saying "Screw it" and firing everyone.
  • The Raj and The Men of Downing Street were almost two governments. This messed up foreign policy quite a bit; several times an allied prince could not tell what it was exactly that the British were doing because they had two foreign policies going on. This could lead to suspicions of treachery in cases where only red tape was to blame.
  • "CBS sends a YouTube takedown to itself." The title tells it all.
  • Sony Entertainment shuts down Beyonce's official YouTube site.
  • A drastic surge of equally humorous stories emerged of companies/artists being taken down or issued warnings on their own properties, largely due to updates to YouTube's EULA and copyright policies allowing said companies to more easily send out these notices, up to and including automated "bots" scanning through videos and channels and automatically sending out instant-takedown notices... without first checking if it was their own channels. This overreliance also led to instances where entertainers or video game producers were getting take-down notices for posting their own, original material, nevermind something like a Suspiciously Similar Song or a Standard Snippet that should be protected under Fair Use or public domain. Combinations of these technical difficulties and PR nightmares have led to the practices being slightly drawn back.
  • Music Matters apparently managed to vigilantly slap down... their own ads on Google Reader.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe suffered with this for half of the 2010s, with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige wanting certain movies but executives from parent company Marvel Entertainment shutting them down, with Black Panther (2018) and Captain Marvel (2019) (rejected for being too ethnic and centering around a woman) only being allowed to enter the slate by adding a project based on the franchise CEO Ike Perlmutter pushed, The Inhumans. The Executive Meddling by Marvel's "Creative Committee" also led to directors leaving due to Creative Differences (Patty Jenkins on Thor: The Dark World, Edgar Wright on Ant-Man), the widely divisive scripts of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, enough impositions on Avengers: Age of Ultron to make Joss Whedon burnt out, and Robert Downey Jr. nearly leaving the franchise because Perlmutter did not want to pay him a big salary. Marvel's parent Disney eventually intervened to make Marvel Studios answer directly to them and not need this sort of detrimental in-fighting. (It says something that while the Inhumans only became a brief and widely disliked TV show, the two projects Feige got as "collateral" both broke a billion dollars at the box office.)
  • It is generally a bad idea to be in competition with yourself, resources are needed to maintain an edge in an aggressive market. Those resources have a hard enough time fighting against genuine competitors and maintaining competition against yourself doubles those resources. The only way to make even is by dominating a given market. Say there are three restaurants on a given intersection, all other things being equal those restaurants will acquire 33 percent of that market. If the parent company of one business was to open another branch in the open spot on the intersection it would reduce the market share of the other businesses from 33 percent to 25 percent, including the one they already own. The big difference is that the parent company now controls 50 percent of that market when before they only controlled 33 percent with the one business there. It ends up doing well for the parent company but it hurts the sub-franchise.
    • This actually happened with Doctors Associates around the Turn of the Millennium: Their Subway deli sandwich chain's upper management focused on opening up more locations without regard for if they were so close to each other that they wind up competing with themselves. This oversight caused a number of Subway locations to collapse, creating a void that allowed Quiznos Sub to nearly overtake Subway in the business (though Quiznos got struck with their own internal problems right when Quiznos was about to overtake Subway).
    • A similar phenomenon occurred with Krispy Kreme Donuts. The company makes money not just off franchise fees and a percentage of franchisee revenue, but franchisees must also purchase not only prepared ingredient mixes but also some production equipment from the main company. This created a perverse incentive to open more and more franchised donut shops regardless if the territory could support them, so they competed with each other as well as other companies. This problem was compounded by the decision to start selling pre-made Krispy Kreme donuts in grocery stores, cutting out franchisees altogether, a practice not used by competing companies like Dunkin Donuts or Tim Horton's. The number of Krispy Kreme franchisees precipitously fell.
    • This is one factor in why Donald Trump's Atlantic City casinos all went bankrupt. After opening one, he figured that having three in the same city was even better. He apparently applied the logic from his father's apartment building empire, not realizing that housing is a necessity and that casinos are a very seasonal luxury. Not only did they compete for the exact same market segment, rather than differentiate themselves to try and cater to different types of gambling patrons, there were simply too many other casinos in Atlantic City. The opening of tribal casinos in New England led to further loss of business, along with Atlantic City simply losing its some of its cachet as a gambling and resort destination.
  • A government regulation on the US banking industry is designed to prevent this. The Loss Mitigation department (the guys trying to help you keep your house) would often be in a race with the foreclosure department to see who could get their paperwork through first.
  • Playfully invoked by Jan Lehmkämper, who has two music projects: X-Fusion (Industrial and Aggrotech) and Noisuf-X (EBM and Power Noise). Their official Facebook pages often fling insults at eachother.
  • Mentioned by name in the case of Flavius Aetius, a Roman general most famous for his victory over Attila the Hun. After Aetius' own emperor personally assassinated him (the emperor had been persuaded by two of Aetius' rivals that the general had threatening dynastic ambitions,) a member of the court told the emperor "I am ignorant, sir, of your motives or provocations; I only know that you have acted like a man who has cut off his right hand with his left." He was absolutely right; two of the conspirators (one of whom was the emperor himself!) were murdered by the third in revenge for them backing out of their side of the bargain. Not only that, but the murders happened while the emperor was surrounded by soldiers...who had been faithful followers of Aetius, and didn't lift a finger while he was being stabbed to death.
  • This is also a common problem in academia. Though all are theoretically devoted to the broader cause of advancing human knowledge, in practice there is a substantial amount of competition for funding and prestige between universities, and departments within individual universities. Even when relations between departments are friendly, the degree of Crippling Overspecialization in many academic fields, especially the natural sciences, means that scholars in one field may not have the information necessary to realize that they could benefit from the assistance of scholars in another. One of the most famous examples comes from Laboratory Life, in which two labs staffed by biologists and biochemists labored in vain for the better part of a decade to understand the structure of the hormone TRFH, then solved the problem in a matter of months when one finally thought to bring in an analytical chemist.
  • Many examples from the various branches of the BBC.
    • In the early days of the internet, the BBC launched BBC Online as a third medium division alongside television and radio. It included content about BBC-produced entertainment. Meanwhile, BBC Worldwide launched It focused on BBC-produced entertainment. There was some dispute over how to resolve the duplication.
    • In the late 90s and early 2000s, it was generally assumed that even if anyone wanted to produce Doctor Who for television again, the television rights were too widely scattered to be feasible, given that several major characters—most obviously the Daleks, the Cybermen, and K9—were owned by the original writers and not the BBC.
      • BBCi decided to produce a Doctor Who webcast for the 2003 40th anniversary, on the grounds that it didn't look like anybody else was ever going to make Doctor Who again. After much dodging of the question from legal, they managed to get hold of someone who could give them something resembling a straight answer: "The Terry Nation estate owns the Daleks, therefore you cannot do Doctor Who." After getting this person to comprehend the notion that they wanted to do a Doctor Who story without the Daleks, they got the straighter answer "Doctor Who itself is owned by the BBC and can be produced with no trouble at all, while certain races, villains, and characters are owned by their creators". BBCi went ahead with production.
      • When the new BBCTV controller stated publicly that she would like to bring back Doctor Who, but the rights would likely be too thorny, fans hammered on BBCi's inbox with questions asking if they were sure they were okay legally. BBCi put up a page clearly explaining the status of the rights.
      • BBCTV executives called in the head of BBCi demanding to know why he told the internet he thought he had the rights to make Doctor Who. He brought in all of his correspondence with legal that said it was alright. He left with the confidential information that the show was going to be returning to television. Suddenly the webcast BBCi was making because nobody else was ever going to do anything with Doctor Who on television again became a minor footnote next to the anniversary surprise that Doctor Who was returning to television in a few years' time.
  • Can happen in split judiciaries: Common Law-Equity in Britain - see Bleak House, Federal-States in The United States or Ordinary-Administrative in France:
    • In France the Tribunal des Conflits settles the cases of Jurisdiction Friction.
      • In 1932, a bloke named Rosay got in a car crash with a military truck and got contradictory decision from both civilian and military courts on the case. Since then, the Tribunal des Conflits can make final rulings in these cases.
    • John E. Brennan, a 50-year-old technology consultant, stripped naked at the Portland International Airport in protest of the search of the FSA, was cleared by a trial judge, who ruled that his stripping was a form of free speech, but was then tried in a TSA court under administrative charges and sentenced to pay a $500 fine.
      • This conflict has become more common between the regular and administrative law courts. For instance, a person can be acquitted of a crime in a regular court, but if they're on parole may still be sent back to prison...on the same charges.
    • A crowning example would be during the Teapot Dome scandal, where Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall was convicted of receiving a bribe from Ted Doheny... but in a separate trial, Doheny was acquitted of the charge of having allegedly bribed the Secretary of the Interior.
    • In the United States, an occurrence of this almost always results in the Supreme Court hearing the case. At the Federal Court level, the different districts can reach some wildly different conclusions on the same case. The 9th Circuit Court (the largest and most likely to be overturned) hears all cases for most states west of the Rockies and some east or on the Rockies. However, their decisions are only applied in those states. The 12th Circuit Court (on the East Coast) can come up with some other decision and only applies to those states. The supreme court will hear the case to unify the whole situation.
    • In the United States, this can get into some strange issues with jurisdictions that have the death penalty for capital crimes and those that do not and the crime occurs in both jurisdictions (the D.C. Beltway Sniper case of 2003, for example, had trials in both Maryland and Virginia). Typically, the death penalty case goes first while the non-death penalty case wrestles with the idea of even trying the guy if he does get convicted and sentenced to death because they can't do anything after that punishment is... ahem... executed.
  • Pentagon-backed Syrian rebels exchange fire with CIA-backed Syrian rebels.
  • During the 1980s, the CIA backed the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, some of whom supported themselves by drug-running. They not only looked away from it- the CIA even informed the Contra-connected drug traffickers before the DEA came to arrest them.
  • This was one of the reasons the now-defunct US satellite TV provider PrimeStar went out of business; it was formed by a consortium of cable TV operators, who intentionally targeted the service to areas where they didn't offer cable services, and as a result, PrimeStar's service wasn't as appealing (technology or programming-wise) compared to DirecTV or Dish Network. They briefly attempted to play catchup by streamlining their operations (including selling their systems themselves instead of having the cable companies do it for them), and by acquiring some assets from ASkyB (a service attempted by Rupert Murdoch as an American counterpart to his British DBS service Sky, but failed for a bunch of reasons {including a failed merger with Dish Network}) and update their technology, but DirecTV bought them out before that could happen.
  • During the first year of the Donald Trump administration, relations between the White House and State Department gradually deteriorated, with Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson often making contradictory statements and seeming to follow separate foreign policies. Trump being Trump, he also openly feuded with Tillerson on Twitter, who was reported to have referred to the President as a "f***ing moron". This culminated in Trump firing Tillerson via tweet while the latter was on a diplomatic mission in Africa.
  • A group of undercover Detroit police officers, posing as drug dealers, tried to arrest another group of undercover officers, posing as drug buyers. Over two dozen armed officers get into a brawl with each other as a result.
  • Trains in London sometimes run from National Rail tracks to The London Underground (but only the parts that aren't actually underground because mainline trains can't fit through the tunnels). One such location is near Wimbledon. As employees of the two companies can't enter onto the other's trackage due to differing safety standards, they have to agree on where one company ends and the other begins, but at Wimbledon, they couldn't agree on that either, leaving a gap of track that wasn't inspected or maintained for a number of years. You can guess what happened next.
  • There's cases of how serial killers would be caught much quicker and they'd have less victims (i.e. Richard Ramirez, aka The Night Stalker) if local and state police as well as the FBI would just openly share information with each other rather than be more concerned with who received the recognition for their capture.
  • This is how tissue rejection works. The foreign tissue is there to keep the patient alive, but the immune system attacks it, also in an effort to keep the patient alive. Everything's doing its job right, but they're working at cross-purposes and the patient is having their shiny new liver eaten by cytotoxic T-cells who think it's an Alien Invasion.
  • The British Imperial Airship Scheme suffered from this. The idea was that having two competing designs for building airships would allow for more innovation. So Lord Thompson, Secretary of State for Air, had two ships built. One, the 'capitalist' R100, was built by private company Vickers, while the 'socialist' R101, was built by the British Air Ministry. The trouble was that neither Vickers nor the Air Ministry were willing to cooperate or share their innovations – the fact that Thompson blatantly favoured the Air Ministry and the R101 didn't help either. Despite the favouritism, the R100 wasn't that groundbreaking, but did decently, and even managed a transatlantic flight to Canada. For the R101, design faults became apparent before it was even tested, and while it was larger and had more innovative technology, it was beyond obvious that it was held together through stopgap repairs and no small amount of luck. To make matters worse, the Vickers team had a chance to inform the Air Ministry of these defects, but didn't want to do their rivals any favours. And not helping was that Lord Thompson and others in the Air Ministry repeatedly ignored warnings from their subordinates lest they look like fools in front of Vickers, and insisted the R101 undertake a demonstration voyage from Britain to India. This ill-advised flight resulted in the R101 crashing in France in bad weather, killing 48 people (including Lord Thompson). The disaster discredited the entire Imperial Airship Scheme, the R100 was scrapped, and British airship development ground to a screeching halt. Nevil Shute, who had worked for the R100's design team, bitterly remarked that the whole mess wouldn't have happened had the Air Ministry swallowed their pride and taken cues from Vickers.
  • In 2001, English association football team Millwall - a club virtually synonymous with Football Hooligans - were travelling to an away game when they were caught in an incident. To quote the then National Criminal Investigation Servicenote  report into the incident: "At 6.45pm the Millwall supporters were taken under escort towards the stadium. As they passed a public house, a group of 30-40 males came out and bottles and glasses were thrown and pub windows smashed. After a short while it became apparent that both groups were from Millwall and each thought the other were [Bristol] City supporters."
  • The origin of the original Xbox's infamous "Duke" controller is down to this. Microsoft outsourced the development of the controller's internal circuitry to an outside contractor before they had even began working on the controller's design. When the contractor returned with a design centred around a single large circuit board, that's what Microsoft's own designers had to work around, resulting in a controller that was unusually large and wide, with poor ergonomics due to those bizarre proportions.
  • In the late 90's to early 2000's, LEGO had an initative to "move beyond the brick" and tried to launch several building systems, such as the Technic, Znap, BIONICLE, and Galidor lines. Problem was the new building systems competing for limited shelf space/consumers interested in "buildable toys," and were usually not compatible with either each other and often were only partially compatible with traditional Lego bricks. Bionicle and Galidor in particular were both lines of science fiction themed buildable action figures coming out in 2001 and 2002 respectively, and the mass success of Bionicle seems to have been a contributing factor in the downfall of Galidor.
  • Transport for London's rules on junk food advertising sees one of its own adverts for the Wimbledon Championships - featuring strawberries and cream, a traditional food eaten there - being banned whilst a KFC advert is allowed.
  • One story from the Reality TV show Disorderly Conduct: Video On Patrol mixed this with a close shave of Jurisdiction Friction. A drug supplier had been busted earlier in the day, and a cop went undercover pretending to be the supplier so a crew on a stakeout could apprehend the buyers. It goes well for the first couple of marks — until his next "customer" is another cop from a different department, ignorant of the stakeout and merely responding to noise complaints from the neighbors (undoubtedly from all the scuffles). Because they don't want any suspicious activity dissuading the incoming criminals, the undercover cop has to play his part to the hilt and convince the errant officer to leave without revealing the stakeout. Thankfully, it works, and the night goes on with no shortage of drug buyers taking the bait. This was likely a fun story for the snooping officer to hear the next day.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Right Hand Vs Left Hand


Goaltron Pilots

The six goalkeepers controlling Goaltron can't seem to agree on how to deal with the meteor they're supposed to stop from hitting Earth.

How well does it match the trope?

3.33 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / RightHandVersusLeftHand

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