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Sabotage to Discredit

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A plot revolving around an attempt to sway the public (or just The Government's) opinion against a new technology or invention by sabotaging it, preferably during its initial presentation to show that New Technology Is Evil. Often an invoked example of Disastrous Demonstration. May lead to Confidence Sabotage.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • NERV does this to the rival JetAlone project prototype in Neon Genesis Evangelion to prevent an outside organization from ruining their Angel-fighting plans and, ultimately, Gendo's plan to direct Instrumentality.

    Comic Books 
  • In Deep Gravity, the Maelstrom corporation has been granted an exclusive licence to explore (and exploit) the planet Poseidon, but this is conditional on there being no screw-ups. If there are, the licence goes up for tender, and there are a lot of other corporations who'd be only to happy to see Maelstrom's operations discredited. Sure enough, the disaster which the comic is about was triggered by sabotage.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • In the story "Zio Paperone e gli occhiali a effetti speciali", Scrooge begins selling Augmented Reality glasses which overlay "skins" on the real world. Rockerduck has his hackers sabotage the glasses's program, causing monsters to appear in the virtual reality and scare the customers. This backfires, as the glasses subsequently become greatly popular with kids who think monsters are awesome.
    • Another, similar example comes from "Zio Paperone e i mattoni verdi". This time, the invention in question are bricks which grow into elegant homes on their own. Rockerduck's saboteurs cause the newly produced bricks to grow into malevolent plantlife. Again, Scrooge comes out on top by utilizing the sabotaged bricks to produce macabre amusement parks.
  • PS238: During the time travel arc, Tom (who has the power to travel through time innately) enlists the help of Tyler to sabotage Zodon's time travel experiment. Zodon is in danger of doing something like causing a Reality-Breaking Paradox or some other disaster due to being a five year old supervillain, so Tom wants him to abandon the experiment. He uses Tyler because Zodon would be more likely to shrug off his appearance as coincidental, whereas if he noticed Tom around he'd (correctly) believe that he was actually on to something.
  • Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman: "Sabotage is in the Stars" Lex Luthor sabotages an Indian company's space mission to discredit them and prevent their success and cheaper way of producing rockets from damaging Lex Corp.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Reality Is Fluid has a new sensor array intended to probe alternate universes sabotaged by a Bajoran religious extremist. In this case the sabotage is more aimed at discrediting part of the team that created the array rather than the array itself: He was trying to frame a Cardassian scientist for damaging the Bajoran wormhole.
  • At the crucial moment of Harry's Potions Guild internship in The Rigel Black Chronicles, where the three interns are brewing a complex potion while the prospective mentors observe them, one of them deliberately bumps into her, knocking over her basket of ingredients, then "helpfully" picks them up — and gives her the wrong root. Then takes all of the correct root when her back is turned. Harry has to scramble to find a way to compensate for the mistake before time is up.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Cars 2, this is why the Lemons are targeting the World Grand Prix: so they can discredit Allinol, the alternative fuel source the series is using, and by association, all alternative fuels. It turns out that Sir Miles Axlerod, the inventor of Allinol and creator of the World Grand Prix, is the mastermind behind the whole scheme.
  • Cats Don't Dance: Darla sets up the flooding of the sound stage where the animal actors were going to hold their audition for the owner of the studio in a bid to get the animal actors fired.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, the villain steals some of the protagonist's formula and adds plant food to it (which, for some reason, causes the hamsters in the demonstration to grow to giant size and attack the audience) so he can sell it instead.
  • In the Luisa Rey segment of Cloud Atlas mysterious deaths connected with a new nuclear plant end up leading to the reveal of a scheme by oil companies to deliberately cause a meltdown at the plant in order to discredit nuclear power (insert Strawman Political reference as needed).
  • Invoked in the film version of Sgt Bilko, when two of Bilko's men bluff the Major into thinking the hover tank works. The major takes out the "fire control and super elevator board", to try to sabotage the tank, the demonstration, and his rival. However, Bilko has already rigged the demonstration, so when the major protests that the demonstration was a sham and tries to prove it, all he manages to prove is that he himself sabotaged the tank.

  • The Berenstain Bears Big Chapter Books: In The Berenstain Bears and Queenie's Crazy Crush, after his first attempt to make himself look better for Queenie than Mr. Smock doesn't work out, Too-Tall decides to resort to this trope — he steals Mr. Smock's masterpiece and substitutes a horribly ugly painting of Queenie, which he also figures will kill any interest she has in him. It backfires when he accidentally leaves his mother's apron on the painting in place of the covering Mr. Smock had used, which Queenie figures out and thus determines that he was behind it.
  • Carnival in a Fix: The conflict of the book is that a safety inspector, Mr. Moonbottom, has come to Funfair Moon to rate how safe the park is. However, the rides are all mysteriously going haywire on the same day. This is because Mr. Moonbottom had a bunch of Rusters, aka juvenile Peladorian Puffballs, run amok in the park, sabotaging the rides so he can deem them unsafe and get Funfair Moon shut down. This way, people would have to go to his own Theme Park, Office World.
  • In The Flying Elephant by Boris Akunin, von Theofels sabotages the heavy bomber "Ilya Muromets" while it is being shown to the Tsar, thus successfully preventing its use by Russia in World War I.
  • Done for nobler purposes in Racso and the Rats of NIMH, the sequel to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The construction of a dam threatens the lives (or at least the displacement) of the rats of Thorn Valley and is also cited as threatening Mrs. Frisby and the farm she lives near. The rats concoct an elaborate scheme to sabotage the dam to get both public support against the dam and convince the builders that a new one is too costly.
  • In "The Deception," a book in the Animorphs series, the Big Bad has a ray that forces people in morph to revert to their natural form. Since this would mean revealing the so-called "Andalite bandits" as human children, it's decided that Tobias—whose base form is a red-tailed hawk—would go in instead. When the ray fails to "revert" Tobias from hawk to Andalite form, Visser Three decides the ray doesn't work and takes it out on the scientists who created it.
  • In the Wiz Biz series, Wiz provides a spell that repels magical creatures for the common people to protect themselves. However, an unknown person alters it into a spell called demon_debug that kills magical creatures, which the people, tired of living in fear, happily turn on anything that moves, including friendly and innocent creatures. (Ironically, it's not that great against anything with the power and motive to actually do humans harm, and there's an implication its creator was offed before the book even starts.) In order to stop it, Wiz and the other programmers send out a swarm of demons that turn into harmless but extremely obnoxious creatures upon exposure to the demon_debug. They blame the problem on the poor quality of demon_debug, and convince everyone to stick to official spells from then on.
  • In The Robots of Dawn, a humaniform robot is disabled in a manner which could only be done by its creator, Dr. Fastolfe. The latter's political opponents claim he did it, among other things, to discredit such robots (not helped by the fact that Fastolfe insists it was a random glitch), because he disapproved of the proposed uses for them.
  • In Echoes of Honor, an Admiral attempts to sabotage the introduction of a new LAC Carrier warship design by unfairly setting the simulation parameters to stack the deck against the officers trialing the new weapons systems, to the point of pretty much making it Unwinnable by Design for LACs. A surprise Havenite attack in the star system used for the tests gives them a chance to demonstrate under real combat conditions their worth.
    • In Flag In Exile, one of Honor's political enemies sabotages a dome constructed by a company she owns in order to discredit the company and by extension her. Unfortunately for Burdette, Honor's company has a lot of good engineers in it, and they quickly work out that every part of the dome that failed was installed by the same person.
  • One novel in the series Les Six Compagnons was about a ploy to discredit a new synthetic quartz crystal used in watches, by sabotaging several watches so that they would explode when exposed to high temperatures.
  • Unseen Academicals sees the Dean of Unseen University accept a higher-paying job as Archchancellor of Brazeneck University, which Ridcully views as a personal betrayal. Not helping is the fact that the new university has built a Higher Energy Magic Building (to avoid confusion with UU's High Energy Magic Building), poaching a UU student to build a more efficient version of UU's thinking engine Hex, Pex (it runs on chickens instead of ants. How's it more efficient? Well, they get fresh eggs out of it...). Ponder Stibbons, head of the HEMB and Hex's builder seems remarkably blasé about the entire thing, up until the end when Brazeneck is under attack from a giant chicken. Ponder reveals to Ridcully that he knew there was a good chance this would happen, but chose to say nothing.
  • In The Finishing School Series there's a lot of newer tech which is genuinely and randomly dangerous, a lot of newer tech which is being sabotaged by groups of immortals who don't want to have to adapt to it, stuff being sabotaged by groups (not only immortals) who distrust the manufacturers/sellers and don't want their works infiltrating everywhere, and stuff (just to add the next level) being sabotaged by the makers to make it look like they're being unfairly sabotaged by somebody else.
  • House of Robots: Robots Go Wild!: Dr. Ignatius Ignalls' plan was to sabotage E by programming SS-10K to infect E with a virus that would make him go haywire in a public place, intending to make Dr. Hayes look bad and threaten her position as head of the Robotics class at Notre Dame College, which he planned to take over.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Madison Country Club", Miss Brooks sabotages what she believes is Mr. Conklin's attempt to mock the teachers' relative poverty in front of a snobbish rich women. It really was an attempt to play poor and convince a Grand Dame to fund a renovation of his office.
  • In an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard the government is looking for alternative fuels. Boss Hogg remembers that Jessie's moonshine can run an engine, so he convinces Jessie to make a batch for the contest, then swipes it when the Duke boys try to drive it to the testing area. But it doesn't work! Then the Dukes show up and mention in passing that Hogg's demo engine is filled with water [they had switched the bottles], so they use another, where it works just fine.
  • Smallville: In "Aqua", Aquaman is introduced as an Eco-Terrorist trying stop a sonic weapon being developed by LuthorCorp from entering production. In the end he and Clark sabotage it so it blows up during a demonstration, and the contract is summarily canceled.
  • On Lois & Clark, Lex Luthor sabotages the pipes running under Metropolis to make the city swelter in the middle of winter, to make it appear that Superman's activities are heating up the city. When Superman leaves town Lex turns down the heat. (Presumably being able to leak coolant from his newly-operational nuclear plant into the city's sewage and/or water systems also saved him some money.)
  • Hogan's Heroes:
    • In one episode, the gang steals a German prototype of a silent airplane engine, examines it to send information back to the Allies, and then damages it so that it will make a hellacious racket during its trial run.
    • Another episode revolves around a group of German researchers that have created a weapon capable of tracking, and destroying radar installations by following the signal. At first, Hogan and company try to steal the plans to ship back to H.Q. in England, but after a series of setbacks, they switch to Plan-B: altering the system so rather than the prototype bombs tracking and destroying the target radar equipment, they seeked out all the German radios near the camp.
  • Dracula (2013): After Jonathan Harker's relationship with his then-boss Dracula sours over their Love Triangle, he falls in with the Order of the Dragon Ancient Conspiracy and agrees to sabotage Dracula's public demonstration of wireless electricity. Disastrous is an understatement: it causes a deadly explosion, so Harker immediately decides that his actions are Dracula's fault somehow.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Just one of the many things Mr. Johnson will ask you to do in Shadowrun.

    Video Games 
  • The climax of Deus Ex: Human Revolution revolve around Hugh Darrow's spiteful attempt to sabotage human augmentations worldwide and show how dangerous they can be, by hijacking the The Illuminati's plan to mass distribute biochips designed to essentially lobotomize augmented individuals and reworking their killswitch signal to work as a global Hate Plague instead. Depending on your decision, this message can be delivered as intended, or twisted towards the opposite, but no matter what you choose, the sequel reveals that he very much succeeded.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Mages Guild quest line, you'll receive some quests from Ajira, the Balmora Guild Hall's resident alchemist, who has a bet with Galbedir, the hall's resident enchanter, over which one will reach the rank of Journeyman first. One of Ajira's quests for you has you sabotage Galbedir's soul gem experiment in this fashion.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Batman, the Riddler's Start of Darkness involves him developing a revolutionary device that can enhance human brainpower, which goes disastrously wrong when he tries to display it to the public. The Riddler suspects sabotage by a businessman who constantly hounded him to sell the rights to his inventions, but he eventually deduces that the real culprit is the scientist who helped him develop the device, trying to keep the profits of the invention for herself.
  • A variation (directed to one specific use rather than the device in general) appears in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne". Hugo Strange learns Batman's secret identity with his memory-reading machine. When he tries to sell the secret to some of Batman's other enemies, Batman switches the tape that reveals his identity for one that shows Strange telling his henchmen about his plan to auction off a fake tape for which "those fools will pay a fortune". Enraged, the other villains refuse to listen to Strange even when he tries to tell them Batman's identity free of charge - which Batman then reinforces by putting Robin in a Latex Perfection Bruce Wayne suit so that Batman and Bruce Wayne can be seen at the same time.