Haley: THE RESISTANCE!
Isamu: Wait — "The Resistance"? I thought we agreed we were going to call ourselves "The Azure City Underground"?
Thanh: I thought we were going with "Sapphire Liberation Front".
Niu: I still prefer "Rebel Alliance".
What’s worse than the fearsome armies of The Empire? Infighting - always a hindrance, never pretty.
The government is evil, decadent, corrupt or all three and it's time for a revolution. Only one thing stands in the way: your fellow revolutionaries. All of you can agree on only one thing: The government must go. Beyond that, you and your fellow revolutionaries couldn't decide on pizza toppings, let alone the shape of the world to come (or how to get it there). This can lead to squabbling that prevents any coordinated action from taking place...or it can escalate to the point where the different revolutionary factions are spending as much time and energy shooting at each other as they are shooting at the ones in power.
This is the 'before' picture of the obsessive bureaucracy. The definitive case where being right is more important than doing right (or doing much of anything).
Subtrope of Divided We Fall, specifically when the separate factions are not just ignoring each other or working in isolation but are actively engaged in conflict with each other. Contrast Enemy Mine, where two groups of people work together due to one common goal despite other differences in beliefs.
See also A House Divided, With Us or Against Us, Misfit Mobilization Moment, Right Hand vs. Left Hand, Interservice Rivalry, Enemy Civil War. And expect both (if not more) parties to subject each other to Poser Hating. Also compare Jurisdiction Friction for when two factions are bickering over a common goal from within one or more government agencies. Compare Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering.
When it's two heroes of the same cause fighting because they mistake each other for the villain, it's Let's You and Him Fight. When the heroes are directly manipulated into fighting each other by a villain, it's Divide and Conquer and/or a False Flag Operation.
- In Attack on Titan, one of the major problems that the Survey Corp has with the royal government is that they don't know why the government is doing anything. Why suppress technology? Why hide knowledge of the Titans and the world before the Walls? They could be doing it all for the good of humanity, or they could just be desperately trying to retain their own power. In chapter 61, Commander Pixis fakes a report saying that the next Wall has fallen in order to gauge the council's reactions. When they immediately order the gates sealed and half of humanity sacrificed to save themselves, he decides that they don't deserve to lead.
- Axis Powers Hetalia:
China: We're too busy fighting together to figure out if we should be fighting together anyway.
- The Allied Powers seem only moments from tearing each other's throats out, even the ones that should have a lot in common (like America and England). This is Truth In Web Manga. Other historical examples are also mentioned, including the political fracturing of Italy and the decline of the (neither)Holy (nor)Roman (nor)Empire.
- The song "United Nations Star" performed by all five of the Allies, is basically "We ARE Struggling Together: The Song."
- In The Movie Paint It White! China has this brilliant line.
- Code Geass
- The Japanese resistance is like this in the beginning, until resident Magnificent Bastard Lelouch and his Black Knights consolidate the remnants of all the other groups.
- It's even mentioned as being part of the Kyoto Group (the main benefactor for all the Japanese rebellion factions) main motivation for funding so many groups. Lelouch forces them to pledge their complete allegiance to him, by which anything other than minor resistance factions have been rolled into the Black Knights.
- In the world of Freezing, the world is being invaded by Eldritch Abominations, and yet most of mankind's hopes are more interested in rankings and beating the crap out of each other. Well, that's what you get when the fate of the world is in the hand of temperamental teenage girls.
- All of the military factions (Mustang, Grumman and General Armstrong at least) in Fullmetal Alchemist agree that King Bradley needs to be 'dethroned' and seem to understand that part of each other- yet when it all comes down to it the cooperation starts to disintegrate into 'who-will-get-the-big-seat-afterward' plotting rather than standing as a more united front.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, there are several important factions. One, Negi's group. Two, Cosmo Entelechia. Three, Megalomesembria politicians led by Kurt Godel. Mahora academy seems to be involved to some extent. The goal: save everyone possible when the magic world collapses. Negi and Fate are archenemies, Negi thinks Kurt is too practical (and Kurt thinks Negi is foolishly idealistic) and Fate's group just wiped out most of the military as part of their plan to "help". And it's not clear what Mahora is doing, but they definitely disapprove of Fate's destruction of the gates. It's getting to the point that Negi and Fate are only fighting about who can do a better job of saving the world.
- In "Gintama", about the only thing Katsura and Takasugi seem to agree on is that the current government has to go. While the extremist Takasugi is cutting deals with intergalactic crime syndicates or mass producing weaponry, Katsura's plans typically involve something petty like secretly flipping all the Shinsengumi's toilet paper rolls upside down.
- The Patlabor OAV 'Seven Days of Fire' starts off with a rebellion against the maintenance chief over privileges (basically, fishing and girly magazines). Within days, there are literally dozens of splinter groups, each with its own agenda (some pro-chief), soon resorting to violence (with paper fans — this is Japan). Director Mamoru Oshii hung around a lot of radical student groups during his college days; one gets the impression that he wasn't left with a very high opinion of radicalism.
- Early episodes of Transformers Headmasters had elements of this trope between the Trainbots and Headmasters, until they had to team up to save Japan from Sixshot.
- In Vandread, the various factions/groups that the crew of the Nirvana come to assist them in the final episodes of Season 2, when the Big Bad's fleet shows up. Prior to this, they were either being harvested by the Big Bad, or were at odds with each other.
- Superheroes in the Marvel Universe since the Civil War have spent about as much time fighting each other as they have fighting super villains. One of the reassurances for The Secret Empire event was that it'd feature straight up bad guys as the opposition, after mixed reception to readers watching their heroes beat the snot out of each other again in Civil War II
- In The Dark Knight Strikes Again, The Question and Green Arrow come to blows over whether the new world order should be a Marxist Socialist Utopia, or a Randian Objectivist Utopia.
- In the revival of The Punisher that made him famous again, "Welcome Back, Frank", three copycat vigilantes appear in the wake of the Punisher's return. One's Payback, a guy who targets corrupt rich folks. One's his polar opposite, a well-dressed man called "Elite" who's obsessed with killing people who "dirty" his neighborhood, starting mostly with some minor drug-peddlers moving in but working his way down to hot dog vendors and dogs that make a mess on the sidewalk. Between them is a literally Axe-Crazy priest who tends to chop up gang members who confess their crimes in his church. When all three meet up, none of them can decide on how to cooperate. And then when they finally just about figure out how to get along, the Punisher -who doesn't look kindly on copycats- delivers a "Reason You Suck" Speech and shoots all three of them.
- The Defenders, in almost all incarnations, are comprised of people who have almost nothing in common but will still unite to face major threats, often of a magical or supernatural nature. Typical Defenders dialogue consists of a lot of backbiting — sometimes affectionate, sometimes not.
- Green Lantern:
- While Green Lanterns generally work with each other pretty well, the same can't be said of them working with the Guardians (with the exception of Ganthet). They might be in charge, but they're also so Lawful Stupid that the Lanterns frequently argue with or defy them. For their part, the Guardians eventually get so fed up with their Lanterns acting out that they create the Third Army, a horrific legion of mindless cyborgs meant to kill, assimilate, and replace the Green Lantern Corps.
- This is inherent in the Orange Lanterns. The orange light represents greed, meaning that the Lanterns it empowers are extremely greedy, some to the point of psychosis. It's nearly impossible for Orange Lanterns to work together without fighting amongst each other over loot. In the present, all the Orange Lanterns except Larfleeze are dead. Why? Larfleeze killed them all to get their loot for himself. When they're revived, they're only able to work together as long as they have the singular goal of getting back at Larfleeze; the second that's done, they almost immediately start bickering.
- Jackie Chan Adventures and W.I.T.C.H. crossover fanfic Kage (part of Project Dark Jade):
- When There Was A Tomorrow:
- Almost no one in the UNSC trusts Shepard's crew at first, in addition to Halsey's pre-existing rivalry with Colonel Ackerson from canon.
- Emile really doesn't like Garrus, for that matter.
- Remnants (part of the same series as said fic) revolves around the survivors of Halo's destruction trying not to get at each other's throats. Said survivors consist of UNSC soldiers who have spent decades fighting the Covenant, Covenant deserters (specifically the infamously disreputable Jackals), and a large unit of Batarians who specifically joined forces with the Covenant to kill more humans and only turned coat due to the Covenant using them as Cannon Fodder. Furthermore, amongst the humans, the ODSTs and the rest of the UNSC troops mistrust one another due to taking different sides when the former mutinied in the final act of the previous work. Word of God has compared it to what would have happened if Star Trek: Voyager had not dropped the Enemy Mine setup a few episodes in.
- In What About Witch Queen?, generals Potter and Windsor present why you shouldn't have two equal-ranked commanders in the same army. One believes in More Dakka, other prefers to be sneaky. With Arendelle army so close, the two of them should probably focus more on fighting the enemy than each other.
- Konona and The Land of Sound are like this in A Father's Wrath having to join up to combat The Jashinists they don't get along often due to Sound hating them over their haughtyness and treatment of Orochimaru's son Naruto. Whilst Konoha isn't too thrilled with working with them over how they had been attacked by them before.
- A large problem for the forces arrayed against Voldemort in the Princess of the Blacks series is their near constant friction with each other. Jen is distant by necessity as her abilities and actions are highly illegal. Dumbledore insists anyone who doesn't follow him blindly is "Dark" with the (largely untrained) Order of the Phoenix believing they're the ones really fighting the war and the Ministry is just getting in their way/imprisoning innocent people. The Ministry is the sole faction actually trying to work with everyone but has to deal with Dumbledore condemning their use of lethal force against Death Eaters and arresting people like Stan Shunpike whom he insists (without proof) are innocent.
- Happens with the chickens in Chicken Run.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- This is a major part of The Avengers exacerbated by Loki's manipulations. Tony and Steve dislike each other on principle, there's some Jurisdiction Friction with Thor, Bruce would rather be anywhere else lest he hulk out, and no-one except maybe Natasha trusts S.H.I.E.L.D. Clint, who's under Loki's control for most of the movie, is actually one of the better team players once he snaps out of it. It takes the death of a Sacrificial Lion for the team to get down to business.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron has both constant squabbling once Tony ends up creating the homicidal robot from the title, and another mind control-induced fight as a Brainwashed and Crazy Hulk goes on rampage and a Hulkbuster armor is used to stop him.
- Then Captain America: Civil War brings it up to eleven, as the title makes clear. And it was enforced by Manipulative Bastard Zemo, who wanted the Avengers to destroy themselves through in-fighting as revenge.
- The trope takes its name from this scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian. When the People's Front of Judea runs into the rival Campaign for a Free Galilee in Pilate's mansion (who are attempting the same bit of anti-Roman terrorism) and they start fighting, Brian pleads "Brothers, we should be struggling together!" One of the revolutionaries immediately responds, "We are!" Then, when Brian attempts to remind them that they should be fighting "their real enemy", the revolutionaries initially think of another rival movement, the Judean People's Front. In the end, the two groups end up killing each other before the guards even show up, leaving Brian (as the only non-participant in the fight) as the only survivor. The various factions were modeled by the Pythons on British left-wing political groups of the 1970s (the year the movie was released, the left was represented by no less than 15 separate parties, plus more sub-factions within both Labour and the smaller splinter groups). Interestingly, this portrayal of First century anti-Roman movements in Palestine is pretty much spot-on Truth in Television, and John Cleese's knowledge of Latin make it pretty likely that he, at least, knew how accurate it was.
- In Braveheart, after the Scottish army deals a major defeat to the English at Stirling, William Wallace is disappointed to see the Scottish nobles feuding with one another over claims to the Scottish throne.
Wallace: We have beaten the English, but they'll be back because you won't stand together.
- The high command of the Continental Army in The Crossing. Both General Lee and General Gates try to subvert or sabotage General Washington, and Gates outright calls Washington unfit for command. This even though the whole revolution is in imminent danger of collapse, regardless of who is in charge. (Truth in Television here, too.)
- The good guys in The Fifth Element. The Federated Territories, the Mondoshawans, their priests and Dallas are all fighting for the common goal to stop the Ultimate Evil of destroying all life, but half the movie's conflict is them working against each other. The Mondoshawans distrusted mankind and kept the elemental stones necessary to stop the Evil out of their reach. The government is trying to contain Mr. Shadow any way they can, but they ignore the Mondoshawan high priest's advice. Leeloo, who is also the weapon created to stop Evil becomes a fugitive after being revived by the government, escaping their facility, crashing into Dallas' cab, which also makes him pursued as an accomplice. The priests themselves also distrust Dallas, thinking he is a nobody that got dragged into a mess he can't possibly understand, despite him being a former soldier that was reactivated to find the stones by his superiors from The Federation.
- The various factions in Russia after the overthrow of the Tsar, as shown in And Quiet Flows the Don. The anti-White Cossacks split up into Bolshevik Cossacks that want political union with Bolshevik Russia, and anti-Bolshevik Cossacks that want an independent Don Cossack homeland.
- Towards the beginning of There Will Be Blood, Daniel Plainview gives a sales pitch to a large group who have discovered oil under their property. When he opens the floor up for discussion, there is so much chaos among the people that he just walks out, and tells a guy who catches up to him that he wouldn't take the lease even if they gave it to him as a gift.
- Reds: The American socialist-communist left is plagued with this. In one scene John Reed and his allies are kicked out of a Socialist Party convention. They assemble in the basement of the convention hall to proclaim a Communist Party for America, only to be confronted by Louis Farina (Paul Sorvino) who has proclaimed an entirely different splinter Communist Party and demands Reed's allegiance. Reed goes to Russia to get his Communist Party declared the official one for the USA, only for the Bolsheviks to tell him that his party and Farina's party have to merge.
- Star Wars:
- Rogue One:
- In a first for the Star Wars series, the La Résistance is shown struggling with this trope. Not only does the Rebel Alliance consist of various squabbling factions, it also has a Renegade Splinter Faction. This effectively replaces the original trilogy's Black and White Morality with Black and Gray Morality.
- The Galactic Empire isn't any better. Orson Krennic, the mastermind behind the Death Star, feels threatened by both Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. Krennic wants Vader's approval and tries to undermine Tarkin, who took control of the Death Star away from him. Needless to say, neither Vader nor Tarkin have any much respect for Krennic with the former giving him a non-lethal force choke and the latter using the Death Star to kill him. All of their infighting and mistrust backfires for the Imperials as they couldn't set aside their rivalries to stop the Rebels from stealing the Death Star plans and ultimately destroying the Empire's ultimate weapon.
- The Last Jedi: Kylo Ren and General Hux really hate each other. Even though they hold the same rank within the First Order, serving as Co-Dragons to Supreme Leader Snoke, Hux repeatedly antagonizes Kylo Ren and tries to kill an unconscious Kylo. The only thing preventing Kylo from killing Hux is Snoke and when Snoke dies, Ren happily uses the force to knock Hux down a peg.
- Rogue One:
- Defiance: The Bielski and Soviet Partisans have an uneasy alliance, with the latter not holding up their end very well.
- Both revolutions depicted in the Che Guevara Biopic Che suffer from this:
- In Cuba, the conflict is between the urban movement and the rural movement. They both oppose Batista, but the urban movement favors a general strike and is for labor reform but not land reform, while the rural movement, led by Fidel Castro, believes that Batista must be brought down through guerrilla warfare, and are in favor of both labor and land reform. Ultimately, the urban movement agrees to join with Castro after their attempt at a general strike is put down.
- In Bolivia, the Bolivian Communist Party outright refuses to support Che Guevara's call for an armed struggle, saying that the time is not right and they need to build a political base first. Che suspects that this is an excuse, and that the the Soviet Union, who by this point regarded Che as a rogue agent, ordered the Communist Party not to help. Che and his band end up fighting the government of René Barrientos alone.
- Tolkien's Legendarium:
- In The Lord of the Rings books, the elves, dwarves, and men are constantly squabbling with each other when they should be joining forces to fight the Evil Overlord. Lothlórien's elves distrust Gimli the dwarf, and so all the Fellowship must go blind into the path to Lórien:
Legolas: Alas for the folly of these days! Here all are enemies of the one Enemy, and yet I must walk blind, while the sun is merry in the woodland under leaves of gold!
Haldir: Folly it may seem. Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him.
- This is taken Up to Eleven in The Silmarillion, where Mandos actually states in a prophecy that the elves will fail to defeat Morgoth because they are too busy fighting each other. 500 years and several million corpses later, he is proved right.
- In The Lord of the Rings books, the elves, dwarves, and men are constantly squabbling with each other when they should be joining forces to fight the Evil Overlord. Lothlórien's elves distrust Gimli the dwarf, and so all the Fellowship must go blind into the path to Lórien:
- The Wheel of Time series may as well be called Fighting the Wrong People. While everyone agrees that everyone needs to work together in order to win the imminent Last Battle, most factions are also of the opinion that this needs to happen by them conquering the world. For instance, the Seanchan follow mostly the same prophecy everyone follows - but their version disagrees with everyone else's, maybe by as little as one sentence out of an entire book, so they believe they need to subdue the Dragon Reborn in order to have a chance of winning. The Dragon Reborn controls about half the continent, which required forcibly overcoming many struggling factions, embodying this trope right there. The outcome is predictable. Others such as various Aes Sedai factions see the need to cooperate, but only so long as they control everything behind the scenes (even if it means they have to kidnap and abuse the Chosen One.) It certainly doesn't help that, for a while, every major faction had a Treacherous second-in-command loyal to the Dark One.
- Lord Vetinari has secretly set up several of the organisations dedicated to his overthrow, in order to keep the real ones busy with infighting. In The Discworld Companion, Vetinari's rule is credited to realizing that even revolutionary anarchists want stability so they can fight their real enemies: people with a slightly different definition of revolutionary anarchy.
- Vetinari doesn't just deal with potential rebellion this way: it's practically his whole political philosophy. "If there are two sides to an issue, see that they quickly become two hundred."
- Further used in Night Watch, when the People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road can't even agree on what they're fighting for beyond "Truth, Justice and Freedom" (those are free, you see). They settle on "Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably-Priced Love and a Hard-Boiled Egg!" Subverted in that they still manage to be an effective fighting force and outright zigzagged because it doesn't actually make any difference if they have a decisive victory or a crushing defeat. The real changes are made far away by The Chessmaster.
- In the Strugatsky Brothers' novel Prisoners of Power, the mind-controlling totalitarian oligarchy is opposed by what may initially seem to be an unified rebel "Underground". However, to quote the novel itself, "the Underground wasn't a political party. What's more, it wasn't even a front of political parties". Its members couldn't even agree as to whether or not the mind control has to go. Factions range from blatant fascists (who want to overthrow the government and keep the mind control towers) to "biologists" (who just want to destroy the towers, but don't mind keeping the government - so they can't even agree about that), and there are factions within factions as well. It is explicitly pointed out that many prominent Underground leaders are either agents or secret allies of the government. The protagonist ultimately doesn't even bother trying to rally them, instead striking a deal with one of the less secure government leaders for inside information, recruiting a few of the more sensible Underground members and blowing up the mind control center without consulting anybody else. It is implied in later Noonverse novels that he and his allies then had to put down rebellions by some of the other groups, even though the country was already a terrible mess by then due to mind control withdrawal and such. It also doesn't help that the protagonist destroying the towers also ruined the efforts of human agents to gradually improve the situation on the planet. The incident is the last nail in the coffin of civilians exploring unknown space.
- In The Obernewtyn Chronicles this happens with the main rebellion against the oppressive Council and Herder Faction. The various rebel leaders all act pretty much independently, and have rather different ideas about both methods and what they want to happen afterwards - in particular who will replace the Council. Eventually it resolves into Malik and cronies reluctantly and temporarily agreeing with everyone else. Or at least pretending to...
- The Thrawn Trilogy:
- Being the earliest-written look at the New Republic after the Emperor died, it shows an unfortunate amount of political jockeying. Most of this can be blamed on Borsk Fey'lya and his attempts to gain power, but he's not alone. Garm Bel Iblis, after Bail Organa's death, had actually split off and formed his own rebellion against the Empire, since he thought Mon Mothma was becoming too authoritarian. One of the many plot points in the trilogy is his realizing that a great deal of her reasoning was due to The Chains of Commanding, and they could work together again.
- Later Star Wars Legends books have the Empire shatter into squabbling warlords who fight over the true leadership while only weakening each other. In the Jedi Academy Trilogy, the one success Admiral Daala had was in reuniting those fragments and handing them over to Pellaeon after she'd lost a lot of the newly-reformed Empire's forces. Pellaeon worked at keeping the Imperial Remnant together, then decided that it could only survive by making peace with the New Republic. Of course, parts of the Empire didn't agree...
- In Harry Potter, years of Fantastic Racism have caused various magical creatures to be suspicious of wizards and avoid them at all costs (at the same time, wizards are equally suspicious or determined to avoid said magical creatures). Almost all of them are threatened by Voldemort, but aren't really willing to work together until they see that Harry "died" at the end of Deathly Hallows, at which point virtually every living being against Voldemort takes up arms to fight against the Death Eaters. All are later seen gathered peacefully in the Great Hall together.
- To some extent, the Last International in The Star Fraction, which seems to be mainly an umbrella label for all the forces fighting USUN. "...the ultimate conspiracy— nothing BUT front organizations. The fronts are real, the conspiracy isn't."
- The forces of good in the original Chronicles trilogy are hampered in their opposition to the Dragonarmies because their leaders are bickering over political matters that are petty by comparison. It takes drastic action, including Tasslehoff's destruction of the MacGuffin the leaders were fighting over and a "The Reason You Suck" Speech from the leader of the gods of good to get them to smarten up and unite.
- This trope is later inverted after the Dark Queen's defeat, as her subordinates' fear of her kept them in line. Without her uniting presence, the Highlords begin fighting among themselves for control of the Dragonarmies, and become splintered into five mutually hostile factions.
- The situation that prevailed on Barrayar at the beginning of the Vorkosigan Saga:
Aral Vorkosigan: I could take over the universe with this army if I could ever get all their weapons pointed in the same direction.
- The Stormlight Archive:
- In The Way of Kings, while the Alethi Highprinces are not actively fighting against each other, they are much more focused on outdoing each other and getting wealth and glory then they are on working together in battle, making and pursuing a long-term strategy, and generally winning the war they came to fight.
- While the Alethi Highprinces don't fight each other on the Shattered Plains (where they are all camped, and which has become the de facto center of the kingdom), back home their armies still fight each other over land, uniting only when foreigners try to invade. In a sane world it would be called civil war, but they've been doing it for so long that it's just normal.
- It's revealed to be worse in the sequel, Words of Radiance. Not only are the Highprinces still squabbling, but there are a dozen different conspiracies all working at cross-purposes to stop the Desolation their own way.
- First and foremost, we have Dalinar, the only one trying to fight honorably and unite everyone against the coming darkness. Sadeas spends the entire book undermining him every single way he can.
- The Sons of Honor think that by bringing back the Voidbringers and the Desolation, the Heralds will come back as well, bringing the Church back to prominence and fixing everything wrong with the world. They're completely unaware of the fact that the Heralds never left, having abandoned their oaths millennia ago in favor of wandering the world in anonymity.
- The group serving the Diagram are following a plan Taravangian wrote in his most brilliant moment, detailing how to put him slowly in control of the whole world, manipulating spren and people alike—including assassinating pretty much every other ruler in the world.
- The Ghostbloods are searching for Urithru, seat of the Knights Radiant, for an unclear reason, and rival Jasnah Kholin for the knowledge. They will kill anyone who stands in their way, and have at least one world-hopper among their number, likely more.
- Eshonai, the Parshendi Shardbearer, ordered the death of the Alethi king to keep the gods of her people from returning and turning them into Voidbringers, and are now fighting a losing war against the Alethi; too bad her sister is some sort of Voidbringer mole, and causes exactly what Eshonai was trying to prevent.
- And finally, several of these are implied to be splinter factions of the same group, as the Diagram and the Sons of Honor both take their cues from the murdered king Gavilar, and the Ghostbloods make a passing reference to the Diagram and seem to know what they're up to.
- Oathbringer takes it even further as Dalinar Kholin must now attempt to force not only just the Alethi Highprinces to work together, but also the leaders of the rest of the world. The Highprinces are still quarreling though and the conspiracies continue to conspire. Struggle indeed.
- In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway shows us the ragtag coalition of liberals, anarchists and communists that make up the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and he hints at the pathological purge-mania of the Stalinists. This is a case of Truth in Television.
- Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell's nonfiction work about the Spanish Civil War, depicts the same thing as in the For Whom the Bell Tolls example.
- The underground in William Rotsler's To The Land Of The Electric Angel, which comprises everyone from the Pope to free-love hedonists. They actually pull off a successful revolution under the protagonist (who gets elected Pope so he can lead the uprising, and thereafter has to answer "Is the Pope Catholic?" with "No").
- In The Left Hand of Darkness, Estraven cites the "old proverb" (which Genly suspects he made up himself) that "Karhide is not a nation but a family quarrel." Ironically, the main villain is the one trying to do something about this.
- Darkness at Noon has a flashback to Rubashov excommunicating a Party member for suggesting that revolutionaries should make common cause with more moderate opponents of tyrannical regimes.
- The Capitol uses this to their advantage through their cruel ritual of The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games were, in fact, first employed because the thirteen districts rose up against their oppressors. After they were thwarted, ending with the total annihilation of District Thirteen, the Capitol decreed that each district had to send one boy and one girl to an arena where they would fight to death and only one could survive. Understandably, all the districts despise the Capitol for what they do to them and their children... However, the Hunger Games became so ritualistic that the districts are more preoccupied with training their chosen children so that one of them can survive and beat the kids from the rivaling districts, rather than trying to overthrow the Capitol and end the oppression once and for all.
- The first Martian Revolution in the Red Mars Trilogy fits this trope to a T. The general disorganization of the revolution leads to catastrophic destruction, the death of several main characters, and the total retreat of all rebels into hiding. This failed revolution is what makes them get it right the second time.
- Discussed in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Professor Bernardo de la Paz, the brains behind La Résistance, advocates using a cell system, with no more than three members per cell even at the very top echelon, because in his words more than three people can't agree what to eat for dinner, let alone how to fight a revolution. Much later in the book, when Manny seeks advice from an ad hoc council of people he respects, he finds himself agreeing with Prof as they all begin bickering.
- Julian: Libanius and Priscus intend to write a biography to help combat the rising tide of Christianity in Europe... if they can agree on who pays what to copy the manuscript.
- The Resistance Trilogy by Clive Egleton depicts La Résistance to a Soviet-occupied Britain. In the final novel the Soviets are pulling out of Britain due to war with China. This should be a time of victory, but instead the 'moderate' wing forms an alliance with The Quisling government to eliminate their hardline members (including the protagonist).
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- A major problem during the War of the Five Kings. Nobody likes the Lannisters, and while some of the kings do try to make alliances, the other side is never willing to cooperate. Stannis attempts to ally with his younger brother Renly, accurately citing that he (Stannis) has the proper claim anyway. Renly essentially replies "no one wants you as a king (including yourself), I do want to be king and am popular enough to do it, and I have the biggest army." Robb Stark tries to make alliances with both Stannis and Renly, and even Balon Greyjoy, but Stannis sees Robb declaring Northern independence as treason, Robb himself won't give up his own crown, and Balon sneak attacks the North due to a (misplaced) grudge he had against Robb's dead father. All of which allows the Lannisters to win.
- Ends up being a problem for the Lannisters after Tywin Lannister's death. His daughter Cersei takes control as regent and proves herself to be paranoid and incompetent, believing the Tyrells, the House of her son's wife, to be plotting against her. As a result the Lannister regime is facing collapse. This is briefly averted due to Tywin's brother Kevan becoming regent, however his murder at the hands of Varys begins the problem again, just as another side enters the conflict.
- Comes up again in A Dance with Dragons. Jon Snow, having become Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, allows and encourages the Wildlings to come through the Wall and into the Seven Kingdoms. He does so because he realizes that every Wildling on the other side of the wall will become another Wight they will have to fight. Most of the Wildlings see his logic, but his own brothers in the Night's Watch only see this as him breaking traditions and vows.
- And in a broader sense, the lords of Westeros are all so focused on their complex political gambits and petty feuds that they've forgotten their true enemy-perhaps the enemy of every living thing-the Others. The only ones doing anything about them are treated as jokes or loonies.
- In the web-novel Domina, the cultures of the city have been fighting each other for a very very long time, and the fact that there's some sort of supernatural zombie master running around isn't going to stop them. One of the running subplots is the local Reasonable Authority Figure trying to get everyone to understand exactly how dangerous the enemy is, with slow success. The worst is probably the Nosferatu vampires; two broods were fighting when they were attacked by screamers, and it didn't even slow them down.
Adam: This is the same city where people were perfectly willing to fight a civil war while a zombie apocalypse dropped on their heads.
- This is the ideal state of the Romulan government in Rihannsu. The Romulans have had bad experiences in the past with dictators so the senators and praetors are supposed to spend lots of time infighting to prevent tyranny. Unfortunately the Three (a trio of praetors) managed to work around this in the novels' timeframe.
- Schooled in Magic: Much is made from the fact that the Allied Lands are constantly bickering and fighting with each other, instead of the necromancers. It's stated all of them would have been conquered long ago if the necromancers had not been doing the same thing.
- The Silerian Trilogy: It is explicitly stated that one reason Sileria has been ruled by foreigners for so long stems from them fighting each other constantly, and when they finally do manage some unity, this only lasts long enough to win their independence before it falls apart with civil war breaking out.
- Dieppe: during the planning for the commando raid on Dieppe during World War II, there is much resistance by the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to putting capital ships and heavy bombers at risk in supporting the Army troops who were actually making the beach landing. Air Marshal Harris, the head of Bomber Command, meets with the Army commander, General Roberts. The meeting concludes with Harris reluctantly agreeing to provide 150 planes. Later, Roberts finds out from his own commanders, Admiral Mountbatten and Captain Hughes-Hallett, that the Air Force has gone on record as refusing to provide the aircraft because, in Harris's words, the Army stated they weren't necessary. Mountbatten angrily confronts a confused Roberts and demands to know what was said during his meeting with Air Marshal Harris:
Mountbatten: Did you tell him how important bombers were?
Roberts: I begged.
Mountbatten: Harris isn't the sort to make things up.
Hughes-Hallett: He keeps detailed minutes of meetings.
Roberts: He did ask me if I would proceed if the bombers couldn't take off.
Hughes-Hallett: [horrified] You didn't say yes!
Roberts: [indignant] Of course I bloody well said yes. I'm a soldier!
Mountbatten: [incredulous] Roberts! That's the oldest trick in the book! The second you concede a circumstance in which you would proceed without bombers, it follows that the bombers aren't really required.
Roberts: Forgive me for thinking we were on the same side.
- Game of Thrones:
- One of the main factors in the War of the Five Kings is that Renly and Stannis of House Baratheon fight each other rather than presenting a united front against Joffrey and marching on King's Landing right away.
- The constant in-fighting among the wildlings prevented them from being a serious threat to the Seven Kingdoms until Mance Rayder united them. Furthermore, the renewed threat of the White Walkers pushed the Night's Watch and the Wildlings to work together, and later the entire North (including the Wildlings) along with the Targaryen empire. However when they attempted to unite the other kingdoms to fight their common enemy, Cersei decided she would rather lie to their faces and risk The End of the World as We Know It than work with her enemies.
- Davos's relationship with Melisandre. Davos openly mistrusts her and works to thwart her on several occasions.
Melisandre: I'm not your enemy.
Davos: You are my enemy!
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine mentions that after the Cardassian occupation ended, Bajoran factions that had fought in unity against them began struggling for power. A good portion of the first couple seasons talked about how "provisional" the Provisional Government was. The second season began with an attempted coup against them. The Cardassian Resistance during the Dominion War had some cracks in it, mainly between hard-liners who wanted to just reinstall the old Cardassian Union, and the faction led by Damar that understood the old government's corruptions allowed the Dominion in.
- The West Wing:
- In one episode Toby is assigned to show up at a town hall meeting for anti-globalization protesters, who are depicted as people being more in love with the sound of their own loudly expressed self-righteous outrage than the actual issues at hand. Within seconds of Toby introducing himself and being asked the first question, the audience start shouting over the top of each other to insult him, before the entire gathering degenerates into chaos and splinter groups in-fighting with each other. Toby, for his part, watches with amusement until he gets bored and leaves, everyone having forgotten he was there. Of course, this being The West Wing, he later goes back in and blows them out of the water with a speech we only get to hear about from Josh.
- Season 6 of the show focuses on the build-up to the party primary elections to decide who each party's next candidate for President will be. A key running theme is the fractured bickering between the various factions of the Democratic party, represented by three major candidates for President, versus the Republicans unifying relatively quickly behind their candidate. It culminates in a chaotic convention wherein no candidate can get a clear majority over the others and then one of the state governors tries to get themselves nominated from the floor, thus splintering things even further. Eventually provides a subversion in that the Democratic candidate who eventually manages to knock enough heads together to get themselves nominated ends up rallying and winning the election, albeit narrowly.
- Several episodes of 'Allo 'Allo! are based on the (historically based—see the WW2 entry below for more information) rivalry between De Gaulle's Resistance and the Communist Resistance.
- A few episodes of Stargate SG-1 deal with the attempts at a Tok'ra/Jaffa alliance. Essentially, what it boiled down to was the Jaffa couldn't see the differences between Tok'ra and Goa'uld, and the Tok'ra couldn't see the differences between a Jaffa serving a Goa'uld and a Free Jaffa. This caused problems.
- On Stargate Atlantis, this is the basic history behind the Wraith civil war. Atlantis appears? Blast it. Not enough food? Blast each other so that there IS enough for those left. Replicators killing our food? Blast them then resume blasting each other per point 2. We have some Atlantean buddies? Recruit them to help us with point 2.
- On Entourage, Ari Gold's marriage is about as turbulent as any given war and yet they've remained together. "When we got married we agreed to suffer this monogamy together baby!"
- Yes, Minister:
- Sir Humphrey argues that this trope is essentially how Britain managed the liberation of its former colonies through partition — in dividing the territories (such as Northern Ireland and Eire, or India and Pakistan), the idea was that they'd spend more time bickering with each other and less time taking shots at Britain.
- He also asserts that after Britain failed to break up the EEC from the outside, they resorted to joining it, as from the inside "We can make a complete dog's breakfast of the whole thing. We have now set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch... and the Foreign Office is terribly happy. It's just like old times."
- In the PBS documentary Constitution USA, host Peter Sagal says that this was intentional with the United States government. The system of checks and balances set up by the writers of the Constitution are intended to keep the three branches in tension with one another to prevent any one branch from amassing too much power.
- In Arthur of the Britons, one of the biggest problems Arthur faces in attempting to unite the Celtic tribes against the Saxons is that the Celts are just as willing to fight each other as they are to fight the Saxons. Perhaps even moreso, due to ancient grudges.
- Black Sails is practically built on this trope. The pirates want two things: treasure and control of Nassau, but the endless in-fighting among themselves as to how they procure and keep these things means they never manage to hold onto them for very long. A prime example occurs in season four: to regain control of the island, the pirates decide to free all the slaves living in the interior. But in a bid to preempt the slaves defecting to the pirates, the estate managers have already separated the slave families and decreed that if any one estate revolts, family members will be punished elsewhere. This leads to a disagreement between Flint and Billy: whether to retreat from a single estate so as to keep the trust of their would-be allies, or to forcibly free and enlist them despite the reprisals that would be visited upon their families. A fight breaks out, and by the time everything is under control, the slaves have formed their own uprising, one that doesn't want anything to do with Nassau's legal residents or the pirates.
- The Resistance is not just one united group in LA. The main group followed is led by Broussard, who is willing to shoot members to prevent their capture, but is working to gain information and advantage, not just wanton violence which is known to lead to the abandonment or 'Rendition' (read: extermination) of entire blocks. In the second season, a new faction called Red Hand emerges, willing to use suicide bombs and target civilians. After a cautious meeting over alien tech the Red Hand stole, Broussard concludes that their only objective is destruction, and leads a mission to give it to them.
- We learn the aliens have both hardliners and moderates also, with the former pushing for LA's rendition into the Factory.
- The people running the Colonial Transition Authority spend more time stabbing each other in the back and jockeying for position than actually running the occupation.
- Guerrilla: A German Marxist group isn't keen about supporting the British Black Panthers, since they aren't sufficiently radical for their taste. Eventually they come around.
- Up The Women: The BICCPRWS's plans are often hindered by the actions of the more militant Banbury Free Suffragette Army. Numerous other suffragette groups are mentioned, for example the Young Suffrage Army (splinter group from the Banbury Free Suffragette Army) who took to referring to themselves as the Banbury Young Hot Bloods after their split from the Banbury New Hot Bloods, who in turn re-formed as the Banbury Free Young Hotties (not to be confused with the Banbury Bloody Hot Suffrage Squad - nor the Banbury Blood Transfusion Society, for that matter).
- In The Bible, Korah leads a revolt of Levites who object to Aaron being the High Priest; Moses responds by saying that God will do a miracle for the person He picks, and holds a contest where all 250 rebels and Aaron compete. Some commentators have noted the hypocrisy here: all of them ally against Aaron, yet each clearly thinks that he's more worthy than his fellow rebels.
- In the New Testament Book of Corinthians, St. Paul writes to the church in Corinth to admonish them that, since they are all part of the one Christian faith, they should not be splitting up into factions and fighting between themselves. He chides them further that their factions seem mostly to be based on a Silly Reason for War, such as what foods they are allowed to eat, which gifts are better, or which apostle is the coolest.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The Blood War contains a fair bit of this. The Chaotic Evil Demons would be a much greater threat to the Lawful Evil Devils if they weren't so keen on fighting that they turn on each other at the drop of the proverbial hat. For the Devils' part there's a fair bit of resentment simmering between many of the Archdevils, which Asmodeus, Magnificent Bastard that he is, subtly encourages so that none of them ever decide to ally together and overthrow him. The Celestials also try to ensure the blood war continues, reasoning that as long as the evils are fighting each other, they're not trying to destroy the heavens.
- More generally, the forces of good and evil in many D&D settings are also like this. The good guys, such as they are, can easily bicker and snipe with each other over their own personal or political interests, allowing the villains to gain in strength. This tends to be balanced by the fact that the bad guys can just as easily be at each other's throats, whether through an Enemy Civil War or just plain Evil vs. Evil.
- The Revolutionary League from Planescape. Best summarized by asking a cell of them "How many Anarchists does it take to change a torch?"
"Just one. Why sacrifice more effort when it could be spent on other causes?"
"All of them! Only by a concerted effort can the Revolutionary League..."
"Affairs such as torch-changing should be handled by the elite (namely us) while the others concentrate on ensuring a supply of torches for the future..."
"If we get in, we won't need them. Infravision will be compulsory..."
"Torches are tools of corruption! Extinguish them all! We don't need them!" [extinguishes torch, bangs head on wall] "Ouch!"
- The Scarlet Empress actually encouraged this infighting among her subordinate governing and administrating organizations, so that they would be unable to effectively overthrow her and have the less-than-instant decision-making process of a multi-person body give the enemies of Creation time to re-invade. Which was all well and good, until she disappeared...
- Which is the smallest cast on the trope in the setting. On a grander scale, Creation, the normal world that is, has at least three whole groups of mortal enemies roughly as strong as itself, bent on its destruction; that is, Old Unseated Gods, Old Dead Gods (who, being dead but unable to cease to exist, just wish for everything to cease to exist so they can as well) and Mutating Energies Of Aether. Creation would be surely doomed if only those three forces wouldn't hate each other with roughly the same passion and fight on every opportunity, because their image of what should be are so different. Only two times in history have two of those forces seriously joined an effort against Creation, and both times they did landed a mighty blow. Ironically, the first attempt still in many parts failed because of poor coordination. (Mutating Energies attacked lands struck with super-Plague engineered by Dead Gods; they really should have made sure all of Creation's defenses were down...)
- As for the defenders of Creation, they're not even pretending to be on the same side. Broadly, the Dragon-Blooded are the ruling power of Creation, and by and large most of them are as interested in plundering the riches of their vassals as they are in guarding Creation. Out in the boonies, you get the Lunar Exalted, who are barely a faction at all; they're in a guerilla war against the Dragon-Blooded, but exactly what they hope to accomplish is unclear and often Depending on the Writer (not helped by the fact that a lot of the elders are insane in some way). The Sidereals are themselves divided between upholding the Dragon-Blooded and manipulating them from behind the scenes, lifting up the resurgent Solars and manipulating them from behind the scenes, a couple of jokers who want to manipulate the Lunars, and a bunch who are just trying to do their jobs and not play politics. And then the returning Solar Exalted...no. There is no "the Solar Exalted," there are about a hundred and fifty individuals who are reincarnated heroes of the First Age with the power to reshape the world, all of whom are either developing their own agendas, becoming pawns in someone else's agenda, or just trying to survive (and "surviving," for a Solar, tends to wreck a lot of people's plans).
- Legend of the Five Rings: The Clans are extremely guilty for this. They are supposed to do what their hats tell them to do all the while protecting the Rokugani from Shadowlands threat, but they are too busy getting at each others' throat. About the only clan that averts this is the Crab: no one wants to invade their land for they are right next to the Shadowlands and are tasked with manning the Kaiu Wall, and the Crab don't have the resources to invade anyone else. But even they have a fair bit of bad blood with the Crane...
- The Humanists want the Computer to be subordinate to human governance, and might actually get somewhere with it if they weren't constantly bogged down by infighting and red tape.
- The whole world of Alpha Complex plays this trope straight (unless the GM says otherwise, of course). The various Service Groups are meant to be all on the same side, yet are likely to spend more time getting in each other's way rather than serving the Computer, and Communists play into the whole People's Front Of Judea/Judean People's Front archetype at the best of times. Not to mention the First Church of Christ Computer Programmer, which is otherwise basically just a bunch of Computer loyalists.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The wildly assorted powers of Chaos regard the destruction of the Imperium of Man as one of their main goals, especially the Night Lords and Iron Warriors legions, but as one might expect of Chaos, they are, well, chaotic, and spend as much time fighting each other and anyone who happens to be nearby as working against the Imperium.
- The Imperium, meanwhile, considers the destruction of everything that is not the Imperium to be its main goal. Precisely how this should be achieved is a matter of dispute between the Astartes, the Imperial Guard, the Sororitas, the Inquisition, the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Ecclesiarchy, and so on - and that's before you get to the divides in individual factions. Fortunately (for them) most of the Imperium don't think these divides take precedence over killing the nearest alien/heretic/mutant.
- Mix in divides within the divides within those factions. i.e. the Inquisition is split into multiple branches and each of those branches ends up arguing both with each other; and individual Inquisitors within those branches tend to argue with each other as well (along such lines as radicalism vs orthodoxy and so on). All in all it gets rather messy.
- The Imperium intentionally invokes this. All organizations and individuals are taught to foster an inherent distrust of each other, and the command structure is designed to be as loose as possible while retaining some level of cohesion. On one hand, this makes the Imperium a bureaucrat's worst nightmare, and allocations of military and humanitarian aid are haphazard at the best of times. On the other, this means that the Imperium is ironically less vulnerable to inside threats, as if not a single high-ranking official with his own agenda could be a huge problem. This is the same reason why Imperial Guard regiments are often incredibly specialized and Imperial Navy fleets aren't allowed to carry troops that would be useful in land battles. As for what reason that is... Well, let's just say it was a harsh lesson learned long ago.
- Also the defining quality of the Orks; they like to talk about Da Orks iz gonna tak ova', but are constantly infighting. This is taken to a quite hilarious extreme with the Orks, as the generally accepted view is that if the Orks were ever to stop in-fighting and actually unite they'd probably easily defeat everyone else. However all that is required to stop any Ork force of any size is to take out the Ork in charge of it; the inevitable fight for dominance between subordinate Orks being all but guaranteed to cause the whole enterprise to fall apart.
- The Tyrannids subvert this. While different hive fleets will attack and eat each other if they meet on the same planet it doesn't diminish the overall strength of the Tyrannids one bit. The winner simply consume the loser's biomass and uses it to become much stronger. Arguably, the Tyranids are heavily involved in this trope with regard to the other species as well. Given that the Tyranids are believed to be flat out on their way to consume the entire galaxy and everything in it then you'd perhaps expect that at the very least the likes of the Eldar, Tau and the Imperium could see their way clear to putting aside their differences and uniting against the common foe. But this being 40k they tend to be too busy trying to get one over on each other to worry about diversions such as galaxy-devouring swarms.
- The Craftworld Eldar mostly avert this. Anything less than full unity would mean their quick and horrible deaths. That said, disagreements between Farseers have been known to result in conflict from time to time, as both will be convinced that their path is the one that will lead to future Eldar prosperity.
- Dark Eldar play it very straight, however. Most Dark Eldar exist in Kabals which are perhaps most simply described as a cross between tribe-like social constructs and paramilitary organizations. Given that the way of advancing in Dark Eldar society is (in most cases) to murder the person above you and take their place the leaders of the Dark Eldar literally can't trust any of their subordinates (who may be plotting against them) and the subordinates can't trust their leaders (as the leaders might kill them off out of fear of a plot). This results in senior Kabal members having to hire independent mercenaries known as Incubi to act as bodyguards against their enemies (i.e. basically everyone else). Dark Eldar society, and life on Commorragh generally, is effectively one long struggle for power and survival where the weak are subjugated and enslaved by the strong and the strong are constantly having to fight to stay at the top. One wonders how they manage to cooperate long enough to successfully pull off any raids at all or, indeed, where they find the energy to do so after all that in-fighting.
- This is (or, at least, was) totally averted by the Necrons. Being near-mindless automatons under the sway of the C'tan, they existed only to wage war against the living. It was later revealed as more arose that there were actual separate dynasties, lead by individual Necron Lords who were a little bit loopy before going into stasis for about sixty or so million years. While the Necron typically devote more time to fighting non-Necron forces than each other, aided by the spread out nature of their dynasties' locales, there's nothing stopping them from warring against their fellows.
- Even the Tau, ostensibly united as they are under the banner of "The Greater Good", are quite prone to this, especially when two Tau disagree on what the Greater Good actually is and what course of action must be followed to reach it. Most prominently, the breakaway Farsight Enclave faction has routinely engaged in armed conflict with the Empire proper when not under immediate threat from an outside force, but far more sinister examples also exist. Fire Caste armies will clash over petty differences between their Ethereal leaders, or the Water Caste will purposefully undermine their comrades to avoid threatening diplomacy. In once particular case, a famous Shas'O and his bull-headed nature was threatening to reignite warfare between the Tau and the Imperium after long and arduous negotiations by the Water Caste. Rather than risk losing all of their hard work and getting millions of soldiers on both sides killed, the Water Caste conspired with the Imperial Guard to get the Shas'O and his cadre wiped out, cold-blooded betrayal costing the lives of hundreds of their most loyal soldiers was a worthy price to pay for continued peace.
- Warhammer does this with multiple factions. In addition to the Greenskins and Chaos (who are just as prone to infighting as their futuristic examples above), we have the Empire of Man. Made out of multiple different provinces each ruled by an Elector Count, the Empire is a mass of politicking, backstabbing, deliberate obstruction, and more. The election of an Emperor from among the Counts is often the subject of some contention with at least some of the counts, and the provinces sometimes squabble amongst themselves. The Empire has actually collapsed into civil war on more than one occasion, though against an outside threat they (most of the time) manage to pull together in order to fight it off...before going back to being at one another's throats. This came to a disastrous head in the End Times arc that ended the game, as despite the various races of the setting having to work together in order to stop Chaos from destroying the entire world, multiple different agendas and crises and disagreement on how exactly to save the world resulted in Chaos claiming victory and opening a Chaos portal that consumed the whole world.
- Warhammer: Age of Sigmar has this in the form of Sigmar's Grand Alliance, back when he first created the setting after the End Times of the World-That-Was, which spelled the end of the original Warhammer. Originally, Sigmar, along with the various gods of the other Mortal Realms, were all able to work together to keep Chaos from tainting the realms. However, when the Chaos Gods launched a concerted attack, Nagash betrayed Sigmar at a crucial moment and cost them the battle, allowing Chaos to invade every Mortal Realm simultaneously, which made the other gods withdraw to their own realms. Part of Sigmar's strategy to reconquer the Mortal Realms from Chaos is to rebuild this alliance, working together to destroy Chaos once and for all.
- Old World of Darkness and New World Of Darkness : The line(s) as a whole had this trope in full force, often times taken Up to Eleven.
- Vampire: The Masquerade: Vampires as a whole have this as a part of their predatory nature. The Kindred are supposed to be solitary predators, and the only reason they interact at all is because the circumstances of the modern world force them to.
- The Camarilla has this trope in spades. The Brujah hate The Ventrue, The Toreadore and Nosferatu loath each other. Nobody likes The Tremere, and everyone would prefer to keep the Malkavians either locked up or at arms length.
- The Anarchs aren't much better off. They lack The Camarillia's structure and The Sabbat's loyalty rituals and are really a movement of loosely affiliated gangs that constantly bicker and outright fight for territory and leadership than their actual ideals.
- Oddly subverted with the almost Always Chaotic Evil Sabbat. While they can and do politic and backstab one another with the best of them, and have a...savage justice system, they also have a special ritual called The Valuderie which specifically blood bonds each of its members to each other. The result is an Axe-Crazy, fanatically loyal death cult of vampires that bands together against outsiders.
- Successor, Vampire: The Requiem also has this in the form of The five Covenants. While every city is very different, lets just say that The Invictus do not get along well with the The Carthian Movement, and The Circle of the Crone and Lancea et Sanctum are hardly on friendly terms. The Ordo Dracul tries to stay out of it though.
- Mage: The Ascension:
- The Traditions can agree on exactly one thing - they all hate the Technocracy and want it gone. The fact that just about every one of the nine Traditions loathe and despise the other eight may just be a large part of the reason why the Technocracy (which is all about working together for the greater good - well, for a given value of "good," anyway) has been kicking their butt for the last six hundred years...
- However, by the time of the books, the Traditions have been better at cooperation for quite some time. Apparently, differences in outlook seem smaller when you are on the brink of destruction (they still don't like each other, but they are working together).
- Also, in their own books, it is shown that the Technocracy isn't half as unified as it looks. The five main groups are constantly politicking, both internally and against the others.
- The 20th anniversary edition introduces the Disparate Alliance, a group of Crafts who also can agree on only one thing - in their case, they all hate the Technocracy and Nephandi and want them gone.
- In the spiritual sequel, Mage: The Awakening, the Orders are continually at loggerheads. Their war with the Seers of the Throne is only kept from being one-sided because the Seers are themselves suffering continual inner strife - far too many of their factions are too interested in gaining advantages over the others for them to focus and take out the Atlanteans.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse:
- The game suffers from this trope big time. There are thirteen tribes that struggle against each other; they have a combined set of rules called the Litany but all have different ideas on which rules are important; there's also a lot of struggle within most tribes; and the fact that all werewolves are prone to berserk frenzy if mildly provoked doesn't help. As a result, the werewolves have all but annihilated all non-wolf shape-shifters, and completely wiped out one of their own tribes, the Bunyip.
- The sequel Werewolf: The Forsaken applies this trope primarily to the antagonist faction, the Pure, with the three Pure tribes being so outright mutually exclusive that, despite outnumbering the Forsaken (player faction) two to one and theoretically placing their shared enmity toward the tribes of the moon high on their priority lists, they rarely actually get anywhere so far as actual extermination goes.
- Hunter: The Reckoning: The Characters are not really divided up into political factions so much as philosophical approaches to hunting monsters called Creeds. Many of whom are by nature opposed to one another. For example, The Innocent and Redeemer try to empathize with and rehabilitate monsters respectively. This is in direct conflict with an Avenger, whose approach is often to Kill It with Fire.
- On a further level one cell of Hunters can easily come into conflict with another over territory, morality and specific goals.
- The Vigilant in spiritual successor Hunter The Vigil in general are prone to doing this, since any two cells are likely to have very different ideas on what they are hunting, why, and how. Going up the higher tiers doesn't improve matters. At the Compact level, you have things like the Long Nightnote vs. Null Mysteriisnote , or the Unionnote vs. the Barett Commissionnote , or more active Compacts hating on Network Zero, Null Mysteriis and the Loyalists of Thule for being the Non-Action Guy by comparison. Conspiracy tier brings things up even higher, where you have the Lucifugenote , the Malleus Maleficariumnote , and Cheiron Corporationnote .
- The Loyalists of Thule are prone to a lot of intra-personal strife. Beyond the fact that one faction is eyed carefully by the other two for being alarmingly close to the Volkisch mentality that condemned them to being The Atoner in the first place, a Compact where the vast majority are only in the Compact in the first place because they are being blackmailed by one or more of their superiors is... well, it doesn't cooperate very well.
- The Ascending Ones have three factions that are so diverse they're almost like three Conspiracies sharing a common Endowment. You have the Knife of Paradise — militant Islamic/Christian/Jewish zealots, the Order of the Southern Temple — paganistic alchemist-magicians, and the Jagged Crescent — drug dealers. Needless to say, when two factions have to come together, things can get very terse.
- Vampire: The Masquerade: Vampires as a whole have this as a part of their predatory nature. The Kindred are supposed to be solitary predators, and the only reason they interact at all is because the circumstances of the modern world force them to.
- BattleTech: in the Clans' invasion of the Inner Sphere, the invading clans tend to have personal grudges with each other, the most notable being Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Wolf. The Clans are also divided into two groups: the Crusaders (led by Jade Falcon) believe it is their right that they should conquer Terra, and the Inner Sphere, while the Wardens (formerly led by Wolf) believe they should be its protectors, not conquerers.
- Clan Wolf actually split between the Crusader and Warden factions after the invasion failed, becoming the Wolf Empire and Clan Wolf-In-Exile respectively.
- There's also a split between the "Home Clans" and "Invader Clans," the Home Clans being the ones who didn't get to participate in the invasion and the Invader Clans being the ones who did. Adding in the Warden/Crusader divide and the individual Clan enmities that go back centuries, and Clan politics gets very messy indeed.
- The Inner Sphere is all about this once the Clans come knocking. Even a full year into the invasion, the various Successor States find it almost impossible to work together (with the bizarre exception of two of the biggest enemies, the Federated Commonwealth and the Draconis Combine), and almost everyone is hatching some plot to turn the whole thing to their advantage (aside from the afformentioned FedCom and DC leaders, who actually grasp the scale of the Clan threat). And then you have ComStar, who's actually working with the Clans in the hopes that the war will finally allow them to bring their version of peace and enlightenment to the Inner Sphere. And within the individual Successor States, there are elements who just can't see their way clear to working with former enemies.
- Eclipse Phase:
- The Autonomist Alliance is composed of practically every anarchist faction in the solar system plus one sympathetic state and the only reason they work together is to ward off the Planetary Consortium and Jovian Junta. The Extropian anarcho-capitalists and collectivist Anarchists in particular despise one another with the mutualists caught in between. While the Scum heartily embrace Anarchy Is Chaos. The collectivists and Titan are on slightly better terms considering that they both use the same money-less economy, but the Titanian Commonwealth is still a state, albeit one governed by direct democracy, so the Anarchists have issues with them.
- The Barsoomian movements on Mars range from runaway Synthmorphs to primitivists, the only thing they agree on is an end to indentured servitude.
- Firewall's non-hierarchical cell structure tends towards factionalism and some rather nasty infighting. Especially between Conservatives with their "nuke-em-all" attitude and Pragmatists who are more willing to use asyncs and xenotech to achieve their long-term goals.
- In Mekton's "Invasion Terra" setting, this actually worked against the invading aliens. One of their tactics was to hold political leaders hostage for the good behaviour of the population, but as they didn't understand the geopolitical differences on Earth, they tried to do things like get Irish partisans to behave by threatening English statesmen.
- 1776 is another case of Truth in Fiction, at least in its full, unexpurgated form. The only thing the members of the Continental Congress can agree on is that the status quo is untenable. Everything else, from declaring independence from Britain to slavery to deep-sea fishing rights, is contentious and even getting a simple majority is difficult. (Watching the film makes it clear that, ante 1783, the "original 13" were a semi-random subset of a much larger and more diverse jumble of British North American possessions.) What drives most of the plot is the requirement that independence be approved by all 13 state delegations, and it takes a LOT of dirty, dirty politicking to get enough votes. And what was going on in Congress was the bloodless part of the Whig ascendancy—see the entry below on the American Revolution for more information.
- The hatred between the human and servile rebels in Geneforge is matched by the hatred between the drayks and drakons, but each pair is held together by a greater hatred for the other pair, and all of them are forced to work together against the Shapers. In the fifth game, the four allies finally split off, with the humans and servile allying with the Trakovites and the drayks and drakons forming the Ghaldring faction.
- Command & Conquer's Brotherhood of Nod is unified in that they need to defeat GDI. That is the only thing they are unified on, and usually when Kane isn't around, they voice their disagreements with laser beams and fire. And when Kane is around, they still formally lodge their complaints with laser beams and fire...in the back. As for humanity as a whole, the war between GDI and Nod is so bitter that an alien invasion doesn't do much more than make them pause....for a couple of hours. Then they go back to blasting each other, much to the aliens' shock and disbelief.
- In Wrath of the Lich King, the Horde and Alliance agree on one thing: We need to destroy the Lich King. That doesn't stop them from insulting each other, stealing supplies from each other, and it certainly doesn't stop the war that they have been fighting. They even manage to restart their own war while The Scourge is still up there trying to wipe them out. If not for the Ashen Verdict, which is comprised of Death Knights and the Argent Crusade, you would be dead. That's right, you're killing your allies, while the Ashen Verdict is saving the world and actually doing what you guys came up here to do in the first place. And the moment the Lich King bites it the war becomes more prevalent. Even the giant dragon ripping out from the core of Azeroth while setting half of the land on fire isn't going to stop them.
- Red Faction: Guerrilla:
- Fridge Logic has this being the only plausible outcome after the end. The Marauders and Red Faction unified in the name of defeating the Earth Defense Forces and shoving a gigantic torpedo with a Nanite Disassembler Swarm warhead down the throat of a huge warship capable of annihilating all life on Mars (and Earth, for that matter,) but what comes afterwards? The Marauders are the xenophobic, murderous descendants of Ultor scientists who survived after the EDF came down like a ton of bricks on Ultor and restored order to Mars (the first time around.) Red Faction are the spiritual successors of the original Red Faction, the miners who revolted against Ultor's brutal conditions. The Marauders have been for the last fifty years or so killing anyone they see, whether EDF or civilian. It can't end well.
- Bonus suck is awarded for the fact that the only primary character other than the player who survives from start to finish, Samanya, the Wrench Wench Sledgehammer Ninja (as revealed in the DLC bonus campaign, Demons of Mariner Valley,) is a Marauder by birth, but wound up joining Red Faction when she risked life and alienation from her people to rescue Kepler and Hugo Davies (better known as RF Commander) from an EDF internment camp before a gigantic Marauder offensive wiped the captive civilians out along with their captors. She's going to be caught between both sides of the coming war.
- That's basically what ends up happening in Red Faction Origins; the White Faction tries to pit the Red Faction and Marauders against each other, first by killing Samanya, then engaging in a False Flag Operation in the hopes of getting the two sides to destroy each other and allowing them to pick up the pieces.
- Red Faction: Armageddon seems to show the two sides ended up agreeing to leave each other alone for the most part. There are definite tensions between the two camps, but they band together once again fairly quickly once the aliens show up to threaten the human populace.
- The Hua Lian Rebels in the People's Republic of Da Han Zhong in Front Mission 3 suffered from this, especially after they were about to win the revolution, leading to a crushing defeat of the whole rebellion.
- Mass Effect:
- In Mass Effect 3, getting the races to co-operate is the main objective, with even those who are not actually at war with each other proving to be very unhelpful. In the most extreme case, the quarians have launched their attack on the geth, despite the Reapers actually starting their invasion in other parts of the galaxy. Unless Shepard has done literally everything right with regards to both species, the genocide of one of them is inevitable, despite most of the geth having actually wanted peace for the past several centuries--the remainder having sided with the the reaper Sovereign back in the first game, being Shepard's primary enemy back when the quarians were barely surviving on their own.
- This trope is also very much in evidence with the Illusive Man, who both averts it and plays it straight. The aversion happens during his first in-game appearance in Mass Effect 2, wherein he orchestrates the rescue and recovery of Commander Shepard and forms an alliance with them to combat the Collectors, who are in fact slaves of the Reapers. However, after Jumping Off the Slippery Slope in Mass Effect 3, he plays it painfully straight as Cerberus spends a lot of effort and resources openly opposing the Alliance and Council rather than joining them, partially explained by his being indoctrinated, (the DLC Prothean character, Javik, says that this happened during his cycle too, suggesting that divide and conquer is one of the Reapers main tactics). In fact, one of the few powerful characters who does recognize that personal goals need to be put on hold for now is the ruthless crime lord Aria T'Loak, who gives Shepard genuinely useful advice and prioritizes the overall war effort above her own short-term gains.
- It's easy to ignore the Salarian threats about curing the genophage, since they quickly come crawling back when they realize the Reapers are threatening them. Depending on your actions in previous games, most of the Salarian military (and potentially their own Council Representative) will basically give the finger to their government and rally themselves behind you.
Major Kirrahe: Regardless of what the politicians decide, you can count on my support retaking Earth.
- Dragon Age:
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Loghain decides Orlesians are more dangerous than The Blight, betrays the Grey Wardens. Meanwhile, Orzammar is more concerned about crowning a new King than immediately helping out with the Blight.
Alistair: You know, one good thing about the Blight is how it brings people together.
- Continued in Dragon Age: Inquisition, where despite the hole in the sky which demons are constantly pouring out of, the Inquisition created to combat the threat is declared a group of heretics by the Chantry, the templars have broken from the Chantry, feeling they weren't doing enough to combat mages, are now in a gigantic Civil War with the mages, another Civil War in Orlais, and an elven uprising over their second-class conditions in human society.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Loghain decides Orlesians are more dangerous than The Blight, betrays the Grey Wardens. Meanwhile, Orzammar is more concerned about crowning a new King than immediately helping out with the Blight.
- If we take ambiguously-canon "midquel" Cataclysm as canon, this happened to both sides after the events of Homeworld. The death of the Taiidani Emperor and the ensuing power vacuum resulted in a swift descent into out and out civil war ending in the messy Balkanisation of three quarters of his regime's former territory, with the newly-formed Taiidani Republic squaring off against multiple Imperial Loyalist factions -most of whom are implied to hate each other as well- plus a number of Former Regime Personnel who've turned warlord or Space Pirate. For their part, the Hiigarans have achieved the goal that compelled them to unite under one banner and are now going back to business as usual, various "kiithid" note jockeying with one another for greater power and influence, though their preferred medium is apparently equal parts Proportional Representation and behind the scenes wheeler-dealing.
- In Neverwinter Nights 2, there are at least three factions trying to bring about the downfall of the King of Shadows (The Player Character and his/her allies, the Githyanki, and the fiend army led by Ammon Jerro), who end up spending a lot of time at odds with each other and interfering in each-other's plans. There's also a fourth faction, the Githzerai, who refuse to involve themselves in the war, because the Githyanki hate them even more than the King of shadows, and would put their conflict with the King on hold in order to wage war against the Githzerai, allowing the King to grow in power unopposed.
- In the first Crysis, after the aliens wake up and freeze Lingshan island, you'd expect the Americans and the North Koreans to put their war on pause and turn their attention to this new threat. Wrong! As a matter of fact, in the Crysis Warhead Expansion Pack, your commanding officer will even give you explicit orders to consider the North Koreans the priority threat... after the aliens have woken!
- In Rome: Total War, Rome is divided by three houses, the Brutii, Scipii, and the Julii. The three plan on conquering Rome and eliminating each other, they also have to deal with the Senate who will give them demands and will turn on the house who won't comply.
- In Far Cry 4, the leadership of the Golden Path is split between the traditionalist Sabal and the progressive Amita. The player is occasionally given the options of siding with one over the other in certain missions. Eventually, you are forced to choose one as an uncontested leader, who will later task you with assassinating the other. Depending on who's alive, Sabal becomes a full-on religious extremist who issues purges of non-followers of the native religion of Kyrat while Amita becomes a dictator who forcibly conscripts women and children to work in drug dens.
- Part and parcel of Imperium Nova.
- Typically occurs during Trouble In Terrorist Town. Teamwork between innocents is regularly undermined since nobody knows who the real innocents are. A sufficiently paranoid and trigger-happy group can often wipe themselves out while the traitors just watch and Pass the Popcorn.
- Total War: Warhammer makes this a game mechanic for the Greenskins: Greenskin armies that go too long without fighting another enemy army succumb to attrition damage as the brutes' animosity and fight-happiness overcomes their discipline; setting up raiding camps can alleviate this somewhat but not fully. Also comes up for the Empire, as Karl Franz starts out only controlling the city of Altdorf - the rest of Reikland is controlled by Empire Secessionists and other provinces are controlled by the various Elector Counts who will go to war with each other and Karl's own faction.
- Any game that features enemy infighting can qualify as this. DOOM gives an interesting example: aside from being generally united against the player, the different species of monsters comprising the legions of hell generally don't like each other, and while they'll attack you on sight, they'll be just as likely to attack any of their erstwhile "allies" at the slightest provocation (read: an errant fireball).
- Diablo III:
- It's mentioned that one of the biggest problems the demons have in their Eternal Conflict with the angels is that their egos get in the way of them working together, and on at least one occasion an almost-successful invasion of Heaven has fallen apart at the last second because the Lords of Hell started quarrelling amongst themselves before they could secure victory. When Diablo attacks Heaven in the fourth act, he is the Prime Evil, a combination of all seven Lords of Hell in one being, and nearly succeeds in shattering the Crystal Arch, the very pinnacle of Heaven.
- Also comes up in the Reaper of Souls expansion when a human noble and some peasants try to start a revolution against Westmarch's king at the same time an army of Reapers are leading an anti-human genocide. Your character suggests humanity should be uniting against the threat posed by the Reapers instead of bickering and killing each other... and is promptly attacked by the rebels, who've decided you're With Us or Against Us.
- This is the main theme of Tyranny: Even though the evil overlord has successfully conquered the world, there are now job openings for governors and mayors of the multiple conquered districts, and all the former generals are throwing their armies at each other trying to grab these claims. Meanwhile, the forces of 'good' suffer from this problem even more because their deep-seated grudges have left them isolated enough for the overlord's armies to bulldoze through. You play as a commissar who was sent to deliver a message to the two overlord armies (one is Viking Nazis and the other is Wasteland Bandits) that are infighting over the last disputed district: work together and get the job done, or the Overlord will use their limit break to destroy the district, killing both armies and the last of the resistance. They don't. It's up to YOU to be the tyrant, pick a side, and unify them properly, or everyone dies.
- The Relationship Values in Miitopia can cause this. If two party members get into a fight over things like jealousy over a party member showing more affection towards a third person, petty fights in the middle of missions, using abilities that aren't pleasant on other party members (such as the Tank using them as a human canonball or the chef using them as improvised flamethrowers via Fire-Breathing Diner) or some negative character traits (laid-back Miis hiding behind another Mii to avoid damage or stubborn Miis refusing healing), lead to infighting, causing things like characters sulking, which reduce their attack, healers having less effect on the offending party or both characters getting into a Big Ball of Violence which damages a random enemy, but also causes some damage to the involved Miis.
- This The Order of the Stick strip parodies the trope while members of La Résistance argue about some nonsense, adding some necessary Monty Python references. A later strip reveals there are also three rival resistances, distinguished (somewhat) by their views on who is to blame for the invasion and who should take over once the revolution succeeds (they were united, eventually, by their common loyalty to the deceased former Lord of the city).
- 'Digger'' summarizes the trope nicely:
Murai: He's not an evil man. Not really.
Digger: There really aren't that many evil men out there. It's mostly just good men working at cross-purposes.
- By Act 6 Intermission 3, there are at least three active, conflicting plans to defeat Lord English. Each plan has exactly one person who is completely behind it...and beyond that it gets very fuzzy, with most of the other characters either being doubtful of any of the plans' chances or outright apathetic to the whole thing. Mix in interpersonal drama, hot-tempered teenagers, and an extremely complex relationship situation and "opposition to Lord English" doesn't look so much like a side as a hot mess. The tension reaches a head when Vriska and Meenah end up coming to blows rather dramatically over nothing more than getting on each others' nerves.
- Making matters worse, there is one side against Lord English which plans on conquering everything and ruling with an iron fist afterwards. All the other anti-Lord English sides are also at odds with one another to the point of coming to blows about how to deal with that problem.
- Existential Comics: This comic plays this for laughs by having famous socialist revolutionaries squabbling during a Dungeons & Dragons session, as an allegory for the real-life schisms of the radical left.
- Subverted in Reds; the socialist revolution in the United States in the 1930s proves to have sufficient ideological flexibility to enable opposing points of view to be heard (both among competing left-wing ideologies and more conservative voices that nevertheless oppose the military junta they're all fighting against) while still ensuring an overall socialist victory, and ultimately proves more successful in this regard than the rigid ideological inflexibility of the Soviet Union. The relationship between the Soviet Union and America following this, however, plays the trope straight, since they ultimately split due to ideological differences and spend as much time plotting against each other as their capitalist enemies.
- Twitch Plays Pokémon is essentially tens of thousands of people simultaneously attempting to button mash their way through a single copy of Pokemon: Red. There is several subgroups fighting each other because of personal interests, like having a Vaporeon or a Lapras, but ultimately, everyone, after fighting themselves over those things, collaborate on the greater goal of finishing the game. Even if they don't know what the next step is, as long as someone comes with a clear and straightforward next step, they will struggle together.
- This is typically how the Yogscast series Cornerstone progresses. Despite all having common goals to work on and very pressing survival issues, such as hostile mobs and a lack of food, the various members have to furiously fight to get themselves elected, then need to struggle with what little materials they have (for such a large group). Even when needed materials later become available, Hat Films form a cult devoted to a giant golden hand and start antagonising the others.
- The Ruins of an American Party System has a few examples:
- The Great Recovery Coalition was formed by President Floyd Olson by uniting his Progressive Party with the Socialists and the Commonwealth Party, in order to overcome the Great Depression. However, under his successor Fiorello LaGuardia it falls apart — first off, the Socialists and more radical Progressives are infuriated by LaGuardia making the "corrupt bargain" of agreeing to cut off excessive federal spending to Socialist-run California in exchange for the Republicans agreeing to support a universal healthcare bill, and they break away from LaGuardia's more moderate wing of the party. Meanwhile, LaGuardia engages in a power struggle with Commonwealth leader Huey Long, causing that party to spin off in its own agenda.
- The Republicans have their own internal problems as well. On the one hand, there's fiscal conservatives like Robert Taft and Herbert Hoover who despise the welfare state that the GRC set up. On the other, there's more liberal-moderate members like Alf Landon and Franklin D. Roosevelt who realize that it's not going away any time soon and should be accepted.
- When civil rights legislation starts getting pushed through Congress in the 40s, the Commonwealth starts splitting between racial moderates willing to settle for heavily amending the Civil Rights Act so that it's barely effective, and hardliners who want to block the bill altogether.
- It's noted that Gandhi's calm and peaceful leadership is the only thing keeping the Indian independence movement from breaking apart due to infighting between the Communist wing and the various religious/nationalist groups.
- In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien Charmcaster and the other rebel factions of Ledgerdomian immediately started fighting each other after overthrowing Adwaita because they all wanted to rule. Charmcaster won.
- South Park: When Cartman accidentally ends up in the future during the "God is Dead" episodes, it's revealed that the reason for the Great War is because the Atheists couldn't decide on the name of their nation. While they're all basically on the same side, they still manage not to get along for petty reasons.
- In Voltron: Legendary Defender, after Emperor Zarkon dies at Lotor’s hands, it quickly becomes apparent that having a singular leader is the only thing holding the Galra Empire together. Everybody in high command wants the job of Emperor, and they quickly begin fighting and bickering amongst each other. The meeting held to decide a line of succession ends up turning into a bloodbath, with the Galra forces ignoring Voltron in favor of killing each other. The chaos is only ended when Lotor manages to light the imperial flame and thus officially become Emperor, forcing everyone to stand down. Even then, Sendak refuses to acknowledge Lotor’s rule as legitimate and takes a bunch of ships to start his own faction.