Drama genre or plot in which the Powers That Be and/or The Government is evil and hiding something/trying to assassinate someone/establishing a puppet foreign government. Considering how incompetent the government are considered to be in just about every other area, it's remarkable how good they are at covering stuff up. A subtrope of The Conspiracy.
Anime and Manga
- Fullmetal Alchemist, though the manga and the 2003 anime adaptation differ in how many people are aware of/involved in the conspiracy. The conspiracy itself is different in the manga and first anime; in the manga, Father and the upper echelons of the military are planning to create a utopia through Human Sacrifice. In the 2003 anime, the conspiracy is Dante using the country (though Pride) to create situations that lead to the creation of Philosopher's Stones (again through mass human sacrifice) that Dante needs to fuel her immortality.
- The .hack// series' system administrators work much the same way up until the end of //tasogare no udewa densetsu.
- And afterward as well. CC Corp just never learns.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: The shadowy group, SEELE, manipulates both the UN and the Japanese government by claiming that they are trying to prevent The End of the World as We Know It, but their true interest is to make sure that the apocalyptic event turns out in their favor.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Turns out that The Federation was behind Jail Scaglietti and all his projects.
- The World Government in One Piece comes down hard on anyone who can read poneglyphs, is scheming to get their hands on plans to a Lost Technology superweapon, and keeps a tight lid on the truth behind the "Blank Century" in the world's history. What are they hiding?
- In the past, Nagi's work in Mahou Sensei Negima was made more difficult by the fact that Fate's group had several secret supporters in the various governments of the Magic World. In the present, considering how one of Nagi's old friends warned our heroes to be wary of Ostia's Governor-General, it seems Negi is in a similar situation as well. That's just the tip of the iceberg. The masterminds behind the attack on Negi's home village were members of the Megalo Mesembria Senate who have been pulling the strings of the Senate since the beginning of the war, which they helped start.
- The manga version of Narutaru has one of these observing the shadow dragons, as well as being involved in a lot of cover-ups and extreme military measures.
- The Gundam series has had a number of these:
- Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory suggests that the Titans came about due to a conspiracy in the Federation government. Namely, Jamitov Hymem knew of Operation Stardust, and willingly played along (without Delaz's knowledge), thinking that the resultant destruction would frighten the Federation into approving an autonomous military force in space. It worked perfectly.
- Gundam Seed has LOGOS, a group of extremely rich weapons manufacturers who spark wars in an effort to keep selling their products. They have several world leaders in their collective pocket. They are also the true leaders of the global terrorist organization Blue Cosmos.
- Celestial Being in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of agents in numerous governments and powerful corporations across the world, which explains where their vast information network and funding comes from. Ribbons Almarck starts one in the second season, pulling the strings of the newly-united world government to do whatever he wants.
- In the 1998 comic two-parter Marvel: Conspiracy, a reporter gradually discovers that practically all superheroes and supervillains ever since shortly after the very dawn of the Golden Age were the product of a black op called "Control", founded to control extranormals, that got completely out of control to the extent the only surviving founder hasn't got a clue who, or even whether anyone is controlling it anymore. Of course, the Government tries to pass off his discovery as the ramblings of a madman before rubbing him out...
- Three Days of the Condor
- The Parallax View
- Capricorn One
- Oliver Stone's JFK is heavy with this, using true facts and made-up details to point to a big government conspiracy.
- The Men in Black may or may not actually be part of the government, but they act much like the usual Government Conspiracy does as they carry out their mission of maintaining the Masquerade. (And, contrary to the usual ways the trope is normally used, they're the good guys.)
- The 1998 X-Files film served to advance several of the TV series' plot arcs, notably the uncovering of massive government cover-ups.
- The Mel Gibson film Conspiracy Theory makes hot, sweaty monkey love to this trope.
- This is the entire point of Nineteen Eighty-Four - a Government Conspiracy covering up the truth so thoroughly and so successfully that whatever it says effectively becomes the truth. Note that Orwell saw plenty of these in Real Life.
- David Wingrove's Chung Kuo has the Ministry, the only ministry without a name, that is tasked with hiding the truth about the past by all means possible.
- Isaac Asimov wrote a short story called The Dead Past, where it turns out the government has a stranglehold on science in a massive conspiracy to prevent science from rediscovering an apparatus capable of looking into the past. It turns out to be a glorious deconstruction, because it turns out that this is for humanity's own good, as 'the past' starts at about a second ago, and the device can see anywhere in the world, thus making privacy obsolete. The protagonists fail to realize this until after they've managed to publicize the technology far and wide.
Araman: "Nobody knew anything, but you all just took it for granted that the government was stupidly bureaucratic, vicious, tyrannical, given to suppressing research for the hell of it. It never occurred to any of you that we were trying to protect mankind as best we could."
- The Mad Scientist Wars seems to set one of these up by introducing the mysterious M, The Men in Black-staffed Government Agency. Subverted in that it turns out that they have no ulterior motives- instead what they do is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, keeping Mad Scientists from destroying the planet, and helping them.
- In The Laundry Series by Charles Stross, "The Laundry" is the name of a branch of the UK civil service responsible for dealing with incursions of Cosmic Horror. Amongst other things, they make people who (accidentally or otherwise) attempt to summon an Eldritch Abomination or other Things Man Was Not Meant to Know disappear, either in the traditional way or by giving them a regular civil service job to keep them out of trouble. Definitely a case of a benign conspiracy, as nobody wants to end up timesharing their cortex with a demonic intelligence because some computer nerd accidentally wrote a summoning algorithm...
- In the first three of the Uglies series, the government lets extensive surgery happen on everyone to make them beautiful the moment they turn 16. It turns out during the operation your brain is messed with to make you vapid, stupid, and forgetful, but good at heart. This is a subversion as although everyone is stupid it has stopped wars, poverty, prejudice, and the environment is doing fine.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort takes over the Ministry. Most people are suspicious about subsequent policy changes, but are afraid to speak up.
- Are the frequent villains in novels by James Byron Huggins.
- In his novel American Gods, Neil Gaiman includes the typical sinister government agents, complete with a "black train" that serves as a mobile prison. The real US government is not to blame, however. The conspiracy theorists themselves created the Spookshow through their fervent belief in its existence. Even though the agents don't show authorization, they successfully bully the local authorities into cooperating.
- MJ-12 (Majestic Twelve) in Little Green Men is responsible for simulating alien activity to keep American citizens alarmed enough to vote for lavish funding for military aerospace programs.
- In the Star Trek Novel Verse, the Zife Administration's actions on Tezwa, and their attempts to cover it up afterwards. In Star Trek: A Time to Kill, President Zife violated the Khitomer Accords with the Klingon Empire by illegally arming Tezwa, a neutral border world, as part of a contingency plan during the war against the Dominion. Later, the Tezwans use these weapons to attack the Klingons. Zife and his Chief of Staff, Koll Azernal, then order the planet occupied by Starfleet troops, ostensibly to help it rebuild from the Klingon counterstrike, but really to dismantle any evidence of Federation involvement. They also seek to frame another government for arming the Tezwans. Fake evidence is smuggled through the Defense Secretary via criminal organization the Orion Syndicate.
- In the Robert Harris novel Fatherland, the victorious-in-WWII Nazis conduct a murderous conspiracy to keep the Holocaust a secret.
Live Action TV
- 24 - seasons 5 and 7
- Dark Angel
- Dark Skies
- The Lone Gunmen
- The series' pilot made a very good point regarding so-called "government conspiracies": while Conspiracy Theorists like the title group love to blame all conspiracies on the entire government, it is usually just a small ruthless splinter faction that advances each of them. In other words, "government conspiracy" shouldn't be read "a conspiracy by the government" but "a conspiracy within The Government".
- The Prisoner
- Stargate, the protagonists are part of the conspiracy: aliens built the pyramids, their tech is stashed in military bases such as Area 51, and the United States Air Force is fighting a secret war with them in space.
- It is a conspiracy incorporating most of the major world governments, and probably every single space program. And what holds it all together? Nondisclosure agreements.
- The show includes two straighter examples, in the NID and later "The Trust", that are even more secret than above-mentioned programs. The first goes to far and gets taken down by the heroes, while the second one gets infiltrated by Goa'uld.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and later Star Trek: Enterprise, both feature an organization called Section 31, that's ambiguously part of the government. They're a group of Star Fleet officers who either work for the organization secretly, or just look the other way for them. They basically believe that "The end justifies the means", almost literally Utopia Justifies the Means, when it comes to defending The Federation (or just Earth, in the Star Trek: Enterprise era). The crew of Deep Space 9 end up exposing them, after they fail to recruit Doctor Bashir into their organization, and try to commit Genocide on their enemies.
- Section 31 were actually vital to achieving a happy ending for the Dominion War. Because it's explicitly stated (in "Statistical Probabilities", and by a Changeling admitting to their Salt the Earth strategy) that the Alpha Quadrant would have become a Crapsack World, had Odo not been able to use the cure to broker peace. This, means that Section 31 did a Nice Job Fixing it Villain, and can be seen as Designated Villains Strawmen with a point.
- Threshold, another one where the protagonists are part of the conspiracy. Actually, that's not quite accurate - the protagonists are the conspiracy.
- Torchwood, notable because the characters work for the conspiracy, and it's not run by the government per se but was established by the queen.
- Twin Peaks
- Ultraviolet, ditto.
- Also the Gerry Anderson live action series UFO, a 70's version of...
- The X-Files, in which the main storyline away from it's usual format dealt with a government conspiracy to cover-up the existence of extra-terrestrials.
- Heroes as of Volume 4, taking over when the previous (civilian) conspiracy was brought down.
- Prison Break
- Babylon 5
- Viciously parodied in this That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch, where the only reason they come up with for concealing the existence of aliens is that it's "what governments do".
- There's also one about Princess Diana (their only concern about using the watertight method of getting the chaffeur drunk, chasing him with fifteen hired paparazzi on motorcycles, and hoping that Diana doesn't wear her seatbelt is that it will be obvious that it was planned) and one about the moon landing (especially diabolical, as it turns out that the only way to convincingly fake a moon landing involves building a spacecraft and landing it on the moon).
- Smallville's ninth season featured Checkmate, a federal agency that sought to control all metahumans. Season 10 adds the psychopaths behind the Vigilante Registration Act, as well as the Suicide Squad, a group of former Checkmate agents out to oppose the government and anybody else who gets in their way.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer had the Initiative in season four.
- In Nikita, there's Oversight, the group that Percy nominally reports to, but whom he's more or less separated from in order to run Division his way. When we first learn of their existence, they seem to just be a group of corrupt officials in the CIA, but then Percy meets with several of them in a restaurant and refers to them as "Admiral", "Senator", and "Joint Chief" By the end of the first season, they've developed into a full blown Omniscient Council of Vagueness.
- The Shadow Line has Counterpoint, a conspiracy run by high-up police officers and MI5 to use drug money to top up the police pension pot.
- The Philosophers in the US, China, and Russia. Succeeded by the PATRIOTS in the US. And they used memes to do it, the bastards.
- Floor 13, a game where you get to control a secret police force in the UK, trying to keep the government in power, and trying to prevent being revealed by pesky journalists.
- Played for laughs in Team Fortress 2 where the two teams one can play on, RED and BLU, are also multinational corporations secretly controlling every single government in the world, combatting each other for world domination. Both are subdivisions of the same mother company.
- The Malta Group in City of Heroes was formed by a bunch of politicians and businessmen annoyed that the Super Registration Act had been ruled unconstitutional. They formed an spread of cells of elite soldiers trained and equipped to take down and control superpowered individuals good or bad, by any means necessary. They're also paranoid enough to try to start a World War 3 with China.
- The Consortium in the Syphon Filter series.
- They're everywhere in Deus Ex.
- Alpha Protocol for sure in the eponymous game. It's hinted that there are probably others out there; in particular, one of the other factions, G22, is identified as possibly being a US government group. Alpha Protocol itself has had many names and identities through the years. One of which was G22.
- Inverted in Soviet Strike. The game seems to suggest that STRIKE, the organization you work for, is a multinational conspiracy going back decades. The coup was all their doing, and your subsequent rescue of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, was all an elaborate Batman Gambit designed to scare him into playing ball. One of the Audio Logs has the head of STRIKE telling President Clinton to his face that, when it comes to military matters, STRIKE calls all the shots.
- Final Fantasy XIII Galenth Dysley, leader of the Sanctum, is actually the fal'Cie Barthandelus and is trying to get our heroes to destroy Cocoon to bring back the Maker.
- The original Max Payne covered the aftermath of Project Valhalla, a US government-sponsored drug research that was Tested on Humans during the Gulf War. There is also the Inner Circle, a group of filthily rich old men who more or less control the US government (and are hinted to have been behind the Kennedy assassination).
- L.A. Noire The Suburban Redevelopment Fund is burning people's house for their insurance money.
- WORSE. The SRF is goading the stubborn families away from their uninsured homes with rigged vacation lotteries, sending an insane pyromaniac to burn the homes AND kill any family that hasn't left the house, and the insurance fraud profits of these homes are worth THE DIRT THEY'RE BUILT ON, and according to Cole, the actual worth of the houses is "Firewood. All of them.". The real money is in getting the whole set of lands, so that the SRF can build an entire freeway and commercial center and profit. Depending on your interpretation, while Kelso retalliates violently against the leaders of the SRF for killing families and recently retired war veterans, his silence of the evidence for the latter scheme implies that he supports the now-semi-purified growth of economic progress in L.A., even if it alienates any sense of friendship he had with Cole.
- Hatoful Boyfriend The Hawk Party created the H5N1 flu and established St. PigeoNation's institute to do further research.
- MAG-ISA -- we have a bunch of guys sitting around the table who seem to have control of the police forces of the nation... and other things that can be used for more evil against the people...
- Hinted at in this Sluggy Freelance strip. Several people, two of them government agents, are murdered, and when another agent asks a lot of questions about it, the Internal Affairs guys are very emphatic about her keeping quiet.
Agent: You seem more concerned about me than about what happened here.
- The government conspiracy in Fans!, whilst undoubtedly secretive and ruthless, is eventually revealed as being non-malevolent in nature (if not without it's corrupt side), in fact sharing the same goals (if with more pragmatic and darker methods) as the heroes.
- A major plot point in DMFA. A council has been planning to use Jyryas....somehow. Same for Dan, but that's with his mom and every other major Cubi apparently.
- In Schlock Mercenary, the United Nations of Sol, the government of most of the human race, is not the most scrupulous of governments. Some of the top military, espionage, and civilian leaders have been perpetrating a conspiracy with the end goal of making themselves immortal, but did a lot of other bad stuff along the way. The Toughs run headfirst into the conspiracy several times, and only survive by having very powerful friends plus some Fake Memories.
- In Shifters the majority of humanity doesn't know that Shifters, Vampires, or any of the other Veil Races exist due to the Conspiracy called The Veil, which the Government is an integral part of.
- A Girl and Her Fed has one, involving a secret branch of government agents with brain implants.
- Severely subverted in the South Park episode "Mystery of the Urinal Deuce", where the government conspiracy was to make people believe that the government is responsible for carrying out the covert operations that the conspiracy believers accuse them of doing, when in reality they have no involvement in any of those acts.
- Project Cadmus in Justice League Unlimited aimed to destroy the Justice League if they ever went rogue like the Justice Lords.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has the Dai Li, who more or less run Ba Sing Se and have kept the entire 100-year war a secret from the citizens (including the Earth King), brainwashed anyone who speaks of the war (including Jet) and were eventually taken over by Azula when the Gaang had Long Feng, the leader, arrested.
- Aside from the Earth King, who essentially spent his life under house arrest, they obviously couldn't keep the war a total secret from the lower classes, and the armies on the Wall surely could recruit. But they made it clear that there was no war in Ba Sing Se. Order must be kept.
- Real Life examples are, of course, objects of much debate, but the handful of confirmed conspiracies traceable to the United States government is large enough to be depressing. Notable examples include:
- COINTELPRO, an FBI task force created in the mid-50s to sabotage and harass "subversive" organizations, including Civil Rights groups, workers' unions, anti-war protests, the Black Panthers, and the KKK. Discontinued in the early 70s, but you'll find plenty of people who say otherwise.
- The Iran-Contra Affair, an elaborate three-way deal between the CIA, Iran, and a band of Nicaraguan rebels. To be brief, the CIA sold weapons to Iran in exchange for cash and hostages, then funneled much of the proceeds into the pockets of the Contras—all well and good, if it weren't illegal.
- Actually, it was a case of Loophole Abuse. The law forbade US government funds being appropriated in Congress to aid the Contras. The CIA's response: 'Technically speaking, if Iran wants to send money to the Contras that's not US government funds appropriated by Congress -- even if they are doing it because we're indirectly compensating the Iranians with arms shipments, and even if we're helping them move the money to the Contras.'
- On the other hand, 'accidentally' dropping your records into the paper shredder rather than handing them over to the Congressional oversight committees when requested to is kinda illegal. Truly it isn't the crime that gets you, but the cover-up.
- And of course the stories of the U.S. government (Specifically the CIA) involvement in the complicit smuggling, and selling of cocaine through third parties, which supplied the drug dealers on the street and which caused the crack epidemic that hit the inner cities hard. Supposedly it helped fund illegal operations elsewhere, like the above Contras.
- Probably one of the sickest conspiracies ever was the Tuskegee Experiment, wherein US Health Officials willingly and readily prevented African-American men from getting aid for syphilis, which even at the time the experiment was performed was treatable, just to see what effect the disease would have as time went on (nevermind the fact that humanity had known about syphilis and its effects for centuries, if not longer).
- Project MKULTRA is a rather well known one. The CIA attempted to use LSD, other drugs, and hypnosis to develop some form of mind control.
- They also used ridiculously damaging amounts of electroshock, sensory deprivation and other experimental treatments on its subjects to try to inform brainwashing. One of the more well-known theories is that the ultimate goal was in fact to set up dissociative identities in the subconscious of certain individuals that could be activated at any time, override the primary personality, and be completely obedient and subservient (usually for purposes of assassination). Yes, the CIA apparently wanted to create a Manchurian Agent. Whether this is true or not, there is strong evidence, as well as scattered victim testimony, that they used a large number of psychiatric patients as guinea pigs for experimentation - often without consent - for 2 primary reasons: 1) No one believes a crazy person, and 2) people with psychosis and complex neurosis are easier to break, with personality integrity already being fragile, and are subsequently much easier to reformat and shape. Unfortunately, determining whether a schizophrenic who believes they were brainwashed by the CIA is reporting reality or fiction sort of proves the point. For further conspiracy, there is widespread belief among conspiracy-theorists and ex-CIA agents alike that the idea that MKULTRA has in fact been stopped is misinformation, and the project continues in various modernised forms to this day.
- Interestingly, the only drug that proved remotely useful for the purpose was simple pot, and it wasn't the CIA that did it, but the FBI. They spiked an arrested gangster's cigarettes with THC (it was not unusual then to give a perp cigarettes, since pretty much everyone was a smoker), and he proceeded to spill the beans on some heist or other. Of course, even THC proved to be prohibitively unpredictable.
- Using alcohol for exactly that purpose (usually by covert agents of the government) is centuries-old. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn describes it as a fairly common procedure used by NKVD to get signed confessions (usually fake, as many political prisoners were in fact innocent). He notes that it was particularly effective in the case of prisoners unaware that malnutrition greatly decreases their resistance to toxins.
- The various attempts to assassinate or discredit Fidel Castro that the CIA carried out in the 1950s and 1960s. Everything from attempting to sabotage his diving equipment to poisoning / drugging his cigars (often with some form of psychotropic drug -- again with the psychotropic drugs...) to attempting to create some kind of chemical that would cause his hair to fall out, thus ridding him of his iconic beard. You couldn't make some of these things up.
- Similarly, Operation Northwoods, a series of proposals to drum up support for a war against Castro's Cuba through a False-Flag Operation against U.S. military and civilian targets, among which was included a "Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington". While the plan was rejected by President Kennedy and none of the proposals ever became operational, it has been used by conspiracy theorists ever since its declassification and release as evidence that there are elements within the U.S. government who have no qualms about deceiving their citizens.
- ... there are people who are actually surprised when politicians lie about things?
- During Prohibition, many speakeasies were supplied by stealing alcohol intended for industrial uses. The FBI responded by covertly poisoning the industrial alcohol en masse. What followed was called "The Chemists War", a battle between bathtub Chemists trying to remove the poisons and the FBI adding increasingly deadly concoctions to the industrial alcohol supply.
- The Great Purge orchestrated by Stalin was officially a "swift retribution for the assassination of Sergei Kirov, beloved comrade and close friend of Stalin, an act indicating a reactive conspiracy in the highest echelons of Soviet government". According to some theories (mostly claimed by Khrushchev without any evidence), it was Stalin who ordered the assassination thus getting a pretense to eliminate all real, potential and imagined enemies. Hell, USSR during Stalin's rule IS this trope. The last sentence is very questionable as everything made by Soviet totalitarian state was very carefully controlled and documented, there isn't much classified data on repressions.
- It must be remembered that Khrushchev's job under Stalin was as his chief enforcer and loyalty officer, so he'd be in a position to speak from knowledge.
- A comparatively innocent (but rather stupid) example was Louis XV of France's "King's Secret". In this France had two foreign policies, the official one known to his ministers and the "secret" one known only to the King's confidants. Essentially it was taking counterintelligence to an extreme level of paranoia. There was good reason for any King in those days to wary as there was an abundance of scoundrels who would stoop to anything including treason. But letting ministers serve who were not in on the scam from the beginning created an incoherent foreign policy that was self-destructive. Still this qualifies as a Government Conspiracy. Of sorts.
- as in, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the heads of the American military.