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We've all seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But what if these stories weren't false, but rather, made to distract people from the real aliens, government conspiracy and vampires?
This trope describes the use of stories to serve as a psychological smoke screen. If someone came up and said that small grey aliens with big eyes just abducted him, you'd probably dismiss him as watching too much TV. It's used in media to show how big the conspiracy is. The people in charge know that they can't keep a lid on it all the time, so they start to release fictional accounts of their exploits, so if they ever do get seen, people will not believe the witnesses.
- In A Time to Kill, the Doctor tells Donna that this is a fairly common practice. James Bond (who they've just met) and "the SGC" both use it, and even he had a TV show once. Unfortunately, it got cancelled in the late '80s...
- Men in Black reveals that tabloids serve a double purpose: They do this while acting as a legitimate source of news for those in the know. An episode in the animated series also had several aliens that worked in the movie industry and saved cash for the make-up department by simply taking their human costumes off.
- Return of the Living Dead starts with the premise that Night of the Living Dead was a fictionalized account of actual events, with certain elements changed for security reasons.
- The Alternate Reality Game based on the Transformers films indicate the franchise is truly one of these, with Transformers Generation 1 being a ruse to hide first contact between our races and the films being a response to increased Decepticon activity. Agent H. Weaving was assigned to the films to maintain utmost control.
- The Faculty provides the page quote, in which two Genre Savvy characters speculate on the possibility of Alien Invasion movies serving this purpose.
- In Paul, the titular alien explains that the government commissioned movies about aliens not to make people skeptical about their existence, but in order to prepare society for First Contact. Paul himself was responsible for, among other works, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The X-Files.
- Isaac Asimov's short story Paté de foie gras describes a group of scientist who have found a goose who laid golden eggs; after testing every theory they could think of to figure out why, they decided to write about the exploit in hopes of getting advice from outside sources. Due to the need for secrecy, they of course published it as a fictional short story, safe in the knowledge that no one would believe it...
- In Alan Dean Foster's Quozl, the rabbit-like aliens stranded on Earth produce a kiddie cartoon show about rabbit-like aliens stranded on Earth. An inversion, as they do this so its viewers will be receptive to their friendly overtures when the real Quozl come out of hiding.
- Inverted by the White Court in The Dresden Files, which arranged for the publication of Dracula in order to expose the rival Black Court's secrets and vulnerabilities.
- The "Wormhole X-Treme!" show on Stargate SG-1. The U.S. Air Force decided that it could prevent any future leaks of information about the Stargate program from being taken seriously. Subverting the popularity part, the show was apparently cancelled after something like two episodes. But got a movie. Based on its DVD sales.
- Apparently, this was a Defictionalization of a fan theory claiming that the Stargate Verse itself is an example of this trope, with the shows being used to cover up a real-life Stargate program. There was actually a real (and now-declassified) "Stargate" program, only it involved research into remote viewing, and was ended in 1995 due to a failure to produce results. Or so they say...
- The "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" episode of The X-Files
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Dracula got Stoker to write his book to pump up his street cred. Other vampires thought it was a really dick move, because it let the normal humans in on a lot of their secrets.
- In the GURPS setting Illuminati, the Conspiracy encourages the Weekly World News and similar publications to write up stories about conspiracy so that the Serious Press won't believe them.
- Many Mega Ten fans take Persona 4's mention of a Raidou Kuzunoha movie as this. It would make it the only indication of any games in the series (beyond the direct sequels and Persona sub-series) to take place in the same (exact) universe.
- Something similar is hinted at in Deus Ex. The conspiracy makes artifical life-forms called Grays that resemble the popular idea of aliens (round heads, gray skin) and is implied to let rumours about them circulate as a smokescreen for what they are really up to in the Area 51 facility.
- This is actually the purpose of the Midnight Sun tabloid. Joe Greene, agent of Majestic 12, writes sensational articles about the gray death virus that aren't quite the truth, but just close enough to discredit anyone trying to tell the public the real story.
- As well as most of the Expy science fiction shows the main characters are fans of, in Fans! even shows like Sesame Street are apparently constructs funded by the F.I.B to serve this purpose. The Count? Really a vampire.
- The other Muppets are up to something sinister, too. H. Ross Perot was one of them.
- Inverted in the Paradise setting. In the years leading up to the dawning of The Unmasqued World, when the fact that some people were being transformed into Funny Animals stopped being Invisible to Normals, a greater-than-normal number of shows and stories featuring anthropomorphic animals were featured in popular entertainment-—apparently to get the general public acclimated to seeing them around.
- Slightly different take on the subject in the Whateley Universe. Famous horror writer Michael Waite's best known book, "Incongruity", was a huge success. Michael Waite died. Sort of. He became 'Carmilla' who is prophesied to evolve into The Kellith and sweep humanity off the planet and replace humanity with its spawn. It turns out that "Incongruity" is really The First Book of The Kellith.
- In Kim Possible is turns out that Area51 really is filled with aliens and captured spacecraft that the government is experimenting on, and the government deliberately leaked all the rumors and conspiracy theories to the public because they knew nobody would really believe it if "the truth" ever got out. Kim and Ron are understandably perturbed that that they are being asked to help keep a secret that everybody already knows.
- Some conspiracy theorists believe that films (especially ET the Extraterrestrial) and other media featuring aliens are secretly meant to acclimate the public with extraterrestrials to ensure they will be welcomed enthusiastically when the government reveals their existence.