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There is a revolution against the King/Emperor/President claiming to be for the people. But wait, who's this? It's the disgruntled nobleman/EvilChancellor, and he's giving the leaders of the revolution money and weapons and rhetoric. Do you still think it's for the people?

Many of the more cynical writers see all revolutions this way; it doesn't really help that most countries that have had their governments overthrown ended up with more tyrannical regimes than their predecessors. Still, to avoid flaming, No Real Life Examples, Please.

See Astroturf and Agent Provocateur for common tactics in such revolts. Often results in The Revolution Will Not Be Villified.

Examples of Staged Populist Uprising include:


  • In Code Geass, when the Black Knights discover that Zero is Lelouch vi Brittannia, exiled prince of The Empire that they are fighting, they come to the conclusion that he was just using them. They're actually wrong, but since he has a death wish at that point, he does not refute them.
  • In the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Big Bad's plan is an artificially created version of the eponymous spontaneous event from the first season, created by brainwashing a few people. His aim is to make refugees rebel, making it appear that they had a nuke and thus being able to blow them all up with one. The first season had a subversion; while there was never a "Laughing Man" (Aoi, the "original" says he just came across an email some guy sent), he came about because of Memetic Mutation and Gossip Evolution. Not some huge conspiracy (although a few did crop up to take advantage of it).


  • Nineteen Eighty-Four claims that all revolutions are just the middle class using the lower class as tools to supplant the former upper class.
    • It turns out that The Party is actually behind the counter-revolutionary group "the Brotherhood", having staged the uprising itself in order to weed out dissidents.
  • The Conan story "The Phoenix on the Sword" features just such an uprising. Of the "Rebel Four," only the poet Rinaldo has no ulterior motives for supporting the assassination plot against Conan, with his reason for hating Conan, according to Ascalante, being that "poets always hate those in power." All of them are being manipulated by Ascalante, a schemer who wants the throne of Aquilonia for himself.
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium novel Go Tell the Spartans. Senator Bronson of Earth wants to overthrow the leadership of the planet Sparta and take over. To accomplish this, he sends in supplies and advisers to organize Sparta's convict underclass into a rebel army.
    • It backfires spectacularly: Not only does the "Helot" rebellion fail, but it also prompts Sparta to become The Empire.
  • In Night Watch, the rebellion against Lord Winder is actually being subtly masterminded by Madam Meserole, and revolutionaries like Reg Shoe don't really have anything to do with it

Live Action TV

  • In one episode of Andromeda, Beka's ex-boyfriend incited an indigenous species to rebel against the human mining colony on their planet, the intent being that they would make him their king. Captain Hunt managed to convince one of his native henchmen of his true intentions.
  • In the Historical Drama/Korean Drama Emperor Wang Guhn, based on the Later Three Kingdoms period of Korean history, during the breakup of Silla (the former kingdom which later becomes Korea) Yang Gil sets up an uprising to overthrow the king and place himself in as king. But Gung-Ye, one of his generals, is very popular amongst the masses and they declare him emperor instead. (It also helps that Gung is the bastard son of a former emperor.)

Tabletop Games

  • Classic Traveller:
    • In the supplement 76 Patrons, two of the missions involve a rebel uprising in the country of Anisinta on the planet Porozlo. The PCs are hired by a group of business executives to either create a rebel force to overthrow the government or take over an existing rebel group for the same purpose. The executives intend to profit by making the government more friendly to business.
    • In the Third Imperium's Spinward Marches, the Ine Givar rebels are under the control of and supplied by the Imperium's enemy, the Zhodani Consulate.
      • Adventure 7 Broadsword. On the planet Garda-Vilis the Tanoose Freedom League was originally a home-grown rebellion against off-world control by the planet Vilis, but eventually came under the control of the Ine Givar rebels and switched to an anti-Imperial stance.
  • In Warhammer 40000, Genestealer cults often do that, usually by Running Both Sides, to "soften up" a word for the upcoming Tyranid invasion.
  • Forgotten Realms had "Ten Black Days" coup in Tethyr. The king was already quite unpopular thanks to fancy policies such as seizing land from the current owners and giving it to whichever wannabe favorite expressed loyality in generous donations to the Crown, or opressing non-humans. His heir Alemander tired of waiting and conspired with general Nashram Sharbroneth - the prince downplayed reports about unrest and within two months before the coup executed for some or other "treason" the few courtiers still seriously loyal to the King, while the general was spreading rumours about a looming invasion, so that most troops moved to reinforce the border. Then the general "moved by" the capital recruiting angry peasants to his cause on the way. Of course, then he used them as expendable shock troops in attack on the palace. But the prince and general ended up backstabbing each other and control was lost, so the mob burned down the palace and ran over the city killing everyone they thought is a noble for ten days. So this little trick led to oh, about of 20 years of bloody interregnum, by the end of which locals were eager to rebuild the monarchy.

Video Games

  • During a mission in Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, a peasant revolt erupts in the township of Tyr's Hand while the Alliance is still fighting the Horde. It's later revealed that it was started by spies from Alterac, whose king had been working with the Horde the whole time.
  • A Republic storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic centers on an uprising on a prison planet. The rebels are the descendants of convicts and are quite angry that they are treated like prisoners even though they themselves have committed no crimes. However, you discover that the insurgents are manipulated by Imperial agents who want to use the uprising to destabilize the planet.
  • Inverted in Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World. The Vanguard is formed after the unification of the two worlds, as a way for the Sylvaranti to oppose and resist their status as second-class citizens to the Tethe-Allans, and their systematic oppression by the Church of Martel and the protagonist of the previous game, Lloyd Irving. Later, it is revealed that the travesties carried out by the "church" are actually being staged by the Vanguard as a way to generate grassroots support
  • Roleplayed fairly often in Imperium Nova
    • For example: On the Capricorn server following the recent formation of Satraps, the minor house Narcissus published a paper claiming that the new reforms would allow the Imperial Houses to treat planets as feudal fiefs (no duh), disband private shipping and security companies (already run by the Houses), and allow the 1% to run rampshod over the 99%. Ironically, that reform was intended to break up the stranglehold the major Houses had on the galaxy by giving each house one guaranteed seat on the senate.


  • The Knights of Jove conspirators in Girl Genius claim they are trying to reinstate the rightful Storm King for the sake of Europa. Really they're just a bunch of scheming nobles who resent Baron Wulfenbach. And one of the reason this idea was popular was preparatory propaganda - or, as one of contenders to the title put it,

Martellus: The Order spent years creating a Storm King shaped hole in the world.

New Media

 109. I will see to it that plucky young lads/lasses in strange clothes and with the accent of an outlander shall regularly climb some monument in the main square of my capital and denounce me, claim to know the secret of my power, rally the masses to rebellion, etc. That way, the citizens will be jaded in case the real thing ever comes along.

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