Has a coverup conspiracy ever been a *good* thing?

There’s a type of fiction which involves some organization (government, evil corporation, religious group) that is trying to keep some Good Thing (benelovent aliens, free energy, funny episode of Seinfeld) a secret or cover up some Bad Thing they have done and the story revolves around the hero trying to expose The Truth while the agents of the organization try to stop them. Off the top of my head, X-Files and The DaVinci Code are both prime examples of this.

Have there ever been stories where the coverup turns out to be a good thing; where they really were doing it “for our own good”? The only one I can think of is the Asimov story The Dead Past where the govenment is blocking use of and research into a time viewer, and only after the hero manages to release the information on how to create one does he find out that the viewer was being blocked because it can be used to spy on anyone, anywhere at any time and its release meant the end of any chance of privacy.

Can anyone think of any other examples? Something like, “You idiots, we told you it was a cookbook!”

Note from Moderator: I’m adding this upfront, that there will (obviously) be spoilers in this thread. As soon as you mention that there’s a “coverup conspiracy” that’s a “good thing” in some work, you’ve revealed a plot twist. So, read ahead only if you don’t mind having the potential of seeing spoilers. – CKDH

Just about every one in the TV series 24.

The final shot in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The heros in Stargate conspire to keep the world unaware that they have travelled to other worlds, met aliens and barely saved earth from destruction.

Men in Black.

In the comic The Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan decides that a fake alien invasion will fill unite Earth and end war. Most of the other superheroes decide to go all with it. Of course when Rorchach’s diary is published the whole thing will fall apart.

I’d second Men in Black as the prime example of what you’re looking for, in that although the majority of the aliens are benevolent, it’s ‘for our own good’ that the cover-up conspiracy exists.

Jay: Why the big secret? People are smart, they can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.

But is Rorchach’s diary published? It’s left ambiguous.

The heroes of the now-cancelled TV series Threshold were involved in the cover-up of alien contact.

Will anyone believe it if it is published? Everybody knows Rorschach is crazy …

In the Vorkosigan saga:

Cordelia Naismith discovers that Emperor Ezar plotted to kill his son (partly to keep him from the throne), and to effectively destroy the conservtive political faction on Barrayar. If this came out, civil war would have resulted.

The X Files did occasionally present an ambivalent view of the (usually sinister) Syndicate. I can’t find a quote at the moment, but I remember someone saying that it was better for humanity’s future to be in the hands of the pragmatic Smoking Man than a crazed idealist like Mulder.

A real life example is the editing or obscuring of old movies and TV shows that offend modern sensibilities. The existance of “Amos & Andy”, the FBI agents’ guns in ET, and the Big Bad Wolf’s Jewish salesman disguise in “The Three Little Pigs” can be considered “covered up”.

I recall Peter David’s critique of the ending of Watchmen, commenting that

the killing of Rorschach is clearly unnecessary – “who are people going to believe, the golden boy or the escaped psycho with body odor?”

I can think of at least two–both stories, not movies or TV show.

The story’s titled “The Dead Past,” and it’s by Asimov or Clark, I think. In it,

A scientist devises a method of viewing past events, though the nature of the technology prevents events from more than a few months earlier from being viewed. He discovers that the government has known of this technology for years and, outraged, disseminates the designs for the time-viewer to the entire world. Too late he realizes–or rather it’s pointed out to him by an FBI agent–that he’s just destroyed all privacy. No one can ever have a moment that anyone else won’t be able to spy on; every woman can be seen nude in her shower, every kindly lie will be exposed, every defense secret will be common knowledge. “Thank you for ushering in hell, Professor,” the agent says as he leaves.

You mean "Ozymandias decides a fake alien invasion…" etc.

And I don’t anyone would have believed Rorsharch’s paranoid fantasies, hero-lover. :wink:

Actually, it’s Ozymandias that sets the events in motion. I doubt that anyone would believe Rorschach’s diary, given his reputation and that of the publication he mailed it to.

Another example would be the federal raid on Innsmouth in the epilogue of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. Bust up the town, haul everyone away to sepearate isolated locations, put out a cover story. Can’t let the general public know about Chthlhu and the Deep Ones.

In Dave Barry’s Big Trouble, the presence in Miami of a stolen Soviet-era nuclear device is successfully covered up by the feds and a few local law enforcement personnel. The end result, given the people who populate Dave Barry’s Miami, is probably a net benefit.

And damn you, Fabulous Creature! I wanted to be the one to mention The Dead Past!


Larry Niven’s Known Space stories and novels have the ARM, (Amalgamated Regional Militias?) a powerful department of the UN. One of their purposes is to cover up new technologies that will have too large a disruptive influence on society - like a perfect untraceable murder weapon, or mind control technology. The stories go back and forth between whether this is a good thing or bad thing.

And Fabulous Creature and kaylasdad99? I think the OP beat you both to it.

Spider Robinson’s Callahan series is a benevolent cover up. IIRC they

were sent back in time to prevent human kind from being killed off, but if they were found out by the population at large then the end of human life was guarenteed.

Got to go read those books again.


I always thought it was ultimately clear that this was a bad thing. No matter how terrible the inventions they wish to restrain (one is mentioned that would have forced them to “legalize murder”), in Man-Kzin Wars 4 or 5,

ARM is revealed as being the face of the all-powerful Freemasons (yeah, really), who have been supressing all technological advances for the past 300 years to keep mankind controllable. The upbeat ending of the story- the discovery of hyperdrive means they are doomed to fail, as humankind will spread too far and fast through the universe for the rate of tech-change to be controlled.

Similarly, in “The Colonel’s Tiger” (Man-Kzin 6 or 7)

ARM is presented as having gone so P.C.-crazy that they now claim that war ended in the 6th or 7th century, and that all the conflicts since then have actually been carefully planned intra-national sports events to release tensions. The result is that mankind is totally unprepared for the vicious, alien Kzin, and, again, a “the truth will out” upbeat theme is at the end of the story.

As for Rorshach, I always kinda figured that the truth would come out somehow ANYWAY. After all, Ozymandias’ plan is so bizarre and elaborate that it seems like any good investigative reporter could have worked out the rubbishy elements by themselves.