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In my world there exists supernatural human-like beings that can use a sort of magic to fight. How it works and what the exact limits of this magic are isn't important for the battle, so I won't write it. What is most important is the scale of destruction. The powerful beings are able to destroy houses without much effort. Battle between two very powerful beings can annihilate a whole district of a city, but beings at this power level are very rare. Most fights end with major damage to one, maybe two buildings.

Given this, is it possible to deceive human civilians about what caused destruction on that scale? If yes, how?

Some important things:

  • The goverment knows about these beings and they are trying to hide all effects of battles.
  • Supernatural beings are trying to hide effects of battles. They try to avoid using urban regions as arenas, but it's not always possible.
  • There is a sort of magic that alters memory, but it can't be used on a mass-scale.
  • There are no magic barriers around fighting supernaturals.

Edit with answers to questions:

  • Magic vary a lot. Supernaturals can create fireballs, shoot lighting, for short time control human mind, alter their memories (but for single persons, can't be used on mass-scale, no influencing people before hand.), slow time. It can also heal people, but only some supernaturals can use healing. No rebuilding with magic.
  • Goverment have some special units which monitor cities and try to get info of battle as fast as possible. Most of the time they know about it when fight is about to end or short after. Battles are short (it's about 10 minutes). If battle is really intense, they know it after ~5 minutes. Goverment is standard, current democracy, but special unit for supernatural cases can influence media indirect and without much effort.
  • Supernaturals aren't organized so they covering up ends with trying to get to calm and nice place, away from human, before unleashing magic.

Sorry for poorly asked question. It's way more complicated than answering, heh.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your points are making it harder to give an answer :) And I don't get the first point, "they are trying all effects of battles" ? $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Aug 9 '16 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ The details of magic are important. If the magic is extremely flashy, then it will be almost impossible to hide it. If it somewhat plain, then it could be easier. $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Aug 9 '16 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ At what point does the government become aware of a battle? Time from incident to coverup is important. What are the capabilities of the government and other supernaturals to detect things that need to be covered up? $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Aug 9 '16 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ Is the magic only destructive? If it can overwrite memories, can it also influence people before hand? Could they use it to heal people or restore damaged buildings? $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Aug 10 '16 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ Added answers to questions. $\endgroup$ – Elas Aug 10 '16 at 9:05
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Fire Drills

Fire - from a household fire to a raging wildfire - is a real public safety hazard, and the government is here to make sure you know it. Similarly, there is a rare form of natural force-storms that, like the Peshtigo Fire (link above), can happen suddenly and leave few to no survivors. One reason, the government assures us, that there are few survivors is that those caught in a force-storm must seek immediate medical attention from a certified government medical agent. Everyone is trained, from gradeschool, how to survive earthquakes, fires and force-storms. Drills are run.

For force-storms, there is a set of practices: hide under your desk, close your eyes and protect your ears from sudden damage with your hands. Pressure changes are a major cause of injury from force-storms. If you hear a force-storm warning siren, immediately take cover. When the all-clear is given proceed to the nearest medical facility and the government medical agents.

Of course, these agents are trained to funnel people through the mind-altering processes, to erase only enough information as necessary to convince the victim that the storm was, in fact, a spontaneous natural event with no human perpetrators. Cordons are thrown up, much like for a biological outbreak, and everyone is processed - if slowly - and eventually released. News will naturally not cover the perpetrators, only the damage. No one asks who started a hurricane, or even a forest fire. Everyone knows they're highly damaging, a fact of life, and sometimes kill people. But it's 'natural causes'. FEMA is here to help you understand and recover from that. (For comparison: you probably weren't in the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and probably trust it wasn't caused by supernaturals - but do you know?)

Those few people who slip through the system are generally considered crackpots because there are plenty of other witnesses who are there who didn't see two supernatural beings combatting. Occam's Razor works in the government's favor here: the conspiracy is too complicated for the average person to really believe it. They'd have to believe in supernatural beings and mind-alteration, the latter of which is a particularly hard sell.

The system that arises is that there are few people who actually ever witness a force-storm who clearly remember it, and so it's a thing everyone believes exists (like a forest fire) but for whom few have any direct contact with. Still, they know to do things that, coincidentally, impede their ability to reliably report what happened, and to show up for government care after the fact, easing any cover-up.

Note, too, that it's not good to always pawn off a battle on some convenient nearby disaster: no one believes in a hurricane in Chicago, or an earthquake in New York City. Better to just add a natural disaster 'type' and make sure people know it's a 'real thing', just not a real thing for them.

(note: you should rename 'force-storm' to something benign and believable in your context.)

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Natural Disasters

  • Weather: Hurricanes, tornadoes, derechos, micro-bursts
  • Geologic: Fault-slips and other earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions
  • Astronomic: Meteor air-bursts, meteor impacts, solar flares, "comet sickness" (not a real thing, but spread the rumor just the same)

Take your pick. I disguise my punch at you as an earthquake, you parry with a thunderstorm, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Some of this idea can be used by governments, as well. In the event that two supernatural beings have a battle in downtown Metropolis - er, unnamed city - causing massive damage, they can issue a press release about an unexpected meteor shower while they try to clean up what they can. Anyone claiming supernatural entities can be labeled a crackpot by the mainstream media... $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Aug 9 '16 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ My thoughts exactly: make it look natural. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 9 '16 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ In the case of smaller-scale destruction, you could claim events which are smaller and more explainable than a natural disaster. Hole in a house? Some car lost control and drove through it. Explosion? Maybe a gas leak. Fire? It was arson. Flooded street? Perhaps the storm drains got clogged. And of course, for anything else: "The cause is under investigation." $\endgroup$ – Brenn_ Aug 9 '16 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ I thought of some of this, but "meteor hitted the Earth, third time in a month!" seemed suspicious for me. But combining all of this could cover things quite nicely. $\endgroup$ – Elas Aug 10 '16 at 9:07
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Not exactly an answer...more of a rebuttal to other answers.

I see an issue with blaming "natural disasters." As can be seen in our own world (that I believe has no supernatural beings...or does it?!?!?!), there are many highly religious individuals who don't always view natural phenomena as "natural" phenomena. We've had hurricanes and tornadoes blamed on homosexual and many similar cases (you can find this all over the internet if you search).

I find it hard to believe that an uptick in natural disasters would go unnoticed. Someone would eventually notice and try to come up with an explanation to it (however absurd it might be). The problem you face would be less from the religious fanatics that would catch on immediately that something was afoot (as they will propose reasons that the masses will roll their eyes to) but the few smart ones who catch on to the sliver of truth that the fanatics put forth - the "unnatural" increase in "natural" phenomena. These individuals will find each other online and share their thoughts, and, with a little luck and time, eventually they will stumble their way into the truth.

So, your story will be less about hiding the existence of the supernatural beings from the masses through cleanups and mass misinformation and more about silencing and rooting out a hidden organization of conspiracy theorists who actually got it right and are doing everything within their power to gather enough evidence to expose that which the Government wishes to keep hidden.

I believe that the "religious fanatic" theme should be used as a background to set the mood of your story...I will say that it most certainly would be present if this kind of thing were happening today (seeing as it already does occur).

Another thing to keep in mind is that the conspiracy theorists will be smart. Those who organize themselves will know that if one of them is caught, they will be the key to the Government finding them all. For this reason, they won't just accept anyone into their ranks. They will likely act similarly to an intelligence organization. They will have the few at the top that run the operation and gather all the data they can and each will likely be responsible for data gathering within different regions with several others that act as intel-agents beneath them and more (informants) below them. None below the top tier will truly understand the true size and reach of the organization. This would ensure that if anyone was caught (and some would be), that they wouldn't have enough knowledge of the greater organization for their capture to be a threat.

I know I'm a bit off topic...but this is what came to mind when I was reading through your question and the previously posted answers...hope it helps!!!

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The nature of the magic itself is quite important to this. In the game Mage: the Ascension, there was a system called paradox backlash. If someone who didn't believe in magic saw magic it could result in quite nasty effects on the magic-user. Basically, the collective reality asserting itself. Because of this, magic users police themselves, at least a bit, because getting noticed can lead to tentacles, death or worse.

One type of magic-user, the Technocrats, were quite adamant about hiding magical effects from the public. To do so, they cloaked magical effects with coincidence and did their best to put down any flashy magic users. As in this case, I think the best way to hide magic is that you are going to have to have an organization dedicated to the cover-up and policing of supernatural threats/battles.

They used:

  • The Media to spread whatever story needed. A gas leak, badly constructed buildings not following code, natural disasters--all the usuals.
  • The Government to contain threats and clear areas.
  • Magic to erase and alter memory.
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If the government's help sure? The deaths and destruction could easily be explained as some sort of accident, or depending on the magic used some sort of natural disaster to test a hurricane or earthquake. Or maybe even a terrorist attack. Any Witnesses to the contrary would be explained away as hallucinations under stress. Natural disasters terrorist attacks and accidents all sound much more realistic then Magic or magical creatures, since no one wants to appear crazy or stupid they'll accept the " logical" explanation unless the evidence appears completely overwhelming that magic is actually at work here, of course it would be the job of the government organizations to destroy such evidence before it ever became public.

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It's all terrorism, of course. Well, perhaps, not all. As other answers have suggested pretending it was natural disasters would help too. At least, it would break the monotony of claiming supernatural battles was the work of terrorists.

Presumably there is a power-sharing between the governments and the supernaturals. Basically neither governments or supernaturals are entirely stupid, so it would be in their best interests to come to an agreement. We cover your supernatural slugfests, and when we need really, really your help you supernaturals will come to the aid of the party.

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This is another great example of the Hidden Transcendent Motivator which I mentioned in an answer to another question. If the need to keep the public from knowing about the existence of magic is great enough, the government would even be willing to take the blame for events which cannot be otherwise explained.

Breaking News: The tanker truck full of hallucinogenic gas which leaked across most of Lower Manhattan today has led ace reporters back to an illegal government bioweapons laboratory hidden under Ellis Island.

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