American Elephants


The Fake and the Real, Playing With Your Emotions and Your Mind. by The Elephant's Child

This is one of those posts that leaves you scratching your head and wondering if it is real — or just a giant hoax. It sounds authentic, but I’ll leave it to you to decide. It’s about crowd sourcing — as a business. It comes in The California Sunday Magazine, which I guess we will assume is real. I mean these days how can you tell?

The story is about a company called Crowds on Demand. The author signs on as a recruit, doesn’t know what he’ll be doing, really, but it pays $15 an hour.  The 24-year-old CEO started the company as a 21 year-old UCLA undergrad after he had volunteered with Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign and found that it could be challenging to attract large crowds to speeches. He believed that there was an opportunity for a service to turn out—well— fake crowds. Plenty of bodies to give the impression of enthusiasm. Once he got started he found there was a demand not only for crowds to support a candidate, but for crowds to protest a candidate.

I just wrote about the increasing unreality as it becomes more and more difficult to discern what is real and what is not. In the age of Photoshop, with skilled artists, it’s impossible to tell. The young CEO is getting very rich, very fast, and drives a silver Tesla.

When people inquire about a potential event, Adam guides them through the possibilities and the approximate costs: $600 for fake paparazzi at a birthday dinner; $3,000 for a flash mob dancing, chanting, and handing out fliers as a PR stunt; $10,000 for a weeklong political demonstration; $25,000 to $50,000 for a prolonged campaign of protests. According to Adam, protests have become the company’s growth sector, and just as with advertising, repeat impressions are key. “When the targets of our actions see that we’re going to be back, day after day, they get really scared,” he says. “We’re in it for the long haul, and the problem’s not going to go away on its own.”

Fascinating article, excellent illustrations, and really quite scary. We are not doing well as a nation at managing the flow from the Information Age. As the information becomes more and more unreal, or more questionable, all the checks and balances are disappearing, and we need to pay more and closer attention — but are we up for it?



Finally, A College President Does the Right Thing by The Elephant's Child

Steven Hayward, who keeps a close eye on the absurdities of academe, reports on the rare sighting of a university president who actually has a backbone. I have been critical, mostly of the students, who although young, should know better. University presidents, however, have the assigned job of keeping order in their establishment.

Students are there theoretically to learn something, but because they are young and stupid, they are apt to engage in outbreaks of goofiness. Once long ago, it was a rage for swallowing goldfish that spread from campus to campus, then there were panty raids. It got far more serious and caused far more trouble in the Vietnam War era, because kids were afraid of being drafted. Today we’re back to the ridiculous.

The current brouhaha is at Ohio State University, and the hero is president Michael V. Drake. Students who attempted to occupy the area outside president Drake’s office got a taste of the real world “when a senior administrator  advised them that they would be arrested and expelled  if they didn’t retreat from their ‘occupied space’.”

Here are some of their demands:

We demand complete, comprehensive and detailed access to the Ohio State budget and investments immediately, as well as personnel to aid students in understanding this information.

OSU Divest: Divest fromCaterpillar Inc., Hewlett Packard and G4S due to their involvement in well-documented human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and across the globe. . .

Real Food OSU: Sign the Real Food Campus Commitment. Ensure the administration work with Real Food OSU through the entire implementation of the Real Food Campus Commitment, in place of, or as a means of attaining, the university sustainability goal of increased “production and purchase of locally and sustainably sourced food to 40% by 2025.”

Steven Hayward added: “Memo to all college presidents: This is how you do it. Why is this so hard?”



United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team by The Elephant's Child

Halftime of the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns game at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX. The Marines Corps silent drill platoon performs. I had never heard of this group before. They are impressive.




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