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?


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