I've noted in the past that the left-wing, progressive element in US politics tends to adopt cause after cause, but that basically the same leaders and the same organizers reappear in each new group, while the old one is discarded. If you look at the organizers of the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter, and Antifa, I think you'll be surprised at how many are the same people. (Law enforcement officers with whom I've spoken confirm that facial recognition technology identifies the same leaders at many of the demonstrations of each of those movements. That may be one of the reasons why activists mask their faces in such demonstrations. Not only do they want to avoid arrest, they may want to avoid being linked to previous events of the same kind, but under a different banner.)
That's not the only interesting point. Another angle is the number of so-called "rent-a-mob" protesters who show up at such incidents. They aren't there because of moral or ethical or political conviction; they're there because they're being paid to be present.
Two recent articles highlighted this trend. The first covers a more commercial angle.
Pretend for a moment that you’re walking through your neighborhood and notice a line of people wrapped around the block outside a newly opened restaurant ... There was a time when ... you could trust that a crowd of people was, in fact, a naturally occurring mass of individuals.
But that time may be passing thanks to Surkus, an emerging app that allowed the restaurant to quickly manufacture its ideal crowd and pay the people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. They’ve even been hand-picked by a casting agent of sorts, an algorithmic one that selects each person according to age, location, style and Facebook “likes.”
They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their “reputation score,” an identifier that influences whether they’ll be “cast” again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won’t be paid — their movements are being tracked with geolocation.
Welcome to the new world of “crowdcasting.”
. . .
George said the company has amassed 150,000 members in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco. Anyone can download the app. The members are of all ages and backgrounds, George said, noting that people are drawn by the chance to be social and get paid.
After launching two years ago, Surkus members have attended 4,200 events for 750 clients, including big-name brands, hospitality groups, live-ticketed shows, movie castings and everyday people who want to throw a party.
There's more at the link.
So much for "rent-a-mob" in the commercial setting. The second article gets things very wrong by trying to link an advertisement for Charlotte, NC with events in Charlottesville, VA ten days ago (the cities are 4½ hours apart by road, so I don't see the connection): but that's secondary to what it uncovers.
... the discovery of a craigslist ad posted last Monday, almost a full week before the Charlottesville protests, is raising new questions over whether paid protesters were sourced by a Los Angeles based "public relations firm specializing in innovative events" to serve as agitators in counterprotests.
The ad was posted by a company called "Crowds on Demand" and offered $25 per hour to "actors and photographers" to participate in events in the "Charlotte, NC area." While the ad didn't explicitly define a role to be filled by its crowd of "actors and photographers" it did ask applicants to comment on whether they were "ok with participating in peaceful protests."
. . .
The CEO of Crowds on Demand denied to Snopes that his firm was involved in the Charlottesville protests but refused to provide details on the specific purpose of the craigslist ad and/or why it was temporarily removed yesterday before being restored.
Again, more at the link.
Crowds On Demand claims, on its Web site:
At Crowds on Demand, we provide our clients with protests, rallies, flash-mobs, paparazzi events and other inventive PR stunts. These services are available across the country in every major U.S city, every major U.S metro area and even most smaller cities as well. We provide everything including the people, the materials and even the ideas. You can come to us with a specific plan of action and we can make it happen. OR, you can approach us with a general idea and we can help you plan the strategy then execute it.
We’ve made campaigns involving hundreds of people come to action in just days. We have a proven record of delivering major wins on even the toughest campaigns and delivering phenomenal experiences with even the most logistically challenging events.
Our services are now available throughout the United States, so whether you’re looking at doing a single event or a multi-city campaign, we have the resources available to achieve your goals.
More at the link, and at the section titled 'Protests and Rallies', which claims that:
... we can organize rallies and get media attention for your causes and candidates. We also assist individuals, companies and political organizations with protests and picketing campaigns. We’ve protested governments, corporations and everything in between.
. . .
A foreign government hired Crowds on Demand to help generate a positive reception for its newly elected leader during the UN General Assembly. The concern was ensuring that the leader was well received by a US audience and confident for his work at the UN. We created demonstrations of support with diverse crowds. We also used the media primarily local and national outlets to bring more attention to these demonstrations which led to a mostly positive portrayal. The crowds that we deployed drew in more supporters creating a strong presence for this leader at the UN and an improved perception of him by the American public.
So, here we have two firms (how many more are there?), both offering to provide any sort of crowd you want, for any purpose, for payment. We also have many reports over the past few years of protesters being bussed from various cities to the site of their protest, then ferried back to their points of origin (often associated with so-called astroturfing). Here's just one such report, including video footage, to illustrate the point. Want another? Try this one.
Putting two and two together, we know that many demonstrations are anything but spontaneous, and we know that many participants are paid - we've seen the advertisements offering them money, particularly those funded by the left wing of US politics. Now we have evidence that entire corporations are in business to satisfy crowd-sourcing needs. Therefore, the next time you see a major demonstration, it might be worth asking yourself whether all those in attendance are there as 'true believers' . . . or whether some of them are in it for the money. I know I shall.
(I must confess, however, to an impish curiosity as to what would happen if a bunch of Trump supporters were to allow themselves to be 'recruited' as paid demonstrators for an anti-Trump rally . . . and brought along banners and placards showing their true feelings. The resulting chaos might be epic!)