It seems to me that the “help wanted” signs popping up all over and the lament of employers that they can’t find employees are indicators that there are positions aplenty for those who are able to perform the required tasks. Some demand specialized education or training while others require no particular experience – just be willing to show up on time and to take instructions and directions. Oh, sure, some are only part time or perhaps sporadic in nature, but satisfaction in a job well done is sometimes compensation in itself.
One such endeavor that emerged a couple of years ago and has greatly expanded recently is the “paid protestor”. Perhaps readers may recall the Ferguson protests and riots of several years ago. As it turned out there were a number of “protestors” who were hired by a special interest organization to make sure the events were spectacular and well publicized. Unfortunately, these folks had to conduct their own protests against their employer when they were not paid. I imagine this was kinda embarrassing but it didn’t affect the results.
The most recent impressive round of protests in Washington illustrated how much better organized and executed these demonstrations have become. Analysis shows several layers or tiers of folks involved in these activities. At the top are the financiers and strategists who provide overall guidance and lotsa money – reportedly in the hundreds of millions of dollars from one or more “patrons.”
This money is distributed via a number of “foundations” through “grants” to a variety of organizations where “directors and organizers” formalize and orchestrate tactics (including logistics support such as transportation and lodging for would-be protestors.) These folks are well paid – last year’s salary for one such director was reportedly over $156,000 with an additional bonus of over $21,000.
This is usually the level at which the “provocateurs” are recruited, trained, and assigned their specific tasks. (“Provocateur” is a four-dollar word that means “someone who provokes; excites to action or feeling; stirs up anger or resentment” – that’s what those “protesters” in Ferguson were paid to do.) Finally there are the “true believers” who strictly adhere to the beliefs of the leaders and are willing to participate in whatever manner will further this ideology.
So how did this play out in the recent demonstrations in Washington? Well, folks who follow this kind of stuff report at least 20 of the organizations involved in the anti-nominee protests were recipients of grants from the same “foundation” which is financed by a very wealthy anti-administration donor. And what was the role of these organizations? The leader of one is quoted as explaining,” [T]here were some official organizations in the mix who have staff & consultants that were part of these protests. And some of them were helping individuals with tactics. That is not the same as people being paid to protest who don’t care about this issue.”
In an instance of surprising candor, another leader said one of the women who accosted a senator “worked for [an] advocacy group” and “was paid to steer people in the right ways to be able to confront senators.” According to reports from various sources, the intent of these confrontations was to create “viral moments”, that is, events that would “go viral” by images, videos, or other links that spread rapidly by being frequently shared with a number of individuals.
There’s lots more information emerging such as how coordinated “marching orders” for the various factions were relayed to the protestors and how, when photos caught cash being handed over to a protestor, the explanation was it was money to be used for bail bonds and fines anticipated to be incurred when the protestor was arrested – not as payment for participation. Reasonable, right?
Okay, so what does all this mean to us everyday, ordinary folks who are far from these well-financed and organized activities and whose primary information sources are the TV news and major newspapers in Washington and New York? Well, there is apparently nothing illegal about any of these bought-and-paid-for efforts to support a political viewpoint – except for the disruptive behavior that led to the arrest of some protestors. What is apparent, however, is that this kind of activity is the new “norm” in political activism. It’s sure come a long way from what we saw in Ferguson – much more sophisticated and organized.
Yep, it’s a thriving line of work that we can expect lots more of in the future. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a regular Greene County Daily columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.