It’s Now Possible to Hire Fake Protesters
Crowds on Demand, as the name suggests, is a company that will organize a crowd for you, on demand.
The main two times this service is required are: A) you’re an aspiring celebrity who wants to make it seem like people give a shit about you, so you hire some fake fans, or B) you believe in a cause and want to make it seem like people give a shit about it, so you hire some fake protesters.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t go along to see one of the company’s fake fan events (as they’re super secret,) so I went along to a fake protest they organized in Los Angeles, instead. While there, I sat down for a chat with their founder and CEO, Adam Swart.
Fake protesters raising tourists’ awareness on Hollywood Blvd.
VICE: So, what’s this event that’s happening now?
Adam Swart, Crowds on Demand: It’s an event we’re doing in coordination with a charity. We’re trying to raise awareness about mental health issues. They want to raise a lot more awareness about mental health, which is an often overlooked issue when it comes to, uh, to policy.
OK. Are they paying you for this?
They get a discount. We give charities discounts.
How many people are protesting here?
Are any of these guys real protesters or are they all provided by you?
They’re all provided by me.
Can I ask how much they’re getting paid for this?
They get $15 an hour.
See that guy in the picture above? He doesn’t look like a 17-year-old, blond, blue-eyed American boy, does he? But, that’s exactly what he managed to convince a lot of people, including the boy’s family, that he was. Forgive me if I’m being too confusing, I’ll take it from the start:
On June 13, 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay, who was last seen playing basketball with a bunch of his friends, failed to return to his family home in San Antonio, Texas. Nobody heard from him for the next four years, until 1997, when his family (who were suspected to have had something to do with Nicholas’ disappearance in the first place) received a phone call from the US embassy in Spain by a guy claiming to be their lost son who had just escaped a prostitution ring. That man was the then 23-year-old French-Algerian Frédéric Bourdin. He is also the guy in the ugly shirt you can see right up there ^.
Bourdin went on to stay with the Barclays for a good five months, before private investigator Charlie Parker, who was assisting a TV crew with filming the family’s story, grew suspicious. The whole story ended with Bourdin spending the next six years in an American prison for passport fraud and perjury. It also recently just became a film called The Imposter, which premiered at Sundance back in January. I noticed that Bourdin tweeted about disliking the director Bart Layton, even though it didn’t seem like he had seen the film. So I decided to get in touch.
VICE: Hi, Frédéric, did I get you at the right time? I can call back later if you want?
Frédéric Bourdin: Yeah, I’m going to bed very late and I’m very tired, but we can talk now still. Geniuses have great minds. We can think even when we haven’t had any sleep.
Alright, cool. So, I see you’ve been posting your opinions about The Imposter and the people who made it on Twitter and YouTube. Take me back to how this all started.
I was approached by a reporter who told me that he’d heard about my life story and wanted to hear my side of it so he could eventually make a documentary about the whole thing. I’ve always wanted people to understand me, because I don’t like to be pictured as something I’m not, so I agreed to meet with him in London to talk about everything. The reporter quickly disappeared, and I was left with Bart Layton.