This was sent to me by a guy I know. He’s still a little creeped out and doesn’t want to revel any personal info. I’ll quote what he sent me here. (emphasis and censoring mine)
As some of you may know, I am a law student. Recently, I had applied to an interview for a temporary internship. The employer had received a government grant and I was told before the interview that the position would be involving heavy amounts of legal research and writing. So far so good…
Well, I was granted an interview, I get dressed up in a suit, and I enter the lion’s den. I learned quickly that this company’s interest was more political than legal, but that wasn’t the problem. Ostensibly, I had no objections to the goals/motive behind the work that they needed done. I did have a problem with what they were asking me to do.
I was being asked to be an “Underground Blogger”.
They would set me up with computers, IP scrambling software, and whatever I needed (funded by money laundered through the government grant they were given for ‘research’). In return, I’d be creating multiple online personalities of which I’d be posting comments to articles or posts on blogs that advanced the company’s talking points. They felt their agenda was not being represented in the online community. They offered an example of some identity I could create: a 30 year injured war veteran who was concerned about X issue. Flawless.
Hold up there, Slick. I had a million things racing through my mind. Most importantly I didn’t want to piss these guys off because there existed a small chance that they would attempt to hunt me down and kill me because I knew too much. My curiosity and background in political science forced me to interject and inquire to their motives. Given that their motive is to advance a dialogue and/or influence key legislative and policy decision makers, is this really the best way to achieve those goals? The internet is an anonymous place where anyone can say anything about who they are – isn’t everyone’s anonymous comments truly suspect? Where is the credibility?
I was told, “That’s why you’re supposed to target heavily trafficked blogs/message boards. Many people read these blogs. Like us. We read these all the time.” No s***? And then came the icing on the ironic cake. “Take this guy, SpecialEd – he’s great. He’s some random guy with a picture of someone with a bag over his head for an avatar. He’s all over the place and has a lot of influential things to say.”
That’s right, buddy. Some anonymous character named Special F’n Ed is the salient guru you want to model your legislative pitch after??
At this point I realize that I’m way too cynical or completely ignorant. First, all you could easily lie to me about whether you’re a lawyer, whether you’re a doctor, whether your wife is studying to be a doctor, etc. It’s the internet – your credibility is automatically suspect. Secondly, is some blog post that happens to reinforce your company’s talking points really going to result in the advancement of your agenda that will end up putting dollars in your pockets??
My guess is no – but I’m not the one funneling government money to fund an internet scheme to falsify the public outcry in support of an under-represented political agenda.
Oh, I almost left out my favorite part. When discussing money and other details of that sort, I was told that I couldn’t put this job my resume. If it came down to it, this company would deny any professional relationship with me. They’d try to pay me every couple weeks by putting cash in an envelope and it would be something “Uncle Sam wouldn’t have to know about (chuckle chuckle).”
This of course invoked Watergate-type images of being laden in a trench coat and meeting in some darkened parking garage (f***, I should probably buy a trench coat) – but the more I think about it, the more likely it is that the exchange wouldn’t be so adventurous. The more realistic image I have is that I’d have to meet this guy at the McDonald’s across from his work where I’d be forced to order a BigMac and watch him work his way through a double quarter pounder. At some point between eating and wiping the mustard stain off his shirt, he’d clumsily look around with a paranoid fervor and then hand me some menial amount of cash.
The cons in taking this job seem quite obvious. The pros were being able to receive wads of untaxed cash under the table while simultaneously receiving sweet computer gear. This, however, was not a job I could’ve taken. I was pissed that I even wore a suit into that meeting – I could have been some random hobo with a decent ability to read and some incredible stench and I would’ve been the perfect candidate for this job.
I left feeling shocked, feeling bewildered, and feeling that I desperately needed a shower. Wow.
Most even semi-cynical people understand this is happening more and more these days, but it’s something to keep in mind, especially when it hits somewhat close to home as this did. I will say I think he was exaggerating with the hunting down part, and I don’t know anymore than this, except that he said he had no problem with their cause, just with the way they were doing it.