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They must be the most miserable of conspiracy theorists, these people who think that actors came out of the woodwork after February's school shooting in Florida with an eye toward befuddling the masses with anti-gun messages. We can't imagine how these people sleep at night. Must every noise be a black helicopter on the horizon?

And we have no words to describe those who would deny that these shootings ever happened. There are some folks bouncing around the Internet's more paranoid forums who'd tell you the 2012 school shooting in Connecticut was faked. And they don't believe grieving parents.

It's hard not to feel a bit of sorrow for these modern-day kooks. They might not wear tin-foil hats any longer, but their distrust of most things human, or at least most things government and media, must lead to awful fears. And nightmares. And maybe daymares, too.

(Was it last year that Wally Hall accurately predicted the final score of a Razorback game, the exact score for both teams, and put it on the record in his column the day before? And people were calling the newspaper accusing us of "knowing" the final outcome.)

But then, every now and again, We the People give the disturbed and paranoid ammunition. The other day, we gave them a boatload.

As Dave Barry would say, WE ARE NOT MAKING THIS UP.

There's a public relations company in California that hires people to speak at public hearings. The name of the outfit is Crowds on Demand. In the last few months, it paid people to attend and speak at hearings in support of a power plant in New Orleans. (You know how folks love power plants in their neighborhoods, and carry signs to demand they open.)

Entergy's PR folks--and we've known a couple of them--must be rubbing their temples raw. The company had to put out a press release saying it didn't know that a firm that did business with the energy giant had hired, yes, Crowds on Demand to push its case.

For his part, the founder of Crowds on Demand was in the news, too. He's defending his company, telling the papers that his firm strives to make sure the people it pays to attend such meetings are sincere in the opinions they express.

Sure, but how guarantee that if you're paying them under the table?

Answer: The company guarantees no such thing.

According to Adam Swart, founder of Crowds on Demand, "In every case that we [hire people to speak], the people support the point of view that they're speaking on."

And, he added, "The only qualifying statement: We're going, just like a poll is going, off their word. I cannot say that for 100 percent certainty that no one lied to us."

It reminds us of the old story of the teacher who needed a job and applied to teach science at the local school. During the interview, he was asked whether he preferred to teach evolution or the Book of Genesis. He thought for a moment, not knowing how the interviewer felt about things, then said, "I could go either way."

But even the name of the outfit, Crowds on Demand, confuses. Doesn't the name sorta give away everything? Why not something like Audience Development Tech? Or even worse, Assemblage R Us? Because when a reporter gets his hands on some invoice for Crowds on Demand, it doesn't take a whole lot of digging to figure out what's what.

What did mama say about common sense? That it's like deodorant. The people who need it the most don't use it.

The unfortunate and wretched among us, les miserables, already have enough ammunition in their own minds to keep them cheerless and mistrustful. And that ammo was put there with less evidence than Crowds on Demand has now handed them.

Oh, Dave Barry, we wish you were still writing a syndicated column these days. Your country hath need of thee!

Because we wish we were making this one up.

Editorial on 05/15/2018

Print Headline: Ammunition delivered

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