We don't often venture far beyond the homestead in our bloggings, but sometimes an occurrence is so special we must bend the rules a bit.
The cross-state incident requiring our attention occurred earlier today in West Palm Beach, where the South Florida Water Management District was meeting. The district is currently weighing a land deal in which the state would buy thousands of acres of land south of Lake Okechobee that would be used for polluted lake flood water treatment and storage. That clean water would then flow into the thirsty Everglades, instead of being piped out untreated into coastal waterways, which is what happens now.
Presumably because science gives them a migraine, U.S. Sugar, which owns the land, and Governor Rick Scott, whom U.S. Sugar also kinda owns, appear to be not so keen on the purchase.
So, what's the deal's monied opposition to do, in order to persuade the district to nix the purchase?
If we said "hire a bunch of actors to 'protest' outside the meeting to show 'public outrage' over the deal," you'd think we were joking, and understandably so.
But you'd be wrong, because that's what happened.
And the Palm Beach Post reports that most who were there "[knew] little about the cause they have been hired to oppose."
The paper also reports the "protesters," about 50 in all, got paid $75 to stand outside and hold signs for two hours, and that the event was sponsored by Tea Party of Miami and a group called Florida Citizens Against Waste.
Oh, man! This has Tobias Funke written all over it.
Progress Florida's Mark Ferrulo said the move was "pathetic" on the part of U.S. Sugar.
“Big Sugar supporters hiring actors to pretend to protest is pathetic,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo. “Someone should ask who is paying for artificial sweetener to make polluting the Everglades and our drinking water easier to swallow.”
Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the Support the EAA Reservoir Project Coalition, scoffed at the incident.
“This is absolutely ridiculous and, quite frankly, embarrassing for these two groups to have hired paid actors to pose as protestors who ultimately had no idea what they were there to oppose,” she said in a written statement. “Our efforts to encourage buying the land owned by U.S. Sugar to build a badly-needed reservoir and send water south have been above board and transparent from day one. It is bad enough to have these last-minute groups pop up without any accountability on who they really are being funded by – but now, we have actors posing as concerned Floridians. If they could not find 50 people who were truly and genuinely concerned about the future of Florida’s drinking water and how best to spend funds from Amendment 1, we could have gladly helped them with crowd development.”
Here are a couple of screen shots we grabbed off social media:
And, to be clear, Tobias Funke jokes aside, we have nothing against the actors, who are clearly just looking for work. What we do take issue with is the notion of using manufactured outrage to try to convince a government agency that's supposed to looking out for the interests of actual people, not the characters they're playing.