On 26 July 2016, a number of Bernie Sanders’ delegates left the Democratic National Convention as part of a planned walkout, and not long afterwards an advertisement was posted to Philadelphia’s Craigslist purporting to seek hundreds of paid “actors” to fill “empty seats” at a national convention.
Given that only one big national convention was occurring at that time and that Philadelphia hosted the DNC, there was little mystery as to who or what the posting referenced. It read:
Actors Needed For National Convention (Philadelphia)
Looking for 700 people to be utilized as actors during the National Convention.
We currently have a number of empty seats that will need to be filled as we are currently removing a number of people and need to refill their seats for the remainder of the conference.
You will be paid $50.00 each night for the remainder of the convention. You will be required to cheer at all times and will be asked to dress properly and possibly wear some promotional material.
A number of social media users took the posting at face value, and it circulated rapidly as a commentary on the rocky events of the DNC. But there were a number of reasons the advertisement was very likely fake, the largest being its obvious overtones of political theater. The ad was littered with what appeared to be references to events leading up to the convention, and appears to have surfaced after coverage of both the walkout and photographs of empty seats.
Another was the mode of transmission: Craigslist. Many protesting Sanders supporters cited Wikileaks’ “DNCLeaks” (a vast dump of 20,000 DNC e-mails on the eve of the convention) as a reason for their grievances, and those leaks included a proposal to plant fake Craigslist ads smearing Donald Trump. In a chain of e-mails, DNC staffer Christina Freundlich sought approval on a plan to create a “microsite” and stated a digital team that “created a fake craigslist jobs post for women who want to apply to jobs one of Trump’s organizations”:
Multiple Positions (NYC area)
Seeking staff members for multiple positions in a large, New York-based corporation known for its real estate investments, fake universities, steaks, and wine. The boss has very strict standards for female employees, ranging from the women who take lunch orders (must be hot) to the women who oversee multi-million dollar construction projects (must maintain hotness demonstrated at time of hiring).
Title: Honey Bunch (that’s what the boss will call you)
* No gaining weight on the job (we’ll take some “before” pictures when you start to use later as evidence)
* Must be open to public humiliation and open-press workouts if you do gain weight on the job
* A willingness to evaluate other women’s hotness for the boss’ satisfaction is a plus
* Should be proficient in lying about age if the boss thinks you’re too old Working mothers not preferred (the boss finds pumping breast milk disgusting, and worries they’re too focused on their children).
About us: We’re proud to maintain a “fun” and “friendly work environment, where the boss is always available to meet with his employees. Like it or not, he may greet you with a kiss on the lips or grope you under the meeting table. Interested applicants should send resume, cover letter, and headshot to firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>
In another e-mail DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda criticized fellow staffers over a staged protest with poor turnout, citing the following tweet:
Three person protest outside the RNC. Sad! pic.twitter.com/MkX4bv30cr
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) May 12, 2016
Miranda ended the chain of e-mails with a directive to employ interns for such events if unspecified “allies” failed to “deliver bodies” in time for photo ops:
Yes, but going forward, when our allies screw up and don’t deliver bodies in time, we either send all our interns out there or we stay away from it.. we don’t want to own a bad picture[.]
The DNC “actors” advertisement appeared to be either a humorous or satirical attempt to weaponize those controversial tactics against the party itself.