It seems to me the only people who might be surprised by this are people who've been living in a bubble or those who know nothing about search engine optimisation. If you're in the latter group then this SEO explained cartoon strip should sort you out.
To me it's quite interesting when the SEO top brass extol the virtues of SEO basics, as if SEO has ever been anything but basic. When I say basic I mean, the basics of SEO are simple, create great content, become an authority, get traffic. The problem is it's far from 'basic' to achieve this, hence the whole get rich quick SEO industry.
As Google's web spam team work ever harder at ensuring their index stays relevant and trustworthy they work continually to seek out and destroy the cheats, or at least that's the theory, some successful cheats might mock this notion.
As a web company we've been through the gauntlet of clients demanding great rankings for no other reason than they think they deserve them and it melts your head. In these changed times it's actually quite nice to be able to point people at the simple fact - that's always been true - that being that cheating Google will usually end in tears.
These days we're picky about who we take on SEO wise, if we smell a rat (a rat being someone who simply wants their site to rank irrespective of its content) we put down some poison and move on...