The Cambridge Analytica & Facebook Story — (Spying and Electoral Manipulation)

Let’s have a look at the facts so little reported by the establishment media which prefer to dazzle us with trivial sensationalism, keep important facts from us, and drench us in establishment propaganda. 

You may by now have heard of the giant data mining and Facebook eavesdropping performed by a British company called Cambridge Analytica hired by the Trump campaign to use captured private information of millions of American voters to then psyop-style design rumors and campaign messages and pick rally locations to boost Trump’s campaign. You may also have heard that Cambridge Analytica boasts to have a track record of successfully deciding election outcomes in lots of countries and elections. It may even have occurred to you that this completely dwarfs 13 indicted Russian clickbait-marketing trolls.

You may wonder why those 13 trolls were indited but Cambridge Analytica, or those who hired or financed it, were not. Oh right! The Russian clickbaiters were working for merchants who may not have been U.S. based, whereas Cambridge Analytica was hired by the Trump campaign and largely financed by a U.S.-based election-rigging billionaire (Robert Mercer). Then it’s perfectly OK. If the jet-setting billionaires who fix, rig, and influence our elections have a U.S. passport, then it’s totally fine to befuddle voters, rig voting machines, force true people’s candidates off the ballot with spurious lawsuits, kick millions of Americans off the voter rolls or flip their registrations into opposing parties… That’s all fine. Our worry should only be about small-fry Russian advertisers. Or should it?

Anyway, I thought you might want to have a little more info on this whole Cambridge Analytica / Facebook affair since the corporate U.S. media rarely tell us the full truth (or even anything at all) about things that can affect us in our country. At the most, we can expect bloated stories of questionable accuracy that serve the purpose of distracting us from our own domestic corruption or sending us into war — stories like weapons of mass destruction that never existed, 13 Russian clickbait marketeers that are supposed to have flipped one of our domestically so very heavily rigged elections, the Syrian president (or maybe dictator) Assad having allegedly ordered a poison gas attack on his own people at the very moment when he was at long last winning his civil war AND rising in international opinion — thus to totally destroy the international good will just obtained (what ruler of a country who has managed to stay in power so many years would ever be so stupid?). We are fed stories like Jill Stein or Bernie Sanders somehow cost Hillary Clinton the election, rather than Hillary’s lame “all is fine in America except for horrible Trump, vote for me because I am not Trump” campaign — a campaign against which a ham sandwich could win.

So, for things like this, it is usually best to look around among media outlets that are not U.S.-based, not controlled by U.S.-based billionaires and corporations. The Guardian (from the U.K.) is one of those sources, and luckily using some form of English language. 😉 It’s also one of the few remaining employers for the few remaining honest American journalists who still take the watchdog duty of the fourth estate seriously. We should cherish such media companies rather than smear and hamper them (as in the recent case of RT).

The informative article written in The Guardian about the Cambridge Analytica & Facebook affair (‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’) is very long and tedious to read. For those among us who don’t have the time to read though all this, here are the most salient quotes which embody the gist:

Its expertise was in “psychological operations” – or psyops – changing people’s minds not through persuasion but through “informational dominance”, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.

Politics was like fashion, he told Bannon. “[Bannon] got it immediately. He believes in the whole Andrew Breitbart doctrine that politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture. And fashion trends are a useful proxy for that. Trump is like a pair of Uggs, or Crocs, basically. So how do you get from people thinking ‘Ugh. Totally ugly’ to the moment when everyone is wearing them? That was the inflection point he was looking for.”

It’s like dirty MI6 because you’re not constrained. There’s no having to go to a judge to apply for permission. It’s normal for a ‘market research company’ to amass data on domestic populations.

It was Bannon’s interest in culture as war that ignited Wylie’s intellectual concept. But it was Robert Mercer’s millions that created a firestorm. Kogan was able to throw money at the hard problem of acquiring personal data: he advertised for people who were willing to be paid to take a personality quiz on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Qualtrics. At the end of which Kogan’s app, called thisismydigitallife, gave him permission to access their Facebook profiles. And not just theirs, but their friends’ too. On average, each “seeder” – the people who had taken the personality test, around 320,000 in total – unwittingly gave access to at least 160 other people’s profiles, none of whom would have known or had reason to suspect.

Uhm… 320,000 × 160 = 51,200,000 and the preceding Guardian article from the day before states that some 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested for Cambridge Analytica. Like any plutocratic corporation, Cambridge Analytica is a mercenary doing anything to anybody on behalf of anybody for money. Just like corporations, I care little whether that money comes from Putin or Mercer. I just don’t want us voters to be PSYOPed.

So, to sum up the lesson from Cambridge Analytica, modern political campaigns hire psyop corporations which gather psychological profiles on us (especially through social media and online tracking), psychologically figure out what buttons to press for knee-jerk reactions, and then slip these manipulations under the door, so to speak, bypassing our critical thinking, so we make snap judgments allying ourselves with someone like Trump or Hillary, both of whom are extremely bad choices for public office due to their self-serving record, and on election day we obediently march to the polling stations to checkmark either of their names, resulting in us getting screwed no matter which of the establishment-selected candidates wins. Somehow, I don’t think this is what our founders intended when they tried to replace a monarchy with a democracy.

Here is a recorded interview with the whistleblower Christopher Wylie:

(Note: if the video linked above gets deleted, you may search the Internet for the title: “Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’“)

What he says about collecting data on Facebook “friends,” makes me wonder if this is why in recent months I have been getting rather dubious friend requests such as from accounts presenting themselves as scantily clad women or body builders with nothing political on their page such as could suggest a genuine interest in what I do.

And the whistleblower’s comment on Steve Bannon planning to break the American society in order to remold it into something else (a properly subdued, non-rebelling slave state for the robber billionaires, for sure) makes me shudder. And his recommendation of a healthy dose of skepticism echoes my own view.

And where is Facebook in this? It’s making oodles of money for its owner(s) through customer profiling sold to marketeers. The same profiling – as we were just assured – can just as easily be used to assess and manipulate voters. Corporations only care about profit. So, they won’t blink an eye undermining democracy if there’s another cent of profit in it. How much longer will we let greedy and reckless plutocratic corporations shape our lives and countries?

And, to finish off, here is a matching video by our good friend Jimmy Dore:

(Note: if the video linked above gets deleted, you may search the Internet for the title: “Facebook Suspends Data Research Firm With Trump Ties “)

Now, while we’re currently finding out about the latest forms of voter manipulation, our corrupt Congress is already busy using its counterfeit mandate to repeal Dodd-Frank (thus laying the ground for the next huge economic crash); to reward themselves and their robber billionaire cronies with huge tax breaks; to deny us the universal healthcare and free, well-funded public education our peer nations have; and to destroy the middle class and cut the floor out under the poor… All that to make the rich even richer, so that the super-rich can each have a magnificent luxury yacht parked in each harbor they jet-set to and from in their flying golden jumbo jet castles in the clouds. Somehow that is supposed to be humanity’s mission as we are drifting ever closer to the cliff of our extinction?

Ugh! We, the people, should get back in the business of making important decisions that affect our world. We need a truly democratic society, not a manipulated fake democracy, and not just in electing government officials, but in making big decisions in both the political and economic spheres, as well. It’s quite a fight, requiring many of us to participate, and I have joined it.

Still, I wonder how long I can keep up my article-writing while I am helping a dying crippled relative, dealing with hostile agencies, and searching for a lousy bread-and-butter job (after my latest small-company employer went out of business), a job that will only steal more time away from me and my writing — all this in the ferocious jungle of our wolf-eat-dog society. I want to take this opportunity to thank the handful of people out there who have by now pledged donations for my work. Somehow, we have to stand up to these lethal corporations who are ruling us, ruining our lives and country, and pushing us all over a cliff. Thanks again for everybody who does their part helping me with keeping my writing up, sharing links to my articles for example, commenting here, offering their own articles or information, donating, continuing the discussion among their friends and family… Together we can turn the ship around. For some of us it may be a lot of work, but we have no choice.

Related story: Corporate Greed Shredding Democracy — Meet the Twitter Bots

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Ending Note: It takes me at least 100 hours a month to research and write for this site and work on my book. Please widely share links to these articles or help in other ways, so this work is not for naught. Donations are really great, too! Thanks. Only together can we change this messed-up world. 🙂

3 thoughts on “The Cambridge Analytica & Facebook Story — (Spying and Electoral Manipulation)

  1. What’s even more ironic–Obama’s 2012 campaign used Facebook profile information for millions of Americans, too. Facebook found out about it but was “okay” with it since they liked him. Jimmy Dore has a video on it–and he shows a TED talk by an Obama campaign staffer telling exactly how they manipulated FB users and got their private details. So, if anyone wants ever uses that insipid Russiagate story as an excuse for HRC losing again, tell them to look at what the DNC was doing back in 2012. Manipulators of a feather flock together!

    Like

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