by Yvonne Owens
On May 20th, 2017, Gloria Christie published on the beginning of a trail that will expose a facet of Americans’ daily lives that badly needs exposing. She described how, “[a]n FBI raid of a harmless-sounding company blossomed into a full-fledged trail of swampy tracks that led directly back to the Trump administration. The FBI descended upon Strategic Campaign Group, a Republican campaign consulting group in Annapolis, Maryland, and then the surprises began.” investigative reporter, Jayne Miller,
“The company that the FBI raided is related to two of Trump’s campaign advisers, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. The latter continues to advise the president, according to Bloomberg News. Strategic Campaign Group’s senior adviser Dennis Whitfield was political director at BKSH and Associates, which provided strategic government relations counselling. Paul Manafort and Roger Stone formed Strategic Campaign Group in 1996 according to Bloomberg, but left before Whitfield came on board. Strategic Campaign Group and another company named Cambridge Analytica, which is a small data analytics organization are linked [no longer small, British firm with branches in D.C. and Texas].
Owner Robert Mercer supported Donald Trump. The Guardian reported the president’s Chief White House Analyst, Steve Bannon sat on Cambridge Analytica’s board of directors and took over Breitbart with an investment of $10 million from Mercer. The two men further linked their media empire when Bannon co-founded Government Accountability Institute with Mercer’s daughter [Rebecca Mercer]. The company weaponized political narratives found through dark internet trawling.”
These thread ends, when pulled with even the slightest pressure, will inevitably unravel a maze of unethical and possibly criminal transgressions of consumer rights and protections. Jarod Kushner, who created an algorithm trojan horse program to hack social media accounts, called ‘The Alamo Project,’ that he wielded on Trump’s behalf all through the election to modify and coerce public opinion. This worked in concert with Cambridge Analytica and a little-known psychographic manipulation company, functionally owned by Robert Mercer (Mercer owns the Intellectual Property rights so directs where, and on what, the technology may be used) based in Victoria, BC, called AggregateIQ.
The coordinated social media campaigns of these shadowy military-psi-ops psychographics corporations utilized new algorithmic coding innovations pioneered by AggregateIQ; the coordinated machinations of AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica both created the Brexit win and put Donald Trump in the White House, both political victories manifesting against all reasonable odds or expectations.
Linguists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, historians, social critics, political activists and other commentators have weighed in on the epistemic blight afflicting news, social, and entertainment media since the unthinkable happened, when the Brexit initiative succeeded in Britain and the Trump campaign triumphed in the United States. Yet media often functions as its own most effective regulatory agency, with ethical journalists, essayists and political commentators offering incisive, unwavering scrutiny on some of the more shadowy forces governing the flow of information into the public sphere.
The plight of such endangered values such as truth, objective reasoning, and fair representation often come within many contemporary journalists’ especial purview, particularly with regard to the current, uncharted wasteland of increasingly alienated cognitive cultures, as they struggle to find a palliative, accessible voice that still manages to do its job of informing.
Their greatest challenge will be to find a way to convey what has happened — to somehow mediate the extraordinary mutations within information technology that have come to significantly deform what we think of as ‘information’ itself, its various roles, and avenues of distribution. Political journalists and ethicists will be posed with the still more ambivalent question of whether democratic process can be practiced or participated in at all in the age of covert digital information collection/exploitation technologies, that few even apprehend, let alone understand.
Media and media watchers At the end of November of 2016, George Monbiot, writing for The Guardian, warned of the role of deliberate misinformation seeding chaos and confusion in order to groom a malleable public. He described how many of Trump’s staffers are from “an opaque corporate misinformation network,” conceding that Trump’s politics are incoherent, but insisting that those who surround the president-elect know just what they want, and that his lack of clarity enhances their power (Monbiot, November 30, 2016).
Over the past fifteen years, Monbiot has documented how, “[…] tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of think tanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.”
On Oct. 19, as the third and final presidential debate was underway in Las Vegas, Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter feeds were being manned by Brad Parscale, a San Antonio marketing entrepreneur, “whose buzz cut and long narrow beard make him look like a mixed martial arts fighter” (Green, Joshua and Sasha Issenberg, October 27, 2016). Parscale was one of the few entrusted to tweet on Trump’s behalf. He sat at a long table in a double-wide trailer behind the debate arena, with fellow Trump staffers and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. “The charged atmosphere and rows of technicians staring raptly at giant TVs and computer screens call to mind NASA on launch day.”
Donald Trump blamed Hillary Clinton for being personally culpable for multiple offenses during the debate, and every time he came across with a potent line, even if a patently false accusation, Parscale directed his team to create a Twitter meme. Similarly, the crazed content of each sensational news cycle is leavened in the great mill of digitized media, Internet news and social networks into the fine dust of notoriety, real and fake news alike. This, in the virtual world of Jerry Springer-styled Reality TV programming that gave Trump his initial ‘leg up,’ is the same as fame.
Machiavelli contributed to a large number of important discourses in Western thought — political theory most notably, but also history and historiography, Italian literature, the principles of warfare, and diplomacy. His writings are maddeningly and notoriously unsystematic, inconsistent and sometimes self-contradictory, much like the stream of contradictory, chaotic information Trump Tweets daily, forcing an assessment of digital technology as greatly aiding in the practice of politics of a certain, Machiavellian strain. Succeeding thinkers who more easily qualify as philosophers of the first rank did (and do) feel compelled to engage with Machiavellian ideas, either to dispute them or to incorporate his insights into their own teachings.
The terms “Machiavellian” or “Machiavellism” find regular purchase among philosophers concerned with a range of ethical, political, and psychological phenomena. In Machiavelli’s critique of “grand” philosophical schemes, we find a challenge to the enterprise of political theory that commands attention and still demands consideration and response. Machiavelli, like Trump, tended to appeal to experience and example in the place of rigorous logical analysis.
A good example of a court kept in continuous uproar and uncertainty lies in Trump’s ‘Machiavellian’ and volatile White House culture. Roiled by continuous, aberrant and (often) contradictory media releases, in the face of Trump’s personal, ongoing digital barrage of chaotic information via Twitter, the old technique of discrediting a politician by exposing them for their hypocrisy seems moot. He is apparently immune to being called out on glaring inconsistencies, even with his own prior proclamations or previous policy positions.
Public shaming and harsh exposures of iniquities and personal hypocrisy, of the sort wielded by Peter Oborne, the British journalist, do not work with this digitally, algorithmically protected politician. He did, after all, proclaim early in his campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” (Reuters News Service, syndicated in The Guardian, January 24, 2016). And something close to this level of unreasoning support certainly seems to be the case.
The art or science of government, of guiding or influencing governmental policy, and of winning and holding control over a government, is a realm of politics and political meaning that is both advantaged and disadvantaged by the realities of digital technologies and rapidly proliferating cyber-cultures. The Internet, social media, online communities and digital commerce might be said to be contributing to an epistemic morphing of First World human consciousness.
In media terms, ‘convergence’ indicates the state whereby Internet technologies allow all types of communication and content to operate on the same platform through the same technologies, or even to become concentrated into one service. The implications for psychographic modeling of public opinions and beliefs, which is to say attitude reprogramming on a mass scale, are prodigious.
Emily Bell, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, has stated, “It is important that we examine just how potentially toxic the complete convergence between politics and media might be. […] Other disruptive political movements — the Brexit campaign in the UK; the Five Star Movement in Italy; and, most notoriously, ISIS — have also used the convergence of communications technologies to recruit and activate entirely new power bases” (Bell, January 10, 2017).
How, and where, has psychographic modeling and reprogramming succeeded? According to all of the conventional polls, the citizens of the UK were not supposed to vote for Brexit. It was a regressive, xenophobic plan that critics say amounted to the country effectively shooting itself in the foot. Its leaders were pugnacious disreputables who spouted easily disprovable lies.
Pundits were adamant, certain it wouldn’t happen. Not even considered a viable candidate at the primary level, Donald Trump was widely spoken of as a ridiculous person with absurd ideas. He delivered his presidential campaign announcement at the bottom of an escalator due to his fear of going down stairs. The small crowds that greeted him had all been paid to attend.
Pundits laughed at him. “In the general election, Trump ran against one of the most experienced establishment candidates in American history, a woman who stood poised to take the helm of our nation just in time to occupy the Oval Office on the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. Going into election night, odds makers had Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning at nearly 100 percent. Despite all this, Trump is apparently immune to being called out on his glaring inconsistencies, his lies, and his obvious unfitness.” (Ryan, January 23, 2017).
Luciano Floridi wrote on the need to resolve the ‘post-truth’ crisis’ for The London Guardian (Floridi, January 26, 2017). His commentary lies in the realm of Ethics, a particularly relevant branch of Philosophy in the Age of Information, beset as it is by the rapid mutation of information sharing protocols. Citing Francis Bacon’s philosophical masterwork Novum Organum, he described how Bacon analysed four kinds of idols or false notions that “are now in possession of the human understanding, and have taken deep root therein” (Bacon, Aphorism XXXVIII).
Bacon’s Idola tribus or “Idols of the Tribe” is a category of logical fallacy, which refers to a tendency in human nature toward a preference for certain types of incorrect conclusions. “Idols of the Cave” refers to our conceptual biases and susceptibility to external influences. The chain of psychological influences results in a closed down, inward spiraling, ever-reducing field of information, that shores up existing beliefs and countermands ‘other’ identified ideas, in a cognitive syndrome called ‘epistemic closure.’
This is certainly nothing new; as we have seen from the Machiavellian example, the problem has been with us for at least four centuries. There is even a branch of philosophy that studies the phenomenon of ‘Folk Epistemic Closure’ (Beebe, James R. and Jake Monaghan, Forthcoming in Joshua Knobe, Tania Lombrozo, and Shaun Nichols (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology), which is in some ways what we see and experience in the political sector. The syndrome affects commodity markets, providing an analogy for the ‘business’ of politics: “Epistemic closure entails that all reliable evidence that would challenge deeply held beliefs is dismissed as corrupted, whereas all supporting evidence, no matter how unreliable, is accepted as incontrovertible.
Those who have the condition act irrationally within that domain. As a result, business decisions become much more difficult than they would be in a rational market” (Cooley, June 2012, pp. 181–199). As Emily Bell has noted, “The business of publishing and monetizing information is never neutral; it is always deeply political. It shapes opinion, informs markets, reinforces biases, creates understanding, and spreads confusion” (Bell, December 15, 2016).
Unthinkingly un-critical, cult-like Trump supporters don’t realize that they have been socially engineered, their behavior, opinions and beliefs modified. Essentially, they have been brainwashed by sophisticated algorithms deployed by companies like U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica and Alamo. Both companies operate through data-mining and planting fake news and propaganda on the pages of people who have revealed themselves, primarily through their record of ‘Likes,’ to have a vulnerability, or susceptibility, toward some easily exploited and manipulated bias or fear — pro-Brexit bias among Americans or Canadians, for example, predisposing them to certain planted misinformation and propaganda privileging authoritarian trends, or evidence of subconscious misogynistic beliefs, anti-feminism, or incipient racism.
These inclinations, though thought by their hosts to be private, or even held secret, are very evident to the company psychologists and behavioral scientists analyzing the true cash product of ‘free’ social networks, the users’ mined data. Evidence of gun collection, NRA membership, or search patterns for gun enthusiasts will provide a basis for targeted ads and ‘news’ stories in a social network account. From as few as 5,000 increments of mined data on any individual’s online activity, psychographic profilers claim to have the ability to predict what your next move will be a good deal earlier than you can.
Cambridge Analytica, the London-based outfit that boasts an ability to target voters based on their unconscious psychological biases, worked behind the scenes both the Vote Leave campaign and the Trump campaign. Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of Vote Leave for the Brexit referendum has said of their strategical deployment of Cambridge Analytica, “If you want to make big improvements in communication, my advice is — hire physicists” (Johnson, August 5, 2016). The company had approximately ten data scientists embedded with Giles-Parscale, the San Antonio-based firm behind Trump’s website and his broader digital operation, to which the campaign paid $1.6 million in June alone.
Claiming to have built psychological profiles using 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica algorithms knew their quirks and nuances and daily habits, and was able to target them individually. “They were using 40–50,000 different variants of ad every day that were continuously measuring responses and then adapting and evolving based on that response,” according to Martin Moore of Kings College (Cadwalladr, Dec. 4, 2016).
Because these companies have so much data on individuals and they use such phenomenally powerful distribution networks, they enable campaigns to bypass a lot of existing laws. “It’s all done completely opaquely and they can spend as much money as they like on particular locations because you can focus on a five-mile radius or even a single demographic. Fake news is important but it’s only one part of it. These companies have found a way of transgressing 150 years of legislation that we’ve developed to make elections fair and open” (Ibid.).
It was Jared Kushner, a longtime friend of Giles-Parscale co-founder Brad Parscale who brought the San Antonio firm aboard, which then brought the Cambridge Analytica data scientists in house. Steve Bannon, founder of Breitbart News and the newly appointed chief strategist to Trump, is on Cambridge Analytica’s board. The company, which revolutionized the American political scene in 2012, boasts of its ability to assemble so-called psychographic profiles of American voters based on five dominant personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. It then targets them with uniquely crafted messages based on their digitally revealed unconscious biases. Their emphasis on psychology differentiates them as a company from traditional data firms that specialize in ‘microtargeting,’ which tracks consumer data and behavior to target voters.
Cambridge Analytica’s method was, wrote Bloomberg’s Sasha Issenberg, “the most audacious new analytical innovation foisted on American politics this year” (Ibid.). On its website, the company advertizes, “a comprehensive range of analytics and engagement services are proven game changers that deliver smart solutions and produce real results,” including, “Data Acquisition, Predictive Analytics, Audience Insight and Digital Marketing (Cambridge Analytica website, Dirs. David and Sharon Booth:https://cambridgeanalytica.org/).”
Kushner is currently at the very epicenter of U.S. power as Senior White House Senior Advisor, and as a favored son-in-law, has emerged as Trump’s closest ally in the West Wing (Thrush and Haberman, Jan 9, 2017). “He has told several people that all things on nearly every topic ‘run through me,’ according to two people with direct knowledge,” the New York Times reported (Savage, Baker, and Habermanjan, January, 27, 2017). Kushner, and chief strategist, Steve Bannon, are in the process of forming a mini-think tank, named the Strategic Initiative Group, which will deal with large-scale issues.
This is material to ideology and culture in so many ways, as Kushner was also the covert senior advisor to the Trump campaign, and created an internet Trojan Horse utilizing algorithms called ‘The Alamo Project’ (that Trump and his handlers credit with having won the election), whereby vulnerable voters were data mined and cultivated with targeted social media ads, fake news articles, and memes put onto their news feeds and pages, that no-one else would ever see, and which accomplished a tsunami-like effect in manipulating public opinion among easily radicalized, borderline ideological ‘outsiders.’ Jared’s appointment could mark a new era, one at the critical intersection of artificial intelligence, machine learning, statistics, and database systems in public service and governance manipulation, modifying and conditioning public opinion, psychological coercion and control.
Cambridge Analytica was paid millions of dollars to create comprehensive psychographic profiles of Americans based on their basic details, consumer habits, social media activity and psychological traits. Using the OCEAN personality scale — an acronym for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — alongside thousands of different pieces of data on every individual, the firm claimed to be able to predict how citizens would vote. It passed the information on so the Trump campaign could target key demographics with finely tuned material playing to their hopes and dreams or fears and anxieties.
The company amassed up to 5000 data points on every American adult and conducted hundreds of thousands of personality surveys, combining them to pinpoint millions of possible Trump voters. Their analysis of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin- the rust-belt states that unexpectedly fell to the Republican candidate — proved prescient, while most traditional pollsters ended up on the wrong side of history. Cambridge Analytica chief executive officer Alexander Nix said big data was being used to do things considered impossible only five years ago. “The sheer volume of data is allowing us to look at audiences in ever increasing granularity, to start to understand exactly what messages individuals need to receive,” he told Fairfax Media.
An eye-opening article by Carole Cadwalladr discusses ‘Google, democracy and the truth about internet search.’ (Cadwalladr, Dec. 4, 2016).Cadwalladr’s article pulled no punches in describing a world in which sophisticated algorithms target susceptible voters and ‘condition’ them over time, with specially pitched fake news, ads, and emotional appeals catered to the trends of thought and feeling revealed through data mining and analysis of purchasing patterns and buying habits. Archiving the ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, sophisticated digital algorithms track individuals’ habitual recourse to certain news and opinion portals.
According to Cadwalladr, “Stories about fake news on Facebook have dominated certain sections of the press for weeks following the American presidential election, but arguably this is even more powerful, more insidious. Frank Pasquale, professor of law at the University of Maryland, and one of the leading academic figures calling for tech companies to be more open and transparent, calls the results ‘very profound, very troubling.” Cadwalladr speculated as to whether such micro-targeted propaganda, currently legal, swung the Brexit vote, and concluded that we have no way of knowing. Did the same methods used by Cambridge Analytica in aid of ‘Vote Leave’ help Trump to victory?
This is all happening in complete darkness. We have no way of knowing how our personal data is being mined and used to influence us. We don’t realise that the Facebook page we are looking at, the Google page, the ads that we are seeing, the search results we are using, are all being personalised to us. We don’t see it because we have nothing to compare it to. And it is not being monitored or recorded. It is not being regulated. We are inside a machine and we simply have no way of seeing the controls. Most of the time, we don’t even realise that there are controls. (Cadwalladr, Dec. 4, 2016)
Jonathan Albright, an assistant professor of communications at Elon University in North Carolina, published the first detailed research on how rightwing websites had spread their message. “I took a list of these fake news sites that was circulating, I had an initial list of 306 of them and I used a tool — like the one Google uses — to scrape them for links and then I mapped them. So I looked at where the links went — into YouTube and Facebook, and between each other, millions of them… and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. […] It’s a vast system of hundreds of different sites that are using all the same tricks that all websites use.
They’re sending out thousands of links to other sites and together this has created a vast satellite system of rightwing news and propaganda that has completely surrounded the mainstream media system (Ibid.).” What Jonathan Albright’s research demonstrates is that this isn’t a mere byproduct of the Internet, nor is it being done solely for commercial reasons. Albright maintains that it is motivated by ideology, “by people who are quite deliberately trying to destabilise the internet.”
The constellation of websites that Albright found — a sort of shadow Internet — has another function. More than just spreading rightwing ideology, they are being used to track and monitor and influence anyone who comes across their content. “I scraped the trackers on these sites and I was absolutely dumbfounded. Every time someone likes one of these posts on Facebook or visits one of these websites, the scripts are then following you around the web. And this enables data-mining and influencing companies like Cambridge Analytica to precisely target individuals, to follow them around the web, and to send them highly personalised political messages. This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.”
There will always be politics, conventionally defined in the widest sense as the total complex of relations between people living in society. We are social animals, and the machinations of how we relate to each other, and how we rank ourselves and find our [i]socio-political ‘place,’ will always remain an area of ongoing, fascinated study. Political systems rise or fall on social expectations. What we expect from government, and from those whom we elect to govern or who are imposed upon us, rides on our expectations as to the nature of reality — the ontological and epistemological frameworks of our perceptions and understandings.
The cognitive culture of a society, however it is framed, has always been mined, cultivated, coddled and coerced by those seeking, holding, and maintaining power; fake news and popular coercion are not new. “Bogus news has been around a lot longer than real news. And it’s left a lot of destruction behind” (Soll, December 18, 2016). Now, however, the means by which this is done is sophisticated far beyond popular understanding, having truly become a science and, in a deeply Machiavellian sense, a fine art. Digital technologies are not making the practice of politics or of political thought impossible, but they are making the endeavor into a very different prospect than ever before.
A more recent article in The Guardian by Carole Cadwalladr tells the story of the recruitment, by shadowy corporate forces, of a young American postgraduate, called Sophie, in June of 2013. “She was passing through London when she called up the boss of a firm where she’d previously interned. The company, SCL Elections, went on to be bought by Robert Mercer, a secretive hedge fund billionaire, renamed Cambridge Analytica, and achieved a certain notoriety as the data analytics firm that played a role in both Trump and Brexit campaigns.” In a bizarrely nostalgic tone for events so very recent, she continues: “But all of this was still to come. London in 2013 was still basking in the afterglow of the Olympics. Britain had not yet Brexited. The world had not yet turned.”
That was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump,” a former Cambridge Analytica employee who I’ll call Paul tells me. “It was back when we were still just a psychological warfare firm.” Was that really what you called it, I ask him. Psychological warfare? “Totally. That’s what it is. Psyops. Psychological operations — the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules. (Cadwalladr, May 7, 2017).
Cadwalladr points out that hers is not just a story about “social psychology and data analytics.” Her point is that the new situation we find ourselves the brunt of has to be understood in terms of a military contractor using military strategies on a civilian population. David Miller is a professor of sociology at Bath University and an authority in psyops and propaganda; he calls it, “an extraordinary scandal that this should be anywhere near a democracy. It should be clear to voters where information is coming from, and if it’s not transparent or open where it’s coming from, it raises the question of whether we are actually living in a democracy or not” (Cadwalladr, May 7, 2017). The impact of combining the military model with the psychological tactics of war has brought psychology, propaganda and technology together in an unimaginably powerful way.
The software and platforms for this unholy marriage was engineered, built and supplied by a small, secretive company headquartered in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, that goes by the handle, AggregateIQ (Foster and Evans, February 24, 2017). The company (AIQ) worked on the Leave campaign at the behest of Robert Mercer, who owns the IP (Intellectual Property) of the operation (Cadwalladr, May 7, 2017). Their website featured a testimonial from Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of Vote Leave, who said: “Without a doubt, the Vote Leave campaign owes a great deal of its success to the work of AggregateIQ. We couldn’t have done it without them.” Paul Stephenson, the communications director of Vote Leave, said approvingly: “Zack and AIQ were instrumental in helping the Leave campaign win. Together with our digital director, Henry De Zoete, they transformed Vote Leave’s digital offering and helped us to contact voters over one billion times online” (Foster and Evans, February 24, 2017).
Located in a tiny office above an opticians shop in a downtown faux-historic block-sized shopping centre called ‘The Bay Centre’ (for the truly historic provincial outpost, the Hudson’s Bay Company), the operation flies well under the radar of British political campaign funding regulatory laws, even while it caters to clients across the globe who are for the most part firmly rooted in the military-industrial-government sector. Purveying psychographic socio-political public opinion and social-behavioral engineering (or re-applied ‘psyops’) on a large scale, planting literally billions of increments of micro-targeted information/misinformation per campaign, AggregateIQ is largely credited with having engineered the Brexit victory from behind the scenes via their contracts with Vote Leave, Veterans for Britain, and the youth vote BeLeave campaign.
Hidden were the company’s ties to contracts with Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, and Steve Bannon, who sat on the Board of Mercer’s company as Vice President at the time and still owns a major share of the Cambridge Analytica’s stock. Brokered to Robert Mercer and Cambridge Analytica by an elusive Canadian with Right-Wing corporate affiliations by the name of Christopher Wylie, AggregateIQ is run by Zach Massingham, a former university administrator who set up the company in 2013 and sold off the Intellectual Rights to Robert Mercer during the U.S. Electoral campaign.
Born in 1748, British philosopher Jeremy Bentham founded utilitarianism and was an early advocate for freedom of speech, the separation of church and state, equal rights for women, animal rights, right to divorce, homosexual rights, as well as the abolition of slavery and the death penalty. “It is the greatest happiness of the greatest many that is the measure of right and wrong” is a statement famously attributed to Bentham (Burns, 2005, pp. 46–61).
Cesare Beccaria was an Italian philosopher and adherent of utilitarianism, who influenced the “classical” theory of Criminology, and who condemned the use of torture and the death penalty by quoting Montesquieu, “every punishment that does not arise from absolute necessity is tyranny” (Beccaria, 1765, 1995, p. 11). In the mosh-pit of current Internet debate, nearly every one of these ideas is challenged, if not flouted or ignored, lost beneath the ever-cresting waves of digitized, micro-targeted, robot-generated propagandizing detritus.
Yet more concerning, it seems that the copious flow of news and ‘alarms’ of all kinds does not merely normalize stunning departures from civility, but results in perpetrators of social atrocities being absolved of responsibility or answerability by sheer virtue of overwhelm on the parts of ‘news’ and information consumers. Large populations can be conerced into voting against their own interests, or of turning around and ‘voluntarily’ defeating their own socio-political gains accomplished by engaging the democratic process, as with the Arab Spring or Obama’s election.
The proper, free use of social media effected both phenomena, but then the very platforms of open discussion and unification were exploited and re-purposed by anti-democratic agents to defeat both initiatives, turning them both right around in a 180-degree direction, so that today the dictator and the extremist Muslim Brotherhood are reinstalled in Egypt, and the nations of Britain and America were manipulated to vote against their own interests.
We need to push for federal and local investigations into the legality of data-mining and psychographic profiling psi-ops for public behavioural modification and mass coercion and control technologies. Large-scale methods being used on civilian populations, such as the techniques utilized by Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica, Massingham’s AggregateIQ, and Kushner’s Alamo Project, were formerly the preserve of international espionage and military psi-ops. Now greatly enhanced by new digital algorithmic technologies, ultra-sophisticated coding, meta-programs and applications (pioneered and trademarked by Aggregate IQ and sold to Mercer during the 2016 campaign), are also used on behalf of other high paying clients — corporations and political entities — on projects Mercer approves and permits.
In many cases, these clients interests run counter to those of the public in terms of manipulating them to vote against their own interests or purchase products against their own, or the environment’s, welfare. We need to know who these clients are and their agendas. It is not logical that privacy protections apply only in the case of the manipulators’s data and not that of the general public.
The angle to pursue to protect society against anti-social innovations, such as this technology and sociopathic corporate agendas, is that of consumer protection and voters’ rights protections. Transgressions and irregularities in public policy have to be grieved ethically in terms of ethical business practices, and social media needs to be examined and reviewed by consumer and voter protection agencies as a little-understood, highly addictive form of cyber-drug that needs regulation. Business ethics watchdogs as well as consumer protection agencies need to make this innovative technology of psychographic profiling one of their top concerns. It’s really all about getting legal means of public protection in place, or of applying existing protections in new, little anticipated directions.
Congressional and Justice Department investigators are now probing whether the digital campaign operation run by Trump son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner helped Russia target U.S. voters with fake news stories about Hillary Clinton, according to a new report on CBS. Central to Kushner’s digital strategy was Brad Parscale, whose company, Giles-Parscale, was paid $91 million by the Trump campaign. Parscale targeted voters with digital ads and social media.
What the Congressional and Justice Department investigations will not address — will not even have access to, and about which there will be scant news reportage for some time yet, is Kushner’s Alamo Project featured in a Medium article published on Nov 18, 2016, by Joel Winston, who is a consumer protection litigator and former deputy attorney general in Trenton, NJ. The reason for this is that Kushner’s Alamo Project and aligned psychographic cyber companies are currently being investigated by a number of intelligence agencies at the moment, for their part in the unexpected Trump campaign win and other covert ideological cyber attacks on domestic civilian populations, such as those in Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova.
All this is intricately related to the classified Russia Probe and the heavily guarded criminal investigations of Special Prosecutor Mueller into criminal money-laundering operations involving the Russian government state bank, VEB, the oligarch’s money launderer, Deutsche Bank, Trump, Trump Tower, the Trump campaign and key Trump functionaries. Much if not all of this activity constitutes actionable cyber-crime, under all kinds of domestic and international laws and agreements, not to mention extant Campaign Finance, Consumer and Voter Protection laws in the U.S. and Britain.
The oligarchs, technocrats, kleptocrats, scions of kleptocrats, and illicit power brokers, who thought that the sophisticated and popularly unsuspected covert psyops and cyber-warfare waged in the criminal state of Putin’s Russia and the NSA of Snowdon’s day could be flown under the radar in the contemporary West with impunity, are due to find out otherwise. Blinded by power, the ready cash of money-laundering cash dumps by Eastern European oligarchs, the Saudis, Emirates and other dynastic oil states, and dazzled by the illusion of protection and insulation afforded by inordinate privilege, the scions of aspiring kleptocrats, the junior Trumps and increasingly solitary Kushner, will fare no better.
A motivated public, at least as motivated as Mr. Mercer, needs to push to get the corporate/technocratic ideologues’ methodologies and practices examined on social reform, the public welfare, and consumer/voter protection grounds. But first and foremost, we need to educate ourselves about the phenomenon and publicize the issue. Few know this is even happening, or that it’s changing, and has already changed, their world so as to cause it to become virtually unrecognizable over just a few months, and making the principles of democracy practicably moot.
Carole Cadwalladr at the London Guardian is an intrepid investigative journalist on this topic. Her three-part series on these companies’ roles in the Brexit win spurred several government investigations of these new technologies and campaign-funding money flows in Britain.
After having successfully socially-engineered Brexit and the Trump victories, as well as a roster of less well-known psyops coups worldwide, all masquerading as democratic process and coming under the radar of local campaigning laws, the activities of psi-corps operations like Cambridge Analytica, Alamo, and AggregateIQ are in desperate need of regulation and ethical oversight. It is to be hoped that these types of psychographic behavioral modification measures, mounted by corporate technocrats rooted in the time-worn values of the military-industrial complex, shall not prevail in the end. As Luciano Floridi said in a recent opinion piece for The Guardian (Floridi, November 29, 2016), “[w]e need to shape and guide the future of the digital, and stop making it up as we go along. It is time to work on an innovative blueprint for a better kind of infosphere.”
As it is now becoming well known that Facebook sells information to corporate and government agents for consumer buying and voting analysis, as well as for the more active interferences of popular opinion gauging and behavioral modification, I can foresee the possibility of a co-operative social platform being developed that can do a better, more accurate, less intrusive and more respectful job of representing us. But developments of this sort would depend upon public beliefs as to whether we warrant, or ‘rate,’ such ethical representation, and such beliefs are increasingly modified by digital systems about which the majority has little or no understanding.
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• ‘Google, democracy and the truth about internet search: Tech-savvy rightwingers have been able to ‘game’ the algorithms of internet giants and create a new reality where Hitler is a good guy, Jews are evil and…Donald Trump becomes president,’ in The London Guardian (Dec. 4, 2016), online version. Stable URL:https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/google-democracy-truth-internet-search-facebook
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Thrush, Glenn and Maggie Haberman, ‘Jared Kushner Named Senior White House Adviser to Donald Trump.’ In The New York Times, Jan 9, 2017, Online version. Stable URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/us/jared-kushner-senior-adviser-white-house-trump.html?_r=0
 Oborne is author of The Rise of Political Lying and The Triumph of the Political Class, and, with Frances Weaver, the pamphlet Guilty Men. Oborne is best known for his acerbic commentary on the hypocrisy and mendacity of contemporary politicians. He is the associate editor of The Spectator and former chief political commentator of The Daily Telegraph, from which he resigned in early 2015. John Plunkett, ‘Peter Oborne resigns, saying Telegraph’s HSBC coverage a “fraud on readers” in The Guardian, 17 February 2015.
 Stable URL.: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/27/from-oscars-to-trump-chaos-is-the- new-normal.html
 The work was published in 1620 and is considered one of the earliest treatises arguing the case for the methodical approach of modern science. Stable URL: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/29/fake-news-echo-chamber-ethics-infosphere-internet-digital
 Eliana Johnson is National Review’s Washington, D.C. Editor. Stable URL:http://www.nationalreview.com/article/438739/trump-campaigns-data-firm-partner-cambridge-analytica-worked-cruz
 Stable URL:
 The ‘Alamo’ program is still in use for Trump’s White House.
 “Doubts about the Origin of Bentham’s Formula, ‘the Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number’, Were Resolved by Robert Shackleton Thirty Years Ago. […] Some Broader Issues Are Raised Concerning the Character of Bentham’s Understanding of ‘happiness’ Itself.” [Utilitas], vol. 17, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2005, pp. 46–61, https://www.cambridge.org/core/article/div-class-title-happiness-and-utility-jeremy-benthamandapos-s-equation-div/1BE48AA389161E1F676033457141BB1A,10.1017/S0953820804001396.