Ah, finally! I’ll get real story about Cambridge Analytica.
On January 8, 2019, I posted TV: Brexit: The Uncivil War. I re-read that post and was surprised by my reaction then versus my reaction to this documentary just seven months later. I’m going to have to re-watch that movie to see why.
As far as this documentary goes, I wound up laughing out loud at several places.
I mean, come on, Edward Bernays did all of this. He pioneered all of it. I even said so in that earlier post. He flipped all of America from need-driven to want-driven.
The only differences today are:
1) People are offering up information about themselves in staggering quantities (Bernays would have to seek that out slowly and laboriously)
2) Companies are vacuuming up all that data (Bernays had to rely on instinct, experts in human psychology, and primitive polling) and
3) Augmenting human brain power with software algorithms (Bernays and his team had to be clever)
As far as changing behavior, that’s how Bernays made his money! This is not new.
The big difference is the claim of Russian interference. And this documentary does not give that claim any depth. I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I’m saying if you’re going to mention it, convince viewers. They seem to take it for granted that it’s common knowledge. I wanted dots connected and lines drawn to specific Russian actors. None were.
If anyone should be scrutinized, it’s her:
Only until very late in the documentary do we find out she traveled to Russia and met with people she never specified over there! What?
If anything, I tended to agree with him …
… when he said the two election results — Brexit and Trump — were so baffling to their opposition that they believed there had to be some kind of nefarious manipulation somewhere in the game. He is made out to be the “Bond villain” of the piece.
And again, aside from Russian interference — which isn’t convincingly laid out — it’s all Bernays-like business-as-usual with the assistance of machines.
And here is the kicker. If the opposition — pro-EU and the campaign for Hillary — had used Cambridge Analytica and won, there is no way in hell any of this would have ever been revealed. Setting aside the claims of Russian interference, had that side of things used CA and won, their opponents would have STFU about such a tool and eagerly, yet quietly, signed up as clients!
Because that is how the real world works. At least when the losers aren’t crybabies!
And, seriously, if this documentary opened your eyes to anything, you don’t know history. And God help us all for that!
Here, go watch all four hours of The Century of the Self and catch up to the rest of us.
Next year we’re going to have the Presidential Campaign From Hell. If we last long enough to get there …
Same-day update (hours and hours later):
Well, now I can account for why my reaction was different seven months later between Brexit: The Uncivil War movie and this documentary. I’ve been rewatching The Century of the Self. There was much I had forgotten but its core message stuck: The “manipulation” that led to Brexit and Trump is not new at all. It was first used to get Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in office! Before there was ever a Facebook, or Internet, or Cambridge Analytica, there was …
… the Stanford Research Institute with its massive databases …
… which were built using a questionnaire …
… that had a record-breaking eighty-percent response rate! This enabled SRI to slice and dice people a new way. One that was, basically, from the way people perceived themselves. This had never been done before.
And just like with doubts about the votes for Brexit and Trump, no one believed the SRI researchers who said both Thatcher and Reagan would win!
And you can see the difference between the opposition that lost then and now. SRI International is still in business while Cambridge Analytica is not. They didn’t whine back in the early 1980s. They adopted the tactics that led to winning! After Reagan and the first Bush, we got Clinton. The UK got Tony Blair.
So, yeah, if you haven’t seen The Century of the Self, you really have no idea what the hell is going on today. So go see it!