Big Brother V. Big Brother: The Death of American Democracy

One of the previously unknown causes for Donald Trump's victory can be found in the competing algorithms of the Republicans and Democrats. Costing tens of millions of dollars, these operations are funded by the competing super-elites of the country. Like the rest of the information technology industry, megadata has not only twisted and distorted American democracy for its own means, but it represents the greatest vacuuming up of money for the 1% in the history of mankind.

It's well known that Barack Obama's victories were in part due to its data operations. Hillary Clinton's data operation was in good part responsible for her defeats in 2008 and 2016. Both times, she depended on a system that microtargeted small voter populations pigeonholed into discreet demographic niches. Think of lower income soccer moms in the suburbs, for example. End result? Hillary could never emphasize "Good Jobs! Good Schools! Good neighborhoods!" that would have been a vote getter. Instead her message on what her administration would do was rattled off like some kind of brief litany while she concentrated on what a bad person Donald Trump is.Losing the forest for seeing the trees, Hillary ignored things like Michigan and Wisconsin.

But, what about the other side? Well, the Koch brothers publicly committed spending $800,000,000 or more on down ticket operations.  And yet to the casual observer, their expenditures appear invisible.  They certainly didn't spend money on traditional ground operations where overworked volunteers sit on folding chairs eating pizza while they do one form of vote harvesting or another.  The Democrats outspent all Republican efforts by 3:1. But like the Polish cavalry in both world wars, they vastly outnumbered the German machine guns.

It would appear that the vast majority of Koch and other big right wing money spent their loot on the internet.  We all know about those bros living in LA or Macedonia who've suddenly found themselves swimming in cash from producing all those bogus stories on Hillary Clinton's latest Mafia killing. But this political and economic equivalent of the crystal meth trade depends on a sea of right wing web sites -- all of whom have those internet spammy ads for penis enlargement or superfoods or whatever. Again, what money made on the internet food chain this way is only the bottom of the pyramid. And for here, we have to go to Facebook and Ocean Analytics.

Obviously Mark Zuckerberg profited handsomely from the spate of phony news sites paying for eyeball space. But right wing billionaire Robert Mercer's operations are particularly egregious on Facebook. They are those cutesy quizzes that even drew me in a sucker until I kind of figured out I was being played.

What kind of flower are you?

What famous artist would paint your portrait?

Which political revolutionary would you be?

What the New York Times revealed about these is that they collate the universe of electronic traffic that you generate with these quizzes. And they develop an individual personality profile of you, which they can then compare to people with different profiles. It was a very expensive and labor intensive operation, but Ocean Analytics did isolate Trump supporters from Sanders supporters.  And Ocean Analytics did assist in activating these voters at the last minute to give Trump his victory.

On the last day of the election, 4% of the voting population made up their mind about which candidate to vote for POTUS. An additional 3% of the voters did not make up their minds on who to vote for until they were actually looking at their ballot! Stupid people are the ultimate deciders of any election, and the vast majority of stupid people swung to Trump.

The whole idea of battling algorithms and megadatas is symptomatic of the vast concentration of wealth that computer and internet providers have accomplished. We've already seen the negative consequences of income inequality in this election, and it's obvious that the next four years will lead to even greater income inequality. A more fragile, volatile, and dangerous society is quickly emerging in the United States of America, and it would appear as if information technology is our very own serial killer of American democracy, our republican form of government, and perhaps the world.

Views: 86

Comment by JMac1949 Today on December 3, 2016 at 6:41am

As Forrest Gump's Mama always said, "Stupid is as stupid does."  Unfortunately that applied to both Dems and Tea Party folk in 2016.  R&L

Comment by old new lefty on December 3, 2016 at 7:22am

Terry, one of the reasons for her bad public speaking was that she was buried in the metrics too much. I'm afraid the question needs to be asked of Hillary: Did she influence the way her data base was put together, or did her data base influence the way she delivered her message. And the Clinton scandal factory was a closely coordinated campaign between and among the right wing for decades. Supertankers full of IT there!

Comment by koshersalaami on December 3, 2016 at 7:44am

The masses didn't find victory in sheer numbers. That's not how the popular vote went. I'd look at Ron Powell's guest post about that concerning how different voters' impact is weighted by being in less populated states. 

Comment by Ron Powell on December 3, 2016 at 1:15pm

"Stupid people are the ultimate deciders of any election, and the vast majority of stupid people swung to Trump."

Best summation given to date re the outcome of this election. 

I would add: "...and you can't fix stupid..." 

Comment by koshersalaami on December 3, 2016 at 3:39pm

There was more stupidity in this election than just voting for Trump. And a lot of the election wasn't about thinking at all, it was about anger. 

Comment by nerd cred on December 3, 2016 at 5:50pm

So you're saying that what the kochs did was to pinpoint trump sympathizers by means of those stupid quizzes (which I have great difficulty passing by) and then extra pinpoint them to push them out to vote?

(It's so helpful when posts that are so information dense have a reference or two linked. Especially when my sinuses are killing me.)

The best thing we all can do, imo, is get involved in local government. That's the basis of the R takeover and they started planing the seeds 30-40 years ago

Comment by Phyllis on December 3, 2016 at 6:35pm

My local government is solidly R, to the point where you need an R to endorse you if you want to run independent and that's impossible to get, so starting local won't work everywhere.

I agree with you on the part about Hillary not getting her message out. Just being "Not Trump" wasn't enough. And letting her fans diss the Bernie people was totally stupid, she NEEDED those people and they were driven away. At least we don't have to worry about her again. Unless some miracle occurs and Trump is ousted by the electoral college and she wins the recounts. It will still be hard to get Republican electors to vote for her over Pence.

Comment by vzn on December 5, 2016 at 2:36pm

having worked in the biz for decades, would like to argue that IT is neutral. but it seems like there could be case to be made that it exacerbates (already existing?) polarizations so to speak. my current nanosecond take is that old systems/ institutions are cracking/ failing. capitalism itself can fail on a large scale eg 1929, 2008. getting out of a hole when all you have is a shovel is not easy to figure out. "in the interregnum all kinds of morbid symptoms appear" so said a wise philosopher.


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