Mindf*ck, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Targeted [Hardcover] 3 Books Collection Set By Christopher Wylie

If you're looking to understand Cambridge Analytica, datamining and their inextricable link with contemporary politics you could probably do a lot worse than this book, where you get the story straight from the (proverbial) horse's mouth. Chris Wylie worked at CA, so has all the intel on how the company excelled to have the wield it did. If I was rating purely on the importance of the topic this would get five stars, easily.

But that's not how I rate books, unfortunately, and I struggled with a few things here. Firstly the tone - it was overly chatty and familiar at times, which is something which (unless done well, and it rarely is) turns me off. Personal preference, maybe, but I also didn't particularly like the tone: Wylie has a story to tell, sure, but he often gets overly defensive about his role in proceedings, how he overlooked or didn't fully understand what was going on in the company, how he stayed longer than he perhaps should've... but I didn't buy it. This overly defensive tone just made me less convinced of his candor.

Despite my misgivings, I think a lot of readers will love this expose on how the people of the US (and a number of other nations) were treated like one big, sick psychological experiment.

Thank you Netgalley and Serpent's Tail / Profile Books for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review. 9124039977

... I said nothing during the meeting, but afterward I went to see Alexander Nix. This can't be legal, I told him. To which he replied, You can't expect anything legal with these people. It's Africa.
To my way of thinking, the Cambridge Analytica operation explains about ninety percent of both the American and British nightmare scenarios of the last few years: Trump and Brexit. Mr. Wylie was in a position to see the way the company came to be, the disturbing inside track. He is someone who knows it inside out, in the right order, and with the right inflection, because he knew all the players--and was there.

Wylie is something of a tech nerd, who bounced around the various spheres of influence in North America and Britain--basically offering credible social-science number-crunching, for persuasion and turnout in political campaigns. Gigs in Canada for the LPC party, then the US for Obama, then to Britain for the Lib Dems, before the move to the shadowy SCL Corporation in Britain, who did all manner of political analysis, polling and disinformation campaigns, all over the world. If you needed a referendum tipped in the third world, if you needed to target certain demographics in elections, then SCL could arrange all of it discreetly.

(Later in the life of the scam, the head of SCL and its corporate twin, Cambridge Analytica, one Alexander Nix, would be caught in a devastating BBC video sting, offering an array of 'fixes' to an offshore interest. From voter suppression to bribery to honey-traps, Nix assures the would-be clients, SCL/CA could arrange things in ways profitable to all players in the deal.)
It's probably best to let the book speak for itself, in exerpts :

Social Engineering Is Big Business.
Let's start with Breitbart, the disruptive right wing enabler funded by the affluent Mercers, and operated after the passing of Breitbart himself by the ever-calculating, pre-trumpist Steve Bannon.

“When Andrew Breitbart (who had introduced the Mercers to Bannon) died suddenly in 2012, Bannon took his place as senior editor, and assumed his philosophy.”

“… the Breitbart Doctrine: Politics flows from culture, and if conservatives wanted to successfully dam up progressive ideas in America, they would have to first challenge the culture. And so Breitbart was founded to be not only a media platform but also a tool for reversing the flow of American culture…”

“At our first meeting, Bannon was the executive chair of Breitbart and had come to Cambridge in search of promising young conservatives and candidates to staff his new London bureau….
He had a problem, though. For all the site’s sound and fury, it became pigeonholed as a place for young, straight white guys who couldn’t get laid. Gamergate was one of the first, most public instances of their culture war: When several women tried to bring to light the gross misogyny within the gaming industry, they were hounded, doxed, and sent numerous death threats in a massive campaign against the “progressives” imposing their “feminist ideology” onto gaming culture.”

“Gamergate was not instigated by Breitbart, but it was a sign to Bannon, who saw that angry lonely white men could become incredibly mobilized when they felt that their way of life was threatened. Bannon realized the power of cultivating the misogyny of horny virgins. Their nihilistic anger and talks of “beta uprisings” simmered in the recesses of the Internet. But growing an army of “incels” (involuntary celibates) would not be sufficient for the movement he fantasized about. He needed to find a new approach. This is one of the odder moments in the Cambridge Analytica saga …”

Forging The Weapons For Dismantling The Culture.
“Mercer looked at winning elections as a social engineering problem. The way to “fix society” was by creating simulations: if we could quantify society inside a computer, optimize that system, and then replicate that optimization outside the computer…. The structure chosen to set up this new entity was extremely convoluted, and it even confused staff working on projects, who were never sure who exactly the actually worked for. SCL Group would remain the “parent” of a new US subsidiary, incorporated in Delaware, called Cambridge Analytica…”

“Nix initially explained how this labyrinthine setup was to allow us to operate under the radar. Mercer’s rivals in the finance sector watched his every move, and if they knew that he had acquired a psychological warfare firm (SCL), others in the industry might figure out his next play—to develop sophisticated trend-forecasting tools—or poach key staff. We knew Bannon wanted to work on a project with Breitbart, but this was originally supposed to be a side project to satiate his personal fixations. Of course, this was all bullshit, and they wanted to build a political arsenal…”

All That Remained Was Finding Targeting Data.
Enough Targeting Data.

“One of the challenges for social sciences like psychology, anthropology, and sociology is a relative lack of numerical data, since it’s extremely hard to measure and quantify the abstract cultural or social dynamics of an entire society. That is, unless you can throw a virtual clone of everyone into a computer, and observe their dynamics. It felt like we were holding the keys to unlock a new way of studying society. How could I say no to that?”

Survey Says: Trust Facebook. Who Knows You Best?
“He typed in a query, and a list of links popped up. He clicked on one of the many people who went by that name in Nebraska – and there was everything about her, right up on the screen. Here’s her photo, here’s where she works, here’s her house. Here are her kids, this is where they go to school, this is the car she drives. She voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, she loves Katy Perry, she drives an Audi, she’s a bit basic … and on and on and on. We knew everything about her – and for many records, the information was updated in real time, so if she posted to Facebook, we could see it happening.”

“And not only did we have all her Facebook data, but we were merging it with all the commercial and state bureau data we'd bought as well. And imputations made from the U.S Census. We had data about her mortgage applications, we knew how much money she made, whether she owned a gun. We had information from her airline mileage programs, so we knew how often she flew. We could see if she was married (she wasn't). We had a sense of her physical health. And we had a satellite photo of her house, easily obtained from Google Earth. We had re-created her life in our computer. She had no idea.”

“”Let me get this straight,” I said. “If I create a Facebook app, and a thousand people use it, I’ll get like 150,000 profiles? Really? Facebook actually lets you do that?””

“ … this means that, for an analyst, there’s often no need to ask questions: You simply create algorithms that find discrete patterns in a user’s naturally occurring data. And once you do that, the system itself can reveal patterns in the data that you otherwise would never have noticed. Facebook users curate themselves all in one place, in a single data form. We don't need to connect a million data sets; we don't have to do complicated math to fill in missing data. The information is already in place, because everyone serves up their real-time autobiography, right there on the site. If you were creating a system from scratch to watch and study people, you couldn’t do much better than Facebook…”

And That Only Sets The Stage.
Wylie comes across as sympathetic, believable, and credible on the facts; he terminated his association with SCL/Cambridge within a year of Bannon's taking over, and before the Trump Campaign. If you had any lingering suspicion that the social media, elections or referenda in which you partake might be fair or unobserved by interlopers, you never will again.

“On March 16, 2018, a day before The Guardian and The New York Times pubished my story, Facebook announced that it was banning me from not only Facebook but also Instagram. Facebook had refused to ban white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other armies of hate, but it chose to ban me.” 9124039977 Too self serving, but the first-hand reports of Cambridge Analytica are worth the price of admission. He makes good regulation arguments toward the end. He really, really, really wants you to think he was different, remorseful, and not as evil as the others: good luck with that. 9124039977 5 ☆ A Billionaire and Russia Hack Democracy

Christopher Wylie's Mindf*ck is a must read for anybody interested in recent national political events and / or the intersection of social media, big data, and cultural undercurrents. Wylie recounts a complicated multinational tale of how one billionaire created Cambridge Analytica to be a psychological warfare tool wielded by an international ultra-conservative political movement.
... our identities and behavior have become commodities in the high - stakes data trade. The companies which control the flow of information are among the most powerful in the world.

Wylie had worked for political parties in both his home country of Canada and in the U.K. prior to joining the SCL Group in London in the fall of 2013. The U.K. military hired SCL when it wanted plausible deniability as SCL conducted psychological and influence operations anywhere in the world. SCL's resume included disinformation campaigns to mitigate jihadist recruitment efforts in Pakistan and to decrease narcotics and other illegal trafficking in South America.

The SCL director Alexander Nix was more of an amoral salesperson than someone who knew how to run the actual nuts and bolts of any operation. Nonetheless, Nix wanted SCL to dominate the propaganda trade. In his prior work on election campaigns, Wylie knew the value of acquiring massive amounts of data and, more importantly, the ways to improve SCL's arcane inefficiencies. SCL had been retained by the Trinidad Ministry of National Security, so Nix assigned the small Trinidad and Tobago nation as the pilot project site for Wylie's team. With illegally routed government funds and carte blanche, real time access to their citizenry's mobile internet usage, Wylie's team was able to collect sufficient data to develop artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that could predict behavior. The Trinidad Ministry's initial objective was to look for criminals, but the pilot project's success could be expanded to apply to their elections.

Steve Bannon had been dangling the prospect of millions of investment dollars to SCL and Nix for some time. Wylie presented to Bannon the Trinidad project, showing that cultural trends could be quantified and predicted. At the minimum, the collected data included basic demographics such as sex, age, and ethnicity, internet browsing usage, census tract information, and social media profiles. Bannon was excited by the fact that all of this data was available for identifiable individuals (i.e. not aggregated which would provide privacy to the individuals). Bannon wanted Wylie's team to replicate the Trinidad project for the entire USA but first tested the team with a trial run in Virginia in October 2013. Convinced of SCL's capabilities, Bannon then introduced SCL to his principal, billionaire Robert Mercer, in November 2013.

Mercer invested $15 million for a 90 percent stake in the newly created Cambridge Analytica (C.A.). SCL would be C.A.'s parent company and own 10 percent. Convoluted legal ties were created so that C.A., a U.S. subsidiary, would use staff and resources of the British SCL and SCL could continue its work for the British military. Wylie initially believed that Mercer's interest in C.A. was purely financial. But Wylie eventually realized that deeply held political beliefs were behind Mercer and Bannon's objectives for C.A.
Every system [a computer, a network, even society] has weaknesses waiting to be exploited.

Mercer had articulated a desire to replicate a society in silico - to model a society down to its silicone replications of real people so that the model could run simulations and make forecasts. As the first step, Wylie believed that a true study of the USA would be similar to examining tribal conflicts. To eliminate bias, non - American sociologists and anthropologists conducted focus group research in order to map American rituals, superstitions, mythologies, and ethnic tensions. In 2014, Wylie characterized the
USA as a nation nearing a nervous breakdown.

Clinical psychologists are held to the primary medical principle of do no harm. But C.A. was not constrained any iota in their use of applied psychology. C.A. discovered Americans' hot button issues of religion, gun use, immigration, and race / ethnicity and targeted these as future weaknesses to exploit.

The next step was for C.A. to acquire data so they could identify who should receive their tailored messages. A competitor firm, Palantir, had observed:
Facebook had the potential to be the best discreet surveillance tool imaginable for the National Security Agency.

In June 2014, C.A. deployed a Trojan horse in order to scrape Facebook user information. This came disguised as a personality test app that offered a payment of $1 - $2 for the test completion and which needed to be run on Facebook's platform. Within two months, less than 300,000 Facebook users completed the personality test on this app. But thanks to Facebook's vast permissiveness, any user of the app would not only have their profile and usage stats but also all their friends' data scraped, collected, and organized by the Trojan horse app. This is how C.A. obtained information on 87 million Facebook users by August 2014.

This wasn't all. To put the big in big data, C.A. used AI to combine individual Facebook users with additional database information they had purchased. In the end, C.A. had created complete dossiers which also contained data on a Facebook user's kids, schools, employment, income, mortgage, phone numbers, online shopping, and photos. This is not a complete list. And more importantly, C.A. also knew them by personality because AI algorithms could make a good prediction even for the friends who had not completed the personality test. From a 2015 research paper, a well- designed AI
computer model could predict an individual's behavior better than that person's co-worker (with 10 likes on social media), family member (with 150 likes), or their own spouse (with 300 likes).

Bannon had earlier observed that there is no force more powerful than a humiliated man and Bannon leveraged that to launch his cultural war. Bannon focused on incels (involuntary celibates) who displayed what Wylie labeled the dark triad traits. These are maladaptive traits that increase the likelihood of committing crimes or other antisocial behavior: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. C.A. identified persons with the dark triad traits and neuroticism because they would be susceptible to conspiracy theories and impulsive bursts of anger. C.A. filled their Facebook newsfeed with articles that would provoke strong emotional reactions. C.A. exploited humans' adaptive mechanism of noticing the horrible as it would increase the chances of survival against threats. As users liked these articles, it confirmed whether they actually fit Bannon's target group. C.A. would then start to fill their newsfeed with fake pages of news, forums, and groups to foster a sense of community among the incels and their supporters. Once sufficient numbers in an area were attained, it was time to arrange a physical meeting in real life. C.A. had employed SCL' s international counter-insurgency tactics on Americans to foster Bannon's alt-right movement.

Wylie's discomfort and misgivings could no longer be rationalized away. He quit C.A. around the end of 2014. But Wylie maintained contact with his team members and other politically placed people in the U.K. Mindf*ck continued with a description of the ultra conservative movement and C.A.'s role in the Brexit campaign and assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016. Through his colleagues' information, Wylie pieced together the Russian influence amd C.A.'s impact on the 2016 American presidential election. Whistleblowing by Wylie and two friends on C.A. erupted onto the public stage in March 2018 and led to massive international investigations.
Our system is broken. Our laws don't work. Our regulators are weak. Our governments don't understand what's happening. Our technology is usurping democracy.

Wylie concludes Mindf*ck with his suggestions for regulation. Although I don't agree with everything Wylie writes in this section, I strongly agree that some legal action must be taken. Like Wylie, I just don't know what. In the descriptions of psychological warfare in particular, Mindf*ck left me feeling emotionally exhausted. In fact, this book generated my own dark triad feelings: dismayed, discouraged, and dumbfounded. And I've never even been a Facebook user; in which instance, I would most likely feel much worse. Have no doubts, Wylie's account of democracy being hacked is not over.

Read Mindf*ck if you don't want to drown in the denial of reality. 9124039977 Just... read this book. And then walk through the world. You won't be the same. 9124039977


Christopher Wylie ☆ 8 read

For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers.

Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica's American operations, which were driven by Steve Bannon's vision to remake America and fueled by mysterious billionaire Robert Mercer's money, as it weaponized and wielded the massive store of data it had harvested on individuals in--excess of 87 million--to disunite the United States and set Americans against each other through psychological manipulation. Bannon had long sensed that deep within America's soul lurked an explosive tension. Cambridge Analytica had the data to prove it, and in 2016 Bannon had a presidential campaign to use as his proving ground.

Christopher Wylie might have seemed an unlikely figure to be at the center of such an operation. Canadian and liberal in his politics, he was only twenty-four when he got a job with a London firm that worked with the U.K. Ministry of Defense and was charged putatively with helping to build a team of data scientists to create new tools to identify and combat radical extremism online. In short order, those same military tools were turned to political purposes, and Cambridge Analytica was born.

Wylie's decision to become a whistleblower prompted the largest data crime investigation in history. His story is both exposé and dire warning about a sudden problem born of very new and powerful capabilities. It has not only exposed the profound vulnerabilities and profound carelessness in the enormous companies that drive the attention economy, it has also exposed the profound vulnerabilities of democracy itself. What happened in 2016 was just a trial run. Ruthless actors are coming for your data, and they want to control what you think. Mindf*ck, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Targeted [Hardcover] 3 Books Collection Set

Wow!! Enlightening and scary and brave.

My creative juices have abandoned me in terms of crafting an interesting and creative review. Suffice it to say this is an important book that everyone should read!! We are being manipulated by the social networks and search engines that we see online. It's psychological warfare and it is being waged constantly on fb, twitter, instagram, google etc. Your data is being collected and analyzed creating an online persona crafted to feed you specific information designed to influence your behavior. How they collect your data is tricky. In addition to the cookies that follow your every move, and the friends posts that you like, they also collect it via games that ask you to play that tell you your spirit animal or whatever. Particularly on facebook and twitter but also used in search engine results, internet browser add-ons, and other social media. Your malleable political views in this case are extremely manipulated. In the US it was used in the election of Trump. I think most people sense this in the back of their minds. No one would on the basis of his resume alone elect such a man. But what if there are planted stories designed to motivate you based on the ways in which you can be manipulated: fear, resentment, anxiety, entitlement, etc? Mostly negative emotions. These emotions are affirmed and amplified by other articles and posted on fb. Then they flood your new feed with these types of articles that you are predisposed to believe because it reinforces your world view. And they come with hundreds and thousands of likes and hearts implying that your view is the standard/norm. The world view that you may have adapted on the basis of the proliferation of items and views you are constantly seeing on fb, twitter, a google search etc. Fake accounts both post fake articles and like them by the hundreds and thousands amplifying. Then you join in and repost and retweet these false articles giving them a slight bit of credibility among your friends. A vicious circle that perpetuates and reinforces a belief. The end result is polarization and intransigence. Turns out that both US political parties have tried this, but one party has members very susceptible to psychological manipulation. A party that leans authoritarian while claiming patriotism. A party that dislikes nuance and sees the world in exclusionary terms. And guess what, not only are people willing to exploit this; but they don't hide it. They convince that the other party are the brainwashed ones. You ever wonder how people can believe that the Democrats stole an election in a state with Republican governance including the responsibilities for the election? How people can turn against values they thought were rock solid. How Evangelicals suddenly only care about abortion and judges etc. The well of psychological warfare runs deep and the ethics are really obvious but if you are a political party that values power over all things and are afraid of losing power based on political positions, the whole exercise becomes Machiavellian. The ends justify the means. Guess whose ethics were malleable from the start: . But in truth the book goes beyond the US. And also, it's hard to be divisive unless a populace was already in a fragile state. Turns out this psychological warfare is used in the Middle East, in the Ukraine, in Europe (Brexit anyone?). The book is a mea culpa for empowering such unethical behavior by developing a technological tool that marries psychological manipulation with data science… and advocating for guardrails. It can't be understated how destructive Cambridge Analytica and other data firms are. They are undermining the ability for people to discern the accuracy and viability of information. If no one can trust any sources, then the truth will be disregarded and there can be no justice or governance. What I've just describe is a small part of the psychological warfare that has been going on.

So basically the book is about the very real acts of psychological manipulation perpetrated by Cambridge Analytica and it's obvious affects on the world as we know it today. Wylie is an interesting, innovative, creative and super smart pawn. Some of his own emotional vulnerabilities proved crucial towards the development of these sinister tools. A very scary book. I don't see any evidence that much has been done to counteract the damage or prevent such things from happening in the future. Cambridge Analytica is gone but there are other firms and this is still being done without many protections. The law is staggeringly lagging behind the technology and it is to everyone's peril that it continues unabated.

4.5ish Stars

Read on kindle 9124039977 This book blew my mind.

With the devastating election news from the UK and the rise of bigotry across the world, it is crucial to understand the role of social media. The contest over data in the digital realm is the new playing field where elections and ideologies are made and mapped, and yet these machinations are invisibilized. It has become possible to create an “artificial society,” one in which strangers can hold puppet strings of people across the globe – algorithms do not just structure our online experience, but also redefine our very existence offline. Things are not broken, they are working as they were designed: the maintenance of a coalition between conservative politicians and the private sector to monopolize power.

The agenda is not new, but with social media the strategy and the scale of it surpasses the frameworks we currently have. This is why whistleblowers like Christopher Wylie and Shahmir Sanni are so important. They demystify the natural and expose the materiality of artifice, showing how reality is the product of decisions made by people in power.

In this book Wylie takes us behind the scenes of the Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal. At times reading felt surreal like science fiction – but then I realized the substance of today is precisely that. “Real life” has become a video game.

Here are some important takeaways. It is misleading to dismiss conservatives like Bannon as ignorant, they are well studied in critical theory and understand how to persuade alienated people toward extremist ideology. They understand what many progressives continue to dismiss: peoples’ politics are informed not necessarily by reason or self-interest, but rather by what people feel and what people look like. By using personality models, fashion brands, etc. CA was able to predict people’s political lives and target content/ads accordingly. They began this first in the Global South (digital colonialism) and then brought these methods to the West where they worked to fester dissent just as effectively. Slogans, images and videos were targeted to create and reinforce racial stereotypes and create a national-mirage such that so many were literally seeing different countries. Facebook ads meant that the evidence of this deception was erased and largely unaccounted for. Optics were manipulated to misdirect blame (to the immigrants, the Muslims, etc), build racist solidarities and galvanize support for candidates and policies.

Social media companies are directly responsible for enabling and facilitating this. Wylie calls for holding social media companies accountable, fighting for the right to privacy, and a new code of conduct, ethics + regulation for the digital age. 9124039977 This book gets my five stars, simply by opening my eyes to the idea of data as a commodity. The title could not be more apt, the reading experience was a total Mindf*uck and I really feel strongly this should be a compulsory read for those seeking to understand the dark nexus of politics and social media. 9124039977 5★
READ THIS: My pick for best non-fiction, true crime, psychological thriller - ever!

Can't believe I wrote so much and didn't once mention Steve Bannon, who is the one who thought to turn this research into psychological warfare.

“I don’t know what else to say other than I was more naïve than I thought I was at the time. . .

When I joined SCL, I was there to help the firm explore areas like counter-radicalisation in order to help Britain, America and their allies defend themselves against new threats emerging online.”

Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time. How was ISIS attracting recruits? How could we good guys find out who was a likely target so we could counteract whatever was pushing them towards those bad guys and militant jihadism? Of course it was a good idea.

We’ve all done it. Even as a child, you learn to wait till a grown-up is in a good mood before you ask for a treat. As you get older, you get more manipulative. You put someone in a good mood before asking for a favour.

So it’s still a good idea. But – there’s always a but – when this eclectic bunch of people were gathered together to figure out what information they needed, how to collect it, and what to do with it, most of them had no idea that it could be used to change voting behaviour.

. . . “Facebook’s data was weaponised by the firm, and . . . the systems they built left millions of Americans vulnerable to the propaganda operations of hostile foreign states.”

That’s the word – weaponised. Basically, we’ve all shot ourselves in the proverbial foot, because we were silly enough to believe that rules about privacy were real and that laws could be enforced. So we connected, shared only with Friends of Friends of Friends, or whatever list you chose. YOU chose. Private? Yeah, right.

“Social media herds the citizenry into surveilled* spaces where the architects can track and classify them and use this understanding to influence their behaviour. If democracy and capitalism are based on accessible information and free choice, what we are witnessing is their subversion from the inside.”

*[The asterisk is mine. ‘Surveilled’ is ‘watched’, in case you weren’t aware that in the US, they’ve made a verb from the noun ‘surveillance’.]

Of course we knew Facebook watched what we did so they could put all the right ads up on our pages. Same with Google and other search engines. Personal note.

I don’t mean to make light of this. I have always said anything you put online you should be prepared to see posted on your front door or on the front page of the newspaper. It’s a way to remember to moderate yourself. But like the author, I didn’t figure on a company collecting everyone’s prejudices and hate and putting it all together to post propaganda to foment a general rebellion.

It’s one thing when peasants and serfs rebel against the nobility. They have a common cause about injustice. What Cambridge Analytica did was convince everybody who had a gripe about anything at all that it was the fault of “the system”, so the solution was to “break the system”. Of course, the result is a void which squillionaires and oligarchs are quick to fill. POWER!

They ran focus groups everywhere, finding out what people were upset about. They did this across Africa, Trinidad, and the tentacles spread further and further. The fact that everyone’s complaint is not the same, doesn’t matter. In face, conflicting complaints don’t even matter. This came from a focus group in Louisiana.

“A man named Lloyd, speaking with a Cajun accent that Gettleson found almost indecipherable, came across loud and clear in venting his disgust that the schools in his parish no longer taught his native French. He was furious that his granddaughter was being denied the chance to learn the ‘culture and heritage’ of her Cajun forebears.

It wasn’t fifteen minutes before the same man launched into a rant about Latinos, how even in America they wouldn’t stop speaking Spanish. Somehow, no one in the group saw the disconnect.”

A personal note.

So they know the Cajun man’s soft spot – Latinos.

Absolutely compelling reading. You know those students who seem to highlight so much that entire pages are yellow? I wasn’t one of them. I tend to highlight some key words or passages, because if too much is marked, nothing stands out. Well, this is one book that would be all yellow!

Everyone should be aware of what has happened. I will let Chris’s quotes give you an idea of the rest of the story. It’s a terrific book, and a story that’s hard to believe. Just because it’s possible to create something that is world-beatingly powerful doesn’t mean you should.

Personal note.

The author wanders back and forth between his early days in Canada and today, and early days in England and then back to today, which can get confusing. But it’s necessary, because the different threads of his interests and connections are what made his part in the puzzle unique. He was the one who understood how to make things work – for the better, he’d hoped, but it was really the challenge that hooked him. Fascinating stuff.

Thanks to NetGalley and Serpent’s Tail/Profile Books for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted so much both above and below.

“I provided evidence tying Cambridge Analytica to Donald Trump, Facebook, Russian intelligence, international hackers and Brexit.
. . .

“Although Cambridge Analytica was created as a business, I learned later that it was never intended to make money. The firm’s sole purpose was to cannibalise the Republican Party and remould American culture.”
. . .

“Soon enough, having perfected its methods far from the attention of western media
[influencing African elections], CA shifted from instigating tribal conflict in Africa to instigating tribal conflict in America.”
. . .

“The world of psychological warfare of which SCL was a part has been around for as long as humans have waged war. In the sixth century BC, Persians of the Achaemenid, knowing that Egyptians worshipped the cat god Bastet, drew images of cats on their shields so the Egyptians would be reluctant to take aim at them in battle.”
. . .

“I told myself that truly learning about society includes delving into uncomfortable questions about our darker sides. How could we understand racial bias, authoritarianism or misogyny if we did not explore them? What I did not appreciate is the fine line between exploring something and actually creating it.”


“CA then discovered that for those with evangelical worldviews in particular, a ‘just world’ exists because God rewards people with success if they follow his rules. In other words, people who live good lives won’t get pre-existing conditions, and they will succeed in life, even if they are black. Cambridge Analytica began feeding these cohorts narratives with an expanded religious valence.

‘God is fair and just, right? Wealthy people are blessed by God for a reason, right? Because He is fair. If minorities complain about receiving less, perhaps there is a reason – because He is fair. Or are you daring to question God?’


“We are socialised to place trust in our institutions – our government, our police, our schools, our regulators. It’s as if we assume there’s some guy with a secret team of experts sitting in an office with a plan, and if that plan doesn’t work, don’t worry, he’s got a plan B and a plan C – someone in charge will take care of it. But in truth, that guy doesn’t exist. If we choose to wait, nobody will come.”

- - - - - - - - - the end- - - - - - - - -

of the world as we thought we knew it

But wait - there's more!
5 January 2020
Fresh Cambridge Analytica leak ‘shows global manipulation is out of control’
Company’s work in 68 countries laid bare with release of more than 100,000 documents

Facts and Other Lies: Welcome to the Disinformation Age by Ed Coper is an excellent new book that explains a lot about how and why disinformation is spreading and causing division. This is my recent review. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

From Mad Men to Math Men
There's an interesting 2017 interview with Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, explaining how data is used to target the right people with the right information to get a desired outcome. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6PWr... 9124039977 Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie is a cautionary tale about politics, Steve Bannon, Big Data and how to set Americans against one another and the whole thing brought to you by a twenty-four-year-old Canadian whistleblower. This is a classic case of food for thought and this book should be read before the next election. 9124039977