Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Devil(s) Made Me Do It

Hillary Clinton believes she lost the 2016 presidential election because white men told their wives to vote for Donald Trump. Those devils. Really, Hill? It was a vast white whinge conspiracy? If I tried to tell my wife to vote for anyone, much less Trump, she'd probably stuff me in a ballot box.

Others believe Putin did it. Name a problem in America or Western Europe - election meddling, hacks of DNC emails, poisoned double agents, dirty water in Flint, murders in Baltimore, dogs dying on airplanes (oh, wait, that was United), snow in Scotland ... well, pretty much everything is Putin's fault.

Now there's a story that the election was manipulated by Steve Bannon and his Cambridge Analytics associates, who borrowed data from Facebook to - gasp - target messages to American demographic groups and individuals based on their social media personality profiles.

This is shocking? That the American people are being manipulated?

Advertisers have been manipulating the minds of consumers for years. Now, thanks to Mark Zuckerberger and friends, who freely sell the information you provide to them for nothing, the manipulation is more sophisticated, perhaps a little more subtle. But manipulation nonetheless.

Your vote - ie, your "purchase" of a candidate for office - is just another target of consumer marketing. The candidates' manipulators use every means possible - TV, print, social media, and disinformation spread by the media ... and through your own word of mouth in the office or among friends.

What I find more insidious is the manipulation of events, groups, and people. Infiltration of otherwise peaceful groups by thugs paid to incite violence and bring disrepute on the group. It might be a conservative group or liberal. From BlackLivesMatter to the current students against guns movement. The thugs may be hired by George Soros, Charles Koch or the government. The ultimate aim is to create a news narrative that promotes one agenda or discredits another, and the underlying objective of that narrative is to get you to vote for or against a candidate or party. (I would not be surprised if the spy poisoning was not done by the British government as a means of shifting attention from their Brexit dilemma to their convenient Russian bogeyman.)

I doubt the manipulation tsunami has truly changed many minds. That really only comes from analyzing all the knowable facts of a situation ... not just jumping to an hysterical conclusion based on the first fact-thin manipulative story in the media.

What the pervasive social media era manipulation has done, I think, is ramp up the polarization. Amped up the anger. Solidified people in whatever belief they previously held.

Yes, Putin did it. And Trump's people. And Hillary's people. And the Koch Bros. and Soros and Adelson and ... it's no longer may the best man (or woman) win; it's may the best manipulator win. And when we believe their twisted messages, we all lose.

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