. Advertising Ghosts in the Political Machine by OutRageous! | London Progressive Journal
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Advertising Ghosts in the Political Machine by OutRageous!

Sat 7th Apr 2018

Look in the mirror ... go ahead, I'll wait...

Without sounding too simplistic, what you're looking at is an image of a unique individual. Unique in the sense that no one else has ever been or could ever possibly be you. You're the only you.

In fact, you're doubly unique... because we're the only species in the millions of milennia of evolution which has honed the natural curiosity of all mammals into the facility and the ability to pose questions. Sometimes we can even answer them. And when the answers prove inadequate, we can reform the questions and try again. That's the basis of all the arts and sciences, including philosophy.

The questions can be assigned different categories of human concern, from minute matters of daily survival to addressing global problems and their solution. We are at once practical and theoretical.

Unique indeed.

One of the most potent effects of philosophical questions is their unintended consequences in future re-examinations.

In the mid-1940s English philosopher Gilbert Ryle and a couple of decades later the prolific, if politically inconsistent Arthur Koestler each re-visited the conclusions of 17th century scientist and philosopher René Descartes [the chap who thinks therefore he is]. Both presented cogent cases to challenge his contention that the mind and body were separate entities, existing in a so-called dualist system. Ryle described it as The Ghost in the Machine, a title taken by Koestler for his 1967 work on philosophical psychology.

Ryle countered Descartes' dualism as a logical fallacy which he called a Category Mistake, or Category Error. It's the result of someone intentionally or unwittingly confusing the whole of something with the properties of its part. It suggests the whole of something has the properties of every single part of it, and that each and every part of something has the properties of the whole thing.

As you know, I'm a sports-free zone, but here's an analogy to illustrate. What's your favourite football team, or any team, actually? Try to assess everything you like and dislike about them.

Think of the team, and think of your feelings about them. Have they changed over the years? Have you remained loyal? Why or why not?

Now, think of every single thing that goes to make up the team. Every manager, every owner, every trainer, every player, every fan, every uniform, every home ground, every team mascot, every changing room. And think of every single emotion you've had in the past and at present when you consider each of those elements. Do you or did you always like absolutely everything? Was there something you hoped might change?

If you arrive at a conclusion about any of those single elements solely based on your evaluation of the team as a whole, that would be a Category Error. You would be making an illogical association between them. And if you happened to control the future policy of the team in any of its particulars, your suggestions and consequent actions would be open to understandable scrutiny.

The socio-political agenda has been tainted on a global scale by such tactics, and increasingly their use is quite deliberate. In fact it's Big Business. By now you'll be familiar with the reports of Cambridge Analytica [CA], whose organised and targetted Category Errors in data mining and selling have been so effective they've been monetised to obscene degrees of profit.

For the most part their tactics are covert, often hidden entirely from public gaze, or frequently buried in reams of so-called 'small print.'

The buyers are multi-national corporations, factions within governments, and entire nation-states.

The data collected by fair means or foul not only affects the media-savvy but everyone who's part of an economic system beyond its proscribed local boundaries. That includes just about the entire population of the world, saving perhaps some self-sufficient rain-forest or desert tribes still unreachable by CA's suckered tentacles.

There are other similar data gathering companies; it turns out that, despite denials on both sides,
CA has been closely associated with a smaller-potatoes Canadian firm called AggregateIQ. Together they neatly bridge the gap between US voting behaviour and the British referendum and ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Some Background on the Advertising Worm

An outgrowth of parent company Strategic Communication Laboratories [SCL], the CA initiative parlays analysis of the effectiveness of advertising, to more insidious manipulations of behaviour.

Of course, that's the raison d'etre of all advertising, and has been for the several hundred years the industry has been using every trick in the propaganda book to get us to define ourselves as consumers and customers.

But it's only fairly recently that technological advance has allowed these companies to change the zeitgeist so efficiently. There's no more blatant proof of the abuses of capitalism than the methodology of the Advertising Worm. The use of algorithms means that data miners no longer need to send humans with or without their early-warning canaries down the tunnels of direct access.

Despite massive start-up investment costs, data capture proves far cheaper than human monitoring.

And with increasing reliance on ever-improving artificial intelligence, preliminary analysis reduces the wage bill even further.

Such powerful companies as SCL have planted their flag in the fertile soil of covert collection and claimed the territory for the far-right advocates on their Board. They've filled the vacuum left by a handful of polling organisations which awoke to the election of George W Bush with a feeble squeak of how they'd got it all wrong.

In the US that meant a no-holds barred campaign to prevent a Clinton presidency. Meanwhile throughout Britain the focus is still to foment a false party divide on Brexit, insuring Jeremy Corbyn never moves into Downing Street. Whatever the specifics of the current anti-Semitic name- calling across the UK's political fences, at least some responsibility must lie with the campaign by the global far-right to protect the interests of Big Business, many of whom are CA and SCL clients.

Their public personae reveal both SCL and CA either served as hedge fund players or were backed by them. Former Breibart News head honcho Steve Bannon, having swung around the Maypole in and out of the Oval Office, willingly accepts billionaire Robert Mercer underwriting his operations.

They're both on the CA Board.

Anyone who believes Bannon's just a softie blowing in the wind of political expediency need only reference his zeal last month joining the campaign for Marine LePen's Front National, declaring she must wear her racist slurs as “a badge of honour.” He's a long-time admirer of her rabidly right party and so enamoured of their France First slogan that he passed it along to use on Trump's own campaign trail, suitably geographically modified bien sur !

How Deep Is Your OCEAN?

Do you know how they do it? How they hope to capture the data details of your life and weave them into an algorithmic strait-jacket to monitor or eventually control your voting behaviour and political affiliation? Well, take a dive into the OCEAN.

About twenty years ago – in lieu of standard human resource assessments such as “What would you say are your key skills for this job, Mr Smith?” – the psychographic profile appeared touted as a more scientific tool. Abbreviated as OCEAN, it's a personality score based on at least five attributes including Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.

It wasn't long before the Data Miners moved in, brandishing shiny new algorithms to cut to the chase. OCEAN's tides could wash up buyers and voters as well as job seekers.

One of the algorithms developed to target Republican voters in 2016 is called Ripon, named for the birthplace of the Republican Party in the 1850s. Guess who developed it? If you guessed Canadian company AggregateIQ, you're beginning to understand how dubious are their claims they're not affiliated with CA, despite the Trump campaign being a CA client reliant on the extensive FaceBook data to prepare voter profiles using OCEAN algorithms.

And while you're guessing, guess who funded SCL to parlay the OCEAN profiles into tools that personally targetted potential voters based on their personality profiles? Yep, it was Robert Mercer and his equally beneficent, equally right-wing daughter Rebekah. They pushed $15 million into SCL to set up Cambridge Analytica.

But, shh! Don't tell, because critics of the deal now whisper that CA's data was dubious, and that clients only used their services at the behest of Mercer as a pre-requisite for futher funding for their own needs. No wonder we're all trapped in a web of fake news.

Can You Resist?

All this palaver about algorithmic brain-washing and behaviour modification sounds like grist to the conspiracy mill. The twists and turns contain just enough that's verifiable to justify inevitable conclusions. There's a machine all right, but are those whispers and closed-door conferences truly the ghosts within?

In short, is there anything real to rage about, or are we sniffing along the path of the Category Error?

I don't know about you, but given the choice to read or watch adverts, why would you? I refuse to define myself as a consumer, and I'm pleased to take advantage of a society which allows me to resist. Hand on heart, I've long ago given up buying and reading daily or weekly forests-ful of newsprint, whether I think I might agree with the political views or not. Mostly I get my info from BBC Radio. I trawl the web for research about all sorts, and count myself pretty well informed. As for FaceBook, I totally ignore the adverts stripped alongside my timeline, and refrain as far as possible from giving away my saleable data.

In America there's a titular leader whose public pronouncements appear to ignore the fundamental basis of consistent communication. It's impossible to dive into his OCEAN; the tide's always out.

And here in the UK, the so-called leader and her surrounding acolytes continue to sidestep the kinds of questions that might help us in a dialogue.

Instead, we're caught in a vapid PR limbo. But we're not powerless. We do not have to be The Customer. We do not have to buy the bullshit. We can look in the mirror and say BOO! to those machine ghosts.

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