Monday, June 05, 2017

Pro-Trump forces are turning social media into wastelands ... by gimleteye

It has taken me months, since the November election of Donald Trump, to come to terms with how he won and how he mobilized his base.

I'm not the only person who thought Trump could never win, and -- like millions of other Americans -- I am among those who only had a vague and general idea how software interlopers could manipulate social media to achieve political victory.

Blogs like ours were created as a work-around of advertiser-driven media (cf. The Miami Herald) that steered readers away from subjects and points of view we value. Issues like the Everglades, or the Urban Development Boundary or climate change, places where editorial content, reporting, and conventional political wisdom tracked alongside big developers (cf. Lennar) or polluters (cf. Big Sugar).

What I didn't grasp, until the November election, is how the next generation of media activists would come armed with knowledge of software code and that this next generation would aim to occupy social media websites (cf. Facebook and Twitter) to find, convert and radicalize an extremist base disinclined to rationale and logical thought.

Along this line, there has been excellent reporting (cf. UK Guardian) and online sleuthing ( peeling back the layers to show the interaction of the Trump campaign and its major donors with software/ data manipulators: Cambridge Analytica, the nexus of Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, and others.

Before the election, they were WAY ahead of the Democrats and the Clinton campaign. Liberals were still imagining that hacking was an external threat and not one that already had invaded U.S. elections. In that regard, the Democrats and Clinton were just like me: aware of the threat from corruption of social media but unaware the war had already started.

Now, in hindsight, we can see what happened. While I was sleeping -- or writing this blog for the readers (few!) whose attention span exceeds more time and space than 140 characters -- a war for the hearts and minds and votes of enough Americans to swing a presidential election was underway, through a perverse reason and logic extended to the invention of data algorithms to scan, analyze, dissect and distribute messages meant to galvanize Trump supporters who use social media websites.

Moreover, the Trump victory proved that current campaigning -- involving billions of dollars from donors to television (mainly) advertisement -- was literally defeated by only a few tens of millions dedicated to software engineering and data/ social media manipulation.

Trump absolutely understands that asymmetrical political warfare (the equivalent of using box cutters to take down a national economy) was key to his victory. Along this line, he has broken all rules governing presidential behavior, including the idea of a permanent campaign.

A permanent campaign is also occurring on social media platforms like Facebook. There still is no accountability to the relationships of Trump with the hundreds of Facebook pages nested (like Russian dolls) within each other. What is clear, though, is that these pages are designed to blend fear, anxiety of terrorism, and threats to Christian faith in a big, boggy mess. The fake conspiracies laced throughout are like tar paper designed to catch readers. Or chumming to collect click bait.

I didn't know anything before Trump about sock puppets, bots, or the use of AI to wage political marketing campaigns, netting voters. Now I do, and I am sure there will be many more opportunities to learn why and how social media platforms like Facebook are being scorched and laid to waste. It is a form of online terrorism and a virtual analog to Gen. William T. Sherman's March in the Civil War where he inflicted fear and terror in the South laying waste to a wide swath of Georgia.

By setting fire to social media platforms -- anyone can do it! -- the alt-right is paradoxically chasing readers back to newspapers and even to blogs like ours where we don't make shit up and pass off conspiracy theories as truth. Unfortunately, there's a very big audience for conspiracy theories passed off as truth.

For those with patience and appetite, here is a report how the alt-right is gaming Google to ensure that only fringe sources turn up on Google searches. It's an eye opener.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good article. Thank you for posting it. However, I think both the Left and the Right are using these measures now. This could seriously create a civil war. This brainwashing radicalization is very dangerous - no different than Isis radicals, just different beliefs.