We’re in Deep Trouble

Trump’s un-American presidency is only 10 days old. And it’s going to be way worse than people think.

Trump is an insecure, narcissistic con man with an unsecure Android phone. He’s shown he is incapable of being an adult, obsessed with getting people to love him, attacking any and all real or perceived enemies and slights. His entire agenda is set to consolidate personal power in hopes that people will love him.

The real power is seemingly being wielded by white supremacist and self-described Leninist Stephen Bannon and billionaire Robert Mercer, who was the biggest single US campaign contributor in 2016. As Bannon said:

“Lenin…wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.

In the first ten days, they’ve already started to create chaos, started a constitutional crisis, destabilized the US and brought shame onto our country. A partial list:

It’s all part of their plan. Their goal is to weaken the United States and divide us. They’re framing every issue in absolutes, destroying the middle ground. They want to make the immigration debate:

We won’t apologize for keeping Americans safe” vs. “Open borders, let them all in”.

I don’t want to become Germany or Scandinavia with millions of unvetted immigrants, but I do want to let in vetted refugees and allow people who helped our soldiers in Iraq come here. Bannon and team are trying to destroy the reasonable middle ground.

They’re going to keep doing it on every issue. And they’re not doing it just by guessing what might strike a chord. They’re using the most advanced big data system to target people, identify messages and then send them individually tailored messages.

It’s the same system that got Trump/Bannon/Mercer elected. They’re using a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data company with dubious origins, to analyze people. And guess who’s the biggest Cambridge Analyitica investor? The money man, Robert Mercer.

All of the following stats and quotes are from the article The Data That Turned the World Upside Down.  Please read the whole article, it will help you understand what’s going on.

The Cambridge Analytica database inputs Facebook Likes and can evaluate a person better than:

  • The average work colleague – 10 Facebook likes
  • A person’s friends – 70 Facebook likes
  • A person’s parents – 150 Facebook Likes
  • A person’s partner – 300 Facebook Likes
  • What you think you know about yourself – Many more likes

They rate people based using the OCEAN method, which “can make a relatively accurate assessment of the kind of person” you are:

  • Openness – how open you are to new experiences?
  • Conscientiousness – how much of a perfectionist are you?
  • Extroversion – how sociable are you?
  • Agreeableness – how considerate and cooperative you are?
  • Neuroticism – are you easily upset?

They can figure out a person’s “needs and fears, and how they is likely to behave.” With 68 Facebook likes they can predict:

  • Skin color – 95 percent accuracy
  • Sexual orientation – 88 percent accuracy
  • Affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party – 85 percent accuracy
  • Intelligence
  • Religious affiliation
  • Alcohol, cigarette & drug use
  • Whether someone’s parents were divorced

Bannon is the brains of the operation and is using big data and your social media profiles to plant ideas and persuade you. Just like Inception. And they’re doing it on a massive scale. As Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s CEO tells it:

We profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America—220 million people. Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven.

The article continues:

On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump’s team tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments, in order to find the right versions above all via Facebook. The messages differed for the most part only in microscopic details, in order to target the recipients in the optimal psychological way: different headings, colors, captions, with a photo or video. This fine-tuning reaches all the way down to the smallest groups. “We can address villages or apartment blocks in a targeted way. Even individuals.”

In the Miami district of Little Haiti, for instance, Trump’s campaign provided inhabitants with news about the failure of the Clinton Foundation following the earthquake in Haiti, in order to keep them from voting for Hillary Clinton. These “dark posts”—sponsored news-feed-style ads in Facebook timelines that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.

The mix of Trump, Bannon, Mercer and big data is  incredibly dangerous for three reasons:

  • Bannon is a white nationalist and Leninist who is creating chaos and has his hands on the levers of power
  • Targeted messaging on a massive scale entrenches both Trump supporters and opponents and makes disaster more likely
  • When Trump and Bannon miscalculate with someone their own size, like China or Russia, we’ll be in huge trouble

There are only three ways for this to end:

  • Republicans put country over party and stop Trump and Bannon’s agenda, either via checks and balances, impeachment or the 25th amendment
  • Massive street protests and more evidence convince Trump supporters they were duped
  • Bannon/Mercer/Trump win

We can’t let option 3 happen. So far, the massive peaceful protests have been a great first step. We need to be careful to avoid Trump/Bannon’s preferred false dichotomy trap.

We need to show that we care about Trump supporters real issues and propose solutions that will make their lives better, while at the same time resisting the Bannon/Mercer/Trump agenda.

The Republicans are drunk on power and scared of Trump. We need to keep pressuring them to put country over party. We need to welcome everyone who stands up to Trump, even if they’re late to the party.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore