Cambridge Analytica, an EU political data mining firm has been hired by the Trump campaign. Remember these guys? We wrote about them here. Here is what they do, and its quite scary to contemplate in a political campaign.
So what else has this man done? According to this profile, “Alexander James Ashburner Nix is financial analyst and a Director at the Strategic Communication Laboratories, a military propaganda company.” In other words, Nix specializes in controlling information to shape public perceptions to order for his customers, which include police agencies, militaries, and the United Nations. The term ‘PsyOps,’ short for psychological operations, is a common catch-all for this business.
The missions vary. Sometimes SCL and its partner, Behavioural Dynamics Institute, are employed to counter someone else’s propaganda; at other times, clients hire them to muddy the waters with disinformation. Ideas like ‘truth’ and ‘democracy’ are entirely relative at SCL, which branched out of its original commercial business into military/government ventures and “election management” about 20 years ago.
They claim they can actually sway voters to vote the way they want them to vote without any interaction on the voters part by using secret psychological tools they have mastered.
What have they done in the past?
- Design and develop a permanent military strategic communication facility capable of delivering strategic and operational psyop campaigns for a South Asian country.
- Production of a five-tiered training programme covering strategic, operational and tactical Psyop and the design and re-equipping of a communication facility. The personnel had to be able to take over the new facility after only six months.
- Design, build and install a Homeland Security Centre for an Asian country. The Opcentre can override all national radio and TV broadcasts in time of crisis.
- Design, build and install a diplomatic communication centre staffed by researchers, writers and spokespersons for an International Organisation.
- Design and installation of a Strategic Communication Centre to improve a country’s ability to conduct Public Diplomacy.
- Recruitment, training and equipping an operational and tactical Psyop and Civil Affairs military unit for a British Commonwealth country.
That is some pretty serious stuff. Now that Trump has hired them its anyone’s guess just how Trump will apply their tools to his campaign. We do know that Trump has a friendly association with hackers and Russians. Cambridge Analytica takes “hacking” a number of steps forward. They don’t need to hack voting machines, they actually hack your brain to get you to vote the way they want you to vote.
According to a story at Bloomberg, changing your behavior is a major tool that Cambridge Analytica uses:
After the 2012 election, Nix found an American marketplace far more receptive to his entreaties. The overseas work in conflict zones amounted to a promising calling card, a new comparative advantage over entrenched American political firms.“This is really trying to use psychology to understand why hostile audiences do what they do, and to use this methodology to deconstruct that behavior and then use communication to try and change attitudes and ultimately behavior,” Nix says. “Persuading somebody to vote in a certain way,” he goes on, “is really very similar to persuading 14- to 25-year-old boys in Indonesia to not join Al Qaeda.”
Now that Trump has hired them, it stands to reason that the messaging will become more focused, with deeper data mining over the voters the company wants to change or possibly modify their behavior more towards Trump. Scary days ahead. Oh and did I mention that Cambridge Analytica was behind the Brexit vote?
Scary times indeed.