Two groups of people mastered the truth about data, its interpretation and it’s presentation and two groups didn’t. The former of course are Republicans in US and Brexit’s in UK.
The theories are not new, nor are they difficult to understand but executing on them might only seem an option to somebody with no other options (Trump, Farage). Most people would never dream of applying for a multi-million pound loan and filling the entire application with fiction. It’ not because they believe it couldn’t be done, we’ve all seen it done, but because they were not brought up like that. They still believe they have other options and they won’t make that move to the dark side. People who did it and often did it successfully were generally people who had no other option and didn’t see the downside. In banking there have always been checks and balances, but in media there has always been a weakness and right now there is a total void where the media used to sit. Enter two people who had no right to talk to us and simply couldn’t win. Donald Trump and Nigel Farage and look what happened.
Why did they win?
Nobody buys newspapers much less reads them any more and old fashioned journalists have hanged themselves by their braces long ago. There’s no revenue stream any more to sustain them, for what little use they might have been once and now we have instead, social media, polls (much the same thing) and personal content filters all very much for sale to the highest bidder and very controllable.
As IT professionals, we have always had to operate in a tricky area between less than perfect hard data collected from disparate systems or countries and the jazzy punchy little reports and dashboards that our paymasters dine on to excess.
Let’s be realistic, hard data is of little use to anyone, it’s only when the great unappreciated droves have cleaned it , sense checked it and translated it to comparable terms and then turned it into consumable visual bites that decision makers can grab it and do something useful with it, like selling a lie often as not.
When I see an email proposing a radical new strategy on the grounds of the figures in my reports I can sometimes pull somebody aside and caution them on the potential for error in the data or point to a conflicting KPI and suggest further checks. This type of scenario is part and parcel of business life in the world of IT.
Lets’ now take a look at the world of rigged polls, injected social media, wholesale unapologetic lying and presentation that appeals to the baser emotions of fear and mob action.
- Destabilise the enemy by kidding them that they are doing better than they really are and encourage them to focus their attempts in the wrong places. Easy and very effective.
I’m not sure that Farage had the budget or reach for this one, but it was certainly a central part of the Trump strategy and clearly explains why the bookies did so well. Read about Colonol John Boyd’s OODA loop to learn the basis for this strategy. Ask any social media consultant how to do it.
- Fill the media with mountains of lies about the enemy, begin by raking up a few real stories to set the scene, wait a few days for people to stop questioning that and then pile it on thick.
For some good examples of this in action check out Niemanlab.org
In the UK voters were incensed about legislation preventing the sale of bent bananas, (it never happened)
They were told it would mean hundreds of millions per week spent on the health service, all immediately denied after election day. The list goes on and on.
Why is it easy to find and cultivate these knuckleheads? Because Facebook, snapchat and others have detailed profiles of their entire lives and everything they discuss, read, think, say do, even the therapists they visit. Finding a numpty on Facebook and sending him to kill the president should be a doddle ( I didn’t give you the idea by the way)
- At the last minute create a powerful picture to capture the emotions of the more ignorant layers of the electorate and plant a semi-subliminal message that appeals to the baser emotions i.e. massage the “lizard brain”.
Nigel Farage’s posters were so blatantly aimed to incite civil unrest that there were well supported calls for him to be charged with this offence. On the day after the election, people of foreign birth were accosted on the streets around Britain and told to “go home”.
In Florida, Trump’s “swing state”, Trump supports were seen on election night chanting “Lock her up”. The Canadian embassy crashed under the load of applications to immigrate and the flood of Mexicans going home in disgust continues.
In both cases, before the vote had been fully counted, the claims were being refuted and the lies were being reneged on. No “Lock her up”, but tributes to her commitment. No “Go home”, or even close the borders in UK. How far the reversals and denials will go on both fronts is yet an unknown, but nothing would surprise me mainly because the stretch room is usually very small once they find themselves in the reality of office.
So what is the lesson?
- Don’t rely on traditional media to be guardians of truth, what’s left of these are either state owned or in the pockets of the multinationals that own the politicians.
- Do I need to say it? Don’t expect politicians to tell the truth and don’t assume they have the same values or standards you do.
- Opposition parties ( that means both sides) have to guarantee the truth by monitoring and refuting media and actively and aggressively bringing liars to justice before and after the event. We all want the truth to be spoken, especially on important subjects and that is one of the things we will all agree to pay for and support politicians to achieve for us, so join the winning side for once and promote truth and honesty in media by attacking lies and dishonesty and supporting those who stand for truth and honesty.
- For god’s sake, or whatever you believe in don’t believe everything you read in social media, especially if it’s controversial and even more-so if it agrees with your predispositions.
- Make sure you defeat the personal filters to get alternative views of the world, use proxies or VPNs to hide your location and see a different view of the same thing. Ask a teenager if you don’t know how.
- Take responsibility for your own mind and for your decisions and actions.
- Don’t stay silent and let the liars prevail, it’s now a community affair, so speak out and have an impact on the balance of opinion. This way we can all help to keep society safe