Cover Image: Mindf*ck

Mindf*ck

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So. I have some complex ass feelings about this book. (News at 11.) As a breakdown of how Cambridge Analytica did its work, and how this played out on several fronts (Brexit, the 2016 election), this is certainly a good breakdown from someone who was in the room where it happened. HOWEVER. Wylie is my age, and he seems to have the complete lack of introspection/responsibility that a lot of tech bros his age have. There was one point in this book where he says “it (was) unlikely that anyone would care what the firm was up to - it’s Africa, after all”. Motherfucker, you still fucked up their lives! Much less the lives we are all living, as I write this in month three of Covid quarantine and the first week of George Floyd protests. He also downplays what he did with his own political data firm post Cambridge Analytica and attempts to both center himself and absolve himself at any possible turn in what I can simply describe as some of the most cowardly ass bullshit I’ve read in a while. He goes out of his way to write condemning letters against the what he did - but fails to recognize his role in any of it. (BTW, this dude works as H&M’s head of research, give them absofuckinglutely nothing of yours). This feels like a book he was always going to write, but also that he realized “oh shit I’m going to need a job again soon better make it look like I regret any of this”. This book feels like a combination of a great deep dive from someone who was there and the “oopsie whoopsie uwu we made a fucky wucky” meme. Own your shit.
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Christopher Wylie writes very conversationally. There is a lot in Mindf*ck that is very technical, but it wasnt overwhelming.  I appreciated the author's honesty and candidness when it came to what He, himself, had been involved in at Facebook.  As I was reading there were several times where I had to stop and reconsider my activities in social media. This book is eye opening, I immediately wanted to share what I had learned. It is for that reason that I recommend it as a book discussion selection. 
I received my copy through NetGalley under no obligation.
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This book will completely blow your mind. It's written in an easy to read, conversational style that keeps your attention. The twisting, incredible tale keeps the pages turning. I wish the author had described some of the more technical details in more depth but it's still an excellent read on the issues surrounding Facebook and political advertising.
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Working in cybersecurity, I was not naïve about the data collection that goes on using social media, Google analytics, and other marketing tools. What bothered me about Chris Wylie is the lack of respect his coworkers have for him and the lack of introspection he seems to have about his own behavior. My take is that he knew exactly what he was doing and that it was invasion of privacy as well as malevolent manipulation of voters. So after a long history of this type of work, now he wants to come clean? I think there is a lot of denial and duplicity, as well as a significant problem with the amount of narcissism in his motivation that is disturbing.
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If you're looking to understand Cambridge Analytica, datamining and their inextricable link with contemporary politics you could probably do a lot worse than this book, where you get the story straight from the (proverbial) horse's mouth. Chris Wylie worked at CA, so has all the intel on how the company excelled to have the wield it did. If I was rating purely on the importance of the topic this would get five stars, easily.

But that's not how I rate books, unfortunately, and I struggled with a few things here. Firstly the tone - it was overly chatty and familiar at times, which is something which (unless done well, and it rarely is) turns me off. Personal preference, maybe, but I also didn't particularly like the tone: Wylie has a story to tell, sure, but he often gets overly defensive about his role in proceedings, how he overlooked or didn't fully understand what was going on in the company, how he stayed longer than he perhaps should've... but I didn't buy it. This overly defensive tone just made me less convinced of his candor.

Despite my misgivings, I think a lot of readers will love this expose on how the people of the US (and a number of other nations) were treated like one big, sick psychological experiment.
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Christopher Wylie  was brave in for coming forward, at considerable personal risk to tell his vrsion of the Cambridge Analytica's story. His narrative is clear and concise. 
The book is a a classic case of food for thought and it should be read by everyone.
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Even if you think you know the details (as I did) of the Cambridge Analytica scandal this book is a must read. Wylie sets out the horrifying detail of how they built databases that knew everything about people and how they used that information to influence people without their knowledge. Some of what they did was definitely illegal, other actions were not illegal because society has simply not known how to start regulating digital actions, but it’s truly shocking. 

I did find Wylie’s positioning of himself as the technical mastermind of the operation whilst naively having no idea what the firm was really doing a bit self-serving. However, it’s still a great read.
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This book is timely coming during Brexit and Trump politics. It's a really interesting look at how companies work inside and many other social happenings, 

It's really interesting for non-fiction readers. 
thanks a lot to Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I am trying to read every book with a swear in the title. This is the inside story of a whistleblower who worked for Cambridge Analytica. While I am sure the use of Facebook data had some effect on the 2016 election, I wonder how much.
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Completely mind blowing. Read this book with jaw dropped. It's an incredible look into the inner workings of these companies and really does open your eyes wide. In the light of Brexit and the American political situation this should be essential reading, it's critical people read this.
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5★
READ THIS: My pick for best non-fiction, true crime, psychological thriller - ever!

“ I don’t know what else to say other than I was more naïve than I thought I was at the time. . .

When I joined SCL, I was there to help the firm explore areas like counter-radicalisation in order to help Britain, America and their allies defend themselves against new threats emerging online.”

Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time. How was ISIS attracting recruits? How could we good guys find out who was a likely target so we could counteract whatever was pushing them towards those bad guys and militant jihadism? Of course it was a good idea.

We’ve all done it. Even as a child, you learn to wait till a grown-up is in a good mood before you ask for a treat. As you get older, you get more manipulative. You put someone in a good mood before asking for a favour.

So it’s still a good idea. But – there’s always a but – when this eclectic bunch of people were gathered together to figure out what information they needed, how to collect it, and what to do with it, most of them had no idea that it could be used to change voting behaviour.

. . . “Facebook’s data was weaponised by the firm, and . . . the systems they built left millions of Americans vulnerable to the propaganda operations of hostile foreign states.”

That’s the word – weaponised. Basically, we’ve all shot ourselves in the proverbial foot, because we were silly enough to believe that rules about privacy were real and that laws could be enforced. So we connected, shared only with Friends of Friends of Friends, or whatever list you chose. YOU chose. Private? Yeah, right.

“Social media herds the citizenry into surveilled* spaces where the architects can track and classify them and use this understanding to influence their behaviour. If democracy and capitalism are based on accessible information and free choice, what we are witnessing is their subversion from the inside.”

*[The asterisk is mine. ‘Surveilled’ is ‘watched’, in case you weren’t aware that in the US, they’ve made a verb from the noun ‘surveillance’.]

Of course we knew Facebook watched what we did so they could put all the right ads up on our pages. Same with Google and other search engines. 

[Personal note. When I get tired of seeing ads for anti-arthritis tips or veterinary supplies (see, now you know I’m achy and have a dog), I start doing a few searches for tours to scenic places – mountains, oceans, outback – and hey presto! My pages start showing me nice travel photos instead of flea treatment. But I digress.] 

I don’t mean to make light of this. I have always said anything you put online you should be prepared to see posted on your front door or on the front page of the newspaper. It’s a way to remember to moderate yourself. But like the author, I didn’t figure on a company collecting everyone’s prejudices and hate and putting it all together to post propaganda to foment a general rebellion.

It’s one thing when peasants and serfs rebel against the nobility. They have a common cause about injustice. What Cambridge Analytica did was convince everybody who had a gripe about anything at all that it was the fault of “the system”, so the solution was to “break the system”. Of course, the result is a void which squillionaires and oligarchs are quick to fill. POWER!

They ran focus groups everywhere, finding out what people were upset about. They did this across Africa, Trinidad, and the tentacles spread further and further. The fact that everyone’s complaint is not the same, doesn’t matter. In face, conflicting complaints don’t even matter. This came from a focus group in Louisiana.

“A man named Lloyd, speaking with a Cajun accent that Gettleson found almost indecipherable, came across loud and clear in venting his disgust that the schools in his parish no longer taught his native French. He was furious that his granddaughter was being denied the chance to learn the ‘culture and heritage’ of her Cajun forebears.

It wasn’t fifteen minutes before the same man launched into a rant about Latinos, how even in America they wouldn’t stop speaking Spanish. Somehow, no one in the group saw the disconnect.”

[Personal note. A politician friend once said, about holding a public meeting, to let the public speak first to say what their issues are. It’s possible you will bring up something they haven’t even thought to worry about (and that you might rather they didn’t), and he was right. If there's a disconnect, don't point it out.]

So they know the Cajun man’s soft spot – Latinos.

Absolutely compelling reading. You know those students who seem to highlight so much that entire pages are yellow? I wasn’t one of them. I tend to highlight some key words or passages, because if too much is marked, nothing stands out. Well, this is one book that would be all yellow!

Everyone should be aware of what has happened. I will let Chris’s quotes give you an idea of the rest of the story. It’s a terrific book, and a story that’s hard to believe. Just because it’s possible to create something that is world-beatingly powerful doesn’t mean you should. 

[Personal note. My brother, a thoughtful kid of few words, used to ask our father now and then “Hey, Pop . . . couldn’t a guy. . . ?” and he would suggest some devious scheme or other Pop would admit was indeed possible. Fortunately for everybody, he didn’t turn to crime but became a well-respected scientist instead and discovered some good stuff. Whew!]

The author wanders back and forth between his early days in Canada and today, and early days in England and then back to today, which can get confusing. But it’s necessary, because the different threads of his interests and connections are what made his part in the puzzle unique. He was the one who understood how to make things work – for the better, he’d hoped, but it was really the challenge that hooked him. Fascinating stuff.

Thanks to NetGalley and Serpent’s Tail/Profile Books for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted so much both above and below.

“I provided evidence tying Cambridge Analytica to Donald Trump, Facebook, Russian intelligence, international hackers and Brexit."
. . .
“Although Cambridge Analytica was created as a business, I learned later that it was never intended to make money. The firm’s sole purpose was to cannibalise the Republican Party and remould American culture.”
. . .
“Soon enough, having perfected its methods far from the attention of western media [influencing African elections], CA shifted from instigating tribal conflict in Africa to instigating tribal conflict in America.”
. . .
“The world of psychological warfare of which SCL was a part has been around for as long as humans have waged war. In the sixth century BC, Persians of the Achaemenid, knowing that Egyptians worshipped the cat god Bastet, drew images of cats on their shields so the Egyptians would be reluctant to take aim at them in battle.”
. . .
“I told myself that truly learning about society includes delving into uncomfortable questions about our darker sides. How could we understand racial bias, authoritarianism or misogyny if we did not explore them? What I did not appreciate is the fine line between exploring something and actually creating it.”

HERE IS HOW YOU GET GOD INVOLVED:
“CA then discovered that for those with evangelical worldviews in particular, a ‘just world’ exists because God rewards people with success if they follow his rules. In other words, people who live good lives won’t get pre-existing conditions, and they will succeed in life, even if they are black. Cambridge Analytica began feeding these cohorts narratives with an expanded religious valence. ‘God is fair and just, right? Wealthy people are blessed by God for a reason, right? Because He is fair. If minorities complain about receiving less, perhaps there is a reason – because He is fair. Or are you daring to question God?’

THIS HAS BEEN ME. YOU, TOO?
“We are socialised to place trust in our institutions – our government, our police, our schools, our regulators. It’s as if we assume there’s some guy with a secret team of experts sitting in an office with a plan, and if that plan doesn’t work, don’t worry, he’s got a plan B and a plan C – someone in charge will take care of it. But in truth, that guy doesn’t exist. If we choose to wait, nobody will come.”

- - - - - - - - - the end- - - - - - - - -

of the world as we thought we knew it
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You have heard of Cambridge Analytica. But what exactly did that scandal mean?

Mindf*ck explores the widely known scandal regarding Cambridge Analytica and their experiments, which were applied on political campaigns. The story is written from the scope of Christopher Wylie, former data consultant for Cambridge Analytica, and the person that came forward to reveal the practices that took place behind closed doors.

Mindf*ck is raw, honest, and detailed in its truths. It's a book that makes the reader question more things about data, social media, news, and - most importantly- how free their free will actually is. This is a must-read for everyone. And, although it's not the easiest book to read - truth is never easy, after all - it is definitely something that you should, anyway. Definitely recommended for everyone.
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For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers.

This book will be of interest to anyone who has followed any part of the Cambridge Analytica story, or watched the documentary on Netflix, as Wylie takes readers into the story behind The Story.

The formation, the idealism, the logic, methodology, evolution, shifting team members, the roadmap that took a formerly rose-tinted view on the potential of data to help the world to being a profit-driven, culture shifting divider of democracy. One thing to wrestle with is the complicity of the author and their part; it's addressed throughout, in apologetic hindsight.

It's a fascinating (and horrifying) look at the granular logic of how data became so powerful, all the more relevant when we consider the upcoming election in the UK, Nick Clegg's appointment with Facebook, and the concession that the platform will allow misinformation in campaigns ads to go unchecked and messaging to largely go without repercussion.

Really interesting book on one of the most pressing issues for democracy. Recommend!
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An incredible story involving a whistleblower, who was in the wrong places at the worst of times and his position suited him toward exposing the company he helped develop. This book has already received a mountain of press  and denouncements by the time I was given the opportunity to read it, so my purpose is essentially to filter down its praises by word of mouth. So, the publisher succeeded: its great and depressing.
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A book like no other. Well written and well balanced. Thank you to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my review
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Mindf*ck is a fascinating but frightening description of the Cambridge Analytical  / Facebook  scandal, told by the distinctive whistleblower Christopher Wylie. I initially found Wylie’s manner rather irritating,, but swiftly began to be fascinated by how this young nerdy outsider found himself facilitating  the biggest political shifts in recent years - enabling widespread dissemination of lies and the mainstreaming of populism. As a non-techy myself, i knew the basics but no more, and Wylie explains complex concepts simply - and quite terrifyingly. He also describes the political personalities in the same “introducing unknown concepts” manner, which is more irritating - frankly we’ve all heard enough about Dominic Cummings to note need an introduction! But i accept that won’t be the case for all.

Well worth reading, especially in the current political climate.
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Does the name Christopher Wylie ring a bell? No? How about Alexander Nix or Cambridge Analytica?  Still no? Steve Bannon? Donald Trump? Brexit? Facebook?

This is the story of how Wylie, a gay, liberal nerd, became an unlikely facilitator of the wholesale theft of personal data that was used to target the basest leanings of those who could be persuaded to vote for Brexit or Trump and consequently caused possibly the biggest upsets in election history.

This is a continuing story as the breaking of UK electoral guidelines by Leave.EU has been punished by a fine but other allegations, such as Russian interference in elections, is still unproven.

Cambridge Analytica, the company that initiated this assault, is no more but the ideas and techniques live on, as does Facebook, who captured all of the information. It would be as well for everyone to understand what can happen to your data when you allow unscrupulous companies to manipulate it for their own ends.

Understand the consequences of your data sharing - before it's too late.
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If you read nothing else this year, you need to read this.


It throws light over Cambridge Analytica, and the lengths that it would go to one to show just what they could do, and what they were prepared to do for their clients.


The shape of things to come, were shown with data provided by small Caribbean Islands and smaller African Nations. This data, was twisted and manipulated, to coerce people into doing things that they wouldn't normally do. Whether, this be in-sighting violence or manipulating the way in which they voted.


Understandably, this was very attractive, to people and organisations with a certain leaning. The upper echelons of politics were drawn in with implications for the vote leave Brexit campaign, and the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign using Cambridge Analytica at various points.


It is written and whistle blown by the former director of research for Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie. Just for the sheer insight, this book really is a must read.


Rated: 5/5


Status: Completed
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Mindf*ck is the story of Cambridge Analytica as told by Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who helped to break the story of what happened when data was used to manipulate people with targeted Facebook pages in the name of election and referendum campaigns. The scandal around Cambridge Analytica is something most people are aware of at some level, but the book details the sheer worldwide scale of the work the company was involved in and the key players involved in getting and using people's data. It starts with how Wylie ended up involved in working with data for political ends, and concludes with the realities of being a whistleblower and his manifesto for better tech companies and use of data.

There are a lot of books about technology and politics around at the moment—unsurprisingly—but this one stands out as being direct from someone deeply involved in it, covering a lot of content without delving too far into technological points or jargon, and also being a kind of memoir of how someone who is more of an outsider could be helping Steve Bannon reach the minds of Americans. It is fascinating in its content, but also in how Wylie presents himself, and the people he knows and knew. Wylie's concluding manifesto about ethical design and regulation for tech companies serves as a useful introduction to the more positive side of the current technological moment: the potential for doing better in the future and finding ways to break the current potential for things like the use of data by Cambridge Analytica.

For people already interested in books about tech companies, politics, and the future of the two, Mindf*ck gives a specific insight and a chance to think about how everything with Cambridge Analytica unfolded. For those who are newer to the topic, it is engaging and written in a style that doesn't need tech knowledge, but only an interest in what Wylie might have to say, good or bad. The memoir aspects look at whistleblowing on a personal level and in general it is a fascinating, at times horrifying read.
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First: is this memoir better than Edward Snowden's? Yes. They're different and should be treated as such, but, yes, this one is a better book.

This book is better because of its style and how human it is, to me. While Snowden's report on what not only the US government did to its citizens and the rest of the world, together with some of the biggest tech companies on our planet, Wylie's ingeniously written, sly, funny, and extremely dark book touches several very human nerves, including what I believe is the most important one: what have I done and what can I do to better myself and try to end what I've been part of?

I'm very interested in what surveillance capitalism—a superb term coined by Shoshana Zuboff—does to people and the people who govern them, not to mention the current top-earning tech companies that believe they're more powerful than people.

Wylie's book starts off in pomp:

It’s June 2018, and I’m in Washington to testify to the U.S. Congress about Cambridge Analytica, a military contractor and psychological warfare firm where I used to work, and a complex web involving Facebook, Russia, WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign, and the Brexit referendum. As the former director of research, I’ve brought with me evidence of how Facebook’s data was weaponized by the firm, and how the systems they built left millions of Americans vulnerable to the propaganda operations of hostile foreign states. Schiff leads the questioning. A former federal prosecutor, he is sharp and precise with his lines of inquiry, and he wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter.

Did you work with Steve Bannon?
Yes.

Did Cambridge Analytica have any contacts with potential Russian agents?
Yes.

Do you believe that this data was used to sway the American electorate to elect the president of the United States?
Yes.

After that, there's a short admittance: As one of the creators of Cambridge Analytica, I share responsibility for what happened, and I know that I have a profound obligation to right the wrongs of my past. Like so many people in technology, I stupidly fell for the hubristic allure of Facebook’s call to “move fast and break things.” I’ve never regretted something so much. I moved fast, I built things of immense power, and I never fully appreciated what I was breaking until it was too late. After that, this book becomes interesting. Earlier this year, Netflix released "The Great Hack", a documentary that focused on Cambridge Analytica/SCL via another former acolyte, Brittany Kaiser. This book delves far deeper than fifty documentaries of that ilk would. Wylie starts off with running off why he's interested in numbers, and what they actually mean now. Tanks and bunker busters are useless against viral propaganda and Web-fueled radicalization. ISIS doesn’t just launch missiles; it also launches narratives. Russia compensates for its aging military equipment with “hybrid approaches” of attack, beginning with the ideological manipulation of target populations. If you’re building a non-kinetic weapon designed for scaled perspecticide—the active deconstruction and manipulation of popular perception—you first have to understand on a deep level what motivates people. Understanding people by analysing them, converting them to do what you want by understanding them, got it. Before attempting to subjugate continents to the will of their clients, SCL—the company where Wylie worked under a man named Alexander Nix—wanted to try psychological warfare on a small scale, so they chose Trinidad and Tobago. And went further than possibly any company or government has gone before they did. Getting the required data to build Jucikas’s envisioned targeting system would not be easy, but it was possible, due to a fluke of history in some parts of the developing world. Although there was substantial underdevelopment of traditional telecommunications infrastructure, largely stemming from corruption and the neglectful legacies of colonial administrations, some of the world’s poorest countries had leapfrogged generations of technology, achieving impressive advances in mobile networks. In Kenya, for example, local laws and customs made it difficult for some people to get a bank account, leading to a system in which Kenyans used cash to buy mobile phone credits, which could then be traded as a kind of digital currency. In fact, we found that people in many poorer nations distrusted banks, having lived through economic crises, hyperinflation, and bank collapses, and used the same mobile workaround. This setup meant that everybody needed a phone, and that it needed to work well, so that in otherwise impoverished nations, there’d been rapid investment in relatively decent mobile infrastructure. One unintended consequence of having large pluralities of citizens connected via mobile phone networks was that everybody could be traced, tracked, profiled, and communicated with. Jihadist networks such as ISIS, AQAP, and Boko Haram had already figured this out, taking advantage of easy access to the minds of future conquests. And that turned the rules of warfare upside down. Next we needed a case study—a location where we could scale to a nation-state level, to show potential military clients what we were capable of doing. Trinidad and Tobago, with 1.3 million people, fit the bill perfectly. It was an island nation, self-contained yet with a variety of cultures. There was an Afro-Caribbean population, an Indo-Caribbean population, and a smattering of white people, creating an interesting cultural tension to explore. It was an ideal laboratory in which to run our experiments at scale. To see what people were doing at home, by simply tapping into their use of the Internet, meant nothing to people who worked at SCL; at the very least, they got over their doubts fairly quickly: Working with a set of contractors, SCL was able to tap into the telecom firehose, pick an IP address, and then sit and watch what a person in Trinidad was browsing on the Internet at that very moment. Not surprisingly, it was a lot of porn. People were browsing everything imaginable, including the culturally specific “Trini Porn.” I can remember sitting around the computer one evening and watching as someone toggled between looking up plantain recipes and watching porn, all while Nix laughed at them. It was a revoltingly giddy laugh, almost infantile. He looked up the IP address and then opened up Google Maps satellite view to see the neighborhood this person lived in. Speaking of colonialism via white men: He had inherited tens of millions of pounds and never needed to work. He could have dedicated his life to noble pursuits or simply settled into a life of leisure, sponging off his trust fund. But instead he chose SCL. Nix couldn’t help himself—he was intoxicated by power. Born too late to play colonial master in the old British Empire, he treated SCL as the modern equivalent. As Nix put it in one of our meetings, he got to “play the white man.” “They [are] just niggers,” he once said to a colleague in an email, referring to black politicians in Barbados. Wylie writes a bit on Steve Bannon, a man who played a major part in Trump's campaign and id: In 2005, the right-wing commentator Andrew Breitbart began Breitbart.com, an online news aggregator, and by 2007 it had grown to publish original content as Breitbart News. The site ran on the undercurrent of Breitbart’s personal philosophy, which has been referred to as the Breitbart Doctrine: Politics flows from culture, and if conservatives wanted to successfully dam up progressive ideas in America, they would have to first challenge the culture. And so Breitbart was founded to be not only a media platform but also a tool for reversing the flow of American culture. When Andrew Breitbart (who had introduced the Mercers to Bannon) died suddenly in 2012, Bannon took his place as senior editor, and assumed his philosophy. At our first meeting, he was the executive chair of Breitbart and had come to Cambridge in search of promising young conservatives and candidates to staff his new London bureau. The logic, as we later learned with Brexit, was that Britain served as an important cultural signifier for Americans. Win the Brits, and so falls America, Bannon later told me, as the mythologies and tropes of Hollywood had crafted an image of Britain as a country of educated, rational, and classy people.

He had a problem, though. For all the site’s sound and fury, it became pigeonholed as a place for young, straight white guys who couldn’t get laid. Gamergate was one of the first, most public instances of their culture war: When several women tried to bring to light the gross misogyny within the gaming industry, they were hounded, doxed, and sent numerous death threats in a massive campaign against the “progressives” imposing their “feminist ideology” onto gaming culture. Gamergate was not instigated by Breitbart, but it was a sign to Bannon, who saw that angry, lonely white men could become incredibly mobilized when they felt that their way of life was threatened. Bannon realized the power of cultivating the misogyny of horny virgins. Their nihilistic anger and talks of “beta uprisings” simmered in the recesses of the Internet. But growing an army of “incels” (involuntary celibates) would not be sufficient for the movement he fantasized about. He needed to find a new approach. Analytical views into how FOX, the Rupert Murdoch-owned media-campaign circus, works, is also interesting, but part of the run-of-the-mill everyday work that SCL did for their customers. And who were they? CA’s client list eventually grew into a who’s who of the American right wing. The Trump and Cruz campaigns paid more than $5 million apiece to the firm. The U.S. Senate campaigns of Roy Blunt of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas became clients. And, of course, there was the losing House bid of Art Robinson, the Oregon Republican who collected piss and church organs. In the autumn of 2014, Jeb Bush paid a visit to the office. Despite having received millions from Mercer, Nix never bothered to learn much about U.S. politics, so he asked Gettleson to join him. Bush, who had come alone, began by telling Nix that if he decided to run for president, he wanted to be able to do it on his terms, without having to “court the crazies” in his party. What ties Wylie together with Snowden the most interestingly—apart from their vivisections—are their morals. They've both come to places where they've fervently exposed their own ways of thinking and come to the conclusion that something must stop: In our invasion of America, we were purposefully activating the worst in people, from paranoia to racism. I immediately wondered if this was what Stanley Milgram felt like watching his research subjects. We were doing it in service to men whose values were in total opposition to mine. Bannon and Mercer were more than happy to hire the very people they sought to oppress—queers, immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, and people of color—so that they could weaponize our insights and experiences to advance these causes. I was no longer working at a firm that fought against radical extremists who shackled women, brutalized nonbelievers, and tortured gays; I was now working for extremists who wanted to build their very own dystopia in America and Europe. Nix knew this and didn’t even care. For the cheap thrill of sealing another deal, he had begun entertaining bigots and homophobes, expecting his staff not only to look the other way, but for us to betray our own people. In the end, we were creating a machine to contaminate America with hate and cultish paranoia, and I could no longer ignore the immorality and illegality of it all. I did not want to be a collaborator. Then, in August 2014, something terrible happened. A veteran SCL staffer, a longtime friend and confidant of Nix’s, returned from Africa severely ill with malaria. He came into the office red-eyed and sweating profusely, slurring his words and talking nonsense. After Nix shouted at him for being late, the rest of us urged him to go to the hospital. But before he could be seen at the hospital, he collapsed and tumbled down a flight of stairs, smashing his head hard on the concrete. He slipped into a coma. His brain swelled and part of his skull was removed. His doctors worried that his cognitive functioning might never be the same. After Nix returned from visiting the hospital, he asked HR for guidance on liability insurance and how long he had to keep paying his loyal friend, still in a coma and missing part of his skull. This seemed callous in the extreme. It was in that moment that I realized Nix was a monster. Worse, I knew he wasn’t alone. Bannon was also a monster. And soon enough, were I to stay, I worried that I would become a monster, too. Wylie goes into much detail and eloquently ties ribbons together to explain how not only Trump's people, but other major players—for example, the organisations behind the entire pro-Brexit organisation, Russian organisations, political interests, and companies looking to have Trump voted and Facebook—worked feverishly to goals that would further the few without a care in the world about what they were doing, which was basically PSYOP. In calls with the Trump Organization, we heard about declining ratings for The Apprentice and how fewer people were staying at Trump hotels and gambling in the casinos. With the advent of online gambling and the total dependence on Donald Trump’s public image as a sexy, savvy billionaire, it seemed his team was beginning to realize that an outdated casino system and an aging, orange-stained C-list celebrity didn’t conjure “sexy and fun” for potential new customers. The Trump brand was on a downturn, and the company needed to figure out how to give it a boost. Wylie gives The Guardian's editors a boot for having cut out "how Sophie Schmidt—daughter of Google CEO Eric Schmidt—had introduced Nix to Palantir, setting off the chain of events that led to SCL’s foray into data warfare." More on that: In fact, I had emails about Sophie Schmidt’s involvement in SCL. The story wasn’t remotely libelous, but Schmidt threw a battalion of lawyers at The Guardian, with the threat of a time-consuming and expansive legal battle. Instead of fighting an obviously spurious lawsuit, the paper agreed to remove Schmidt’s name several weeks after publication. Then Cambridge Analytica threatened to sue over the same article. And even though The Guardian had documents, emails, and files that confirmed everything I had told them, they backed down again. Editors agreed to flag certain paragraphs as “disputed,” to appease Cambridge Analytica and mitigate the paper’s liability. They took Cadwalladr’s well-sourced story and watered it down. Far more interesting are a lot of the recordings from SCL/CA meetings that were unearthed: I sat in Alistair’s office as Briant played a recording of Nigel Oakes, the CEO of SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company. “Hitler attacked the Jews, because he didn’t have a problem with the Jews at all, but the people didn’t like the Jews,” said Oakes. “So he just leveraged an artificial enemy. Well, that’s exactly what Trump did. He leveraged a Muslim.” Oakes’s company was helping Trump do what Hitler did, but he seemed to find the whole thing amusing.

In a separate clip of a discussion between Briant and Wigmore, the Leave.EU communications director also seemed to be interested in reviewing the strategic nature of the Nazis’ communication campaigns. In the tape, Wigmore is recorded explaining, “The propaganda machine of the Nazis, for instance—if you take away all the hideous horror and that kind of stuff, it was very clever, the way they managed to do what they did. In its pure marketing sense, you can see the logic of what they were saying, why they were saying it, and how they presented things, and the imagery….And looking at that now, in hindsight, having been on the sharp end of this [2016 EU referendum] campaign, you think, crikey, this is not new, and it’s just—it’s using the tools that you have at the time.” There is far more to this book than I first thought. Wylie is clearly intelligent and seemingly straightforward, which makes this book interesting, not because SCL/Cambridge Analytica are "evil companies", but a syndrome of something far worse; the fact that Facebook, the governments of USA, England, and Russia get slammed in this book are proof of this, all splayed out in the book. Kudos to Profile/Serpent's Tail for having edited this out. It's a fierce story and should get more press attention.
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