Politicians and big business will try every method to shape people’s views. And at the same time they will seek to make money from doing it.
That’s one key lesson—although hardly a new one— from the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal.
Cambridge Analytica claimed it could influence elections by creating “psychographic profiles”.
Global Science Research (GSR) sold information to Cambridge Analytica, obtained by harvesting Facebook data. Cambridge Analytica claimed ignorance.
Facebook is likely to have made a conscious decision to ignore the behaviour of the data harvesters because it fitted into how it makes profits.
GSR used an app—“thisisyourdigitallife”—to get data.
Millions of people have used similar apps and had their data harvested by other market research companies. There is no furore from the liberal media about targeted adverts because these are business as usual.
It is also business as usual to pay to influence elections—the Tories paid £18.6 million to do so at last year’s general election, including £2 million to Facebook.
They spent more than Labour and the Lib Dems combined, and that’s not counting the media backing they don’t have to pay for.
But there’s another important lesson. We shouldn’t assume that ordinary people are stupid and mere pawns in the games played by our supposed betters.
People didn’t vote for Brexit because they were duped by Robert Mercer, the right wing multi-billionaire who owns Cambridge Analytica.
The vote represented a real bitterness. In many cases it was based on correct understandings of the EU’s role.
Ordinary people can influence the course of history.
The university strikes have shown that things presented as certainties by those at the top may be far from certain.
Several newspapers gleefully reported last week that a deal had been reached over pensions.
A deal had not been reached with UCU union members though, and the strikes are back on—likely after Easter.
Another example is the international marches against racism last weekend.
The ruling class uses racism to divide working class people. The fightback against it is crucial to forging working class unity.
Yet despite the constant diet of media and politicians’ assaults on migrants and Muslims, tens of thousands of people came out to show they will fight racism.
We can shape society. And we don’t need to stop at holding back the worst of the attacks of the people at the top.
We can fight for a new kind of society. That fight means strengthening our campaigns, our own ways of putting our message across—and joining a revolutionary organisation.