No, neither Cambridge Analytica nor the Russians caused Hilary Clinton to lose the 2016 U.S. presidential election. To state what should be the obvious, the old maxim “You cannot polish a turd” held true.
Watching Question Time this week one would be forgiven for thinking that Facebook and big data have robbed us of our ability to think freely. Ask yourself, do you really think anyone changed their voting preference based on a meme on Facebook? Did you? I suspect on the second question everyone reading this will have answered no. On the first question however there are some amongst us who hold some of our fellow voters in contempt.
The people who on this side of the Atlantic claim that we need a second referendum on Brexit because working class voters in the north were too stupid to understand what they were voting for, no doubt because they read the daily mail and other “right wing” papers are the twins of the people in U.S who cannot accept the loss of an election they were entitled to win.
What the these people are really saying when they propagate myths about voters being duped is that we understood all the facts, we know what we are talking about, we are smart, but those people, the proletariat’s over there, they are stupid, ill-informed and ignorant. While we are too smart to be swayed by a message on the side of a bus, or a meme on Facebook, other people with lower IQ’s than our own were. The sense of superiority and entitlement is astounding.
The reality is that the harvesting of data can be a force for good. Data can give politicians a greater insight into the lives of the people they seek to serve. And while it is certainly true that some may use data harvested from sites like Facebook to propagate demagogic messages, the truth is demagoguery precedes technology and data science. What data cannot do is give Data Scientists the power to control free will. Indeed even God as described in the Bible and the Quran does not rob us of our ability to think freely.
In the end the Russians, Cambridge Analytica, the three hundred and fifty million pounds on the side of a bus or Nigel Farage in front of an image of immigrants did not cause Brexit or Donald Trump’s victory. It is about time those who lost on both sides of Atlantic took a long hard look at themselves in the mirror and asked themselves why their sense of entitlement has turned millions of ordinary voters against them.
(Main Image: Wikimedia Commons)