Does Dark Marketing Have a Function in Trump’s Mobs?

As you likely know, Trump has sicced his mobs onto one of the first non-public figures since the election: the United Steel Worker organizer for the Carrier plants affected by Trump’s involvement, Chuck Jones.

On Tuesday, Jones said that Trump “lied his ass off” about the Carrier deal, pointing out the same thing I did: that 300 of the jobs Trump took credit for “saving” were actually white collar engineer jobs. Jones said they were never slated to move to Mexico.

At first, Jones’ comments only showed up in print outlets and Trump had no response. But then CNN ran the comments (it seems, though this is not yet proven, that Trump primarily tweets out when things get on TV). And Trump responded.

The response, in general, was encouraging: rather than just report that Trump had attacked a labor organizer, several TV programs had Jones on, resulting in giving him even more opportunity to call Trump a liar.

Except then the creepy calls started.

Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.

He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

“I’ve been doing this job for 30 years, and I’ve heard everything from people who want to burn my house down or shoot me,” he added. “So I take it with a grain of salt and I don’t put a lot of faith in that, and I’m not concerned about it and I’m not getting anybody involved. I can deal with people that make stupid statements and move on.”

This is, of course, not new with the election. Trump did it all through the campaign, particularly targeting protestors at his events. But this makes it clear he is perfectly happy to target individuals for retaliation when they call him on his lies.

I’ll have more to say about what I think the appropriate response to this is (though as I said, I was reassured by last night’s performance, to a point).

But given the way last night’s tweets led so quickly to threatening phone calls, I wanted to raise this article [This is in German, but an English translation is due soon; I read it using Google translate; I will update with quotes when it is translated], on the psychological approach behind Trump’s Cambridge Analytica work during the election (which were covered in less detail in this Bloomberg article). It describes the model behind Cambridge Analytics, the amount of data it collects, and the kind of accuracy it claims. The article describes how closely the model has been integrated with Facebook. And it describes how CA got bought by Strategic Communications Laboratories, which has been used for things like influence campaigns in Afghanistan. The article then describes CA’s role in Brexit, and how first Ted Cruz and then Trump came to rely on it (partly at the direction of billionaire Robert Mercer. The article then describes how CA uses highly individualized maps of individuals to target advertising.

The success of marketing by Cambridge Analytica is based on the combination of three elements: psychological behavioral analysis according to the Ocean model, big-data evaluation and ad-targeting. Ad targeting, that is personalized advertising, that is advertising, which adapts as closely as possible to the character of an individual consumer.

Nix frankly explains how his company does it (the lecture is available on Youtube free). Cambridge Analytica purchases personal data from all sorts of sources: land registry entries, bonus cards, dial-up directories, club memberships, journal subscriptions, medical data. Nix shows the logos of globally operating data traders like Acxiom and Experian – in the USA almost all personal data are available for purchase. If you want to know where, for example, Jewish women live, you can simply buy this information. Including telephone numbers. Now Cambridge Analytica crosses this number packets with voter lists of the Republican Party and online data as Facebook Likes – then one calculates the Ocean Personality Profile: From digital footprints suddenly real people with fears, needs, interests – and with a residential address.

The article goes on to describe (as Bloomberg had) how Trump used dark ads, targeted to very narrowly tailored groups, to depress Hillary’s turnout.

There are a lot of implications of all this, if the targeting is as effective as CA likes to claim. But I wonder whether Trump intends to use it as part of his governance strategy (there were reports that Steve Bannon only agreed to join the campaign if he got access to the data). Obviously, a Trump Administration could use such an approach to apply pressure on specific legislators.

But people close to Trump (this is all hypothetical, but this is the kind of thing you keep a plausible deniability distance away from the principal) could also use it to rile up anger in response to perceived slights of the President.

Trump has been playing a double game. The firing of Michael Flynn (the son) from the transition team — in part because Flynn had a role in riling up PizzaGate — makes it clear Trump wants to maintain a visible distance from the violence his supporters commit. But Trump has always relied on mobilizing his mob to heighten the illusion that he is under attack, and his persistence in doing so after actual violence shows it is intentional.

So what might Trump’s team do with a proven communication program that can communicate with almost no notice?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

22 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    This is scary, yes. On the other hand, this software does not appear to be a Republican construct, but rather a very robust “doing business in the Internet world of the 21st century” construct. So, why can’t Democrats buy and use this software? Or do they, already? And along those lines, a New Yorker article titled “Democrats May Run Their Own Eccentric Billionaires in 2018” points out that may be the only way to get the state level gains needed to get some traction in state capitals, for 2020 redistricting etc. Should Democrats buy elections the same way that Republicans do? If that sounds morally wrong, well, not doing it ain’t gonna stop Republicans from doing it.

    • Rayne says:

      Dems need to go analog, old-school organizing. They needed to replace ACORN after it was killed by a combination of Breitbart-ery and GOP attacks. ACORN ensured many poor and minority voters were registered. What we need now, especially after the SCOTUS undermined voting rights and states ramped up suppression, is a grass-roots, country-wide effort to assist those same marginalized voters.

      This is where money should be spent, not on glitzy campaigns but on person-to-person outreach and assistance with photo ID and other identity documentation, voter education about early/absentee/provisional voting. Might not also hurt to provide very basic information security at the same time, to keep these same marginalized voters from being microtargeted.

      Should already have begun this kind of effort if we’re to make any traction on 2018 let alone 2020.

      • bevin says:

        “They needed to replace ACORN after it was killed by a combination of Breitbart-ery and GOP attacks..” and Democratic cowardice, a refusal to stand by their principles when the prospect of unpopularity, at the hands of demagogues, loomed.

        You are right though: old fashioned canvassing is needed. But it can only work if the canvassers have something to tell people; something which inspires them and the people they are talking to. A programme for change, and hope that can be believed in.

        Only this time mean it and back up the words with action, the way that Hope and Change were not backed up with action in 2008 when Wall Street was saved and Main St charged with the bill.

         

        • Rayne says:

          Uh-huh. Expert on this, you are.

          Like the folks ACORN regularly helped needed hopey-changey talk versus actual doing-something-for-them kind of action over the thirty years they served communities.

          In the days ahead, talk will be utterly useless. Talk does jackshit to help prepare people to fight Nazis.

          • bevin says:

            Organising without talk can be quite challenging. Unless, of course, you are just following orders from on high.

            One of the things that ACORN did, I gather, was to register voters. Presumably they did this with a political object in view. And presumably they would discuss the advantages of registration with people.

            I suspect that what you know about fighting Nazis would lend itself well to compression.

             

      • Keitherz says:

        As someone on the inside of Obama 2008, we never looked at ACORN as useful.  We wanted to control our data, use our own trained volunteers and found them more hindrance than help.  Now, they did other things that were fine and useful, but as a GOTV unit, no thanks.  Pres campaigns are control freaks, and that is why they tend to stay separate from local Dems in these cycles.  We gave all our stuff to the locals after the election to use as they saw fit.

    • Rayne says:

      Most of it the information is publicly available. I wrote a couple times this year about breaches related to voter databases — IIRC, one such database contained 190 million identities or more than every voter in the U.S. over the last decade. What might be added to the publicly available information like that attached to one’s state-issued driver’s license or ID is privately acquired information like purchasing habits. We provide this information all too easily if we use store-issued discount cards or log into different social media with real names.

      It can hardly be stalking when we furnish this without any comprehensive push back.

  2. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Just say NO to Cellular PCs, Windows, Flash and eSIM.  The combination is deadly to your privacy.

    https://www.onthewire.io/flash-bugs-dominate-exploit-kit-landscape/

    Six of the top 10 most-refquently targeted vulnerabilities in the last year were in Flash, while the other four were in Microsoft products, including IE, Windows, and Silverlight.

    http://www.computerworld.com/article/3148564/windows-pcs/microsoft-wants-to-enable-cellular-pcs-but-will-carriers-bite.html

    Microsoft is aiming to help with that by supporting the installation of non-removable programmable SIM cards and data radios in PCs and Windows tablets. 

    The eSIM (embedded SIM (and radio)) part and why it is bad:

    http://www.gsma.com/connectedliving/embedded-sim/
    Remote SIM Provisioning for Machine to Machine
    The GSMA’s Embedded SIM Specification provides a single, de-facto standard mechanism for the remote provisioning and management of machine to machine (M2M) connections, allowing the “over the air” provisioning of an initial operator subscription, and the subsequent change of subscription from one operator to another. GSMA Embedded SIM is a vital enabler for Machine to Machine (M2M) connections including the simple and seamless mobile connection of all types of connected machines.

     

    To sum up, you will not be able to trust your computing devices, you can be easily hacked in various ways, and with a proprietary OS, it can collect info on you which can be transmitted anywhere with the remote provisioning protocol.  Because of the M2M ‘feature’, all of your computing devices can not be trusted even if you have a device you normally use ‘offline’.

    All of this will help Cambridge Analytics.

  3. greengiant says:

    In the social media wars following the election I have heard of two different victims of death threats and harassment from Trump’s fellow travelers.   Organized manipulation is the province of military intelligence, the CIA and their for hire contractors.   Just follow a twitter reply sequence to see the deniers and their nets.

  4. martin says:

    Note to self.. more than ever.. rely on your 2nd Amendment right to own a weapon. It may be the only difference between being a victim of the coming Trump psychopathic apocalypse or not. Fuck words now.

    • TBob says:

      Exactly, martin. I grew up around guns (Army brat), fired competition smallbore in high school (ROTC mandatory in Hawaii then) and was a door gunner in RVN. Got out in 1968 and never looked at a rifle until last month when I acquired a weapon similar to one last used in combat.

      Overreaction? Possibly, but I suggest a weekend visit to any public shooting range (bring serious ear protection) and witness the Pizzagate clones blasting away with over-powered battle weapons. Better yet, drop by your local Sheriff’s office and observe the clientele applying for/renewing concealed carry permits.

      There exists, in this nation, a large community of paranoid citizens itching for the call to perforate more than targets. Just my opinion, of course.

  5. Evangelista says:

    Short question:  Was Trump applying “Cambridge Analytica” when he tweeted his tweet responses, or was Trump just blasting away on twitter, off the top of his head, as it appears he has a habit (addiction problem?)  of doing?

    If Trump blasts off tweets just to blow off, and maybe make a point, or argument, in response, then assigning psychological and sociological and deliberate manipulation motives is coming along after with a kettle and cupboard full of ingredients to cook up a soup around his road-kill that he hit, flattened and left behind.

    It would make sense to contact Trump and make sure he knows he has a pack of howlers in his wake, some of whom are more noxious than need be.  Making that wake out a zombie-army and calling TV-911 and Homeland Security to save Dorothy and Toto goes a bit far.  It gets into counter-productive territory.

     

     

  6. Evangelista says:

    A question we need to always ask, in every evil-actions threatening response situation that hits the ‘net is:  Are the evil-actors who they are said to be, who they appear to be, who they pose to be, or are they ‘false-flaggers’, pretenders, situation gamers, opportunists, exploiters, pretenders?

    Used to be almost anything with a deprecatory angle potential that appeared in a newspaper would elicit a few threatening, or “threatening” phone calls, to anyone with a near name or initials listed in the telephone book.   Today the technology has changed.  People are the same mix as ever.

  7. greengiant says:

    Steve Bannon seems to have all the psychological,  sociological and deliberate manipulation moves you could possibly imagine and fear.   There is reason the Pete Peterson foundations and their ilk hire professional psychologists at the same time they are manipulating Simpson Bowles types of affairs.   Marc “Cuban praised him last month, saying he thought Bannon was smarter than Trump and was playing him like a puppet”

  8. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    There’s an interesting piece on Medium here which talks about Trump’s use of Cambridge Analytica and dark ads for voter suppression.

    When I read that Medium piece I was astonished. I had thought the Trump campaign a complete clown show. But, if you do a Google news search, you find two parallel sets of stories. First is “Trump camp in disarray.” The section is smaller stories about the hiring of Cambridge Analytica, etc.

    What’s fundamentally disturbing to me is how little recognition Trump’s digital campaign has had and the entire notion that Facebook dark ads played a part.

  9. martin says:

    quote”When I read that Medium piece I was astonished. I had thought the Trump campaign a complete clown show.”unquote

    Not being a Facefuck..er..Facebook user(I quit in a week, after learning how Facebook uses the data) that article astounded me too.  Moreover, knowing Trump, as President has not only his own database, but will have at his disposal so much data it’s fucking scary. Knowing also what a vindictive  maggot like him will do with it to persecute his enemies, propagandize his message and literally become the posterchild for Tyrants-R-Us, sends a chill down my spine.  NEVER, in the 71 years of my life, would I have believed my country would elect a scumsucking certifiable sociopath like Trump. The mere thought elicits an immediate gag reflex.  However, NOW I see how it was accomplished.  What I still don’t understand is the depth to which this nation has sunk in the depravity cesspool  in the last 30 yrs.  This nation now redefines the word.. shameless. Moreover, whatever that “America” Trump wants to make “great” again is… I don’t want any part of it.  What I would like to know though.. is WHEN was  that America Trump is referring to ..great.  If it EVER existed, it wasn’t in my lifetime.  All I’ve seen in my 71 years, is an evil, war worshiping,  Legal Imperialism that has trashed this planet, killed millions of innocent human beings, and reduced the citizens of this crumbling piece of shit into a mass of  bloodthirsty morally broke pond scum.  The living proof is they elected their symbol of the very thing they’ve become.  A living, breathing monster from hell.  I spit on everything these despicable, vile, chromosomally aberrant scum stand for. I only hope the ghosts of those  puke-drooling, giggling beasts who sired Trump, and then killed themselves in recognition of what they had done, come back to haunt them the rest of their pathetic, monument to stupidity, lives.

  10. P J Evans says:

    “rely on your 2nd Amendment right to own a weapon. It may be the only difference between being a victim of the coming Trump psychopathic apocalypse or not”

    Be prepared to have that firearm used against you. Because weapons are not one-way. They’re far more dangerous than you think. Most people should NOT have them.

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