Hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and Trump strategist Steve Bannon have been working with Cambridge Analytica to change the way Americans think. Their strategy includes:
1. A database of almost the entire US voting population, showing, on the basis of their Twitter and Facebook accounts, what motivates each person.
2. Automated “bots” programmed on Twitter to act like people, to change the conversation, and to make topics trend. Before the U.S. election, such bots were five-to-one in favor of Trump.
3. Artificial intelligence that can measure every reaction to every word uttered, and hone messages to maximize their impact.
4. Eventually replacing existing media with sites such as Breitbart and with websites that displace mainstream sources of news and information, like CNSnews.com. Rightwing sites are already dominating sites like YouTube and Google, bound tightly together by millions of links.
5. Using supercomputers to dig up source material Google can’t find. This, Bannon explained, is how they “weaponise” the narrative they want, launching it straight on to the front page of the mainstream media, and diverting the attention of the news cycle.
6. “Strategic drowning” of other messages with the right timing and focus of controversial messages. With the rest of the media cattered, separate, and competing with each other, they can be being picked off like targets in a shooting gallery.
“Politics is war,” said Steve Bannon last year in the Wall Street Journal. And increasingly this looks to be true.
We must fight back. But if we use the same high-tech tools, what happens to the truth? To democracy?