Trump’s Election For Dummies
How the heck did this guy end up President?
That’s a billion-dollar question, isn’t it? How did Trump squeak out his win against all the odds and polls and pretty much what every rational American believed could happen, including Trump himself?
Well, a big part of the answer is right in front of our American noses. And the most disturbing part is we haven’t done a thing about it. Another election is barreling in here like an out of control skier on a steep slope of sheer ice. With a brick wall at the bottom. Hello, America? You’re going to crash!
I’d like to make this simple. Most of us, our eyes roll back in our heads when we get into things like this, but get into it we must, so I thought I’d take a shot at laying this out in the simplest way possible. Sort of like with crayons. Kindergarten level. Black and white. No frills. Trump’s Election For Idiots.
So here we go.
People Are Negative.
Sorry. It’s true. People are judgemental. People love gossip. People love scandal. People love conspiracy theories. Come on! Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory!
Let’s call this the National Enquire Theory of Existence. You’ve stood in line at grocery stores. You’ve seen the headlines. You know you want to pick it up and read it. Be honest! In modern internet world terms, we use the crude term click bait. Negativity plays big in click bait, and we need to keep that in mind as we go through this.
A lot of this applies to Twitter and Google and every other platform, but let’s just beat up Facebook for now. Crayons, remember?
When you check into Fbook, the platform chooses what to show you. How does Fbook choose what to show you? Algorithms.
The all-knowing algorithm uses your data to decide what you are most likely to react to.
Refer back to the National Enquire Theory of Existence to figure out what you’re most likely to react to. The more you react to something the more Fbook shows it you. It’s only Point 2, and the snake is already eating its tail!
Here’s another theory: The Nation In The Bubble.
That’s us. By Fbook feeding us what we react to, we tend to see our beliefs confirmed. And the more that happens, the thicker our bubble, until all we’re doing is bouncing around in a big bubble with like-minded bubble dwellers.
That infamous ‘like’ button’ on Fbook? It’s an ‘alike’ button as well.
Every geek reading this is going, dude, we know all this!!!
Go away. This is not for you. This is for the rest of us. And just the fact we haven’t done a thing about it shows how much we’ve missed the obvious.
What did we miss?
The Russians Figured This Out.
Facebook’s algorithm is the Russian Minister of Propaganda’s wet dream. I don’t know if Russia still has a minister of propaganda, but back in the day when they did, they would have taken vodka shot after vodka shot in celebration of a propaganda tool like Facebook’s algorithm.
What did they do?
a) They identified polarizing issues, like immigration, gun control, white supremacy, media bias.
b) They used Fbook’s advertising tools to identify user profiles susceptible to those issues.
c) They used those ads to form groups.
÷Now they have users corralled in groups what’s next?
Most of my understanding of this comes from an aritcle I read by Roger McNamee called How To Fix Facebook Before It Fixes Us. I’ll let Roger take it from here about how to use groups.
Russians could have used fake American troll accounts and computerized “bots” to share incendiary messages and organize events. Trolls and bots impersonating Americans would have created the illusion of greater support for radical ideas than actually existed. Real users “like” posts shared by trolls and bots and share them on their own news feeds, so that small investments in advertising and memes posted to Facebook groups would reach tens of millions of people. A similar strategy prevailed on other platforms, including Twitter. Both techniques, bots and trolls, take time and money to develop — but the payoff would have been huge.
To recap: Negativity>Facebook>Russians.
Now ask yourself which candidate used negativity the most in their campaign and therefore would have benefited the most by Russian manipulation of our social networks?
Okay, so your homework is read McNamee’s article and pay particular attention to the 8 ways he suggests fixing things. And, instead of venting to your Congressmen in general spittle and rant terms, egg them to action on our wide-open and vulnerable social media, because as far as I can see, Congress has done squat to fix this and the next election is closing in fast.