...his book is – inadvertently – an invaluable primer on psychological warfare and behaviour modification. It’s clear that Wylie played a key role in developing the technology that enabled political operators to effectively target messages to individual voters. And although nobody knows what – ultimately – makes an individual cast a vote one way or another, what now seems incontrovertible is that social media can suppress voter turnout by finding people who are doubtful or reluctant about voting and persuading them to stay home... Given that Wylie was at the heart of this work, and that he displayed real sociological understanding of what the data was revealing, his account provides a useful, crystal-clear exposition of the power of psychographic profiling when it’s done right. And it suggests that electoral campaigning has now moved on to a different level.
Wylie left Cambridge Analytica deeply distressed, describing Bannon and Nix as monsters, and took his revelations about the company to the US Congress and the liberal press. But only largely, one suspects, because the use of his brilliant innovation had been put to work for a side with which he disagreed politically. If it had all been done by the liberals, would he have minded? Would it then have been a “mindf*ck”?
Still, this book is valuable and revelatory and you may, after reading it, be a little more suspicious of the gifs and links that appear on your screen and make you unaccountably angry.