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Morning Briefing: Trump 2.0 Emerges, and How the Trump Campaign Black Mirror'd Voters in 2016

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | March 19, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | March 19, 2018 |


Re: Trump: A lot of reporting over the weekend (and much of last week) has focused on a newly “emboldened” Trump, a Donald Trump who thinks he understands his job better, a Donald Trump who no longer believes he needs the counsel of his advisors, a Donald Trump that only wants to hire people now that validate his own gut instincts. I don’t have to tell any of you how dangerous that is, or how those autocratic impulses may play out.

Trump is basically trying to be King of America now, and with the departures of Hope Hicks and Gary Cohn — who checked him, mentally and politically — we can assume that Trump will govern even more like he campaigned. That’s doubly concerning because it’s what his base wants: More conflict, more chaos, and most importantly to Trump’s supporters, more sticking it to the liberals. He is going to start attacking Robert Mueller personally; he’s going to continue lashing out; and there will be fewer checks on his panicky impulses on Twitter, as we saw this weekend and this morning. To wit:

The Republican Congress, at best, is sitting on their hands, and at worst, they are encouraging or emboldening Trump’s behavior. A few are kind of sort of but not really raising the red flags.

A blue wave in the midterms has never been more important, but what we’re up against is a campaign that is not above playing dirty pool. Take, for instance, Cambridge Analytica. The Russians may have meddled in our election, but Cambridge Analytica may have been very instrumental in two ways: 1) it’s possible that Cambridge Analytica provided their information on 50 million Americans — misappropriated from Facebook — directly to the Russians, and 2) even if they didn’t, Cambridge Analytica used psychological methods to essentially manipulate American voters into buying into the propaganda proliferated by Russian bots.

Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, has been blowing the whistle on his former company. Basically, this is what happened: Cambridge Analytica obtained the misappropriated voter profiles of 50 million Facebook users — this was the basis of the company — and then the company used that information to spread fake news to easily manipulated voters. Basically, the company softened their minds psychologically and made them more amenable to believing in fake news, which was boosted by both the Trump campaign and the Russians. Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, and the Russians (with the aid of Wikileaks) — wittingly or not — were all working in tandem to create a political environment that demonized Hillary Clinton and made voters more amenable to Trump’s message. (Wylie, by the way, has been banned from both Facebook and Instagram for blowing the whistle).

There is every reason to believe that the Trump campaign was in on this from the beginning. Ultraconservative billionaire Robert Mercer helped fund Cambridge Analytica; Stephen Bannon sat on its board and was its former VP; Corey Lewandowski met with them even before Trump launched his campaign; Michael Flynn was an advisor; and Jared Kushner and Brad Parscale officially brought Analytica onto the Trump campaign. Kushner himself bragged about the kind of tactics they used in the election. They took the voter profile information from Facebook, for instance, and then, say, targeted The Walking Dead viewers — prone to fear of outsiders — and amped up their anti-immigration messaging in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and then used bots to amplify those messages.

The Trump campaign, with the aid of Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, and the Russians, basically used psychological warfare online to manipulate the minds of voters and ultimately narrowly win the election (despite losing the popular vote).

This is some serious Black Mirror bullshit.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.