By James Corbett and cross-posted from The International Forecaster
Pinocchio is the story of a marionette that dreams of becoming a real boy. He wishes upon a star, proves himself selfless, brave and true, and a kind fairy grants him his heart’s one true desire.
When the history of the 21st century is written, it could very well be the story of real boys and girls that willingly become marionettes. They stare blankly into their smartphones, prove themselves selfish, cowardly and false, and a group of technocrats puppeteer them.
Allow me to illustrate: You are a white, middle class American woman in your late 20s. You are active on Facebook, where you have a lot of friends, but you spend most of your time interacting with your sister, your boyfriend, and your BFFs from college. You watch a lot of 90s teen dramas but specifically skip the episode of Felicity where she cuts her hair. You work at a dental office in a mid-rise commercial building and eat lunch at the diner in the strip mall next door every Thursday. You used to fly home for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year on United, but you recently switched to Southwest. You like ballroom dancing on the weekends. Your last three purchases were a patchwork and quilting magazine, a 32 lb. bag of chicken-flavor puppy chow, and a silk tie (a present for your father’s birthday). You are agreeable but not very conscientious and you are prone to worry.
Et voilà. Your specially-crafted toothpaste advertisement is served.
But you may have heard of one member of this new breed of Big Data-driven marketing firms in recent months: Cambridge Analytica. They’re the company that Trump employed to out-spin the Hillary campaign, or so we have been told ad nauseam by the strangely PR-like coverage of the firm that has been showered on them by the corporate lamestream #fakenews media since the end of last year’s (s)election cycle.
They bill themselves as a “data driven services” company that specializes in “data integration” and “audience segmentation” delivering “psychographic analysis” to drive targeted advertising campaigns or profile and influence potential voters. Or, in the significantly less buzzword-laden language of their company mission statement:
“To deliver Data-Driven Behavioral Change by understanding what motivates the individual and engaging with target audiences in ways that move them to action.”
No, that’s not a typo, that’s a selling point. The firm uses the slogan “Data driven behavior change” in their online promotional videos and offers the image of balls being directed down an inclined plane to illustrate how they can shape people’s behaviors along predetermined paths using data and marketing.
The company’s CEO, Andrew Nix, likes to go on stage at various conferences and deliver spine-chillingly Orwellian pronouncements about how Big Data is helping Cambridge Analytica create detailed psychological profiles of millions of unsuspecting “cosumers” and “voters.” These profiles can then be used to deliver individually-targeted messages to each of those millions of people, whether that message is used to sell a certain brand of toothpaste or generate interest in a certain political candidate…