Those who remember the shock and surprise generated by Obama’s color revolution-styled primary campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008 should brace themselves for the Ted Cruz campaign in the same early states. Earlier this week, the Washington Post of December 14 revealed that the Cruz campaign was using “big data” to carry out the “psychographic targeting” of potential Iowa caucus goers. The Washington Post article said that Ted Cruz was relying on Cambridge Analytica, a Massachusetts company reportedly partly owned by hedge fund executive Robert Mercer, whom the article reported had given $11 million to a SuperPAC supporting Ted Cruz. The article described Cambridge Analytica as the US affiliate of the London-based SCL Group, which reportedly has been paid three quarters of a million dollars by the Ted Cruz campaign, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
SCL is reportedly helping Cruz to identify possible supporters, and then to classify them in a behaviorist typology, so that they can be micro-targeted by campaign messages designed to cater to their specific mentalities.
Iowans may be curious to learn something about the background of SCL, which has been intervening in elections in many parts of the world over the last two decades and more. A recent Politico article pointed out that SCL has been especially active in the developing or Third World countries, where it has boasted of its ability to bring about changes in existing governments: ‘So far, SCL’s political work has been mostly in the developing world — where it has boasted of its ability to help foment coups. Cambridge Analytica entered the competitive U.S. political data market only last year.’
The specifics of the boasting are derived from an older 2005 article published by Slate. Here we find that the company advertises its ability to intervene:
‘In another doomsday scenario, the company assists a newly democratic country in South Asia as it struggles with corrupt politicians and a rising insurgency that threatens to bubble over into bloody revolution. SCL steps in to assist the benevolent king of "Manpurea" to temporarily seize power. Oh, wait, that sounds a lot like Nepal, where the monarchy earlier this year ousted a corrupt government to stave off a rising Maoist movement. The problem is, the SCL scenario also sounds a lot like using a private company to help overthrow a democratically elected government. Another problem, at least in Nepal, is that the king now shows few signs of returning to democracy…."The [ops center] can override all national radio and TV broadcasts in time of crisis," it says, alluding to work the company has done in an unspecified Asian country.’
The Robert Mercer mentioned by the Washington Post is the CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund. Although personally not avid for publicity, Mercer and his family have emerged in recent years as important financial angels for reactionary causes. As Wikipedia informs us
‘Mercer's family foundation, run by his daughter, Rebekah, has also donated to a variety of conservative causes. Mercer is a major financial supporter of the 2016 presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, contributing $11 million to a super PAC associated with the candidate. In 2015, the Washington Post called Mercer one of the ten most influential billionaires in politics, describing Mercer as a "Tea Party conservative."’
Politico commented last summer:
‘With their investment in Cambridge Analytica — and the Cruz campaign’s embrace of their product — the Mercers also have become competitors in an increasingly cutthroat conservative political data race. Some of the right’s most influential and well-funded players — including the Koch brothers’ operation and the Republican National Committee — are jockeying for market share and 2016 prospects in a political sub-industry expected to consume a huge portion of the billions spent in the campaign. The result of the competition could go a long way toward determining the winner of the White House and the Republican Party’s direction after the election.’
SCL appears to be dominated by financiers and old Etonians, meaning graduates of the infamous British private school which calls itself a public school. Eton and its rival Harrow are regarded as top-ranked for the secondary education of the British elite. Etonians have long been in the forefront of political manipulation, as we can see a from Benjamin Disraeli’s 1844 novel Coningsby, which describes some of the operations of Young England and the Conservative Party during the Victorian era.
SCL touts itself in the following terms on its website:
‘As the premier election management agency and the only one working on the basis of a scientific methodology, SCL Elections knows what it takes to win political campaigns.” They add that “SCL Elections has unrivalled experience in delivering campaign success via measurable behavioural change.’
According to this website, SCL has intervened over the course of 20 years and more in over 100 elections in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. They seem to be most at home in former British colonies.
For politicians who want to win their next election, SCL promises a “bespoke solution” based on the company’s ability to “target individuals with pinpoint precision.”
In South Africa in 1994, SCL says it was called in to prevent violence in an election campaign.
In Kenya in 2013, the company advised its client party about strategy after having conducted what it calls the largest political research project in the history of East Africa. Did this involve the losing pro-western presidential candidate Raila Odinga of the CORD bloc, who claims to be Obama’s cousin?
In Nigeria in 2007, SCL says it helped its “client party” by arguing that its most effective strategy was “to dissuade opposition supporters from voting.” This strategy was implemented by organizing “anti-poll” or anti-voting rallies on the day of the election in localities where the opposition party was expected to be strong. These rallies were addressed by local religious leaders to give the “Don’t Vote” message added emphasis among rural populations – like those in Iowa. One wonders how the attendance of these religious leaders was procured.
In Mauritius, the company says it was able to determine that the incumbent prime minister could not be re-elected, motivating him to drop out of the race.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the current Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves has bitterly and repeatedly complained about SCL’s intervention into his country, which he alleges was conducted against his government over a period of years in the service of foreign interests. Gonsalves comes across as a feisty and experienced politician who knows what he is talking about. Read his charges and decide for yourself.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the company says it helped win an election thanks to the “Do So” campaign which overpowered the opposition.
The company claims to have achieved a landslide victory for its client party in the Indian state of Bihar in 2010.
After 1999, SCL was in action in Indonesia, where it says its task was to manage the strong feelings present in the population, a cryptic phrase of uncertain meaning.
The company also claims to have built the world’s largest election operations center in Indonesia.
SCL has also operated in Taiwan, Latvia, Italy, Romania, the UK, Albania, and the Ukraine, where they say they were part of the 2004 “Orange Revolution.”
Political operatives working for the other Republican campaigns will probably want to study some of these SCL interventions to become familiar with their techniques and be ready for various surprises that are likely to emerge over the next month and a half.
- Sharon Weinberger, “You Can’t Handle the Truth: Psy-Ops Propaganda Goes Mainstream,” Slate, September 19, 2005-http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/dispatches/2005/09/you_c...
- http://www.iwnsvg.com/2010/09/01/pm-says-foreigners-undermining-his-gove... http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/svg.php?news_id=11953&start=0&category_i... and
http://caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-Open-Letter-to-the-people-of-the-Ca... These are all eminently worth reading.