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7 Jan, 2020 11:02

UK media uses Christopher Steele (of all people!) to push new conspiracy theory about Cambridge Analytica & 2020 election hacking

UK media uses Christopher Steele (of all people!) to push new conspiracy theory about Cambridge Analytica & 2020 election hacking

A fresh Cambridge Analytica leak of more than 100,000 documents exposing its work in 68 countries claims to show that global electoral manipulation is now on an ‘industrial scale’ and ‘is totally out of control’. Is it really?

100K documents leaked 

Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist for the Observer, the Guardian’s sister paper, whose exposure of Cambridge Analytica’s misappropriation of 87 million Facebook profiles brought the company down in 2018, is making these claims after a raft of documents from Brittany Kaiser, an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower, began to appear on an anonymous Twitter account on New Year’s Day.

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The leaks from the now-defunct data firm are supposedly ‘explosive.’ They contain material on elections in Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil. Apparently, they expose the inner workings of the data company and lay bare the global infrastructure of voter manipulation. The documents retrieved from Kaiser’s email accounts and hard drives, are only the start of thousands more to come. According to Kaiser, these reveal the true depth of the sinister data firm’s operation that go ‘way beyond what people think they know about ‘the Cambridge Analytica scandal.’ 

Who needs proof? 

Well, if there is one thing we definitely do know about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it is that there has not been one piece of evidence to show how the firm used Facebook data to manipulate voters in the Trump election or during the Brexit referendum. To this day, no one can show who was targeted. With what ads? In what locations? There is no clear picture what Cambridge Analytica did for Trump. Or what it did in any of the dozens of elections worldwide it claimed to have worked on.

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This ‘infrastructure of subversion’ on an industrial scale is a chimera of innuendo, paranoia, and wild assertions with no evidence that it manipulates anyone, that is, apart from the gullible political parties who have paid millions on the very stupid idea that voters could be manipulated to control outcomes. 

But who needs facts? Certainly not someone like Christopher Steele, the ex-head of MI6’s Russia desk and the intelligence expert behind the so-called ‘Steele dossier’ into Trump’s relationship with Russia. You remember how well that went?


In a rare public intervention to comment on the leaks, he admitted without any sense of self-awareness, that he had not seen the documents and thus did not know what was in them. But he was apparently certain, as reported by Cadwalladr, that ‘these problems are likely to get worse, not better, and with crucial 2020 elections in America and elsewhere approaching, this is a very scary prospect. Something radical needs to be done about it, and fast.’ 

Something radical needs to be done about what exactly, fast, or not? It is difficult to take anything stated in this dramatic expose seriously. There is no evidence of these having any impact. So-called experts don’t even need to examine any details to pontificate about what is likely to happen in the US elections in 2020. It is simply enough, to ‘prove’ there is content in this by pointing to the fact that both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent any details coming out. 

In the weird conspiracy-sphere, facts are unimportant; denial is proof. The more one denies a baseless claim, the more it proves there is something to hide. Case closed. 

The truth is much simpler. Facebook are protecting this data precisely because if the truth were to come out – that the millions of dollars political parties spend on their platform during elections do very little to affect the outcome – this would seriously impact their business model. This is business, not politics. 

Establishment elite go back to their 2016 conspiracy toolbox 

It is remarkable that we start the new decade using the same snake-oil conspiracy theories that dominated the previous one. It seems that Cambridge Analytica is like a zombie. It cannot be slain. Strike it down, and it rises up again, this time primed to impact the US elections and others in 2020. 

This could all be laughed off as Clintonesque sour grapes, if not for one thing – the establishment will continue to use these conspiracies to delegitimize genuine popular concerns, and undermine faith in democracy after every election result that doesn’t go its way in the West.

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In a remake of the ‘night of the living dead’ we can expect more myths about disturbing experiments on American voters; manipulation with fear-based messaging, and the targeting of the most vulnerable. 

But it is not the data manipulators that are out control on a global scale. It is the imaginations of the ‘conspiratariat’: the global coterie of self-selected illiberal political and media elitists who regard ordinary people as easy prey for the powerful. 

No surprise when arch-Europhile and Brexit opponent Guy Verhofstadt became one of the first to lustily retweet and praise Cadwalladr’s report.

That the manipulation myth has so much purchase among the political and media elite is testimony to the failure of their political and moral imagination. Those who are confident in their ideals and arguments, who believe in ideas and visions of the future; are willing to argue for and debate these in public, do not regard citizens as puppets, but as mature adults, capable of making political choices. It is this that will drive a stake through the heart of the attempt to resurrect the Cambridge Analytica zombie.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.