Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A More Perfect Union

Photo of George Orwell from his 1933 press card
Sasha Issenberg has written a three-part article that appears in MIT Technology Review.  The title of the article is also the title of this post, but here’s the subtitle:

How President Obama’s Campaign Used Big Data to Rally Individual Voters

If you look at the title of the directory in which the Web content for the third article is contained (hotlink above), you see this title:


Mr. Issenberg’s story is about how the Democratic Party uses data mining techniques to predict the voting behavior of Americans.  This is the money quote:

The campaign didn’t just know who you were; it knew exactly how it could turn you into the type of person it wanted you to be.

The article (h/t Instapundit) describes the Democratic Party’s EIPs (experiment-informed programs) that “measure how effective different types of political messages were at moving public opinion.”  One technique was to sequence direct mail to individual voters and then follow-up with survey calls to isolate the particular piece of direct mail that changed voter opinion the most.

The article describes EIP testing done in July of 2012 that focused on equal-pay and health issues for women.  The idea was to pull women to Obama based on a specific message.

It all sounds very academic and innocuous.  That is, until you see one of the ads involved.

In EVERY case, the advertisements depict Mitt Romney as a bad person.  (See my Rope-a-Dope post for a partial listing.)  These are the ads that characterize Mr. Romney as a liar, a person who wants to hurt the middle class, someone who wants you to lose your job, and a rich person out of touch with reality.

The ads were tested with the EIP methodology, and they achieved the necessary outcome.

The MIT article makes no mention of the ramifications of the political techniques being employed.  It simply features the article as a technological extension of focus-group techniques.

If you are a Republican, you might want to focus on the ramifications.  The Democratic Party is using information about voters to manipulate voting preferences.  The Party is honing its negative advertising to create a sense of fear about a certain class of people so that Americans will keep them out of government stewardship.

To think this is not worth noting is a mistake.  Republicans should be concerned that they are being politically “played.”  A couple of instances from current events come to mind…

Republicans are concerned about the “fiscal cliff” and its consequences on the American people, but the Democratic Party has no such concerns.  It simply wants to ensure Republicans come out of the encounter labeled as “uncompromising zealots.”

Republicans are concerned about school safety and practical measures to thwart school shootings, but the Democratic Party simply wants to ensure Americans see Republicans as “violent extremists.”

Watch it unfold on Twitter.
The clear and present danger is that if Republicans continue to focus on policy issues and not political issues, there will be no Republican Party to focus on any issue.

UPDATE 12/20/2012:

Was Mitt Romney the first Republican to be Electro-Borked?

The death of Robert Bork reminds us of character assassination by Senate hearing.  The Democratic Party has now "progressed" to the arena of consumer electronics.  Who will be the next Republican to be Electro-Borked?

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  1. Sarah Palin was the first major political candidate to go through that level of electronic calumny, but Romney was the first president to experience it.

    1. That's true. Dan Wagner got his start in the 2008 campaign.