The Great Hack

The Great Hack is a superb watch, compelling even if you forget the implications of the story because the characters are fascinating. In particular, Brittany Kaiser, why does a Bernie Saunders voting, former green peace advocate and brilliant woman end up working for the Trump campaign through Cambridge Analytica? Was she seduced by the anarchy and power of the undoubtedly charismatic Steve Bannon, or was it her family’s dire financial circumstances? This is something the film doesn’t address in any depth. Nor does it look at how all the leading players at Cambridge Analytica have simply started up precisely the same kind of company after dissolving CA. Although we do get the impression they filed for bankruptcy to avoid their legal responsibilities. The money and power screams of an Illuminati conspiracy theory. All that said this is a must-watch show, brilliantly made. Chilling imagery of our data being collected and shots of those “innocent” quizzes we have all clicked on Facebook bring home the reality of data collection. There’s one caveat I’d add, who did anything wrong? Sure the ownership of our own data is something we should all debate. But all recent elections target the swing vote. All parties seek out the “persuadables“, why is it so shocking and called election influencing when it’s been happening since the mid-’50s. Once upon a time, it was Mr Murdoch who was the alleged kingmaker. Yes, the stories used today to target the swing voters are despicable, mostly false but very effective, why are we so surprised? I think the most insidious thought being the platforms we use to post cute cats are the ones being used to split society apart and the fact that Russia and other foreign powers are using the same techniques to subvert our democracy. Vice wrote an excellent review here, saying the great hack mostly missed the point. That point being, we are entering into surveillance capitalism, but that’s been the case for years, the powerful have been keeping the masses in their place using every trick in the book. Supermarkets have been employing psychologists for years placing impulse buys in precisely the right place in the store etc. The infamous “torches of freedom” smoking campaigns designed to get women to equate smoking with their emancipation in the late 1920s were an example of early manipulation by large wealthy corporations using Edward Bernays and the psychoanalyst A.A. Brill. So while it is a must-see “The Great Hack” is really about the modern-day techniques being used today, the fact that it’s got so much easier to farm data thanks to the large internet corporations. I think we all half expect our governments to hold data about us, perhaps our banks and medical institutions, suddenly we discover a bunch of college kids with an app have 100 times the data, and we gave it up ourselves so easily is a shock. If I am honest, I don’t know why we actually give our trust so easily to governments, medical institutions and of all places banks.

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