Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Council for National Policy

 A data analytics compan, Cambridge Analytica,  has harvested information from more than 50 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica is partially owned by American businessman Robert Mercer, who is known for backing conservative causes. That data was used to personalize political ads to "change audience behavior" and advance political projects. Trump's former far-right political strategist Stephen Bannon reportedly oversaw one of Cambridge Analytica's programs which created voter profiles based on data garnered from Facebook. He served as the company's vice president and secretary before joining Trump's campaign in 2016. Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who worked alongside Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan to garner the data for Cambridge Analytica, told the Observer

"We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles. And built models to exploit what we know about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on."

In a documentary 'People You May Know', Charles Kriel, special adviser to the UK Parliament on disinformation, and filmmaker Katharina Gellein traveled across the United States accompanied by a team of journalists and whistleblowers. Their film reveals the political connection between religious fundamentalists, oligarchs and Cambridge Analytica and its shell companies, which have fundamentally shifted the balance of politics in the United States.  Evidence has been revealed about who Cambridge Analytica collaborated with in the United States other than the Trump campaign.

It turned out to be far-right-wing churches, conservative churches in the US. And they've built a platform that targets mentally ill or vulnerable people in order to draw them into church, to monetize them through donations. That's the short-term goal. To help them is the facade for it, but ultimately the aim is to convert them to the politics of the far right. 

A Koch brothers-funded charity commissioned Cambridge Analytica, along with a software company called Gloo, to build a software platform that could be used by churches in order to target vulnerable people. These are people who are suffering from addiction, financial distress, who might be struggling with opioid dependence or they might be dealing with bipolar issues. And all of these options are available in the software that has been deployed to the churches. And once those people are identified, they can target them with social media. And once brought into the church, they can also be recruited into the politics of the far right.

When you're talking about local churches, I don't think they're aware of what's going on. What they do know is that here's this magical platform called Insights. And they could say, "Well, I'm going to look around in Birmingham, Alabama, and I want to find an area of town where people are suffering from high levels of addiction and divorce." Recovery programs are great when they don't have a second agenda. This is about the exploitation of people who attend church. So any normal Republican, I think, wouldn't be very happy with their data being used for purposes that it wasn't intended for.

At the level of the megachurches, where politics becomes involved, then there's more of an awareness to go in and to monetize off the backs of folks who are suffering, because they have an unfair recruiting tool for bringing those people into recovery programs in the churches. One of the main founders  essentially laid out how it all works. He had an initial presentation for donors, which we've seen. And that lays out pretty clearly that the aim is political because overwhelmingly, people who don't go to church don't vote Republican. So it was a key thing to apply in certain swing states, because, of course, with enough swing states in the US, you can swing the vote.

The person  who commissioned Cambridge Analytica and also put money into Gloo, the software company, is a member of an organization called the Council for National PolicyIts roots are in the Southern Baptist Convention, so racism is part of its DNA. And they came together with a sense of urgency, knowing that by the 2030s, white Protestant males would no longer be in a majority. And this is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization [a type of organization that is tax-exempt in the US], which means they are not meant to conduct politics or support a certain candidate or get involved in public politics really at all. They've existed for about 40 years. Their aim was to rewrite the US Constitution by 2020. Now they're a little late, but if Trump wins another four years, they have a very real chance, because they have systematically, over the course of many years, worked to install a Republican legislature in many states. They have pushed out Democrats and pushed out moderate Republicans.  There's a couple of different ways to try to reengineer the US Constitution. One is you can go state by state, amendment by amendment. That takes forever and nobody gets anywhere that way. Or what you can do instead is call a constitutional convention. And if two-thirds of the US state legislatures call for a constitutional convention, then one is held and there hasn't been one since the Bill of Rights. The convention can revolve around a single issue, but once the convention is in operation, other issues can be introduced and you can effectively rewrite the entire document. As you know, abortion rights are on the table. Marriage equality is on the table, things like federal regulation and the degree to which the central government can control regulation of the states are on the table, states' rights and states' control.

The Council for National Policy was founded in 1981 but they're secretive, so nobody knows who the members are. Nobody knows when they hold their quarterly meetings or where they're going to be holding their quarterly meetings.


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