Christopher Wylie calls himself a “whistle-blower” and has been on a systematic pilgrimage creating havoc globally through his celebrity-like revelations of what he has characterised as the unethical and manipulative digital influence-peddling he reports as perpetrated by Cambridge Analytica, a company where he had been reportedly employed as an intern for one year.
Something is out of place about this eccentric young man and his lust for centre-stage.
Authentic “whistle-blowers” are usually cast as an opposite “type”. A whistle-blower is considered one whose motives are pure, and who is influenced predominantly by a yearning for justice. Such a person is willing to speak truth to power, with the full knowledge that he/she is risking life, limb and worldly advantage.
To be a whistle-blower involves tremendous personal risk—perhaps even a willingness to risk martyrdom. Does Christopher Wylie fit that archetype?
First, let us be clear, according to Steve Bannon—part owner of Cambridge Analytica—in 2008, both Facebook and Google approached Barack Obama’s campaign strategists, offering them access to their metadata.
Max Blumenthal, an investigative journalist for the Graystone Project, has asserted that Cambridge Analytica’s UK-based parent company—SCL group—“conducted a surveillance operation in Yemen using psychological profiling, ‘strategic communications campaigns’ and the infiltration of foreign operatives into indigenous communities through unwitting local partners whom they were instructed to deceive”.
He further added many of the “methods of surveillance and manipulation revealed in these SCL documents closely mirror the tactics that were later applied in Western electoral contests. And when these tactics were exposed in early 2018, they ignited a political firestorm”.
Recall that Vestige Solutions and Elite Change were both involved—along with theGROUP, Art Collins’ lobby organisation retained by Rowley’s PNM—in the Obama presidential campaign.
Recall too that Art Collins was a senior political strategist in the Obama campaign.
In 2013, Wylie began working as a contractor for SCL Elections and its off-shoot Cambridge Analytica which specialised in “psychographic targeting”—a skill introduced by Wylie himself.
Writing in The Observer (2017), Carole Cadwalladr asserted he was the one who brought data and micro-targeting to Cambridge Analytica. Micro-targeting is described as “individualised political messaging”.
Further to this, Elite Change, on its website, boasts “[t]he Elite Change team offers strategic planning of communication and media initiatives. The messages we deliver are carefully tailored to both meet client needs and reach that communication’s target audience. Our goal as communicators is to carefully craft an impactful message in the most efficient manner possible”. Listed among its “communications strategies” is “email campaigns”.
As a citizen, I am asking whether this Rowley-led PNM administration has been using my tax dollars in its political propaganda campaign.