The
short answer is he’s a computer scientist billionaire. The long answer is a bit
more complicated.
Mercer is very
right-wing in his politics, which is not all that unusual. But he’s chosen to
use his expertise and wealth to move the American social conscience hard to the
right as well. So, knowing just who Bob is and how he proposes to propagandize
is essential if you care at all about world politics.
If ISIS and Brexit,
immigrants and Donald Trump, global climate change and the Dakota Indians are
not on your mind, you still ought to know, because all those things affect your
life and Mercer affects all those things.

Bob
Mercer is not a bad man. Like many of us, either liberal or conservative, he
has a vision of a better America and unlike most of us has the financial power
to advance his understanding of that vision. Through companies he supports, Mercer
is essentially in the data-mining business, primarily through Facebook and
other social media sites. The CEO of Cambridge Analytica (one of those
companies) states that “today in the
United States we have somewhere close to four or five thousand data points on
every individual … so we model the personality of every adult across the
United States, some 230 million people
.”
They use
this collected data to interpret voter’s hidden emotions and target them
accordingly. Tracking Facebook ‘likes’ they claim 150 likes allows their model to
predict someone’s personality better than
their spouse
. With 300, they say it understands you better than you know yourself.
Pretty
scary. If you’re not into scary, it’s pretty damned interesting.
As a warm-up to the
American election, Cambridge Analytica played a key role in Britain’s Leave campaign
to pull the UK out of the European Union (Brexit). Mercer donated these
services, advising Leave.eu by way of data harvested from members’ Facebook
profiles, targeting individual messages to voters in support of Brexit.
No one bothered at
the time to inform the UK electoral commission, a violation of UK law. Brits
are still wondering how the hell they got to voting themselves out of Europe,
but it seems to be a done deal.
A
majority of American voters are in similar wonderment at the victory of Donald
Trump in a presidential campaign no one believed he could possibly win.
Enter
Cambridge Alalytica, Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, all of whom are tied
financially and intellectually to our billionaire Robert Mercer. Using the
tools sharpened in Britain, Trump was everywhere in American media. Laughed at,
caricatured and never taken quite seriously, Donald Trump dominated the conversation and drowned Hillary Clinton in an
avalanche of rhetoric. We knew where
she stood on policy, we’d known it over her 35 years of public service.
We couldn’t wait to hear Donald’s next outrageous
bit of blather. And when the polls closed we went home to watch Hillary walk
away with her ‘well deserved’ victory for womanhood and sensible government.
Somewhere between the pizza and a stiff drink sensible government lost.
And we still do not know why or how, but Steve Bannon
and Robert Mercer know and they’re not done with us yet, not by a long shot. We
struggle to understand social media, scramble to get our heads around
teenagers hounded into suicide by trolls and battle our way through this strange new world of fake news,
wondering who to believe and clinging all the more frantically to our far-left
or far-right positions.
Facebook
and Twitter and Google will struggle as well with their individual
responsibilities in this mess and will no doubt make progress in sorting truth
from trolls and bots from real people. But in the meantime, Bob Mercer’s
Cambridge Analytica will be heads-down and well on its way to the next jump
ahead in what will no doubt prove to be a long battle for truth, fairness and
representative democracy.
And
once again an ultimate and inescapable truth emerges…
…you may not be
interested in politics, but politics is
interested in you
.