the horrible position a professional communications person finds themselves in (the 2016 election))

unfinished question

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I wish I had the courage not to fight and doubt everything… I wish, just once, I could say, ‘This. This is good enough. Just because I choose it.”

 

Chuck Palahniuk

 

===============

 

So.

 

Let me very clear upfront … while this piece will be on Russian involvement in the 2016 USA presidential election I am not discussing, nor suggesting, trump putin babycollusion or coordination of efforts between anything I will outline and the Trump campaign.

 

The analysis of that will be done by greater minds than mine.

 

This piece is about what Russia did and the effect on the 2016 election. Let’s call this an analysis of the Russian marketing campaign to support Donald J Trump.

 

I have the fortune to exchange ideas, on occasion, with some highly qualified experts and several foreign policy thought leaders and all of them continuously grapple not with what Russia did but more so with how to talk about it.

 

Which leads me to the horrible position that I find myself in <and I imagine any professional communications person with any significant experience is in>.

 

We know that Russia most likely influenced enough voters to have elected Donald J Trump.

 

There.

I said it.

 

The one sentence which seems to be on the lips of almost any credible thinking individual but never seems to be spoken.

 

This has nothing to do whether I believe he is qualified or not … this is just a conclusion that anyone who knows shit about marketing & advertising has arrived at if they look at the campaign.

 

<note: this is easily provable … hire MillwardBrown, pay them $100k, give them all the voting information and attitude poll information and they could do a county comparison … they do this for marketing & advertising campaigns all the time to measure effectiveness>

 

Anyway.

 

It took me a while to get there because the overarching narrative ‘cover’ for the election is, and always has been, “Russia never changed a vote or made someone do anything.” While every reasonable marketing person would debate the seeming lack of understanding in the concept of ‘ability to affect behavior through marketing’, it was easier for people to generally focus on the truth Russia never got into actual voting machines and changed votes.

 

This means it just took me a lot longer to get to the truth that many of my peers had already arrived at.

Desperate schoolgirl

…. I did not want to know this ………..

 

Whew.

 

The truth.

Russia changed votes and voting behavior.

 

What knowledge to have.

 

What a wretched position to be in … to be a professional communications person and a believer in America democracy … that is the horrible position many of us find ourselves in.

 

Why?

 

Well.

The majority of us know, if we view it through a professional lens, that the Russians communications <propaganda> effort most likely put Donald J Trump into the presidency … and we don’t know what to do and say about it.

 

Why?

 

Think about the outcome of this presentation. The main one would be that many people would believe Donald J was not a legitimate president or legitimately elected. And that would be … well … horrible. Horrible for the country, horrible for democracy and … well … just horrible.

 

I, personally, feel a little less horrible because I still believe … 100% believe … and have written extensively that if the Clinton campaign had done a couple of things and maybe thought thru a couple of things they would have won.

 

All that said.

 

I could open this presentation by suggesting the Clinton campaign ran a slightly-less-than-effective-as-it-could-have marketing campaign but I could also showcase how the Trump campaign, in and of itself, did not do enough to win.

I would then have to point out that an overlaid Russian marketing campaign <which diminished Clinton to suppress behavior in her favor> made the draw a line ethics sanddifference at the finish line. As noted earlier … someone like MillwardBrown could prove/disprove this in ‘two notes or less.’

 

Anyway … before anyone argues with that premise please remember that with 136 million votes cast, Trump’s victory came down to a razor-thin edge of only 77,744 votes across three states: Pennsylvania (44,292 votes), Wisconsin (22,748 votes), and Michigan (10,704 votes) – all less than .7% difference between the two candidates … a less than full Michigan stadium … and, if reversed, Clinton would be our president.

 

The 2016 election result is really all about the fact that there was just enough movement in just the right places, with just enough increased turnout from just the right groups, to get Trump the electoral votes he needed to win.

 

Regardless.

 

While I know from career experience advertising affects attitudes & behavior the rest, block by block, of the truth fell into place. But what make this conclusion truly horrible is … well … what do you do with that knowledge?

 

It does no good to suggest the current president is illegitimate. None. Zero.

 

Look.

 

I am not making this up.

While others look at this in some vague “what could they do to make someone vote a certain way” I look at this from a marketing perspective where I have sat in meeting after meeting analyzing marketing campaigns and tactics to watch what levers <tactics & messages>have been pulled to get someone to do something they may not have considered doing before. Given that knowledge here were the 4 blocks which gt me there:

 

 

The first ‘block’ was, of course, when the US government warned us that 17 intelligence agencies <or 4 with others tentatively agreeing, or whatever occams razor questionnumber you want depending on your cynicism but suffice it to say the US Intelligence agencies are aligned in some form or fashion> agreed Russia was fucking within our election. They didn’t go into details but rather just said “they, they are doing this” <and did some behind the scenes stuff to deflect some things they did>.

I would also note that this is where “marketing doesn’t affect my behavior’ attitudes started digging in within the general population’s mindset … “I made my own decision” is what they say <naively i may add>.

 

 

The second ‘block’ occurred on November 6th 2016 in an article called “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy” .

 

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… in addition to phishing and cracking attacks, these hackers are aided by honeypots, a Cold War term of art referring to an espionage operative who sexually seduced or compromised targets. Today’s honeypots may include a component of sexual appeal or attraction, but they just as often appear to be people who share a target’s political views, obscure personal hobbies, or issues related to family history. Through direct messaging or email conversations, honeypots seek to engage the target in conversations seemingly unrelated to national security or political influence.

 

the fuck question fucking stupidThese honeypots often appear as friends on social media sites, sending direct messages to their targets to lower their defenses through social engineering. After winning trust, honeypots have been observed taking part in a range of behaviors, including sharing content from white and gray active measures websites

Online hecklers, commonly referred to as trolls, energize Russia’s active measures. Ringleader accounts designed to look like real people push organized harassment — including threats of violence — designed to discredit or silence people who wield influence in targeted realms, such as foreign policy or the Syrian civil war. Once the organized hecklers select a target, a variety of volunteers will join in, often out of simple antisocial tendencies. Sometimes, they join in as a result of the target’s gender, religion, or ethnic background, with anti-Semitic and misogynistic trolling particularly prevalent at the moment. Our family members and colleagues have been targeted and trolled in this manner via Facebook and other social media.

Hecklers and honeypots can also overlap.

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The experts at WarontheRocks know their shit and I stored away their analysis.

 

The third ‘block’ occurred when a Bernie Sanders social media coordinator published a report of how he watched online trolls aggressively message against Clinton to Sanders supporters:

 

He <Mattes> put his expertise in unmasking fraudsters to work. At first, he suspected that the sites were created by the old Clinton haters from the ‘90s ― what Hillary Clinton had dubbed “the vast right-wing conspiracy.”

 

But when Mattes started tracking down the sites’ domain registrations, the think courage work ideas question curioustrail led to Macedonia and Albania. In mid-September, he emailed a few of his private investigator friends with a list of the sites. “Very creepy and i do not think Koch brothers,” he wrote.

 

Mattes and his friends didn’t know what to make of his findings. He couldn’t get his mind around the possibility that trolls overseas might be trying to sway a bunch of Southern Californians who supported Sanders’ run for president. “I may be a dark cynic and I may have been an investigative reporter for a long time, but this was too dark ― and too unbelievable and most upsetting,” he said. “What was I to do with this?”

 

By late October, Mattes said he’d traced 40 percent of the domain registrations for the fake news sites he saw popping up on pro-Sanders pages back to Eastern Europe. Others appeared to be based in Panama and the U.S., or were untraceable. He wondered, “Am I the only person that sees all this crap floating through these Bernie pages?”

 

 

And the final ‘block’ was an 84 page white paper issued by the cyber security firm, TrendMicro, which outlined how easy it was to implement a ‘fake news’ marketing campaign with costs & efforts taken by Russia to influence people not only in America but globally.

 

That did it for me.

 

Let me call my ‘4 blocks’ as the cornerstones of the building of proof. I am a marketing guy and an amateur behavioral studier with decades of experience and I can see a marketing campaign when there is one … and I can see when a good one is being implemented in ‘below-the-line’ tactics pushing & nudging & influencing people to do & think things … and I can see one once I have been presented the cornerstones of proof.

 

This is that.

 

And this is a horrible thing to recognize.

 

bad decisions for temporary happinessOddly enough … our founding fathers worried about this.

 

In constructing the Constitution the crafters were cognizant, and worried about, how easily people could be led, and led astray.

That is why they constructed a three ‘power’ system <executive, judiciary & representative> to insure a President never had access to too much power.

 

In some ways they assumed at some point in history American citizens would not choose wisely.

 

As a marketing guy I can honestly tell you that I have sat in hundreds of conference rooms viewing behavioral data pondering choice after choice people made that were reflections of “not in my best interest” … information that reflected time after time … people do not choose wisely.

 

While that is marketing stuff we should all remember what James Madison said … “liberties are more frequently lost by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power.” That is what the worst of worst marketing is about … making some people choose less than wisely through a gradual and silent encroachment into someone’s decision making process.

 

To be clear.

 

I think Trump is inept, incompetent and unqualified but this is not about that.

This is about how Russia affected enough people’s attitudes to affect their behavior … and many of us quasi-experts, and many real experts, believe Russia conducted a marketing campaign that did just enough to affect people’s voting behavior to effectively put Trump avoid questionsin the oval office.

 

To be clear.

 

None of us know what to do with this understanding. This is a horrible position to be in. No one wants to suggest the current president is not legitimate and, yet, the truth is that he most likely gained his position through some shady illegitimate ways.

 

I almost wish I didn’t know this.

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