Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I Heard About this Outfit Today.

Today I received a Facebook notification about some outfit called "Ontario Proud." I hadn't heard of it but the word "proud" caught my attention and got me thinking about the far right/alt.right men's organization, the Proud Boys. Huffington Post describes it as one of those "in your face, far right groups that support" Donald J. Trump, the Mango Mussolini.

So I tracked down the Ontario Proud website and, sure enough, it was full of far right "dog whistle" messaging. Turns out it's a proud supporter of the former mid-level drug dealer/premier of Ontario.

Next I did a quick Google search of Ontario Proud. There were plenty of articles from the rightwing, National Post, to the centre-right, Globe and Mail, to CanadaLand, Reddit and other online sites. It seems to have emerged out of another ultra rightwing outfit, Alberta Proud. OP says there's no affiliation but AP is run by "friends."

CanadaLand has called it, "the king of Canadian Conservative shitposting."
Similar to [Ezra Levant's] Rebel Media, Ontario Proud has amassed a large email and postal code database of 88,000 supporters by asking viewers of their video content to sign petitions and take a pledge to vote out Wynne next year. The petitions and pledge require an individual to provide their email address and postal code. Also like The Rebel, Ontario Proud uses the popular campaign software NationBuilder to compile this information.
It also seems Ontario Proud loves to dish it out but turns gnarly when it comes to those criticizing it. It likes to issue threats to sue.
At 4:24 p.m. on Monday, April 23, shortly after the horrific van attack in Toronto, Semley replied to a tweet from CANADALAND news editor Jonathan Goldsbie about how Ontario Proud had edited a Facebook post to remove a description of the event as an “apparent terrorist attack”:

Ontario Proud quietly edits post to remove reference to "apparent terrorist attack":
— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) April 23, 2018

“[L]ikely a DIRECT result of my repeatedly telling them that they’re using the word exclusively to peddle paranoia and a demonstrably racist political agenda,” Semley tweeted. He had been arguing against the use of the term “terrorist” in the comments below their Facebook post. 
Twenty-four minutes later, Ontario Proud board member and lawyer Ryan O’Connor sent Semley an email threatening to sue him for defamation if he didn’t delete the “libellous tweets” and make a public apology on Twitter. 
“Your false and defamatory comments have caused reputational damage to Ontario Proud, its employees, and its directors. This is especially so considering that you have disseminated your libel on the web and to your 4,872 Twitter followers. The fact that you have accused Ontario Proud of engaging the promotion of ‘racis[m]’, which is proscribed by law, is high-handed and malicious and has amplified the damages Ontario Proud has sustained,” read part of O’Connor’s email to Semley.
Of course we quickly learned the murderous attack was not the work of dark skinned terrorists but a guy from a fringe alt.right group known as InCels - Involuntary Celibates - guys who for imponderable reasons can't get laid.

Macleans find's OP's claim of non-partisanship a tad hard to swallow.
As in the U.S., the veil of non-partisanship around the Ontario groups can seem exceedingly thin. Ontario Proud’s mission statement says that it’s “dedicated to holding Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government accountable” and has almost exclusively focused on attacking the Liberal leader (and occasionally Justin Trudeau) since its inception. But in wake of the NDP’s recent surge in the polls, it’s begun to shift its sights to Andrea Horwath and the NDP.
Then there's the dreaded "H" word.
Before he founded Ontario Proud, Ballingall held several political jobs in the Harper government. He was a video specialist for the Conservative caucus and ran communications for Jim Prentice, who was then the minister of western economic diversification, until 2009. Subsequently, he spent a year as Toronto city councillor John Parker’s executive assistant and two years working for Sun Media.
Full disclosure. I'm a Green, federally and provincially. I don't care that Kathleen Wynne lost the election. From what I've read she deserved it. I'm not sure that Ontario deserved Doug, brother of Rob Ford, but that's the way Ontario voters saw it - or were helped to see it.

Ontario Proud and its rivals are really chicken scratch outfits. Two hours drive south of where I live is a small outfit by the name of Aggregate IQ. AIQ was set up by school buddies of another Victoria guy by the name of Chris Wylie. AIQ and Wylie created the wizardry that was used by another outfit, Cambridge Analytica, that was funded by US billionaire, Robert Mercer, and run by a guy named Steve Bannon, to psyche American voters into supporting Donald Trump. It worked. They also swung Britain's Brexit referendum to the Leave side. Both were improbable upset victories. Only they weren't.

What I detest about these outfits is that they use inflammatory messaging to manipulate people, to create inflamed voters instead of informed voters, and, in doing that, they subvert democracy.

Look at what their wizardry can do, what it has already done. It has installed a pathological liar, deviant, serial sex offender, racist, misogynist, thieving, cheating, malignant narcissist in the White House. If it can be done to the States it probably won't be long before someone tries to replicate it here.

Cambridge Analytica boasted that, by scouring social media, it had amassed no fewer than 5,000 data points on every American voter.

Cambridge purports to go beyond the typical voter targeting—relying on online clues like Facebook Likes to give a hint at a user’s political leanings and construct a picture of a voter’s mental state. The “psychographic” picture Cambridge ostensibly provides to a campaign is the ability to tailor a specific message based on personality type – angry, fearful, optimistic and so forth – rather than simply aiming ads at voters from likely convivial candidates.

Russian propaganda on Facebook and other social-media platforms passed itself off as authentic American voices; targeting refugees, posing as an American Muslim groupand backing an Atlanta-based duo supporting Black Lives Matter. Depending on which cohort was being targeted, the efforts encouraged pro-Trump voters to intensify political participation, black voters to abandon Hillary Clinton for Trump, and Muslim voters to consider Clinton an Islamophobe.

Here's the problem in a nutshell:

It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.” 
“The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It’s what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It’s how you brainwash someone. It’s incredibly dangerous."

Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. ...with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves.”
...Tamsin Shaw, an associate professor of philosophy at New York University, helps me understand the context. She has researched the US military’s funding and use of psychological research for use in torture. “The capacity for this science to be used to manipulate emotions is very well established. This is military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy and is being used to sway elections in ways that people can’t even see, don’t even realise is happening to them,” she says. “It’s about exploiting existing phenomenon like nationalism and then using it to manipulate people at the margins. To have so much data in the hands of a bunch of international plutocrats to do with it what they will is absolutely chilling."

American elections have been a rich feeding ground for dirty tricksters going back to Lee Atwater (George H.W. Bush) and Roger Stone (Nixon/Trump). Back in the day the name that was used for their craft was "ratfucking" elections.

In the age of social media the new game is "mindfucking" - targeting individual voters and manipulating the outcome.

We've seen the havoc that has befallen the United States, indeed the world at large, from the election of Trump. Why would we allow something along those very same lines to get a toehold in Canada, to someday subvert our democracy?


Karl Kolchak said...

The "havoc" that has befallen America under Trump?

Last checked, Trump didn't invade Iraq or Afghanistan, bomb Libya back into the age of slavery--while giggling maniacally as Ghadafi was dragged through the streets, ramp up the predator drone assassination program and then brag that he'd gotten really good at killing folks, hand over trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street while giving them a "get out of jail free" card, torture and hold prisoners incommunicado for more than a decade in an offshore Gulag, establish the private prisons where illegal immigrant mothers and children are held indefinitely as a deterrence (even if he did expand that atrocity), and, well, you get the idea.

All Trump has done is drop the mask and show the world who we really are as a country--land of the cowardly, craven, fat, loudmouthed and lazy who want the American Dream delivered via Amazon to their doorsteps and don't care who gets ground up and spit out to pay for it.

Danneau said...

Here we have a whole different meaning for Margaret Thatcher's comment that there is no alternative. Voters could choose Nader or Stein, or, as my mother once did, write in Linus Pauling. As Bob Dylan is known to have quipped: "Everything is broken." Have a good life.

The Mound of Sound said...

It's hard to argue with "everything is broken," Danneau. We're in a jam where nobody wants or can be bothered to fix anything. We're in this "everyday low taxes" trap that favours the rich, who can offshore their wealth, over the poor and ultimately is "solved" by governments through running deficits made good by foreign borrowings.

I still find it remarkable that every US postwar administration, Republican and Democrat, up to and including Carter, reduced America's debt as a percentage of GDP. Then Reagan arrived with the neoliberal order and debt suddenly grew in proportion to GDP. Clinton was an exception but that was largely because Washington's treasure was filled with taxes from the Dot.Com bubble and that just happened to occur on Clinton's watch.

I just checked. As of 2017, government debt stood at 105% of GDP. As of this month the US federal debt clocks in just over 21 trillion USD.

Look at it this way. Bush/Cheney launched two foreign wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) and implemented two rounds of tax cuts for the very rich and that was all paid for with debt, foreign borrowing. To my simple mind that's madness.

Now we have Trump, at a time that the US economy is booming (largely due to structural measures implemented by Obama) who ought to be using all this economic activity to raise taxes to pay down debt instead inflating military spending (every year, sure as hell) and implementing a massive tax cut, against primarily benefiting the richest of the rich.

At the same time he's on the brink of launching a major trade war that could throw the world economy into a deep recession,possibly even a depression, that America will have to meet with a seriously defunded treasury.

That's not just reckless, it's madness.

Anonymous said...

"there is also always some reason in madness"
Since USD is the facto world's reserve currency, a vast majority of cost of any(full or partial) US debt default will be incurred by foreigners.

Northern PoV said...

Heed Karl

"All Trump has done is drop the mask and show the world who we really are as a country--land of the cowardly, craven, fat, loudmouthed and lazy who want the American Dream delivered via Amazon to their doorsteps and don't care who gets ground up and spit out to pay for it."

BJ Bjornson said...

You just heard of them? Lucky you, I guess. Thanks to the political proclivities of my extended family, I have been seeing posts from them and other like-minded groups like “Canada First” popping up in my feed ever since the last federal election. I’d say they already have more than a toehold here, and I am at a loss as to how one is supposed to get rid of them. They promote a siege mentality of victimhood amongst their followers, claiming to be under attack from the PC-loving, SJW crowd doing the bidding of the Islamists and other assorted boogeymen. Any criticism or attempt to shut them down is interpreted in that frame as further proof they are right. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were just some fringe wackos, but as The Rebel proved, there is no shortage of prominent Conservatives willing to lend credibility to them and their ideas, at least until the spotlight gets a little too bright for them to play dumb about the more extreme viewpoints being shared.