Steve Bannon Targeted 'Incels' Because They Are 'Easy to Manipulate,' Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower Says
By Tareq Haddad On 10/29/19 at 10:21 AM EDT
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon targeted "incels"—supposedly involuntarily celibate men—because they were easier to manipulate with conspiratorial thinking, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie has said.
The former Breitbart editor enlisted the services of Cambridge Analytica to drum up fringe voters from swing states such as Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
The strategy was successful and Republicans secured the White House—attaining 306 electoral college votes to Democrats' 232—but explosive revelations from Wylie in 2018 changed the way people understood that win.
His whistleblowing revealed that Cambridge Analytica harvested the profiles of 50 million Facebook users and how that data was used alongside publicly available voter records to identify people more likely to vote for the Trump campaign.
Of those, Wylie said Bannon targeted the men who calls themselves "incels"—also referring to them as "unmarried straight white dudes who couldn't get laid."
At a talk at the Emmanuel Centre in London on Monday, he said that Bannon viewed them as easy victims for manipulation as they were "lacking economic opportunities" and were more prone to "conspiratorial thinking."
Wylie made similar comments to Amanpour and Company, also on Monday, while on a media tour promoting his new book.
"When you look at the types of people that [Cambridge Analytica] were targeting, it wasn't everybody they were trying to engage with," he said.
"It was very much in the margins and in the fringes of society to bring and recruit people who would otherwise not necessarily engage in conventional politics, but would engage with particular kinds of ideas that [Cambridge Analytica] promoted online.
"That can make an impact. If you get an extra one percent, an extra two per cent, in that swing state and you win that swing state, that might mean you win the presidency."
Cambridge Analytica utilized the "Big 5" personality model to identify which on-the-fence swing voters could be manipulated.
The model—which rates individuals on openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism—has long been identified by political scientists as an accurate indicator for political leaning.
Liberals and left-leaning individuals tend to score higher in openness for example, whereas Conservatives and right-leaning individuals tend to posses higher levels of conscientiousness.
Having such data at the fingertips of Cambridge Analytica meant they could send deeply tailored political messages and only to those whose temperament they knew might favor Trump.
"Imagine we are on a blind date," Wylie said at the talk, reported the London Evening Standard. "We've never met before and I start telling you how much I love your favorite musicians, how I watch the same TV as you do, etc.
"You realize the reason I'm so perfect for you is because I spent the last two years going through your photo albums, reading your text messages and talking to your friends. Facebook is that stalker."