The Obama campaign had the most precise targeting technique ever seen in politics. It could identify likely voters at the individual level, register them to vote if necessary, and get them to the polls on election day. Michael Ledeen summarizes the technique at PJ Media:
Merchants routinely send us lots of material about products they know will tempt us. They know this because of the very detailed information they have about our buying habits, our peer groups, our tastes, and our beliefs.
The same methods apply to selling candidates, and the Obama organizations were far more effective than Romney’s at exploiting their understanding of our habits and desires.
His piece is called ‘We Knew Exactly Who We Had to Go Get’. That’s a quote from Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager. Then comes this chilling thought:
Instead of an American political manager, put those words in the mouth of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, or Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and you get to the heart of a very big question. The same sort of detailed, granular information about the Iranian and Syrian people can be used by their oppressors. To go get them.
Then follows an interesting discussion of how new media and social media have been used both by those fighting for freedom and by their oppressors. There was a kind of utopianism among those who saw the new media as the magic path to victory for groups fighting tyranny.
But, as often in warfare, there is a constant flow of advantage between offense and defense. At first, the new media were clearly advantageous to the insurrectionaries, and the Iranian regime, for example, blocked communications when things got hot. Internet was blocked, satellites were jammed, cell networks were shut down. Then, the tyrants got smarter. They learned to track down the users of the social media, with deadly results. They soon knew who they had to go get.
However, my first thought when I read “We knew exactly who we had to go get” wasn’t foreign freedom fighters, much as I admire them (the real ones, not the fake ones). It was “Does the Obama campaign have this level of information on everybody? On me?”
From the frequency of Obama’s referring to his enemies, and his obvious wish to obliterate us, I would guess that yes, they have collected this information on many more people than his potential voters. After all, if you’re sorting through data, how easy it would be to set up some extra categories for the people that don’t fit their profile for supporters and slot these potential “enemies” in for future use. Then they will know exactly who they have to go get.
I’ve got to give you Michael’s last thought:
Paradoxically, some of the mice [enemies of tyrannical regimes] have reverted to ancient methods of communication. I know people who use couriers to carry messages, both internationally and within countries. Sometimes those messages aren’t even written down; they’re memorized. It’s slow, but it works. Ray Bradbury understood this well, as have other science fiction and fantasy writers. It may well be that as the technologies become ever more effective, and the rulers know more and more “who to go get,” their most dangerous opponents will communicate through ancient arts: telling stories, singing ballads, and posting messages and broadsides in public and private places.
Get your ballad-writing skills polished, folks.