Robert Mercer

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In a vital Guardian article that ties together online-media manipulation, psychological profiling of voters, Trump and Brexit, reporter Carole Cadwalladr follows a byzantine trail that leads to the right-wing machinations of computer scientist and billionaire Robert Mercer, the single biggest donor in the 2016 U.S. Presidential race. 

Mercer, an old friend of fellow anti-government zealots Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, has often futilely thrown money at his ultra-conservative causes, but when you have that much to wager, you can keep trying until you break the bank. In 2016, he did just that. 

The Renaissance Technologies CEO offered the services of data research firm Cambridge Analytica to both Trump and Leave.EU, which helped them game Facebook and Google in a large-scale way, create extensive individual profiles of citizens and destabilize genuine journalism. It permitted mud to be thrown with precision on both sides of the pond, creating propaganda to fit the Digital Age. As a ranking member of Leave.EU tells the Guardian: “What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels.”

Mark Zuckerberg wants us to believe that Facebook, despite its many failings, should play a leading role in saving global democracy, but who will save it from Facebook?

From Cadwalladr:

Which is how, earlier this week, I ended up in a Pret a Manger near Westminster with Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s affable communications director, looking at snapshots of Donald Trump on his phone. It was Wigmore who orchestrated Nigel Farage’s trip to Trump Tower – the PR coup that saw him become the first foreign politician to meet the president elect.

Wigmore scrolls through the snaps on his phone. “That’s the one I took,” he says pointing at the now globally famous photo of Farage and Trump in front of his golden elevator door giving the thumbs-up sign. Wigmore was one of the “bad boys of Brexit” – a term coined by Arron Banks, the Bristol-based businessman who was Leave.EU’s co-founder.

Cambridge Analytica had worked for them, he said. It had taught them how to build profiles, how to target people and how to scoop up masses of data from people’s Facebook profiles. A video on YouTube shows one of Cambridge Analytica’s and SCL’s employees, Brittany Kaiser, sitting on the panel at Leave.EU’s launch event.

Facebook was the key to the entire campaign, Wigmore explained. A Facebook ‘like’, he said, was their most “potent weapon”. “Because using artificial intelligence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.”

It sounds creepy, I say.

“It is creepy! It’s really creepy! It’s why I’m not on Facebook! I tried it on myself to see what information it had on me and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ What’s scary is that my kids had put things on Instagram and it picked that up. It knew where my kids went to school.”

They hadn’t “employed” Cambridge Analytica, he said. No money changed hands. “They were happy to help.”


“Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Robert Mercer introduced them to us. He said, ‘Here’s this company we think may be useful to you.’ What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information. Why wouldn’t you?” Behind Trump’s campaign and Cambridge Analytica, he said, were “the same people. It’s the same family.”•

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Whenever a racist (Donald Trump, Hulk Hogan) needs assistance, Peter Thiel is quick to cut a large check. 

According to a New York Times report, the bloodthirsty Silicon Valley big deal just infused the odious Trump campaign with $1.25 million. In David Streitfeld’s article, a confidante reveals the reason for the gay immigrant’s support of a bigot: “The investor feels the country needs fixing, and Mr. Trump can do it.” Yes, an irrational ignoramus with the depth of an off-color bumper sticker is the one to cure what ails us, even though his stated economic and immigration policies would clearly be ruinous.

At the convention, Thiel revealed he was troubled that the nation was fixated on cultural issues like the homophobic “bathroom laws” in places like North Carolina. He failed to mention it was members of his own party who manufactured the controversy by proposing, and sometimes passing, prejudiced legislation aimed at rebuking the national legalization of gay marriage. 

As I’ve mentioned before, being a billionaire in America doesn’t mean you’re especially decent or particularly intelligent.

Another deep-pocketed Trump donor is wealthy hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, who’s no stranger to handing over large sums of money for crackpot ideas, though none so far have had so much potential for devastation as helping the hideous hotelier into the White House. 

From Jon Schwarz at the Intercept:

So why does Mercer feel such allegiance to Trump? Is it Trump’s policies, élan, and extraordinary judgement and poise?

Maybe. But based on Mercer’s past, it’s more likely that it’s that Mercer is an incredibly easy mark. He has a long history of falling for cranks and grifters, and Trump is just the largest.

Mercer is a relative newcomer to big-time Republican politics, but not to writing big checks to people with exciting proposals to change the world.

For instance, in 2005 Mercer’s family foundation sent $60,000 to Art Robinson, an Oregon chemist, so Robinson could expand his huge collection of human urine. Robinson, who believes that a close analysis of urine can “improve our health, our happiness and prosperity, and even the academic performance of our children in school,” has now received a total of $1.4 million from the Mercer foundation. He’s used this to buy urine freezers and mail postcards to puzzled Oregonians asking them to send him their urine, among other things.

Robinson, who also feels public education is America’s “most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism,” ran for Congress in 2010 against Democrat Peter DeFazio. Mercer, smitten with Robinson’s vision of low taxes and large-scale urine collection, co-funded a Super PAC that spent $600,000 on ads supporting him.

Mercer also funds the peculiar organization Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, to which Robinson belongs. The group’s other members hold varied beliefs, such as that low doses of radiation are good for you, that HIV does not cause AIDS, and that the U.S. government did not stop the San Bernardino terrorist attacks because it’s “on the other side.”

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