How Steve Bannon used Cambridge Analytica to further his alt-right vision for America
Long before Donald Trump declared his presidential candidacy, conservative strategist Steve Bannon sought to leverage data-driven technology to push the hearts and minds of voters toward his populist vision for America.
Former Cambridge Analytica staffers tell CNN that Bannon’s vision came to fruition through their previous employer, which they described as a weapon of psychological warfare. They say that Cambridge Analytica’s parent company had worked on government and military contracts that aimed to change foreign populations’ behaviors, which aligned with Bannon’s intentions.
Two former employees said that Bannon was personally involved in the company’s early stages and that he played a direct role shaping its strategy and goals.
“This was Steve Bannon’s baby,” said former contractor Christopher Wylie, who described Cambridge Analytica as “Bannon’s arsenal of weaponry to wage a culture war on America using military strategies.”
Bannon wanted to use the sorts of aggressive messaging tactics usually reserved for geopolitical conflicts to move the US electorate further to the right, Wylie said. He had already directed a series of anti-establishment, conservative documentary films and presided over the far-right website Breitbart News, but Cambridge Analytica would mark another step in his overall ambitions to transform the nation.
With financial backing from hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, Bannon co-founded Cambridge Analytica in 2013 as the US-branch of Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) Group, a British company that advertises how it has conducted “behavioral change” programs in more than 60 countries.
Wylie described Cambridge Analytica as “Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer using a foreign, military contractor … to use some of the same techniques that the military uses … on the American electorate.”