In his first public remarks since the scandal broke, former White House Chief Strategist (and Cambridge Analytica employee-client) Steve Bannon laid bare the hypocrisy inherent in the response to the scandal by the media, regulators and lawmakers in both the UK and US.
To wit, Bannon argued that mining and repackaging data is a core component of Facebook's business model - and when they offered unfettered access to their data arsenal to the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012, nobody batted an eye.
So what then is the reason for the outraged response to the revelations about Cambridge Analytica? It simply comes down to the fact that the establishment and deep state still haven't come to terms with the fact that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton - the "most qualified" candidate in US history - simply by running a better campaign, and by connecting with American voters on a visceral level.
During an appearance at a conference organized by the Financial Times, Bannon affirmed that he wasn't aware that Cambridge Analytica had been using the private data of 50 million Americans obtained through Facebook.
But that shouldn't matter: Because selling user data to third parties is what Facebook does. And in the past, the company has proven more than willing to supply politicians with powerful tools to harvest and analyze that data.
The only difference, Bannon explained, is that, in the past, those politicians were mostly liberal Democrats...not Donald J Trump.
FLASHBACK: Obama campaign manager Jim Messina touts 2012 campaign used "targeted sharing" on Facebook to use supporters to persuade undecided friends & family to support Obama. pic.twitter.com/zmGqrx4xrv— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) March 21, 2018
He pointed to remarks by a former top Obama campaign staffer who said earlier this week that Facebook actively helped the Obama campaign by offering unfettered access to its vast pool of user data...
"The data from Facebook is just about the cost of it. Did the guy pay a dollar? Did he pay two or three dollars for it? It's just a cost thing. That data is out there...it's being bought and sold every day. That's why Facebook...they take your stuff for free, they monetize it for huge margins...that's why they trade for huge valuations."
And when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of CNN's cameras last night, he got away with offering robotic, scripted answers to a fusillade of softball questions...
"Then they write algorithms that control your life. Then when Zuckerberg comes...he mumbles through his interview, sounds like a first-year associate...and nobody asks him a hard question."
At this point, Bannon's interviewer interjected, asking whether Bannon knew about the Facebook data mining, and how he could justify the fact that this data was repurposed without users' knowledge? Bannon responded that Facebook users should've known better - because selling their data is a core component of Facebook's (tremendously lucrative) business model.
"I didn't know about the Facebook mining..but the point is, that is Facebook's business.
In 2008, it was Google and Facebook that met with Barack Obama and told him about the power of this data.
In 2012, we have the woman who headed up data integrity [for the Obama campaign]...she said they were on their [Obama's] side."
But nobody thought twice about this revelation - it received almost no coverage during a news cycle that has been almost exclusively dedicated to examining the vicissitudes of CA's business. And that's because the media, in its role as the opposition party, simply didn't care.
"The great opposition party, media, never went after the Obama campaign, never went after the progressive left...but now it's global news."
"The media and the progressive left can't get over the fact that Donald J Trump is president...and not only did he beat her [Hillary Clinton] but he beat her badly..."
Bannon clarified that Robert Mercer, his former patron, never gave a cent to SCL - Cambridge's parent company.
Instead of hatching some nefarious conspiracy, the Trump campaign was unimpressed by Cambridge Analytica's offering - particularly regarding the company's "psychographics" data techniques, which have been portrayed by the media and the CA whistleblower as a "data weapon" used to carry out "information warfare."
Contrary to what these people would have you believe, psychographics didn't have a discernible impact on the campaign, and Bannon said he personally was deeply underwhelmed...
"Cruz's campaign, and the Trump campaign, they said they were pretty good data company. but this whole thing on psychographics was optionality in the deal...but it didn't work...and it's never going to work."
Robert Mueller's decision to investigate Cambridge Analytica is just the latest fishing expedition undertaken by the special counsel, Bannon argued.
"First you had to run to Russia and Russia didn't work out. How do we know Russia didn't work out? Because the House report shows you.
Mueller's investigation shows you he's either looking at Trump financials, or he's looking at obstruction of justice...my point is he struck out on Russia, he's struck out on obstruction of justice,
...and now he's got to go to Cambridge Analytica."
So were these "information weapons" the reason Trump triumphed? Absolutely not, Bannon said.
"Here's what won it for Trump: Economic nationalism and speaking in a plain voice to the American people."
Asked about the recent shakeup of Trump's legal team, Bannon reiterated that he supports the president's decision.
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Of course, a contingent of protesters gathered outside of the event and directed their frustration toward the FT, accusing the storied British broadsheet of "normalizing racism" by "giving Bannon a platform."
"Shame on the Financial Times for giving Bannon a platform," they chanted in unison.
Of course, Bannon's argument will be promptly ignored by the media, as Democratic lawmakers seek to kill two birds with one stone: maim a company they believe is helping benefit conservatives in both the US and UK, while also scalping Zuckerberg and turning him into the pariah onto which they can project the blame for their party leadership's own abysmal failure.