Banking on the power of prayer
This from the editorial in nose236, June 2019 (since then nothing has changed):
‘Noseweek has long suspected that the DA-led City of Cape Town (CoCT) has been so absorbed in politicking that it has neglected the job of ensuring the city will have enough water in years of drought to come. Perhaps they don’t believe in climate change, so they’ve done nothing other than repair a fair number of leaking pipe joints – and reduced water pressure on the system to slow down the leakage from those that remain. And, business-oriented as they are, they’ve upped the price of water. I have heard it referred to as “disaster profiteering”.
To give credit where it’s due, Noseweek accepts that some councillors and municipal execs have occasionally stopped to pray for rain. For now, their prayers have been answered. But what of those much-heralded desalination plants that failed? Those, they will have you believe, were a worthwhile R1-billion experiment – although it revealed nothing they had not been told in advance by various experts.
The plants are non-operative because the city’s problems are much, much bigger than we could have imagined. Cape Town cannot desalinate water from the sea that surrounds it because the Council has for decades neglected to build and maintain sewerage processing plants. Instead it has found it cheap and convenient to pump the huge and growing tonnage of raw sewage (and all its modern-day chemical and pharmaceutical concomitants) into the sea.
To fool tourists into trusting our “blue” beaches they’ve been fudging the pollution statistics – on a scale to equal Steinhoff. The sea is now so polluted that the filters of the desalination plants clog up within an hour. They are designed to take out salt, not sewage. CoCT admit their failure? Never! The game of pass-the-buck (and the bill) is still in full swing.'
- Following publication in nose249 of the first instalment of Prof Lesley Green’s analysis of the Facebook posts of a “troll” using the name ”Mia Taylor” (probably set up as a propaganda device to deflect criticism of the DA-led council), I received a call from Western Cape DA leader John Steenhuisen.
Politely – he always is polite – Mr Steenhuisen wanted to know why the cartoon troll on the cover wore a DA T-shirt.
My reply: Because the CoCT is DA-controlled and the Facebook trolls identified in our featured article were, on the overwhelming balance of probabilities, set up to manage the political fallout from CoCT’s long neglect and mismanagement of the city’s water supply and sewage disposal systems, as had become very evident in the great drought.
Steenhuisen quite reasonably conceded that the failed desalination plants hurriedly built at a cost of close on R1-billion could not be explained away as “a useful experiment”.
But, he said, the DA would not endorse such underhand tactics as using social media trolls on Facebook and Twitter. To lend weight to this assertion he confided that when former DA leader Musi Maimane had once suggested to the party’s head committee that they should hire Cambridge Analytica as advisors on the use of social media, the DA leadership had rejected the proposal.
Cambridge Analytica gained notoriety worldwide for its manipulative use/abuse of mass personal profile data – psychologically profiling you based on your “likes”, re-posts and personality quizzes they’d acquired from Facebook – to micro-target political advertising and social media postings. They had successfully applied these techniques to promoting Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign in the USA.
I suggested Steenhuisen write to Noseweek about it. He never did.
Curious to know who had suggested Cambridge Analytica to Mr Maimane, I called him. No luck: Having left the party, Maimane refuses “as a matter of principle” to say anything about his time in the DA.
But Noseweek reader Gabrie Jansen was one step ahead of Mr Steenhuisen: he wrote to tell us we had every reason to suspect the DA in Cape Town might be up to something deviously manipulative on social media – on the advice of the likes of Cambridge Analytica! Gabrie had found an international political marketing company called IDEIA that, according to several analysts, appears to be the successor to Cambridge Analytica (see Quartz Magazine, August 2019).
In fact, pretty much as Cambridge Analytica was closing shop following world outrage about its devious political marketing techniques, IDEIA was setting up shop in Brazil with branch offices around the world.
Experts in the field revealed in the Quartz Magazine article, that on all critical points, IDEIA’s promotional statement was verbatim the same as that of Cambridge Analytica, down to using the same bulk data personality assessment programme called OCEAN.
On page 44 of its long presentation found on the internet, IDEIA proudly lists its international clients, among them political parties such as the Democratic Party in the USA, various political parties in South America – and the Democratic Alliance in South Africa.
While IDEIA may or may not be involved in the management of City of Cape Town’s political problems on social media, the fact that the DA has hired such a company’s services shows how certain elements in the party are thinking.
To get the bigger picture, read the excellent article from The Atlantic on The Dark Psychology of Social Networks in this issue.
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