Interactive ONS Data

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released a set of interactive charts so you can examine the concentration of industry in different areas and cities around the UK. It includes Scotland’s major cities but for some reason not the capital. A strange oversight on as Edinburgh voted by 74% to Remain in the EU.


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Trump and May are like Teenagers Playing Chicken in the Parking Lot

A few days ago, President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May got together for a pow wow. It went so well, they even held hands. Some people saw this as an occasion to contrast the gruff, …

Source: Trump and May are like Teenagers Playing Chicken in the Parking Lot

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Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

Psychometrics and the (counter)revolution in marketing that is helping bring fascism to power around the world.

Trump and Brexit explained.

Targeted messaging, based on data collected from vast samples from social media, enable a sophisticated drilling down of the messages that motivate the people you want to turn out and vote for your candidate. Rather more disturbing – it is also used to discourage the groups who would otherwise be inclined to vote for the opposition from turning out on the day.

Russell Bruce

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“I just showed that the bomb was there.”

By Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus for Das Magazin (Zurich)
3 December 2016 (original post)

Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method of analyzing people’s behavior down to the minutest detail by looking at their Facebook activity—did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory?

On November 9th, around 8:30 in the morning, Michal Kosinski awoke in his hotel room in Zurich. The 34-year-old had traveled here to give a presentation to the Risk Center at the ETH [Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule or Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich] at a conference on the dangers of Big Data and the so-called digital revolution. Kosinski gives such presentations all over the world. He is a leading expert on psychometrics, a data-driven offshoot of psychology. Turning on the television that morning in Zurich, he saw that the bomb had gone off: defying the predictions of nearly every leading statistician, Donald J. Trump had been elected president of the United States of America.

Kosinski watched Trump’s victory celebration and the remaining election returns for a long while. He suspected that his research could have had something to do with the result. Then he took a deep breath and turned off the television.

On the same day, a little-known British company headquartered in London issued a press release: “We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communications played such an integral part in president-elect Donald Trump’s extraordinary win,” Alexander James Ashburner Nix is quoted as saying. Nix is British, 41 years old, and CEO of Cambridge Analytica. He is always immaculately turned out in a tailored suit and designer eyeglasses, his slightly wavy blond hair combed back.

The meditative Kosinski, the well-groomed Nix, the widely grinning Trump—one made this digital upheaval possible, one carried it out, and one rode it to power.

How dangerous is Big Data?

Anyone who didn’t spend the last five years on the moon has heard the term Big Data. The emergence of Big Data has meant that everything we do, online or off-, leaves digital traces. Every purchase with a card, every Google search, every movement with a cellphone in your pocket, every “like” gets stored. Especially every “like.” For a while it wasn’t entirely clear what any of this data would be good for, other than showing us ads for blood pressure medication after we google “high blood pressure.” It also wasn’t entirely clear whether or in what ways Big Data would be a threat or a boon to humanity.

Since November 9th, 2016, we know the answer. Because one and the same company was behind both Trump’s online ad campaigns and mid-2016’s other shocker, the Brexit “Leave” campaign: Cambridge Analytica, with its CEO Alexander Nix. Anyone who wants to understand the outcome of the US elections—and what could be coming up in Europe in the near future—must begin with a remarkable incident at the University of Cambridge in 2014, at Kosinski’s Psychometrics Center.

Psychometrics, sometimes also known as psychography, is a scientific attempt to “measure” the personality of a person. The so-called Ocean Method has become the standard approach. Two teams of psychologists were able to demonstrate in the 1980s that the character profile of a person can be measured and expressed in five dimensions, the Big Five: Openness (how open are you to new experiences?), Conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?), Extroversion (how sociable are you?), Agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative are you?), and Neuroticism (how sensitive/vulnerable are you?). With these five dimensions (O.C.E.A.N.), you can determine fairly precisely what kind of person you are dealing with—their needs and fears as well as how they are likely to behave. For a long time, however, the problem was data collection, because to produce such a character profile meant asking subjects to fill out a complicated survey asking quite personal questions. Then came the internet. And Facebook. And Kosinski.

Michal Kosinski was a student in Warsaw when his life took a new direction in 2008: he was accepted to the prestigious University of Cambridge in England to do doctoral work at the Psychometrics Center, one of the oldest institutions of its kind worldwide. Kosinski joined fellow student David Stillwell (now a lecturer at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge) about a year after Stillwell had launched a little Facebook application, in the days when the platform had not yet become the behemoth it is today. With MyPersonality, a user could fill out psychometric questionnaires, including a handful of questions from the Ocean survey (“I panic easily” – “I contradict others”), and receive a rating, or a “Personality Profile” consisting of individual Big Five values—and, when prompted, opt-in to share their Facebook profile data with the researchers. Instead of a couple dozen college friends participating, as Kosinski had expected, first hundreds, then thousands, then millions of people had bared their souls. Suddenly the two doctoral students had access to the then-largest psychological data set ever produced.

The process that Kosinski and his colleagues developed over the years that followed is actually quite simple. First surveys are distributed to test subjects—this is the online quiz. From the subjects’ responses, their personal Big Five scores are calculated. Then Kosinski’s team would compare these results to all sorts of other online data about test subjects—what they’ve liked, shared, or posted on Facebook; gender, age, and location. Thus the researchers began to find correlations, and began to see that amazingly reliable deductions could be made about a person by observing their online behavior. For example, men who “liked” the cosmetics brand MAC were more likely to be gay. One of the best indicators of heterosexuality was liking Wu-Tang Clan. People who followed Lady Gaga, furthermore, tended to be extroverts. Someone who likes philosophy is more likely introverted. While each piece of such information is too weak to produce a reliable prediction, when tens, hundreds, or thousands of individual data points are combined, the resulting predictions become really accurate.

Kosinski and his team continued, tirelessly refining their models. In 2012, Kosinski demonstrated that from a mere 68 Facebook likes on average, a lot about a user could be reliably predicted: skin color (95% accuracy), sexual orientation (88% accuracy), Democrat or Republican (85%). But there’s more: level of intellect; religious affiliation; alcohol-, cigarette-, and drug abuse could all be calculated. Even whether or not your parents were divorced could be teased out of the data.

The strength of the model depended on how well it could predict a test subject’s answers. Kosinski kept working at it. Soon, with a mere ten “likes” as input his model could appraise a person’s character better than an average coworker. With seventy, it could “know” a subject better than a friend; with 150 likes, better than their parents. With 300 likes, Kosinski’s model could predict a subject’s answers better than their partner. With even more likes it could exceed what a person thinks they know about themselves.

The day he published these findings, Kosinski received two phonecalls. One was a threat to sue, the other a job offer. Both were from Facebook.

Only Visible to Friends

Just weeks later, Facebook likes became private by default (until then, the default setting had been that anyone on the internet could see your likes). This is still no obstacle for data-collectors: while Kosinski always requests the consent of the Facebook users he tests, many apps and online quizzes demand access to private information as a precondition to taking a personality test. (Anyone who is not overly concerned about their private information and wants to get assessed according to their Facebook likes can do so at Kosinski’s website, and then compare the results to those of a “classic” Ocean survey here.)

But it’s not just about likes. Kosinski and his team figured out how to ascribe Big Five values based only on how many profile pictures or how many social media contacts a person has (this is a good indicator of extroversion). And it’s not even just about Facebook. We also betray information about ourselves when we are offline. Motion sensors in a smartphone can show, for example, how fast we move it and how far we are traveling (correlates with emotional instability). A smartphone, Kosinski found, is in itself a powerful psychological survey that we, consciously or unconsciously, are constantly filling out.

Above all, though—and this is important to understand—it also works another way: using all this data, psychological profiles can not only be constructed, but they can also be sought and found. For example if you’re looking for worried fathers, or angry introverts, or undecided Democrats. What Kosinski had invented was essentially a search engine for people. He has been getting more and more acutely aware of both the potential and the danger his work presents.

The internet always seemed to him a gift from heaven. What he really wanted was to give something back, to share. Data can be copied, so why shouldn’t everyone benefit from it? It was the spirit of an entire generation, the beginning of a new era free of the limits of the physical world. But what could happen, Kosinski asked himself, if someone misused his search engine in order to manipulate people? He began to add warnings to most of his scientific work [e.g.]: these prediction techniques, he warned, could be used in ways that “pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.” But no one seemed to understand what he meant.

Around this time, in early 2014, a young assistant professor named Aleksandr Kogan approached Kosinski. He said he had received an inquiry from a company interested in Kosinski’s methods. They apparently wanted to access the MyPersonality database, Kosinski remembers. To what purpose, Kogan couldn’t say: there were strict secrecy stipulations. At first, Kosinski and his team considered the offer—it would have meant a lot of money for his institute. But he hesitated. Finally, Kosinski remembers, Kogan divulged the name of the company: SCL, Strategic Communications Laboratories. Kosinski googled them [so did Antidote. Here. —ed.]: “[We are] a global election management agency,” said the company website [really, the website has even creepier language on it than that. “Behavioral change communication”? Go look already. —ed.]. SCL offers marketing based on a “psychographic targeting” model. With an emphasis on “election management” and political campaigns? Disturbed, Kosinski clicked through the pages. What kind of company is this? And what do they have planned for the United States?

What Kosinski didn’t know at the time: SCL is the public front of a complex group of companies whose byzantine corporate structures make it unclear who owns it and its diverse branches—as can be seen in the UK Companies House, the Panama Papers, and the Delaware company registry. Some SCL offshoots have been involved in overthrowing governments in developing countries; others have done work developing methods for psychologically manipulating the population in Afghanistan for NATO. SCL is also the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, this ominous Big Data outfit that later managed online marketing for both Trump and the Brexit “Leave” campaign.

Kosinski didn’t know any of that, but he had a bad feeling: “The whole thing started to stink,” he recalls. Looking into it further, he discovered that Aleksandr Kogan had secretly registered a company doing business with SCL. Documents obtained by Das Magazin confirm that SCL learned about Kosinski’s methods through Kogan, as was also revealed by the Guardian in December 2015. It suddenly dawned on Kosinski that Kogan could have reconstructed (or copied?) his Facebook likes-based Big Five measurement tool in order to sell it to this election-manipulating company. He immediately broke off contact with him and informed the head of the institute. A complicated battle ensued within Cambridge University. The institute feared for its reputation. Aleksandr Kogan moved to Singapore, got married, and began calling himself Dr. Spectre. Michal Kosinski finished his doctorate, got a job offer from Stanford University, and moved to the United States.

For a year or so it was quiet. Then, in November 2015, the more radical of the two Brexit campaigns (, supported by Nigel Farage) announced that they had contracted with a Big Data firm for online marketing support: Cambridge Analytica. The core expertise of this company: innovative political marketing, so-called microtargeting, by measuring people’s personality from their digital footprints based on the Ocean model.

Kosinski started getting emails asking if he had had anything to do with it—for many, his is the first name to spring to mind upon hearing the terms Cambridge, Ocean, and analytics in the same breath. This is when he heard of Cambridge Analytica for the first time. Appalled, he looked up their website. Were his methods being deployed, on a massive scale, for political purposes?

After the Brexit vote in July the email inquiries turned to insults and reproaches. Just look what you’ve done, friends and colleagues wrote. Kosinski had to explain over and over again that he had nothing to do with this company.

First Brexit, Then Trump

September 19th, 2016: the US presidential election is approaching. Guitar riffs fill the dark blue ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York: CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising.” The Concordia Summit is like the WEF in miniature. Decision makers from all over the world are invited; among the guests is Swiss president Johann Schneider-Ammann.

A gentle women’s voice comes over the PA: “Please welcome Alexander Nix, Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Analytica.” A lean man in a dark suit strides towards the center of the stage. A attentive quiet descends. Many in the room already know: this is Trump’s new Digital Man. “Soon you’ll be calling me Mr. Brexit,” Trump had tweeted cryptically a few weeks before. Political observers had already been pointing out the substantial similarities between Trump’s agenda and that of the rightwing Brexit camp; only a few had noticed the connection to Trump’s recent hiring of a largely unknown marketing company: Cambridge Analytica.

Before then, Trump’s online campaign had consisted more or less of one person: Brad Parscale, a marketing operative and failed startup founder who had built Trump a rudimentary website for $1,500. The 70-year-old Trump is not what one would call an IT-whiz; his desk is unencumbered by a computer. Trump doesn’t do email, his personal assistant once let slip. It was she who persuaded him to get a smartphone—the one from which he has uninhibitedly tweeted ever since.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was relying on the endowment of the first social media president, Barack Obama. She had the Democratic Party’s address lists, worked with cutting-edge Big Data analysts from BlueLabs, and received support from Google and Dreamworks. When it was announced in June 2016 that Trump had hired Cambridge Analytica, Washington collectively sneered. Foreign noodlenecks in tailored suits who don’t understand this country and its people? Seriously?

“Ladies and gentlemen, honorable colleagues, it is my privilege to speak to you today about the power of Big Data and psychographics in the electoral process.” The Cambridge Analytica logo appears behind Alexander Nix—a brain, comprised of a few network nodes and pathways, like a subway map. “It’s easy to forget that only eighteen months ago Senator Cruz was one of the less popular candidates seeking nomination, and certainly one of the more vilified,” begins the blond man with his British diction that produces the same mixture of awe and resentment in Americans that high German does the Swiss. “In addition, he had very low name recognition; only about forty percent of the electorate had heard of him.”

Everyone in the room was aware of the sudden rise, in May 2016, of the conservative senator. It was one of the strangest moments of the primary campaign. Cruz had become the last serious challenger to frontrunner Trump in the Republican field of presidential candidates, rising from 5 to 35 percent. “How did he do this?” continues Nix.

Cambridge Analytica had begun engaging with US elections towards the end of 2014, initially to advise Ted Cruz, funded by the secretive American tech billionaire Robert Mercer. Up to that point, according to Nix, election campaign strategy had been guided by demographic concepts. “But this is a really ridiculous idea, the idea that all women should receive the same message because of their gender; or all African-Americans because of their race.” The Hillary Clinton campaign team was still operating on precisely such amateurish assumptions—Nix need not even mention—which divide the electorate up into ostensibly homogeneous groups…exactly the same way as all the public opinion researchers who predicted a Clinton victory did.

Nix clicks to the next slide: five different faces, each representing a personality profile. It is the Ocean model. “At Cambridge, we’ve rolled out a long-form quantitative instrument to probe the underlying traits that inform personality. This is the cutting edge in experimental psychology.” It is now completely silent in the hall. “By having hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans undertake this survey, we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.” The success of Cambridge Analytica’s marketing arises from the combination of three elements: this psychological behavioral analysis of the Ocean model, Big Data evaluation, and ad targeting. Ad targeting is personalized advertisement tailored as precisely as possible to the character of a single consumer.

Nix explains forthrightly how his company does this (the presentation can be viewed on YouTube). From a range of different sources, Cambridge Analytical buys up personal data: “What car you drive, what products you purchase in shops, what magazines you read, what clubs you belong to.” Land registry and church membership. On the screen behind him are displayed the logos of global data brokers like Acxiom and Experian—in the United States nearly all personal consumer data is available for purchase. If you want to know, for example, where Jewish women live, you can simply buy this information. Including telephone numbers. Now Cambridge Analytica crosschecks these data sets with Republican Party voter rolls and online data such as Facebook likes, and constructs an Ocean personality profile. From a selection of digital signatures there suddenly emerge real individual people with fears, needs, and interests—and home addresses.

The methodology looks quite similar to the models that Michal Kosinski once developed. Cambridge Analytica also uses surveys on social media in order to gain access to the powerful predictive personal information wrapped up in the Facebook likes of users. And Cambridge Analytica is doing precisely what Kosinski had warned about. “We have profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America—220 million people,” Nix boasted in an interview with Das Magazin. And all the evidence suggests that they deployed this powerful data set politically.

Back in the ballroom of the Hyatt, Nix clicks to the next slide. “This is a data dashboard that we prepared for the Cruz campaign for the Iowa caucus. It looks intimidating, but it’s actually very simple.” On the left, graphs and diagrams; on the right, a map of Iowa, where Cruz had done surprisingly well in the caucuses. On this map, hundreds of thousands of tiny dots, red and blue. Nix begins to narrow down search criteria to a category of Republican caucus-goers he describes as a “persuasion” group, whose common Ocean personality profile and home locations are now visible, a smaller set of people to whom advertisement can be more effectively tailored. Ultimately the criteria can be narrowed to a single individual, along with his name, age, address, interests, and political leanings. How does Cambridge Analytica approach this person with political messaging?

Earlier in the presentation, using the example of the Second Amendment, Nix showed two variations on how certain psychographic profiles are spoken to differently. “For a highly Neurotic and Conscientious audience, you’re going to need a message that is both rational and fear-based: the threat of a burglary and the ‘insurance policy’ of a gun is very persuasive.” A picture on the left side of the screen shows a gloved hand breaking a window and reaching for the inside door handle. On the right side, there is a picture of a man and child silhouetted against a sunset in tall grass, both with rifles, obviously duck hunting: “for a Closed and Agreeable audience, people who care about traditions and habits and family and community, talking about these values is going to be much more effective in communicating your message.”

How to Keep Clinton Voters Away

Trump’s conspicuous contradictions and his oft-criticized habit of staking out multiple positions on a single issue result in a gigantic number of resulting messaging options that creates a huge advantage for a firm like Cambridge Analytica: for every voter, a different message. Mathematician Cathy O’Neil had already observed in August that “Trump is like a machine learning algorithm” that adjusts to public reactions. “Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven,” Alexander Nix explained to Das Magazin. On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump’s team blasted out 175,000 distinct test variations on his arguments, mostly via Facebook. The messages varied mostly in their microscopic details, in order to communicate optimally with their recipients: different titles, colors, subtitles, with different images or videos. The granularity of this message tailoring digs all the way down to tiny target groups, Nix told Das Magazin. “We can target specific towns or apartment buildings. Even individual people.”

In the Miami neighborhood of Little Haiti, Trump’s campaign regaled residents with messages about the failures of the Clinton Foundation after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, in order to dissuade them from turning out for Clinton. This was one of the goals: to get potential but wavering Clinton voters—skeptical leftists, African-Americans, young women—to stay home. To “suppress” their votes, as one Trump campaign staffer bluntly put it. In these so-called dark posts (paid Facebook ads which appear in the timelines only of users with a particular suitable personality profile), African-Americans, for example, were shown the nineties-era video of Hillary Clinton referring to black youth as “super predators.”

Nix begins to wrap up his presentation at the Concordia Summit: “Blanket advertising—the idea that a hundred million people will receive the same piece of direct mail, the same television advert, the same digital advert—is dead. My children will certainly never understand this concept of mass communication. Today, communication is becoming ever increasingly targeted.

“The Cruz campaign is over now, but what I can tell you is that of the two candidates left in this election, one of them is using these technologies. And it’s going to be very interesting to see how they impact the next seven weeks. Thank you.” With that, he exits the stage.

It is not knowable just to what extent the American population is being targeted by Trump’s digital troopers—because they seldom attack through the mainstream broadcast media, but rather mostly with highly personalized ads on social media or through digital cable. And while the Clinton team sat back in the confidence that it was safe with its demographic calculations, a new crew was moving into the Trump online campaign headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, as Bloomberg journalist Sasha Issenberg noted with surprise after a visit. The Cambridge Analytica team, apparently just a dozen people, had received around $100,000 from Trump in July; in August another $250,000; five million in September. Altogether, says Nix, they took in around fifteen million.

And the company took even more radical measures: starting in July 2016, a new app was prepared for Trump campaign canvassers with which they could find out the political orientation and personality profile of a particular house’s residents in advance. If the Trump people ring a doorbell, it’s only the doorbell of someone the app has identified as receptive to his messages, and the canvassers can base their line of attack on personality-specific conversation guides also provided by the app. Then they enter a subject’s reactions to certain messaging back into the app, from where this new data flows back to the dashboards of the Trump campaign.

This is nothing new. The Clinton campaign did similar things—but as far as we know they did not use psychometric profiling. Cambridge Analytica, however, divided the US population into 32 personality types, and concentrated on only seventeen states. And just as Kosinski had determined that men who like MAC cosmetics on Facebook are more likely to be gay, Cambridge Analytica found that a preference for American-produced cars is a great indicator of a possible Trump voter. Among other things, this kind of knowledge could inform Trump himself which messages to use, and where. The decision to focus candidate visits in Michigan and Wisconsin over the final weeks of the campaign was based on this manner of data analysis. The candidate himself became an implementation instrument of the model.

What is Cambridge Analytica Doing in Europe?

But to what extent did psychometric methods influence the outcome of the election? Cambridge Analytica, when asked, did not want to disclose any documentation assessing the effectiveness of their campaign. It is possible that the question of how important psychometric targeting was in the 2016 election cannot be answered at all. Still, some indicators should be considered: there is the fact that Ted Cruz, thanks to the help of Cambridge Analytica, rose out of obscurity to become Trump’s strongest competitor in the primaries; there is the increase in rural voter turnout; there is the reduction, compared to 2008 and 2012, in African-American voter participation. The fact that Trump spent so little money may also be explained by the effectiveness of personality-based advertising. As does the fact that he invested far more in digital than TV campaigning compared to Hillary Clinton. Facebook proved to be his ultimate weapon and his best election campaigner, as the tweeting of several Trump staffers describes it. In Germany, the rightwing upstart party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) may like the sound of this, as they have more Facebook friends than Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) combined.

It is therefore not at all the case, as is so often claimed, that statisticians lost this election because their polls were so faulty. The opposite is true: statisticians won this election. It was just certain statisticians, the ones using the new method. It is a cruel irony of history that Trump, who often grumbled about scientific research, used such a highly scientific approach in his campaign.

Another big winner in the election was Cambridge Analytica. Steve Bannon, a Cambridge Analytica board member and former executive chair of the ultra-rightwing online site Breitbart News, was named Trump’s chief strategist. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, ambitious Front National activist and niece of the presidential candidate, has tweeted that she would accept his invitation to collaborate. In an internal company video, there is a recording of a discussion entitled “Italy.” While Cambridge Analytica is not willing to comment on alleged ongoing talks with UK prime minister Theresa May, Alexander Nix claims that he is in the process of client acquisition, worldwide, and that he has received inquiries out of Switzerland and Germany.

Kosinski has been observing all of this from his office at Stanford. After the election, the university has been in turmoil. Kosinski is responding to the developments with the most powerful weapon available to a researcher: scientific analysis. Along with his research colleague Sandra Matz, he conducted a series of tests that will soon be published. The initial results seen by Das Magazin are unsettling: The study shows the effectiveness of personality targeting by showing that marketers can attract up to 63% more clicks and up to 1400% more conversions in real-life advertising campaigns on Facebook when matching products and marketing messages to consumers’ personality characteristics. They further demonstrate the scalability of personality targeting by showing that the majority of Facebook Pages promoting products or brands are affected by personality and that large numbers of consumers can be accurately targeted based on a single Facebook Page.

The world has been turned upside down. The Brits are leaving the EU; Trump rules America. And in Stanford the Polish researcher Michal Kosinski, who indeed tried to warn of the danger of using psychological targeting in a political setting, is still getting accusatory emails. “No,” says Kosinski quietly, shaking his head, “this is not my fault. I did not build the bomb. I just showed that it was there.”

Reblogged from

Notes from antidotezine article

AntiNote: The following is an unauthorized translation of a December 2016 article that caused quite a stir in the German-language press. Das Magazin (Zurich) occupies a respected position within the German-language cultural and literary media landscape, functionally similar to (though perhaps not quite as prominent as) The New Yorker, and this work by investigative reporters Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus got a lot of attention—and generated some controversy, for apparently having scooped the English-language media with sensational observations about 2016’s most sensational story, the campaign and electoral victory of a fascist dictator in the United States.

Perhaps for this reason, the article has not appeared in translation in (or even had its investigative threads taken up by) English-language media outlets, even after nearly two months. Antidote presents, therefore, our own preemptive translation to fill this gap. We trust the skill of the reporters who wrote it and the veracity of their claims (which are verifiable by anyone with a search engine—we have embedded links where appropriate), and we question why this particular synthesis of public information is not being made available to non-German-speaking readers by outlets with more reach and respectability than us dirty DIY dicks.

On the occasion of this article’s authorized wider release in English, should that come to pass, we will consider removing this post if we are asked nicely. Until then: Enjoy!

Translated by Antidote, with minor adjustments based on a Das Magazin internal draft [26 January 2017]

Featured image: cartoon by Christiane Pfohlmann; text is untranslatable wordplay in which Trump is saying “I can’t do anything about it” and “I have Nix to thank.” Source:

Paul-Olivier Dehaye contributed to the preparation of the original article, which also included a link to his website where you can request your data from Cambridge Analytica: PersonalData.IO

[26 January 2017: There seems to have been a revised English version by Das Magazin circulating privately, which the Antidote Writers Collective was able to obtain. It corrects some minor flaws in the original German version, which we have now corrected here as well, along with replacing some short passages with their more precise wording. We have also added a few further links to supporting documentation. The basic thrust and thesis of the article remain unaltered.]

Posted in Brexit, Indyref2, OCEAN method, Tailoring Political messages, Trump | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

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A triple mandate process

Whilst we are waiting for Theresa May to set out her Brexit objectives, which we are told will be next Tuesday, it is well worth looking at the process the Scottish Government has been following since the morning of 24th June 2016.

Richard Walker, former editor of the Sunday Herald and The National, interviewed Michael Russell MSP, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe. This video by Broadcasting Scotland sets out clearly the path the Scottish Government and the SNP are following in the wake of England and Wales voting to leave the European Union.

Scotland, in every cormer of the land, voted to Remain by 62% to 38%, firmly confirming our long held belief that Scotland is a European nation. A clarity our confused southern neighbours failed to share and seem intent on returning to a past that does not exist outside the realms of fiction and endless period dramas.

I believe this is a must watch whilst we wait for Mrs May to catch up and to find out the decision of the Supreme Court.

Posted in EU, Europe, Foreign Policy, Michael Russell, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Reminder: The media is part of the establishment, in mindset and presentation

As we get to the end of 2016 and with Scotland having different objectives to the UK on our future in Europe, or lack of it, I thought this study by Professor Robertson was a timely reminder of the difficulty Scotland faces in receiving news presented in an impartial format.

Watch it again, or perhaps just watch it for the first time, to understand the ways in which we daily face the challenges of the mind manipulators

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Brexit means the unknown


By Russell Bruce

A version of this article first appeared on Newsnet. Not a lot has changed since as the world waits to find out what Brexit might mean.

Brexit, as presented by Leave was articulated, if that is not too strong a term, as much the same as not renewing your sub to the local golf club. All very simple and the money saved would pay for more balls for the local free pitch and putt.

Nothing is simple in International relations and especially not when it comes to complex treaties and trade deals. But not to worry! Many hundreds of jobs will be added to the civil service payroll and up to £5k a day each for outside private consultants to sort it all out. Westminster will have reports, debates and a legislative programme to replace all that foreign stuff it had to adopt as members of the European Union. The cost is expected to come to about £5bn on first estimates. This exit cost is not a one off. It will last years. The erroneous £350 million a week ‘saved for the NHS’ that Brexiteers lied about would be 14 weeks short on this £5 billion estimate.

Chicken Licken says the sky looks fine

Look. The sky hasn’t fallen in, London has not disappeared into the North Sea and the stock market is doing well. The UK will become a big player in international trade overnight and Blighty will stride about the globe to show them all what Blighty is really made of – once free of all that EU nonsense. The producers of British Pathetic Films have a super B rated movie in production and are delighted to have secured St Theresa for the lead role, fresh from her mountain retreat in Switzerland consulting the edelweiss. The supporting cast of Boris and Liam, as look alike Laurel and Hardy – “that’s a fine mess you got us into” – are joined by not to be out foxed David Davies, in charge of finding some friends left in Europe willing to talk about an unlikely future.

According to a report in Politico, hard-line Outers are advocating triggering Article 50 and passing an act to annul the 1972 European Communities Act. Hey presto. UK is out without an agreed deal, sailing off into the sunset with no sail, no motor and Boris deployed as a rudder.

There are lots of problems with this. From a position of not knowing the outcome of a negotiated exit and a future relationship with the 27 remaining members, the UK would instantly ferment the unknown into a state of virtual permanency. Tearing up all the relationships built up over 40 years with our closest trading partners, without attending to a process designated in the Lisbon Treaty we signed – in apparently good faith – would make us unreliable partners for the new bilateral agreements The Fox is searching the globe for.

Free movement means free movement – capital will always find a way of crossing Borders

Europe matters whether our southern neighbours like it or not. Good relations with these 27 other nations are in the UK national interest. A hard exit will inevitably affect essential cooperation on security, defence, policing and the visa free movement of citizens for work and leisure.

Free movement of people is a core principal of the EU. The four freedoms – goods, services, capital and people may not be perfect but taking one out diminishes the other three. Capital will always find a way of crossing borders. Allowing people the same rights within a trading union evens up the democratic score. None of the relations with the EU, by the few countries that have not joined, seem acceptable to the hardline Brexiteers. A Norwegian or Swiss arrangement provides some access to the single market but they have to pay in and have no representation in the European parliament or a voice in the Council of Minsters. That is a democratic deficit and does not fit with ‘taking back control’.

The complexity of the bilateral agreement with Switzerland is unlikely to be considered in Europe as an option for the UK. The political classes and business interests are in favour of Switzerland joining, but the Swiss population is not convinced. The EU believes it is just a matter of time until the Swiss decide they will join. The UK has decided to leave so any terms offered will not be on the basis of any expectation of the UK renewing its membership.

The fall back position is World Trade Organisation membership. Unilaterally tearing up our trading relationship with 80 countries through our present membership of the EU will not inspire trust in UK future intentions and trading relationships, whatever those might be.

Business mapping out exit scenarios

European and international businesses based in the UK and major UK businesses are mapping out possible scenarios. They have to. The UK will remain an important market but could be an unsuitable base from which to trade with Europe if things do not work out well. Downsizing UK operations to fit the new greatly shrunken ‘internal market’ have to be considered to protect existing and future scale opportunities. Standard Life has already despatched an IT team to Frankfurt to set up EU trading systems with a remit to also plan for rapid expansion in the event of a hard exit.

Before the referendum Remain had an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. Westminster insists it is sovereign but a referendum hands decision making to the electorate. As a result parliament is not sovereign, the people are when they decide an issue by referendum. Pity about the 2014 referendum but the opportunity may be with us again as Scotland voted to stay in the EU and First Minister Sturgeon is showing leadership and determination to keep Scotland in the Single Market.

Tory splits make the Grand Canyon look like a crack on your thumb

The Tory party has long been deeply split over the EU, even although the leavers did not command a majority. Now they are even more split with some advocating a Swiss with knobs on deal or the Norwegian model. Both of which are unlikely. A Canadian style bilateral deal leaves the UK on the outside but is the best deal obtainable for a UK determined to end free movement. A Canadian style solution would mean triggering Article 50 and turning up to negotiate in good faith. The b****r off option means UK manufacturers and primary industry exports would face tariffs and hold ups at customs on borders across Europe. Think what that will do for Scotland’s pelagic and shellfish exports.

Half of UK exports are in services but a negotiated Canadian style deal provides little for the services sector and the certain loss of passporting rights for the financial sector that are important to Scotland

St Teresa’s cabinet is divided on what Brexit means. All sides are preparing their case and releasing statements to the media thereby emphasising the deep divide within the Conservative and Disunity Party. They are then slapped down by St Theresa from on high.

But what do we have in HM’s official opposition? I think they still go by the name of the Labour Party, but months of inept Corbicide and no thought about how to operate the business of opposition because opposition is a reserved internal matter. At a time Labour should be making progress the Tories have increased their lead from 8 points to 11 over Labour.

The UK is in abeyance, in a period of unreality and great uncertainty and the cry from south of the border seems to be –

“What do we want? We don’t know. But we want it now.”

In Scotland we have a First Minister very clear about finding a path to deliver the outcome we voted for and very clear about the complexities in front of us. Despite the complexity that route might just promise to be much more straightforward than what is happening in the distorted polity south of the Border.


The saltire and EU stars image is of a vinyl cling car sticker and 38mm badge available from Flags will be available in a few weeks time. Contact Yes groups registered with the National Yes Registry will receive bulk supplies of car stickers and flags in October as a result of a recent and very successful fundraising campaign.

A new pack of campaign  goodies for activists, sponsored by voteyesborders and distributed by ayeMail,  available shortly Watch this space.

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Investors sell sterling in rush for the ‘poundland’ exit

FTSE redBy Russell Bruce

Baron Rothschild in the 18th century said:“Buy when there is blood on the streets even if the blood is your own” Nothing ever changes when it comes to money.

The stock market is higher now than before the EU Referendum so everything must be OK then? Well no. The FTSE 100 is mainly made up of international trading companies. The big international miners, gold companies, oil companies and others like the Anglo Swedish pharmaceutical AstraZeneca use the dollar as their local currency.

On 22rd June a dollar could be bought for 68p. Today a dollar costs just over 77p. Oil and commodities are priced in dollars so it makes sense these companies use the dollar for their financial accounts.

On Friday 24th June the cost of these stocks rose because they had become more expensive to buy in sterling, encouraging investors to buy more and lessen their exposure to sterling in the wake of the out vote. Far from being a vote of confidence in the UK economy it was movement caused by the overnight devaluation of sterling and a rush for the ‘poundland’ exit.

The pound has also fallen against the Euro. Unilever, perhaps once thought the most ‘British’ of companies with its traditional large presence in former colonies, has become a major diversified global company with hundreds of global brands. Unilever reports in Euros. For most of 2016 Unilever shares traded at between £28 and £32. After the vote and sterling’s slide against the Euro, Unilever shares have risen to over £36.

Shell and BP shares rose significantly against a background of 18 months heavy falls, in line with the market price of oil. Both companies report in dollars. BP shares trading at around £3.50 for most of the year now cost around £4.50. Royal Dutch Shell shares had fallen as low as £12.60 earlier in the year but are now trading at around £21 – a level they have not reached since before the rapid fall in the oil price back in 2014.

The rise in the share value of these companies has next to nothing to do with their trading prospects but a stampede to get out of sterling. BP and Shell pay substantial dividends with a dividend yield of around 8% just days ago. With the higher price the dividend yield has dropped to 6% for both oil majors. Quite an attraction if you can risk volatility in the value of your shares. The dividend has another wee bonus. It is declared in dollars so when the dividend is paid it is converted to sterling – more pounds for those dollars.

The last thing I am going to do in this article is pretend to predict future prospects for the FTSE 100 or sterling exchange rates. Until somebody has a plan, any plan, for the UK’s relationship with the EU and a widely understood timetable for progress, markets will be jittery and volatile. Seasoned investors on the other hand love volatility shifting investments and currencies at the click of a mouse when others panic.

What does this mean for Scotland as the Scottish government explores the means by which we could remain in the EU as the Scottish electorate decisively voted for.

The route to retaining EU membership has not yet crystalised. Nicola Sturgeon brought back from Brussels useful indicators of EU willingness to listen to Scotland. Even the dogs have scratched out a possible timetable for how events and Article 50 will unfold. This is a time to be careful and canny, waiting to gauge the time to make a decisive move.

Ms Sturgeon has secured a mandate with the backing of all but one party in the Scottish Parliament. That is an important consensus to hold onto as realistic options become clear. Independence supporters have to be patient which does not prevent them making their case whilst recognising that not a few of their number are opposed to EU membership.

Steering such a path will not be easy for the Scottish government and the SNP. It is vital to remember that the majority of SNP voters today have only chosen to support the SNP in recent times because they are a competent government led by senior politicians at ease in the world of international relations and highly respected furth of Scotland.

The Tory party in Scotland has made its choice. It is the UK Union above the European Union. Both may and probably are impossible to hold on to but there is a commitment to explore a twin route that has won backing and respect.

Scott Macnab in the Scotsman is demanding the Scottish financial sector gets some clarity. There are no instant answers for anybody. The Scottish financial sector will react as every other financial sector does around the world, based on current known events and calculations of probabilities.

We know the intention of the Scottish government is to find a means of Scotland remaining in the EU, as we voted. Nobody has any idea what the intention of the UK government is as it swirls in a vortex of political incompetence and opportunism.

It will be two months before there is a new UK PM replacing the present Cameron caretaker administration but do not expect clarity to emerge from a decision of Tory party members. As for Labour’s internal convulsions, they have made themselves an irrelevance in the search for answers, swimming in the clarity of mud at the bottom of the Thames.

There is always a silver lining for some sectors. The fall in sterling is good for tourism and exports if only the latter was a strong part of the UK economy. Scotland will benefit on both accounts. But inflation will rise with one estimate from J.P Morgan Asset Management to around 3-4%. Inflation will add to pressure on government budgets as will the predicted slowdown on economic growth forecasts. The Scottish government has a plan to steer us through these difficult times and challenges. That is more than we are hearing from other quarters. Clarity of purpose is a sound start. The Brexiters wanted control. What they have achieved is paralysis with a debate in England continuing to pursue a wish list 27 other countries will not put on the table.

I was going to mention how trading in government debt is making money for some, even on bonds with a negative yield. Perhaps another day.

The FTSE is down 100 points on today, Chilcot has told us little we did not know or suspect, and the Tory press is getting stuck in to Andrea Leadsom who will not be leading the Tories soon. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.






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Dire economics and dodgy assumptions behind the Leave campaign’s supposed ‘new trade deals


New campaigning flag coming soon –

By Russell Bruce

A week ago I returned to Scotland to vote in the EU referendum. One week ago we left our hotel in Rhodes at 5p.m. (Greek time) after two sweltering weeks eventually arriving in back in the Scottish Borders at 3.30 a.m. on referendum day. Whilst soaking up the sun to ease away a dreich Scottish winter, the referendum was never far from our minds. Amongst the many international visitors there were not a few from England. As on previous visits abroad we failed to understand the Brit need to dress in Union flag t-shirts, carry Union flag bags, hang English flags from balconies and use Union towels at the pool. There were French visitors, Italian visitors, German visitors, those from Scandinavian countries and a sprinkling of Russians. None were emblazoned with their national flags.

Is there something about our southern neighbours’ need to assert a place in a world long gone? One evening at an adjacent table in an outdoor restaurant under flowering bougainvillea, a young lady, well young in comparison to us, sang a couple of lines of Rule Britannia and no doubt firmly believed Britain could still send gunboats up the Yangtze[1] if it chose to do so. It is a misbelief the campaign down south encapsulated, fighting a twenty-first century referendum grounded in the nineteenth – a time when most did not have the vote. We smiled at the outburst and wished them a pleasant evening when they left later. The whole tenor of the campaign down south was to most of Scotland conducted in a bizarre manner.

Labour pains

No sooner was the result in, and after months of the Tories tearing themselves apart, the Labour Party in Westminster decides they should join the fray. After weeks of Boris versus Dave now we will have weeks of the Parliamentary Labour Party versus Corbyn to level up the column inches. If there is one glimmer of sensible protest it is young Remain voters demonstrating outside Westminster. It is difficult to think this might lead anywhere but is a welcome contrast to the incidents of racial hate unleashed by a few who somehow think they have ‘got their country back’. We live in an interdependent world with only countries like North Korea on the outside.

I do not wish to knock our southern neighbours when they are down but they do not have the presence in the world they seem to think they have. The UK’s current account is a mess and the countries they think will sign new trade agreements already buy more goods from other EU countries than they do from the UK.

The US is the UK’s largest trading partner, accounting for 3.1% of US total trade. As a trading partner of the US, the UK ranks two places below Germany whose exports are worth 27.8 billion US$ compared to the value of UK exports to the US of 13 billion US$, marginally ahead of France’s exports (US Census Bureau, 2016).

UK ranks as 16th in exports to Australia. Australian exports to the UK rank in 29th place. German exports to Australia are 55% higher than those of the UK  (Trading Economics, 2016).

The UK’s top trading partners in order of size are – Imports: Germany, US, Netherlands, China and France. Exports: US, Germany, France, Netherlands and Ireland (HMRC, 2016). The UK has a long-term persistent trade gap, varying in recent months between £5 and £15 billion a month

Trade Relationships

John Redwood, the Conservative MP and a former Minister of State, was a vigorous campaigner for the UK leaving the EU. He argued the UK would improve its trade relationships when outside the EU. He has instanced China and India as examples with potential to increase UK exports. This argument hinges on the EU being an impediment to trading with countries outside the EU and that somehow the UK is especially handicapped in this regard by its membership. If we allow for the possibility that, in the future, it is at least theoretically possible, that the UK could establish new trading relationships with the rest of the world it does not alter the poor starting position. Such a reconstruction would be in all probability decades in the making.

China is a country the UK imports from, our fourth largest import partner, but when it comes to exports the UK is nowhere to be seen. The value of UK exports to China was worth only £14.1 billion in 2014 (UK Trade and Investment, 2015). The UK does not rank in the top 40 of China’s import partners although there has been some recent growth. Germany on the other hand is China’s fifth largest import partner despite the ‘disadvantage’ of being a EU member.

India is a country the UK has a long association with and we might expect our exports to this Commonweath country to be holding up well. 49.4% of Indian exports went to other Asian trade partners. The UK continues to import from India, accounting for 3.4% of Indian exports. In 2011/12 UK exports to India amounted 7666.17 million US$ or 1.57% of Indian imports. The UK ranked 21st as an import trading partner. Three EU countries plus Switzerland accounted for 13.66% of exports, to India – excludes other EU countries with a shares smaller than the UK. Both Germany and Belgium sold more to India than the UK in this period despite the supposed handicap of being members of the EU (Government of India, 2013).

Global exoprts to India

The US and UK both have large trade deficits. The UK has a small deficit in its trade with the US whilst Germany, Italy and France, and perhaps most significantly, Ireland sells considerably more to the US than they buy. The UK, the world’s 6th largest economy and Ireland, world’s 44th largest economy both have long associations with the US, have major trading partner status, are EU members yet seem not to be unduly disadvantaged by their EU status.

Two deductions can be drawn in relation to this analysis. Firstly there is strong evidence of a regional bias in the distribution of global trade, and secondly the UK performs poorly as an exporter in global markets where other EU countries achieve higher levels of export penetration, as does China, since it emerged as a major global economy. More surprisingly, export penetration in countries the UK has considerable links and history with are no longer major markets for UK exports.

The realty of world trade shows the strongest relationships are regional with only the major economies US, China, EU and Japan managing to break through and sell to the world. Outside the EU, with trade deals problematic, the growth of UK exports will be long in the making. Scotland is in a much better position and without Scottish exports rUK drops down the international league table.

I will draw a veil over the infighting in the UK government and HM’s opposition. We all know where the real opposition in Westminster comes from these days. In comparison Scotland is at ease and determined to find a solution to prevent us being taken out of the EU against the wishes of the Scottish electorate. Four of the five parties in the Scottish parliament gave Nicola Sturgeon a mandate to pursue opportunity for Scotland to remain in the EU.

As Nicola Sturgeon heads for Brussels for exploratory talks with the EU, rUK can only begin discussions when they finally get round to moving Article 50, for which they need a plan. The Scottish government does scenario planning so that it can move quickly. Westminster ‘remains’ as much in the dark as an electorate and a media that failed to ask questions about what would happen when the UK voted to leave. Not to worry England – Boris thinks it will be OK!

As for flags, we saw lots of Greek flags when we were in Greece and a lot of EU flags. Despite not being well treated of late, the Greeks are still committed to the EU. We left our saltires at home where they belong. Now we are back we are looking them out again along and the other Union flag – that’s the blue one with 12 yellow stars.

There is a strange mixture of arrogance and inferiority in those who go to other countries wrapped in their own flag.

Did I mention that apart from the downgrading of all UK credit ratings and creating panic on world markets sensitive to persistent low growth, the UK’s growth rate has been cut from 1.6% to 0.6% (Stephanie Flanders, June 2016) for the rest of 2016? Oh well another time.

[1] The Royal Navy had an average of 15 gunboats in Chinese waters until 1941. The RN’s China Station maintained regular patrols up and down the Yangtze from its base in Shanghai.

This article first published on 29th June 2016

The fundraiser to produce the Saltire/Eu flag used to head this article is a collaboration between The National Yes Registry and



Channel 4, 2016, Boris v Dave: The Battle for Europe, 25th May 2016

Flanders, S., Brexit: a shock for markets or a crisis?

Government of India, 2013, Guardian Dataset

HMRC 2016 Overseas Trade Statistics

Statistic Times (2016)

The Wall Street Journal (2015)

Trading Economics, (3) 2016

Statista 1 (2016) [

Sturgeon, N., 2016, The EU isn’t just about business. That’s why I think Scotland will vote to stay The Guardian 29th February 2016,

UK Trade and Investment (2015) Doing business in China: China trade and export guide,

World’s Top Exports, 2016 China’s Top Export Partners, March 22 2016




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What has the SNP ever done for the Borders?

Watch this video then ask what the Tories have ever done for this part of the Borders except carp

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