Cabecera-El_Periódico_de_Catalunya - ¿Sobrado de algo? ¿de ti? analízate bienJune 2017, article published originally in El Periódico de Catalunya

Invisible elections with no ideas

Failure, fiasco, disaster, collapse, disappointment, downfall, loss, shipwreck, cataclysm, catastrophe…

Next day’s headlines, especially for the losing party.  Some go up, some come down, some resign «voluntarily» (a euphemism for forced decapitations). The one’s who lose seem to do so mainly in a country we cannot visit, in a place that does not exist, a borderless space called the Internet. For the past years, political wars are waged almost exclusively on the Internet. From Podemos to Trump, through Macron or Brexit, if you have no big data for reading what’s going on in digital code, you are no one.

There are no longer elections for all, that’s a thing of the past. Conducting campaigns for everyone doesn’t interest us, it’s demodé, kaputt. Doing something for every nook and cranny smells like naphthalene. Now there are only elections where it matters, where the data says that you have something to lose (the province, state or territory where, if you make an effort, you will win the decisive seat that will swing the balance of democracy in your favor). A surgeon’s politics, with scalpel.

We even apply retargeting, not letting our voter escape, chasing them without mercy through all Internet domains, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining

And then comes the marketing machinery whirlwind, with its heavy digital artillery. If you don’t believe me, go ask Hillary (there is only one in the world), a few months ago, or May a few weeks ago, who didn’t see it coming. In fact, in that country, the United Kingdom, the average daily registration of voters through Internet, to go to the polls, quadrupled after a Facebook campaign that began on May 12.

Big data seems to be the mantra of political campaigns today. What’s interesting for modern political parties (or so they claim) is to have big data (immense, infinite, if you ask me) for hunting the voter-consumer with their guard down, by surprise, while surfing the Net, checking the weather forecast in Zamora, how their football team did yesterday, or watching videos of their favorite bull fighter, who knows… And then, bam!, we hit the poor thing with a load of banners, roll-ups, and all the body can take of bits. And that’s how election days are spent. We even apply retargeting, not letting our voter escape, chasing them without mercy through all Internet domains, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining (the digital version). Which is strange considering that every day we are less opened to political ideas that differ from our own, so that chasing someone who doesn’t want to listen to us, or vice versa (seeing as they are already our voter), makes no sense.

It seems to me that political parties have substituted big ideas for big data. And what if they, instead of obsessing over digitization and big data, worried about people and having relevant and mobilizing ideas? For now, the only thing that is big is indifference or, even worse, polarization. Now that is big.