Jim Hightower: Politics creeps to a new low
America has always had political campaigns that dig into the muck of their opponents’ personal lives, then fling any nasty nuggets of negativity they find right into the face of voters. But this year is different. Not, of course, because there’s any less slinging of slime, but because the campaigns are also digging into the private affairs of another political target: you.
Just like corporate marketers, both the Romney and Obama campaigns have paid millions of dollars this year to data miners, social media snoops and other information extractors to find personal details they can use to persuade or compel their potential voters to go to the polls.
Have you visited pornographic websites or evangelical sites? Do you gamble, have gay friends, take expensive vacations, or have financial problems? This information is now on their computers. They’ve also scanned your online exchanges, followed your social networks, searched your shopping histories, and much, much more.
They’re especially interested in “low-propensity voters” who might or might not vote. They’re looking for either positive or negative ways to push them to the polls. For example, they might engage in “public shaming” by putting your voting record online so your friends and neighbors can see it.
Of course, the Romney team says, “all of our voter outreach is governed by the highest ethical standards.” Team Obama says that it adheres to “industry best practices on privacy.” Yet, both campaigns are buying our private information from corporate data peddlers who’ve been sued or are under federal investigation for privacy invasion.
As one Romney aide puts it, this political rummaging and prodding has to be done “behind the scenes.” Why? Because, he says, “voters get creeped out.” Well, yeah — because it is creepy! Invasive, too. And wrong.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.