Entertainment

The Alarming Issues Raised In ‘The Great Hack’ Will Keep You Up At Night

It’s become so common to see Facebook and Instagram ads pop-up after doing a Google search for a pair of shoes, a restaurant or headphones, that there are memes around the lack of privacy we face for being online. It doesn’t bother us. There’s an underlying attitude of “this is the price we pay for the convenience of an interconnected world.” “The Great Hack,” a documentary on the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal, takes a sledgehammer to this passive way of thinking. 

The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and was recently added to Netflix’s streaming service.

It opens with a scene of Brittany Kaiser at what is implied to be Burning Man, a weeklong festival held in the middle of the Nevada desert and founded on the principles of sustainability, civil responsibility, and inclusion. The voiceover introduces Kaiser as a former Obama intern who went on to become a director at Cambridge Analytica—a company working exclusively with Conservatives and linked to the success of Trump, Brexit, and other far-right political parties. 

Kaiser is a complicated figure. Her resume begins with positions associated with idealism and the Democratic Party, who ended up working to undermine democracy. She turned whistleblower—a label former colleagues scoff at—under a cloud of suspicion. Most people asked, “what’s in it for her?” When she’s asked outright about her evolution she says “None of them [referring to Obama and Hillary Clinto] ever wanted to offer to pay me…you have to work for people who pay you.” She references her family’s financial troubles as the trigger for accepting a job with Cambridge Analytica.

Next comes David Carroll, a media professor at Parsons School of Design.

Carroll filed a legal claim against the London-based data company to gain access to the information they collected on him. To date, Cambridge Analytica has refused to comply.

Carole Cadwalladr is another player introduced in the film.

Credit: thegreathack / Instagram

She is a British investigative journalist who began to unravel the relationship between the tech giant and consulting company. When she raised the alarm around the alarming connection between Cambridge Analytica and Brexit, similar fake-news harassment was turned on her. The movie runs a video featuring a scene from Airplane! where a line of slap and beat a woman who has Cadwalladr’s face superimposed. The last person in line is shown with a gun.

The movie explains how a one-click personality test with questions like “I prefer to be left alone,” and “I have a rich inner world,” built a psychological profile of the user, and allowed them to be manipulated for political gains. The test was designed by University of Cambridge psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan, and its findings were sold to Cambridge Analytica. 

They complied to delete the data at the request of Facebook, but the movie captures Kaiser going through old emails and finding data sets weeks after Cambridge Analytica said they had erased them.

How did we get here?

Credit: Credit: @katdaddddy / Twitter

The film repeatedly asks how the dream of a connected world tore us apart and has created a world where people like Carroll are fighting to make data rights, a human right. To better understand what went down in the 2016 election and how digital is affecting our democracy, it’s worth the watch. Knowing what is being collected about us shouldn’t be a secret—especially when other businesses profit off that intel. 

In the meantime, here’s a cheat sheet.

Giving Up Access To Your Data Isn’t Entirely Your Fault—Or In Your Control

Credit: @JohnSlavin9 / Twitter

Kogan offered Cambridge Analytica data from apps that were given special permission to harvest information. The film highlights how simply being Facebook friends with someone, who granted a third-party vendor access to their profile, could have caused your data to leak. These apps pulled from the person granting access, and in the process created an entry point for the data company to harvest from their friend’s network. If you were friends with someone using this app, data could be pulled without your permission or realization. It wasn’t just public information—they also mine from private messages to build data profiles on users. 

Cambridge Analytica Bombarded “Persuables” With Content They Couldn’t Ignore

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In order to mobilize swing voters, and ground the opposition, Cambridge Analytica took the data they found and focused on a small population who could be persuaded to back their clients. They called this population the “persuadables.” People like Kaiser talk about “pulling levers” to activate their base. These people were pummeled with inflammatory content on Facebook, YouTube, Google, and WhatsApp. The images, videos, and language used positioned Hillary Clinton as an evil crook, said a Cambridge Analytica exec who admitted on-camera in an undercover expose by a British news outlet. 

It wasn’t just all right-wing content. People labeled as liberals received the same treatment with Black Lives Matter content and stories focused on police brutality. The deception happened both ways.

Oil is No Longer the Most Lucrative Industry

Credit: @AndreaLoken / Twitter

According to Carroll, data mining has become a trillion-dollar industry. Kaiser says data has surpassed oil as the most valuable commodity and industry. They both make a case for protecting the information out there. Kaiser even argues it should be treated and protected like real estate. 

“This is not a partisan issue,” Cadwalladr argues. 

It’s Still Unclear What Data Was Collected And Who Was Targeted

Credit: @BrasilMagic / Twitter

At the film’s close, Carroll still hasn’t been given the information Cambridge Analytica collected on him. Speaking at the European Parliament, Carroll testifies that the pool of people targeted, who they were and the extent to which their data was used for is still unknown. What is clear is that the vendor’s business model works and has the ability to impact a mass population. 

“In the U.S. only about 70,000 voters in three different states decided the [2016] election,” he says. 

Kaiser Admits Data Targeting is a ‘Weapons Grade Communications Tactic’

Credit: @dens / Twitter

At the British Parliament, Kaiser offers testimony classifying Cambridge Analytica’s work as an industry regulated by the British government due to the severity of consequences associated with its use.

READ: Ted Cruz Couldn’t Have Been Expecting This When He Showed Up For His Flight At LAX

Walter Mercado Was An Iconic Astrologer And A Gender Nonconforming Legend And Now There’s A Documentary About Him Coming To Netflix

Entertainment

Walter Mercado Was An Iconic Astrologer And A Gender Nonconforming Legend And Now There’s A Documentary About Him Coming To Netflix

Waltermercadotv/ Instagram

Walter Mercado was a source of wisdom. His horoscopes eased many Latinxs into New Years, months and days full of new possibilities and opportunities. Equal parts Oprah, Liberace, and Mr. Rogers, Walter was a celebrated daily part of Latino culture—until last November, when he sadly passed away. But his legacy lives on, and this year, he’s getting his own Netflix documentary. Here’s everything we know so far about “Mucho Mucho Amor.”

Late television personality and astrologer Walter Mercado is the subject of a Netflix documentary.

Extravagant Puerto Rican astrologer, psychic, and gender nonconforming legend Walter Mercado charmed the world for over 30 years with his televised horoscopes. And this summer, a the feature-length documentary based on the life and work of the iconic astrologer, “Mucho Mucho Amor” will stream on Netflix. And it’s scheduled to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film was selected to premiere at the 2020 Sundance Festival.

The independent-film festival announced its lineup earlier this month, and Miami is well represented among the 118 films selected. Although Mucho Mucho Amor might seem timely in light of the astrologer’s passing in November, Tabsch and his codirector and coproducer — Cristina Constantini and Alex Fumero — have been working on it for more than two years.

The film explores Walter’s complex story.

“Mucho Mucho Amor”, follows Mercado’s story, from the rural sugarcane fields of Puerto Rico to international astrology superstardom, rising above homophobia and the heteronormative beliefs of the Latino society with a message of love and hope. “If you think about the way he came on television, starting from 50 years ago,” said one of the film’s directors, Kareem Tabsch in an interview with WLRN, “he blended gender expressions — the masculine with the feminine on Latino television, which is very macho-centric.”

The film was directed by two Latinx co-directors.

Kareem Tabsch and Cristina Costantini (Science Fair, Festival Favorite Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival) both set out to create “Mucho Mucho Amor” as a love letter to Walter Mercado.  “He was uniquely his own. In a very macho Latino culture, he presented his nonbinary gender expression, and it was so brave,” Tabsch said to Miami New Times.

“Mucho Mucho Amor” unpicks how Walter Mercado became an icon of gender-fluidity for an entire generation.

The filmmakers, who grew up watching him with their abuelitos, craft a film with levity and a playful spirit. Light-years ahead of his time, Walter has become a nostalgic cult icon of self-expression and positivity for the gender-fluid youth of today.

And indeed, Walter Mercado induces millennial Latinos into deep nostalgia.

For Latino audiences, Mercado also represents a form of warm nostalgia. “You think of Walter today, and so many of us think of our abuelitas,” the Cuban-American filmmaker says in an interview with Miami New Times. “The memory takes us back to childhood. It takes us back to sitting with our grandparents. In making this film, we realized that was a universal experience [for Latinos].”

The director also spoke about the significance of premiering their film at Sundance.

The fact that an international film festival of Sundance’s prominence has recognized a film such as Mucho Mucho Amor is an important win for not only Tabsch and his team but also Latino culture. “It’s a huge recognition not just for Miami film, but for film created by, for, and about Latinos,” Tabsch says. “We’re telling our own stories.”

The film premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24 and runs through January 31. It will be available on Netflix this summer.

As The Impeachment Trial Heats Up, Trump’s Defenders Start To Crack Under Pressure

Things That Matter

As The Impeachment Trial Heats Up, Trump’s Defenders Start To Crack Under Pressure

@themoteige / Twitter

On Dec. 18, just before Christmas, a gift arrived at the House of Congress, two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. After what seemed like an eternity of “will Trump ever be impeached?” the moment some Americans have been calling for finally came to fruition. Yet, the moment of justice against Trump was quickly fogged when Republicans began to attempt to derail the proceedings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it perfectly clear that articles of impeachment presented from the House chamber to the Senate chamber would be dismissed because no Republican would ever vote to impeach Trump. Then something magical happened. People started talking.

Almost a month after the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump, Rep. Nancy Pelosi finally sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate floor on Jan. 15 to begin the impeachment trial.

Credit: @speakerPelosi / Twitter

It took a while for Rep. Pelosi to get those articles of impeachment to the Senate, but many believed she had a strategic plan. After all, Sen. Mitch McConnell said he wouldn’t allow any witnesses or hear any new evidence. So, Rep. Pelosi must have had a plan, right? 

“In an impeachment trial, every Senator takes an oath to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’ Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution,” Pelosi said in the letter, according to NPR. Rep. Pelosi also said she didn’t expect a fair trial. She proceeded, anyway. 

Democrats also announced they would have impeachment managers. Speaker of the House Pelosi named seven diverse lawmakers, including one Latina. 

Credit: @AlexNBCNews / Twitter

The seven lawmakers were picked because they have a legal background or expertise and also have served in Congress for decades. 

What’s remarkable about this diverse group of impeachment managers is that, as the New York Times notes, when President Bill Clinton had his impeachment trial in 1999, the impeachment managers back then were 13 white men. This time around, Trump is getting Rep. Adam B. Schiff, House Intelligence Committee chairman and lead manager, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Committee on House Administration, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Val Demings, member of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees, Rep. Jason Crow, member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Sylvia Garcia, member of the House Judiciary Committee. 

On the same day that the trial got underway — and the managers were sworn in, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial  — new revelations against Trump and others came roaring out of the TV.

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If you’ve been keeping up with the impeachment process, you should know that Trump’s being impeached for asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son for corruption. That’s what all of this is about, Trump asking for personal favors to get dirt against a politician who is seeking to run for office. Trump has said many times that request was not a favor. Now, at least one person involved in the Ukraine exchange of information is throwing Trump and many others under the bus. If you need a full refresher of the entire mess, click here

Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s lawyer Rudi Giuliani, told multiple journalists that Trump’s request to get dirt on Biden was known by all.

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“Because of my Ukrainian background and my contacts there, I became like Rudy’s assistant, his investigator,” he told the New Yorker. “I don’t do anything on my own. I don’t lobby people. I go get information. I set up a meeting. I make sure that the call went right. I make sure the translation is done right.”

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” he told Rachel Maddow, “He was aware of all my movements … I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.”

Even people who once said they never met Parnas, including Rep. Devin Nunes, finally admitted to having known Parnas.

Credit: @jennyrachelpal / Twitter

Just last month, Rep. Nunes said he wasn’t sure who Parnas was and added that he would never speak to random people. However, like many people connected to the scandal, Nunes has now admitted that he has talked to Parnas. Rep. Nunes went on Fox News to say that he did look back at his records and realize he had talked with him. 

“I didn’t remember the name. But I did remember going back, looking at where I was at the time. Because you know you can do that now,” he said, according to CNN. “You actually know where you physically are. Checked it with my records, and it was very clear. I remember that call, which was very odd, random. Talking about random things. And I said, ‘Great, you know, just talk to my staff’ and boom, boom, boom. Which is normal, standard operating procedure.”

Seems like the impeachment trial is just heating up and more information is casting doubt on Trump and his most ardent defenders.

READ: Kellyanne Conway Is Convinced That Americans Think the Impeachment Process is a Sham