the great hack
we were excited for quite some time for this netflix documentary to get launched, and we weren’t disappointed: a must-see.
it follows the whole CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA role in overtaking the democratic process in BREXIT, the TRUMP 2016 ELECTION and many other countries via the use of data collected from facebook and other social media companies. and it also talks about something that we are constantly discussing here at ara, which is how powerless we, as individuals, are becoming in the face of the control exerted by large corporations and oligarchies through tech companies.
you might be reading this and thinking it’s a bit ironic since ara is a company that works with social media. well, the thing is this notion - while true - is incomplete. we do work with and through social media, but we are a creative company; we sell creativity, and that goes beyond social media. in fact, we are always advising our clients not only of the responsibility we must bear when doing social media communication, but of the importance of breaking the middleman between them and their clients; of taking back things from the virtual to the real world. social media success, likes, and followers are an illusion - or, at best, a piece of the puzzle. If tech and social media is all your company is banking on - you’re screwed. this is one medium that is already dead but, like stars, their light will take a while to fade. What’s always been alive (and will continue to be) are the human emotions and the need to connect. those are ara’s tools, mission, and goals when taking on a new client.
back to the doc. a lot of people have been saying the relationship established between the movie's narrative and one of its main characters - former cambridge analytica employee and current whistleblower BRITTANY KAISER - is problematic because it tries too hard to redeem her, as if the movie was a big PR vehicle to clear her image for future endeavors like, say, a run for congress or something. while we can understand the urge to stay alert and dive into conspiracies when a movie shows there was a gigantic one happening right under our noses and no one was aware of it (or just a few were; we've been tuned to this matter since early 2017 via the now-famous Louise Mensch's article), we believe this redemption attempt is born out of pure narrative necessity - and a bit of actual commitment to the truth.
let's address the narrative necessity later, and first focus on the possibility that kaiser indeed suffered a rude awakening and the director was just documenting it. if we leave our disgust for a moment and try to analyze it in an impartial manner, it is completely possible that one would regret doing everything kaiser has done at her former job and make it public so that no one else is hurt anymore. imagine you're a walmart salesperson. you sell guns, and one of the guns you sold killed a lot of people. wouldn't you feel bad about it? of course you knew that was a possibility - you're not stupid - but there were several unfortunate factors that created a bubble around you, that made you lie to yourself that nothing bad would ever happen, and that customer was just a collector; he would only use it to practice at the shooting range.
should kaiser be forgiven when she was so instrumental to the whole thing? that's another story, and, by the looks of it, she won't be anytime soon.
but we do believe in remorse. we have to. otherwise, this is a dull world where constant war is the only way - and for us, it's red or nothing; we believe in love. furthermore, this is secondary. it matters little the motives behind her coming forward regarding the wrongdoings her work did - because she feels bad, or because she wants to get back at her former boss… whatever. what really matters is that she did, and we're all better for it. or less fucked for it? we're grateful she did. knowledge is power.
now, about the narrative necessity of making kaiser look nicer… here's the thing. we wouldn't stand to watch the movie having kaiser as a protagonist if she was portrayed in an "impartial" light, much less a bad light. if the director didn't go out of his way to show that her family lost everything due to the 2008 crash, how would we connect to that person talking about how the people have been wronged by the wealthy, holding a champagne glass with a tacky hat in an infinity pool in thailand? in fact, it's crazy to think that the first scene - kaiser completely changed, in a pink wig, writing "cambridge analytica" on "the man" at burning man - doesn't come back in the end as a leitmotif.
truth is that this discomfort people showed regarding her and the way the movie portrayed her is a sign of the documentary's success in hacking our hearts and minds. which is good and important because it's needed so that people will pay attention to the story, but it can also be dangerous. we could get sidetracked by her personality and the human drama behind it, when the most important thing the great hack tries to do is shine a light and open our eyes to the problem of big data and privacy in the digital era - this is the conversation that's really worth to be brought forth. focusing too much on the telenovela aspects of brittany kaiser's theatrics because we are so addicted to drama is part of the reasons cambridge analytica hacked so many democracies. parts of the ways we got here.
let's face it: we are chemically dependent on social media and its rewards - likes, retweets etc. and we're drawn to divisive content because they provide a bigger chance to be heard in a frustrating environment where everyone speaks and no one listens. it's designed that way: facebook asks "what are you thinking?", twitter "what's happening?". and, every time, we fall for it, like chumps.
we mustn't this time.
we must forget brittany kaiser - and also cambridge analytica, for what it's worth - because she's done what she needed to already. we must focus on the people that engage and pay people like brittany kaiser and companies like cambridge analytica. and more than anything, we must protect our data and ourselves from future hacks. we need better anti-virus.
watch the great hack on netflix