If Netflix can utilize our online behaviors to entice us to watch certain movies, and companies can do the same to use digital ads to influence our purchasing behaviors of everything from diapers to dog food – can a foreign government track and weaponize our data to influence our moods, emotions, and voting behavior?
The fact is, we know all three of those examples are happening.
Yesterday, I had the honor of interviewing retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Spalding. In addition to being a 26-year veteran of the Air Force, where he flew the B2 stealth fighter, he is the former director of strategic planning to the president for the National Security Council and China strategist for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Currently a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, Spalding recently authored the book, Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Enemies Slept.
In his book, Gen. Spalding discusses the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) quest for control of the personal data of not only its citizens – but also of citizens in other sovereign countries, including the United States. The CCP has deployed facial recognition cameras and software on a mass scale in its own country, and uses it to track, influence and, yes, punish, behavior by its own citizens.
The CCP is also helping build out the telecom infrastructure of other countries, gaining access to their data in the process. Spalding has made headlines for suggesting vigilance to ensure the personal data of Americans is secure from the Chinese government’s data quest as we seek to build out a 5G network in the country – and as American tech companies consistently have their data and information hacked or stolen by Chinese entities working for the CCP.
Why should we care if the CCP, for example, has your data or your “face” on file?
This takes us back to the first paragraph.
We already know the power of targeted, behaviorally-driven advertising to influence our purchasing and voting behaviors.
In 2014, it was revealed that Facebook itself conducted a study which showed it could influence peoples’ mood and emotions by what those people saw in their news feed. has also admitted that time spent on its platform can impact your moods and emotions.
As Kashmir Hill wrote in Forbes, “Facebook’s data scientists manipulated the news feeds of 689,003 users, removing either all of the positive posts or all of the negative posts to see how it affected their moods. If there was a week in January 2012 where you were only seeing photos of dead dogs or incredibly cute babies, you may have been part of the study. Now that the experiment is public, people’s mood about the study itself would best be described as ‘disturbed.'”
“The experiment ran for a week — January 11–18, 2012 — during which the hundreds of thousands of Facebook users unknowingly participating may have felt either happier or more depressed than usual, as they saw either more of their friends posting ’15 Photos That Restore Our Faith In Humanity’ articles or despondent status updates about losing jobs, getting screwed over by X airline, and already failing to live up to New Year’s resolutions. ‘Probably’ nobody was driven to suicide,” tweeted one professor linking to the study, adding a “#jokingnotjoking” hashtag.”
Now, imagine if a foreign entity had enough personal data about you to know your habits, shopping behaviors, online behavior – all matched with facial recognition data that has tracked you from your stores and restaurants to airports, hospitals, and even your doctor. Then, imagine if a foreign entity wanted to use this data to influence your mood, feelings, thoughts and behaviors – just as Facebook proved is possible by simply messing with your Facebook news feed.
I urge you to subscribe to the Freedom Media Network YouTube Channel so that you don’t miss my full discussion with Gen. Spalding when it airs in a few weeks.
This topic goes to the heart of why we are building this network, and goes well beyond politics and policy. It goes to the heart of our personal freedom.
I recently posted my interview with Randy Gage about how we are programmed by what he calls “mind viruses” that can influence our feelings and behaviors on wealth, health, and politics. We discussed how this programming, which is embedded into our brains by Hollywood, the media, church pulpits, parents, schools, etc. can program us for a scarcity mindset and lead to self-sabotaging behavior that makes us less healthy, less prosperous, and less fulfilled.
Now consider the new “mind viruses” that might now be deployed against us by foreign governments, using the techniques perfected by Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix.
Simple question: How will you begin defending your mind against this harmful programming, both foreign and domestic?
Randy and I discussed the importance of de-programming through daily meditation and affirmations, as well as countering your “scarcity programming” with content that is positive and pro-abundance.
For years, I’ve also employed (and recommend to my clients) what Tim Ferriss calls a “low information diet.” Instead of staring like a zombie at the Facebook feed on your smartphone or at your cable TV news channel of choice for hours a day – turn off the screens live in the real world. Read more fiction books. Strengthen your mind. Stop becoming so obsessed with the news that it impacts your thoughts, emotions, and actions.
It’s also vital to employ critical thinking in every aspect of your life. What does this mean?
I worked in Washington, DC and in and around politics and policy for decades. That’s long enough to have seen that every proponent for every side of every issue has a study and statistics backing their policy position. There are studies for and against every diet imaginable. For tax cuts? There’s a study backing you up. Against tax cuts? Yep, there’s a study you’ll like.
When we retreat to our various tribes, it’s easy then to look for the studies that confirm our biases.
Are you in the Fox News tribe or the MSNBC tribe? The Republican tribe or the Democrat tribe? The Catholic tribe or the Lutheran tribe? The vegan tribe or the carnivore tribe?
The notion of tribes isn’t inherently bad. But, as Randy suggests, it’s vital to examine whether we are in the tribes and making behaviors in line with those tribes because of actual critical thinking – or something else.
If that “something else” is due to programming from media, companies or foreign governments, perhaps its time to step back and start questioning your decisions.
The human mind is extremely powerful. As such, you have the power to create the life you desire.
By failing to defend your mind, however, you leave it open to infection from external entities that can use the power of your mind to influence you like a robot or a zombie.
I know you’re more powerful than that.
But are you ready to do the hard work to deprogram and defend your mind?
Or will you continue to sit in the comfort zone of allowing others to do your thinking for you?
Believe it or not, the choice is entirely up to you.