by Richard A Viguerie, CHQ Chairman
Conservatives, wake up! We face a problem that challenges our very existence. Elitists want to eliminate us as a cultural and political force to be reckoned with. To reach that goal, they will decide what news we see and which opinion viewpoints we hear. And they have the power to do that.
I’m referring to the elitists’ new information monopolies—Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube. We are in the early stages of this Information War, but be forewarned—that war has already started.
Recent changes in Facebook’s rules of operation, for example, have already resulted in conservative sites losing an average of 14% of their traffic, while liberal sites have enjoyed increases. This doesn’t mean the number of liberals is increasing while the number of conservatives is decreasing—far from it. It means that the new rules are manipulating the news and opinions the public is allowed to see. Let this continue, and conservatism will be “the incredibly shrinking movement.”
But this is a wake-up call, not a call for despair. Conservatives have faced elitist information monopolies before, and we beat them. We can do it again. It’s in our genes!
The old information monopolies were known by their initials—NBC, CBS, ABC. By the 1950s, television had replaced newspapers and radio as the main way Americans got their news and opinions. And those three broadcast networks monopolized television. Conservative news, conservative opinions, and conservative leaders were marginalized at best, and more often totally ignored.
So how did the conservative movement as we know it today ever come into existence, given that institutional information bias? That is the story I told, with my colleague David Franke, in our book America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power.
Conservatives did an end-run around the old monopolies, but new monopolies have now taken their place. That is why I am serializing America’s Right Turn here on ConservativeHQ.com between now and the midterm elections. (Expect the first chapter on Friday, with new chapters appearing thereafter on Tuesdays and Thursdays.) “What is past is prologue,” as Shakespeare memorably put it in his play The Tempest. History repeats itself, only in different forms, and by understanding our past success—and how we achieved it—we build the courage and devise the strategies to confront and overcome these new challenges.
As you read this story, chapter by chapter, you will learn that long before Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, conservatives had the Viguerie Company showing how to target voters and collect data. An important difference, of course, is that the methods of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are questionable, while ours are legal and based on conservatives opting-in or subscribing to get information they can’t get through the establishment media, and to donate to conservative candidates and causes.
You will also learn that direct mail is the one method of mass commercial communication that the liberals do not control. The conservative movement is where it is today because of targeted direct mail. A good estimate is that 80% to 90% of conservative organizations recruit their membership and raise the money to fund their operations through direct mail.
And you will see how Ronald Reagan used targeted direct mail to accomplish what the Left thought was impossible—an unabashed conservative winning the presidency. In our day, of course, Donald Trump used all forms of alternative communications—the social media, direct mail, and, yes, Twitter—to win another “impossible dream” for conservatives.
The Tool of the New Elitist Monopolies: Algorithms
Today’s new monopolies are using algorithms to determine which news stories and opinion viewpoints are to be accepted or rejected in their venues. “Algorithm” is a mathematical and computer science term,* and can be inscrutable and mysterious to lay persons who are not math or computer nerds. But to explain them in understandable terms, an algorithm is simply a set of rules used to solve a problem. Today algorithms are used to write computer programs. The amount of data available is massive and without form, making algorithms—those sets of rules—essential to using computers to process data.
*Believe it or not, the term “algorithm” is not a reference to Al Gore, though he may try to convince you otherwise, just as some say he claims to have “invented the Internet.”
What does this have to do with the news we get, and the opinions we are allowed to see? Think of it this way. In pre-computer days, the city editor of a newspaper carried an algorithm in his head (and it was almost always a “he”). You’ve seen the old movies. He knew what his goals were—get scoops, increase circulation. And he knew from experience what kinds of news achieved those goals. He carried his algorithm in his head. It was a set of rules, but a set of rules that was fluid. A celebrity gets murdered or caught in a scandal and—“Stop the presses!” That story goes front and top, pushing other stories down, eliminating the least important ones.
Today the new monopolies—Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube—use algorithms to determine the news stories and opinion viewpoints that will be allowed to reach you and me, the grassroots consumers, and (especially in the case of Google) the order in which we see them. The rules are now stated in computer code rather than in the city editor’s brain, but the human element has not been eliminated. It is humans who write the algorithms, and those humans have biases and goals that shape those algorithms.
You’ve heard the term “garbage in, garbage out.” Now state that obvious truism this way: “Biases in, biases out.” Incorporate your biases into your algorithms, and the results will reflect your biases.
The old monopolists were headquartered in New York City. The new monopolists are concentrated in Silicon Valley. But they’ve shared, in the past and today, a common goal: Promote the elitist social and political agenda, and drastically diminish the impact of grassroots conservatives and populists.
What they cannot program in their computers is our courage, our determination, and our innovative creativity. Use this serialization of America’s Right Turn to learn how and why we were victorious before—and how we can do that again.