It’s the last week of March and three headlines have been dominating the news the world over.
First: Aussies Caught on Camera while Tampering with a ball!
“Bancroft used a strip of yellow sticky tape he had covered with dirt granules to illegally scratch the rough side of the ball, thereby facilitating more swing for bowlers.” (https://www.telegraph.co.uk ) “He was filmed not only rubbing the ball with the dirtied tape but concealing the evidence down the front of his trousers.”
“Despite the outrage that has unfolded since the incident in Cape Town, ball tampering remains something of an open secret in cricketing circles — but few players ever publicly own up to it.”
“Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland, under mounting pressure to come down hard on what Australian media has dubbed a "rotten" team culture, has arrived in Johannesburg.”
Second: Skeletons in Trump’s Closet Storm Out!
“In an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Stormy Daniels told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she had a one-night stand with Donald Trump, and agreed to be paid $130,000 for her silence after a man threatened her and her daughter”
Third: Big Data, Big Donors and Swinging Elections round the World!
“The data analytics firm used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without permission to build a system that could target US voters with personalised political advertisements based on their psychological profile, according to Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica contractor who helped build the algorithm. Employees of Cambridge Analytica, including the suspended CEO Alexander Nix, were also filmed boasting of using manufactured scandals, fake news and dirty tricks to swing elections around the world.”
So what do we make of all this?
The Australian Coach Darren Lehmann and Captain Steve Smith have been axed. Press Conferences arranged and outrage has been expressed in many parts of the world.
It’s a complex and intricate web of sports, sponsors, media rights, betting syndicates, hyper nationalism and sometimes politics. Sports arenas and stadiums cater to a wide range of audience needs. There’s a vicarious entertainment, opportunity to make a quick buck, time to keep a keen eye on the returns on investment of a sporting league or franchise. Some of course are there for the love of the sport and they are the ones whose pockets are squeezed the most. Probably they pay for being naïve and emotional. For sportsmen out there, the pressure to win must be killing literally.
The second headline: Is it about alpha male- the powerful, flirtatious and wickedly attractive? Or is it about political discourse in the world’s leading democracy getting sleazy and seemingly out of tabloids like Playboy? Debates on policy issues?
Finally, Facebook profiles users and lets people mine their data for millions of dollars. Not that people didn’t know but this time, the data was used to effect election outcomes. Their share prices have been battered down and the delete Facebook movement might just get trendier. Mark Zuckerberg is being asked to appear before various public committees on both sides of the Atlantic. Meanwhile Facebook has profusely apologised to users for the breach of trust. But lurking in the shadows are other people,
What about Cambridge Analytica?
It is political consulting firm which mines data and offers specialized, targeted political advertising in many countries.
Cambridge Analytica has been consulted for elections in USA, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya and as alleged by an ex-employee turned whistleblower, is eyeing the 2019 Indian Elections.
Its parent company is the SCL Group which describes itself as a “global election management agency.” As per the company profiles on Bloomberg SCL is profiled as following:
“SCL Group Limited operates as a strategy and communications agency that engages in the creation, implementation, and evaluation of behavioural research and strategic communication campaigns for brands, political organizations, governments, and military organizations worldwide. It offers research and strategy, IT and infrastructure solutions, capacity building, communications, consultancy, and training services; and predictive data analytics, psychographic profiling, messages and marketing campaigns to create insights and communication strategies. SCL Group Limited was incorporated in 2005 and is based in London, the United Kingdom.”
It is being alleged that the owners of these companies are mega donors and have funded the Trump Campaign and also Brexit.
Another key figure is Aleksander Kogan a researcher and a data scientist, he once worked for the University of Cambridge. It was his seemingly harmless online quiz that got them the data heist. What Cambridge Analytica does with this data is political advertising. They have the psychographic profiles of millions of users across the world. They are targeted with political messages which have a subtle emotional appeal which is in sync with their online personality.
Politicians have started using global corporations who claim to know more about how their citizens can be influenced or manipulated to vote. The point is not that Politicians should not be using digital platforms. The point is the extreme manipulation and monetising peoples digital footprints. Political outfits operating as corporate avatars but pretending to be ideological is ironical.
All three stories should jolt us. For now they are newspaper headlines but tomorrow they have the power to go live in our homes, offices and classrooms.
Everyone is morphing into businessmen.
As parents, teachers, administrators, students, we need to ask ourselves why is winning at all costs so important, why do we have only one perspective of success and the trappings of power? Can we not change our perspective on “losing” and “failing”, and redefine aspirations and reassess our methods and people. We are enamoured by people who have gamed the system. Why does everything have to be brought down to the level of the bottom line?
Are we merely cookie cutters?
Finally whether it’s a game of cricket or fighting for elections or hearts, winning is a must. It’s after all The Gentleman’s Game!
P.S.: I had just finished writing this article and THEN switched on the television. Another headline: The CBSE Standard XII Mathematics and Economic papers were leaked.
High marks and maths holds the key to a bright future.
When will this madness stop?
CBSE exam paper leak to affect 1.6 million Class 12 students and 1.2 million Class 10 students. Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has decided to re-conduct the examinations for Economics (Class 12) and Mathematics (for Class 10) respectively.