A few weeks ago, I inveighed against the increasingly Orwellian psychological tactics being employed by the Obama campaign. It didn't seem like things could get much worse than asking you to upload photos of your personal pledges to the president, and smart phone apps that show maps telling you the political affiliation of your neighbors.
I was wrong. So very, very wrong. Here's the email I recently got from the Obama campaign:
According to our records associated with this email address -- hopefully it's yours if you're reading this! -- here's your online giving history for this organization:
-- Your supporter ID number is: 1009733799
-- Your most recent online donation was: $0
-- Total amount donated online in 2012: $0
It looks like you haven't made an online donation to the campaign yet. If you were waiting for the last minute, you're pretty much there.
Uh, I have a "supporter ID number" with the Obama campaign? According to Politico, I'm not the only one who finds this creepy:
“The Obama team is smart and tests everything, but while squeaking out a little more cash, is it worth it if it turns off base supporters that are reading your narrative and doing the hard work?” Goodstein said. He described the appeal as “a ‘collection-style’ bill from the campaign's auditor.”
I would note that quote objecting to this new fundraising tactic comes from no less than Scott Goodstein, the external online director for Obama’s 2008 campaign. Yet another significant objection comes from someone pointing out that if this were an email coming from a financial services organization it would be skirting with breaking the law:
Another offended recipient was financial services regulatory lawyer Michael S. Smith of New York, who said the FTC would be quizzing him if he’d have sent such a note when he worked for AIG.
“They’re skating right on the line,” Smith said. “This is like if I were trying to sell you a health insurance policy and I sent an email, and then two months later I said, ‘We looked in the records you didn’t buy the policy, don’t you think it’s time?’”
The most straightforward comparision for this email—that it invokes the language of a bill collector—has some pretty revealing implications. As president, Obama rings up $5 trillion in new debt and wants to raise taxes, but he acts like his supporters are in arrears with his campaign! And if that's how he treats people who sign up for his mailing list, can you imagine how he's inclined to treat ordinary taxpayers with no campaign records showing they've given him money?
Anyway, so I thought that after Obama adopted the tactics of bill collector, we'd finally hit bottom with campaigns engaged in sleazy psychological manipulation. Again, I was wrong. So very, very wrong. To be fair, this time it appears that both Obama and Romney are engaged in some pretty disturbing data mining:
In the weeks before Election Day, millions of voters will hear from callers with surprisingly detailed knowledge of their lives. These callers — friends of friends or long-lost work colleagues — will identify themselves as volunteers for the campaigns or independent political groups.
The callers will be guided by scripts and call lists compiled by people — or computers — with access to details like whether voters may have visited pornography Web sites, have homes in foreclosure, are more prone to drink Michelob Ultra than Corona or have gay friends or enjoy expensive vacations.
Now that would be a heck of a campaign pitch: Write us a check, or we tell your wife your frequenting that Hungarian website. You know, the one on a part of the information superhighway where it's a really good idea not to roll down the window.