OPINION
03/20/2018 09:00 am ET Updated Mar 22, 2018

It Matters That A Gay Man Helped Trump Backers Exploit Facebook Data

Christopher Wylie is the self-described gay Canadian vegan who’s come forward to explain how he, as a young and brilliant data scientist, helped create Steve Bannon’s “psychological warfare mindfuck tool” and ultimately helped bring Donald Trump to the White House. His involvement in this massive deception ― which he claims was due to his being “naive” ― proves, yet again, how some people will work against their own kind as they recklessly pursue their ambitions.

But in becoming a whistleblower, Wylie has also shown how Trump’s backers use queer people and spit them out. Wylie was instrumental as chief data analyst for Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm once run by Bannon, which is now at the center of a firestorm on both sides of the Atlantic over how it used Facebook users’ information to influence both the European Union exit campaign in Britain and the 2016 U.S. election on behalf of Trump.

In an interview this week with The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr, Wylie spoke about Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire who, with her father, Robert, was Cambridge Analytica’s chief investor ― as well as the key backer of Breitbart News and a major Trump campaign donor: 

“She loved me. She was like, ‘Oh we need more of your type on our side!’”

Your type?

“The gays. She loved the gays. So did Steve [Bannon]. He saw us as early adopters. He figured, if you can get the gays on board, everyone else will follow. It’s why he was so into the whole Milo [Yiannopoulos] thing.”

This is both enormously revolting and unsurprising at the same time. But just let it sink in a bit.

Bannon, along with Mercer, helped elect a president who courted the most hateful opponents of gay equality throughout the campaign, including Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the evangelical Liberty University that prohibits “homosexual behavior,” and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its vicious anti-LGBTQ defamation.

According to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, Bannon 'loved the gays.'

Bannon then went to work for that president and watched him roll back LGBTQ equality in a horrifying number of ways and helped him put a man on the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, who appears intent on damaging or overturning marriage equality and LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections. Bannon attended the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in 2017, after he left the White House, and further made a pact with the most extreme enemies of LGBTQ equality. 

Bannon then worked tirelessly to try to elect a man to the U.S. Senate who was perhaps the most vocally homophobic Senate candidate in U.S. history (in addition to being an accused child molester). Roy Moore, for whom Bannon campaigned in Alabama late last year, called homosexuality “inherently evil,” suggested sodomy laws be brought back, claimed the Bible as the law of the land and was removed twice as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court ― the second time for ordering probate judges in the state not to follow the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling on marriage equality.

And yet, according to Wylie, Bannon “loved the gays.” 

No, what Bannon loved was using anyone, including LGBTQ people, to gain power and overthrow the American political system. What he saw in some young gay people on the right ― like Yiannopoulos, who is part of the loose network of white supremacists and anti-Semites known as the alt-right ― was a hipness that could help bring in young people to his movement. And he saw talent, like Wylie’s, which was enormously useful even if it meant Wylie would sickeningly undermine his own kind.

Unlike Yiannopoulos, Wylie implies that he didn’t support the Bannon or Trump agenda and he disavows any support of the alt-right ― at least in recent interviews now that he’s doing penance, telling reporters and legislators in the U.K. of the ways he worked to help Cambridge Analytica misuse the personal information of 50 million people on Facebook for political gain. 

Bannon loved using anyone, including LGBTQ people, to gain power and overthrow the American political system.

Wylie, now 28, grew up in British Columbia and was active in his younger years in Canada’s decidedly progressive Liberal Party, and was trying to use his skills as a data scientist to help them. Like many queer people ― and this is something I wrote about in my first book, over 25 years ago, interviewing many in Silicon Valley ― he found his calling as a computer geek, living within a self-contained world in which difference is often respected and where you can hide your true self behind a screen if you’re not accepted in the outside world. 

How he fell in with Bannon and Cambridge Analytica is the subject of much discussion right now. He describes it as somewhat unwitting as he grew frustrated after moving to London and working with the Liberal Democrats in the UK, who rejected his tools and advice, stalling ambitions at putting his ideas into practice. As he explained to the Guardian’s Cadwalladr: 

“I did this presentation at which I told [the Liberal Democrats] they would lose half their 57 seats, and they were like: ‘Why are you so pessimistic?’ They actually lost all but eight of their seats, FYI.”

But one of the Lib Dems led him to SCL Elections, a subsidiary of the British behavior research company Strategic Communications Laboratories Group. SCL Elections eventually created Cambridge Analytica, funded by Robert and Rebekah Mercer: 

Alexander Nix, CEO of SCL Elections, made Wylie an offer he couldn’t resist. “He said: ‘We’ll give you total freedom. Experiment. Come and test out all your crazy ideas.’”

It was Wylie’s idea to apply military methodology to social media and use it within the U.S. political system. He was instrumental to the entire mission of the firm.

Cambridge Analytica would allegedly go on to deceptively cull user information from millions of Facebook users for the purposes of helping the Brexit campaign and the Trump campaign. And that’s what brought Wylie into the thick of something he says he now regrets and is doing what he can to help expose.

His actions now don’t absolve him of having been a mastermind of this grotesque escapade, and his claim of being naive is implausible. Still, in addition to revealing how Facebook was used in sinister and dangerous ways, it’s a good thing Wylie has revealed the truth about people like Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon, vile opportunists who profess to “love the gays” while slitting their throats. 

Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter @msignorile

Correction: A previous version of this piece referred to Canada’s Liberal Party as the Lib Dems. The nickname actually refers to the U.K.’s Liberal Democrats. 

A previous version of this piece also misspelled Rebekah Mercer’s first name as Rebecca. 

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