Cambridge Analytica

by Penelope Swales



This song raises the issue of whether fascism is on the rise in a new form. It is about the exploitation of disgruntled voters by right-wing populist politicians, who play particularly on fears about immigration and refugees. The song discusses the skillful and insidious dissemination of right-wing propaganda and misinformation via social media by paid consultants who target specific voter groups in an effort to influence the outcome of democratic elections. The example referenced in the song is the influence exerted on the 2016 US Presidential election by Cambridge Analytica (though a number of other elections around the world have been affected).

In Australia and other countries, we have seen a rise of hard-right elements in major political parties, with the power to radically affect policy outcomes in a way that is progressively concentrating power and undermining civil freedoms. The example in the song is the establishment of the Department of Home Affairs which brought border control, immigration, federal policing, emergency management, counter-terrorism, multicultural affairs, transport security and cybersecurity under the purview of hard-right Minister Peter Dutton. The song warns that voters' interests, and potentially democracy itself, will be abandoned once the power-seekers have achieved their goals.


Can’t you see you’re being played for fools?
Can’t you see you’re being used?
By those grey, ambitious men who seek to redefine the rules
Those who encourage you to feel so bruised.

They will follow you and lead you
They will court you, dog-whistle you and feed you
But only while they need you

Can’t you smell danger in the air?
It’s not what they’re telling you
Telling you beware the stranger that compassion isn’t fair
Look beyond the line they’re selling you

They will stroke your anger
They will stoke your panic to invoke their own agenda
But only while they need you

These are the days
When Lord Commander Marmalade
Rides to glory on ignorance and fear
And Dutton’s super-ministry
Scares the bejesus out of me
Can you not see a pattern here?

Attempting to be credible, I’ve resisted melodrama
Not wanting to weaken my own arguments
But just a little lately, yeah
I’m really starting to wonder
If the logical trajectory
Of where my country’s taking me
Isn’t more terrifying than the past

Because this is the age
Where Lord Commander Marmalade
Rides to glory on ignorance and fear
And Dutton’s super-ministry
Scares the bejesus out of me
Can you not see a pattern here?

And they’ll tell you you’re the ones that are suffering
They’ll tell you your values are being undermined
They’ll tell you anything they need to
To get that marginal seat over the line
They’ll lay it out so nice and easy
Tasty soundbites there on 2GB
Manipulative memes on social media
Ricochet around your echo chamber

They will follow you an lead you
Fire your nationalism, congratulate and yes-indeed you
Analyse the data, anticipate and read you
But only while they need you
Only while they still need you
Only 'til they no longer need to.


released March 17, 2019
Words and music: Penelope Swales
Lead and backing vocals, guitar, stomp box: Penelope Swales
Bass, backing vocals: Mal Webb
Recorded at Chez Mal by Mal Webb
Produced by Penelope Swales and Mal Webb


all rights reserved



Penelope Swales Emerald, Australia

Penelope Swales has been articulating the human condition with passion and humour for 30+ years. She sings about politics, love, friendship, the unbreakable bond between us and dogs and the impact of the Internet on society. She won the 2019 Alistair Hulett Songs for Social Justice Award with “Cambridge Analytica”. “The Ides of March in Christchurch" was short-listed for the same award in 2020. ... more

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