Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper Professor of American History and Affiliate Professor of Law at Harvard University and a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she writes about politics,…
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The election of 1952 brought all kinds of new technology into the political sphere. The Eisenhower campaign experimented with the first television ads to feature an American presidential candidate. And on election night, CBS News premiered the first computer to predict an American election — the UNIVAC. Safe to say, that part didn’t go according to plan. But election night 1952 is ground zero for our current, political post-truth moment. If a computer and a targeted advertisement can both use heaps data to predict every citizen’s every decision, can voters really know things for themselves after all?