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The Truth and Lies of America's Torture Program; Ali Soufan, Author, "The Black Banners (Declassified)", is Interviewed About Tortures in America; Meritocracy and Resentment at the Heart of a Populist Way; "The Tyranny of Merit", a New Book by Michael Sandel; Michael Sandel, Author, "The Tyranny of Merit", is Interviewed About Meritocracy; Interview With Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired September 9, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The truth and the lies of America's torture program. The world learns crucial new details as the CIA finally declassifies the essential
guide. The black banners by an American hero, Ali Soufan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SANDEL, AUTHOR, "THE TYRANNY OF MERIT": Donald Trump and other figures like him had succeeded by tapping a wealth spring of anxieties,
frustrations and legitimate grievances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Rockstar philosopher, Michael Sandel, exposes the dark side of meritocracy and the resentment at the heart of that populist way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REED HASTINGS, CEO, NEFLIX: We were an emerging threat. They definitely didn't see that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Our Walter Isaacson speaks with Netflix co-founder, Reed Hastings, about how the upstart streaming service is eating Hollywood's
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The ongoing struggle between the White House and the Intelligence Community threatens to hamstring America's security on key issues from foreign
election interference to the rise of violent white nationalism. But the conflict began well before Donald Trump's presidency. Indeed, it traces
back to the George W. Bush administration with the politicization of intelligence and the buildup to the Iraq war, and the issues of torture and
other prohibited practices after 9/11.
Former FBI agent, Ali Soufan, notoriously showed up the torturers using legal interrogation techniques to uncovered crucial facts, including who
was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. He says, quite simply, torture doesn't work. Nine years ago, Soufan's memoir was heavily redacted
by the CIA. But now, after a long legal battle, the redactions are finally lifted. And in a new edition called "The Black Banners (Declassified),"
Soufan can finally expose the whole truth. And he's joining me now from New York.
Ali Soufan, welcome back to the program.
Let me just start by asking you to put your thesis and your experience into, you know, current context. We're hearing now today revelations from a
new book by Bob Woodward quoting the president himself and key people around the president that the president's intelligence, higher-ups, his
defense chiefs considered him potentially compromised by foreign powers, and "unfit" for this particular office. Also, we're hearing that he
downplayed the coronavirus to the public while admitting to Bob Woodward on tape that, in fact, it was an incredibly serious and deadly problem.
What does this signal to you, particularly in light of what you talk about, which is transparency?
ALI SOUFAN, AUTHOR, "THE BLACK BANNERS (DECLASSIFIED)": Yes, absolutely. I mean, transparency is extremely important in democracy. You know, we can't
debate issues. We can debate the war in Iraq, efficacy of torture, we can debate for an intervention, but to have any of these debates, we need to
have a mutual understanding of the truth. And unfortunately, the truth is very debased currency today in Washington.
And that did not just happen under this administration. That, unfortunately, as you correctly mentioned earlier, has been going on for
decades. Where is the accountability for the Iraq war or for the claim that Saddam was involved with 9/11?
Remember, Christiane, in the eve of the Iraq war, more than 70 percent of the American public were made to believe that Saddam was connected to the
9/11 attacks or to WMD, or he's working with Bin Laden to develop a WMD that might have a mushroom cloud over the United States, you know, as we've
been told and as, actually, Secretary Powell told the U.N. Security Council at the time based on the intelligence that they gave him.
So, where is the accountability for that? We never have accountability. We never have transparency. Anyone who agree with what the governments want,
they can say whatever they want. And anyone who disagree they might classify on. That's exactly what happened with the black banner. You know,
I was not allowed to say that torture did not work, and I was not allowed to say how we actually got information that was later claimed it was a
result of torture and waterboarding.
And today, for the first time, the world and the American public can have a front seat in the interrogation rooms when we were getting all this
information, and they can make up their mind about the efficacy of torture or if this was the right thing to do or not.
And hopefully, that can bring transparency back, bring facts back. Not alternative facts, not emotions, not partisan talking points. That's what
we need, that's what our democracy needs, and I am so grateful when I see the press breaking story after story after story and bringing transparency
to the public domain where government and entities that are supposed to oversee governments --
AMANPOUR: Ali Soufan, you know, I said in the introduction to you that, you know, you and your interrogation methods revealed crucial, crucial
facts about 9/11, revealed who the mastermind was, revealed what some of those, you know, accused 9/11 conspirators were doing and when they were
doing it and how they were doing it, and the whole conspiracy.
Tell me what is the most important reveal for you that the public should know now that those acres and acres of black bars have been removed, those
redactions have been removed from your text and from your account?
SOUFAN: Wow. A lot. I'm sure you and many of your listeners remember the dirty bomb, the so-called dirty bomb and how it was a result of
interrogation techniques and waterboarding. And now, you will see how we get information that led us to the arrest of Jose Padilla, the accused
It has nothing to do with torture, it has nothing to do with waterboarding. Information that the public heard about in the aftermath of 9/11. Plots in
New York, plots in L.A., disruption of (INAUDIBLE) in Southeast Asia, all these, you know, plots were claimed to be stopped because of torture. And
none of this information came because of torture.
The identification of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, also known as KSM, as the mastermind of 9/11, it happened when I showed Abu Zubaydah, you know, a
suspected terrorist, the wrong photo, and I said, is this the guy you're telling me about, and he looked at me and he said, no, this Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, this is Mukhtar.
He called him by Qaeda name, this is Mukhtar. This is a mastermind of the plain operations. That's how we got information, and it was so
disheartening to see some of these plots being exaggerated and then later being claimed to be the result of a program that was a total failure. Now,
the American people and the world can read the truth.
AMANPOUR: So, explain, then, what was the failure of the so-called enhanced interrogation, which many have called torture, what was the
failure of that compared to what you talk about, which is rapport building and the ability to get information like that? Because the CIA and you,
being in the FBI, you were at loggerheads a lot over your differences with the methods. So, tell me about how they did it, how you did it, and how you
got that information from Abu Zubaydah.
SOUFAN: Yes, first of all, it wasn't CIA after FBI. Many of the CIA colleagues that I had with me in the field agreed totally with what's going
on. They actually complained to their inspector general, and that's why they did a very thorough review of the program that actually found out it
did not work.
So, the thing with torture, it gives you compliance, it does not give you cooperation. When you're in doing an interrogation, you want the truth. You
don't want somebody to tell you what they think you want to hear because they want the torture to stop.
I'll give you an example of compliance. A terrorist by the name of Ebin Sheika Levi (ph), who was working with Al-Qaeda, he was caught, was taken
to a third country, was tortured, and under torture, he gave information that linked Saddam Hussein to Bin Laden, to WMD. That information made it
to Secretary Powell's speech at the U.N., naming him as a source of the information.
After we went to Iraq and we found out, first, there is no WMD, second, there is no cooperation between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, they went back to Ebin
Sheika (ph) and they said, why did you lie? And he said, well, I wanted the torture to stop. So, I told you what you wanted to hear.
Now, imagine that. That is compliance. Cooperation is getting the facts, getting the information that can lead to stop a terror plot, not a lie that
can probably send you gone around the world looking for ghosts. This is a big difference between compliance and between cooperation. Another thing,
we fight for our values.
We took an oath to protect these values and to protect our constitution, and torture is against what we stand for. And when we do it, we actually
diminish our credibility in the world. (INAUDIBLE) in Iraq and joined the insurgency in Iraq because of the photos from other great vender statements
and the speeches of Osama Bin Laden.
So, torture --
AMANPOUR: And those, of course, we remember were the terrible photos of people being, you know, humiliated, they were naked, they had so-called
electrodes, pretend electrodes attached to them. So, we know that was a really dark chapter.
I want to ask you, because the CIA itself knows and knew, even prior to 2001, that torture didn't yield results. The 2014 Senate Intelligence
Committee report said, prior to the attacks of 2001, the CIA itself determined from its own experience with coercive interrogations that such
techniques do not produce intelligence. Will probably result in false answers and had historically proven to be ineffective. Yet, these
conclusions were ignored.
I'm going to ask why you think they were ignored, but also having redacted your account, they then looked at it again and the CIA itself says that
there was no violation or risk to national security by what you were writing in your book, that there was no need to have been redacted nine
SOUFAN: Yes, and this is really interesting. I mean, this is probably why so many CIA officers, men and women colleagues, you know, who are with me
in the field disagreed with this experimentation by the contractors. And they complained, and they continue to complain back to headquarters, about
what they were seeing. And today, the reader can see that very clearly in "The Black Banners." So, it was not as some people in the agency at the
time try to make it the FBI versus the CIA.
Second, I am very grateful to the current leadership of the CIA for unredacting "The Black Banners," for practicing this act of institutional
transparency that made the people in the United States and around the world know the truth about this program. So, hopefully, when somebody, like
President Trump says, he's going to bring back waterboarding and worse than waterboarding, hopefully, when someone says something like this in the
future, the American voters and the American public will be more skeptic.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you also in terms of long-term results of torture and other prohibited practices, what does it mean? I mean, for instance,
Guantanamo Bay Prison still has people in there, and they are not angels. These are people who probably have blood on their hands but have not yet
been tried, and I wonder whether there is a problem with the evidence because some of it was achieved under torture. I mean, can these people
actually be prosecuted?
SOUFAN: Absolutely not. I mean, with everything that's going on, you've seen Khalid Sheikh Mohammed murdered more than 3,000 Americans and murdered
innocent people, and this is only if you want to, you know, focus on what he did during 9/11. And we cannot even prosecute him. We cannot even put
him in jail and give him the justice that his victims deserve.
So, this is another problem with torture. This is another problem that when we have a system and subtle flaws based on our values, on our democratic
values, and we do things that contradict these values, we're going to end up with total failure, and this is one of the issues that we're seeing
today in Guantanamo Bay that directly result of that failure.
AMANPOUR: Ali Soufan, there is a disinformation campaign against you right now, and there are many, and I think you yourself say, that it's coming
from Saudi Arabia and there are fears that it's from the same quarters that launched the initial disinformation campaign against our friend Jamal
Khashoggi before he ended up murdered and dismembered.
Now, obviously, the Saudi authorities completely deny any interference with what's happening in your case. What is going on, as far as you know? Why
are you under this threat? Are you afraid for your life?
SOUFAN: Well, in early May, I was told by the U.S. government that I am being targeted by a terrorist organization. Two days later we started to
experience a highly coordinated disinformation campaign against me that included threats and intimidations and so forth. So, my colleagues in our
firm, we do disinformation, they decided to investigate it, and we found out that this -- even though (INAUDIBLE) that was briefed by the U.S.
government, but this one specifically can be connected to folks in Saudi Arabia and even to the Saudi government.
During our investigation, we found forensic evidence that shows striking similarities between the campaign that I'm going -- you know, the campaign
against me and what happened with Jamal Khashoggi to include the same individuals, the same accounts, sometimes the same bots. Many of these bots
and accounts that participated in such attacks, more than 5,000 of them were stopped by Twitter, and Twitter basically said that they were directly
connected to an influence operation by the Saudi government.
We're still looking into this. We shared a lot of the information with the U.S. government, and the U.S. government is also looking into both the
threats and the influence operation. I have full trust with my former colleagues and the FBI and the agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies,
and I believe that they are going to be watching my back.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's hope so. Let me ask you one final question. And it's really, to me, quite stunning. You wrote recently an op-ed, actually, just
before lockdown in the "New York times." it was titled, "We Once Fought Jihadists. Now, we battle white supremacists."
You say, white supremacists today are organizing a similar fashion to jihadist terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda in the 1980s and '90s. They
transcend national barriers with recruitment and dissemination of propaganda. This is quite extraordinary. Tell me about that. I mean, are
these potential -- what we're seeing -- who are these groups that you're talking about? Should they be classified as terrorists? Describe what's
SOUFAN: They are not monolithic, but there is something in common among them. Racist, neo-Nazi, Islamophobe. You know, they call themselves
ultranationalists in some cases. They are based in many western societies and they are behaving exactly like the Jihadis behaved in the past. And
now, I believe they are in the same level as I testified in Congress where the Jihadis and Al-Qaeda were in the early '90s. They recruit in a similar
manner. They even have a place where they can build relationships, expand their global network, train, have combat experience.
The Jihadists have that place, if you remember, Christiane, and it's Afghanistan. Now, the white supremacists they have it in Ukraine. We
started to see this global network interact with each other on an operational level, and many countries in the western world are taking that
threat very seriously. Frankly, even the Trump administration in the National Security Strategy, they reference white supremacist organizations
as a threat to the national security of the United States.
So, what's going on today is we're trying to raise awareness and help people in the field have the legal tools at their fingertips in order to
shut these organizations. In the United States, unfortunately, we do not have domestic terrorism laws. It's extremely difficult to prosecutor or
arrest anyone on the ground of domestic terrorism, unlike international terrorism, where we can use a lot of flaws and tools to include material
support to stop an individual.
For example, if you're going to conduct a terrorist attack and you get stopped before, you conduct a terrorist attack and you're a white
supremacist, you can claim everything you said before is protected by the First Amendment. The fact that you have a gun when you get arrested,
they're protected by the Second Amendment, and most probably you will be relieved by a judge. In international terrorism, because of material
support, that is not going to happen.
So, we're trying to raise awareness and we're trying to help law enforcement and intelligence agencies to have the tools that they need in
order to be as effective against the white supremacists as they are against the jihadis.
AMANPOUR: Yes, and indeed, it needs vigilance, because as you say, the U.S. says it's a lethal threat that could persist for the next several
years. Ali Soufan, thank you very much, indeed.
Now, politicizing intelligence like undermining the press and ignoring scientific experts are hallmarks of the wave of populist from the
Philippines, to Britain, Latin and, of course, the United States of America. How was an elite Oxford graduate able to portray himself as a
Brexit's man of the people, for instance? How was a New York billionaire able to sell himself as the scourge of the elites?
My next guest, the celebrate philosopher, Michael Sandel, says people like Johnson and Trump tap into deep-seated grievances against the so-called
best and the brightest. Sandel argues that the ruling class in politics, in business and even at his home base at the elite institutions like Harvard
weaponized meritocracy to look in their status -- to lock in their status and devalue essential contributions of the working class. And Michael
Sandel is joining me right now.
Welcome to the program.
Let me ask you, do you think that that's a fair description? I mean, that weaponizing that sort of -- that experience to lock in people's, you know,
privilege and status right now?
MICHAEL SANDEL, AUTHOR, "THE TYRANNY OF MERIT": I do think that in recent decades, in addition to the growing inequality that we've seen, there's
been a tendency of those who landed on top to believe that they deserved their success, you know, that they made it on their own, and by implication
that those who haven't flourished, those that are less credentialed than they, must deserve their fate as well.
And this, I think, contributed to the galling sense among many working people in democratic societies that elites looked down on them. And I think
we need to make sense of this sense of resentment and attend to it if we're going to manage to stave off the wave of authoritarian populism that we're
seeing in the U.S., in Britain, and in many parts of the world.
AMANPOUR: So, your book, of course, is "The Tyranny of Merit." it also sounds a little bit counter-intuitive. If you're me sitting in, you know,
class-ridden Britain, you look at the United States and you think, wow, it's not about class, it's about merit, and if you try hard, you can
succeed. But you're saying that that now is a false narrative, that class is one thing, but also meritocracy is not what it used to be. Tell me how
you analyze the reality in that regard?
SANDEL: Right. There are two problems, Christiane, and one of them is that we don't live up to the meritocratic principles that we profess at Ivy
League universities in the U.S., for example, despite generous financial assistance for students from poor families, still, there are more students
in these places from the top 1 percent than from the entire bottom half of the country combined.
So, the opportunity to rise, individual mobility which is one of the great promises of the American dream that has attracted people around the world,
doesn't quite fit the facts on the ground. It's harder to rise in the U.S. and in Britain than in many other places, many European countries than in
Canada, that's one problem. But there's a deeper problem, which is the meritocratic ideal that if you work hard, you can rise, you can overcome
the inequality we've experienced in recent decades through individual mobility.
That ideal is flawed. At least, so I try to argue in the book. It's corrosive of the common good, because it lead the successful, those who
land on top, to believe that their success is their own doing and that they, therefore, deserve the bounty the market bestows on them, and by
implication that those on the bottom must deserve their fate as well.
And this set of attitudes, these attitudes towards success that have accompanied the growing inequality of recent decades, this, I think,
accounts for the deep resentments and anger and sense of grievance by many working people who have fueled the populist authoritarian backlash against
mainstream parties and governing elites.
AMANPOUR: It's almost like you're saying one of the key issues here is that, you know, there is this dark side. You know, if you don't make it in
America, it must be your fault. Whereas, you know, in an aristocratic class society it's just, that's the way it is and maybe people can rationalize it
So, it's about, I think, dignity, right? It's about self-worth and dignity, and we hear, you know, like books like "Depths of Despair" talk about a
terrible consequence in the lack of dignity. Do you think that's what happened, the loss of dignity?
SANDEL: Yes. I think the loss of dignity is right at the center of this, Christiane. And what's happened is, as these attitudes toward success and
failure have taken hold, the divide between winners and so-called losers has deepened, polarizing our societies, driving us apart. And a great many
working people, especially those who don't have the four-year university degree, feel that the work they do is no longer respected. It's no longer a
source of social recognition and esteem.
So, what I propose in the book is to shift from responding to inequality through the promise of individual upward mobility through getting a
university degree, which leaves out over half of our population, shifting instead to a politics-centered on dignity of work, asking ourselves not how
can we arm people for meritocratic competition and combat, but how can we make life better for people who may not have a four-year university degree
but who, nonetheless, made valuable contributions through the work they do, the service to their communities, the families they raise, so shifting our
political emphasis toward making life better and making work dignified for people who contribute in important ways regardless of how well-credentialed
they may be.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to get to that in a second. Actually, now I'll get to it because you just brought it up. I think you say credentialism is the
last remaining, you know, acceptable prejudice. Tell me what you mean.
SANDEL: Right. Well, credentialism has been fueled by what seems to be an inspiring political project. And it's important to recognize the appeal,
the alure of the meritocratic political project that says, if you want to compete and win in a global economy, get a university degree from a brand
name university if you can, because the new economy will reward you.
Now, there is an insult implicit in that seemingly inspiring promise. And the insult is this. If you don't go to college, if you don't have a
university degree, and if you're struggling in the new economy, your failure must be your fault, because you haven't acquired the credentials
that this new economy requires, not only for material success, but also for esteem, for recognition, for honor.
In many ways the political crisis we face with Trump, with authoritarian populists who appeal to these grievances, a political crisis is a crisis
about a sense of humiliation, a sense of a great many people that they are being looked down upon. Not only that their wages have stagnated, but the
work they do is no longer valued.
And unless Democratic politicians in the U.S. center left political parties generally in the U.K. and Europe, unless they find a way to address this
sense of resentment among working people, they will not be able, I'm afraid, to succeed in beating back the appeal of the authoritarian populist
figures who speak directly to that sense of grievance, humiliation and resentment.
AMANPOUR: OK, so there are two points that I want to ask you about.
One, the current Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is one of the rare presidential candidates without an Ivy League degree. He's been known for a
long time, I think, as a man of the people.
The other thing is, what about these strongmen populists -- and they all are strongmen populists -- who have said they hear the pain of the people,
but have not delivered?
What -- I mean, is there sort of a cognitive dissonance then?
SANDEL: Well, there is an enormous gap, just as you say, Christiane, between the political appeal of these so-called strongmen, populists, their
appeal to working people, and what they actually deliver.
As we have seen with the Trump administration, most his policies don't help the people he appeals to and who are the base of his support.
Beyond pointing out the hypocrisy in that, though, we have to figure out why. How can he nonetheless retain the support of people for whom he does
not provide policies that serve their interests? Why is that?
And I think it's a pretty urgent matter for us to figure that out. There must be another source of appeal that he has, or perhaps, more to the
point, a source of aversion to the center-left alternatives.
And I think it's the second. You mentioned that Joe Biden does not come from an Ivy League university. In fact, he -- it's been 30 -- he's the
first Democratic nominee in 36 years not to have an Ivy League degree.
This in itself should tell us something about the way in which, over the past four decades, those who govern, whether at the level of the presidency
or in Congress and in the parliaments of Britain in Europe increasingly have become dominated by those with university degrees.
And the effect of this is that relatively few working people any longer participate in representative government. There's been a sharp decline over
the past 40 or 50 years.
And this, too, I think, is a consequence of the credentialism. I just -- I refer to it as a kind of meritocratic hubris among the successful, that
their lustrous credentials give them a sense of dessert for reaping the rewards that the market bestows on them, whereas over half of their fellow
citizens lack those university qualifications and credentials.
And, in effect, they have -- not only has the dignity of their work been called in question, but so has their access to representative government.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you this, finally, then.
Look, you are talking about the credential of the head, the sort of -- the knowledge economy vs. the hands and the heart and working class.
But do you think sometimes moments in history can shift this dynamic? For instance, for the last six months, we have all around the world been
clapping those working-class people, those essential workers who are either in the grocery stores or driving the delivery trucks or the ambulances or
the nurses and all of those.
Those become the people who we admire the most and respect the most these days. Do you see that that has a potential to shift this dynamic?
SANDEL: Yes. I think this is a moment, this time of pandemic crisis is a moment that could be a point of turning in just this respect, because we
recognize -- those of us who work from home and hold meetings on Zoom, we recognize, finally, our deep dependence on workers we often overlook.
I'm not just thinking of people who work in the hospitals caring for COVID patients, but the delivery workers, the warehouse workers, the grocery
store clerks, the home health care providers, the child care workers.
These are not the best-paid or the most honored members of our economy or society. And yet now we realize -- we call them key workers or essential
workers. We recognize our mutual dependence in ways that we easily overlooked before this moment.
So, my hope is that we -- that this can be a time for a new public debate about the dignity of work, about how to bring about a better alignment
between the rewards, the material rewards, but also the social recognition and esteem, we accord people on whom we depend, bring that into better
alignment with the importance of the work they do, highly credentialed or not.
AMANPOUR: As you put it in the subtitle of your book, the common good, essentially.
AMANPOUR: Professor Sandel, thank you so much indeed for joining us on this vital topic. Thank you so much.
And, now, if you have been binge-watching your way through this pandemic, you are not alone. Business is booming for Netflix, which added a whopping
10 million users in this year second quarter.
Our next guest, Reed Hastings, is the co-founder and co-CEO of Netflix. He says the secret of their success is a smash-the-conventions culture. And
he's written about it in a new book called "No Rules Rules."
Here he is talking to our Walter Isaacson about that and about why he's not worried about young people becoming video addicts.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Reed, welcome to the show.
REED HASTINGS, CEO, NETFLIX: A real treat, Walter. Thank you.
ISAACSON: You have just come out with a book called "No Rules Rules."
It's based on a slideshow you once did on a reinvention, how to create a culture of reinvention. Part of it is only having A players, as Steve Jobs
would say. Explain that to me.
HASTINGS: Well, the book is really about employee freedom.
More than most companies, we try to create a climate where employees can make decisions, including impactful, big decisions. And it's a whole system
around, how do you have great employee freedom, no rules and not have chaos?
Because the benefit is that you get great flexibility and adaptation.
Now, you asked about, how do you have great players, hiring A players? Everyone tries to hire A players. That's pretty consistent across many
What they don't do or do unevenly is let people go. And what we say is, we're a team, like a professional sports team, not like a family. We want
great players in every position, because that's the only way we have a chance of winning the championship, of pleasing our members around the
world with incredible entertainment.
ISAACSON: You say that there should be no rules, so that people can flourish, set their own rules and do their things.
What happens during a pandemic, when people aren't coming into the office? Is that a problem?
HASTINGS: It's worked as well as you can. It's not as good as being together in person.
But our employees have sacrificed tremendously to do their work. It's been so hard for those who live alone or those who have young kids at home, and
they really leaned in.
But, like everyone, I can't wait until this COVID thing is done.
ISAACSON: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected Netflix's way of doing business?
HASTINGS: We're doing all the things that everyone else is doing, is living on videoconferences and getting through it.
But the big thing is, when people are locked up at home, they really would need great entertainment. They want to escape. And so we have been very
fortunate to grow. In the first half of the year, we grew from about 170 million to about 195 million households subscribing to Netflix.
So we have been very fortunate, like Home Depot or Amazon, that, in this crisis, our business has increased.
ISAACSON: You have talked about competition. Who is your real competition? And what sideways threats, to use a phrase in your book, do you worried
HASTINGS: You know, what we have really talked about internally with our employees is, we're really good at executing on the current business.
And Disney+ is also really good at Disney. And we will both do really well, as we have great models.
But the dangerous threats are often the subtle substitutes, say that TikTok continues growing for five or 10 years or YouTube and that they do more and
more professional-like entertainment, or video gaming companies do more longer form, where there's real story in there, and become very compelling.
So, we can be outcompeted by non-premium entertainment companies just as well as we can be outcompeted by premium entertainment.
ISAACSON: How did you and Ted Sarandos, co-CEO, decide at some point you were going to be a content business?
HASTINGS: Well, we had always been an entertainment business right from the beginning, when we started on DVD by mail.
And what our book shows is how you can evolve. Our particular evolution was DVD to streaming. But every business faces that, if you really invest in
the openness and the flexibility of culture.
I mean, Blockbuster was actually a very well-run company that was the best in the world at video stores. And then they just couldn't make the leap to
going into streaming.
So, this can happen to almost any company. And what the book really illustrates is, you want to be preparing for that long in advance.
ISAACSON: And tell us about that somewhat famous meeting you had with the Blockbuster CEO. And what did you learn from that meeting?
HASTINGS: What I learned is how hard it is to see emerging threats.
We were an emerging threat. They definitely didn't see that. And it was only 10 years later when they were bankrupt, and we were grown, that
everyone else could see it.
ISAACSON: And I think was one of my former bosses, Jeff Bewkes, said something that he wasn't going to worry about you. You were like the
Were a lot of people who didn't see the threats?
And in Jeff Bewkes' case, it's most interesting because very sophisticated guy, very thoughtful. And he was the one with the AOL/Time Warner merger
that had been against it. He was the one that saved the company afterwards, because he saw correctly at that time that the Internet was bunked.
But what happens is, yes, it was at that time, in the year 2000. But, 20 years later, the Internet is really capable of television. So, sometimes,
you overlearn one lesson that, 10 years later, there's a different answer to.
ISAACSON: You have recently gotten more into nonfiction as well. Was that something that surprised you that it turned out to be a good line of work?
HASTINGS: I mean, "Tiger King," "The Last Dance" with Michael Jordan we did with ESPN, there's so many great nonfiction stories, "Indian
Matchmaking" another amazing one.
So, no, we always thought we would expand into that, just as we have into stand-up comedy, frankly, into film, because we started on original series
So, we're now covering the gamut. And one of the big challenges ahead is, can we get better than Disney at family animation? So they have had 100
years. That's their core. And for us to get better than them, we hope over five 10 years, will be quite a challenge.
But those are the kind of ambitious challenges that we love.
ISAACSON: When you look at the differences, experiences and you try to make people come together, sometimes, the cultures are so divisive or so
And you have had to make some accommodations, especially in Saudi Arabia at one point on a comedy series. To what extent do you want to make those
accommodations and make sure everybody can be in the tent with you? And to what extent do you want to make sure you're sharing visions?
HASTINGS: It's really extraordinary, around the world, the content that we're able to carry.
Broadcast television in most countries around the world is highly regulated and quite constrained. And we have got shows like "Queer Eye" and "Sex
Education" and "Orange Is the New Black" on our service in Indonesia, in Saudi Arabia, all over the world.
So, when you're dealing in fiction, you really get license to explore, again, different worlds. And that's what really helps people grow and
ISAACSON: What's coming up with the deal that you have with Barack Obama?
HASTINGS: Oh, well, we have an overall production deal with Barack and Michelle Obama. And you saw Michelle's documentary "Becoming."
Their film "American Factory" won an Oscar last year. So you have seen lots of great work from them, again, not political, really human interest.
And then we just did another big deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and same kind of thing. We want to do broadly entertaining things that
really bring people together to see a new story.
ISAACSON: You moved some of your money into black-owned banks.
And I know you're friends with Bill Bynum. You have worked with him through the Aspen Institute and other places.
To what extent do you see corporations having a role to play in this period, where we're wrestling with civil rights, in order to say, here's
where we stand?
HASTINGS: Well, in the United States, we have a tremendous gap between average black family wealth and average white family wealth, about a
And part of that is legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and many other things. And black banks, because they back blank businesses and families, don't
have as much money. And so by putting 1 or 2 percent of every company's assets, depositing them in black banks, we increase the capital in black
banks, which increases the lending, which grows the economy, and we can start to close the wealth gap between black and white families.
And when you close the wealth gap, you start to close the power gap.
ISAACSON: And how might you be doing that with your product from Netflix?
HASTINGS: You know, our product is really for entertainment.
So we have "BlackAF" from Kenya Barris. And it's a hilarious, but also sort of social commentary title. Or we have "13th" by Ava DuVernay about the
history of mass incarceration. So we have a broad range of content.
But our fundamental aspect as Netflix is to be incredibly entertaining.
ISAACSON: One of the things I have known about you that's probably not as well-known is how you deeply study values. You love these seminars and ways
of discussing values with people.
To what extent have your values influenced the type of things you do, both in business and in the content you create?
HASTINGS: Well, I think having a clear sense of your own values and your firm's values are really important.
And with our employees, we have developed clarity around that about what we want to represent to consumers and what we don't. We're not in sports, even
though sports is very enjoyable. We're not in video games, even though that's very enjoyable. We're not in news, even though that's very
So we're really focused on series and films and trying to be the absolute best in the world at it, and then to grow to be able to entertain the whole
world. That would be such an accomplishment.
ISAACSON: And one of those things that you said at one point that you weren't into was that it wasn't your role to be telling truth to power. Was
that a little bit of an overstatement? And have you rethought that?
HASTINGS: Well, one version of truth to power is, that's when you have real journalists that sometimes go to jail, sometimes are killed.
Journalism's a super serious business. So, what we do is, certainly, there's truth in all entertainment. And there's aspects of truth to power,
but I don't want to pretend that what we do is as dangerous or as important as journalism.
ISAACSON: One of the rules that you have in your great new book involves humility, which is that you should never crow about any success you may
have had. And you also, when you make mistakes, you should be up front and talk about those.
To what extent have you talked openly about certain mistakes you have made?
HASTINGS: Well, within the company, we're very big on that of sharing things that could be better, not for the purpose of humiliation or
something negative, but from the sense of learning and growth.
We learn the most when people give us feedback. And the funny thing is, even for me, with all this success, when someone gives me negative
feedback, it still hurts. It's -- and then I try to remember, oh, it's like doing crunches or pushups. And I know those last ones hurt, but those are
the ones that make you strong.
And it's the same thing with feedback. And so I'm better now at just absorbing the feedback, feeling the pain still, but recognizing, that's
what makes me better.
ISAACSON: You write in your book about your wonderful mother and the family you grew up in, but being in a household in which emotions weren't
really discussed that much.
And then you talk about your early marriage and being in couples training. To what extent does that inform the way you operate and the way you wrote
these rules for Netflix?
HASTINGS: Growing up, I was a typical restrained family, or maybe that was just my orientation.
And I write in the book that I learned a lot about honesty from our marriage counselor, which he really helped me see that I was systematically
lying. I would say things like, family is the most important thing, and then I would stay at work late at night.
And he helped me to see that this was bad for me, and I should really learn to be very honest and self-reflective and self-aware. And that has helped
tremendously in my marriage. And we just celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary.
But, surprisingly, it's also helped a lot at Netflix. And, as a leader, I realize, if I can set a good example of being honest and open and curious,
then we will attract people like that, and then the whole company can grow, as we have from DVD by mail, to streaming to original content.
ISAACSON: You're a longtime board member at Facebook. You're friends with Sheryl Sandberg and to some extent Mark Zuckerberg.
Do you ever talk to them about the values you adhere to and how Facebook might, in some ways, either intentionally or unintentionally, be
undermining some of those values?
HASTINGS: Well, Mark and Sheryl take their responsibilities very seriously. And they're definitely wrestling with the effects in society.
And every new technology that's important has downsides. And they and the society, Twitter, YouTube, all the user-generated -- TikTok -- are
wrestling with, how do you mostly be for the good and mitigate the bad?
ISAACSON: But the algorithms you build in to your system help people connect with the entertainment they like the most.
The algorithms in a place like Facebook tend to reinforce and at times inflame or enrage people. Do you think it's not just a small problem, but a
systemic flaw in the way some of these social media sites are built?
HASTINGS: It's a challenge that they have. And, really, they're the ones you should probably ask about that, because we get the joy of just focusing
on our members and sort of, in some sense, an easier problem, which is, how do you give people great entertainment that they're going to rave about?
ISAACSON: And how much do you worry about the amount of time especially young people these days are spending online and how the algorithms for all
types of online things tend to be addictive in a way?
HASTINGS: When you think about the roots of television and the beginning of TV, people used to say in the 1960s, oh, TV is awful, it's going to
wreck society. That didn't happen.
Before that, it was rock 'n' roll was going to wreck society. So I have a lot of confidence that youth will learn how to adapt and become digital
natives, and all of these things will be channeled to the positive.
ISAACSON: What rules did you have for your kids?
HASTINGS: The book that we're launching today, it's called "No Rules Rules," so you can guess I'm not a big person for rules.
I'm a big person for principles and understanding and experiences. So, we had very few. I can't think of any rules for our kids, but they did grow up
15 years ago, so it was an easier time than today.
ISAACSON: Reed, thanks so much for joining us.
HASTINGS: Walter, what a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Fascinating conversation.
And, finally tonight, from sports to the big screen, the times, they are indeed a changing. At the U.S. Open, tennis champion Naomi Osaka is turning
the center code into a protest space, her face mask bearing the names of victims who have triggered the protests against racial injustice, people
like Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, and Breonna Taylor.
And their families are grateful. Listen up.
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MARCUS ARBERY, FATHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: Naomi, I just want to tell you, thank you for the support of my family. And God bless you for what you're
doing and you are supporting our family.
SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well. Continue to kick butt at the U.S. Open.
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AMANPOUR: Later, Osaka told reporters those messages almost overwhelmed her.
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NAOMI OSAKA, PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: I was just trying really hard not to cry.
But, for me, it's a bit surreal and it's extremely touching that they would feel touched by what I'm doing. For me, I feel like what I'm doing is
nothing. It's a speck of what I could be doing.
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AMANPOUR: And what she is going to be doing is playing in the semifinals on Thursday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center out there in New
Meantime, over in La La Land, the Oscars are announcing that they will only consider movies for best picture if they pass four new diversity standards.
They will come into force in 2024. And the new goals will try to give a boost to underrepresented groups on screen and behind the camera, all
building on a diversity push that began under the Academy's former president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who took the 2015 hashtag protest Oscar So
Join us tomorrow for my interview with superstar Chinese pianist Lang Lang. He gives us our own mini-concert all the way from Beijing.
And we're going to leave you now with a little preview of that.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.
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