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19th Anniversary of 9/11 Terrorist Attacks; U.S. Trying to End Longest War with Taliban in Afghanistan; How the Taliban Treats Afghan Women; Gaisu Yari, Commissioner, Afghanistan's Civil Service Commission, and Orzala Nemat, Director, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, are Interviewed About 9/11 and the Taliban; Universal Health is Key to American Freedom; The Social Dilemma; Interview With Author Timothy Snyder. Aired 2- 3p ET
Aired September 11, 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.
On this 9/11 anniversary, the U.S. tries to forge a peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan. But my first guest tells me the stakes for Afghan women are
Then after his own brush with death, author and historian, Timothy Snyder, tells me why Americans can't be truly free without free health care.
Plus -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people think Google is just a search box and Facebook is just a place see what my friends are doing. What they don't
realize is there's entire teams of engineers whose job is to use near psychology against you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The documentary exposing the dark underbelly of social media. Our Hari Sreenivasan talks to film Jeff Orlowski and to former Google
executive, Tristan Harris.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour.
19 years after 9/11, it is again time to take stock. This morning, New York city fell silent to mark the moment the attacks took place.
It was a tragic day that killed almost 3,000 Americans and yet, that figure is now dwarfed by more than 190,000 killed this year by COVID. It was the
day that launched America and its allies into Afghanistan, when 9/11 was planned and plotted to take down Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. And now, this
year, the U.S. is trying to end what became its longest war ever.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is spending this anniversary trying to nail down a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Even
before 9/11, the Taliban was known for its harsh, abusive treatment of Afghan women. And it is the women, who today, that have the most to lose
after 19 years of fighting and winning many rights.
Joining me now are two Afghan women who refuse to go backwards. From London, Dr. Orzala Nemat, an Afghan activist and scholar. And from Kabul,
Gaisu Yari. She's a commissioner for Afghanistan Civicl Service Commission.
Ladies, welcome both to the program.
And it's really important to talk to you because, as I say, most of what people ever knew about Afghanistan was about women. So, tell me, Gaisu from
Kabul, tell me what was happening to you, do you remember this day, 9/11, 19 years ago? Where were you? What was going on then?
GAISU YARI, COMMISSIONER, AFGHANISTAN'S CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION: Christiane, thank you very much for having me. It is -- I'm not sure if I
totally remember what had happened. And I remember that I was in Jaghori District, Ghazni Province of Afghanistan where I was a kid going to school
and probably didn't know the world enough but only knew BBC Radio to listen to the news, that's it.
Probably I don't remember enough but I do remember a little bit of my childhood and how I spend my time to walk about three or four hours to get
to school and come back, at least, during the Taliban time, there was a compromise between the Taliban and Jaghori Disctrict that the schools were
open until 6 through 8 So, I went during Taliban time but not with the school uniform, of course, but with our local home dress.
AMANPOUR: And of course, as you say, only to sixth grade, and then they prevented girls from going to school. And many girls had to go to a secret
school undercover. Yes?
YARI: Yes. So, we were allowed to go to school until sixth grade, and then after sixth grade to 12th grade, it was in a secret space where the Taliban
didn't know where they were located, but they still continued school, yes.
AMANPOUR: Orzala Nemat, what do you remember about that time? You were, I think, a refugee at that time in Pakistan, having fled, you know, previous
bouts of violence and war.
ORZALA NEMAT, DIRECTOR, AFGHANISTAN RESEARCH AND EVALUATION UNIT: Absolutely, Christiane. At that time, on the exact day of 11th of
September, I was actually, coincidentally, in Spain, Madrid, receiving an award for the recognition of my work inside Afghanistan organizing
underground literacy home-based classes.
So, coincidentally, I got -- instead of being away from Afghanistan but speaking and advocating in a time where education, as Gaisu mentioned, was
completely forbidden from Taliban, organizing plan this time (ph) or underground home-based classes in Afghanistan and talking about it in the
world. I thought back again that if I, instead of carry this message that we are still resisting through educating and enlightening women and girls
of an older age, because (INAUDIBLE) were fine but it was poor girls in their teens that -- so, I remember very well that as they and the aftermath
of what happened --
AMANPOUR: Gaisu, I want to ask you because your story is pretty dramatic. At 6 years old, I think, you were promised in marriage. Tell me your story.
What happened to you, how you avoided that fate.
YARI: It's a tragic story, of course. It's a memory that will always live with me, Christiane. It's hard to avoid. But however, I usually try to
change the story from a negative to a positive to give me more energy to help women in the country.
I was forced to get engaged to a warlord's son whose father was controlling the area during the civil war, and, of course, my grandfather had farms,
and this warlord wanted to have control over the farms. And because he wanted to marry my older sister, my sister ignored and also fled the
district and I was the only option remained for my father to compromise. So, my father didn't want the farm to be taken, but he was ready, by force,
to give me to his son. I was engaged when I was four to 6 years old.
During the Taliban in 2000, he kidnapped my father because my older sister refused to marry him, and my older sister left the district. So, my father
didn't come back. However, I worked as a local journalist in a radio station when I was in the tenth grade. With a lot of obstacles and the
district in that time, of course I received a letter from the Taliban that I shouldn't talk in the radio, of course, from my fiance, I was forced to
So, two months before my marriage ceremony, I go the opportunity to leave the country without telling anybody, I left the country, although, I knew
that my father is not going to come back. So, my mother, I believe, is a very strong woman who has 10 children, tried to manage everything
altogether while this warlord had pressure on the family for my return, which didn't happen and I skipped the marriage and I stayed in the United
States for at least nine or 10 years.
AMANPOUR: Well, we mustn't forget that you were helped to flee by American soldiers who, by that time, had come to Afghanistan and, you know, the
effort to get rid of and sustain the, you know -- yes?
YARI: Not sure if -- I don't know the credit would go to whom, but we did have a new governor coming to the district, and there was a project -- USA,
the project called the Provincial Reconstruction Team, which was PRT. They were working in the provincial level. There was this group of soldiers came
with the governor, and I was the announcer of that program because I was a journalist. Not a journalist, of course, a trained journalist working in
the local radio. They wanted to present a woman who is going to talk in that world coming event.
So, I was introduced to women. The first woman was Diana, but I don't remember the second person. They asked me if I'm happy to live in here in
the Jaghori District. I told them that I am but I couldn't tell them my story. But they sense me -- I don't think they knew my story when they sent
me to a (INAUDIBLE) in Washington, D.C. in 2007.
So, while I used that opportunity and I knew that if I returned back to the district, I'll be forced to marry this guy, Sandwich (ph). I was trying to
ignore and flee because he wouldn't -- I knew that he is not going to bring my father back.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me just say just to sort of sum up, you, then, managed to get to the United States, you went to university, you got your
degrees. And Orzala, you were in the U.K. at some point and that's where you, right here, got your degrees and became educated and were launched,
both of you, onto a kind of life that you could have had without the U.S. intervention and without, you know, getting rid of the Taliban at that
What -- tell me how -- did you ever think that your lives would be so intertwined with the United States and how -- explain to people what that
presence gave you and gave women in Afghanistan and what might happen, you know, if the Taliban aren't heavily constrained going forward?
NEMAT: Well, the tragedy of this post 9/11 reality is that on the one hand, it opened -- like us, like me, like Gaisu, and probably thousands and
probably millions of Afghan girls and also boys. We got enormous opportunities to explore our skills, to get further educated. I have my PhD
from a university here in the U.K., and there are so many Afghan young women who have their masters and PhD degrees and also men who are now
actively serving in their countries and helping their people.
This is very significant achievement, probably unprecedented in a way if you compare it even with the pre-war Afghanistan. From the far -- in the
remote areas of Afghanistan, from different classes of people. So, going abroad for studying and learning has no longer been a business limited to
the elites of (INAUDIBLE) community. Everyone managed to send their daughters and sons across ethnicities, across, you know, tribes, across
regions. Afghan young men and women got educated. This is a great achievement.
But with this intervention also came a lot of problems. On the top of this has been the war that did not end, the violence that continued to remain
persistent across the country, and the civilian casualties, both by the American international forces and by the anti-government forces, that as to
this day continuing to kill people.
So, on the one hand, the intervention has sort of bringing us a significant achievement. I, as someone who was very active during the Taliban, you have
a living example of that also in girls like Gaisu who have been able to get educated thanks to the women who were working and operating and also men
who were working and operating under the Taliban regime trying to challenge it in a very quiet and not sort of noisemaking way back then, because it
was a very oppressive regime situation.
And then, we had those opportunities open, but then corruption spreads, violence continued and a lot of challenges in terms of continuation of
gender-based discrimination that to this day we are dealing with. We do have --
AMANPOUR: Orzala, let me ask you, then, obviously you want the war to end. Everybody wants the war to end. The United States wants to, you know,
withdraw, the Afghan people want the Taliban to stop attacking the government and to stop attacking, you know, civilians. Do you believe that
this peace process that is underway between the Afghan government and the Taliban with the U.S. backing it will bring you peace? And particularly for
women. You know, the Taliban has said the rights of women granted by Islam will be respected. Is that something that you can trust, you know, in any
kind of peace accord?
NEMAT: The Taliban so far proved their -- and their expertise causing atrocity. Not only during their ruling but also during the so-called War of
Resistance, as they call, the war anti-American and anti-government war in the post-2001 context.
The Taliban are known for being savage, are known for being violent and for creating an atmosphere of terror and fear. Now, I think the largest
challenges ahead of them to become -- you know, to prove to the Afghan people that they are becoming peaceful and that they are becoming serious
about the peach talks. People like myself and many of my generation are having their doubts. Why? Because we have seen how overnight things have
changed in Afghanistan because we are subject to regional and global interventions throughout our history.
So, now, we don't have a fortress in the situation and whether this is actually going to result to a real and sustainable and lasting peace, but
we are, at least, are desiring that, because with the presence of violence, it will be very difficult to continue living in Afghanistan, it would be
very difficult to think of progressing our country and our themselves in the future.
AMANPOUR: Gaisu, you know, I covered Afghanistan a lot before, during, after 9/11, and I did a lot of work on women's rights and on little girls.
And I remember going to a prison in Kabul where young women were put into prison partly for their own protection because they were fleeing either
abusive partners or fleeing forced marriages. And I talked to some of these girls in the prison.
And then I talked to another group of girls, including a 10-year-old, who had already been married off with other women to a man who was, you know,
double and triple her age. This was the encounter I had with that little girl. I just want to play it and then talk to you about it in a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Pay Kai (ph) is only10.
Why did you get married so young?
PAI KAI (through translator): Our family was bankrupt. So, to pay off our debts, my father offered me to a man we owed money to.
AMANPOUR: What did you think when you understood that your father was giving you to this man to pay off his debt?
PAI KAI (through translator): I was very sad, but I couldn't do anything.
AMANPOUR: Pai Kai, does your husband try to have children with you?
PAI KAI (through translator): Yes.
AMANPOUR: Have you ever understood happiness? Have you ever known happiness?
PAI KAI (through translator): No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's really, really very tragic, that story, and obviously, there have been so much improvement, but for many, particularly in rural
and very traditional parts of Afghanistan, as you describe, Gaisu, things are still very difficult for young girls. And, you know, she has a similar
story to you, you were betrothed at the age of six.
What happens outside Kabul, which is full of internationals, which is much more developed than the rest of the country? How much at risk do you think
girls will be if the Taliban come into any kind of political power in the future?
YARI: Christiane, this is a very good question to be asked. From the international partners who are -- have a commitment to have women in the
country, yes. If we're trying sometimes, in the past, try to victimize women a lot. Especially forced marriage was one of the cases that was more
often coming in the international media.
So, we did have some development in the past years in terms of forced marriage, raising awareness, sending girls to education. However, I am part
of this campaign and we are collecting a lot of stories from the provinces, very poor distance areas that mothers don't want their daughters to stop
school. And then you're receiving stories from provinces that are under the Taliban control, and they don't allow their daughters to go to school.
For instance, in Ghazni District, which I am from and the (INAUDIBLE), which is about two months ago from 10 districts, there was no woman who
graduated from high school to (INAUDIBLE) exam. This is disastrous. For women who have a desire to get an education, this is concerning. However,
it is going to be changed with the peace negotiation.
What happens when the Taliban come in? But what I believe a lot of women in the country believe is that the current system is benefitting somehow
women, and we did have a lot of achievements. We do have -- for my job that I'm working in, we do have more than 200 women working in delivery
positions in the civil service of Afghanistan across the country, not only in Kabul.
So, if we don't send girls to schools so that they can enter the labor force, and say we send them to forced marriage in the long-term for
Afghanistan's development, it would be very concerning. But I think one point that is very important for the international community to focus is
that, that we are not ready to give up. We are not ready to lose the achievement that we have had in the past for almost 20 years now.
So, if -- yes, we do want peace in the country, but are we going to -- with the price of losing women's rights or the achievements we have had in the
past two decades is a great question to think.
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed. Gaisu Yari and Orzala Nemat, thank you so much for joining us on this 9/11 anniversary. Thank you so much.
And on this day, President Trump has announced that another Arab country is normalizing relations with Israel. And we'll be covering the White House
ceremony on our program next week.
Now, as we said, coronavirus has killed 64 times more Americans than were killed during the 9/11 attacks. And the pandemic is casting a harsh light
on America's health care system. That dysfunctional system nearly cost my next guest his life. He's the author and Yale history professor, Timothy
Snyder. His book, "Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary," takes the reader through his own near-death experience and argues that
universal health care is in fact key to American freedom. And Timothy Snyder is joining me now from Vienna.
Welcome back to the program.
You know, it really sounds awful what happened to you, and you've diarized it and you've put it in this book. Tell me about how you came to think that
what happened to you, you know, was part of a much, much bigger problem that you needed to write about.
TIMOTHY SNYDER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, YALE UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR, "OUR MALADY: LESSONS IN LIBERTY FROM A HOSPITAL DIARY": Well, when I was so sick that I
couldn't move, I had lots of time to think. There were days where I couldn't do much else but think and watch what was going on around me. What
was happening to me was that thanks to a series of medical mistakes, a condition which should have been treated, as you were kind enough to say,
almost killed me.
What was happening around me taught me that the things that looked to me at first like mistakes or like coincidences or like bad luck were actually
part of a larger system, that I was getting, you know, as a very privileged person most of the time, a look into a system which is fundamentally based
upon profit and based upon inequality.
So, what I tried to do was take notes of the things that were happening to me, things I saw happening to other people, and make a diagnosis. And the
diagnosis basically is this, that we have a notion of freedom which is just too narrow, which is just too thin. If we don't think about our bodies when
we talk about freedom, then other people are going to think about our bodies as a way to make profit. And before we know it, the thing which we
need to be free people fundamentally, our health, is bought and sold. So, that's the basic idea.
AMANPOUR: Before I get into some more of that, I want to just ask you, you know, this happened to you at the end of last year, 2019. Are you fully
recovered? How do you feel?
SNYDER: Well, that's very kind of you to ask. I'm not fully recovered, but I feel very good all the same. It sounds a little bit silly to say it, but
I'm happy to be alive. I appreciate sounds and smells and tastes and all these other things which I was taking for granted for a long time. I'm
feeling really well, thank you.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you know, you saw a health care system, and let's just, you know, list some of the issues, where life expectancy is falling, infant
and maternal mortality is high, profits are valued more than outcomes, you say.
I guess I want to understand, and American people will want to understand, and the people around the world, when you say that without access to proper
health care, you could not expect to have a proper democracy, a proper set of freedoms. Put those two together. Why not and how would it be rectified?
SNYDER: I think that's a really essential question for we Americans, and it's something that Americans take for granted and that puzzles the rest of
the world. We take for granted that health and health care is somehow a matter for the left, and that liberty, freedom, that language is somehow a
matter for the right, and we let them get separated. But common sense tells us, and my experience in the hospital brought this home, you can't really
be free without health.
When I was too weak to talk, I didn't have freedom of speech. When I was too weak to move, I didn't have freedom of assembly. And when I thought I
was going to die and my thinking was about all the futures that were closing off to me, then I wasn't free at all because freedom is about
thinking about the possibilities that you and the people you care about have in the future.
Now, if you extend that thought from one person to a society, you start to see many ways that Americans are unfree. It's the case, as you say, that we
die too often, we die too early and not just during pandemics, but more than that, we're anxious and fearful all the time because we don't know if
we're going to have access to health care. Too many of us can't go to the hospital because we can't afford it. That's simply wrong.
But even those of us who have decent insurance, like me, are caught in a system where we know that somewhere in our hearts that we're getting care
but someone else is not. We're in a competitive system where there just shouldn't be competition. And that makes us less free, it also makes us
less patriotic, because it means in these fundamental situations of life and death, instead of thinking about ourselves as one society, we're
thinking about who has privilege and who doesn't have privilege.
More than that, freedom and health go together because we can't be a free country as a whole unless we can all look around and say, everybody who's
an American is going to fundamentally have the same basis. cover. People talk about freedom of opportunity. That's fine. Opportunity includes the
same right to health, the same chances from childhood to adulthood that everyone has. When we look around and see that everyone has the same
chances, we feel better about ourselves as a country, but we're also certainly more free.
AMANPOUR: I wonder whether you can tell people where you see the solutions and what country your government gets it right. You're there in Vienna. I
know you do a lot of your research there. Where do you see democracies getting it right in terms of propping up democracy by an equal access
health care system?
SNYDER: I think the word democracy here is very important because it does strike me that in a sick situation, like the one America is in right now,
where there is so much anxiety and fear and pain, almost all of it unnecessary. This is actually a threat to democracy. If you have too much
pain and anxiety inside the system, it's very hard for people to think in terms of their own interests, in terms of the future, and those are the
kinds of things that are necessary for a democracy.
In general, democracies do much better than the United States in health care. No system is perfect, but if we think back a couple generations,
Americans lived about as long as people in other development countries, that's no longer true. We're now giving away three, four, five years, and
that's a long time. I mean, that's a long time to miss with your children or your grandchildren, those five years. And the gap has grown because
fundamentally in countries of comparable wealth, for example European countries, health care is acknowledged as something to which everyone
should have access.
If you begin from that premise, you're not going to build a perfect system. No system is perfect. But you can build a system like people do have in
many countries do in Europe where you're not anxious because you know that you're going to get care, and you're not fearful because you know that the
care you get is not going to be a matter of how much access you have or how much money you have or who you know.
So, for Europeans this is all obvious, I'm afraid, but for Americans it's very important to see that the world is actually full of systems that work
much better than ours. And while we're on the subject, the systems that work much better than ours also cost an awful lot less than ours do.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, yes. I mean, there are taxes and other issues that provide those systems for the people. But I want to ask you, because
clearly this has been exposed during the COVID pandemic. Your case was not a case of COVID. This happened way before that. But when you look at the
Americans', you know, record, you got 4 percent of the world's population and yet 25 percent, about, of the current world's caseload and deaths due
And we've also seen what you're talking about, exposed, in terms of how its, you know, hit minority communities so much more than others. And to
that, I want to ask you to broaden this out a little bit in terms of the sort of racial equality question that we're going through. President Trump
was speaking about this to the author and journalist, Bob Woodward, and he quoted President Trump, in terms of getting him on tape, talking about
inequality and race relations that are underway right now. I just want to play this and we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "RAGE" Do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave to a certain extent, as it put me, and I
think lots of white, privileged people in a cave and that we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly black
people feel in this country. Do you --
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: No. You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn't you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don't feel that at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he rejected totally the idea that there was privilege and a lack of privilege.
What is your response to that? I guess I ask you for several reasons. But, also, how do you cure this malady that you have written about, if leaders
are not willing to accept this two-system America?
SNYDER: Yes, I mean, the first thing that I want to say is that my time in the emergency room in the hospital was a clear reminder of just how wrong
Mr. Trump is about all of that.
The third time I went to the hospital, the time when I was closest to dying, I had a friend with me, and that friend was a hotshot doctor. And
the problem, though, was the it was midnight on a Saturday night. And that friend was also a black woman.
And being the black woman ended up counting more than being the doctor. And so, for just a flash, as she was ignored and neglected and mocked, even
though she was the right person in the right place at the right time, just for a flash, I could see the things that she and other African-Americans
are going through all the time in this system.
If we look at Mr. Trump and the pandemic, I think his comments there are very revealing. We know that Mr. Trump knew that the pandemic was going to
be deadly. We also know that, soon after that, they took the decision in the White House to allow the disease to spread in the blue states, that is,
where black people live and brown people live, on the logic that they could then blame the governors and that these weren't our people anyway.
That, of course, was a terrible strategy on its own. And it backfires because of the nature of the virus. And now people are dying all over the
country. And we're in the situation where Mr. Trump's only hope for winning reelection, which he has to do, is taking the pain -- from his point of
view, I mean, is taking the pain and anxiety which is caused by all this unnecessary death and twisting it around and turning it and pointing it in
This is a way that a public health crisis can bring down a democracy.
I think the way to solve this to think big, not in terms of minor repairs. I think the way to solve this is to remind Americans that not only can
things be much better than they were before the pandemic; they can be much better than they were before 2016; they can be much better than we actually
understand, that we can have a broader sense of freedom that includes health, and that we can build institutions where we can allow us not only
to avoid this kind of crisis, but also allow us to avoid the political pain that comes along with this kind of crisis.
We do have a national malady. Our malady is that we die too soon, we die of the wrong things, and we often died tragically for terrible, terrible
reasons. And part of that malady is the racial and inequality of wealth that's become entrenched.
Building back up a new system on the basis of universal access and fundamentally on the basis that we all have a right to care can create an
America in which we're much freer. And we need -- I think the way forward is to have a vision of a future that's like that, not minor repairs of the
past, but a radically better vision of a radically better America.
AMANPOUR: Timothy Snyder, just picking up on something you said, proof how a health crisis, a pandemic can bring down a democracy, right, this unequal
health care that you're talking about.
And yet it's interesting, because we look at some of the populist nationalist leaders who are suffering the wrath of their people because of
the way they dealt with coronavirus, I mean, President Trump and his polls, Boris Johnson and his polls. Look at even Lukashenko in Belarus. The
opposition leader said that it was because of his response to COVID that it got people out onto the streets, Jair Bolsonaro, Duterte.
All these strongmen are being criticized by their people because of their response to COVID, while the president and the chancellor of Germany or New
Zealand or South Korea, all the Scandinavian countries, which have responded much better -- and the figures show it -- are doing better.
I just wonder whether you think that this is a moment where some of this nationalism, this populism, this strongman authoritarianism may be
compromised because they're dealing with a fundamental health issue?
SNYDER: Yes, I agree completely.
First of all, thanks for mentioning Belarus, which is one of the most interesting countries in the world right now, not least because, as you
say, it was the realization of Belarusian women and Belarusian men that they had to deal with COVID themselves that may have been the final straw
that made people realize, not only that their government was hopelessly corrupt, but also that they could do something for themselves.
Now, with the populism. I agree with you completely, because what we're calling populism is based upon the idea that a leader can spin a myth and
that we're going to trade our reality for that myth.
This modern -- this modern nationalism that we have, of which Mr. Trump is such a good example, involves trading away factual reality for a kind of
day-to-day, often digitalized, emotional reinforcement.
That works so long as the nationalists and the populists get to manufacture their own crises. But when they face a real crisis involving the real
world, they, of course, fail.
And, here, I agree with you. Mr. Trump is failing democratically. The problem is that he's intelligent, and he's aware that he's failing
democratically. He knows that, from this point forward, he doesn't really have a chance of putting together an electoral coalition.
What he has left is the possibility of using the anger of the economy and the anger of the disease and other sorts of resentment in this country to
spoil an election and to create chaos.
So, he's certainly paid a political price. Now he's backed into a corner, and that's why we're facing the very rough situation we will be facing in
the next few weeks.
AMANPOUR: One minute left.
Timothy Snyder, you have done a lot of work on Russian interference in the American elections and the American system. But from the perspective of
American countering that, do you feel that there are still big gaps, or has the U.S. intelligence and everything else responded to this constant
SNYDER: There are still enormous gaps. There are two big gaps in consciousness. One, of course, is in the White House.
There are -- as you say, there are a lot of good people working very hard in federal state agencies. But, without leadership from the White House and
without legislation, which was blocked in the Senate, it's hard.
The second big cap in consciousness is in Silicon Valley. It's in social media, because, of course, the basic model, profit model in social media is
polarization, which the Russians and other actors who interfere understand very well. We now know a lot more than we did in 2016.
I think some people are wiser consumers of the Internet than we were in 2016. But, sad to say, we have not repaired our electoral system the way
that we should have, which means that there's extra work for everybody who wants to vote and everybody who wants to observe and all the local and
state officials who have to make this happen.
The history of electoral interference is long; 2016 is not the only example.
SNYDER: It's rare, though, to have a president or powerful country who seems to want more of it. And that's where we are.
And that's an element of where we are. And that's part of the test that our democracy is going to face in November.
AMANPOUR: All right, it's great to talk to you, Professor Timothy Snyder. Thank you so much.
And talking about social media and polarization, we tweet, we like, and we share, but our growing dependence on social media has a dark side. In fact,
a new docudrama, "The Social Dilemma," warns that it breaking down our shared reality.
Jeff Orlowski is the film's director, and Tristan Harris, who makes a cameo appearance, heads up the Center for Humane Technology. Here they are
talking to our Hari Sreenivasan about the documentary.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane.
Jeff Orlowski and Tristan Harris, thanks so much for joining us.
Let's talk a little bit about the state that we're in, drawing the line -- or at least some of the people that in your film have drawn the line
between the rise of mobile phones, mobile technology, social platforms, and kind of how we got to where we are, and maybe some of the medical effects
that were the unintended consequences.
JEFF ORLOWSKI, DIRECTOR, "THE SOCIAL DILEMMA": Totally. Totally.
I think there are a couple of -- I would say there are two big turning points in this story, one which was when the iPhone came out and gave us
individualized relationships with the Internet. So, it was no longer a desktop computer that the whole family shared. It was something that you
carried with you 24/7. It was unique to you.
And when you factor that in with these machine learning algorithms that we're describing that can constantly and recursively learn and customize
for you, those are the two big things that gave everybody a very personalized version of the world.
And I think what we have seen here is the spectrum of consequences that happen at the individual level and at the societal level. So, as we were
talking is these incentives and what's going to get you to come back and get you to stay and spend more time on the platform, because that that's
customized for every single user, we all have these different things that it brings us to.
It's also slightly different on an Instagram platform vs. a YouTube platform vs. Facebook vs. Twitter vs. TikTok. But each of those are using
that same fundamental, like, how are we going to get them to come back and spend more time.
In some cases, with the Instagram story and with young girls and mental health, we are seeing rises of increasing self-harm and increasing suicide
rates, not just attempted, but completed suicides, through that process.
And we're seeing all of the -- all the evidence to back that up with Instagram stories and self-image comparison and fear of missing out. And
that's at the individual self-harm level.
And then you can factor all the way through to the societal level with political polarization, misinformation, conspiracy theory running rampant.
We're seeing a breakdown of shared truth.
And it just seems extremely harmful to me when we have this concept of customized news. Customized news is just an oxymoron, in and of itself. And
yet that's what we have scaled across the globe.
SREENIVASAN: Tristan, Jeff mentioned something interesting there, which is a notion of an objective truth, something that we kind of took for granted,
that there is a fact. We can all agree on that fact. We might disagree around the policy about what to do about that.
How did social media, the rise of the platforms, the algorithms, I mean, how did it get us to a place where there is such disagreement about
something like the idea of a truth?
TRISTAN HARRIS, PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER, CENTER FOR HUMANE TECHNOLOGY: The thing here to look at that's very subtle is the business model of these
technology companies, because in the -- what is their business model? I mean, how much have you paid for your Facebook account or your YouTube
Nothing. So, how is it worth $500 billion? Well, so what are they selling? They're selling the ability to change your attention, to change what you're
thinking, feeling and shift in your feeling.
And that business model means that, if I give you your own "Truman Show," your own reality, that's going to be more profitable than if I gave you a
reality that said, here's a bunch of information that's more general, that's more shared, that's more broad. It's not going to be as successful
at getting your attention than getting you your own reality show, your own "Truman Show."
And so each of us are now 10 years into this experiment of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter personalizing information to us in this reality, and
we're not seeing the other information.
So, if you imagine one version of Facebook, that was the sort of broad, let's not call it objective truth, but let's call it a shared reality kind
of Facebook that was mostly seeing the same kinds of things.
And let's say this other new Facebook came along called personalized Facebook. Personalized Facebook just shows you what you are going to see,
what you would agree with your views. That personalized Facebook will outcompete the broad shared reality Facebook.
And that's what part of this race to the bottom of the brain stem, this race to go deeper and deeper into appealing to our innate instincts. And
one of those appeals is personalization. And that's what's shredded our reality into these million different fragments. And that's what we have to
do is -- I mean, the thing I'm excited about with the film, actually, is that it will create a shared reality about the breakdown of our shared
And that gives us a place to stand on, so we can now proceed and say, how do we fix this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SEIBERT, SERIAL TECH ENTREPRENEUR: What I want people to know is that everything they're doing online is being watched, is being tracked, is
being measured. Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded, exactly what images you stop and look at, for how long you look
at it -- oh, yes, seriously for how long you look at it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They know when people are lonely. They know when people are depressed. They know when people are looking at photos of your ex-
romantic partners. They know what you're doing late at night. They know the entire thing, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, or what kind of
neuroses you have, what your personality type is like.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have more information about us than has ever been imagined in human history. It is unprecedented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Tristan, you point out that this -- like most people, we say, you know what, technology is just a tool. It could be a hammer, or it could
be a bicycle. The Internet is what you make of it.
But you point out in this film that it's not like the other tools that we have sort of lying around the house or in our garage.
HARRIS: I'm so glad you brought this up, Hari.
And this is so critical. When you think of a hammer sitting there on your desk, there's not a team of 1,000 engineers inside of that hammer with an
A.I. pointed at you trying to figure out, what would get me to pick up that hammer in exactly the right way, at exactly the right time, and use it in
exactly these specific ways to hammer those specific nails?
That's just a tool, right? A tool is just waiting to be used. And we used to live in a tools-based technology environment. I used to -- I grew up on
technology. I grew up on the Macintosh. As Steve Jobs used to say, Macintosh is a bicycle for the mind. It's just this tool that is a tool for
creativity, this engine. It didn't want anything from you.
If you compare that to, what is the world we're living in now, mostly what we're using with technology, it's things whose business model depends on
manipulating our attention and getting us to use it in specific ways for very long periods of time.
So, our default technology environment is a manipulation-based technology environment. And kids are growing up in that, and they will not have known
anything different. And that's one of the things that is in the film that we're trying to bring alarm to them, is, the digital native, this is what
they're growing up in.
SREENIVASAN: I can hear tech companies in the back of my head saying, listen, we're not out here to try to destroy society. Look at all the
amazing things that we have enabled, the communities that -- of cancer survivors and the ice bucket challenge, and that, essentially, we are not
optimizing for anything but engagement or advertising, because we want to make money, right?
How does it get from there to, well, what seems to be optimized for this dystopian future, where everyone is living in their own little micro-
bubble, and there is no shared truth?
HARRIS: Yes, it's an interesting phrase, optimized for dystopia, because I think, as you said, the good intentions of the people that I know who build
these products -- I mean, I worked inside of Google for several years and tried to change these systems from the inside, unsuccessfully.
And we got here innocuously. It started with a simple goal. If I'm YouTube, my goal was just to get people sharing videos, recommending videos and
getting people to watch videos. What harm could come from that?
Then bad foreign actors come along, by the way, not just Russia, but China, Saudi Arabia, UAE. And people start basically manipulating the algorithm.
And they can start manipulating what people are believing, conspiracy thinking, et cetera. Alex Jones' Infowars videos were recommended 15
billion times by YouTube.
It's really important that you land how big these rabbit holes go. These are not small rabbit holes. These are massive ocean-sized rabbit holes. You
have flat-Earth conspiracy theory videos that were recommending hundreds of millions of times, hundreds of millions of times.
So these are these are more recommendations than the combined traffic of "New York Times," "The Washington Post," "Guardian," et cetera. Imagine you
put on the TV and the default programming on a 10-channel television was conspiracy thinking, extremism, why you should hate someone else, and it
was personalized to you.
So, it wasn't just you should hate some other person. It was, we know who you will probably hate, and we will give you information that says, here's
evidence, good evidence and reasonable evidence, about why they're pretty bad people. And we have that running on the default television screens for
about 10 years.
And you wonder, why does society look the way that it does? We have sent society through the washing machine of social media's algorithmic
personalization, and it was all this accident.
We think of it kind of like digital fallout. You're just -- you're privately profiting, but the harms show up on the balance sheets of
society, in everything from addiction, mental health problems, slow erosion of truth, worse journalism, shorter attention spans, clickbait, capitalism,
And that is kind of the digital fallout from this extractive race for attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RASHIDA RICHARDSON, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: We all simply are operating on a different set of facts. When that happens at scale, you're no longer able
to reckon with or even consume information that contradicts with that world view that you have created.
That means we aren't actually being objective, constructive individuals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then you look over at the other side, and you start to think, how can those people be so stupid? Look at all of this
information that I'm constantly seeing. How are they not seeing that same information?
And the answer is, they're not seeing that same information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: You know, there's something in the film where I think it's Tristan that says that there's a study that shows that, basically, lies fly
six times faster on social media than the truth does.
So it almost seems like QAnon conspiracy-type stuff was built for this. I mean, it is growing at a pace that is alarming to most people that are
watching it, but not understood to most people realizing, wait, what is this again?
ORLOWSKI: Right. Right.
SREENIVASAN: And then, all of a sudden, you see 11 states where members of Congress or people are trying to become members of Congress who believe in
ORLOWSKI: When you just sit on that fact for a second that lies are spreading six times faster than truth, truth will never win. Like, truth
will never win in that equation.
We can spend as much time as you want doing very, very thoughtful, careful reporting on certain things, and then a lie machine is just outpacing you.
And you just can't keep up with it.
And that -- just when you step back and look at the whole system, that's a frightening reality.
HARRIS: I think we have to realize that when we decentralized who was producing the attention in our attention economy, it used to be that people
like you were producing our attention, right?
We had content producers, journalists, video creators, people who are paid or had professions and probably ethics in journalism kind of background to
think about, how do we be stewards of the information environment, especially if we have mass broadcast capacity?
We have granted the broadcast level powers to people in their basement with no necessary knowledge who just might be very good at Internet marketing.
And we have none of this same broadcast level responsibilities.
So, if you want to think about it a different way, look back to the period of yellow journalism. What happened with the attention economy with Twitter
and Facebook is that they turned each of us into yellow journalists, because each of us, the more that we salacious -- we say the most salacious
thing, we say very quickly what we think to be true.
Even if we're not there, we just sort of claim, well, clearly, those people over there in this city that are doing this, whether it's the Trump
supporters or the Black Lives Matter supporters, no matter which side it's for, you can make a claim and spread that five, six -- it will spread six
And it doesn't have to be true. And so each of us have been converted into something that's very dangerous.
SREENIVASAN: Jeff, the number of people who work in tech, who help design some of these systems, are we surprised that so many of them don't let
their own kids use it?
ORLOWSKI: Yes, that was a huge indicator for us. And that's something that we have seen a number of times when interviewing people.
We also learned about there are some schools that are pretty much like anti-tech schools in the Bay Area, where the children aren't using devices
on a regular basis within the school.
It just seemed very, very hypocritical to be exporting technology like this to the world, and then protecting your own children from it, and yet
designing software that is explicitly tapping into youth and YouTube for kids, or recognizing that there are these age limits, but like really
letting it slide and letting people underage join the platforms.
This needs to be addressed societally. And to put the burden on parents to say, oh, no, you have to be in control of your own child's usage, and you
have to regulate their usage, and you have to, like, isolate them from their friends, and you have to, like, shift their entire social network
themselves, that's a huge, huge struggle for parents to have to deal with, when we are exporting this out at scale and designing things that are just
bringing kids back and back and back.
SREENIVASAN: Tristan, thanks to the pandemic, there's a lot of parents who might have been very proud about how little their kids get screens, who
have had to just capitulate and say, OK, I need 15 minutes here, you can have my phone, right?
What's wrong with the argument that we're going to adapt to this, that this is just another evolution, just like radios and televisions, smartphones
and kids are going to grow up to be fine people?
HARRIS: Well, first, just the meet your question at the felt sense, I mean, it is -- I can't imagine -- I'm not a parent, but I can't imagine how
hard it is to be a parent and to sit your little 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-year-old in front of a Zoom screen for hours a day.
I mean, I think that this probably eats at many parents, and is to say that, I feel you that it's an incredibly hard reality, because we're not
given a choice. That's actually what we often say in our work is, what makes current technologies inhumane is the idea that we don't have a
We're forced to use a kind of infrastructure that doesn't feel good, and that leads to these harms.
But the fact that, if I'm a teenager, for example, and all my friends use Instagram, so even if I get off, like, oh, I'm done, it's not about that,
because, if my friends -- if the only way that they talk to each other is through Instagram, I'm suddenly excluded from being part of my friendship
And that's one of the key things, is that it's not just about what I do for me. It's about -- the reason why this film, I think, is so important is
even you can have a whole group of teenagers, a whole group of friends, a whole group of families see the film together, and have a conversation and
say, do we want to move where we're communicating as a group off of that manipulation-based platform and to something more neutral?
I mean, a good example is something like FaceTime. There's -- notice that, when you use FaceTime just to make a video call and catch up with someone
you love, Apple doesn't try to send you 500 notifications and say, here's all the stars and the hearts, and notice this person commented, and now
they're doing dot, dot, dot.
Like, they don't do that. And why is that? Because you're the customer. You bought the phone, and FaceTime is a tool waiting to be used.
And so this is not an anti-technology conversation. I want to be very clear for parents not to be anxious just because have a slab of glass that's in
your kid's pocket. That's not that evil, the harm.
The harm is when this stuff is not designed for us, and it puts all of these -- this digital fallout on the balance sheets of society.
And to your question directly, I think there's some very crucial human attachment needs developmentally that children need to feel attachment. And
when the phone starts providing too many of those benefits at a frequency and rate that's higher than you can get in reality, your phone starts to
feel like the sweetest place to go than being with yourself.
ORLOWSKI: We often reference this phrase, it's ripping apart the fabric of society.
And how far is that going to go until we adapt and get used to it? I heard somebody in the tech industry speak about, well, we just have to wait for
truth to completely break down, and you won't trust anything, and we're going to have deepfakes, and we're going to shift into this new world view
where nobody trusts anything, and, after we get to that point, then people are going to start trusting just the people in their small circles, and
that's going to be our adaptation.
And I was -- I don't know if we're going to make it through that. So, I don't know.
I guess I just personally believe that there's a need for shared truth and shared reality, if we're going to make political decisions around, how
should we, as a country or as a society or as a world, address fill-in-the- blank problem?
We need to have a foundational grounding that we all share to talk about what we do from there.
So, I don't know if adaptation is really the main goal and hope here. We need to change these platforms.
SREENIVASAN: Tristan Harris, Jeff Orlowski, thanks so much for joining us.
ORLOWSKI: Thank you very much.
HARRIS: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, we end this week on a sunnier note.
For the first time in the 50-years existence of their farm in Kenosha County, farmer Scott Thompson and his family have traded their usual
strawberries and pumpkins for planting over two million sunflowers. That's offering a safe, socially distanced, and joyful destination to that part of
And, remember, Kenosha is where Jacob Blake was shot by police, adding another name and another family to America's season of despair.
Now, this field is not quite van Gogh's Sunflowers, but this living tableau is indeed something to behold.
And that is it for now. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.