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COVID's Impact on Society; Has U.S. Economy Hit Roadblock?; Interview With Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison; Interview with Sociologist Eric Klinenberg; Interview with "The Every" Author Dave Eggers. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 08, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): From destructive wildfires to devastating floods, who should be held accountable for the costs of global warming? Minnesota
Attorney General Keith Ellison points the finger at the fossil fuel industry in the courtroom.
Then: a second straight month of disappointing U.S. jobs numbers. Has the American economic recovery hit a roadblock?
Also ahead, what is the pandemic doing to our humanity? COVID and our behavior with sociologist Eric Klinenberg.
DAVE EGGERS, AUTHOR, "THE EVERY": We continue to acquiesce and be submissive to these handful of companies and their motives.
GOLODRYGA: Imagine a world where Amazon and Facebook merge, creating a monopoly called "The Every," the new novel from Dave Eggers.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back on Monday.
Well, this week, extreme climate-fueled rainfall broke records. In Northwestern Italy, over two feet of rain fell and only half-a-day. In
desert landscape Oman, look at these scenes. A rare tropical cyclone dumped years worth of rainfall.
The more fossil fuels we burn, the warmer the planet gets, which in turn leads to more heavy rainstorms. So who should be held accountable for the
costs of climate change?
Well, a growing number of states and cities are turning to courtrooms to hold fossil fuel companies' feet to the fire. The attorney general of
Minnesota, Keith Ellison, is suing ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and Koch Industries, claiming that they have deceived the public
over the effects of climate change.
A former congressman, Ellison will also be known to many as the lawyer who led the murder prosecution of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Be it
police violence, racism, voting rights, climate change, Keith Ellison's career puts him at the heart of so many issues we're grappling with right
now. And he joins me now from Minneapolis.
Keith, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for joining us.
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Great to be with you. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: So, as we mentioned, a lot to talk to you about.
Let's begin with these lawsuits. What prompted them, and why are you doing this now?
ELLISON: What prompted them were indigenous communities telling me that their ricing is simply not something that they can sustain in a way that
they have been -- their people have done for ten thousands or more years, farmers talking about climate chaos in the fields.
But what's really fueling it, what's really at the bottom is that these companies that we're suing knew is early as 1979, probably before, that
their product was causing global climate change. And then they set out to have a public disinformation campaign in which they lied about it.
They had a campaign in which they said that there was no climate change, that people who claimed about it are Chicken Littles. And it was extensive,
and it was broad-based, and it was effective. They created enough confusion so that we have been unable to take decisive action because of their very
effective disinformation campaign.
They lied to the public about their product. And now they have to compensate the public for that.
GOLODRYGA: Well, let's look at a specific exhibit from your lawsuit that you just mentioned right now.
This is a memo from Exxon's own engineering department acknowledging that carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is increasing, the increase
is due to fossil fuel consumption, that's their words, and increasing CO2 concentration will cause a warming of the Earth's surface.
Now, this memo was written in 1979, as you mentioned.
GOLODRYGA: But as you know as a lawyer, going into a lawsuit before a judge, before a jury, you need evidence.
So, aside from this, in terms of the effects that this is having on the indigenous community, on the people in your community there in your state,
what is the evidence that you are bringing in to this courtroom?
ELLISON: Well, the evidence is going to be witnesses who will talk about the effects on their livelihood due to global warming and the product,
burning fossil fuels, that these dividends have produced, and then deceived the public about.
But we will also have a number of scientists who we will bring forward proving that, yes, in fact, ExxonMobil and the rest of them were right
about their analysis in '79, and yet they continued to do the destructive thing and produced that destructive thing which has brought about the
catastrophic problem that we're all dealing with right now.
I mean, the bottom line is that we will marshal a team that will prove everything from causation to damages and will tell a compelling personal
story among a range of Minnesotans who have been damaged by the lies and the deception that they have brought forth.
GOLODRYGA: And, in a way, as you know, this is really a David vs. Goliath lawsuit.
ELLISON: I would say.
GOLODRYGA: And this isn't the first lawsuit brought against petroleum companies.
In 2019, New York Attorney General then at the time Letitia James lost a civil suit claiming fraud by ExxonMobil. What do you think has changed
between to 2019 and today? Obviously, we have seen the effects of climate change. We have had more evidence, just the weather patterns that we talk
about and see around the world.
Do you think that is enough in just a matter of two years to turn the tide, and from a jury's perspective and a judge's?
ELLISON: Well, not every legal theory behind every lawsuit is the same.
Ours is a consumer protection theory. And that is well-established in Minnesota law and in American law. They produce a product. They lied about
its effects. This is no different from the tobacco manufacturers or the lead in lead paint and in gasoline. Those manufacturers got sued for what
they were doing, no different from the opioid lawsuits, where they lied about the addictiveness of their product, the OxyContin and other opioid-
In many ways, this is a very typical lawsuit. It is a product. They produced a product. They were not honest with the public about what it was
doing and what it did, and actually tried to deliberately obfuscate it through a campaign of deception.
So, in many ways, we think our lawsuit is extremely viable, because it is going in this very well-worn territory. We actually are not -- this is not
a climate change lawsuit, quite frankly. Clearly, there are allusions and implications to climate change.
But we're simply saying this product had a destructive effect, which they lied about, which -- and we think that, whether it's tobacco, or opioids,
or what have you, we have -- this is something courts are used to, juries are used to understanding this. And we're going to make it very simple. And
we're going to put our case before a jury in a compelling way.
And we're very confident we're going to win.
GOLODRYGA: And you're arguing that this all disproportionately impacted communities of color and those that live in poverty?
ELLISON: We are, but make no mistake about it. Plenty of well-to-do white people suffer climate change.
But it does affect the lower-income people, communities of color. It hurts the smaller farmers more. It hurts the indigenous communities more. It
hurts the people who have to breathe this stuff more. But it does hurt everyone. This is a shared burden that we all are bearing. Some are dealing
with more than others.
Just like a lot of people suffered from Katrina, everybody -- the whole of New Orleans, but some people, and particularly in the Ninth Ward, were hit
harder. It's kind of like that.
GOLODRYGA: Well, CNN has reached out to both ExxonMobil and the API for a response to this segment. And here's what they said, here's the response
"Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance the meaningful actions that reduce the risks of
climate change. ExxonMobil will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society's growing demand for
energy." That's from Exxon.
From API: "The record of the past two decades demonstrates that the industry has achieved its goal of providing affordable, reliable American
energy to U.S. consumers, while substantially reducing emissions and our environmental footprint. Any suggestion to the contrary is false."
So it doesn't appear that they are directly responding to your specific allegations, but more to the work that they have done on this issue over
the last 20 years.
ELLISON: Yes, well, it's more spin and deception is all it really is. We don't expect them to suddenly grow a conscience. They're going to do what
they can to protect their profitability.
I do want to encourage them to join the revolution, the green revolution, to try to make our society in harmony with the planet and to continue -- I
want to encourage everyone to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But we're talking about what they did to get us here. We're talking about what they did in '79 and in other eras of our nation's history. And they
cannot escape accountability. And we're going to hold them accountable.
GOLODRYGA: So, this is the green accountability, right? This is the climate change accountability that you're talking about.
Let's move on to racial accountability and recognition that we have seen over -- and reckoning over the past two years in this country, in
particular since the six months now, since the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin.
What is the status of the case of the other three officers involved?
ELLISON: It's pending. We have a trial date of March 8, 2022.
GOLODRYGA: On the George Floyd subject, as you know, the Texas parole board is recommending that he received a posthumous pardon for a low-level
drug charge back in 2004. I'm just wondering if you have any thoughts on that.
ELLISON: I think it would be certainly appropriate.
George Floyd is a person who has sent this country and this world into a dialogue, wrestling with his own conscience. And I think it's very
appropriate for Texas to do that. I hope they are successful. It is the right thing to do.
George Floyd may not have chosen to be this emblematic symbol of change, but he is nonetheless. And so I'm glad to hear about the action being taken
in Texas. I'm sure his daughter, little Gigi, who's probably 7 years old by now, will be very grateful to the people of Texas for that.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, we all remember then candidate Joe Biden said that George Floyd changed the world, that his murder changed the world and how the
world looked at race relations, in particular with police, in this country.
And I don't have to tell you about the bickering and the partisanship that we're seeing transpire throughout Washington. But there was one area of
hope in terms of bipartisanship, and that was police reform legislation.
GOLODRYGA: It got close, but it didn't happen.
And I'm just curious your take on what the future looks like on that front. Cory Booker said the Democrats will look for another way to achieve that on
their own. What does that even mean?
ELLISON: Well, I think Senator Booker is very likely exploring the possibility of getting around the filibuster.
Just -- but I know that he is in pursuit of justice. He's not going to quit. Neither are advocates like Sherrilyn Ifill and others who have just
dedicated their lives to civil and human rights. Maybe Senator Scott will - - the better angels of his nature will prevail, and he will rejoin the fight.
The bottom line is, this should not be a partisan matter. The fact is, whether you're conservative or progressive or liberal, having human rights
for all is an American ideal. And so I was really disappointed to see senator Scott throw his hands up, but I'm still pulling and praying for him
and hoping that he will join the cause of justice and take back up this mantle.
But we're good we're going to do what the civil rights marches did in '54, in '60, '65. We're going to keep on pushing for a more perfect union and a
better America for everybody.
GOLODRYGA: You sound optimistic, and yet that there are people out there arguing for voting rights legislation and so many injustices that they feel
are still being perpetrated throughout the country.
GOLODRYGA: Do you get a sense that we are at a standstill now? Or is progress happening, maybe just at too slow a pace?
ELLISON: Progress is happening at too slow a pace. I'm an optimist. I believe we're going to make progress.
We have been -- a lot of municipalities and states have done some good things. Colorado comes to mind. The city of Newark, New Jersey, has done
some very important things in the area of police reform. So there are things happening to give me hope.
But there's no doubt that this is a tough slog, because people have a tendency to cling to the status quo because they know it, even if it's not
good. They know the status quo and they hang onto it. The future is a little uncertain.
Even if better, even if it promises a more bright future, sometimes, we will cling to the known. So leaders in this moment need to give people hope
that they can take that job. And that means leaders in Congress, leaders at the municipal level, city council members, all of us, really, people in our
faith communities, we need a societal shift that places safety and human rights at a higher level than it has been.
And I think we can get there, but we can't quit.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Keith Ellison, you have a proven record of fighting against the status quo if that is not right, in your opinion, even if it
takes time and it's a bit uncomfortable.
Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
ELLISON: Thank you. Have a good one.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we turn now to the U.S. economic outlook, as the country tries to turn a corner in the pandemic.
For the second straight month, the U.S. economy has added far fewer jobs than expected, adding only 194,000 jobs in September, but the unemployment
rate declined. So what does this tell us about the outlook for workers, businesses and families?
Rana Foroohar is a global business columnist and associate editor of "The Financial Times."
Rana, so great to have you on today.
A bit of a head-scratcher, this jobs report, as we have seen the unemployment rate go down. Obviously, more jobs were expected to be added
into the economy. And that is not happening two months in a row. Why is that?
RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, part of this is a statistical question.
The way in which jobs numbers are collected, a lot of questions are asked to big companies, and big companies really aren't ramping up right now.
They're worried about inflation. They're worried about the tail end of COVID, uncertainty in the markets.
But you're also saying there are other statistics showing that new business formation is at record levels. So I think that there's a little bit of a
divergence there. I think that that's one of the reasons that you're seeing the unemployment rate go down, even as you see the jobs numbers not being
what we'd hoped for.
I think there's also a big question of women in the workplace. We heard the beginning of COVID about how this was a she-cession. Women were really,
really hit hard. And you're seeing not as many teachers being hired or going back into the work force.
I think that you may see some women starting to say, is it worth it for me? Can I make enough money? Is it worth it to leave my family and then have to
pay for child care?
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and before, especially, the Republicans' talking points was that this was happening because people were on the receiving end of
stimulus checks. Obviously, those ran out. School is back in session now, though we have seen a decline in terms of jobs being added to the education
And I guess you're pointing out that women and women in the labor force continues to be a big pressing issue. The president today, just moments
ago, has been speaking about this jobs report, trying to put a positive spin on it, talking about that unemployment rate going down, but, in a
sense, also talking up his policies and the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill.
Is this an opportunity that you think for Americans to once again get a sense of perhaps changes in the economy and perhaps things in this package
that could help as these changes progress?
FOROOHAR: Well, it's a very great point.
And part of that bigger package that progressives have been pushing for is investment into what's called human capital, the care economy, teachers,
child care workers, home health workers. For starters, these are employment areas that are very heavy on women. Women are in these fields. They're the
fastest growing fields.
This is something the Biden administration's been pushing, this idea of the care economy. And there have been a lot of pushback, hey, this is
expensive, what we need is roads and bridges, not investments into teachers or child care workers.
I think it's probably a good opportunity for the White House to say, actually, we might need that. Maybe human capital is capital, and it's
where we should be putting money now.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, they kept on trying to link the two. But many would argue that they weren't doing that as explicitly as they could have been, saying
that this isn't just about spending. This is about getting the economy back on track.
I believe we have sound from the president just talking about this report. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The jobs numbers also remind us that we have important work ahead of us and important investments we need
America's still the largest economy in the world. We still have the most productive workers and the most innovative minds in the world. But we risk
losing our edge as a nation if we don't move.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So how do you square that, Rana, with just anecdotally?
I know you have been hearing it as well. I have been seeing it too. You walk into stores, you walk into restaurants, you talk to owners, you talk
to managers who say, listen, we are paying very well. And we have seen wages go up over the past few months as well. And yet they cannot get
people to come in and work for them. They can't be fully staffed.
And that is impacting their business as well. So what's the disconnect here? Is there some sort of disruption that's taking place?
FOROOHAR: Well, you have to think about, where are you seeing those help wanted signs? You're seeing them in restaurants. You're seeing them in
retail shops. These are all parts of the economy that were really decimated during COVID.
And the U.S. has a kind of an economic model where when, there are bad times, we fire people easily, and when there are good times, we supposedly
hire them easily. Other countries do it differently. European companies -- or -- sorry -- countries, Germany, in particular, they tend to buffer those
But in America, companies can move those costs off the balance sheet, but then sometimes it's hard to get workers when you need them. And then that
has a knock-on effect for the economy too.
So I think that what we're seeing really is the legacy of our just-in-time economy. And one of the things the White House will wants to do is move it
to a just-in-case economy. And that's going to be a slow process.
GOLODRYGA: We have seen a huge drop especially in the education sector, in the public sector there.
And it's interesting, because I want to read a quote from an economist who was responding to this jobs report. And even she was surprised and puzzled.
She said: "I'm a bit puzzled, to be honest. We all waited for September for this big flurry of hiring on the premise that unemployment benefits and
school reopening would bring people back into the labor force, and it just doesn't seem like we're seeing that."
Why do you think we have seen such a decline and drop-off in the education sector and jobs?
FOROOHAR: So I think it's two things.
I think one factor is people are really tallying. They're having kind of an existential crisis and saying, we have been through 18 months of change, we
have learned what it's like to work at home, we have -- in some cases, we have worked less. Some people are just saying, I don't want to go back to
my job that didn't pay enough anyway and doesn't pay enough now. I'm going to make different priorities.
But the other thing is technology. There's been a lot of technological job displacement. Schools, to the extent they're spending any money, they're
tending to spend it on software. That's true of businesses in general. So I think that we're just at the beginning of seeing a post-pandemic surge in
white-collar job displacement, white-collar unemployment, as technology, be it automation, software, robots, do more and more.
And that is going to have a big political impact. I think that's a topic that we will be talking about a lot in the future.
GOLODRYGA: And one thing we haven't mentioned, and it's the big one here, the big elephant in the room, and that is COVID itself and the Delta
variant, because, remember, back in July, we saw a million jobs added to the economy.
I'm wondering. You get the notion that obviously these reports are rearview-looking right? It's what's transpired over the past few weeks.
Given that we have seen a decline in cases, and given that we have seen a decline in hospitalization rates and an uptick in vaccinations, though not
where we need to be, do you think that that will help the economy and, in a sense, get more people out into employment?
FOROOHAR: I do.
And I think that you can look and see that, each month, when we get the new and updated numbers, you tend to see old numbers from the summer being
corrected upwards. So the picture looks a little brighter than it does in the short term.
But I think the recovery and the surge of recovery is, I think, past its apex. I don't think we're going to see some brand-new big uptick. I think
that we're going to see things get slowly better. But we're still grappling with these major structural changes. Technology is going to do more. Some
people are going to choose not to go back into the labor force. We still have issues with child care, health care.
So all those things still need to be resolved.
GOLODRYGA: What does inflation play into this and the global supply chain disruptions that we have seen, obviously, not only impact the U.S., but
countries around the world?
FOROOHAR: Well, so that's a great question. And I think that there's a short-term answer and a long-term answer.
The short-term answer is, the pandemic changed everything, right? We had supply chain disruptions in everything from food to fuel to semiconductors.
GOLODRYGA: Toilet paper.
FOROOHAR: Toilet paper, exactly.
FOROOHAR: Tennis balls, my husband would tell you.
And those things are working their way through. I mean, you're already starting to see in the automotive sector they're getting the chips that
they need, things are being resolved. But the bigger question is, the world is not going to reset to globalization 1.0 or 2.0 or whatever you want to
I think we're moving to a world that is going to be more regional. China's kind of going its own way with its own supply chains, and trying to develop
new alliances throughout the old silk route. The U.S. and Europe are talking about a new tech and trade alliance.
So I think things are going to be more regional than they have been in the future. And will that mean a little bit more inflation in the medium to
long term? Possibly.
GOLODRYGA: So we have looked at this from a technical perspective, but, obviously, what I would argue is even just as important, if not more, is
the psychological perception for Americans at home that are digesting these numbers at the same time that they continue to see this bickering, this
childish bickering and dangerous bickering, in Washington over the debt ceiling, over passing these infrastructure bills.
What impact long term do you think that could possibly have on the economy, just this sense of uncertainty?
FOROOHAR: That is such a good question.
I completely agree. You mentioned the debt ceiling. The harm that comes from always going to the brink with these things, it is psychological, but
psychology matters. One of the reasons that Americans enjoy the position in the world that they do is that people want to invest in our financial
markets, they want to buy our T-bills. They trust in the U.S.
When you get a sense that the government is shaky, that people can't make agreements, that erodes trust. I also think that there's been a sense not
just under this administration, certainly under the previous administration, even since the great financial crisis, that America's place
in the world has changed.
And I think Americans are grappling with that. We are in some ways in a post-American world.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Rana, always great to get your insights. Thank you so much for breaking this down for us.
As we mentioned, the experts are even scratching their head on this one. You have helped us make sense of it as best we could. Thank you.
FOROOHAR: Thanks for having me.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we turn now to COVID and a look at how the pandemic is impacting our society.
A new ProPublica article by journalist Sarah Smith caught our eye this week with this warning: We are losing our humanity. Think school meetings
turning toxic over masks and violence erupting in medical centers.
So is our new reality fundamentally altering our behavior and the way we interact? And if so, what will the lasting impact be?
Well, to unpack all of this, we're joined by sociologist Eric Klinenberg.
Eric, thank you so much.
So we just spent this past segment, which I think these two really are connected, talking about the economics of COVID and the pandemic. And let's
talk about the psychology of it, because I can't make a direct link, but it does seem, anecdotally and having covered education over the last year,
that we have seen such a burnout rate, a dropout rate in education from teachers, from parents who are going to these meetings and yelling at them,
from principals deciding that they have had enough.
I mean, do you see a link here between what's transpiring in videos and school board meetings throughout the country and these economic numbers?
ERIC KLINENBERG, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, NYU: I do. I think we're feeling insecure. I think we're burned out.
I'm a professor at New York University. We started this semester a few weeks ago. That's always the best time of year we're the most optimistic,
full of energy. Within a few days, my colleagues were reporting that they were feeling burned out.
This has just been a lot for us to absorb. And I think we're taking it out on each other in some very dangerous ways.
GOLODRYGA: And if you look back to the early days of the pandemic, we have learned a lot and we were wrong about so many things. But one thing we were
extremely, I think, inaccurate about and maybe naive is assessing the pandemic from it's us vs. the virus, right? This is the great unifier.
And it proved to be anything but from a statistics standpoint in the number of deaths and cases we have seen that disproportionately impacted people of
color and those that live in poverty, and also these issues about bringing people collectively together.
KLINENBERG: So, here's the important point for us to make on this issue.
It's not a universal experience that the pandemic is splintering. In fact, in many societies, even most societies on Earth, the pandemic has brought
people together. There are several nations -- take Australia, for instance, very polarized before the pandemic began, more trust in government now,
more trust in each other, more belief in their collective capacity to deal with the emerging 21st century issues we face, like climate change.
Here in the United States, it has been a very different story. We have gotten more divided and more distrustful. Frankly, I think, divisive
leadership has been a very big part of that. We have picked up on divisions that were there clearly before the pandemic, and just gone nuclear with
And so the I think the big question before us right now is, is there a project that we can do together that's going to somehow bring us back some
notion of collective good? It's hard to see it right now.
GOLODRYGA: So, if this is sort of an America-specific phenomenon that we're seeing, I just want to read an anecdote to you that was in this
And this is just one of many that Sarah chronicled. And this is about a teacher in a state where masks were not required for students to wear. And
so she thought she would persuade her students to wear masks by telling them about her 20-year-old daughter, Olivia, who has a neuromuscular
condition and requires 24-hour care.
She even put up a photo of her daughter in a wheelchair. And she said she didn't know how Olivia could cope if she, in fact, came down with COVID.
And she pleaded with her students, saying: "I cannot mandate you to wear a mask in my class. However, for the sake of my daughter, and potentially
others, I will make a continual plea to wear one."
She brought a box of masks into the classroom, and just a few were taken from the students to wear. And that is just one example. There are business
owners that are constantly being yelled at, a hairdresser.
Why do you think this is happening, and not only among adults? I mean, these are students not even putting masks on.
KLINENBERG: Well, I think partly, in this country, it's because our leaders have defined this danger in profoundly different ways.
So it happens to be the case that this thing, this coronavirus pandemic, which should -- could potentially bring us together, didn't do that. We
have Democrats and progressives who say this is about a disease, it's about public health. The solution is solidarity. It's recognizing that our fates
are linked with one another, and we have to look out for our neighbors.
We have Republicans who are saying, this threat is actually about freedom, and the real thing you have to protect here is your individual right to do
what you want to do.
They think that the health threat is blown out of proportion despite the overwhelming number of deaths, more than 700,000 in this country right now.
So, what I think is happening is when we go into classrooms like this, we have students who are saying, I'm more concerned about defending my
individual freedoms than I am protecting the health of my neighbor, and this seems to be like a real impasse here.
GUTHRIE: Yes. And she quotes an expert in this piece who breaks it down just into pure tribalism and that for tribalism to really work in its
strong force, then the opposing tribe can't be viewed as human and that's what makes it a bit easier, not feel any remorse or compassion for people
like this teacher who put up a picture and told her class about her daughter who could perhaps die if she were sick.
KLINENBERG: I do think that one part of this phenomenon is that increasingly we confront our political adversaries online and it's much
easier to get angry and irate about a bubble on a screen than it is to actually, you know, do it with a real human being across from you. So, one
of the problems with this pandemic experience is that we have grown atomized and individuated, we have separated into our own small worlds and
we've lost those kind of gathering places where, you know, people come together and build some sense of a shared life.
And that way, I think, you know, there has been this rise of this kind of feeling like there's warring factions in America. I also do feel like we
need to say that throughout this country, one of the most extraordinary things that's happened through the pandemic is we have seen the rise of
these mutual aid networks in neighborhoods, in cities large and small, in suburbs and small towns too. Ordinary people who are doing things like food
drives, you know, delivery of pharmaceuticals for people who couldn't get out in the early phases of the pandemic, assistance with all kinds things
that we weren't doing before, and this is really noticeable phenomenon when you talk to people in neighborhoods who aren't necessarily on TV all the
KLINENBERG: There is a strain of kind of civic engagement that's part of this story that hasn't fully expressed itself yet. And I guess I still
believe that there is a possibility for us to come out of this, you know, with something like an expanded infrastructure investment that includes
social infrastructure and care work and all the kinds of things we're talking about in the last segment. And those kinds of material projects
actually do have some capacity to unify us and honor the part of our culture where we really are supportive of each other.
GOLODRYGA: And no doubt. These stories are very important to highlight and they are happening across the country, and I don't want to belittle them. I
just think, it seems, you know, unimaginable, three years ago, or let's not even say three years ago, let's say one year ago in the early months of
this pandemic when we were praising doctors and nurses and all those first responders who were literally saving lives in hospitals to where we are
today where we're constantly seeing reports of doctors and nurses having to hide their badges, they're being threatened, they're being yelled at, some
are quitting their profession altogether. You know, that would have been unimaginable. And yet, here we are.
KLINENBERG: I agree, and I think we should name it. I mean, I think we have a profoundly kind of anti-science, anti-evidence, ideological element
in this country that is pushing very hard for an alternative version of facts and reality and questioning, you know, fundamental truths about what
it means to live in a democracy, about what it means to be part of a public, to be part of a citizenry where people's actions do affect one
So, for instance, mask wearing isn't just about protecting yourself. You wear a mask to protect the people around you. And that really comes through
in this ProPublica article. There are people who refuse to recognize that by them not wearing a mask, them not getting vaccinated, they're putting
other people around them in danger. And I think the reason so many Americans have been so aggressive on this point, so adamant and even so
violent is because they're being encouraged by political leaders on the right to do this. And I think we should name it because it is destructive
of society and destructive of democracy.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And this article notes that even when Donald Trump, obviously, too little too late at that a recent rally was promoting getting
a vaccine, he was booed. So, even the president, the former president himself who helped lead sort of this tribalism over the past few years and
definitely did not do enough to unite the country in following the science, he can't even corral some of his supporters to follow the data now.
What can we do moving forward? Because this is something that could be destructive for a society. We or the country, the richest country in the
world with best scientists, the best educators and now, we're seeing them attacked on a daily basis. This could have long-term implications.
KLINENBERG: I think it will. And let's face it, these same set of issues are going to come up as we try to tackle things like climate change or
racial justice or poverty, you know, enduring problems that we are going to have to square up to in the 21st century. So, you know, I don't know that
there's a simple goal -- there's a simple strategy, I should say, but I do believe that, you know, material improvements in our collective life make
us feel better about the world we're in. I think leadership really matters here.
I actually think this infrastructure debate is so central to where we're going in the future because, you know, by getting some faith that we're
able to pool our resources and built better placed where we live, you know, whether better libraries or, you know, better parks or better economic
opportunities, we start to get the sense that we're capable of creating a better world. And let's face it, we have decades of hard times behind us.
We're going to have to turn that around.
GOLODRYGA: And not losing sight of the humanity in all of this as well, which is why we thought this was such an important segment in the
conversation to have.
Eric, thank you so much for joining us.
KLINENBERG: My pleasure. Take care.
GOLODRYGA: Well, now, it's been a troubling week for Facebook, raising questions about social responsibility in the age of social media and big
tech. Someone who writes extensively about the perils of corporate power is award-winning and bestselling author, Dave Eggers. And he's out with a
gripping sequel to his best-seller, "The Circle." "The Every." Imagines and Amazon, Facebook type company that becomes the richest and most dangerous
monopoly ever known. Here he is talking to our Walter Isaacson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Dave Eggers, welcome to the show.
DAVE EGGERS, AUTHOR, "THE EVERY": Thank you. Good to see you, Walter.
ISAACSON: You know, you're the most interesting novelist of our time and I think it's partly because you have this light observational touch but you
go into really profound moral issues. It sort of reminds me Walker Perso (ph) using great sort of subtle humor to diagnose the ills of our time. And
the pathology you take on, both in "The Circle," your last novel, and now, in "The Every" is social media, the digital revolution. Why have you made
that your focus?
EGGERS: Well, I've been in San Francisco since '92. So, the internet and the digital culture kind of came up around me, I guess, in all the time
I've been here and I've seen it go from this kind of utopian, almost communitarian culture that was very idealistic and almost had a hippie vibe
to it, to something that's much different. That we're seen the rise of the surveillance capitalism, we've seen the aggregation of power. It's sort of
beyond anything that anyone could imagine.
And now, we see sort of a rupture of democracy and the idea of truth that's all been sort of made possible through these platforms that are treated,
they're unregulated, they're not treated by publishers, they've allowed to disseminate lies with impunity and without consequence. So, I'm concerned
about how it's changing us as a people and how it impacts our democracy.
ISAACSON: Do you think that's cooked into the business model of Facebook and Amazon, which are the two companies that are sort of at the core of
EGGERS: Well, I think the profit motive, when you give this -- these are companies doing what they have to do to, you know, grow market share, to
increase their stock price, they're obligated to grow, and the only way to grow is to become more -- you know, to acquire more users, to acquire more
power. It's the nature of the beast. And unregulated, they will be themselves. Our only choice is regulation from the outside to sort of keep
their power in check, to use anti-trust law, as it should be used to call a monopoly a monopoly and break them up when necessary for the greater good
ISAACSON: One of the unnerving things in your novel, "The Circle," before this and even more so on this one, "The Every," is that people sort of get
coopted. They tend to go along after a while. So, many of the characters become collaborationists. Do you think that's an instinct that we all have
EGGERS: Yes. You know, I've been here 30 years. I've seen -- I'm always shocked at when another force or another non-profit or another good person
sort of gets coopted by this digital culture and without question. You know, whether or not it's seeing or hearing, like, a very beloved friend
says, like me on Facebook, or, you know, the saddest words in the English language, or whether it's -- you know, when an author saying, buy my book
on Amazon, instead of saying, support your local independent bookstore.
You know, offering. We're always given choices between feeding the apex predator and asserting or fighting for more diverse economy. But we
continue to feed this apex predator with a handful of them. And that's what's been surprising to me this last 10 to 20 years is that we're, by
nature, I think, idiosyncratic and rebellious people. I mean, Americans were supposed to be this way and yet, we continue to acquiesce and be
submissive to these handful of companies and their motives.
And so, I'm always interested in complicity and how we -- all the power these companies have is really power that we've given them. And why is it?
Why do we do this? Is it because anything that provides a semblance of certainty and safety, we will accept? So, that's why we have surveillance
in every part of our lives and we're photographed hundreds of times a week in urban environments because it gives us this semblance of safety. So, is
there any limit to that? And I really wonder if there is a red line that could be crossed if people will say, OK, that's too much. That's too far.
And the book posits that maybe there is a line that's -- that we'll hold to. I don't know. But it was interesting and sort of fun to explore it.
ISAACSON: You talk about how we succumb to the Amazons and the Facebooks because of their convenience and don't push back. You've pushed back, which
means your book is now not available, the hard hardback book on Amazon. Explain to me, explain to our viewers, how do you get your book now?
EGGERS: You know, there's a couple thousand independent bookstores in this country and they've struggled mightily in these last 20 years, especially
in these last 10 or so with Amazon's market share ticking up every year, but they fight on. And, you know, we have a little publishing company
called McSweeney that published the book and there's five of us who work here. I'm here in our offices right now. And we wouldn't exist without the
independent bookstores. We would never have got a chance if we were -- if we only had one monopoly to work with.
And so, we're trying to invite people to go back to their independent bookstore and if they haven't visited it in a while, then maybe they can
throw some business to their local book sellers. And so, it was a hassle to do. It's been incredibly hard to keep the book off of Amazon because their
tentacles are everywhere. But this is one maybe small little thing we can to do to drive a little bit of business back to the industry.
ISAACSON: How has your view changed since you wrote "The Circle," which was mainly about a Facebook like entity, now, there's an even bigger
conglomeration than the "The Every"?
EGGERS: Well, In "The Every," there's a merge with the world's largest e- commerce site. So, they not only have control over sort of screen life, they have boots on the ground. They have ships and trucks and planes and
they're controlling most of what's bought and sold in the country, and, you know, that creates incredible convenience for people, as we've seen during
the pandemic. Amazon's market share and power increased dramatically because people value that, you know, having things delivered to their door
when it wasn't safe to go to stores.
And so, I fear that we're heading toward more aggregation of power and mergers like this in the real world and I also fear how complicit we are
sometimes in giving these companies more power because we value safety, because we value convenience and because we want simplicity of everything
being in one place or through one portal. But again, that only empowers these very few monopolies to control what we experience, what we have
access to, that can create incredible barriers to entry and what should be ostensibly open marketplace.
And I think that even in the publishing industry with every increased percentage of the book, you know, sales that Amazon has, we get more
control given to a company that isn't necessarily a book company. They are an e-commerce company, just as interested in selling dishwashers and
exercise machines as they are books. Amazon has gotten this power by using predatory pricing. You know, selling books under cost, at a loss in order
to drive out competition. It should be anti-trust law 101 should applied here, and yet, regulators have given them a pass from the beginning. And
now, we are at a point where we might face an existential threat from the publishing industry.
So, we have power. The government has power. We know what needs to be done. We just need to act on it to make sure that we have economic diversity, I
guess. Retail diversity. That we still have main streets and store fronts and independent bookstores and small businesses that can survive and that
we don't continue to feed one company, one apex predator that eliminates all competition.
ISAACSON: But as you point out in your book, it's about what people want. People are making choices to do this. And I think, there's a -- I'm going
to quote a line from your book and ask you to unpack it for me but it's somebody working at this big company. "The Every," you said, it's about
order. People think the world is out of control and they want someone to stop the changes. This aligns perfectly with what "The Every" is doing,
feeding the urge to control.
EGGERS: Yes. Yes, I mean, in the end, there is something called the sum num, which is a three-digit number, one to a thousand that summarizes your
value as a human. And it's based on everything from grade school marks to parking tickets to credit score to social media participation to whether or
not you've ever dropped a piece of garbage on the street. Things like that. It's all in one thing and it gives people that sense of certainty. Am I
good? And what number can I apply to myself?
And I feel like we do have increasingly a hunger to apply numbers to everything, you know, whether it's films, whether it's books, it's going to
be poetry and dance next or visual art, anything that can be given that false sense of -- you know, that reductive sense of value that a number can
apply we're going to do. And I think we have more and more discomfort with nuance and with mystery and like who knows, and more comfort with give me
the number, give me the number, give it to me straight, and ideally, eliminate any human subjectivity.
How do we take away all the fallibility of human judgments and replace them with algorithm certainty or the perception of algorithmic certainty? So, I
keep seeing people desperately wanting to replace that fallibility, whether it's like in baseball with umpires. People don't want umpires anymore.
We've got to have a robot that tells us whether it was a ball or a strike and we're not comfort with the fallibility. And I think it's going to
increasingly take over so many unexpected elements of society that are going to be replaced by, you know, A.I., by algorithms, by that sort of
sense of certainty that we expect now and more and more that we demand.
ISAACSON: You also tend to believe that more choices are better and that we're surrendering choices. I want to give you the pushback that one of the
characters in your own book says, which is, we've had three generations now for whom the greatest stress in their lives is choice. And I'm convinced
that people don't really want it. It's they don't want all these choices. Think of mustard. And do you think that maybe this is all happening because
we're too inundated with free choice?
EGGERS: Yes. One of this -- maybe the earliest catalysts for this book was talking to friend of mine who is a clinical psychologist at a major
university in the southeast. And she said, the kids were coming in day one as freshmen already overwhelmed. There were too many choices in their
lives. Too much expected of them. Too much information. Too many exchanges that they had to do. Thousands of exchanges and choices before they even
started their schoolwork on a given day. And so, they would come already overwhelmed on the first day school.
And so, between that and the fact that increasingly we're aware of the impacts of our choices, you know, if we buy a product that's, you know,
unethically sourced or we eat salmon that has an adverse effect on the oceans, whatever it is, we want somebody to tell us what that right choice
is. And so, a monopoly like "The Every" steps in and says, don't worry about it. We'll take care of it for you. We'll make sure that your choices
are the right choices. And we'll also keep you within your preferences, if you stay within your preferences, things would be cheaper, thins would more
efficient, the system as a whole will run better.
And if you step outside of that, there will be punishments via preference compliance, which is sort of the stick to the carrot of some of the one's
preferences. But I think we are heading in this direction where we're going to realize that unlimited choice does have an environmental impact. And
"The Every" does aggregate more power by putting themselves up as the only force that can effectively combat climate change because it's going to take
a benevolent monopoly, they claim, to turn back the catastrophic effects of climate change. We need a global command economy run by them in order to
affect radical and quick change to save the planet.
ISAACSON: And let me in with a really big philosophical question, one that's at the heart of your work and which we perhaps don't question enough
because it seems so obvious to us, which is, let me just ask you, why is privacy a good thing?
EGGERS: Well, without privacy, I don't think we have a democracy. I don't think we have a safe space for descent, we don't have a safe space to
think. Contemplatively to create. There's a thread in "The Every" where they -- the whole company hasn't had a new idea in a decade because there
are no vestiges of privacy. Nobody has a place to turn off, to explore, to sort of think radically, to think an anarchically even, which I think is
essential to creativity.
Creativity comes from an anarchistic place of the mind. You have to have a place where you can not worry about what someone's going to say or think
about some bad idea or some idea and development or how do we improve our democracy? How do we fight against monopoly? All of these things require a
private space. But the more we give it up, the more we give ourselves into tyranny, autocracy. And we make it impossible to fight back.
So, privacy is the beginning of what makes us human, really, otherwise, we're cogs in a machine. I think that if we -- and every time we lose a
little bit of it, we become a little bit less human. And so, we need to fight it tooth and claw, and I think it's going to be trench warfare for
the next decade to make sure we have a little bit of privacy left.
ISAACSON: Dave Eggers, wow, thank you, thank you so much.
EGGERS: Thank you so much, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, they are two journalists safeguarding freedom of expression at their own risk. And for their courageous work, they were
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today. Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Russia's Dmitry Muratov were praised for upholding democratic values under
assault by autocratic leaders.
And sure enough, just hours after the announcement, Russia added several individuals including journalists who had so-called foreign agents list to
undermine their work. Well, earlier this year, Ressa, a former CNN bureau chief, was the subject of frontline documentary called "A Thousand Cuts"
from filmmaker Ramona Diaz. It explored her legal battles following reports critical of the Philippine government by her news outlet, "Rappler."
Christiane spoke to Ressa about her fearless work and the growing scourge of misinformation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA RESSA, "RAPPLER, CEO: We know what's at stake and I guess -- I told you, you know, I feel like I'm fighting for my rights. That's only the
first part. I feel like we have to hold the line because if we don't our democracy will fundamentally change. It will -- it's dying in front of our
eyes. It's the -- the crash happened in plain view. So, can we resuscitate it? Can we uphold our rights? And that's a lot of responsibility, and I
guess that's part of the reason the fight is worth it.
AMANPOUR: The Philippines along with parts of Indian, along with Myanmar are notable for the fact news equals social media, it's almost like your
newspapers or television stations, news stations just have zero impact whatsoever. In fact, Reporters Without Borders ranks the Philippines 136
out of 180 for press freedom. But it is called back in 2018, even Facebook calls the Philippines patient zero in the global spread of misinformation.
So, this applies to the United States, it applies to Europe, it applied to many, many parts of the world. Tell me why it is so destructive in a
country like the Philippines or is it just the same as it is in the U.S.?
RESSA: Absolutely the same more destructive in a country like the Philippines because our institutions are weaker. And obviously, in the
United States, you can see the role of Russian disinformation, of Chinese disinformation here in the Philippines, right? Here's the last part that's
really alarming about it is that if we don't deal with this, news organizations, any real human endeavor will become impossible if you cannot
tell fact from fiction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Ressa said today that she hopes the prize will give journalists more power to hold leaders accountable. "A Thousand Cuts" is available now
to stream on PBS and YouTube. Congratulations once again to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov.
Well, that is it for now. Thank you for watching. Have a great weekend and good-bye from New York.