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Interview with "Rise and Kill First" and The New York Times Magazine Staff Writer Author Ronen Bergman; Interview with Palestinian Poet Mosab Abu Toha; Interview with "The Anxious Generation" Author Jonathan Haidt. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 13:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

Thousands of protesters take to the streets across Israel, calling for the removal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We get the latest from Tel

Aviv with Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman.

Then --


MOSAB ABU TOHA, PALESTINIAN POET: My friend's whole family were buried under the rubble of their house. I mean, I see my tragedy as something very



GOLODRYGA: -- Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha tells Christiane how his family made the harrowing journey out of Gaza.

And a blow to Turkey's President Erdogan, as the country's main opposition party claims victory in key local elections. We're on the ground in


Also, ahead --


JONATHAN HAIDT, AUTHOR, "THE ANXIOUS GENERATION": We have to delay the age at which they get into social media.


GOLODRYGA: -- "The Anxious Generation." NYU professor and psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells Hari Sreenivasan how a great rewiring of childhood is

causing an epidemic of mental illness.

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Iranian media is saying that the country's consulate in Syria has been destroyed in an air strike, killing a senior commander in the Revolutionary

War Guards' Quds force. Speaking to reporters, the Iranian ambassador to Syria says at least five people were killed in the strike, and he says

Israel was behind the attack. So far, the Israeli Defense Forces are declining to comment.

Now, this comes as thousands of protesters rose up in cities across Israel in the largest demonstration since October 7th. People taking to the

streets over the weekend to demand more to be done to bring back Israeli hostages. And calling for the removal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

in fresh elections.

Joining me now on this is staff writer for "The New York Times Magazine" journalist Ronen Bergman, who's been following this story closely for us.

Ronen, welcome to the program from Tel Aviv. You know, when we first heard about this attack and strike in Syria, I thought you were the perfect guest

to have on, given your book, "Rise and Kill First," these are the types of attacks that you've documented over Israel's history.

As we noted, the IDF has not responded or taken responsibility to this attack just within the last few hours. But it is reported that a high-

ranking IRGC official was killed. How significant is this moment?


is the commander of the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, both in Syria and in Lebanon, practically be one of the most senior veteran-

experienced officers of the guards, second in command only to Qaani, the Al-Quds Force commander.

He has control -- or has control, the two -- one of two of the main areas where Al-Quds Force, the foreign operational arm of the guards is working

both Syria and Lebanon, critical strategic areas, both for Israel and for Iran.

And the fact that Israel was able -- Israeli military intelligence was able to identify in Israel where he is, and then Israel took the decision to

kill him, destroy the building, a military headquarters just by the Iranian embassy in Damascus, this is very, very important.

And of course, not just the killing of such an important person, that Israel attributes a lot of the initiation of operation against it, both

from Lebanon, from Syria, and from other places, but also important to see how this develops, both Iran's reaction, what Iran will do. Someone said

this is not like poking Iran in the eye, this is like slapping Iran hardly in the face from the point of view of Israel.


And also what Hezbollah will do because the late -- if confirmed dead, the late Mahadevi (ph) was a close associate -- close friend, I believe, of the

secretary general of Hezbollah, Nashat al-Nasrallah. And I am sure that this will put both sides, Iran and Hezbollah, into a dilemma how to

continue from here.

GOLODRYGA: As you note in your extensive reporting, these types of decisions aren't made lightly. There are many times where Israel, if Israel

is responsible, where Israel knows where certain high-level officials are in other countries and chooses not to act.

So, in your view, in these early hours, was this move more of a preemptive one, or is it one to send a message to Iran, to Hezbollah, not to act?

BERGMAN: I think both, but not just those reasons, but this is pure assumption, it's not something I know.


BERGMAN: We are -- he was a prime target, at least for a collection of intelligence from the point of view of Israel for decades, but Israel

didn't kill him. As much as Israel didn't kill many other Iranian and Hezbollah operatives that it had during the beginning of the war.

The fact that Hassan Nasrallah and Iran decided to create a low-intensity conflict with Israel, from the point of view of Israel unprovoked, from

their point of view, showing solidarity with the Hamas and with the Palestinian in Gaza. And the fact that it started, it gave Israel an

opportunity to target a lot of people and facilities that Israel didn't -- or decided not to do before because of fearing escalation.

Now, as ironic as it sounds, both sides, so Iran and Hezbollah on one hand, and Israel on the other, are doing to each other things that if even a

fraction of them happened a year ago, so before October 7 would happen, then we would be in a regional war long ago.

Now, because both sides are not interested in all-out war, then they continue to do those things that, you know, I'm not very good with

assessing the future, but the current assumption is that even this event, which is very significant, will not lead to an escalation to all-out war.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, the landscape -- you're right to note, the landscape has changed significantly since October 7th. I mean, we've noted that in

previous comments made since October 7th by Hassan Nasrallah, that if they had been made prior to October 7th, everyone's hair would be on fire, but

yet, his comments seem to send a message in parsing through the words and the language that he wasn't looking for an escalation at this point.

Let me ask you to another -- about another story that we've been covering, and that is Israel ending its two-week-long siege at Al-Shifa Hospital.

Israel says that this had been a precise anti-terror mission and that it killed 200 militants and it had gone to great lengths to avoid any civilian

deaths or injuries. But the images are pretty shocking to see after the IDF had left the hospital that the CNN had been provided with and what we have

seen from eyewitnesses.

Talk to us about what more you're learning in your reporting about what actually took place and the fact that Israel had to return to the north to

Al-Shifa. I know Israel is saying that they've received a lot of high-level intelligence that they're parsing through right now, but even the fact that

they had to return after they had left the north, that is significant in and of itself, no?

BERGMAN: Yes, let me start with the last point that you raised. I think that if any one of the Israeli officials gave an impression as if Hamas,

even if just in the north, even if just in the City of Gaza, is totally destroyed or whatever expression they use, that all the military

infrastructure is disassembled, what happened in Shifa just proved that it's wrong, if to take what Israel claims that basically Hamas and the

Palestinian Islamic Jihad re-grouped and re-established the headquarters inside Shifa hospital. That's one.

The second, what it does, I think, also show, and Israel still needs to explain what exactly it found there and who exactly they killed, really

some of the names and who they detained, they said -- they mentioned a few people. But it does show -- this is not strategic. It's a tactical

intelligence achievement, an operation from Israel.


But it does show -- and this is the important looking towards the future, that Israel does not hesitate to launch those intelligence-derived

operations on focused targets. This calls for the future of the Gaza Strip, that if a no-man's land, if a lawless country will become displaced, then

Gaza will become such, then Israel will feel itself doomed, privileged, or must take more and more actions.

And as long as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't agree that it will -- that Israel will discuss the next day to bring in the Palestinian

Authority --

GOLODRYGA: Which he's not doing.

BERGMAN: -- bring some kind of alternative to -- Israel is not doing that.


BERGMAN: And he doesn't agree to that. And as long as the Gazan population, the refugees, they're not presented with some kind of reliable

alternative, then Hamas will regain control of every territory that Israel withdraws. And we will just be doomed, the whole region, to live on its own


GOLODRYGA: Yes. And this vicious cycle will just continue another theme that you constantly write about that's highlighted in your book are all of

these tactical achievements without strategy, without a long-term strategy.

And here we are right now, and that leads me to my question about what we're seeing on the streets of Israel once again, the numbers of protesters

now beginning to mirror what we saw before October 7th with the judicial attempts and reforms.

We're seeing 100,000 people over this weekend, the most we've seen turn out. Obviously, they have different agendas, and it seems that their goal

is not necessarily to end the war, bring -- A, to bring the hostages home, and to see a change in leadership.

And Bibi Netanyahu finds himself in a position like he's never been before, pulled from both sides, from the right and from the left. Again, Israel's

longest-serving prime minister can't rule him out right now. But how weakened and vulnerable, in your view, is he at this moment?

BERGMAN: I think that yesterday he gave the worst speech ever, with many lapses and linguistic mistakes. He used to be perfect in reading the

speeches, making the speeches, being ready for the speeches. And yesterday, he was not -- fairly confused or concerned by other things.

I think he made a speech to push back on claims that he's not putting the hostages at the top of his priority, knowing that the trend in Israel, the

majority, are supportive of a deal. And I think he is trapped between this kind of popularity for the deal and support for the hostages to come back,

even in great price that Israel will need to pay for price -- that Israel will need to pay, and the coalition, his extreme right-wing partners are

threatening to leave if he will agree to make a deal with Hamas.

But the fact -- the more important fact is that the protest, it seems, has reignited. The protesters that were not enthusiastic to do so as long as

the war goes on, realized, I assume, that the war is basically over in the sense of robust military maneuvers inside Gaza, and they're saying they

sort of unite between those two targets that they call for. One is the -- for -- called the government to sign a deal to do everything to bring those

hostages immediately back, and the same, a total mistrust of the government calling for election.

The importance of the remedy to the prisoners and the POW and MIA is something so inherent to the Israeli genome that this is very, very

powerful, and I think that now it's the main engine when a lot of people believe the Prime Minister Netanyahu is not doing enough, maybe the

contrary, maybe not wanting to end the war but wanting to continue the war, not to face the investigation, the inquiry afterwards and the political


And therefore, they don't believe -- many of the protests don't believe Netanyahu and don't believe his intention when it comes to signing a deal.

And therefore, accelerating the pressure on this the government.


GOLODRYGA: Ronen, you mentioned -- in the 30 seconds we have left now, you mentioned that major operations inside Gaza have really come to an end, but

we haven't brought up Rafah and the prime minister's insistence that the Israeli -- the IDF still has to go into Rafah, despite a lot of

consternation and hesitation from the West, particularly the United States. Do you see that operation moving forward at this point?

BERGMAN: I see preparation moving forward. I think that the decision has not yet been made, but at least as a leverage, there's pressure on Hamas to

sign the deal. Israel is making all the noises, the signs, the recruitment of reserves in order to do that.

I still believe that there is a room for decision-making, and I assume in the next two weeks. So, the left -- the 10 days to 14 days left in the

Ramadan are critical in exchange between the U.S. and Israel about making the call whether to invade Rafah or not.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and this comes at a point where tensions are at their highest point between the United States and the Israel since October 7th.

Ronen Bergman, thank you so much for your time, as always.

BERGMAN: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, now in Gaza, the 14-day siege, as we mentioned of Al- Shifa Hospital, has come to an end. With Israeli forces withdrawn, what remains looks like a scene from a horror movie, to quote a journalist on

the ground there. He described decomposing bodies, starvation, and dehydration, and corpses crushed by bulldozers.

Israel insists that it killed more than 200 terrorists during its operation there. Air drops continue, but it is far from enough.

Early on in the war, Christiane spoke with Mosab Abu Toha, a Palestinian poet living inside Gaza. And even at the outset of the conflict, he said

resources were low.


MOSAB ABU TOHA, PALESTINIAN POET: We are running out of water, running of electricity, we are out running medicine, and we're full of fear of what

has happened and what's going to happen.

In my house now, I have about four families. I had my family, my brother's family. And two sisters of mine who moved, who had to move to our place

because their house was critically damaged by a neighboring bomb.


GOLODRYGA: Well, their home was destroyed not long after that interview. Mosab eventually seeking refuge in Egypt with his wife and three children.

And he told Christiane about their harrowing journey there.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Mosab Abu Toha, welcome back to the program.

TOHA: Thank you, Christiane. You're in Cairo now, but the last time we spoke to you in Gaza, there had been an Israeli attack, and you basically

left. You were able to get out of Gaza. Do you know what's happening inside with your family right now?

TOHA: What I know is that my parents and my siblings, three of them, and their children, the youngest is one-month-old. The boy was born last month.

They are still stuck in Jabalia Camp. They are unable to find food.

I was on a call with my younger brother, who is the father of this one- month-old baby. He told me that the last time they could eat some meat was 16 days ago, which was before the start of the holy month of Ramadan. And

he was -- I mean, I'm honest, he's crying to me. He said, we have been looking for food. We have been running after some food that is dropped from

the sky by some planes.

And by the way, some of the food fell in the sea. And some people went inside, went into the sea, and some drowned. The last time I was able to

hear my mother's voice was also 20 days ago. There is no way of hearing what is happening to your family except when there is any breaking news

that, God forbid, would mention the names of your family members.

AMANPOUR: Mosab, you know, you talk about this horrible, horrible hunger and starvation that's being experienced by your own family. And, you know,

it is Ramadan, as we said. It is meant to be a time when families can get together and at least once a day have a break fast, get-together around


What are they doing? Are they able to even congregate?

TOHA: Well, in fact, many of the families are scattered around the Gaza Strip. I have two siblings who are in Rafah right now living in tents. They

are separated from my parents. They cannot be returned to be with my parent and other siblings in North Gaza. So, families that are separate from each


There are other families who lost most of their family members. There were families no longer with us this month.

AMANPOUR: And I think, if you remember, that convoy that Israel took in several weeks ago, where over 100 people ended up dying, trying to get food

on that convoy. There was shooting, there was a stampede. One of your relatives also was killed there, right?


TOHA: It was not a relative of mine. It was a very close friend of mine named Nasim (ph). I read some news about the killing of a whole family. I

scrolled down to look at the previous news from that page that listed the names of the people. And I found that my close friend was killed in that

massacre, the wheat (ph) massacre.

So, the family, we mourned the death of their oldest child one day before they themselves were buried under the rubble of their house. The whole

family was killed. And there is no one who was left alive to mourn the death of the family members.

The other relative who was killed of mine was my wife's uncle. He was born deaf and mute. He was kidnapped from inside an honor school where he was

sheltering in Beit Lahia, North Gaza. He was taken along with other young men. The next day he was released. So, he went back to the school where he

was taken from to reunite with his wife and his two other children. The youngest is a few months old. When he arrived at the gate of the school, he

was shot by an Israeli sniper.

AMANPOUR: Mosab, it's hard, hard to hear this. And I'm going to get to what happened to you, actually. You were detained when you tried to leave.

And in a moment, I'm going to get to that.

But first, I want to ask you because you are an artist, you're a writer, you're a poet. And we've heard and we've read not only your accounts of the

destruction, not just of lives, but of culture and of institutions, whether it's the cultural institution that was built in the '80s, whether it's the

seventh century mosque, whether it's libraries and the zoo and everything else. And I just wanted you to reflect on that as well. The destruction of

Gaza as a center of civilization?

TOHA: Well, Gaza has a lot of history. People in Gaza value history, value arts, value poetry and novels and every kind of, you know, culture that

people celebrate around the world.

I think what Israel is doing is not only getting rid of people that they have been wanting to get rid of for a long time, but they are trying to get

rid of whatever reminds people of their lives in Gaza. I mean, they are not bombing one house or two houses. They are detonating neighborhoods.

AMANPOUR: And in fact, figures show from overhead aerial photography and from accounts from inside that something like 70 percent of buildings have

been either destroyed or damaged in the last five to six months.

But I want to ask you to read a little bit from one of your poems, one of the latest ones. So, if you could read a few lines of "What Is Home?"

TOHA: Yes. So, this is called "What Is Home?", and it's from my poetry collection, "Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear."

What is home? It is the shade of trees on my way to school before they were uprooted. It is my grandparents' black and white wedding photo before the

walls crumble. It is my uncle's prayer rug where dozens of ants slept on wintry nights before it was looted and put in a museum. It is the oven my

mother used to bake bread and roast the chicken before a bomb reduced our house to ashes. It is the cafe where I watched football matches and played.

My child stops me. Can a four-letter word hold all of these?

AMANPOUR: It's very, very poignant. It's very poignant. And so, I need to ask you, what has happened to your home? As I said, when we first

interviewed you months ago, you sat in front of a bookcase full of your books that you have painstakingly bought, collected, and kept over the

years. What remains?

TOHA: Well, you know, you reminded me of this and it brings tears to my eyes. I mean, I've built my own home library by bringing with me from my

trips to the States. I traveled to the United States three times before the war.

And by the way, I returned to Gaza 10 days before the October 7th happened. I used to bring with me -- well, the first time I returned to Gaza, I

brought with me 120 books. Some of them were signed by authors, friends. The second time I returned, I brought with me 70 books. And the last time I

brought with me 20 books.

I mean, the destruction of a house is something, but the destruction of what used to be inside the house is something that cannot be built.



TOHA: The memories that I have built with my children, you know, the blankets that I brought with me as gifts from my friends in the States,

some of the souvenirs. I mean, I now remember the shield that I got as an award for my Palestine Book Award.

There are many things that I lost. But fortunately, none of my family members were killed. When I talk about my tragedy, I see it as a small

thing compared to what happened to other people when I remember that many of my friends, including the Hamdona (ph) family, that my friends' whole

family were buried under the rubble of their house. I mean, I see my tragedy as something very small.

AMANPOUR: It's really horrible, and it's affecting the whole world as well. And I want to ask you to go back to November when you finally decided

to leave. And on your way out, you were arrested and held in detention for a period of time. You wrote about it in "The New Yorker."

Tell me what happened. You were arrested and held for many hours. Why? What was the reason given?

TOHA: Well, I think, for me, as a Gazan, I mean, to be a Gazan is a reason for Israel to kill you, to kidnap you, to wound you. I was -- by the way, I

was wounded when I was 16 years old, in 2008 and 2009 Israeli onslaught on Gaza. I was 16. I survived. And I was kidnapped by the Israeli army when I

was trying to cross from North Gaza, as we all were directed by the Israeli army, to cross from south -- from North Gaza, where we were staying, and

sheltering at an (INAUDIBLE) school, to South Gaza to leave with my family.

So, our youngest son was -- is an American citizen. He was born in Boston when I was doing my fellowship at Harvard University. So, we were directed

by the American embassy to head to the Rafah Border Crossing.

So, these lists, by the way, the list that list people's name to cross through Rafah is approved by the Israeli authority. So, I was -- I had zero

speculations that they would call on to me. But they called to me, I dropped my boy when the Israeli soldier shouted at me, drop the boy, don't

come with him, drop the boy and drop your belongings and come to us.

They took me to an area that's a few meters away from the Israeli jeep. I was forced to take off all my clothes, even my boxer shorts in the front of

the three Israeli soldiers, who two of them were pointing their guns at me and the person next to me. And the third soldier was saying orders, drop

your clothes, drop your I.D.s, et cetera.

I was trying to tell them, hey, please talk to me. I am going to Rafah, I have an American citizen, this is an American passport, but they didn't pay

attention to anything. And some of this -- one of the soldiers said to the other, oh, onra (ph). And then I said, yes, I'm a teacher. He said, shut

up, son of a -- I was shocked by the way they were talking to me, although there was no proof that I did anything to them.

But on the contrary, I was harmed. My family was harmed. Our house was bombed. I lost a lot of our friends. I was wounded when I was 16. So, I am

the victim. I have been the victim before October 7th. But that's nothing to them, because they don't see us as people who have been occupied and

oppressed for decades, not only for days or weeks.

AMANPOUR: You were released after 50 hours, and they basically said, sorry about the mistake. This is the response we got from them. During IDF

operations in the Gaza Strip, there was intelligence indicating of a number of interactions between several civilians and terror organizations inside

the Gaza Strip. The civilians, among them, Mosab Abu Toha, were taken into questioning. After the questioning, he was released.

Then they end by saying, the IDF strategy adheres to international law, aiming to minimize civilian casualties, contrasting Hamas' intentional

targeting of Israeli civilians.

TOHA: Well, first of all, this is something they said to CNN, to any, you know, agency or any magazine reached out to them about me. But in fact,

they are not correct. They did not only investigate me, they blindfolded me, they handcuffed me, they tortured me. They kicked me in the face. They

kicked me in my stomach. They kept me on my knees for hours.

And when they released me, they didn't give me back my -- our passports, neither the American passport, neither the Palestinian passport. They

didn't return my wallet, my debit card, my credit cards, my watch, my clothes. So, they did not only investigate me, you know?

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, OK, let me just read this then. Detainees -- this is the IDF again. Detainees are treated in line with international

standards, including necessary checks for concealed weapons. The IDF prioritizes detainee dignity and will review any deviations from particles.

So, Mosab, they're going to review it, they say. I can see you grinning. Because we've heard this a lot.


TOHA: Well, we'll we see.

AMANPOUR: Yes. But now I want to --

TOHA: Yes, what we in see the street of Palestinian people, you know, naked and, you know -- and walked in the straight with only books and

shorts in their call, you know, this has nothing to do with dignity.

AMANPOUR: Let me though end by asking you this, because you have also written recently about a future and you write, I hope that when the war

ends, I can go back to Gaza to help rebuild my family home and fill it with books. That one day all Israelis can see us as their equals, as people who

need to live on our own land in safety and prosperity, and build a future.

How does this end, Mosab? How do you see it ending?

TOHA: Well, I mean, the future, you know, is very desperate. That's it. The present is very desperate, unfortunately. Nothing is changing. I mean,

I think what -- the change needs not to come only from inside Israel, but the change should be coming from the American administration.

The American administration is trying to, I think, correct some of its mistake by trying to drop some food in Gaza, but I think this is not the

right way to do it. I thank the American administration, alongside -- along with dropping some food aid to Gazans, they should, and they must stop

shipping, not dropping, shipping, you know, decently some weapons to Israel, which in turn drops these weapons on Gazan.

I mean, I think I this change should come from the free people of the world, And I hope the American administration would help achieve peace by

enforcing it, by stopping sending more and more weapons to Israel.

AMANPOUR: And, I guess, finally, what should Palestinians do? It might be a difficult question to ask you now, given the level of slaughter and the

terrible starvation, the brink of famine. and more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. What should they do? What about Hamas? I mean, it

has responsibility as well.

TOHA: Let's say Hamas was established in 1987. I mean, the Palestinian cause didn't start in 1987. So, the problem is not -- I think is only with

Hamas. Hamas could be a problem. It has been -- you know, it has not been good to many of us in Gaza. You know, there is always some conflict between

the government or whoever rules over people and with the people themselves.

So, Hamas is not loved by all Gazans. Many people wanted to get rid of Hamas, but not by killing them, of course. So, I think what Palestinians

need to have is to not have anyone control them, because we need our own country. We need to decide who would rule over us, just like anyone in the

world. About a million people in Gaza, half of Gaza's population, are under the age of 19, which means that they were born in 2004, and the elections

were in 2006.

So, half the population in Gaza did not vote for Hamas, including me, who is now 31 years old. I'm 31 years old. I've never voted in my life.

AMANPOUR: Understood. Mosab Abu Toha, thank you so much for joining us.

TOHA: Thank you, Christiane.


GOLODRYGA: Well, we turn now to Turkey, where a long-time President Recep Erdogan has been dealt a heavy blow in recent elections. The main

opposition party sweeping to victory in crucial cities like Ankara and Istanbul, defeating the president's Justice and Development Party. It's a

huge moment for Turkey. And Correspondent Scott McLean joins us live from Istanbul with the details.

Scott, can't understate or overstate really the significance of what we saw over the weekend, especially since we saw the huge victory, the

presidential victory last year for Erdogan, but right now, a clear message being sent to him about the state of the country, the state of the economy.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's absolutely right. If you can believe it, Bianna, this is not something that President Erdogan's Act

Party or Justice and Development Party is used to. This is the very first time in their existence that they lost the popular vote and this is the

first time or this is the lowest share of the popular vote that they have had since their initial election run back in 2002.

As you said, they managed to lose places that they were expected to, Izmir and Ankara. They lost places that they had poured a lot of resources in

like here in Istanbul where Erdogan actually lost his own district, Beyoglu, where he was born and raised, but they also lost in places that it

previously being considered strongholds.


I'll give you one example. Adiyaman is a city in Southern Turkey. It is very well known as quite religious, quite conservative. It's a place where

the Act Party had more than 50 percent of the vote in the 2019 local elections. This time, they had just about half of that.

And so, obviously, there has been a massive tectonic shift here. And what was interesting to see, though, was President Erdogan, in the aftermath of

this, giving not a victory speech, but a speech to his supporters in Ankara, where he was much more reflective about what went wrong. Listen.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): We will open-heartedly analyze the results of the March 31st elections within our

party and make our self-criticism boldly. Although not finalized yet, the election results show us that we are experiencing a loss of ground in local

administrations across the country. Of course, we will discuss the reasons for this decline we see on a local basis.


MCLEAN: It's also worth pointing out, Bianna, that this is an election that President Erdogan had really invested himself in. His face around

Istanbul was on banners and billboards all over town. He had come here several times in the final days of the campaign, trying to shore up his

support. And so, this loss has really got a sting extra for him.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Istanbul constitutes 30 percent of the country's economy. He had been a former mayor there, and he had also plans to put forward a

new constitution, which would extend his presidential term. We'll see how all of that will be impacted by the results of this pretty shocking

election over the weekend. Scott McLean, thank you so much.

Well, smartphones and social media have altered children's development, and our next guest is issuing a call to action. In his new book, social

psychologist Jonathan Haidt investigates the sudden collapse of mental health among adolescents. He joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss how parents

can manage the negative impacts.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jonathan Haidt, thanks so much for joining us. Your latest book is called "The Anxious Generation:

How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness."

And you and I have talked before, and, you know, you have been very careful about not seeming alarmist. And this book, what's fascinating to me about

it, is that you supplement so much of your ideas with empirical data and research that is proving this point. What is the epidemic of mental

illness, and where do we find the data for that?

JONATHAN HAIDT, AUTHOR, "THE ANXIOUS GENERATION": When you and I first spoke about this, it might have been back in 2019, I was not as alarmist

because we weren't sure.

It was clear that something that was going wrong with teen mental health. We had graphs showing that around 2013, rates of anxiety, depression, and

self-harm began rising rapidly. But there was an academic debate, and there still is, there's an academic debate about whether it's caused by social

media. It's correlated with it. Girls who use it heavily are three times as likely to be depressed. But, you know, scientists are going to debate, is

it causal or is it just a correlation?

Since then, I have learned a lot. I've gathered all the studies I can find, including experiments. There are now a lot of experiments that show that

when you randomly assign people to different conditions, it causes them to get more depressed or less depressed. So, we have experimental research.

But the really shocking thing to me, the thing that really made me into, I'd like to say an alarm ringer not an alarmist, is the discovery that the

exact same thing happened to us in America as happened in Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia at the same time in the same way,

hitting girls hardest and young girls even harder.

So, once it became clear, this is an international epidemic of teen mental illness. It began in the early 2010s. It's hitting girls hardest, although

the boys' story is really interesting and is also very bad. It's just a little different.

So, that's why I've been in this book, if you want to say I'm sort of leaving my old self behind and saying we need to act like now, like not in

2025, like we need to really make changes this year because otherwise, another year of kids is going to be consigned to this phone-based

childhood, which interferes with the development.

SREENIVASAN: So, your argument is not that it's the technology that's bad or that it's the internet that's bad. I mean, you actually try to draw kind

of a timeline from, well, getting one of these supercomputers in your pocket to the front facing selfie camera to broadband and then social

media. I mean, what have each of this kind of technological evolutions done to how our brains evolve?

HAIDT: So, the technology -- that technology is great, the internet is great, but things really change in the early 2010s. And so, just to walk

you through it. In 2010, I really go into this in detail in the book, in 2011, only 20 percent of American teens had a smartphone.


Kids were still using flip phones. They did not have high-speed internet. Most of them, they did not have unlimited data plans. You use your flip

phone to text or call your friends to get together. That's it. Kids were still seeing other kids in 2010. That's the beginning of what I call the

great rewiring.

Over the next few years, the smartphone gets a front facing camera in 2010. Instagram comes out in 2010, but it becomes super popular in 2012 when

Facebook buys it. So, that's when the girls really rush on and they move their social lives on to Instagram in particular, also Tumblr, a few

others. So, you get these super viral social media platforms. It wasn't like that in 2005.

So, you get front facing camera, high speed data. Oh, you get notifications. The original iPhone didn't interrupt you. You pulled it out

when you wanted it. So, what I'm saying is in 2010, there is no sign of a mental health crisis. Everything's fine.

So, we were all super optimistic in 2011, even up to 2012. But that's when the mental illness crisis begins, and all the numbers go way up for girls

and also up substantially for boys. So, by 2015, what we have is the millennials, they just barely made it through puberty before they got this.

So, the millennials were in college or late high school when they adopted this phone-based life. Because we're all doing it. We're all dominated by

our technology.

SREENIVASAN: Walk us through the actual harms that's now scientifically connected to kids use and increase use of screens and social media

specifically on smartphones.

HAIDT: So, first we have to establish the numbers here, which are stunning. The latest data from Gallup is around nine hours a day is what

they spend on their phones and screens. Five hours a day of that is social media. Another three to five is all the other stuff that they do.

So, imagine if your child, if you take nine or 10 hours out of their day, every single day, where's it going to come from? They spend less time

sleeping, less time with other kids, less time outside, less time exercising, a lot more time just being sedentary and solitary.

So, for all those reasons -- oh, nobody -- very little reading of books, no hobbies, there's no time, there's no time for anything. So, that's the

first thing, it pushes out all the good things of childhood that we want our kids to have.

When you give a kid a smartphone, it's likely to move to the center of her life, and that's what she's going to do for the rest of her life. And so,

that's one of the main ways of harm, it just deprives you of everything else.

Another thing it does is it fragments your attention. You and I are probably -- you know, we can pay attention to things, we can do our work,

but it's harder now than it was 10 years ago. There's constant interruptions, but we're still able to do it, but it's a struggle.

A teenager just starting puberty, age 10, 11, 12, the prefrontal cortex has not yet rewired for the adult configuration. They're not very good at

paying attention. And early puberty is when that skill really develops.

And so, to have them trying to develop that skill while being interrupted every few minutes, the average teen now gets, one study found, 257

notifications a day, 257 interruptions every day. It's very hard to focus on anything. So, you get fragmented attention, and we don't know how

permanent this is.

Another harm is addiction. The brain adapts to that constant level of stimulation that when you're not getting it, you're in a deficit mode.

You're irritable. You're unhappy. You feel terrible. So, these devices are designed to grab hold of our kids' attention and never let go, and they're

very effective at that. I could go on. There are so many other avenues of harm, but those are some of the big ones that I cover in the book.

SREENIVASAN: Can we talk a little bit about also the data and how it works on the impacts to girls versus boys?

HAIDT: When I started writing the book, I thought it was going to be a story primarily about what social media is doing to girls, because I've got

a lot of data on that and because the graphs, as you said, are like hockey sticks. It's like they're going along, there's nothing happening, and then

all of a sudden, one day in 2013, they all start shooting upwards, and it's the hospitalizations for self-harm that are the most stunning. And they're

the same in Britain, Canada, Australia. It's absolutely stunning what's happened to girls since 2013.

For boys, I couldn't find a smoking gun. I couldn't say, oh, well, it's video games or it's social media. For boys, the rise in mental illness is

slower, and the key thing about boys, it's not so much that this modern age is giving them diagnosable mental illness. What I finally figured out

working with my research partner, Zach Rausch, we finally figured out is that for boys, the issue is they've been withdrawing from the real world,

really since the '80s and '90s.

They've been spending much more time online. They don't go outside. They don't wrestle. So, boys are basically blocked in their development. They're

not turning into men. They're dropping out of school. They're dropping out of the workforce. So, we're losing a generation of boys.

It's not as clear for -- when you look at wealthy, educated groups, there, the gender gap is not so big. Once you get to sort of middle-class and

below, the girls are doing OK in terms of school and work, and the boys are just not. So, the problems are more diffuse, but they're extremely serious

for boys.


SREENIVASAN: You know, there are so many parents that will tell you that if you take a smartphone away from a child, that there's almost like that

you've broken this tractor beam, that they've had this lock, and they're really, generally speaking, aggressive. It's a very strange equation. It's

like if it was any other kind of an addictive substance or drug, a parent would probably say, well, let's get that out of the house and not use it.

HAIDT: The most powerful argument a kid can make is, mom, I have to have a smartphone because everyone else has one, and I'll be left out. I have to

have Instagram because everyone else has it, and I'll be left out. So, that's what's called a collective action problem. It's hard for us as

parents because everyone else is doing this.

And so, what I'm proposing is that we coordinate, we set some norms, and norms that would be hard to do on our own, but much easier to do if we do

them together.

So, just to go back to the parent struggling to put limits on, to maybe give a warning, what you were describing is actually quintessential

withdrawal symptoms from any drug. When brain circuits are used to getting this stimulation from, whether it's cocaine, heroin, slot machines, or

social media, if that happens every day, when you take the kid off, they feel horrible for a couple of weeks.

It takes two or three weeks, three or four weeks, actually, to detox for the brain to reset. So, it's vital that we give our kids -- that we delay

the entry into this craziness, and that we give our kids time away.

SREENIVASAN: Let's deal with some of the reservations that I'm sure you've heard. You know, besides my kid is going to miss out, one of the things

that, I think, parents are concerned about is giving their kids devices to be able to get in touch with them in an emergency. What are ways to do that

without necessarily giving them a full smartphone loaded with social media?

HAIDT: As a parent of two high school kids, I totally understand the desire to be able to reach your children, and the desire for them to reach

you if something goes wrong. So, that's the first thing.

We're not saying cut them off and don't communicate, we're saying don't give them the most powerful distraction device ever invented to have in

their pocket all the time, including when they're going to sleep, when they're in class, et cetera. So, give them a flip phone. The millennials

had flip phones, and they turned out fine.

My second point, though, is school security experts say there are procedures in place to deal with a school shooting, and they involve

listening and cooperating and working together with the teacher and the administration. So, where would you rather send your kid? I would ask any

parents who have this concern, and we all have the concern. Would you rather send your kid to a school in which when there's a potential problem?

Everyone, they're silent, they follow directions, they do what they're supposed to do, they follow the procedure.

Would you rather have one where at the first sign of a serious problem, everyone pulls out their phone, they're crying to their parents, they're

making a lot of noise, they're not listening? So again, I understand the human urge to talk to your kid if there's a crisis, but the teacher has a

phone, all the administrators have phones. So, we have to let the professionals do their job and not interfere as parents.

SREENIVASAN: One of the ideas that there are so many different types of communities who have found each other over social media. In a section in

your book, you talk about how, ironically, some of these communities that might find the most benefit are also the ones who are susceptible to the

largest of negative effects by being social media, explain that.

HAIDT: Yes. So, you know, we often confuse the internet and social media. What you've described is a problem that the internet largely solved. Kids

were isolated in the '90s. They could find, you know, if you're gay, if you're bi, if you're trans, they could find other kids beginning in the

'90s, the internet is amazing for that.

Once you start getting communities on social media, what you get is a move to the extremes. So, let's look at mental health Tumblr or mental health

Instagram or mental health TikTok. You might think, well, it's great if a person has a particular disorder, it's great that they can interact with

other people who share their disorder. I don't think that's true.

There's just increasing amounts of research that social media is spreading mental illness. It's just not a good idea to have teenagers hanging out

with influencers who are motivated to be more extreme to get followers. So, I don't buy the argument that this is somehow good for members of

historically marginalized communities.

And as I report in the book, studies show that while most kids recognize that these platforms are bad for them, LGBTQ kids are even more vociferous

in saying, these platforms are bad for us, these platforms lead to bullying and harassment.

So, you know, the internet is amazing, but social media does far more harm to kids than whatever shreds of benefit you can find from it.


SREENIVASAN: You have taken this message to social media companies directly. Are they getting it?

HAIDT: Well, there's been no response, certainly. They -- I think they're kind of hemmed in -- well, I should just put it this way. Meta did try a

small thing. They tried hiding the light counter. That didn't work to have an effect. I've spoken with their research staff there. I've spoken with

leadership there. I do believe that if they could make it healthier and not lose any users, they would do it.

But Meta in particular has shown it's always prioritized growth over everything else. There have been many internal whistleblowers pointing out

problems. They generally don't respond. They don't do the things that would be effective because that would, for example, kicking off underage users.

They know how old everybody is.

But, you know, when most 11 and 12-year-olds have an Instagram account, they should be kicked off, but Meta won't do that. Snapchat won't do that

because they lose most of their users. So, they know what the problems are. There have been many internal reports, and they don't act.

And they don't have to because Congress gave them immunity from lawsuits. This is one of the most insane things about our country. We have this

thing, this environment that is incredibly toxic for our kids' development, and we can't sue them.

SREENIVASAN: You know, there -- at a Senate hearing, CEO of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, said, "The existing body of scientific work has not shown a

causal link between using social media and young people having worse mental health." Is he misinformed by his lawyers?

HAIDT: No, he's properly informed by his lawyers that he can point to studies that support that conclusion. He can point to a few meta-analyses

that support that. He can point to a study by the National Academy of Science that came to that conclusion. But there is so much evidence on the

other side, so they're cherry-picking.

Even that National Academy's report that claims that there's not enough evidence to prove causation. In that very report, people should read

chapter four. It's an amazing catalog of the research that shows causality. So, it's a bizarre report in which the report itself documents dozens and

dozens of avenues of harm and dozens and dozens of experiments. But yet, for some reason, the way it was written, they said, well, we can't prove

that it's causal.

I've collected -- if you go to my Substack,, I've gone through all of the studies. We itemized them. We show how the correlational

studies come out, how the longitudinal studies come out, how the experimental studies come out. There is a ton of evidence. The

preponderance of the evidence shows it's not just a correlate, it's a cause.

Zuckerberg was pointing to the few studies he could, but in the long run, I believe they're going to lose that case because the evidence keeps

mounting. And by now, everybody sees it. The teachers, the parents, all those parents we saw at that Senate hearing, like, were they wrong that

their kid -- you know, that their kid is dead because of something that happened on social media? Were they all wrong about that?

So, at this point in time, it just defies belief that social media isn't contributing to this mental health crisis.

SREENIVASAN: Do you think that legislation, like what Ron DeSantis is proposing in Florida, or other states are thinking about doing to try to

delay or ban the use of social media by a certain age will work?

SREENIVASAN: I think the DeSantis bill is great. I think the Florida bill is great. We have to delay the age at which they get into social media. I

think 16 is the right age. I mean, for health reasons, it should be 18. But realistically, we're not going to get 18. 16, I think, is a reasonable

compromise at which we can begin treating kids like adults on the internet.

Right now, current law says 13. At 13, companies can do whatever the hell they want to your kids. They can take their data. They can do anything.

They don't need your permission. They can treat them like adults. That's current law. And there's zero enforcement. As long as they don't know your

kid is 10, they can do whatever they want to your kid.

So, the current law is horrible. It's not enforced. The age is too low. It's 13. We need to raise that to 16 and enforce it. And that's what the

Florida bill is going to do. They have a little carve out so that if parents really want their kid to be on it, 14 and 15, they can specifically

sign a permission. That'll be interesting to see how the tech companies implement that.

But I'm a big fan of the Florida bill. I hope all 50 states do it because there is no way to make social media safe for middle school children.

SREENIVASAN: Author and professor Jonathan Haidt, thanks so much for joining us.

HAIDT: Thank you, Hari.


GOLODRYGA: A very insightful interview there. Well, finally, spring has sprung. Tokyo's cherry blossom season has officially begun. Japan's

meteorological agencies spotted five blooming flowers on the city's official sample tree, which determines the start of the season. A cold snap

delayed the bloom five days later than usual.

Meanwhile, California is on track for a spectacular super bloom. After a wet winter, the floral phenomenon is expected to outshine last year's

unprecedented bloom. The wildflowers draw thousands of tourists and add a splash of color to the rolling desert hills.


And now, a quick look ahead to tomorrow's program, when Christiane will be interviewing the United Nations Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths. It

will be his first interview since he revealed that he's stepping down from the post due to his struggle with long COVID. They'll be discussing the

humanitarian crisis in Gaza and beyond, as well as any hopes he has for the future in such dark times.

Well, that is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can

always catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.

Thank you so much for watching, and goodbye from New York.