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10.25.02
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ANNOUNCER: You're watching NOW with Bill Moyers. With contributions from NPR news. This week on NOW...

A special investigation from the NEW YORK TIMES and NOW on support in Saudi Arabia for terrorism.

MATTHEW LEVITT, SENIOR FELLOW, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Members of the royal family did give substantial amounts to organizations that have since been linked to international terrorist groups.

ANNOUNCER: America's oldest Arab ally and the terrorist money trail.

And the visionary director Julie Taymor on a life full of art and magic.

JULIE TAYMOR: We always write stories of tragedies because that's how we reach our human depth.

ANNOUNCER: A Bill Moyers' interview with the woman bringing new life to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

And Uncle Sam is running TV ads, trying to beat all those junk food ads at their own game.

DAVID SHEA, PUBLICIS GROUPE: It's got to be cool. It has to be cool. It has to sound cool, it has to look cool. As soon as it doesn't we've lost our audience.

ANNOUNCER: Is this the last best hope for keeping kids from turning into overweight couch potatoes?

All that and Bill Moyers' Journal on NOW.




MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.

As President Bush continues to push for war in Iraq there are new worries about our oldest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia and it's role in supporting terror.

Just this week an influential group of American theologians, philosophers and political scientists wrote an open letter to Saudi intellectuals asking them to acknowledge and discuss their country's role in protecting and spreading Islamist terror but the government refused to allow the letter to be published there and censored the one newspaper that tried to print it.

Saudi Arabia has a lot to hide, and that's the subject of our special report tonight co-produced with the NEW YORK TIMES.

The TIMES' Phillip Shenon is the correspondent, Nelli Kheyfets and Jason Maloney, the producers.

PHILIP SHENON, NEW YORK TIMES: The desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been one of Americas closest allies in the Arab world for more than sixty years. But allegations of the country's ties to terrorism are putting the friendship -- founded on oil -- in jeopardy.

Just this week, the Treasury Department sent an investigator to Europe to seek support in freezing the assets of wealthy Saudis accused of sponsoring terrorism.

And a new report released by a task force of intelligence experts, including many former U.S. government officials, finds a financial link between Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden's terror network.

LEE WOLOSKY, FORMER OFFICIAL AT THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: The taskforce concluded in respect to Saudi Arabia that for years individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have served as a primary financial source for Al-Qaeda, and that for years the Saudis have turned a blind eye to this problem.

PHILIP SHENON: Lee Wolosky was an official at the National Security Council during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

LEE WOLOSKY: Saudi banks, charities, individuals, businesses, mosques, web-based initiatives all these are funding Al-Qaeda.

PHILIP SHENON: The Saudi government has responded to the report calling it an opinion based on false and inconclusive information, and saying "the task force is clearly out of touch with current activities."

Since September 11th the Saudi kingdom has been under great scrutiny for its alleged ties to terrorism. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. And now, in addition to the task force report, other evidence since the attacks increasingly points to a direct connection between Saudi money and extremist groups, including Al Qaeda.

All of this has some Americans asking tough questions about the Saudis' role in the September 11th attacks.

LIZ ALDERMAN, PLAINTIFF: These kinds of acts cannot occur unless there's financing, unless there's money.

PHILIP SHENON: Liz and Steve Alderman's son Peter was killed at the World Trade Center.

LIZ ALDERMAN: I became aware that an awful lot of this funding was coming from Saudi Arabia, who are supposed to be our friends

STEVEN ALDERMAN: There are people who are culpable because they're complicit. And I want them. And I don't want to kill them, I want money from them, and I want enough money from them so they'll never be able to do this again.

PHILIP SHENON: Using the American legal system as their weapon, Liz and Steve Alderman have banded together with more than 2000 other relatives of victims of the September 11th attacks. Together, they filed a one trillion dollar civil suit against mainly Saudi individuals, businesses, banks and charities, almost all of them Saudi, the families believe helped finance the terrorist attacks. Ron Motley is lead attorney representing the families.

RON MOTLEY, LAWYER FOR PLAINTIFFS: Our intent is to let the American people and the families know who funded terrorism and to get the people who are funding it to stop.

PHILIP SHENON: Motley, one of the nation's top plaintiffs attorneys, is best known for getting a landmark 350 billion dollar settlement from big tobacco in the 1990s. Now, he says he's prepared to fight what he calls "the case of a lifetime".

PHILIP SHENON (ADDRESSING MOTLEY:: If you were facing a jury tomorrow, in this case, could you give me a sense what your opening statement would be?

MOTLEY: A trail of blood followed a trail of money.

PHILIP SHENON: And you would show what?

MOTLEY: I would show that the banks, the institutions that we've sued, charities that we've sued, and the individuals that we've sued facilitated the events of September the 11th. By knowingly giving money, aid, comfort and encouragement to Bin Laden. And his murderous gang of cowards.

PHILIP SHENON: The 600 page complaint filed by Motley's team in a Washington, DC court in august, claims that "Saudi Arabian money has financed terror while its citizens have promoted and executed it"

MOTLEY: We're talking about individuals, people, who took their own money out of their own pockets, knowingly gave it charitable institutions that were well known within Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and to intelligence services to be funding terrorists. Period. That's what this lawsuit is about.

PHILIP SHENON: The lawsuit does not just focus on groups in the shadows. It also accuses major Saudi businesses, including Saudi Arabia's oldest and largest bank, of funneling money to terrorist groups.

Even prominent members of the Saudi royal family are named in the suit. Prince Sultan, the king's brother and the country's defense minister is alleged to have donated millions of dollars to charities the lawsuit specifically links to Al Qaeda.

PHILIP SHENON: Is it possible, these prominent Saudis who are giving money to these charities don't understand that money may be funneled off to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups?

MOTLEY: That might be their defense but it won't wash because we have documentary evidence to the contrary.

PHILIP SHENON: Most startling, Motley claims to be able, for the first time, to draw a direct link between a member of the Saudi royal family and some of the hijackers.

PHILIP SHENON (ADDRESSING MOTLEY): Could you give us a sense of what sort of documents you've got?

MOTLEY: There was contact being made between a member of the Royal family and two of the hijackers. Put it that way. And we have documentary evidence of that.

PHILIP SHENON: Motley is making big claims, but it's impossible to evaluate his sources because he is not willing to provide the evidence while his investigation is still underway.

Another defendant named in the suit is Prince Turki al Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence and the new ambassador to Britain. His own father King Faisal was assassinated by terrorists.

PRINCE TURKI AL FAISAL (FORMER HEAD OF SAUDI INTELLIGENCE ON CNN): We've always cooperated with United States on any subject that has to do particularly about terrorism.

PHILIP SHENON (ADDRESSING MOTLEY): What is it you know about Prince Turki and his ties to Al Qaeda?

MOTLEY: I know a lot about Prince Turki and his ties to Al Qaeda. A lot of it's in the complaint and a lot of it's coming in daily. Let Prince Turki come to the United States and when we finish Prince Turki he'll be Prince Cooked Goose.

PHILIP SHENON: Former Senator Wyche Fowler was the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1996-untill last year.

WYCHE FOWLER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Saudis are not in the business of funding terrorists against their friend the United States.

PHILIP SHENON: In the past, he has worked closely with the Saudi royal family FOWLER: If, Turki al Faisal were somehow complicit in any actions against those, our victims on September 11th in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, I guess the only word I can say is, I would be astonished. Prince Turki was the head of the, the equivalent CIA for almost thirty years. American educated, at Georgetown, uh, a man known in his own country as having impeccable character.

PHILIP SHENON: Fowler is equally surprised by the allegations against Prince Sultan, the kings brother.

FOWLER: I would be astonished if Prince Sultan, uh, is shown to have been involved in any criminal or terrorist activity. He has a tremendous reputation for charitable giving, for generosity.

MATTHEW LEVITT, SENIOR FELLOW, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: I think the only thing that people can really say-- with any measure of authority is that members of the royal family did in fact give substantial amounts of money to organizations that have since been linked to international terrorist groups.

PHILIP SHENON: Mathew Levitt is a former FBI counter-terrorism analyst. He now works on tracing the funding of extremist groups.

LEVITT: Did they know for certain that these organizations were linked to international terrorist groups? I can't prove one way or the other. The bottom line is: they're looking the other way - and they're choosing to look the other way.

PHILIP SHENON: Saudi Arabia is the spiritual center of the Muslim world. Its citizens follow a strict interpretation of the Koran. Charitable giving, known as Zakat, is one of the main pillars of Islam. In Saudi Arabia citizens voluntarily give billions of dollars each year to Muslim causes around the world. This money is often unregulated and difficult to track. But there are clues.

Levitt points to a charity supported by King Fahd himself, the Saudi High Commission for Aid to Bosnia. The group was linked to terrorist activity after a raid on its offices by NATO forces last October. The raid turned up incriminating files, including photos of past terrorist targets, crop-duster manuals, and a map of Washington pinpointing U.S. government buildings.

Another group that has received funding from the Saudi royal family is the International Islamic Relief Organization:

LEVITT: This organization was linked to the 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings. Individuals who have been indicted, convicted for their roles in that bombing were employees of this-- International Islamic Relief Organization.

Ultimately, a very disturbing percentage of the funds that support Al Qaeda terrorist activity comes from charitable and humanitarian organizations that are based in Saudi Arabia.

PHILIP SHENON: But these kinds of connections have been difficult to uncover.

Since the investigation that followed the 1996 bombing at Khobar Towers, in Saudi Arabia, which left 19 U.S airmen dead, American law enforcement officials have voiced their frustrations about Saudi intelligence cooperation.

The Bush administration says they have received the complete support of the Saudis since September 11th, but many intelligence analysts disagree.

LEVITT: Across the board, there's a lot that we don't know because there's a lot of cooperation we're not getting. So, we don't know how much the Saudis know. We don't know how much they could know. It's clear that it's more than what we're getting right now, cause we're not getting a whole lot.

PHILIP SHENON: The allegation that the Saudis are not cooperating in the war on terror has strained what had been a long friendship. From the historic meeting in 1945 between King Abdul Aziz and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the close ties between the Bush family and King Fahd, oil has always been at the core of the relationship. Saudi Arabia sells on average 1.5 million barrels of oil to the United States every day, and it has worked to keep oil prices steady.

WYCHE FOWLER: They have worked in concert with us to keep oil prices stable and make sure that the American economy was not hurting by spikes in, in oil prices

PHILIP SHENON: Over time, the strategic alliance has grown beyond oil, to include military cooperation.

FOWLER: The military relationship has been extraordinarily important, going back at least fifty years.

PHILIP SHENON: During the 1980's, Saudi money, both from government funding and private charitable giving, supported the U.S. backed Mujahadeen, Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Later, in 1991, Saudi troops joined the U.S. effort in the Gulf War, and Americans have maintained bases in the Saudi desert ever since.

Youssef Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

YOUSSEF IBRAHIM, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: On September 10 and until September 10 I, I, I can only describe the Saudi relationship as a-- honeymoon --

PHILIP SHENON: He covered the Middle East for many years as a NEW YORK TIMES reporter. And has recently worked for British Petroleum.

IBRAHIM: Suddenly the atmosphere in the United States towards Saudi Arabia changed. As, as we all know there's been streams of ink that have run in opinion, editorial and opinion and by pundits attacking Saudi Arabia.

SAUDI AD: In the war on terrorism, we all have a part to play, one country has been an ally for over sixty years,

PHILIP SHENON: The Saudi government has tried to repair its image in the United States launching a multi million dollar ad campaign highlighting the history of cooperation between the two countries.

SAUDI AD: Arresting over two hundred suspects including Al Qaeda members and a force for blocking over 70 million in terrorist assets world-wide.

PHILIP SHENON: But for the families of the September 11th victims, the benevolent U.S./Saudi history is not enough.

LIZ ALDERMAN: If the Saudis are our friends, and if they say they're our friends, then they should start acting like our friends.

PHILIP SHENON: The lawsuit has caused an uproar in Saudi Arabia.

IBRAHIM: This is a serious breach of honor, and I think both the Saudi population and the Saudi government did not differ in this reaction -the shock was pervasive.

PHILIP SHENON: The Saudi embassy in Washington has declined comment on the lawsuit. But in a statement issued last week the Saudi say that "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken deliberate action to root out sources of terrorism and shut down its financing."

And American officials tell the NEW YORK TIMES that in recent weeks the Saudis have voiced their protest over the lawsuit to the Bush administration. The State Department says it has no comment on the suit. But a department official speaking on the condition of anonymity acknowledged that government lawyers are closely watching the case.

PHILIP SHENON (ADDRESSING MOTLEY): Are you prepared to have your lawsuit do real damage to the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia?

MOTLEY: So be it. If it happens, it happens. That's not our intent. If it happens, it happens. Tell Prince Turki to keep his money in his pocket or give it to a legitimate charity.

PHILIP SHENON: As the Motley team prepares to move into the discovery phase of the case, there is growing concern among bankers and economists about what might happen if the court freezes the assets of the Saudi defendants. Bankers fear it could trigger a mass exodus of Saudi money from the U.S. economy.

PHILIP SHENON (ADDRESSING FOWLER): How substantial is the Saudi investment in this country?

FOWLER: Billions and billions of dollars. I think there have been attempt to, uh, quantify it over the years. But whether it is, uh, two hundred billion, or six hundred billion, or eight hundred billion, uh, you know, nobody really knows. They feel like, not only America is the strongest country in the world, has the strongest economy, but so many were educated here, that we are their friends.

PHILIP SHENON: Such good friends in fact, that the Saudis maintain large real-estate holdings in Florida, Texas, and Colorado. They also own major stakes in AOL/Time-Warner, Citibank, and Disney.

But since September 11th, the Saudi investment has been shrinking. Youssef Ibrahim estimates that as much as 200 billion dollars has already been moved out of the U.S. since the attacks. He fears that the lawsuit could make the situation worse.

IBRAHIM: If this lawsuit results in effect in-- a court order to freeze Saudi assets, it will have the impact of an atomic bomb on Saudi/American relationships.

PHILIP SHENON: Ibrahim says he and indeed all Americans should be prepared for a backlash.

IBRAHIM: I can see some Saudis actually filing class suit against the CIA for training and creating this monster called Al Qaeda. people tend to forget that we created that monster to fight the Soviet Union. Osama bin Laden was our absolute darling through the 80s.

PHILIP SHENON: For now, the lawsuit is going forward. But questions still remain about the strength of the case and the legal precedent for such action. Motley insists that he has the evidence, and the will, to win.

MOTLEY: We're not just making things up. This is based on documentary evidence. This is based on informants. It's based on testimony uh, in criminal trials. It's based on affidavits filed by criminal prosecutors in foreign countries. It's based on financial records that have been seized as a result of criminal investigations. This is not just some redneck from South Carolina making up stuff about Saudi Arabia.

PHILIP SHENON (ADDRESSING MOTLEY): But if, as you know, the Saudis and their friends in Washington say that you're blowing smoke, that these theories have been around for years about the Saudi ties to terrorism and nobody's been able to prove it. You won't be able to prove it. That you want to have these idle threats out there so that they'll capitulate and pay off the family.

MOTLEY: Let me, let me say this about that. Most of the families don't want the money. They don't care if the money is burned they just want the money out of the pockets of the people who finance terrorism. And they'll just say that we're blowing smoke. I'd go ask the tobacco executives if we're blowing smoke.

PHILIP SHENON: The families say they hope to make a difference by cutting the financial lifeline for future acts of terror.

LIZ ALDERMAN: The basic reason for this suit, is to find the truth and to stop this from ever happening again.




MOYERS: Every now and then a movie comes along that truly changes how we see the world or shows us something about the world we had never quite seen before.

Such a movie opens this weekend in New York and Los Angeles, and next Friday across the country. The name of this movie is FRIDA for the artist Frida Kahlo. She was hardly known outside her native Mexico when she died in 1954. But today her paintings bring record bids at auction.

More than 100 books have been written about her in Spanish and English, and she's the first Latin woman to be honored on a United States postage stamp.

Quite a remarkable celebrity for someone who lived in constant pain after an accident that almost killed her when she was a girl in school. Here's one of the many vivid scenes in FRIDA, starring Salma Hayek.

>> MOVE IT!

MOYERS: That scene, this movie, FRIDA, was directed by Julie Taymor. She won two Tony awards for the LION KING on Broadway. It was her film version of Shakespeare's TITUS ANDRONICUS, all about blood feuds and vengeance, that prompted me to interview her last year after the massacre on September 11.

Julie Taymor is back this evening. And I welcome you to NOW.

TAYMOR: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.

MOYERS: What was there about the life of this woman that made you want to tell her story?

TAYMOR: Well, her life seemed to transcend her pain, both her this was a woman who shouldn't have lived after this horrific accident that skewered her.

And yet she was in bed for two years, her father put a mirror under the canopy of the bed, and she started to paint herself. And through her life she seemed to be able to make... To create art out of the worst circumstances. And that's an incredibly inspiring story.

On top of that, it's an amazing romance, the rockiest romance I've ever come across, ever, between her and Diego Rivera.

MOYERS: And the most unlikely.

TAYMOR: Oh, it's unbelievable. He was 250, 300 pounds; she was 5'2". He was big. Their differences were huge. He was a very famous painter at the time, hugely famous, and phenomenally famous for womanizing. And she knew it when she married him.

So you had infidelities all over the place, and yet this woman loved Diego. And it was a tremendous relationship, divorce, come together, fall apart.

MOYERS: She was a revolutionary in so many ways: artistically, politically, sexually. What did you identify with her as a woman?

TAYMOR: Well, this woman painted not to make money. Not that I haven't made money.

But she painted what she painted because she had to, because she was passionate about it. She didn't care at all if people bought her paintings. As she said, she painted her reality.

I find that I make as an artist the kind of choices that I have to be impassioned about. I'm not going to spend two years on a film or four years on an opera if I don't feel like I can put my own self into it. That doesn't mean it has to be about myself. That's a difference.

Frida painted her own reality, her life. I'm a director and I paint many other people... Other people's realities. But I do have to invest in it. And the other thing that I found compelling is that Elliot Goldenthal, who did the score...

MOYERS: The music.

TAYMOR: ...We have a long 20- year collaboration. And I love that Diego and Frida were these incredible artists who supported each other in their work, in their art.

MOYERS: He is your significant other.

TAYMOR: Oh, yes. Yes.

MOYERS: For 20 years?

TAYMOR: Twenty happily unmarried years.

MOYERS: So there was more to her than being an artist. I mean, there was a... You could identify with her.

TAYMOR: No, I like that, but she got... She also really wanted to have a family and children and she had no luck at that either with miscarriages and because of her accident. The body was not capable.

MOYERS: She could easily have been a victim. Yet as I said in the opening in the 1980s there was this explosion of interest in her. Why do so many women see in her the hero's journey?

TAYMOR: Well, I think there's a difference between how she was perceived in the '80s and how we are trying to deal with her now. Because she was used as a... Whatever the word feminist means to you, she was used as an icon of pain and suffering, really a woman who had tremendous abuse from her husband and survived, as I said, these accidents.

But I don't think that really is the heart of what Frida is. I think now what we can see as women is a woman who was outrageous, unique, talented, single minded, tenacious, and very feminine. Very caught up with her man. Very vulnerable. Very obsessive about her love for her guy.

So there was this... There is, this incredible balance that's attractive to women and to men I think who see this story, of someone who can do both, where you didn't have to say, "I'm a woman, so I'm going to be independent, and I don't need you as a male, and I can stand on my own." There's that. I mean, that's fine.

But I also think that Frida, she knew how to lay a table, she knew how to put flowers in her hair. What's mysterious about her is her gender bending, her bisexuality, her ability to be both macabre, grotesque and exquisitely beautiful, sublimely beautiful.

MOYERS: Let me show the audience one of the many powerful scenes in the movie.

SCENE FROM FILM: Get out! Get out! Get out!

MOYERS: I'm chilled every time I see that.

TAYMOR: Why?

MOYERS: I do not know. I was going to ask you why. Why is the haircutting so significant?

TAYMOR: Well, that particular scene happens after Diego has done the ultimate act of betrayal: he's made love with Frida's sister. And she leaves him. Frida leaves him.

And she... So much of Frida was about her physically, her hair, her braids, her clothes. So she cuts her hair off at that moment. She plays with that other side of her which is the masculine side of her.

But that particular shot which is Salma Hayek in front of the mirror, completely painted. We painted her face. We painted her clothing. We forced perspective. When you talk about the theater, that is a forced perspective set. There's nothing computer generated in this at all. This is almost totally theatrical.

You use motion control, which means your camera moves once with the real Salma here, then you do the same action again with there, and you can then put them together.

But it's so shocking to people because it looks like a two dimensional painting for a moment, and then you feel that it's a human being coming alive.

MOYERS: I'm chilled I think because of that and chilled because suddenly as you talk I think of... I'm seeing the melancholy.

I mean, feeling the melancholy, the cut hair, the something lost, something gone, something that she loved, she shears. And then suddenly this figure comes alive for a brief moment and then lapses into the most utmost posture of despair and melancholy.

TAYMOR: And it's a little, little gesture. I was talking about this earlier today. That's a little teeny gesture, just the collapse. It's so subtle just to go, "Oh, my god, she's alive." You know.

MOYERS: Let's look at that scene when for the first time Diego is about to seduce her or she's about to seduce him.

TAYMOR: Exactly.

FRIDA: What is this?

DIEGO: Well, the benefits of being party leader, you can arrange for the drinking to be done close to home.

FRIDA: If you think I'm going to sleep with you just because you've taken me under your wing, you're wrong.

DIEGO: Me? I was painting murals and womanizing in peace when you came along. I have a proposal. We will not sleep together. We will solemnly swear right here, right now that we will be friends only.

FRIDA: Fine. Did you arrange for that?

DIEGO: Cost me a fortune.

MOYERS: I wasn't prepared for the light to come on. I loved that, it was quite a touch.

TAYMOR: Yes. Yes. I think that's part of the myth of stories.

MOYERS: Later they do marry. She takes him on knowing that he is a compulsive womanizer. Why did she do that? You studied her life. Why did she do that?

TAYMOR: She just thought he was worth it. She just thought it was more bigger than that.

Also we have a scene and I think it's the crux of the movie, really, which is, what is the fine line between fidelity and loyalty? When she... When he proposes to her she... He says he can't be faithful. And she thinks about it. He says, he's physiologically incapable of fidelity.

And she thinks about it and she says, "can you be loyal?" And he says, "to you, always." Well, what is the difference?

MOYERS: My favorite line in the movie is after they've been divorced and they've been separated, they've been apart. They've been in California. He comes back and she says to him why? And he says because I miss us.

TAYMOR: Us.

MOYERS: And Joseph Campbell once said, you know, "That the commitment is to the relationship in a marriage."

TAYMOR: That's true.

MOYERS: And he missed whatever they became together.

TAYMOR: Diego and Frida. Frida and Diego. Diego and Frida.

There's a whole feeling that this... These two became an item, even in the public eye, even in a social or celebrity circle, they were a unique couple.

And I don't think that that's probably what he meant, but obviously she gave him something that he needed to be with.

MOYERS: His art is overtly political; hers is very, very personal.

TAYMOR: From the beginning of her painting she was her own subject. She just stayed on that. That's what she could paint. She painted, as she said, her inner reality. She painted from inside. He painted the outside.

MOYERS: All I know, she said. She said, it's all I know.

TAYMOR: Yes.

"That's all I know, that I paint my reality." She didn't even think she was a Surrealist, that we call it, Breton called her Surrealist.

But for her that was reality, when you see her inside of her heart pumping blood or you see her exposing... Oh, even the miscarriage, some very dark and difficult paintings, and you see the fetus... These items that are shocking for most people, that's the truth of her life.

MOYERS: Something else that struck Judith, my wife and me as we watched that scene with Trotsky and his wife and their friends around the dinner table we heard echoes of our own gatherings in the 1960s, so much passion for politics. So much commitment to a cause.

I mean, did that have to do with Frida's time and place and those particular people?

TAYMOR: Those people were actually so powerfully effective as artists politically. They did make a difference. Their work was political, it was fashioning the thinking of the time.

MOYERS: But what's happened to the passion for politics in this country? Many people don't want to talk about politics, and if they do they don't bring the passion.

We don't bring the passion to it that we used to. What has happened?

TAYMOR: Well, the commercialization of art is phenomenal, and that's for the movies as well.

I mean, it's very, very hard for people to feel like their voice could be heard unless it makes... Unless it gets, it's wide, it's on TV and if you get to that point, then it has to be commercial. Or people don't want to put it out there. So...

MOYERS: And you think this affects politics?

TAYMOR: I think politics itself, I think that people are just in a terrified state right now to be critical of anything. But I do think art still affects us socially in this country, tremendously. What's on television, what's on HBO. The kind of movies. It does.

A movie like this, as you said, people will go out and they'll discuss marriage, they'll discuss loyalty. That is an effective political, social act, if you get people to think. If you can provoke them. I'm an entertainer, but I also firmly believe in provoking.

MOYERS: In almost everything I've seen of yours there's a defining moment, usually a violent moment. You don't see the violence.

With the falling gold dust and the falling glass and the falling oranges, there's also that pipe there that we know later is going to enter her back and vagina and means she'll never have children. You don't see that act.

TAYMOR: No.

MOYERS: You grope with the consequences of violence not with the act itself.

TAYMOR: Well, I learned from Shakespeare about that. I learned.

MOYERS: Good mentor.

TAYMOR: Yes, I did. And I think that people's imaginations are richer sometimes than the reality. And also the reality, if you show the act, you have the danger of putting the audience off so they can't enter into it.

We always write stories of tragedies because that's how we reach our human depth. How we get to the other side of it. We look at the cruelty, the darkness and horrific events that happened in our life whether it be a miscarriage or a husband who is not faithful. Then you find this ability to transcend. And that is called the passion, like the passion of Christ. You could call this the passion of Frida Kahlo, in a way.

When I talk about passion, and I'm not a religious person, but I absolutely am drawn and attracted to the power of religious art because it gets at that most extreme emotion of the human experience.

MOYERS: Excuse me, I have to tell you that I think you are one of the most religious people I see working in the...

TAYMOR: Well, yes, but not an organized religion.

MOYERS: No, no, not...doctrinaire. But the experience.

TAYMOR: No, I agree with you. I believe in it profoundly.

MOYERS: What I sense in you as a seeker, a pilgrim, soldier, whatever. You're a seeker.

TAYMOR: I am often interested in the story of the outsider. You know I lived in Indonesia for many years.

MOYERS: What happened to you in Indonesia.

TAYMOR: This is probably it for me. This is the story that moves me the most. I was there for two years and I was planning to stay longer and start a theater company. I went to Bali to a remote village by a volcanic mountain on the lake. They were having a ceremony that only happens only every 10 years for the young men. I wanted to be alone.

I was listening to this music and all of a sudden out of the darkness I could see glints of mirrors and 30 or 40 old men in full warrior costume-- there was nobody in this village square. I was alone. They couldn't see me in the shadows. They came out with these spears and they started to dance. They did, I don't know, it felt like an eternity but probably a half hour dance. With these voices coming out of them. And they danced to nobody. Right after that, they and I went oh, my God. The first man came out and they were performing for God. Now God can mean whatever you want it to mean. But for me, I understood it so totally. The detail on the costumes. They didn't care if someone was paying tickets, writing reviews. They didn't care if an audience was watching. They did it from the inside to the outside. And from the outside to the in. And that profoundly moved me then.

MOYERS: How did you see the world differently after you were in Indonesia?

TAYMOR: Well I understood really the power of art to transform. I think transformation become the main word in my life.

Transformation because you don't want to just put a mirror in front of people and say, here, look at yourself. What do you see? You want to have a skewed mirror. You want a mirror that says you didn't know you could see the back of your head. You didn't know that you could amount cubistic see almost all the same aspects at the same time. It allows human beings to step out of their lives and to revisit it and maybe find something different about it.

I think that's why travel was so important to me. I did it at a really young age, because you go outside and then you look at your own country, your own culture, completely differently.

I remember back then I used to say that arts were talked about in the arts and leisure page. Now, why would it be arts and leisure? Why do we think that arts are leisure? Why isn't it arts and science or arts and the most important thing in your life? I think that art has become a big scarlet letter in our culture.

It's a big "A." And it says, you are an elitist, you're effete, or whatever those things...do you know what I mean? It means you don't connect. And I don't believe that. I think we've patronized our audiences long enough.

You can do things that would bring people to another place and still get someone on a very daily mundane moving level but you don't have to separate art from the masses.

MOYERS: Thank you very much, Julie Taymor, for being with us tonight.

TAYMOR: Thank you so much.



ANNOUNCER: Next week on NOW, new voices in the search for solutions for our dysfunctional democracy.

NOW ROUNDTABLE: The problem within American politics is a kind of sickness within the political process. We are millions of Americans feel disconnected from the major issues that are being debated.

ANNOUNCER: And one state's radical new efforts to improve elections.

And coming up on NPR radio.

SCOTT SIMON: Hi, I'm Scott Simon. Join me on the radio tomorrow for Weekend Edition from NPR news.

We'll have an 800-year-old math book that brought numbers to the Western world, almond roasted crickets in a roach-infested kitchen, a couple of exhibits at a Kansas museum of insects.

You can find your local public radio station on our web site, npr.org.



MOYERS: Our last guest, Julie Taymor, knows how to reach the child in all of us that is stimulated by spectacle and magic. Takes us through theatrical magic into the experience of other lives.

If only the mass media were this creative with most of what it offers children these days. Alas, it's not. All too often kids are seen only as little consumers with big appetites for junk food and video games.

Those appetites are stimulated by manipulation, not magic, result inning a new generation of couch potatoes with some serious health problems.

So what does the government do to counter such media manipulation? More media manipulation, $190 million worth. My colleague, Kathleen Hughes takes a look.

KATHY HUGHES, PRODUCER: Kids love chips. And television. Frosted Cereals. And computers. French Fries… And more television.

It might look cute. But the results are not cute. America's children are in the middle of a fat epidemic. Type two diabetes and heart disease, once adult disorders, are now being diagnosed in children. And as the number of fat kids skyrockets, the crisis worsens. Today one in four school age children can be called overweight. And over the last twenty years, the number of obese kids has tripled.

But don't worry, the government has decided to weigh in.

TOMMY THOMPSON, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time to act.

KATHY HUGHES: Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson recently kicked off a five year, 190 million dollar media campaign to get kids exercising.

TOMMY THOMPSON: For years our nation's concern about the health problems of our children has been growing in proportion to our children's waist line.

KATHY HUGHES: Thompson is hoping for a slam dunk.

TOMMY THOMPSON: It's called VERB.

KATHY HUGHES: You heard right. It's called Verb.

The government's big plan to fight fat is to advertise to kids, kids between the ages of 9 and 13.

And that means partnering up with the couch potato industry. Nickelodeon, for instance will promote VERB on it's Wild and Crazy Kids show. AOL Time Warner is handling the VERB Web site. Disney is a partner, as is Primedia, the company that's come under fire for running junk food commercials during its Channel One news broadcasts to school kids.

These are the very companies whose profits depend on keeping kids in an un-VERB-like state: in a movie seat, at the computer, or slumped in front of the television for as many hours as possible.

Strange bedfellows? It gets stranger.

DAVID SHEA, PUBLICIS GROUPE: I think we're changing the consciousness. I think verb right now is thought of as a piece of grammar. What we want to do is create a whole different mindset, that verb is really an action.

KATHY HUGHES: David Shea and Lisa Mills created VERB for one of the nation's largest ad agencies, the Publicis Groupe. Their mission: to re-package exercise into a brand. A cool brand.

DAVID SHEA: It has to be cool. It has to sound cool, it has to look cool. As soon as it doesn't, we've lost our audience. We can't do that.

LISA MILLS, PUBLICIS GROUPE: We know it will work because we we've been so successful for other products. We're the ones that could make it work.

KATHY HUGHES: Shea and Mills know what they're talking about. They're among the country's top experts in marketing to children. But it's ironic that they and the Publicis Groupe would be hired to try and get kids fit...when so many of their campaigns could be helping to make them fat.

The Company's string of marketing victories includes a who's who of the sugary, salty high-calorie food industry: from Big Macs to Count Chocula to Coca Cola, to Fruit Roll-ups. All are marketed aggressively to children.

I asked the VERB creators how they could compete with themselves...

LISA MILLS: It's not to compete, it's ... it's truly to be competitive. Um, and the competitive set of those brands. This is going to be a kids' brand, as uh, fun and as attractive as any kids' brand, as effective as they are, at generating desire on the part of those products.

KATHY HUGHES: Susan Linn, a psychologist at Harvard University is writing a book about the powerful 12 billion dollar a year industry that markets to children. She is skeptical of the government's whole VERB-thing.

SUSAN LINN, PSYCHOLOGIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: They are working with people who have a vested interest in keeping children watching television and eating food that isn't good for them. Now how can people who, for whom that is a primary value be really helping children and families combat childhood obesity?

KATHY HUGHES: Even if the campaign is well-intentioned, Linn says the message to get out and VERB won't cut through.

SUSAN LINN: I, I taped six hours of Nickelodeon, and counted the food commercials. I saw 40 food commercials over six hours. That's about one every 10 minutes.

KATHY HUGHES: American kids see an average of up to 40,000 commercials a year. A quarter of them are for food.

SUSAN LINN: It's over and over and over again. And the messages are, eat here and you will be happy. Eat this food and you will be happy.

KATHY HUGHES: Even at the grocery store, marketers are trying to seduce children. Their favorite cartoon and movie figures call out to kids from the shelves... When it comes to promotional tie-ins, any kid worth his salty french fries can tell you which toys from which movies can be obtained at which fast food operation.

It all adds up to two messages, reinforcing each other: Sit and eat. Eat and sit. Sit and eat. Eat and sit. It has doctors worried.

DR. DAVID LUDWIG: We find some children consuming literally thousands of calories a day in fast foods and soft drinks.

KATHY HUGHES: Dr. David Ludwig directs the Obesity Clinic at Children's Hospital in Boston. He applauds the effort to get kids active. But he says, unless the corporations that entice kids to eat too much are reigned in, little will change.

DR. DAVID LUDWIG: There's a tremendous amount of profit which is now being made by marketing fast food, soft drinks and other high-calorie poor nutrition foods directly to children. It's going to take a very concerted political campaign to change policies that might threaten the profits of some big companies.

KATHY HUGHES: A government campaign to stop marketing to kids? Fat chance.

KATHY HUGHES (ADDRESSING TOMMY THOMPSON): Are there any efforts to restrict the amount of adverting just being broadcasted to kids?

TOMMY THOMPSON: No, no. We want to do the positive We don't want to do the negative. We want to be out there encouraging children to get out of the front room of their house and out into the streets and playing baseball, dancing, you know, playing some kids of sports, being physically active.

KATHY HUGHES: Do you think these messages, will there be enough of them be able to compete with all the food, and bad lifestyle.

TOMMY THOMPSON: Probably not. But at least, at least we're starting. At least we're going to push through and hopefully get some real action. I'm hoping you know that other people will start seeing our advertisements and say they want to participate. And if we can do that, maybe we can even get the fast food industry to give us some money to actually help us advertise good physical activity because they should be involved. Instead of just selling their products they should help us lead healthy lives.

KATHY HUGHES: Are you going to actually tell kids, don't eat french fries, or ...

DAVID SHEA: No.

KATHY HUGHES: Or tell them ...

DAVID SHEA: No.

LISA MILLS: It's not our intent to ever say no.

DAVID SHEA: No no no.

LISA MILLS: To ever say no. It's to say what we want you to do. It's ... in ... in the science language, it's not a cessation program. It is not a don't do program. It is about all of the possibilities. How much ... how many possibilities there are and all of the things to do. And, again the science shows that embracing those positive opportunities, and getting involved in those things, makes the unhealthy behavior decrease.

The government's VERB Web site is where you think you might find information on making the unhealthy behavior decrease. But Susan Linn found little more than a series of links to VERB's corporate partners. Nickelodeon was promoting its TV shows. AOL Time Warner's Sports Illustrated For Kids featured several advertisements, including one for a candy called ZOURS.

KATHY HUGHES: So you can link up to a...

SUSAN LINN: To a candy Web site

KATHY HUGHES: On the government's...

SUSAN LINN: On the government's Web site.

KATHY HUGHES: It also touted it's movie Like Mike, complete with a Like Mike video game.

Is there something in here as a child psychologist that you think a child would react to you and think, I want to do this too?

SUSAN LINN: I think that um, what this Web site does is encourage people to sit here and try to shoot baskets.

He's getting great exercise. I'm just sitting here.

KATHY HUGHES: The Web site, a government source told me, is slowly being filled out with more "VERB Content" which will hint but never directly tell - kids: turn off the computer and go play.

SUSAN LINN: If the government really wanted kids to exercise, they would be putting physical education back in the schools, for instance. Or, you know, providing parks, or, or, you know, providing support for after-school sports programs.

KATHY HUGHES: One thing the government is providing is millions of dollars to ad agencies and entertainment companies. One of them, Nickelodeon, is sponsoring VERB Wild and Crazy Kids events around the country.

Will they get kids "verbing"? Or keep them planted in front of the tube?

Stay tuned.




MOYERS: It shouldn't surprise us that in the eyes of the mass media all of us, children included, are seen to be consumers instead of citizens or that the owners of big media look upon America as just one vast shopping mall employing a mint of money and an army of lobbyists, a handful of conglomerates have bought a Congress whose philosophy is to let the market have its way.

Now the last place in Washington where there's been any challenge to media monopoly is crumbling.

There's a move afoot for a major rewrite of the laws that directly affect what you read, see and hear in the media. It's all taking place at a Federal Communications Commission, the FCC. But the odds are the market won't even tell you about it.

BILL MOYERS: The FCC was established in 1934 to see that the nation's broadcasters served the public interest — making sure the airwaves were used for more than commercial purposes alone.

HISTORICAL TAPE: "The item is adopted..."

MOYERS: Things have changed over the years. Just listen to FCC Chairman Michael Powell:

FCC CHAIRMAN MICHAEL POWELL (FROM TAPE): This is the most unique period in the history of the Federal Communications Commission. Every single area that we have regulatory oversight for is in the midst of its most profound revolution ever."

MOYERS: That revolution has brought new technologies, like the Internet, cable and satellite television. But it has also brought on the greatest concentration of media ownership in American history.

Now the FCC is considering dismantling the last rules that would prevent even more consolidation. That's exactly what media giants have been lobbying for...in the name of economic efficiency.

SHAUN SHEEHAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE TRIBUNE COMPANY: In Chicago, we have 650 people on the editorial staff. In LA, in Los Angeles for the LA Times, it's well over 1,000.

MOYERS: Shaun Sheehan is Vice President of the Tribune Company, one of the country's largest broadcasters and newspaper publishers. The Tribune is pushing for an end to the rule that prevents a company from owning a newspaper and a television station in the same market.

SHEEHAN: If you take that reportorial talent and put it to use on television, Internet, what have you, get the words out over multiple platforms, you better serve your audience.

MICHAEL COPPS, FCC COMMISSIONER: If you take this to its logical conclusion, you could end up with a situation where one company owns the newspaper, the television station, the radio station and the cable system.

MOYERS: Michael Copps is the lone Democrat on the FCC.

COPPS: That may have some economic efficiencies attached to it, but I daresay it also has some profound democratic and social and political considerations that we ignore only at our own tremendous peril.

MOYERS: But consolidation is the trend. In 1975 there were some 1500 owners of full-power TV stations and daily newspapers. By 2000, that number had dropped to about 625.

And remember the Telecommunications Act of 1996? It led to a wave of mergers. There are now 1,700 fewer owners of commercial radio stations — a one-third decline. Today, just a few players dominate. One conglomerate alone - Clear Channel - owns more than 1,200 stations and controls 11 percent of the market.

And by the way - that legislation was also supposed to lower the rates you pay for your cable service. Instead, costs have increased almost 30 percent. Why? Because the big giveaway of '96 did not increase competition - it increased monopoly. The nation's seven largest cable operators control more than 75 percent of the market.

Yes, it's true: the typical cable consumer today receives about 60 channels. But those so-called "choices" are determined by a handful of corporate giants … companies like Viacom, AOL-Time Warner, Disney, and News Corp.

But do we hear about all this from the mainstream media? Hardly.

Of the major broadcasters, only abc reported the FCC's recent decision to review media ownership rules … and that report was at 4:40 in the morning. While the big newspapers did somewhat better, only the LOS ANGELES TIMES mentioned that its corporate owner, the Tribune Company, was actively lobbying for deregulation.

GENE KIMMELMAN, CONSUMERS UNION: Those broadcasters and newspapers are whom we rely upon to tell that story and allow the American people to have that public debate. And they don't want to have that debate. They want a deregulatory minded administration just to get out of their way, eliminate ownership limitations, let them join together. And the American people unfortunately may find out about this on the back end after its all happened.

MOYERS: And while the public's been left unaware of what's happening, time is running out. The FCC has set a December 2nd deadline for public comments on the proposed changes.

Commissioner Copps wants more debate and more time for it:

COPPS: I think we need to go out across the country and talk to all of the stakeholders in the great American communications revolution of our time. And in point of fact, every American is a stakeholder.

MOYERS: You're not totally helpless against the onslaught of the monopoly giants. This week public interest advocates called on the FCC to extend the deadline for public comment another three months.

If you have an opinion about all this, go to pbs.org for more information on what you can do.

You'll also find a lesson plan there so that high school students can change their communities instead of just change channels.

That's all for this week. For NOW, I'm Bill Moyers.





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