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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The objective we should all have is being able to delivery Brexit and guaranty delivering Brexit to the British
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Round and round we go. And where Brexit will end up, nobody knows.
Long time Tory politician, Kenneth Clarke, known as the father of the British House of Parliament tells me what’s wrong with U.K. politics.
Then Facebook now bans White nationalism and separatism. But is the real solution to break up big tech? “Recode Decodes”, Kara Swisher, joins me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MULLEN: Politics has just become so polarized and polarizing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen speaks with our Walter Isaacson about the lack of moral leadership.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
The British government struggled to leave the European Union has been marked by chaos and uncertainty. Indeed, since the 2016 referendum on
Brexit, the only certainty has been the chaos.
Parliamentary twice rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal to leave in an effort to appease the hardliners in her own Conservative party. She
even told colleagues this week that she would step down but only if they did finally pass her deal.
Week after week, the same arguments engulfed Parliament. Here’s May with the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: My question on Monday went unanswered. So, will the prime minister now say what is her plan B?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime Minister.
MAY: Can I say to the right honorable gentleman? As he knows, we are continuing to work to ensure that we can deliver Brexit for the British
people and guarantee that we deliver Brexit for the British people. We have a deal which cancels are E.U. membership fee which stops the E.U.
making on the laws, which gives us our own immigration policy, ends the Common Agricultural Policy for good, ends the Common Fisheries policy for
Other options don’t do that. Other options would lead to delay, to uncertainty and risk never delivering Brexit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeremy Corbyn.
CORBYN: Mr. Speaker, the only problem with the Prime Minister’s answer is that her deal has been twice defeated in this House by in one case the
largest the — in one case, Mr. Speaker, the largest ever majority by which a government has lost a vote in our recorded parliamentary history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that is about the only certainty. And this week, Parliament seize control of the agenda from the prime minister. It’s a very rare
step. But then, they failed to agree on any alternative Brexit plan.
It’s hard to imagine a better person to help us understand all this than the Conservative M.P., Kenneth Clarke. He’s known as the Father of the
House, a title given to the M.P. with the longest record of continuous service. He has held many top government positions, including Chancellor
of the Exchequer, and he’s a passionate Remainer. He joins me now from a studio near Parliament
Kenneth Clarke, welcome to the program.
KENNETH CLARKE, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE M.P.: I’m delighted to be here.
AMANPOUR: And you’re over there are not over here partly because you’re still, you know, watching and waiting and seeing and haggling and
negotiating and seeing if we can get to any clarity.
So, you know, tomorrow —
CLARKE: That about sums up my day.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Your day today and every day. So, you know, for all we knew, for months now, tomorrow was meant to be Brexit day and that can has
been kicked down the road. What do you think is likely to happen, given this unbelievable face that not a single alternative that the Parliament,
you know, wanted to see if it could find a majority, not a single one did?
CLARKE: Well, firstly, the government has decided that tomorrow is Brexit day again and they are going to try have a third attempt to get the prime
minister’s withdrawal agreement through, which I have she does it happens. I’m a ferocious pro-European, but I voted for the withdrawal agreement,
which I think is quite harmless.
So far as a Parliament’s attempt to take over and if she fails again, we knew, we were canvassing every possible option, we knew probably there’d be
not a majority of any single one because people plug their favorite. We come back on Monday if the prime minister fails to make progress. On
Monday, then we’ll concentrate on fewer options in the moment (ph). I mean, I can’t guess what’s going to happen here at the moment. I’m
reasonably confident that mine, at least, will get a majority.
AMANPOUR: And yours is one that was — you know, got amongst the most votes and it’s the one that talks about a customs union. Is that correct?
CLARKE: That is correct. I got the nearest to getting majority. I was only defeated by right votes, as it was the nearest to success. Some
people abstained on it who really shouldn’t have abstained on it but they were hoping that other things they preferred would do better. I think on
Monday people will see this is the strongest way of coalescing around one option.
I’m not advocating new because you — have most you haven’t got a vote on it. But it’s my genuine belief and I chose this amendment because it is
the simplest, it’s the lowest common denominator. I would like to see much more with the Customs Union. I’d like to stay in the European Union and
I’d like to be in the single market in the Customs Union.
I deliberately pitched this basic one principle, least we mandate the government to be the Customs Union, (INAUDIBLE) a lot of other things, that
would encourage the House to enable it all to move forward. And that should succeed on Monday if the government fails tomorrow, which they
might. I mean, Theresa’s falling on her sword and she still can’t guarantee getting the right-wing of the party all to vote for her.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, that’s what I was going to ask you next, the fact that she has fallen on her sword, the prime minister, offering to resign
early if they would only just pass deal. And even that, as you correctly say, did not get people to do that, and there’s still people on the fence.
What do you think about the ethics of that? I mean, it sounds a little sort of like, I don’t know, like she’s being extorted to an extent. I
mean, what do you think of demanding and then not stepping out with a vote that a prime minister leave?
CLARKE: (INAUDIBLE) dreadful. I mean, I have (INAUDIBLE) with Theresa May. I supported her withdrawal agreement but I think she’s made many
tactical errors. But the right-wing of my party, the nationalist right- wing, have formed a little party within a party which is they hope will take over the whole party. And they’ve been trying to get rid of Theresa
for some time now. They launched an incompetent coup against her earlier year, which she survived.
And it’s actually extraordinary, she pays far too much attention to them.
CLARKE: They all (INAUDIBLE) out in their sports cars and their limos. To see her country, prime minister retreats on Sunday and obviously, all gave
her an ultimatum and it is sad that she’s given into it. I mean, I wouldn’t have done that. But she has and it will be really — I mean, I
would find it, you know, really a dreadful outcome if she still fails to get them to deliver tomorrow. I would never have trusted them myself.
AMANPOUR: Well, can I just ask you then, what would you have done? Because many have made that point, those who’ve got the sort of nobody in
the House has got the longevity that you have, nearly 50 years as an M.P.
AMANPOUR: But people have said, “Hang on. Her opposition played their card and they lost and they’re still holding her hostage.” I mean, is
there really any way out of this now? What would you have done differently?
CLARKE: Well, the way out is to appeal to the Labour Party. Theresa’s mistake has been made, firstly, to start the whole process before she did
any clear idea of what she wanted. I mean, then to put down red lines, which are completely undeliverable contradict to each other. And then to
get to this one simple solution and stick to it and keep trying to unite her own party.
Now, the other side of the House of Commons, the Labour Party, large numbers of members of the Labour Party are more pro-European than their
leadership, don’t want a disastrous no-deal departure. There are political enemies. Within the national interest, she should have reached across to
The reason — if my amendment wins tomorrow, well, let’s just confine ourselves to the fact that my amendment nearly got a majority yesterday,
you know, closer than the prime minister ever has. I had most of the Labour Party voting with me. I had various straight people from other
Next Monday, I would tell you, I’m (INAUDIBLE), I’m trying to negotiate get them to join. The reason I think I have a majority people and I have
people from every party in the House will join us in voting — some of them, in voting for it because Europe breaks up our party system.
Now, she — Theresa should early on have spent 12 months ago, probably, started reaching across to the Labour Party and reaching an understanding
with them because, you know, you can be enemies on the bigger issues, we certainly are with the left-wing leadership of the Labour Party, but the
national interest and the stability of our future relationships with our biggest economic and political partners.
I mean, it was a cross party consensus (INAUDIBLE). But as she’s a traditional alternative (ph) leader, keeping the party united and winning
with party votes is what she constantly (INAUDIBLE).
AMANPOUR: Yes. And it does seem many people have accused members of many, many parties, but most especially the prime minister and the hardliners, of
putting their own political interests ahead of the national interest.
But I just want to ask you, just to listen to this little clip we’re going to play. It’s frankly from an American late-night comedy show, but it is
designed to try to explain to our American viewers and to people who are really, really watching this process what’s going on. So, this isn’t a
little tweak at the prime minister over her handling of it. Just listen for a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA BEE: This is the woman who knows the meaning of Brexit.
MAY: Brexit means Brexit. And we’re going to make a success of it.
BEE: And no one knows what that means either or even how to say it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will make breakfast — Brexit.
BEE: That (INAUDIBLE). She’s busy having the time of her life, for missing Brexit will be easy even though she has no idea how to fix all this
stuff. And rather than figure it out first, she decides to pass the law that triggers that Brexit countdown clock, which means May has to figure
everything out by March 2019.
And if she doesn’t, will crash out of the E.U. with no deal at all, which is very bad. So, the E.U. stops (INAUDIBLE) and says, “Maybe let’s start
figuring out what the hell you just did?” But May is like, “Not now. Thanks, love.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, you know, it’s funny if it wasn’t so serious. This was from Samantha Bee, “Full Frontal,” in the United States. It is —
CLARKE: Well, what’s happening here, it would be entertaining if it wasn’t a very, very serious. For political addict like me, the machinations going
on in the House of governments are absolutely fascinating, political game, which obviously is not just a game.
I mean, the future, prosperity of the next generation or two and Britain’s status in the world is all going to be determined by the eventual outcome
AMANPOUR: And I just want to ask because you gave a very, very impassioned speech in the House regarding that particular issue, and that was the idea
of her calling Article 50 and triggering Article 50 before that there was any — you know, any idea of a road map.
You were very, very upset and you said things like this House has gone mad, Brexit will be a historic disaster. And you even said that, you know,
“Perhaps we should all just stay — you know, ignore the referendum and just stay in the E.U.” What do you think seriously about that today? Do
you think enough demographics have changed, enough public opinion has changed? Because another of the big votes the did come second to yours was
CLARKE: Yes. They’re trying to get people’s vote.
AMANPOUR: — a second referendum. Yes.
CLARKE: Well, firstly, you’ve chosen some of the flowery phrases I’ve used. I mean, I’ve tried to use throughout, try to be, you know, a bit
statesman like and argue common sense and practicality. But I — as you say, I’ve got out of the corner (ph) sometimes because I — it’s undeniable
that the system is dysfunctional the moment and the public here are very, very annoyed about it and holding their politicians in near contempt.
So, what — with — I mean, (INAUDIBLE), I was always against having a referendum in the first place, as in Cameron’s cabinet, but he went off and
announced it without even telling me. I read it in the newspapers. Now, it did turn out to be a disaster.
So, I’m not in favor of a second referendum, a simple yes, no answers to hugely complex sometimes specialist questions that all depend on the
answer, I mean, is no way of running anything. There we are. And I know that some people who do except referendums, the pro-European, are now
passionately demanding a second one. There’s a lot of support for that in the House because they’re all trying to get off the hook.
I’m one of the few M.P.’s who did not promise to be bound by the result of the referendum. The others want to get off by having another referendum
and her winning it. Meanwhile, the Brexiteers, you know, the only democratic referendum is the one they want. Any subsequent referendum is
undemocratic. They’ve got all their prize and they get very, very angry at the idea that people might be asked if they change their minds, although
M.P.’s. change their minds all the time.
AMANPOUR: Well, to that point, let me just put a few (INAUDIBLE). Our reporters have been talking to some people in various parts of the country
about the current state of affairs, and this is in the wake of, you know, 6 million people signing a petition about revoking Article 50 over the
weekend, there was a massive march of people talking about, you know, let’s try and do something different. But this is what people are saying on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, we’re in such a mess. And whether she’s put us there or whether the situation has put us there, I don’t know. I think
hindsight, we’ll be a wonderful thing when it happens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we need to get out and that’s it really. To put a no-deal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I’m quite sad about it all. And I think at the moment, it’s a bit of a mess.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just kind of comes across as a bit pointless (INAUDIBLE) to be honest, because it doesn’t seem like the vote was taken
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a lot of people (INAUDIBLE) would vote differently, I really do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, that you see a mixed opinion. But I mean, on both sides like overwhelming majorities feel that it’s being handled by the
government and prime minister extremely badly.
You mentioned that you were in David Cameron’s cabinet. You know, he’s told us and he’s told others that he doesn’t regret calling the referendum.
What’s your reaction to that?
CLARKE: I think it was the worst decision David made. I think it was reckless, it was irresponsible. I was very angry when I read about it. I
(INAUDIBLE) but I still stayed in his cabinet because — I would never resign. I didn’t vote for it as a (ph) government, but they didn’t bother
about that despite the fact I was Lord Chancellor and I was Justice Secretary in the government.
I was furious that he called it. I’m afraid I (INAUDIBLE) go very well with David. But with hindsight, I think it’s a number for a guy he’s asked
to go very well with David. But with hindsight, I think one can claim he set off a chain of events, which has been disastrous for the working of our
democracy in this country.
You’re vox pop just showed how the public obviously are not engaged with the complex detail, which is frustrating the House of Commons. The trouble
with referendums is, in the real world, somebody has got to actually deal with complex specialized issues, trade negotiations, arrangements for
regulations, how do you keep the Irish border open. I dare you can devise an opinion poll question with a yes, no answer. That means the public
decide the whole blocks of those things one way or the other is nonsense.
CLARKE: They’re all angry about the mess, which they quite rightly say it’s in, and people to say, “Oh, let’s leave with no-deal. Let’s get it
all over with. God, I’d like read about something else,” all this sort of thing. Ad so we’ve got ourselves again in a mess because the public having
had a referendum can’t understand why the politicians haven’t simply delivered it.
AMANPOUR: And if I might, it’s a mess of historic proportions but with historic potential ramifications. I guess I just want to ask you because
everybody is trying to figure out leadership. You know, there’s this crisis of leadership all over the world now and I wonder whether you think
your party will survive, whether the Labour Party, which is equally riven over different issues, the anti-Semitism and other such things, will the
traditional parties survive the next cycle, if you like, or two? And do you ever think, “Hold on a second. Maybe I should have resigned and joined
the independent movement.” Why do you stay in the party given, you know, your sensible centrism?
CLARKE: Well, you wrapped a lot up there. Firstly, both parties are at risk of not surviving, which is true or was said to being transformed,
they’re both polarizing. I mean, what I would say is it happened in every Western democracy. I mean, we haven’t time to go into it unless you are
going to have me on for a very long time.
But the Trump, Brexit, Yellow Jackets in France, kind of anarchist government in Italy, I could go on with other groups, they’re all the same
thing, the traditional political parties of center left, center right, vanished in France, polarizing and breaking up in Britain.
CLARKE: Changed in American, as you would know certainly much better than me but not the old Republican and Democrat parties that I knew. And behind
that is an angry public that finds the pace of change, the complexity of bottom life very difficult.
One answer I would say to any other countries, don’t try and have a simple broad brush —
AMANPOUR: All right.
CLARKE: — by holding a referendum.
AMANPOUR: I’m afraid on that note, we have to end. And I don’t know whether you’re going to one day leave and go to the Independent Party. One
word, yes or no?
CLARKE: Probably not. I’m an old Tory. But they could elect a new leader who won’t lead me anywhere. So, just for old time’s sake and old
loyalties, probably see it in the Conservative party over my remaining time in the House.
AMANPOUR: All right. And we’ll see how all this turns out. Kenneth Clarke, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
And we turn now from one roiling crisis to another. Facebook announced today that it would ban all praise support and representation of White
nationalism and separatism on its main platform, and also on Instagram. It comes less than two weeks after a suspected gunman in New Zealand used
Facebook to live stream his attack on two mosques, which left 51 people dead. And after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said social media platforms
must be held to account.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: There is no question that ideas and language of division and hate have existed for decades but the
form of distribution, the tools of organization, they are new.
We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what are seen on them is not the responsibility of a place where they
are published. They are the publisher not just the postman.
They cannot be a case of all profit no responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, Silicon Valley faces a crisis of credibility. Big tech companies have gotten so powerful that Democratic Presidential Candidate,
Elizabeth Warren, has proposed that the Federal government break them up.
Kara Swisher knows the intricacies of this story perhaps better than anyone. She is founder of the website, “Recode,” and tells me why she
thinks there is little danger in underestimating the scale of the crisis.
Kara Swisher, welcome to the program.
KARA SWISHER, RECODE CO-FOUNDER: Hi.
AMANPOUR: So, you just heard the prime minister of New Zealand after this terrible massacre basically declared that Facebook is not just a postman,
it is a publisher. So, what do you make of Facebook, our time overnight, dropping this new sort of statement saying that they will ban White
nationalism and separatism from their platforms?
SWISHER: Well, it’s a long time coming. It’s something that everybody has been urging them to do. They’ve been trying very hard to sort of toe the
line between being a technology company and a media company and never admitting that they’re a media company like a lot of media companies and
they have certain responsibilities.
And so, one of the things that I’ve been pushing on and many people have been pushing on is this abrogation of responsibility for what’s on their
platform, and it’s not benign and it’s quite dangerous and can lead to terrible things.
And obviously, what happened in New Zealand is a tragedy and it’s the fault of the gunman, but he — this was an attack that was built for the internet
and broadcast on the internet and these tools were used by this gunman as part of his horrible plan to kill all these people and it was important
part because he thought it was important to broadcast what he was doing.
AMANPOUR: That’s right. And he said that in his rant, and specifically, Facebook not just any old media on the internet but specifically Facebook
and specifically streaming it.
AMANPOUR: Let me read you Facebook’s statement, because it is interesting. “Our policies have long prohibited hateful treatment of people based on
characteristics, such as race, ethnicity or religion, and that has always included White supremacy. Over the past three months, our conversations
with members of civil society and academics have confirmed that White nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from White
supremacy and organized hate groups.”
I mean, how do you read that? Because — I mean, are they saying what we – – you know, we took down some stuff but now we’re only already conflating it altogether and taking it all down? I mean, it’s incremental —
AMANPOUR: — everything that they do.
AMANPOUR: And I usually after massive tragedies and huge pushback.
SWISHER: Well, you know, the thing is, I did an interview with Mark Zuckerberg last year where we had this argument about Holocaust deniers, if
you remember, and he said, “They don’t mean to lie,” and I was like, “They mean to lie,” and it goes back and forth.
And so, it’s a really difficult thing. They’re running a platform that is so complex from a technological point of view but is even a quantumly more
complex as a social thing. Like it’s not just social media, it’s affective all of social, whether it’s in Myanmar or the Philippines or here in this
country or in New Zealand, everything that goes across this platform has an impact in real life.
And I think that’s something that’s been — these are not malevolent people who run Facebook, these are not people who do not understand the gravity of
the situation, it’s just that they don’t want to be responsible for what the tools that they have built results in. And now, they have to.
AMANPOUR: Well, now they have to after, you know, New Zealand. And you’ve just mentioned Myanmar and India and the Philippines. So, let me fill in
those gaps and we can talk about that.
So, I mean regarding Myanmar, social platforms basically have been the steering wheel to violence in Myanmar and it is specifically on Facebook
that the military have spread their anti-Muslim, anti- Rohingya hatred and their rhetoric.
AMANPOUR: In India, we know that these WhatsApp sort of conspiracies about what certain villages are doing in villages lead to real life lynchings and
injuries. And we know, as you mentioned, in the Philippines, that the, you know, nationalist, populist, some would say, you know, disruptor, Duterte,
he has used —
AMANPOUR: — it for his drug war, for his attacks on his opponents and just to get elected, because two-thirds of the Filipino population use
Facebook and the other one-third doesn’t even have the internet. So, these are —
SWISHER: Larger than that, it’s a larger number actually —
AMANPOUR: Go on then, tell me.
SWISHER: — among many people. In the Philippines, it’s even larger. I just did a big column in “The New York Times” and also had done interviews
with Maria Ressa who is a column — who runs a site there called “Rappler,” and she’s under attack. She’s been arrested several times under very
trumped up charges essentially. But she’s been a big critic of Duterte and that’s — that Facebook has been used to attack her.
Now so, just to be fair, it’s also Twitter, it’s also Reddit, it’s all these platforms that do not have — that have immunity for what goes over
their platform. So, I think a lot of people feel that they should be made responsible for what happens just the way a manufacturer would be or a
chemical manufacturer or anybody else, where something that they use leads to something else, and it’s a very clear and bright line.
AMANPOUR: Well, it is a clear and bright line to people like you and people like us maybe who are watching the fallout. But what are they like
when you talk to them? I mean, and you know them better than ever.
AMANPOUR: I mean, these are massive infractions that lead to real life death, injury and disaster. This is no longer something that you can just
shrug off and say, “Well, we’re good people but we’re not responsible for how our platforms are used.”
SWISHER: They’re not saying that anymore. They’re saying that we were too slow to realize on lots of things, including Cambridge Analytica, some —
you know, misuse of the platform by Russians, Russian — the Russian government in the elections, things like that. So, they’re very aware that
this platform is being misused.
And so, now what they’re saying instead of saying, “We didn’t know,” which was the first thing. The second thing was, “Oh, we’re so sorry.” And the
third thing was, “Now, we have to do something about it.” And now, they have to do something about it which has been urged by people for so long.
And I think the issue is that they’re sort of wrestling with the complexity of what they’re doing and perhaps not up to the task. I mean, this is a —
think about it, it’s like running a — the way I look at it is, they’ve created these cities and I’ve used this example at “The Times” and other
places, they’ve created these cities and they’ve declined to put in police, sewer — sewage, fire men, street signs, anything else. And, so every
night it’s like the purge. You know what I mean? Like you don’t know what you’re going to get.
And so, good citizens are sort of caught in this city where Facebook and other platforms are collecting all the rent and becoming obscenely wealthy
doing it, sort of left to their own devices, and I think that’s something they have to realize that they have responsibility the way any media
company has over what is broadcast by it or what is put out by it. And I think that’s going to be a very hard and difficult journey for these
Because again, they’re not malevolent. I just think they, one, didn’t realize what would happen. And two, now that they realize what’s happening
don’t quite know what to do. And so, this is a step in that direction.
AMANPOUR: Well, I think you’ve really given a brilliant analogy with that village and not putting in the infrastructure or rather the cities without
the infrastructure to police themselves and collect the garbage and all the rest of it.
But let me ask you this, because they have been told and Facebook has been told and you would know it better than I that they need a lot more people
to patrol and remove this content.
AMANPOUR: So, look at this, 2.32 billion monthly active users, only 30,000 content review stuff. That is something they can change from one week or
one month to the next.
SWISHER: Sure. But the issue is this, you don’t understand the massive amount of information that are rolling over these systems. I mean, not
just — it’s not just Facebook, YouTube has the same problem —
SWISHER: — around content on there. The — and the amount of content that is going over these systems is unprecedented in human history. This
is the biggest experiment in human communication in the history of man and it is not going well. And it’s because these tools — first of all,
content moderators — and we written them a lot about this. There was a great piece by Casey Newton recently in “The Verge” about these content
moderators, it’s a terrible job.
Secondly, you can’t have — there’s not enough people in the world to moderate all the stuff that’s going over and it’s very expensive, by the
way. So, they’re trying to use AI to do that. Now, AI is still in infant stages in this kind of stuff, although some of it’s very sophisticated.
And so, the question is, if you created these platforms where massive amounts of information is flooding over it and then you decide to build a
dam, how difficult would it be to build the dam while the water is rushing over it? It’s — to me, it’s almost impossible.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, if you a king of tech land and social media and all these problems and you could. put in a corrective measure — you just said
it’s almost impossible, is there anything, given everything you’ve just said, that can actually be done to really materially mitigate this, not
just playing around at the edges?
SWISHER: Right. Shut them down. I mean, sorry to say. I mean, that’s really — these tools are astonishing in many ways and they’re amazing. We
all use them every day. But they don’t have any governors, there’s no governors around them. And I’m not quite sure that they’re not going to —
they can they can make some very big efforts in areas like White supremacy, White nationalism, they can do it in hate speech. They’ve done it with
terrorism. They’ve definitely made some real inroads in shutting down the uses of their platform by terrorists.
One way Mark Zuckerberg wants to go now is to pivot to privacy, which means encrypted stuff, which is problematic because it hides under the covers
there. That said, this massive ability to broadcast is something that you can fix like on WhatsApp by limiting the amount of people you can broadcast
to by not allowing it to go viral.
AMANPOUR: Let’s just delve even further now. Let’s move on to Google and some of the more controversial uses of this unbelievable technology, the
likes of which we have never seen before.
So let’s just start with President Trump saying that he’s just met with the head of Google. “He stated strongly that he’s totally committed to the
U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military. Also, we discussed political fairness and various things that Google can do for our country. Meeting
ended very well.”
This, of course, slightly in response to last year Google’s project Maven, a Pentagon research initiative to develop algorithms to analyze drone
footage. And that was shut down after thousands of Google employees sent letters saying that we are not in the business of war.
AMANPOUR: So let’s talk about that then. Because what is President Trump saying and what is Google’s responsibility now in terms of its military
applications? And particularly, the whole sort of China-U.S. stand-off?
SWISHER: Well, that was — I don’t know what he’s talking about there. Google’s not working for the Chinese Military. It’s just — that was –
that is the side light. I think the issue is whether Google employees want to work for anything military, whatsoever, especially and including the
And a lot of employees do not want to do this. They do not want to work on drone technology. That’s not what they signed up for when they were
working for a search engine or whatever Google is doing.
And so because employees have a lot of power at these companies — as you know, the talent pool is very tight. They have been objecting to some of
the stuff Google is doing. It’s happened at Microsoft. It’s happened at Salesforce. It’s happened all over technology.
And the question is, how do you solve that? If you want to do work for the government, like Amazon is doing some work around cloud, you know, everyone
is going to hit the government in some place. And it is great business for a lot of these companies and it is great growth.
And so a lot of people at Google do not want to do this work. And so the question is, should you take — make a separate division that works on it
and people who are very aware of what they’re making does it? Do you stop doing it altogether? Do you — there’s all kinds — again, these are giant
ethical issues that these companies have to face.
And in the past, you didn’t have employees that spoke up and said, I’m not doing this, whatsoever. And then there’s the question of whether Google is
a global company or is it an American company. And so that’s an interesting question.
I think Google thinks of itself as a global company based in America and thinks in a very different way from this tweet, which I found confounding.
I’m not sure what he was saying in it.
But I do think they are facing pressure from this government and other governments to fall in line with some things that we’re doing here. And
the question is whether they’re going to go along with it. I don’t know.
AMANPOUR: And just to follow up on that. I mean you obviously know really well this project Dragonfly that Google was involved in.
SWISHER: Yes, China.
AMANPOUR: China, exactly. To build a censored search engine version for China. Of course, the Pentagon got all upset about that. But also, Google
employees got very upset about that. And then Google apparently dropped it.
But now, it’s been revealed by the intercept that some 400 modifications have been made earlier this year. Is this project still viable, Dragonfly?
Is it still being worked upon, do you know?
SWISHER: Well, I think they’ve got to think about how they should participate in China. It’s a massive market for Google. And let’s
remember, Google was there and then they weren’t. And now, they’re trying to get back in because it’s such an important market.
And the issue is around — many issues around why they should be there, whether they should participate in the way the Chinese government wants
them to. But there is an issue of data. One of the great — data is gold in the future.
And there’s so much data in China. A lot of the Chinese companies do all kinds of things, including facial recognition and things that are not
allowed in this country necessarily or wouldn’t be or would be objected to.
And so massive amounts of data are being collected around the world. And the company with the most data is the company that wins because then you
put it into these machine learning systems, and you become more powerful because of the amount of data you have in.
And so Google almost can’t not participate in China. At the same time, how they go into China is of question.
And obviously, if they want to be in that country, they have to adhere to the laws of that country, including doing a censored search engine. They
did it in a way before, but this is — it’s become more controversial today because — for obvious reasons.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean let’s say they do end up deciding to do it again. How is that going to be reacted to by people like yourself, by people like
— I mean, how will you react if they do go the censorship route, as the price of doing business in China?
SWISHER: Well, a lot of companies do that, right. A lot of companies do adhere to those rules. I think what’s difficult for Google is when they
left, they made a big deal of being on a high horse. You know what I mean.
We will not allow China to do this, and they made a big deal of don’t be — they sort of were down that “Don’t be Evil” motto that they have. And so
they made a big deal when they left.
And so going back is sort of what happened in the interim? Did you lose those values that you talked about? And so that’s one of their problems is
they’ve been sort of holier than thou when they left.
And the question is, do they have to get in? How do they get in? If they don’t get in, what happens to their competitiveness?
Most of these people are running these companies, as intelligent as they are, are facing issues that are so massive that we’ve been — that
governments have been dealing with for centuries, and they’re ill-equipped to deal with them.
And that’s what you have to understand. These are — these problems are massive, and then they change as you move around the globe.
AMANPOUR: But it’s like — it’s kind of like Frankenstein’s monster. I’m going to figure out what to do about it.
SWISHER: Yes, exactly.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you quickly to pick up on the other thing that President Trump mentioned in his tweet about Google. And that’s that we
spoke about political fairness.
President Trump has vastly already outspent all his Democratic potential challengers all put together regarding the 2020 Google and other ad
spending. What did that word political fairness and how — what do you think that’s all about?
SWISHER: It’s ridiculous. It’s this idea on the right that these companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter especially, are gaming the
system against the right in this country, the Conservatives in this country. It depends on who you’re talking to, but that’s generally the
It’s not true, but it’s gets used a lot. And so what’s really problematic for these tech companies, especially the social media companies, is the
left doesn’t trust them because of what happened with Russia and the abuse of these systems or the misuse of these systems.
And the right doesn’t trust them because they think they’re gaming the system for the left. And so everybody dislikes them together. That’s one
thing we can agree on here in this country.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, Facebook, as you mentioned, totally under the spotlight because of the Russian interference in 2016. Do you think they
have a better game plan for 2020? Can the Internet be properly policed in that regard?
SWISHER: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think they’re trying. They’re certainly making efforts and they’ve improved.
It’s a question of this growth at all costs idea. As you know, the famous motto of Facebook, which I’ve said a number of times was “Move Fast and
Break Things”, right? Well, they broke a lot of things.
And the question is, can they be fixed? And do these systems inherently, the way they’re architected, mean you cannot control them? It’s an
unfettered, free-for-all platform essentially.
And the question — they have sort of rules and they kind of do some rules. And they’re going to make people angry no matter what they do if they make
The question is can they just pick the rules they want and stick to them? And that’s it. and these are private enterprises. And so just stick to
them, and that’s the way we’re going to be.
The problem is they’re trying to serve way too many people who have way too many differences. And that’s going to result in this mess. And again, I
go back to the Prime Minister of New Zealand. She’s right. They’re not a postman. They’re something else.
And so we’ve all got to figure out together whether it’s through regulation, cooperation with these companies as citizens of the world what
we — how we want these things to run. And unfortunately, as you know, that’s going to be a really difficult thing to come to some sort of
conclusion or agreement to do that.
And that’s what’s so hard is that humanity is talking to itself, right? That’s essentially what’s happening on these platforms. And they’re not
behaving very well because humanity doesn’t behave very well. And they certainly don’t behave well on these platforms.
And so how do you govern something so complex and so, so big? And that’s, again, the problem with it that they have. These aren’t governments, these
companies. They’re people who run companies. And that’s the problem.
AMANPOUR: Kara Swisher, a lot for you to keep your eye on and keep us honest. Thank you so much for joining us.
SWISHER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And next, we turn to that very, very same topic of citizenship and leadership. Our next guest spends a lot of time thinking about moral
leadership. He’s the retired Admiral Mike Mullin. Maybe you’ll recognize him in this famous photo in the Situation Room taken during the raid on
Osama bin Laden’s compound in 2011.
He served for 43 years in the military, culminating in being chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most senior uniformed role in the U.S.
Military. And he sat down with our Walter Isaacson to talk about this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WALTER ISAACSON, CONTRIBUTOR: Admiral, thank you for being with us.
MIKE MULLIN, RETIRED ADMIRAL, FORMER CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Good to be with you, Walt.
ISAACSON: So we seem to have a lack of courage, political courage in this country. You’re an expert on courage. What’s happened to this country’s
MULLIN: Well, I’ve said for years, I watched when I was working in Washington, which is almost a decade now, and watched it since as the
politics have just become so polarized and polarizing.
And actually, in Washington, I’ve watched the leadership group get pulled up to the top where we used to have sort of distributed leadership with
very strong committee chairmen and women. No longer the case.
And it’s a very small group of people. The speaker, the majority leader, et cetera, that actually control the agenda, the messaging, et cetera. And
you are — if you want to get re-elected, if you want to be supported in the power structure, you have to toe the line.
And what we are desperate for are leaders to stand up and say, what we’re doing here is wrong. And the political attacks that then occur, if you say
that, are legion right now. And therefore — one of the things I don’t understand is why we put all this capital in the bank, if I’m a leader, a
political leader, then I never cash it in. I never stand up. I never use it for what I believe in.
ISAACSON: Well, part of the problem is having to stand up to the president in this day and age. And it used to be congressional leaders would stand
up even to strong ones like Lyndon Johnson or George Bush. Why is it that Congressional Republicans, in particular, are afraid to stand up to Donald
Trump when they think he’s wrong?
MULLIN: At least my Republican friends tell me that with President Trump, there’s a lot of things they don’t like a lot, but it’s the “policies, the
economy, the border, China, et cetera”, that they’re OK with. And actually, I think the worst danger to us as a country right now is the lack
of moral leadership.
I think over a period of what could be eight years with President Trump, you know, that the lack of a moral compass, the lack of values which gets
reflected in how he speaks and how he acts, that has a great — there’s a terrific potential to actually just sort of rip us out in the underbelly.
And we’ll be a different country after eight years. Those values and principles, the integrity that we all feel so strongly about that had been
with us forever, they are actually being plundered as we speak. And someone’s got to stand up.
ISAACSON: So what you would say to them is that the policy victories, this little victory on tax-lowering or something is definitely not worth it when
it comes to the hollowing out of our moral fiber?
MULLIN: I would actually completely agree with that. I think they’re short-term gains, they’re short-term wins. And the long term, which is
what leaders are supposed to focus on, and that’s a difficult target in Washington, is what we’re sacrificing.
And there’s a lot that is being sacrificed. It’s our future. It’s our kids. It’s our grandkids. It’s our financial capability.
Look at the size of the debt that we’re in. It’s the unwillingness to come to grips with the health care challenges that we have in the country, the
Most of us have focused on education as a problem for years. And we talk and talk and talk, yet we have not had the kind of reform in our secondary
system, in our public school system that we absolutely need. And at some point in time, it is really going to jump up and grab us.
ISAACSON: You’re a man of institutions, the Navy, everything else. But let’s talk about one I know that you really care about, the FBI. Are you
worried that the president of the United States is undermining integrity, the belief in the FBI?
MULLIN: There was a piece, I think in “The Washington Post,” two or three weeks ago about the FBI’s inability to recruit. And that has not happened
for a long time.
And the reflection of that is in the institutional breakdown because they have — for the FBI or of the FBI because they’ve been under siege now for
two-plus years. And they’ve made some mistakes. The leadership has made some mistakes.
But I do worry that we’re crushing that institution. Also, the same is true in Justice. The same is true in the media. I worry about the state
of the CIA, the intelligence community, as well as the State Department.
And we don’t have a playbook sitting around saying here’s how you rebuild institutions. But when this is done, whenever that is, we’re going to need
to rebuild, and we’re going to need to rebuild rapidly. When the military was broken after Vietnam, we rebuilt that. But it took us about 30 years
to do that.
ISAACSON: Give me an example of one area where there’s something you would do or should do right now.
MULLIN: I think probably the first thing I would pick would be the whole issue of people. Am I recruiting good people into the
CIA, into the FBI, into the State Department?
Are there good people staying as opposed to leaving? Are they properly incentivized? Is it a mission they care about?
And that takes really courageous leadership from inside the agencies as well as the broader institutions or the broader leadership. So it’s
something from my perspective that I would hope that Congress would focus on as well as these institutions continue to be under such a siege.
I would center it on how we’re doing with our people. But there are other things associated with that. How are we doing — how are they doing with
the resources to do that? Not just to recruit and retain people but to build or rebuild the institutions that have been broken down.
As we seem to be from an overseas perspective coming home, you know, we are isolating ourselves in a world that I don’t think will tolerate isolation,
quite frankly, right now and will forgive isolation very easily particularly when you have other countries who I now think are adversaries
like Russia and China who are filling that vacuum to a fairly well.
ISAACSON: One of the things that helped protect and be a bulwark for institutions was some of the military people who won into the Trump
administration early on. General Mattis, General Kelly, et cetera, they’re out.
What do you think of their role there? And do you worry that they were not able to keep Trump within norms?
MULLIN: Well, I was never — I actually was one of the few that I knew that wasn’t overly enthused with military leaders being inside the civilian
leadership of our government. It’s not what we do.
They’re extraordinary people. They are patriots, and they wanted to move the country forward. And all of them wanted to do that in a very
constructive way, but our system isn’t based on military leaders. It’s based on civilian leaders.
And each of them now obviously are gone. And so I don’t know where the checks are. You’d like to think they would come from Capitol Hill. And I
think the elections last September were part of the check and balance that we have in our system, but that’s just — to me, that’s just a first step.
It’s less about the check, which you had to have. It’s more what does the Democratic leadership and the House actually do with it?
And one of my biggest worries is it just turned — they just turn it around and play their own version of the Republican playbook, which has been out
there for the last couple of years, back at the president. And so we continue the polarization and we absolutely go nowhere.
ISAACSON: So you think the Democrats are at fault, too, for now trying to play Trump’s game and become polarizing?
MULLIN: Where we are as a country — I mean President Trump was incredibly disruptive. And President Trump is not the problem in the country.
President Trump, I thought, was symptomatic of the challenges that we have as a country.
And there are plenty of political leaders in Washington that brought this to us over a period of years. And I think it’s important for those leaders
to change. And if they can’t change, they need to move out of the way and let the younger people take over.
ISAACSON: But you’ve said something just now that’s sort of confusing to me. You think that it’s not Trump but that Trump is a reflection of a
MULLIN: Right. Yes.
ISAACSON: You do not think we’re a better country than this, that we have more of a moral compass than our leadership?
MULLIN: Oh, and no, absolutely. Absolutely. When I speak publicly, you know, I talk about the challenges and they’re significant. Usually, in the
Q&A part of that, someone says have you got anything positive to say because we’re going through a lot?
We have to address this — the race issue in the country. We have to address the income inequality issue in the country, the income distribution
issue in the country, if you will, in ways that we just haven’t. And we haven’t done it over decades. It’s not brand new.
So what’s going on right now is focusing on that, but if all we have from the Democratic side is a reaction, and let’s swing the pendulum as hard in
the other direction as possible, we’re not going to answer those questions. And that, to me, is the essence of what some leaders — and it doesn’t take
many, but it takes a few from both parties have to recognize to figure out how to move us forward together.
And in the last 10 years, it’s been how to move us nowhere because we’re apart. And that’s fundamentally, I think, the challenge that we have.
ISAACSON: So what is the effect, do you think, of America retreating from the world stage?
MULLIN: I believe we live in a world where we are dependent on friends and allies and relationships and engagements. And I don’t think the world is
going to just let us walk.
I mean one of the drivers for that is just the global aspect of the economy. We can’t not be out there. We have to be out there.
And these institutions, NATO is an example, and alliances, the alliance we have with Japan, the alliance we have with South Korea, they’re coming
under question. The leaders are asking if we’re going to be there for them.
And I think there’s more damage than we realize. When I talk to my foreign friends, I ask them, tell me what you see because we’re in the middle of it
And I don’t think we’ll think it’s as bad as it is. And they’re pretty devastated. Pretty quickly pretty devastated. And they’re trying to
figure out what they’re going to do for themselves as we leave the stage if you will.
And again, back to the vacuum piece as China and Russia and others sort of step in to fill that vacuum. So it’s a huge, huge challenge and shift.
That’s something else, you know, when “this is done,” we’re going to have to focus on and rebuild very, very rapidly.
ISAACSON: You’ve spoken of China’s leader Xi Jinping as being a threat to the global order and world stage.
ISAACSON: What — leaving aside the economic threat for the moment, what is the real threat from China? Are they an expansionist nation? Are they
going to build aircraft carriers to compete with the ones that you commanded?
MULLIN: They’re not going to build aircraft carriers as big or competitive from a warfighting standpoint as we have, but they’re building them. And
they consider that to be a really critical part of their expansionism if you will.
I actually heard a presentation from Bob Kagan two years ago that talked about what China was doing in the South China Sea. And the analysis that
he used was the United States in the Caribbean in the early 1900s.
They were focusing on their waters, close by, stabilizing that, getting control of that, from which we then started to project power. Some in
World War I and certainly massively in World War II and ever since.
That they’re using that example. They want to get control of the South China Sea. Four of the five top economies in the world are out there. It
needs to be stable. They think they own it.
And I think — and they have started to expand. And they may say they’re not an expansionist power, but in terms of engagement around the world and
if you go to any continent in the world, there are a lot of Chinese investments right now.
So — and with that will be a requirement to secure them. And that’s going to be an expanded military to do that, that’s natural. That’s what we’ve
And I think the relation — I think our relationship, U.S. and China’s relationship, is the most important relationship in the 21st Century
between two countries, mostly driven by the economies, and the militaries will follow.
I also am not a fan of Xi Jinping. I mean they’ve made him, you know, basically the head of the place for life.
He’s consolidated power. He’s very, very strong. He has his own challenges. He’s still got 800 million people that are in need there, and
he’s got to figure out a way to bring that up, create more middle class.
It’s interesting that his future really, I think — China’s future resides in that middle class as we here in the United States continue to hollow out
our own middle class. And I think we’ve got to reverse that part of who we are and then figure out how to make it work together with China.
And I’m much more hawkish on China than I was a few years ago because we’ve given Xi Jinping a lot of runway, and he’s taken advantage of it. We need
to draw a line in the sands and say that’s it.
ISAACSON: You’ve painted a somewhat bleak view of America and America in the world. What should America be doing right now to get it right?
MULLIN: Well, I think we have to, first of all, recognize where we are. As a kid of the ’60s and ’70s, we’ve been through tougher times. I mean I
remember that. The bombings, the race riots, the social revolution, you know, a president who certainly lied and resigned, if you will, in
So I ‘don’t — it’s different now, but at the same time, in terms of intensity and where we are in the overall crisis and evolution, I don’t
think we’re close to that. We’re moving in that direction.
And I don’t see us on the upswing. I see us in decline, quite frankly. It’s almost like a failing company.
You can kind of see it happening. I think the question for America is will leaders step up and pull us out of that downward spiral before we crash or
have some catastrophic event that galvanizes the American people and out of that some leader rises, he or she, that says, OK, here we’re going to go
and the American people align themselves with that leader.
And I think that’s really where we are. The indicators are not positive right now. Doesn’t mean everything’s bad. We’re a country of
incredible wealth, incredible resources, incredible innovation, and incredible leadership. We just need to bring all that to bear, recognizing
where we are right now to get us headed in the right direction.
ISAACSON: Admiral Mullin, thank you for being with us.
MULLIN: Thanks, Walt. Good to be with you.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: That was a really timely warning from one of the more thoughtful soldier-scholars of our time.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.