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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
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DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless. We can and will stop this evil contagion.
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AMANPOUR: After another devastating weekend of mass homicide, why won’t America stop this violence? I’ll ask Kellyanne Conway, counselor to
President Donald Trump.
Plus, I’ll speak with counterterrorism expert. Daniel Benjamin, and minister and activist, William Barber.
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DANAH BOYD, FOUNDER AND PRESIDET, DATA AND SECURITY: Well, maybe we don’t yet know why the plane came down. Maybe we don’t yet know what happened in
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AMANPOUR: A closer look at how bad actors use digital media to spread lies and hate. Our Hari Sreenivasan talks to social media scholar, Dr. Danah
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
A bloody weekend of gun violence and racial terror in America with at least 31 people killed in two cities in less than 24 hours. In El Paso, Texas, a
2-month old baby lost his father and his mother who sacrificed themselves to save his life. And according to the Mexican foreign minister, seven
people from his country were killed. They were among at least 22 people killed there in El Paso. Then in Dayton, Ohio, the gunman’s own sister was
among the nine victims. President Trump spoke from the White House today and called out the racial hatred that motivated the El Paso attack.
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TRUMP: The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and White
supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated.
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AMANPOUR: The president went on to call for mental health reforms and new red flag laws to identify murderers before they kill and says he’ll support
the death penalty for hate crimes and mass murders. But he himself stands accused of encouraging extremism with his hateful language against
immigrants, decrying an invasion across the southern border by rapists who are bringing crime and who infest our country.
Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway took to Twitter after the violent killings and she tried to deflect some of the criticism aimed at the
president saying, “We need to come together, America. Finger pointing, name calling and screaming with your keyboards is easy and yet it solves
not a single problem, saves no at single life.” And Kellyanne Conway is joining me now from the White House.
Welcome to the program.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Kellyanne, this is truly a terrible day and the 10-ton gorilla in the room is the president, I’m afraid. And you are his senior
counselor, and many, many people are asking whether now, all these words that he’s used, all these phrases that he’s used, will he follow up on what
he urged the country today to put aside racial hatred, white supremacy and just stop all this hatred? Will he do that now?
CONWAY: Well, Christiane, he already did it. And you have given a platform on your network for the last 24 to 36 hours to people who would
like to be the president and are out there using some really hateful language to get kicks and clicks and ratings. But today, we saw the
president take to the podium and speak directly to the people of this country and indeed all around the world, condemning unequivocally and now,
in certain terms, White supremacy, bigotry, racism. I have to gently but firmly disagree with your characterization of the president and remind you
that he is — today he showed equal parts grief, shock, anger, condolences, resolve and action.
We saw just in the last hour or so, that Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and (INAUDIBLE) Democratic Connecticut come
together, this bipartisan red flag law. That is something the president supports, mentioned today.
I think the president is also asking us all to come together, not just to unify but to unite and resolve so that we can fix any combination of
factors, no one solution, because there’s no one contributing factor. And so, he did mention other possible causes. He denounced these murderers as
monsters and evil and hate-filled manifestos and he called White supremacy in the manifesto “sinister ideology.”
So, he was very unequivocal. And I would also say the president did not respond in kind to those who have shamelessly and baselessly attacked him
personally all weekend long. He’s trying to find solutions without politicizing this.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let’s just take a couple of those then. Unfortunately, he did attack the press again saying that fake news is
spreading the hatred and division in this country after these killings. But let me just, please, go back to his own words. We listed a whole load
of them at the beginning, in our introduction to you. And here, is just in the last few months, he, at a rally in Florida, using some of these same
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TRUMP: This is an invasion. When you see these caravans starting out with 20,000 people, that’s an invasion. I was badly criticized for using the
word “invasion.” it’s an invasion. And it’s also an invasion of drugs coming in from Mexico. OK. It’s an invasion of drugs. They better be
careful. But how do you stop these people? You can’t. There’s only in the panhandle you can get away with that stuff.
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AMANPOUR: Well, you know this very well and you know he was reacting to somebody in the crowd saying “shoot them.” I mean, look, this is language
that very, very few people are used to around the president and it seems to have become the norm since 2016. So, I just want to ask you, again, the
president used the word “invasion” and the gunman said his attack was a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.
Kellyanne, you’re his senior counselor. You are really close to him. Do you countenance those words that the president uses? Do you try to tell
him not to use those words like “invasion,” like “infestation,” like all the words he uses which are associated with hate speech?
CONWAY: Christiane, I — not so long ago you had the former FBI director, Jim Comey, on your show. And controversially you asked him does he regret
not having regulated, I guess, or prosecuted as hate speech, quote, “lock her up.” So, what we saw this week — and I think even he pushed back on
that. What we saw this week is real hate and real evil and real bigotry and real White supremacist and real murder.
And that monster ought to be brought to justice through the death penalty, in my view. And I’m glad that those in Texas who are in charge of such
things have called this domestic terrorism and indeed, can pursue the death penalty. I’d like to know if the 2020 crowd who was preening and screaming
all over your network and elsewhere is going to look America in the eye and somehow tell us that the death penalty should not be considered for this
Most of what I tell the president is private but I will tell you this, I’m very happy that he, as the president, of all of us, as the president of
this entire nation and the leader in this world, denounced in no uncertain terms unequivocally hate, racism and White supremacy.
And I would also like to point something out. The day before Bob Mueller testified on July 24th, the day before FBI Director Chris Wray testified up
in Congress, they got very little coverage, including on your network, because everybody was guessing what Bob Mueller would or would not do.
Silly. What actually happened is Chris Wray’s testimony or FBI director, he said that the most domestic terrorism arrests this year involve White
supremacy that Donald Trump’s — this president’s FBI has been very, very accelerated and intensified in its investigations and arrests of hate
crimes, domestic terrorism, including, not exclusively, but including White supremacy. There are other forms, as you know.
CONWAY: And so, this is an administration that has been very active all along. It got very little coverage, if any, because Bob Mueller was going
to testify the next day. But the director of the FBI told us two short weeks ago about this and all the efforts. I was briefed by them yesterday.
There is a ton going on already.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, let me ask you this then. I understand. I’m honestly trying to have —
CONWAY: But you think (INAUDIBLE) death penalty, you’re — well, but you’re —
AMANPOUR: I’m trying to have — no. I’m trying to have a grown-up conversation with you and the death penalty is the issue down —
CONWAY: And I’m having one with you.
AMANPOUR: — the road, which the president already associated himself with. We’ve already had the attorney general, the Justice Department
talking about reinstating the federal death penalty. That’s done. Let’s move on.
CONWAY: For cases like this. For monsters like this.
AMANPOUR: For monsters. Right.
CONWAY: Like the evil person in — well, monsters, like the evil person in El Paso.
AMANPOUR: Well, that’s just come up.
CONWAY: Who murders innocent people. Yes.
AMANPOUR: But, but, President Trump has called it a hate crime, which it is, and domestic terrorism, which it is. But —
CONWAY: It is.
AMANPOUR: But, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in a sponsor study found that there are major gaps in national terrorism prevention efforts.
There is no federal charge for domestic terrorism. There is no coherent strategy, Kellyanne. Will this change?
And more to the point, also, we act as if politics is not relevant here and we act — well, I’m just surprised that no mention was made of
guns but we can talk about that in a second. But could you please tell me whether you think now that there can be a coherent Department of Homeland
Security, FBI, all those organizations? As I said, there is no federal charge for domestic terrorism.
CONWAY: I do. And mainly because of the efforts that our FBI and DOJ under this president’s watch has been investing in as it goes domestic
terrorism. You know, Christiane, you know, 9/11 very well. We all do. We all lived through the tragedy together. And the response to that was a lot
more of international terrorism and it’s been migrating toward domestic terrorism for a while now.
And in fact, our FBI is on the front lines of combating both types of terror. You know, remember, after 9/11, it was “see something, say
something,” that was predominately about packages. But it’s also just we’re all — we should all do our best. That if you think somebody is
threatening or is menacing the public — I mean, you read — I saw that it was publicly released, I had read it earlier, but it’s now in the public
domain, that the shooter in Dayton, in high school, he had two lists, a rape list and kill list. That was years ago. Nobody has come forth to
ever say that this person or our law enforcement could not know that in his background check.
It’s been reported that he procured the firearms legally because his background check had some traffic stop or moving violation but not the fact
in high school, he had a kill list and rape list because of HIPAA. We should look at HIPAA also.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you a question.
CONWAY: I know offhand that the president is right about the drugs coming over the southern border.
CONWAY: The drugs are killing our communities. Well, you played the clip. Let me respond to it. I work on that here in the White House and we have
the first drop in overdose deaths at 5.1 percent last year because of the efforts, that whole government approach, bipartisan efforts we’re making.
The drugs coming over the border that we had enough fentanyl interdicted at the ports of entry to kill every man, woman and child in this country three
times plus over. And between the ports of entry, another batch of fentanyl (INAUDIBLE).
AMANPOUR: OK, Kellyanne —
CONWAY: Last fiscal year, to kill 99 people. I know you don’t want to talk about it —
AMANPOUR: No, no. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. This is entirely your issues and I understand. And we have had a whole interview
on this. Kellyanne, Kellyanne, we’re not talking about border security right now. We’re talking about —
CONWAY: You played the clip about —
AMANPOUR: — U.S. domestic terrorism. White nationalism —
CONWAY: You played the president’s clip.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Now, I’ve also played the president’s words. And I want to know —
CONWAY: Yes. White nationalism, the president denounced today. Domestic terrorism.
CONWAY: He’s denouncing. His U.S. attorney, his — the law enforcement in Texas has already designated this domestic terrorism. It means, the
CONWAY: — the federal government and the state government agree, it is domestic terrorism.
CONWAY: We want —
AMANPOUR: Now, the words, Kellyanne — Kellyanne, Kellyanne. Now, the words. Because most people who study this, including FBI, including the
experts on this, not the chattering classes, not the armchair, you know, observers but the experts say that there are climates of hate that are
created and usually from the top.
So, I’m asking you, will you and the president’s advisors seek to restrict his Twitter use and his other use of these — no — of these words? What
he said about Elijah Cummings, what he said about Baltimore, what he says about migrants.
CONWAY: Christiane —
AMANPOUR: Yes or no? It’s simple because if it’s no, it’s stays there at the top.
CONWAY: No, it’s not. (INAUDIBLE). No, I’m not telling you what I discuss with the president.
AMANPOUR: No, I’m asking you, do you agree with that? Do you agree with it? Infestation. Invasions. These are important words.
CONWAY: You keep repeating it —
AMANPOUR: Look back in history, Kellyanne.
CONWAY: You know, when you keep repeating it, because a day ago your network insisted that this president would not come out and denounce
racism, White supremacy, bigotry, call this evil, call him a monster, try to fix our mental —
AMANPOUR: OK. So, the simple question and follow up is, will he then not say those things on the air, on Twitter, on social media again? I mean,
you’re telling me what he says.
CONWAY: I’m not going allow you to complete him with the murders here. And —
AMANPOUR: Oh, come on. You know I didn’t do that. I’m asking about his words.
CONWAY: Well, I heard a lot of words on your network and others the last couple of days.
AMANPOUR: Kellyanne, it’s you and me talking now not about networks. I’m asking you very simply.
CONWAY: We’re talking to the world.
AMANPOUR: Well, this is what the world says.
CONWAY: You have to own it. You have to own it.
AMANPOUR: The world says “The Sydney Morning Herald” had a striking headline yesterday, according to the CJR, “U.S. in Midst —
CONWAY: So, I’m going to repeat myself —
AMANPOUR: U.S. the Midst of —
CONWAY: — I’m happy that the president had denounced White supremacy, domestic terrorism. This person should face the death penalty. He is
AMANPOUR: Right. “U.S. in the Midst of a White Nationalist Terrorism Crisis.” Another newspaper, a British one, writes, gun death seemed
CONWAY: I’m the one who could see that.
AMANPOUR: — in to the discourse acceptable losses in America. these shootings cannot be stopped.
CONWAY: I’m the one who just said that our FBI has an increase in arrests —
CONWAY: — in domestic terror. Some of which are fueled by White supremacy, some are — which are fueled by other racially motivated
hate. This is positive. We should applaud the efforts of the Department of Justice and the FBI —
CONWAY: — under this president’s administration that actually stepped up these efforts.
AMANPOUR: All of that is good.
CONWAY: And that’s important.
AMANPOUR: And the president calling out — CONWAY: No, no, no. All —
AMANPOUR: — mental health, red flags, monsters is all good. But he did not mention guns, for instance, in the speech today. The president is
massively popular in the Republican Party, has more than 70 percent approval rating. If you look at Australia after a gun — if you look at
Australia, after a gun massacre, if you look at New Zealand after the gun massacre, if you look at Britain after its Dunblane gun massacre, there
were laws enacted.
I know they are different parliamentary and presidential systems but the president is very, very powerful and popular and people tend to do in his
party what he suggests. Will he now discuss the prevalence and the easy use without sensible gun laws of guns like this guy had?
CONWAY: The president will have more to say this week and the president also has addressed this issue. Actually, it’s his administration, not the
previous one, who by the way, deported 3 million people, that did away with bump stocks, has the fixed nix (ph), came out with an entire school safety
commission report that got very little attention, as did Director Wray’s testimony about the issues you want to talk about today, since he testified
the day before Bob Mueller, nobody wanted to cover it, it’s actually the testimony that mattered and was coherent and relevant to today’s
So, this president and his administration are doing much. We will continue to do more. But, Christiane, every time you talk about passing laws, you
know full well who passes the laws in this country, Congress. They’re on their six-week recess. Why did they leave in the first place? All this
grand standing, call us back, call us back. They are welcome to come back, if they like. But will they?
And I would tell you that, you know, for all the grand standing by the 2020 crowd this weekend, again, getting clicks and kicks and ratings and their
jollies and some them with the potty mouths cursing out the president. What we saw today was the president, the one and only president addressing
a nation and a world and telling them White supremacy, racism, evil, bigotry is completely unequivocally denounced. And here are five or six
concrete steps we can take together. But we need Congress to do that.
He directed the Department of Justice to work on legislation that would have the death penalty for crimes just like this. Just like this evil
monster in El Paso. But legislation is Congress’ business. We know they fail to do their job on so many things this year. They’re too busy doing
all this nonsense to actually do so many things to fix the problems that you’re laying out and others. Congress, do your job.
I mean, they wait to react. They’re gone for six weeks. This president is here. He — we’re working today. They can come back but they won’t. And
if they do, it’ll just be a lot of speeches. But every time you say “let’s make a law.” that’s a question for Congress. This president stands ready
to act and laid out some very concrete proposals that even your network was covering today. Here are five or six concrete things we can do.
But pull that testimony by FBI Director Wray on July 23rd, it was telling and many of the answers are there. There’s so much going on in the
domestic terrorism space but we all need to be able to say something also when we see something, and even if that’s a loved one that we feel could be
a menace. You can actually — you know, people watching right now could help mitigate damage like this, can maybe even save a life or many lives by
speaking up in addition —
AMANPOUR: All right.
CONWAY: — to what our local and federal and state law enforcement are doing.
AMANPOUR: Well, we will continue to watch and see how that all, in terms of legislation, pans out. And we’ll watch, also, from where you are, the
White House, see what comes out of there. Kellyanne Conway, thank you for joining us.
CONWAY: Thanks, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, listening, Daniel Benjamin, who is coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department under President Obama, wrestled
with America’s blind spot when it comes to homegrown racist terror. And William Barber is a civil rights activist and protestant minister. He
visited El Paso just days before the shooting to show support for Latin American migrants there.
Reverend Barber and Daniel Benjamin, welcome, both of you, to the program.
You were both listening to Kellyanne in her defense of the president, as is her job. Tried to reign her in when there was a little off piece happening
there. But can I ask you, in terms of the counterterrorism aspect of it, Daniel Benjamin, did you hear anything that made you think that the
president, with his words today, and he did, you know, used stronger words and he has in the past on this issue, would, I don’t know, encourage sort
of legislation or something in the counterterrorism field?
DANIEL BENJAMIN, OBAMA ADMIN. COORDINATOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: I didn’t hear much that gave me any reason to believe there could be a significant
change of course from what we’ve seen in the past. Neither Kellyanne’s remarks nor the president’s really focused on the core issues
being the wide availability of guns, the underperformance at the federal government on investigating, intelligence gathering and prevention of White
And I’ve heard today a fair amount of deflection talking about mental illness and talking about video games. And in both of those cases, I
think, you know, it’s a bit of a smoke screen. The mental illness issue, and they’re undoubtedly mentally ill people involved in terrorism, but the
large majority are not. Researchers have looked at that over and over again.
And if you look at the shooter’s manifesto, he doesn’t seem to be mentally ill. And the video game thing is just insulting to the intelligence of
Americans. Video games are played all over the world. It seems odd that only in America do White supremacists become motivated to kill people on
the basis of their video game watching.
So, you know, the president has a wide-open field. I would also add, though, that when the president finally uses strong language in August of
2019, after using language that has really heated up the environment since his very declaration that he was running in 2015 and spoke of Mexican
rapists coming across the border, this long trail of racist language finally being interrupted by one set of remarks in 2019, I don’t think it’s
going to make a big difference. And I think many of those who take their ideas from the president, including the shooter, will understand why he did
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, why do you say the shooter? Because of what? I mean, did he mention the president?
BENJAMIN: If you read the shooter’s manifesto, it is fairly clear that he has been listening very, very carefully to President Trump. The language
of invasion and replacement and Hispanics coming across the border to, you know, infest our society.
BENJAMIN: He has been taking dictation. It’s very clear where he is getting a lot of his ideas or where his ideas have become essentially
activated. How that happened.
AMANPOUR: So you heard me ask Kellyanne Conway whether she would advise the president and stop him from using those words, either in public or on
social media, and she wouldn’t actually go there in tells me what she would advise him or not.
But let me turn to you, Reverend Barber. You are, obviously, a minister and an activist, but I want to just bring you over to the moral core of
what is happening here. You were in El Paso. You were in that region just before the shooting to express solidarity with people who have been
demonized from the very top of the administration, from the president on down. Just tell me what you found there and what your thoughts are in the
few days later when this terrible thing happens there.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, PROTESTANT MINISTER AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Well, actually, Christiane, almost a week to the date, we were there with other
religious leaders from across the country, we went to Juarez, to the refugee camp, we went to stay with the Border Action Network that’s there
on the ground, been there 20 some years. We were there with Emon Solomon (ph) and Rabbi Jacobs and Terry Owens.
And we went there to see how ugly it is the way in which we have demonized the whole community and made it OK, normalized, the demonization of
immigrants and how we’re tolerating it at the highest levels of children and women and mothers and fathers being caged like animals in many ways
being treated worse than some people treat their own dogs. And then to see this happen right afterward.
Now, I think, from a moral perspective, which all of this is a moral issue, we first must mourn deeply. We must mourn deeply with the people at El
Paso and Dayton. We must listen to them from the ground because they’re in the belly of the beast. They’re talking about (INAUDIBLE) them having an
action of vigil. We need to join that.
But when I listen to Kellyanne today, it’s almost like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde not being willing to own the Frankenstein
that you have actually created. The president and his words, not only words but his works. There’s three dimensions to racism, the words of
racism, the works of racism, which is the policy, and then the war of racism and White nationalism. And violence has always been a part of White
And Richard Spencer, who is a White nationalist, said the reason he was drawn to Trump because he understood that the war against immigrants was
the first war that America had to fight against Brown immigrants and he heard that in Trump.
And for a politician to now try to denounce the racism hatred of an individual and not denounce their own racism, to call him a monster, but
not call your own words and your own policies monstrous, is not to deal with the depths of the problem. It is to skate the issue. It is to not
understand that what we are seeing is the result of the failure of society, the failure of leadership, the failures of laws. And, yes, it is right at
the foot of the president.
Let me give you a historical note. In 1963, the year I was born, George Wallace began to spew all kind of racist rhetoric from the governorship.
By the end of that year, Medgar Evers was dead, four girls in a church were dead, and a president was dead because his words, these words and these
policies are the breeding ground for violence. It always has been that way. Check it throughout history. Whenever you’ve had these words and
policies, you also had the loosing of this kind of violence.
And so, for someone to try to make this an anomaly, just that person — you noticed Kellyanne kept saying “that person, that person,” they want to put
it on that one person —
BARBER: — and not deal with the whole society. Not how people were killed, not what killed them, but what created the environment to loose
this kind of violence.
AMANPOUR: So — I mean, look, let’s be very frank. I’m sure neither Daniel Benjamin nor you, Reverend Barber, expected the president to do a
mea culpa in front of the world today. However, maybe —
BARBER: Yes, I do. I do actually.
BARBER: I do.
BARBER: I do. If he claims to be a person of faith, if he claims to be president, I always believe in the possibility of repentance. And you
cannot get out there and denounce somebody else as racist when you have been the number one perpetrator —
BARBER: — of racism and White nationalism conversation. Now, he may not do it, but I’m sure we’ll demand it must be done. And if he won’t do it,
the Senate and Congress and we must — and the people in the street must make the nation repent even if he doesn’t.
AMANPOUR: I should have known better. Of course, you would have expected him to do that, and you’re right. But I wonder whether you might think
that what he said today maybe a new departure, and we have to see. And that’s what I was trying to get from Kellyanne Conway. Now, that he said
these things, will he cease and desist from saying in the past.
But I want to ask you both to react to this because you —
BARBER: Because —
AMANPOUR: Hold on a second, Reverend Barber. I need to —
AMANPOUR: — play a soundbite —
AMANPOUR: — from Representative Jim Himes. This is right after the Parkland Shooting in February of last year. And it goes to this sense of
hopelessness in the United States, this sense that people don’t know what to do, how to react because it just keeps happening. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): The pattern will be perfectly predictable. There will be a moment of silence, people will wish everybody thoughts and
prayers and sympathy for the victims. And then the Congress of the United States will do absolutely nothing. It’s the kind of thing that — at least
those of us who believe that the government has the power to probably reduce this kind of violence. It’s the kind of thing that really hits you
right in the gut. Especially, if, as I do, you come from a state that has experienced some truly horrendous violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, from a counterterrorism pound of view, Daniel Benjamin, we’ve talked about it. But — and from a moral point of view, you know,
the vigils, the flowers, the breastfeeding, gnashing of teeth. You know, some people just look at this and say, “Well, America is clearly factored
this in. They’re not talking about guns in a sensible way and this may be the acceptable cause of this fetishistic association with the
fundamentalist interpretation of the Second Amendment.”
So, Daniel Benjamin, what do you think happens next? We’ve talked about the major gaps in Homeland Security, national terrorism prevention efforts.
We’ve just heard President Trump say — he asked the FBI to identify all further resources they need to investigate and disrupt these hate crimes
and domestic terrorism. You’ve been at the front line of this. What should and will happen next, then, to stop and slow this rising terrorism?
BENJAMIN: Well, I think what should and what will are going to be two different things. I think Representative Himes is right on the money when
it comes to predicting action on guns. We may see something at the margins along the lines of what we saw after the Las Vegas shootings, still the
greatest mass shooting ever, when bump stocks were prohibited.
But in terms of serious gun control measures, even if the president comes out for them, he can do so safe in the assurance that Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell will stop it, as he has in the past. And this has been a little kabuki that the administration has gone through once or twice already when
the president endorsed some kind of gun control only to see it die in the Senate.. I do think that there is a chance, particularly if there is some congressional initiative, and the fact is that the recess is a problem
but some congressional initiative to raise the importance of domestic terrorism.
And it really is time that the Congress looked at a law, to revert to something that you discussed, that would create a crime of domestic
terrorism and that might create some of the sanctions that we would need to go after those who materially support domestic terrorists. I think this
would be important because it would raise domestic terrorism to the same plane as international terrorism.
I’d like to think that they will also increase resources and direct both DHS, on the analytics side, and FBI, on the intelligence gathering and
prevention side, to increase the resources devoted to this issue. It’s long overdue. It is true, I think, that Director Wray is concerned, but the
history is that our law enforcement agencies haven’t been doing two things at once, at the same time, that is.
And focusing on the jihadist threat and the domestic threat is essential now.
AMANPOUR: I would like to play this for you, Reverend Barber, perhaps to comment on, because you were just in El Paso. The police chief, Greg Allen,
there, I mean he jus tspoke from the heart and, you know, from the person who’s been there and seen it and smelt it and understands this kind of
carnage like nobody can unless you’ve just seen it. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF GREG ALLEN, EL PASO POLICE: There’s not words you can place to say something like that. You know, you have to see it for yourself. When I
first got into this job, I never knew there was an order to blood (ph), but there is. And until you firsthand see that, my description of it, as far as
horrific, would be un-serving, as far as what that scene looks like. So I can’t tell you what it means other than for the normal individual that
doesn’t have to deal with that on a day-to-day basis, it will leave an impression that you will never forget. I’ll just leave it at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: You know, it took me back to the warzones that I’ve covered. And I realize that he’s in a warzone, except it’s civilians who are being
slaughtered in America. Reverend Barber, you are of the civil rights movement. What should people be doing? I mean, beyond candle light vigils?
It took a huge amount of popular upheaval to bring civil rights to the United States
BARBER: Well, first of all, we got to feel it, like the captain said. That’s why I say we have mourn
deeply. I don’t mean just mourning and crying and being over it (ph), the mourning that leads to prophetic action. We must address the cause of these
mass killings, not just how and who, because people were dying from the policy of violence; children were dying, whether they die by the gun, die
by the bomb, die by the – being locked up and not fed, die in the river. It’s death.
We must be scared to life, and we must be scared to a kind of pushing back. I believe that we must demand, yes, that the Congress comes back early.
What would it look like if on August 28th, the anniversary of the march on Washington, they passed an omnibus bill that not only dealt with assault
weapons and dealt with background checks, but also ended the racial justifications and denying of asylum of a (ph) refugee? Whether Trump signs
it or not, we need to vote against it.
Yes, we have to be in the streets. Yes, I’m going back to El Paso. But we’re planning in September to launch a nationwide tour. We must do more
mobilization, organizing, registering, educating, all across this country. We’re looking at starting it in El Paso and then going to Greenville, where
Trump did this “send her back” kind of (ph) chant.
We have to go down to the community and then build from the bottom up a movement that will not allow these things to just happen. We do two or
three weeks, or two or three days, and then it’s over. This is a major, major crisis. This is a war of worlds, if you will, whether or not we’re
going to go back, or whether we’re going to go forward.
And when I say go back, I don’t actually mean that everything was fine before Trump. Trump didn’t create this. This is American as apple pie. But
he called the fire from up under the earth. He sowed to the wind. He and his enablers, whether they be the Senate Leader McConnell or Lindsay
Graham, they have blown on these coals.
They’ve blown (ph) this fire up. But we also have to remember, in history, there has always been another fire, not the fire of destruction, but the
fire of love, the fire of truth, the fire of justice. We must take our tears into the streets, our mourning into the street, in non-violent ways,
and say, we will not accept this. And it must be a (inaudible).
We can’t just have Latinos and people of color talking about racism, but we have to have white people talking clearly about not racism from a – from a
cultural standpoint, but the policies of racism, the violence of racism and white nationalism that has always existed, but there’s also always been a
resistance to it, and we need that resistance now.
The people of the past, they are dead and gone. They are not going to get up. We have to do it now and we must do it together, Christiane. Moral
fusion, white and black and brown and red together, and we must denounce the words of racism, the works of racism. That is the policy violence of
white nationalism and the war of white nationalism and racism. We must denounce that not in the way that actually gives Trump or others another
place to point to us and say, “look at them. They’re being violent in the street.”
We don’t have to use that violence. We can use the powerful tools of truth and love and justice and nonviolence and raise the consciousness of this
country and push us – and push it toward life and not death. We have to do that in this moment, and that’s what we’re going to be giving ourselves to
in the poor people’s campaign, a national call for a moral revival. We’re going to put everything we have into doing that in this country.
AMANPOUR: Well moral revival, indeed, is necessary, Reverend William Barber. And new laws and new methods, Daniel Benjamin, to counter this
white nationalist terror. Thank you both very, very much for joining us today.
And we turn now to the insidious spread of conspiratorial and hateful messages online, the sort of content that may have contributed to the
radicalization of this weekend’s murder in El Paso. Danah Boyd is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft and Founder of the research institute Data &
Society where she studies a range of social and technological issues, including how media manipulators may be responsible for mass shootings and
other crises events. Our Hari Sreenivasan asked her how digital media amplifies the spread of false information.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HARI SREENIVASAN: Danah Boyd, thanks for joining us.
DANAH BOYD, FOUNDER OF DATA & SOCIETY: Thank you for having me.
SREENIVASAN: So we live in a world, I think, of, you know, where facts are presented, represented, misrepresented, and manipulating those facts is as
old as, well, society, right? What’s so different about this information web that we’re enmeshed in today that we should be concerned.
BOYD: The most simple answer to that is amplification. You take any sort of misinformation or even doubt, which is actually the most powerful, you
start asking questions. And your question or your proposed alternative fact can reach millions of people if you stage it right, and you can do it
at one level by purchasing advertisements that, you know, anybody can access, another level by figuring out how to produce viral media, even more
powerfully figuring out how to get journalists to tell your story or ask your question by engaging with them on Twitter.
And so, anyone in the world has the ability to learn a set of techniques and amplify in a, you know, hypernetwork media ecosystem.
SREENIVASAN: So why is it googling or binging the answer? Looking for this question, I’m going to find my own facts, I’m going to do my own
research, I’m just going to type this in. why doesn’t that work?
BOYD: So search engines return the results based on the information that’s available to them. And so, they crawl across the Internet looking for
content and then they try to find ways of ranking that content. And they try to find what they call authoritative content, right? Wanting to give
you the stuff that really means something to you.
But search engine optimization has been gamed literally since the beginning. Most people think of Google and Bing when they think of search
engines, but actually YouTube is the dominant search engine for the under 25 set. It’s where they go to learn their homework or they, you know, try
to figure out a problem or how to tie a tie.
And as a result, they go there with a basic question – what’s going on with this topic? And what they get there is manipulated because people who have
been optimizing the search results for YouTube, but the difference is is that the amount of information for Google or Bing to soak up on the broad,
public web is extraordinary compared to the small amount that’s available on YouTube. And most high-quality content isn’t available on YouTube.
Depending on what you’re looking for, it can be pretty bad pretty fast.
SREENIVASAN: So what happens when there is no existing data? You research this area, this idea called data voids. If some breaking news event
happens an nobody’s really been looking for that town or that area before, what happens today?
BOYD: So Michael Golebiewski at Bing was really interested in this question of absent data because search engines require you to have data to
return, and he calls it data voids, and we spent a lot of time looking at different types of data voids. And some of them are just a natural
byproduct of literally no one searched for a town. No one produced content about a word. Right, there’s just nothing there.
But sometimes they’re staged and they can be staged in different ways. Seeing people too is they coin a term and they mix (inaudible) and their
website’s filled with that term. So let’s give a concrete example.
A bunch of conspiracy theorists decided to focus in on a term called crisis actor. The idea that any time somebody would appear after a shooting on
T.V., it was only to manufacture the shooting that the shooting didn’t happen and that these people who were distraught because their loved ones
were lost were just crisis actors.
And what the conspiracy theorist did is they built hundreds of pages, videos, detailed content about this conspiracy and then they worked really
hard to get journalist to cover the story. They wanted journalist to use that phrase. And .
SREENIVASAN: Just the phrase, crisis actor.
BOYD: Just the phrase, crisis actor. And they got Anderson Copper said the phrase, crisis actor, by raising the question of the conspiracy. And
what happened was that, you know, millions of people poured into Google and they ..
SREENIVASAN: And started searching (inaudible) …
BOYD: And started searching and YouTube. And what they got was conspiratorial content. And that happens over and over again. So
consider, for example, what happened in Christchurch. Right.
A terrorist went and opened fire and killed 51 people. Right. Is an atrocious act of violence. But he also played the media and he played tech
companies. So he played the media by making certain he had a manifesto floating around so that when journalists were trying to figure out what was
the explanation to this, they immediately went to the manifesto.
And they immediately published the title. The title is a hate frame that if you searched for it you would get nothing but some of the worst anti-
Semitic and white nationalist content. And he also decided to troll specific people and so that the news media would repeat the names of those
people and assume that they were caught up in it and the result is that these people got massively attacked.
SREENIVASAN: You know you said there was a phrase called — I want to say it correctly — agnotology, the strategic manufacturing of ignorance. What
does that mean?
BOYD: A group of scholars and the term is coined by Robert Proctor and Iain Boal — coined a term call called agnotology, which is the study of
ignorance. And the idea is that ignorance is not just what we don’t yet know, ignorance is sometimes actively seated.
It’s put out there to achieve a particular agenda. And what they were looking at was climate denial. Right. That all of these coordinated
efforts to create, you know, fake science to create doubt about climate or to create doubt about vaccines or to create doubt about the relationship
between tobacco and cancer.
And that of course is a political agenda that we’ve seen different governments use a tactic of propaganda for a long time. It’s a lot easier
to ask questions of doubt than it is to actually try to provide alternative facts. So you say well, maybe we don’t yet know why that plane came down.
Maybe we don’t yet know what happened then in that election. And that seeding of doubt is so powerful because what it also motivates is for the
public then to go and self investigate, to go see if there’s something real.
So think about Pizzagate. Right. By having news rooms all around the country talking about Pizzagate as a conspiracy, well, people who don’t
trust the news media felt the need to go and self investigate. So what do they do, they turn to Google. And what do they find, conspiracy all the
way down until we got to a point where people started visiting that pizza shop.
And as we know, one of them showed up with a gun. That’s a moment where the amplification and the desire to self investigate is the act of
achieving ignorance in a coordinated and systematic way.
And the question is always who’s doing it, why, and why are news amplifiers; including both formal news as well as social media platforms,
why are they helping amplify content that is designed intentionally to fragment knowledge.
SREENIVASAN: And you said something about how information is not network. So if you wanted to manipulate this stream it’s not like going to the card
catalog and messing with the single file and scratching it out. Right. It’s — it’s now you’re talking about this — this entire interconnected
nature of all of these pieces of information that have a much more powerful effect.
BOYD: Absolutely. And I think that’s also what is easier to trick in the system, which is that once you get one domino going, it’s not hard to get
the rest of them going. Once you get one news room to cover a particular frame, it’s not hard to get the rest of them going.
Once you get a frame in motion on Facebook, it’s not hard for that to go everywhere. And that’s what makes it hard to tamp down. Right. And
that’s — you know this of course predates what we’re seeing as (inaudible) – think about anti-vaccination movements, right? It was one delegitimized
BOYD: – that has kick started a measles epidemic in New York City, right? And that’s dominos. And so, what are the dominos that we’re dealing with,
and who’s motivated by what, right? Where are the different motivations across them because once you have a population who doubts vaccination,
every time we have new research coming out showing that there is no correlation between autism and vaccination, you get a boomerang effect.
The more you start telling people that there’s no correlation, the more there are people who believe there is. It’s one of the biggest challenges
for the Centers for Disease Control. Their science is unquestionable.
SREENIVASAN: So what happens then to good sources of information? I mean, when that doubt creeps in past a certain threshold, are conspiracy sites
and legitimate institutions kind of seen with the same level of skepticism where they shouldn’t be?
BOYD: I don’t know that I would say they’re seen with the same level of skepticism, but there’s not doubt that trust in –
BOYD: – longstanding institutions declines rapidly. What it will take for the news media to rebuild trust is going to be a really hard hike.
SREENIVASAN: How do we begin that?
BOYD: You know, a lot of to comes down to actually being connected in the community, and I think about this in relationship to the decline of local
news which we often think of being associated with the Internet, but it actually isn’t. It’s roots are actually in the relationship of finance.
So finance, hedge funds, and private equity started taking over newsrooms in the 80s as part of takeover culture mostly to extract the real estate
and turn it into condos, and the result is we saw an absolute desolation of newsrooms where – you know, corruption of them, and then, you know, once
you started having online ads, it was just the nail in the coffin.
BOYD: And the result is is that most people in the United States don’t know a journalist. And if you don’t know a journalist, why should you
trust them? So that goes back to this very, you know, nature of networks.
We know George Washington, he argued intensely. He was only argued on one thing in the constitutional conventions. He mostly sat back and let other
people debate it except for one thing. He argued that you couldn’t possibly have a representative in the House of Representatives represent
40,000. It had to be 30,000 people because in his mind, above that you wouldn’t know your representative and you wouldn’t trust the government
which is really notable in a moment where it’s, what, 750,000.
BOYD: Most people don’t trust the government. They trust what they can know, what they can feel, what they can touch, what’s network to them. The
more that we have a fragmented society, the more we have segmented populations, the more people stop trusting it.
SREENIVASAN: What role did sort of the tech companies, the platforms have in this? I mean, we certainly ascribe a lot to how we got here, but in
trying to get our way out of this, is there a way for them to become more conscientious? Is it about engineers red teaming their product, looking at
what the worst care scenario is? Is it how somebody could abuse it or is it about having emphasis on staff that are asking these engineers? How do
they get – how do they change course?
BOYD: Right, so you know, the platforms have amplified everything and that’s what we really need to acknowledge is that they are the amplifiers
and the escalators. They have taken the good, bad, and ugly and taken it to a whole new level.
And so, the question is are we trying to get them back to a point where they’re just amplifying status quo or do we need – or what kind of
intervention do we see – asking them to make? And depending on where you stand politically, you’re going to have a different view on what role you
want them to have in society.
But at the end of the day, they’re not public institutions. They are private corporations. Is the responsibility of the tech platforms to give
its users what they want in the moment so that they’ll – is their responsibility to their advertisers, which means, tricking their users to
stay on platform as much as possible? Or do they have –
SREENIVASAN: And give their shareholders more value.
BOYD: Give their shareholders more value, or is their responsibility to public citizenry? If so, we have to have a very intense conversation about
how to restructure companies to have a double bottom line because right now they have a single bottom line, and that bottom line is Wall Street.
BOYD: And what I would argue is that they may talk whatever they say, and a lot of people working in those companies, they really mean it. They
think that they can uphold capitalism and do good. I’m not convinced that they can in the long term.
SREENIVASAN: But what about our responsibility? I mean, we are the ones that are using the platforms, that are making them successful. We’re
buying the products. We’re playing into this formula that they figured out that says, “hey, this is a great business to be in. And oh, by the way,
I’m getting all of this information on every single one of these users for peanuts.”
BOYD: Right. So again, this is a question of where does responsibility and agency lie. Is an individual the meaningful actor of standing up. An
American society, which has been always committed to the individual first, thinks that if you don’t like it you boycott it.
Right. You walk away from it. So you don’t like Facebook, you walk away. Market choice. And if we had market, you know, competition we would solve
all the problems. And I don’t think that that’s true in an information echo system.
You know what it ends up creating is known amongst scholars as isomorphism, which is the idea that you start emulating other institutions. So you know
news media organizations emulate each other because they want to make certain that they cover the stories that each other covers. They don’t
News organizations and social media companies have started emulating each other and feeding into each other. So we have this weird moment was like if
we put the owness on individuals, it’s only going to get worse.
And let’s be honest, we put the owness on individuals for so many other things. Has it made healthcare better that we are responsible for figuring
out all of the medical costs and making inform decisions about what doctors we go to.
Is it made — you know long term debt and savings better because we are now all responsible for our own, you know, 501ks or savings rather than
having pensions. What this does is this privileges those who have time, money, energy, choice to stand up and do something.
And that’s fabulous but I would argue that if you want a functioning society, you have to do a meaningful division of labor and division of
responsibility. And that means not putting all of the burden back on to individuals.
And we want individuals now to be informed about everything. I’m sorry; an individual is never going to be as informed as a doctor when it comes to
medical decisions and scientific knowledge. And expecting an individual to do that is devastating for the health (inaudible) visual at scale.
SREENIVASAN: Given that we’re transacting where we’re getting some — we think we’re getting some value. Hey, I’m getting free email or I’m getting
free access to the social network.
But the cost seems to be all the information that we’re transacting behind the scenes. Is there any way that we can regain a grasp of that. I mean
is the genie so far out of the bottle that it’s just pointless to try or what do you do?
BOYD: Data can be used in some of the most beneficial ways possible. It can also be used in some of most egregiously abusive way possible. And
advertising is somewhere in between. Right. So what’s difficult is how do we create an echo system that makes certain that data is used to benefit
individuals in society to the best they can. What I think we’re coming up with — against is that we need a new form of governance.
If you assume the individual to take power, it’s not going to function. If you assume nation states as individuals to govern this, it’s going to
create fragmentation. If you assume that the companies can do this, you’re going to end up with a different kind of exploitation because that is the
nature of late stage capitalism because think about even advertising.
A company like Facebook has three choices; they can find more users, I’m not sure how well that’s going to go. They can, you know, find ways to
make more per user, which means more time on site. It means more advertisements on the page. It means different ways of trying to get you
to spend more money.
Or they can diversify their profit-loss structures. In other words, diversify their products. And they certainly are trying as are many of the
other companies. But none of those are about a sustained and stable information ecosystem for the public.
All of those come down to ways of pulling more data from more people over more time or just asking for their money directly. And that’s why I say
that, you know, in an information ecosystem, when the expectation is that you have to make more money every quarter on quarter, I don’t see anything
but a long term devastation.
It’s just matter of when we will say enough and what it will mean to say enough. And the same I would argue is true with the news media. Right.
Like it is hard to produce the news when you’re supposed to turn profits every quarter, not just be stably profitable but to return more profit over
quarter by quarter.
It also gets more dicely (ph) into like what will get you more, you know, viewers. What will get you a broader reach rather than thinking about what
it means to do sustainability. And so that’s that question of what is sustainable capitalism rather than return on investment, you know, forms of
capitalist or is do we need to be thinking about other models.
SREENIVASAN: Dana Boyd, thanks so much.
BOYD: Thanks for having me.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.