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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: I have a great relationship God. I have great relationship with the evangelicals.
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AMANPOUR: Was Donald Trump’s election a renaissance for white Christian America or its death rattle? I talk politics and religion with leading
expert Robert P. Jones.
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JOSEPH CEDAR, CO-DIRECTOR, “OUR BOYS”: A few steps into understanding what this story is about, we realize that we can’t tell this story without a
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AMANPOUR: For the first time, Israelis and Palestinians come together as filmmakers to tell the story of a devastating summer that ignited a
regional war. We hear from the team behind HBO’s ground breaking new series “Our Boys.”
And in her new book, “Trick Mirror,” New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino looks at life through the distorted lens of social media.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Donald Trump’s winning strategy for 2020 lies largely in the hands of white evangelical voters. The group represents a small slice of American
population, but at the polls, they punch way above their weight. That’s because white evangelical Christians vote at higher rates than any other
group and Donald Trump has a hammer lock (ph) on the vast majority of their support.
But even with that support, President Trump could be heading into serious electoral headwinds. The proportion of young voters and minority voters is
growing, a trend that favors Democrats. Trump’s popularity still rides well below 50 percent. And more than halfway through his first term, the
president is no longer a blank slate. His record on health care, on gun safety, even on the economy could play a significant role in the campaign.
Robert Jones knows more about what drives the white Christian vote than just about any other observer. He is founder of the Public Religion
Research Institute and he writes about religion, culture and politics for the “Atlantic.” I ask him whether there’s any hope for ever uniting
America’s deeply polarized political factions.
Robert Jones, welcome to the program.
ROBERT P. JONES, CEO, PUBLIC RELIGION RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, let me take something that you have just written for the “Atlantic,” you say, “While Democrats have the long-term demographic wins
in their back, Republicans have a time machine, a consistent skew in ethnic and religious voter turnout patterns that in national elections has the
effect of turning back the demographic clock eight or more years.”
What exactly does that mean when it comes to the results at the elections?
JONES: Right. So, you know, one of the dynamics in the U.S. is that white Christian voters turn out to vote at higher rates than other Americans do.
And so, one of the kind of ironies of our current situation is that we are in a place where the country is changing quite dramatically and part of
that change is a decline in the percentages of white Christians and the country.
So, for example, we go back just a decade ago, the country was comfortably a majority white and Christian, 54 percent of the country identified as
white and Christian. But today, our latest numbers show that number has dropped down to 41 percent. However, that’s on the general population.
But at the ballot box, things look quite different because that group, even though it’s declining, turns out to vote at higher rates. And when you
kind of compare the voting population composition to the current demographic population, it basically looks like a time machine that takes
you back about two presidential election cycles, about eight years.
AMANPOUR: What you’re saying is that even though what was a majority, white Christian, and evangelical population, even though that has fallen,
that percentage, they are overrepresented at the ballot box. The question is why?
JONES: Now, part of that is because of a history of higher voting rates, for example, among white evangelical voters, which are Trump’s dedicated
base. So, they voted for Trump at 81 percent, according to the exit polls, they make about a quarter of the electorate. So, it’s a combination of
both over performance among white evangelical voters, for example, that are overwhelmingly Republican and also voter suppression and lower turnout
rates among minority voters in the country.
AMANPOUR: Which are overwhelmingly Democratic?
JONES: That’s right. So, it gives Republicans basically this edge in election, in national elections, in particular, that they don’t actually
have in the demographics in the country right now.
AMANPOUR: Which means that it’s possible that President Trump, again, could win an electoral college but not a popular vote. OK. So, now, let’s
talk about current issues that may play into this next election.
So, obviously, front and center is the gun issue because of these terrible massacres and because yet, again, people are talking about
this as potentially a tipping point. So, I’m going to first play you something we heard from Senator Chris Murphy before the massacres.
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SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): There is this national movement building. And in the House in 2018, 18 NRA A-rated incumbent members lost their seats and
were replaced by members of Congress who support tougher gun laws. It’s a turn out issue. More people today turn out to vote in elections, if they
think they’re going to vote for somebody that supports things like universal background checks. And that, frankly, was not the case four or
six years ago. This issue has turned into a political winner everywhere.
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AMANPOUR: Given what Senator Chris Murphy said, given the results in these past elections, in your area of expertise, which is about demographics and
what people are thinking in various cycles, could the gun issue become the sort of, you know, 2020 issue as was health in the 2018 midterms even for
suburban Republican voters?
JONES: You know, it’s unclear. It is certainly been the case that in the past, these general policies, universal background checks, also even a ban
on assault weapons, these actually are supported at the grassroots level by Republicans, rank and file Republicans. They just have not been taken up
by Republican candidates.
The demographic where this wheel resonate though is among younger people. For young people, this issue is absolutely salient. Young people have
tended to support Democratic candidates and the country lean heavily that way. But for Republican candidates, particularly in the Swing District
that is looking for kind of younger voters, this is going to be something they’re going to have to speak to.
AMANPOUR: To what you’re just saying, Representative Mike Turner who represents Dayton, Ohio tweeted his intentions after the massacre. And he
said, “Today, I announce my support for restricting military style weapon sales, magazine limits and red flag legislation.” So, considering he was
an NRA-backed candidate in 2018, that’s a pretty stunning move.
JONES: That is a strong statement. I mean, it’s impressive. If you think way back on George H.W. Bush, actually, he renounced his NRA membership,
you know, back when he was president. So, there is some places where Republican candidates have pushback against the NRA. And I think it’s
going to be really a willingness of Republicans to really take on that organization, which has been so influential in Republican politics. But it
does seem like there’s an appetite among some for doing that.
AMANPOUR: So, now, let’s go back to the African-American vote. President Trump is reaching out to black voters and his campaign is reaching out to
the black community. This is what he say about what he’s brought to that community.
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TRUMP: African-American people have been calling the White House. They have never been so happy as what a president has done. Not only the lowest
unemployment in history for African-American, not only opportunities zones for, really, the biggest beneficiary of the inner city. And not only
criminal justice reform but they’re so happy that I pointed out the corrupt politics of Baltimore. It’s filthy dirty. It’s so horrible. And they are
happy as hell. So, you may have a couple of politicians boycott, but it’s all affixed. That fact is, African-American people love the job I’m going
because I’m working for them. I’m not working for the politicians.
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AMANPOUR: You know, it is true and we got all sorts of graphs that African-American unemployment has fallen under Trump, but it’s a continued
trend that started under President Obama and it does also reflect the general unemployment level.
It is true that Trump did pass the First Step Act, which reduces sentences for some nonviolent conflicts. Again, that apparently started under
President Obama where he was using executive orders and the like. He couldn’t pass reform because of the Mitch McConnel controlled Senate.
So, these trends have been happening. My questions to you is, is President Trump correct about how African-Americans are looking at him? What are
your statistics and demographics show?
JONES: You know, nothing like the image that President Trump is describing, to be sure. I mean, you know, we’ve been tracking favorability
ratings and, you know, consistently, like African-Americans have sort of, you know, voted for Hillary Clinton by about 9 and 10 in the last election.
And Trump’s favorability rating among African-Americans has been in the single digits at times during his presidency. It certainly never
approached anywhere near like to even 20 percent.
So, he’s severely under water in terms of favorability among African- American and I think there has been just a steady drumbeat of — you know, like Charlottesville, for example, you know, if he had any
African-American voters leaning his direction, I think Charlottesville was certainly a turning point there where he refused really to renounce clearly
white supremacist marching and talking about fine people on both sides. And I think that kind of equivocation is certainly not lost on African-
American voters in the country.
AMANPOUR: And I ask the chairman of the Black Congressional Caucus, Karen Bass, do she think President Trump’s reach out will actually work and make
inroads in her community. This is what she said.
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KAREN BASS, CHAIR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Well, I think it’s a cynical effort that he wants to go after African-American men in
particular. Well, African-American women, 88 percent voted for Clinton, 80 percent of black men did. He has zero possibility of making inroads in the
African-American community. People are not stupid. People know that he did not impact the unemployment rate of African-American. He inherited the
economy that President Obama put together.
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AMANPOUR: So, with all of that, why would the president’s campaign be going after and trying to woo African-American voters?
JONES: You know, I’m not sure there’s a real strategy there. I mean, you know, what the real question be, how many resources are being put toward
that, what kind of a serious effort it is or whether this is just a rhetorical, you know, move on the president’s part. And we certainly seen
many sorts of faints like this from President Trump on Twitter or even in speeches where, you know, he’ll come out with something that even his own
aides don’t know is happening.
And, you know, my thing would — I guess my take would be, will have to wait and see. The proof will be in the pudding. And how do he staff it,
how serious of an effort is it or is this just a throwaway line and a campaign rally speech that is really, you know, not a lot of substance
behind it. And I do think that President Trump has clearly decided, yes, to double down and it really is about energizing its base with fear tactics
and then he presents himself as really the savior for this kind of apocalyptic view of where the country is heading.
AMANPOUR: So, interesting, because let’s get back to his main white base. And you essentially described what President Trump has done in terms of the
evangelicals, particularly, turning them from values voters into nostalgia voters. And let’s play this soundbite from President Trump, which was
before he won in 2016 where he’s pretty much laying it out in an interview that the fate of the Republic hinges on voting him into office.
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TRUMP: I think this will be last election that the Republicans have a chance of winning because you’re going to have people flowing across the
borders, you’re going to have illegal immigrants coming in and they’re going to be legalized and they’re going to be able to vote. And once that
happens, you can forget it. If we don’t win this election, you’ll never see another Republican and then you’ll have a whole different church
structure, you’re going to have a whole different Supreme Court structure.
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AMANPOUR: You know, many people have said, “Well, wow. How could the, you know, Christians vote for a guy who is, you know, said all the bad things
about women and sexual innuendos and, you know, grabbing this, that, and the other,” and it’s been described almost as a shotgun wedding, that the
means justifies the ends. Do you think that still is the case amongst this demographic?
JONES: You know, I do. We’ve been tracking Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals all through his presidency. And essentially, what we
found is that, you know, whatever he has said, whatever scandals there are, their favorability of President Trump has moved not very much in the state,
somewhere around two-thirds approval. It has been as high as 78 percent during his presidency so far among white evangelical protestants.
And, you know, one of the things I do think has happened is, you know, they were self-described values voters, which means, you know, we have these
principles and we’re going to measure every candidate by it, we’ll let the chips fall where they may. And I think their support for Trump, they
wholesale abandon that and really did go to an end to justify the means.
But the real question is that, why would you do that? Why does a group do that? And I think the answer is that it is a — you can think of this as a
kind of desperate end of life bargain that they’ve cut with President Trump. So, as they see the demographics and the country shifting with
white Christians, in particular, not being — no longer being the demographic and cultural majority in the country, and here is a guy who
comes along and his slogan is “Make America Great Again,” and it’s that last word, “again,” I think that had the power.
The question that we asked in 2016 about whether people thought that the country changed for the better or changed for the worse since the 1950s.
The country, turns out, is divided on this question right down the middle. The two political parties are mirror opposites. Republicans say it has
changed for the worse, about two-thirds of them. About two-thirds of Democrats say it changed for the better. But no group says it changed for
the worse more than white evangelical protestants, three quarters of them say the country changed for the worst.
AMANPOUR: You’re absolutely right. We’ve got these figures, 74 percent agreed that America has changed for the worse since the 1950s but also, 66
percent agree newcomers from other countries threaten American values, 64 percent favored building a wall along the U.S. border with
Mexico, 63 percent said discrimination against whites was as bad as against other minorities. And this, of course, was back in October of 2016. How
should we interpret them for the future?
JONES: One other number I’ll give you is we asked back in 2011 how much a candidate’s character mattered. And in 2011, when we said, “Look, is it
possible for a political candidate who is committed an immoral act in their private life to still be — behave ethically and fulfill their duties I
their public life?” Less than a third of white evangelical protestants said that this was possible in 2011.
We asked the same question in 2016. And when we asked this with Trump at the top of the ticket in fall of 2016, 72 percent of white evangelicals
then said it was possible. The only explanation that is that they have really shifted their ethics and have found a way to support President Trump
because the end that he describes is really the end they feel, I think, somewhat desperately is needed to be supported with all the changes
happening in the country.
AMANPOUR: And have you done any subsequent polling after, you know, more than two years of the administration?
JONES: We have. We’ve been tracking this along these lines, and these numbers have hardly moved. So, yes. I think what we’re going to see is
the doubling down. You know, it was just three months ago that Trump said at a rally, “How do we stop these people?” Talking about Latinos coming
over the border and a respondent yelled from the crowd, “Shoot them,” and Trump kind of made a joke out of it, you know, and said, “Oh, only in the
panhandle of Florida can you get away with this — like that.”
But he’s clearly not pushing back on any of this rhetoric. He’s doubling down. That’s so different even in recent, you know, political candidates
on the Republican side of politics. You know, one example there, John McCain, when a person — one of his campaign events, stood up and started
talking about President Obama as a Muslim. He actually took the microphone away from her and said, “No, ma’am. No, ma’am. He’s a good family man.
He’s a Christian. And we should take him at his word that –” you know, we’re seeing really the opposite of that behavior in President Trump where
he really is doubling down and stoking these fires.
AMANPOUR: And yet, as you said, this predates Trump. This is a trend that has been growing and feelings of anxiety that have been growing. So, given
that the Census Bureau says that by 2050, America will be a majority nonwhite country. Are we still in the midst of basically a battle for two
competing versions of America?
JONES: That’s correct. To describe this as two competing, you know, visions of America. One of them, I think, is, you know, a leaning end and
embracing of this very diverse America that is ethnically diverse, racially diverse, religiously diverse. And another vision that it really is about a
white Christian country.
We actually asked about this directly in a recent poll this year, and what we found is the two political parties actually do hold very different
visions. This Democrats, by and large, majorities of them do say they would rather live in a country that is religiously and ethnically diverse.
Republicans are much more divided on this question. And in fact, with the plurality of them saying, “We would rather live in a Christian nation.”
So, this kind of — it’s a big picture and ideological fight, I think, really over the kind of country that we want to live in. And it’s maybe
not that surprising given that we are in the midst of this demographic change that is something the country has never seen before, but in many
ways, it’s already with us. Americans under the age of 10 today are already a majority nonwhite.
And if you look at what, I think, culturally matters, that is this kind of white Christian dominate culture, we’ve already passed this tipping point
and have gone to being a country that’s no longer majority white and Christian. All of that together, I think, does means we’re in this kind of
place of anxiety, I think, for many white Americans who have to figure out, I think, how to pull up a chair alongside other Americans, I think, instead
of, for example, trying to invite people to a table that they seem to own.
AMANPOUR: Really fascinating with so many implications. Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Group, thank you very much indeed.
JONES: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And we turn now to a part of the world where two deeply divided views have led to a hundred years of violence and death.
In the summer of 2014, 2,000 lives were lost in a 50-day Israeli war on Hamas in Gaza. But it’s the events leading up to that war that’s a focus
of a new series called “Our Boys” coming to HBO this Monday.
First, the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in the occupied West Bank. Then the revenge killing, the burning alive of a Palestinian
teenager in East Jerusalem. The new series looks at the devastating events of that summer through a groundbreaking collaboration between Israeli and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is my son?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We’re investigating. The whole country is going insane because revenge is natural.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to say, that there are many rumors going around. I suggest you don’t read them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found the body of a young man. We don’t know if it’s your son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the victim is a Jew, you’re champions. But when it’s an Arab, you don’t have a clue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Together, Joseph Cedar and Tawfik Abu-Wael created “Our Boys.” I asked them why and how they came together to tell this story.
Welcome to the program.
JOSEPH CEDAR, CO-DIRECTOR, “OUR BOYS”: Thank you.
TAWFIK ABU-WAEL, CO-DIRECTOR, “OUR BOYS”: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, this is really a remarkable series and it’s — you’re not looking way back into the State of Israel and all the other things that
most people have done. You’re taking something very real but very recent. Just tell me, both of you, why did you want to take this on? Why this
CEDAR: So, our mandate for the show started with an assignment from HBO. Do something that touches the essence of the conflicts and that somehow
explains the chain of events that unfolded in the summer of 2014 in Israel.
So, we looked at that summer. It was a tragic and terrible summer. Five days later, the whole region was in the war. We took these events and
tried to find the one point that is most complicated for us, as Israelis, and probably sensitive or too sensitive for anyone else other than us to
AMANPOUR: So, let me play the little clip which shows the beginning of the story and that is where another group of Israeli Jewish boys, Yeshiva
students, are singing, they’re also caught up in the great national grief and hope because they’ve been told to hope that these boys are going to
come back. And you’re seeing this pain in this little clip.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What’s wrong, Avishai? What’s wrong? Why are you crying? They’ll find them, don’t worry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Avishai, they’ll find them. Listen to Yosef Haim, he knows what he’s saying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They’re alive, they’re OK. They’ll come home soon. Just sing, get the noise out of your head. Sing. Sing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, this is at the point where everybody hopes in Israel that they will come back. Just describe that tension before the 18 days in
which they found and, in fact, they had been killed.
CEDAR: Something about the age of these boys, 16-year-olds, right at the beginning of their life hitching a ride home from their high school. And
the way their parents were able to communicate their — you know, the stories of their children but also, the way they communicated their grief
created something that, as an Israeli, I don’t remember seeing.
Just — like the whole country came together around this real hope that they’ll come home alive, when it’s disappointed. The hope disappears and
that solidarity turns into something that isn’t positive. That’s — I think that’s a sentiment that we try to understand.
AMANPOUR: Well, and that becomes incredibly and violently obvious, Tawfik, when you have these boys found dead and the retribution that happens
against the Palestinian boy also 16 years old. So, here is that moment where the Palestinian father is desperately looking for now his boy who has
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police Department. Brit speaking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. Listen, settlers took a boy from outside my shop. It could be my son.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please hold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Tawfik, do you remember, from your perspective as a Palestinian, the tension in the real-life situation? What were you, along with Joseph
and your other filmmakers trying to portray in this series?
ABU-WAEL: You know, this series has various points of view. It’s trying to tell what happened in 2014, you know, from Israeli point of view and
from a Palestinian point of view through the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. A young boy, 16 years old, who was taken in front of his house, beaten and been alive in the forest.
It’s one story, you know, that I have the opportunity to tell in this series, you know, to tell a Palestinian tragedy because nobody would
believe that Jewish could — can kid a boy and burn him. And it was so intensive, you know, to tell this story and —
AMANPOUR: You know, this isn’t just, you know, a series in a vacuum. It’s not even just a series in Israel and the Palestinian territories in a
vacuum. It’s one of the worst murders that happened in recent years and it led to a 50-day war with thousands of casualties in Gaza.
So, I want to ask you, for people who might not understand, how do Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers get together? How do you know each other? How
do you get this done? We’ve see a separated landscape.
CEDAR: OK. So, this is — I think this is an important question for me to answer because it’s the thing I’m most proud of in this show.
We started on working this project without Tawfik. We decided to do something about us, not about the Palestinians. Something from our point
of view. Honest and revealing about the dynamic of living in this contentious and dangerous region.
Once we decided that the story that most interest us is the story of the killers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Like Tawfik said, when the body of
Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found, and we understood that he was burnt alive, a 16-year-old boy burnt alive, apparently by Jews, most Israelis were not
only in shock, they were in denial. How could this happen? It’s impossible that anyone close to us or associated with us would do something
So, we decided it look into that. A few steps into understanding what this story is about, we released that we can’t tell the story without a
Palestinian partner. I think from — I called Tawfik because Tawfik is, in my mind, an amazing storyteller. His feature films have this beautiful
combination of a poetic touch that doesn’t shy away from harsh reality.
ABU-WAEL: Yes. First of all, you know, usually as a Palestinian director, I’m using to have calls from Israeli directors or creators to do something
about Arabs. So, every time I say no. And this time, you know, when Joseph called me, I like him very much. I appreciate his work. So, I just
immediately went to meet with him.
And suddenly, I get close to those people, you know, to — that they want to tell their tragedy and I’m coming with those Israeli guys, you know, the
— for them they represent the murderers, they represent the occupation, the depression that they suffer, you know, every day in Jerusalem.
So, suddenly, they understand that I’m going to tell their story, they just looked at me, you know, in such relief and I felt like it was a big
responsibility, you know, I felt like a destiny that I have to make this series and you have to make this story. It was not easy. I hesitated.
But, you know, at the end, the big reason, you know, I made the series just to tell the story of Mohammed Abu Khdeir for his parents.
AMANPOUR: Have you had reactions from both your communities?
CEDAR: We’re in this cycle, a cycle that starts with an act of violence, creates a victim, the victim deals with the pain of that act of violence.
Turns the pain into rage. That rage becomes revenge. The revenge creates another victim. So, we’ve been in the cycle for some would say 90 years.
So, I decided that it’s more crucial for me to understand the aggression than it is the victimhood. And that’s where we came from. This is
extremely controversial for most Israelis because they want to see themselves as victims. And it’s so — it is easier to sympathize with
characters who are victims. But from a storyteller’s point of view, it seems necessary to figure out where the aggression comes from.
Understanding what triggered their action. The atmosphere that they lived in felt like the kind of soul searching that as storytellers we
needed to do.
AMANPOUR: It is very, very interesting. I want to play another clip, actually, from the Israeli perspective because this is Simon who is the
main investigator in the Shinbe (ph) unit and he’s trying to figure out what happened to the Palestinian boy, Mohammed Khdeir, who as you
mentioned, was burned alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go back to the shoe for a second. Looks like Caterpillar. We can compare it to the tracks at the scene. Any insight on
the repetitive hand gesture?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can’t say for sure, it’s very strange. But if I had to guess, I’d say he’s on some sort of medication. Some meds affect motor
function. Looks like something like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don’t look like Arabs to me. Something about the body language.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They walk like Jews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do Jews walk?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you spot an Arab?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can spot most Arabs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I can spot Jews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, keep me posted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So Joseph, that is so complex on so many levels. Just tell me about that scene.
CEDAR: All right. So one of the interesting things that we discovered when we researched the story is that every Israeli remembers the first
couple of hours after Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s body was found, not believing that Jews could do this.
And then different pieces of evidence turned into rumors that gave most Israelis confidence it wasn’t Israelis who did it. That it may be a crime
committed by his family, for instance, for different reasons.
Israelis so badly wanted to believe that it wasn’t one of us. It immediately convinced everyone, including many people in the security
forces in the Police Center.
What we’re seeing in this clip is a bunch of professionals looking at a video of the perpetrators, the kidnappers of Mohammed Abu Khdier and
discussing whether they’re Jews or Arabs based on their body language.
We thought when we heard that police investigator tells us that they have this discussion, we thought this is really remarkable material because, as
Tawfik will say, I think every Israeli says he can identify another Israeli or every Jew can identify a Jew and most Arabs will say they can identify
an Arab. The truth is we can’t.
AMANPOUR: And the truth is, as everybody knows, you’re so so similar, which is why this whole historical conflict is just so, so profoundly
tragic. And now let’s go over, Tawfik, to a scene which I want you to comment on, which we’re going to play which is where the Israeli
investigator is talking to Mohammed’s parents and, you know, the dad is trying to get even the tiniest bit of information that they might have.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you? How do you feel?
The samples are fine. We sent them to the lab, we’ll have answers in a few hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’ll call you. Why can’t you make an identification? Either it’s him or it’s not him. You know what Mohammed looks like, what
he was wearing. What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen, I’ll call you. So you have my number. I’ll take this because your battery is at 60 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn’t right. I want to talk to the guy who said he’s in charge of this investigation. I want to talk to him. This isn’t
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He’s very busy. He can’t talk but I’ll tell him you want to talk to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Walk me through that, Tawfik.
ABU-WAEL: What happened there, you know, what happened since he came to the police to find his son suddenly found himself, you know, investigating
him about the kidnapping of his son. Maybe it’s something connected to the family. It was like a big crazy thing just to put away the real thing that
a Palestinian boy was murdered in such a cruel way by Jewish guys or Jewish side.
AMANPOUR: So the early part of the series is about the murders and the investigation. What is the whole thing about?
For those who haven’t seen. Obviously, it’s about to drop on HBO. What do you want to leave your audience with?
CEDAR: I started working on this story feeling that there’s a lot of things that I don’t understand. There’s this fog that is blurring my
ability to see straight.
Who did what? What is the moral value of everything that occurred in that summer?
Over the period of research, writing the screenplays and probably most in the conversations we had with Tawfik, which were arguments, not — wee —
this wasn’t a smooth process. Every little detail in this show was argued between the creators until we at least understood what our opinion was, if
not the opinion of the other side.
There’s a moral value to every single action that happened that summer. Some things are not known to most people.
But once they’re known, it’s easy to see what is right and what is wrong, at least for me. And I’m hoping that this process from murky waters to
clear waters is something that the audience will feel, as well.
AMANPOUR: And Tawfik, what do you want the audience to take away? What do you want your people or the people who see this to take away?
ABU-WAEL: First, I want to recognize their story because most of those people live in there don’t know that this story happened and to identify
with them with their pain and just to lose their son in this brutal way, how the system treated them.
You know, it’s like the theory for me is not about the occupation but you have a window through this story to understand what’s occupation for
Palestinian through the story of the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir.
For me, the first thing, it’s for the memory of Mohammed, for their parents. This is the first time that you can see a Palestinian parent in
the world platform.
So I hope, you know, it will touch people because I think it’s a very strong and powerful story. And what can I say, you know, for me, it’s a
series from the Israeli point of view that Joseph and Hagai want to tell a significant Palestinian story.
And I decided I wanted to be a part of it. And I hope it will maybe change the mind of a few people at least.
AMANPOUR: Well, it’s incredibly powerful and it is actually quite difficult to watch and I think people will get a huge amount of it. So
Joseph Cedar and Tawfik Abu-Wael, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
CEDAR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now another major arena where competing world views can be deeply distorted is on social media. New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino calls
the Internet an engine of self-delusion. She explores its power to distort in her new book of essays called “Trick Mirror.”
Jia Tolentino spoke to our Alicia Menendez about the allure of false promises online.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, CONTRIBUTOR: Jia, thank you so much for joining us.
JIA TOLENTINO, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORKER: Thank you for having me. It’s really good to be here.
MENENDEZ: So your book is a collection of essays, nine different topics, ranging from at leisure and what that means about our society to feminist
obsession with difficult women. What do you see as the through-line of those topics?
TOLENTINO: The idea that I was attracted to in writing the book was I think I’m consistently attracted to the things in my life, in my experience
growing up in our culture generally that seems especially conducive to self-deception or self-delusion, in some way.
So those things I wrote about, sort of the American attraction to the scammer figure. I wrote about, like, my childhood in a Texas megachurch.
It started to seem to me within the last few years that the Internet itself is especially sort of an engine of self-delusion. It’s sort of like a
machine that produces it. And I was interested in that and I was sort of tracking that relationship throughout all these different
MENENDEZ: You grew up in a megachurch, went to a Christian school. How did that inform your thinking on all of this?
JIA TOLENTINO: Yes. So I went to a school that is attached to what is by some metrics the second biggest megachurch in America. This is in Houston,
And in a lot of ways, I’m not religious now but I have always been really glad that I grew up in this deeply conservative — I mean, deeply, deeply,
deeply conservative religious environment and it gave me sort of a native understanding of people whose political views are very opposite from my own
and just a real understanding of the far-right felt.
And it also — Christianity kind of gave me this obsession of everyday morality. You’re constantly being taught as a kid to think on a scale of
good and evil and right conduct and wrong conduct.
And although my value system is different than it was then, I think that did give me the sort of obsession with morality that I carry around with
MENENDEZ: Talk to me about the Internet’s role in creating a culture then of self-deception.
TOLENTINO: So in real life, right, you can walk around and you can just be. You know, you can just go about your life and the people can see you
and they can draw their own conclusions however they will.
On the Internet, it’s sort of a simulacrum of the real world where to be visible, you have to act. You have to kind of — you have performed
whether consciously or unconsciously.
MENENDEZ: You have to tweet. You have to post. You have to be a part of it.
TOLENTINO: You have to tweet. And that in itself, I think, leaves the Internet to be kind of a self-delusion machine. I think, also, with
identity being increasingly monetized, I mean personal identity, it is the — the commercialization of personal identity is the center of the business
model of every social media company.
MENENDEZ: So talk to me about that. What does that mean, the commercialization?
TOLENTINO: Right. So let’s take Facebook, right. It’s, as we know, with their many scandals they’ve had in recent years, you know, it’s our
personal data that’s being sold and resold to all these corporations that are needing to further target their advertising, right.
For these platforms to make money, they have to retain more and more of our attention, right. They cannot make money without sucking up an
increasingly, you know, increasing amount of our attention.
And the way you do that is often by instigating anger, you know, or addictive behaviors, right. It’s our political anger that is being
monetized by Facebook and we just generate enormous value for them by the performance of our identity.
MENENDEZ: You go on to write the Internet brings the eye into everything. The Internet can make it seem that supporting someone means literally
sharing in their experience.
But solidarity as a matter of identity rather than politics or morality and it is best established at the point of maximum mutual vulnerability in
everyday life. This framework which centers itself in an expression of support for others is not ideal.
TOLENTINO: I think — so the Internet favors representation over reality, right. It’s built to. And we all thought the Internet was going to be —
you know, think back to Arab Spring, we thought that the Internet was going to democratize everything. And in so many ways, standing around Black
Lives Matter, it has surfaced perspectives that would otherwise have been cast aside, I think.
And then there’s a flip side to that, right, which is the Internet also encourages the sort of thing where to support a cause, the easiest thing to
do is to do some something like, you know, post a selfie on Instagram wearing orange for, you know, whatever.
I think the Internet favors the representation of solidarity rather than the action of it. And it’s much easier to represent your solidarity by
putting a filter over your profile photo than it is to go to an organizing meeting. Do the work, organize a strike or boycott the way that solidarity
is actually enacted.
But the Internet, I think — you know, Twitter’s box, Facebook’s box, it asks what are you thinking? What are you? It’s got your little picture
there, it centers itself. It just always centers itself, the literal sort of architecture of it. You know, the home base is the profile.
And I think that there are some — it just creates some peculiar effect when it comes to movement building.
MENENDEZ: You have another essay. A generation of seven scams. You name a number of perpetrators who have been involved in smaller level
scams and then you end with the 2016 election.
So I guess my question is, is this — how can a generation be both victims of these scams and perpetrators of these scams and does one have something
to do with the other?
TOLENTINO: Yes. So that essay, right, it’s about the seven defining scams. The millennial era with the election, basically 2008 to 2016 this
near-decade where I think the majority of our generation felt themselves coming of age.
And I think there is actually a direct relationship between — I think during this period of time you see scamming being sort of evaluated as just
kind of the way things were going to be. And I think when that’s modeled for you that the way of living is just to take what you can when you can
have it and hope that it’s enough which is essentially it’s what both the scammer and the victim of the scammer trying to do. It’s just that the
scammer does it successfully.
And I think there’s a way in which when this sort of model, you know, if you define scamming as sort of the abuse of trust for profit, which a lot
of things could be said to have done in that period, that sort of model is increasingly universal, I think there’s sort of low-level attraction to it
that builds. This sort of feeling that you’re already implicated and you might as well, you know, roll the device in whatever way you can.
MENENDEZ: When you talk about scamming and the American scammers. What does that mean exactly? What does that look like to be a scammer?
TOLENTINO: So a con man, it comes from the term confidence man, right. And that comes from this man named Samuel Thompson who would walk around
New York City in the early 20th Century and he would ask people.
He would be dressed in a really nice suit and he would walk up to people and he would just, you know, gentile be like have your confidence in me to
lend your watch until tomorrow and people would be so, you know, stunned by it that they would just do it. Many people would just give it.
And, you know, the idea it’s the abuse of trust for profit, you know, based on a confidence game. And America is built, you know, on a confidence
It’s, like, capitalism itself is built on essentially being like do you have the confidence in me to lend me your watch until tomorrow. Like all
of venture capitalism is built on a structure of human interaction that is not so different than the con man and his victim.
And it’s like America has — because it was founded on these mythologies of reinvention and spectacular profit, right, and kind of conquest, right,
explicit conquest, America loves a scammer. It produces them in great numbers and has every phase of its history.
And the scammer just reinvents themselves at every stage of American capitalism. And in recent years, the scammer machine is an overdrive. We
got them everywhere.
MENENDEZ: Talk me through some of the scams that someone might be less familiar with.
TOLENTINO: Sure. So I think the idea that the path to success and stability may be a personal brand. A scam that I think, Facebook and other
social networks has sort of quietly built for us.
And again, I think this t goes back to the sort of precatory you’re talking about and back to the reason that people perform their identities on the
Internet is because — I think I write this in this essay but if you — if you don’t have health insurance, you better learn to package your
personality well for the Internet in case you ever need to set up a Go Fund Me, you know, when you get into a bike accident, when you’re uninsured.
I think there is a way in which personal identity has actually become some sort of path or safety net, which, to me, seems like a real scam. In a lot
of ways, I think that the sort of girl boss paradigm has been a bit of a scam. The sort of monetization of kind of Lean In feminism, I find to be a
bit of a scam.
MENENDEZ: How so?
TOLENTINO: There’s been a lot of things since Lean In that have kind of narrowed feminism to this idea that what feminism means is individual women
becoming as successful as possible. And that’s basically it.
And I find that so — I find that such a misuse of our freedom and our ability and also of basically what feminism is. You know, I think of
feminism built on individual achievement can never be total. And if it’s total, it’s actually kind of actively damaging.
And it’s also, I think it’s just — it’s kind of this general idea that wealth acquisition is itself progressive politics. And that I
find so tricky because it’s close to an idea that is completely correct, which is I do want women to have the lives that they want. And I want
women to have the financial power that they weren’t allowed to have until a couple of decades ago.
But I don’t want that to be the idea of what feminism is. And those ideas are so close to one another that I think I can get very, very tricky.
MENENDEZ: It’s not your only critique of feminism. I want to read you a part of the essay The Cult of the Difficult Woman.
It’s true, of course, that women who become famous for pushing social boundaries do the work of demonstrating how outdated these boundaries are.
But what happens once it becomes common knowledge that these boundaries are outdated?
We’ve come into a new era in which feminism isn’t always the antidote to conventional wisdom. Feminism is suddenly conventional wisdom in many
So where does that leave us?
TOLENTINO: Well, I don’t know where — again, I don’t know where it leaves us in the future, right. So this essay about the, you know, the feminist
obsession with “difficulty”, it seemed right around the sort of Sara Huckabee Sanders White House Correspondent’s dinner where the comedian
Michelle Wolf made a crack about her eye shadow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIAN: Like she burns fats and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TOLENTINO: And everyone was like how dare anyone make a joke about, you know, her looks or whatever. It’s like she’s a woman making it in a — you
know, like how dare we attack this woman and mother working in a field that is male-dominated.
It seems like the reflexive defense against sexism, which was really at play in that case. We must defend Sara Huckabee Sanders from jokes about
her eye shadow at all costs.
You know, it was proof that the feminist defense against sexist critiques had worked and become something that the whole media writ large knew how to
do, which was, in some ways great but in other ways it’s like why are — the issue with Sara Huckabee Sanders, it’s, you know, her eye shadow, jokes
about her eye shadow, whether that joke was sexist, it’s so off the point of what her actual work is and what she actually does and what she actually
represents. That the whole sort of discourse around that drove me crazy.
It’s like when Melania Trump was criticized for wearing spike heels to go visit Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. And people were like she
has the right to wear whatever shoe she wants and then people just talked about that for a while. And it seemed to be sort of a distraction from
what they were actually doing.
MENENDEZ: I think the challenge in this moment who gets to decide what is a distraction when it’s a distraction.
TOLENTINO: Yes, yes, for sure.
MENENDEZ: You layout so many cultural challenges and yet I don’t think there’s a single solution or a solution-oriented essay in the book. Was
that a choice?
TOLENTINO: Yes. It was a choice and I sort of wanted — and one that I assume would be frustrating for a lot of people because I think there’s a
natural tendency, you know, in writing, you know, in books in things on the Internet and op-eds, like anything, people want to hear the solutions, the
five takeaways, the five percent at the end of the essay where it’s like everything is really bad but all isn’t lost if we just, you know — and
then you list off the things that everyone kind of already knows, which isn’t to say that in some of those books — like you take for example, I
remember “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond, some books that portion, many books will say that portion of the book or the, you know, the message is deeply
important and has taught me a lot.
When I wrote this book, I was in a space where I felt that the best I could do was understand what was happening and that it would be humorous and it
would be personally dishonest for me to pretend that I knew what we should do. And I found the book immensely rewarding just writing it in that way.
MENENDEZ: Jia, thank you so much.
TOLENTINO: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: And in this whirlwind Internet age, sometimes it’s important to stop and look around to know where we’ve been and where we are going.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.