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Building Up America

Aired March 6, 2011 - 19:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a town (ph) of exorcism.

TOM FOREMAN, HOST (voice-over): Call it the devil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it that you believe?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the devil.


"The Rite" is scaring the heck out of moviegoers. But Father Gary Thomas doesn't need a ticket, he's lived it.

FATHER GARY THOMAS, SACRED HEART CHURCH: People will take on kind of a body language of a serpentine look.

FOREMAN (on camera): And these are things that you have seen?

THOMAS: I have seen.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Facebook helped the Egyptian revolution, connects hundreds of millions of folks, even shows up in presidential speeches.


FOREMAN: Wall Street says it's worth $50 billion -- but not this man.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, AUTHOR, "PROGRAM OR BE PROGRAMMED: No. Facebook is not worth $50 billion.


FOREMAN: Thousands of people, hundreds of videos, one minute around the world.

And the brothers, the cop and the axe.

All on stories reported.



FOREMAN: Welcome. I'm Tom Foreman.

Americans, by a large majority, believe in the devil. Polls have found that time and again. Maybe that's why Hollywood has been able to make a steady fortune off movies about demonic positions. And the latest is no exception -- "The Rite," starring Anthony Hopkins, has pulled in more than $30 million domestically, even more worldwide. If you think a movie about an exorcist is interesting, just try meeting one.


ANTHONY HOPKINS, ACTOR: You be careful, Michael. Choosing not to believe in the devil won't protect you from him. It's real.

Your name! Give me your name!

FOREMAN (voice-over): At the Hollywood premier of "The Rite," there was the usual heavenly light shining on the stars and the director. But almost unnoticed in the celebrity crowd was Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic priest from northern California.

THOMAS: There are some incredible touching moments. There are some riveting scenes.

FOREMAN: You might find that surprising, because without him, there would be no movie. "The Rite" is based on his life and training.

(on camera): So, you were known as the exorcist. Here.

THOMAS: I am the exorcist -- the mandated exorcist of our diocese.

FOREMAN (voice-over): That's right. He is an honest to God exorcist.

(on camera): You believe there is a devil.


FOREMAN: And you believe that this devil acts upon people.

THOMAS: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two months in Rome. How bad could that be?

FOREMAN (voice-over): Father Thomas says, like the priest in the movie, he was trained in Rome in the ancient rite, and has participated in dozens. It is all part of a push by the Vatican to make more exorcists available to the faithful, because some in the church believe we are facing a rising tide of demonic activity, particularly in America, where millions are moving away from traditional faiths and looking for alternatives.

THOMAS: People who can get themselves involved in Wicca. Or people who will go see some kind of a fortune teller, or someone who will go to a seance, or they can go and they can learn how to channel spirits.

FOREMAN (on camera): A lot of people would tell you up front, look, I'm just playing around.

THOMAS: Right.

FOREMAN: It's not a big deal. It's just for fun.

THOMAS: Absolutely. And it's not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The grace and peace of God, our father, and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

CROWD: And also with you.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Simply put, Father Thomas believes just as surely as a person can summon God through prayer -- through other rituals, the devil can be called, too. That's when he says people come to him.

THOMAS: Well, often times they'll begin with the conversation with "Father, I need an exorcism." And my pat answer back to them is, I don't do them on demand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just she's a very, very sick girl. She doesn't need a priest, she needs a shrink.

FOREMAN: In the contrary, the modern rite of exorcism involves psychological testing by professionals, questions about drug and alcohol abuse. Father Thomas says fully 80 percent of the people he meets claiming demonic possession have actually suffered some kind of abuse. Still, he says, he knows the real thing when he sees it.

THOMAS: I can see a demonic presence at times in the eyes. When a person is having some kind of diabolical attachment, there will be an opaqueness in the eyes.


FOREMAN: He also knows he is battling not just the devil, but also a foe that has plagued exorcists for almost 40 years.

The 1973 film "The Exorcist," captured America's imagination about demonic possessions and profoundly shaped the perceptions about this rite. It was violent, lurid and unforgettable.

Much of that movie was shot in the nation's capital, near Georgetown University.

(on camera): These steps are featured in the film, and they're still known to this day as "The Exorcist Stairs." What a lot of people may not know, however, that story was based upon a real exorcism here in Washington. And that, in some ways, is the whole problem. The mythology of exorcisms, long ago, outran the reality.

(voice-over): Father Thomas will tell you, emphatically, there are no spinning heads or levitating bodies. But he has seen manifestations of possession, just like those in the new movie, "The Rite." THOMAS: Sometimes the person -- the person's head will begin to move in very rigid ways. Sometimes their eyes will roll. Sometimes there will be epileptic-like seizures. Occasionally, people will take on kind of a body language of a serpentine look.

FOREMAN (on camera): And these are things that you have seen in real life.

THOMAS: I have seen that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, in the name of Jesus! Come on! Come on!

FOREMAN (voice-over): We've seen it too -- a couple years ago when we did this story on a Protestant exorcist, people cried out, contorted their body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you? Who are you?

FOREMAN: They did many of the things Father Thomas describes.

And this is apparently not all that rare. A survey by the Pew Center found more than one in 10 Americans say they have witnessed an exorcism. And among Pentecostals, it's about one in three.

Allison Pond, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: Forty percent of Americans said they completely believe angels and demons are active in the world, with 28 percent telling us that they mostly believe this.

FOREMAN (on camera): Do you ever think that some people are acting out?

THOMAS: I don't think they're acting out in a conscious sense. Because many times what happens is, they don't remember the experience itself.

ORI SOLTES, THEOLOGIAN: An exorcism is particularly fascinating, just because it's not an everyday ritual.

THOMAS (voice-over): Back at Georgetown, Ori Soltes is a theologian who won't judge whether the devil or exorcisms are real. But he has no doubt that claims of the devil's meddling are on the rise.

And the issue right now is the calendar, and the belief held by many that the year 2000 was the beginning of the end of everything.

SOLTES: My sense is that we are still in the backwash from the millennium, but events have helped to proliferate --

FOREMAN (on camera): Nine-eleven?

SOLTES: Nine-eleven --

FOREMAN: The war in Iraq, things like that?

SOLTES: The war in Iraq, all of that sort of stuff. Yes, I think we're still in the backwash, very much. FOREMAN: That makes a very good back drop for the devil.

SOLTES: Yes, it does.

FOREMAN: And you're getting calls from other faiths, not just Catholics?

THOMAS: That's correct.

(voice-over): Still, if Father Thomas has to explain over and over what the really rite is all about, he says, so be it. He'd like to see an exorcist in every parish, because he believes in the power of this rite -- a power not borne of fear, but of faith.

THOMAS: It's a healing ministry. You know, it's not hocus pocus. It's not smoke and mirror. It's not magic. But I think if we don't respond to people who come in these -- in these very troubling moments, I think it diminishes us as a church.



FOREMAN: Facebook is worth $50 billion. The news media, the blogs, even the movies have been telling us that for quite some time.

But is it true. And if so, why?

Facebook doesn't make things, like a manufacturer. They provide a service, but it's free. And they sell ads but not really that many.

So, with Wall Street buzzing over the potential for Facebook going public in the not distant future, some Internet and market analysts are saying to investors, "Hold on. Does anybody really know what Facebook is worth?"


ANNOUNCER: And zero and liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis.

FOREMAN (voice-over): More than the market value "Forbes" puts on Lockheed Martin and Boeing, more than the major carmakers, more than Target, Sony and Nike, that is how valuable Facebook is. The company started by Mark Zuckerberg just seven years ago. Or is it?

Not if you ask Douglas Rushkoff, an author and respected teacher on new media.

(on camera): Is Facebook, in your view, worth $50 billion?

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, AUTHOR, "PROGRAM OR BE PROGRAMMED": No. Facebook is not worth $50 billion. I mean, it's just -- it's not. I mean, what people think is that Facebook in the future might be worth more than $50 billion. But for Facebook to be worth more than $50 billion, it would have to become a permanent fixture.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Hold on to that thought. We'll get back to it.

But, first --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People want to go on the Internet and check out their friends. So, why not build a Web site that offers that?

FOREMAN: -- where did that number, $50 billion, come from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.

FOREMAN: The hit movie "The Social Network" certainly pushed the idea that Facebook is worth a fortune.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This idea is potentially worth millions of dollars.


FOREMAN: The film itself has made around $100 million in the U.S. alone, and Facebook is undeniably a sensation with approximately 600 million worldwide users, enough influence to make its founder "TIME's" Person of the Year, and yet the $50 billion price tag came from a far less flashy source -- Goldman Sachs, the big investment firm, because they reportedly paid $500 million for 1 percent of Facebook. And $500 million times 100 is $50 billion.

South of San Francisco, however, in the home of Internet fortune, Silicon Valley, where Facebook itself will soon move --

LISE BUYER, ANALYST: No one is offering $50 billion at all for Facebook.

FOREMAN: Lise Buyer is an analyst who makes her living helping investors figure out what companies, especially Internet firms, are worth. And she says no one here really has any idea about Facebook's value. Even though they all concede, it could be a lot.

BUYER: Oh, Facebook is definitely worth something, because it's a company that's collected more personal information about 600 million, theoretically, individuals, than any company has ever had access to. And marketers love that information.

FOREMAN: That is the real fortune of Facebook. Access to all that information about consumers, what music and movies we like, where we shop, how much we spend, what we eat, where we vacation, who our friends are.

RUSHKOFF: The user is not the customer of Facebook. The user is the product. The customer of Facebook are the people paying Facebook. And who is paying Facebook? Market research firms and advertisers.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: It's always been our number-one goal, is just to serve people and help them share information. Stay connected with the people that they care about. FOREMAN: Facebook has repeatedly and publicly spoken about its commitment to protecting the privacy of its users. But analysts say the judicious use of all that information has to form the economic backbone of the company, because it allows ads to be put right in front of the most likely buyers, with unprecedented accuracy. But --

BUYER: It's one thing for me to send out to my friends. It's something else for someone to try to use that information to market to me. Now, maybe the folks who will be marketed to will be happy to have ads from their real interests. Maybe they won't. We'll see.

FOREMAN: It comes back to that phrase earlier -- Facebook must transform itself from a wildly popular social network into a money- making machine. As Rushkoff says, a permanent fixture on the Internet -- and that will be tricky.

RUSHKOFF: When Facebook goes over that line, as it will have to to justify its valuation, and starts more blatantly selling us, and who we are, to its real customers, is when people are going to get that itchy feeling.

FOREMAN (on camera): You believe that it could truly become not popular overnight.

RUSHKOFF: Right. Or if not overnight, then over year.

FOREMAN (voice-over): So, we're back to the question: is it worth $50 billion?

BUYER: It could be $50 billion, it could be less, it could be more. Without the data underneath, without more financial analysis, none of us know.

FOREMAN: With ongoing legal battles over who had the idea for Facebook, no one close to the financial records is talking. When we contacted Goldman Sachs to ask why they thought it was worth investing $500 million in Facebook, they politely said "no comment."

When we called Facebook, we received this short, written statement: "We're focused on creating a useful service and building our business for the long term."

The long-term may be Facebook's biggest challenge.

(on camera): Do you think there are people within ten miles of us right now who are scheming as hard and fast as they can to knock off Facebook?

BUYER: Oh, I would bet my house on it.

FOREMAN: Ten years from now, what do you think we will say about Facebook?

RUSHKOFF: Those of us who still mention Facebook 10 years from now will mention it in the same sentence as AOL and Friendster and MySpace as yet another thing that we thought was invisible and turned out to be another passing fad.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Who is right ultimately depends on how many people will remain Facebook's friends as it tries to realize its value -- and how many will not.

FOREMAN: Up next, Erin Cooney has a world of friends she's never met.

(on camera): Did you think this many people would respond?


FOREMAN: And two brothers, a cop, and an axe.



FOREMAN: Next year, the world will experience something that no one on earth has ever seen before -- the global population will hit 7 billion. Comprehending that number takes some work. For example, you could imagine that standing on each standing on each other's shoulders we would reach to the moon and back 14 times, assuming no one slipped. Or, you could just visit a particular home on the Pacific coast.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Listen carefully on the beach at Venice, California, and you might hear the world. It's coming from Erin Cooney's place.

ERIN COONEY, CONCEPTUAL ARTIST: This is from a woman in London who --

FOREMAN (on camera): Ooh.

COONEY: -- found her grandmother's old out-of-tune piano. She played it and just started improvising. And it's eerily beautiful.

FOREMAN (voice-over): This is one of more than 300 videos taken by strangers and sent to Erin from around the globe --

COONEY: This guy is blowing leaves.

FOREMAN: -- all shot during the same minute last November.

COONEY: This is a woman in Montreal who just found her two kids and going for a walk with her dog.

FOREMAN: She calls it the Simultania Project.

COONEY: I wanted to simply see what it was like to experience the world through their eyes.

FOREMAN (on camera): Did you think this many people would respond?

COONEY: God, no. No!

Hi, my name is Erin Cooney, and I'm an artist living in Los Angeles, California.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Truth be told, when she posted this request for submissions online, she wasn't sure anyone would respond. But the link was passed around, some media outlets picked up her story and the videos began pouring in -- fans at a soccer game, a woman riding a bicycle, a man hiking and singing.


COONEY: I got tons of things like around the house, like chores that you do in the house like

FOREMAN (on camera): Really?

COONEY: Yes, look at this woman. She's (INAUDIBLE). Isn't that great?

I got a guy over here mowing the lawn.


COONEY: Oh. Then this one I think is really beautiful.

FOREMAN: Some people went for regular workday activities, others for adventure. There are many, many videos of people going places.

COONEY: I got lots from boats.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Scenery was popular. A sunrise. A cemetery.

COONEY: This is a snowstorm in Minnesota.

FOREMAN: And as you might guess, there are plenty of pets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on our way to take a walk.

COONEY: Got a lot of cats. Got a lot of cats. A lot of people filming their cats.

FOREMAN (on camera): What do you make of that?

COONEY: God. Maybe the cat people are more introspective because I got so many. And yet I'm a dog person. I don't know.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Her favorites are quiet moments, some horses eating their breakfast. A man's son fast asleep.

COONEY: I don't know this person. I could walk down the street and I wouldn't recognize him. And yet, he shared this very intimate beautiful thing with me. I think it's lovely.

FOREMAN: Yet they all serve a common purpose -- once they are assembled into a video exhibition that will appear in several cities and online, Erin hopes they will give everyone in the world who sees them a better sense of the world we are in -- at least the way the world was for that one minute, that one Saturday, last November, when all of these videos were shot.

COONEY: What surprised me was that people didn't think I was crazy. That people -- people wrote to me saying, I've thought about these things! I've thought about this.

Well, you and I -- our experience of reality happens to be right now this conversation. OK, at this very moment, there's some guy on the other side of the world walking on the street and he's having an experience of reality as real and immediate as yours feel to you.

FOREMAN (on camera): So, why does that matter?

COONEY: I find that incredible. There's something in my brain that goes, huh-uh, that's not happening.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And yet, being a able to see it, makes our simultaneous experiences somehow more comprehensible, even in a planet of almost 7 billion people, and counting.




FOREMAN: In just a moment, we will keep going with a boy, his brother and an axe.


FOREMAN: Pablo Picasso said every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. In other words, children are free in their thoughts and ideas, and adults -- not so much.

But two brothers separated by 1,000 miles and a great gulf in their ages have joined forces to solve Picasso's puzzle with a cop, and axe and a peculiar partnership that is finding millions of fans.


NARRATOR: So, axe cop ate a lemon. And dinosaur soldier ate an avocado. But the other cop --

FOREMAN (voice-over): This is a world where dinosaurs turn into giant avocado avocados, where ducks shoot exploding eggs, babies have unicorn horns and the good guy has an axe to grind.

This is "Axe Cop," an online comic started one year that became truly an overnight Internet sensation. Many thousands of pages view, countless fans and these are the geniuses behind it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys ready to go?

FOREMAN: Six-year-old Malachai Nicolle lives in Washington state. He comes one all the ideas for "Axe Cops" adventures.

MALACHAI NICOLLE, AXE COP: When he has the axe, he can hit a bad guy with it and they freeze.

FOREMAN: Then his brother, a 30-year-old artist Ethan Nicolle, who lives in Los Angeles, adds the pictures. Most of the time, they collaborate across 1,000 miles by Skype.



FOREMAN: The formula is simple. Malachai makes up any adventure he wants, says whatever comes to mind, and Ethan draws it.

E. NICOLLE: The general rule is it's always from his -- it's from his mouth. I just organize it.

FOREMAN: The result is a freewheeling surrealistic adventure full of surprises that's already spawned a hot selling graphic novel and a series of comic cops.

E. NICOLLE: If "Axe Cop" was to give us a show with his hideout, what kind of stuff would he show us?

M. NICOLLE: It's a weapon-making room. It's like a room where people can make weapons. He hypnotizes bad guys but he doesn't invisible hypnotize them.

E. NICOLLE: Does he have a bedroom where he sleeps?

M. NICOLLE: He has a bedroom for his pals. He doesn't sleep a lot.

FOREMAN: "Axe Cop" is not for everyone. The hero sometimes whacks the wrong target, characters mysteriously wind up trapped inside swordfish, and new story lines arise and vanish with no explanation. And yet that is the charm. In a world of market-driven, focus- grouped, way too calculated comics this is at its art the wonderings of a 6-year-old mind.

M. NICOLLE: Let's just say chickens are dumb.

E. NICOLLE: Let's just say chickens are dumb. OK.

FOREMAN: A true artist works with unchained imagination, unhinged humor and an axe.


FOREMAN: That's our program. You can find out more about all of our stories and, of course, all the latest news on I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks for watching.