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Joe Biden Chooses Kamala Harris As Running Mate; Kamala Harris First Black Female Vice President Candidate; Valerie Jarrett, Former Senior Adviser to Barack Obama, is Interviewed About Kamala Harris; DeRay Mckesson, Civil Rights Activist, is Interviewed About Kamala Harris; "Humankind," a New Book by Rutger Bregman; Rutger Bregman, Author, "Humankind," is Interviewed About Human Nature and the Hope for Humankind; Interview With Author Kurt Andersen. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 12, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
History in the making, Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate. I speak to former Obama senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett about the moment and
what it means for the presidential election.
And I ask police reform activist, DeRay Mckesson, about Harris's record and what she brings to the table.
Then, myth busting human nature. I speak with Dutch historian and author, Rutger Bregman, about his book "Humankind." and why there might still be
hope for us all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURT ANDERSEN, AUTHOR, "EVIL GENIUSES: THE UNMAKING OF AMERICA: A RECENT HISTORY: Somehow, we were -- enough of us were hoodwinked to think, no,
this is just the way it works. This the free market, this is the way it's always been. But it wasn't the way it's always been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Best-selling author, Kurt Andersen, tells our Walter Isaacson how corporate America came to rule the country and what to do about it.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
A historic choice in American presidential politics, at a historic time in America. She was always viewed as the front-runner. And now, of course,
Senator Kamala Harris is the first black female candidate for vice president. And Joe Biden's rival turned running mate. The daughter of
Jamaican and Indian immigrants seems perfectly positioned, amid this unprecedented time of racial and moral reckoning. And the Biden campaign
released this video of him telling her that she is the one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, is the answer yes?
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): The answer is, absolutely, yes, Joe. And I am ready to work. I am ready to do this with you, for you. I just -- I'm just
deeply honored and I'm very excited.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Harris forged a reputation as a tough-on-crime state attorney general. And then, as senator from California, she became known as a
pragmatic moderate, much like Biden, himself. But the two have sparred on the debate stage, before Harris dropped out of the primary race in
December. They had a tense exchange on issues of race, segregation, school bussing. Issues that have shaken the United States to its very core,
following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, which launched a worldwide uprising for justice.
Now, few know more about race and presidential politics than Valerie Jarrett. Longtime friend, confidante, and senior geyser senior adviser to
Barack Obama. Prior to the Harris announcement, she and a group of prominent American women signed a letter calling for fair and accurate news
coverage of a successful woman of color. She is, also, the author of the best-selling book "Finding My Voice" and she is joining us, now, from
Welcome to the program, Valerie Jarrett.
You must be thrilled. I mean, this is certainly a passing of the torch, in so many words, of the Obama legacy.
VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO BARACK OBAMA: It is a historic moment. I am absolutely delighted to have someone of Senator Harris's
caliber, of intellect, her track record of accomplishments, her commitment to public service, beginning at the local level, then, the state and now,
as a U.S. senator. And with the temperament and character and tenacity, as Vice President Biden knows really well, to help him over this finish line.
So, it's an extraordinary day. It's a historic day, not just for the Democratic Party and for Vice President Biden and Senator Harris but, I
think, for America.
AMANPOUR: Valerie Jarrett, because you're so close and have had really this sort of inside window into politics, you saw how, you know, the
process went when President Obama picked Joe Biden as vice president and you obviously know quite a lot of what went into this pick. Give us a
little bit of what they think when they are picking the perfect running mate.
JARRETT: You know, I think what they have to do is take a look at what their strengths are. They want somebody who shares their values, their
vision for America. Provides a different perspective. Will challenge them. I think one of, really, Vice President Biden's strong traits was that he
was willing to tell President Obama when he disagreed with him. And that was really important because President Obama wanted to make the most-
informed decision possible.
And so, you want that strength of character, that willingness to push. But you, also, want someone who is a loyal team player. And I think since
Senator Harris withdrew from the race, she has demonstrated, quite clearly, her commitment by endorsing Vice President Biden and then, working so hard
to ensure that he became -- that he becomes the president.
So, I think she's the perfect pick, and was selected from an extraordinary group of very qualified people. And so, kudos to both of them that they
found each other.
AMANPOUR: So, you talked about disagreements and speaking truth to power and willing to, you know, express their views to the president. Let's just,
then, go back to what everybody has been talking about and let's just see what your view about this is. Obviously, before she forcefully endorsed
him, and now has accepted the vice-presidential ticket, everybody was talking about that moment in the first debate, when there was a bit of
tension over the issue, as I said, of segregation and bussing. Let's just play the sound bite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators, who built their reputations and career on the
segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that but you, also worked with them to oppose bussing. And, you know, there was a little girl
in California, who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Valerie Jarrett, up close, tell me the strengths and weaknesses of that kind of exchange, now that they're in it together, as a
JARRETT: Look, I think what it -- the fact that Vice President Biden selected Senator Harris shows that he is a bigger man. He doesn't have a
thin skin. He doesn't hold grudges. He looked at the strength of her character, her track record, her accomplishments, her service, both on the
Senate, on the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, and he reached the conclusion that she would be the right partner. And I think
that's what we want. We want somebody who isn't just so sensitive that they forget what's important. And, that is, how we lead this country. How we
move beyond this horrendous pandemic that has cost us over 160,000 lives in the United States alone, and counting.
How do we heal our racial wounds that have been festering for far too long? How do we close the health disparities? How do we rebuild our economy? They
are going to have a lot on their plate, come January 20th. And he wanted to make sure he had somebody who was up for that job, who was ready on day
one. And a little, minor skirmish in a campaign means nothing to him. And his selection of her proves that.
AMANPOUR: So, big picture. This is the unprecedented time in American politics. You've never seen such an outpouring for racial justice, even
since 1968. You've never seen this kind of -- I mean, just tens of thousands, as you've mentioned, more than 160,000 dead over a virus, that
has not been dealt with in a coherent way by the national level.
What can these two, as a team -- let's say they're elected. What is the most important thing on their agenda? And I ask you as one who's advised a
president, who came in mid-crisis with the collapse of the financial system around the world and that was just put right on his plate, there and then,
from the beginning.
JARRETT: Yes. So, what we discovered is you can't just focus on one thing. And, in this case, they're all related. We have to get our arms around the
spread of this virus. Vice President Biden said he would invite Dr. Fauci to stay. He would listen to the scientists. He would follow their advice.
You have to look at the health disparities and figure out how we're going to close them going forward. Expanding and building on the Affordable Care
Act. You have to figure out how to jump start our economy, and Vice President Biden had great experience with that back in 2009 when President
Obama gave him the responsibility for the Recovery Act.
Senator Harris led the effort to hold the banks accountable for all of the damage that they caused to so many Americans around this country. And in
fact, Vice President Biden mentioned that it was her relationship with Beau Biden, throughout that experience, that gave him the confidence to select
her because Beau thought so highly of her.
And so, I think what we want is people who are ready on day one. They'll have policies ready to go. They will be working with Congress to try to
solve these big challenges that we have, and it will be about transparency with the American people, telling us the truth, no happy talk, not trying
to pretend that there are easy solutions to what we know are challenging problems. And I have complete confidence that this team will do it.
AMANPOUR: Beau Biden, obviously, Vice President Biden's son who died not so long ago.
Can I ask you about a pretty gutsy, some would say ballsy, move by you and other prominent, American women? You just decided that you were going to
lay down the gauntlet before, even the vice-presidential candidate had been announced. And you wrote a letter or you signed a letter putting news media
and others on guard not to talk down to a woman, not to disparage a woman, not to use the normal, as we've seen, you know, sexist, misogynistic and
Let me just quote a little bit. You've said -- you know, you have called out previous problems. Reporting on whether a woman is liked. A subjective
metric, at best. As though it's news when the likability of men is never considered a legitimate story. You've said, reporting on and using pictures
of a woman, particularly black women's, show of anger at injustice or any other kind of passion in communication perpetuates racist tropes that
suggest unfairly that women are too emotional or irrational in their leadership or worse, hate America.
It's really interesting that you've come out sort of before the fact with this warning and putting everybody on notice.
JARRETT: Well, we did it before the fact because we were already seeing attacks on the women who were being considered, and we have seen what's
happened in the past. We saw what Hillary Clinton went through. And I think, for too long, women have had to tolerate sexist and, in many cases,
also, racist behavior directed at them. Afraid to respond for fear of looking weak or as we're complaining, and so we had to kind of just gut
through it. And so, what we thought is that the women around this nominee have to step up. We have to use our voices to say what she is unlikely to
say. We have to hold people accountable and say to them, look, don't say anything about a woman and use language about a woman that you wouldn't use
about a man.
We're just looking for equity. We're looking for equality. And we need to get rid of the double standard. And it has already reared its ugly head.
And so, when it does, we will call it out, from wherever it comes.
AMANPOUR: And I hope that you'll call us all out if there's any sort of egregious failure, in that regard. Because it was pretty ugly the last time
around. I think many women were rightly infuriated. But here is the thing, Valerie Jarrett. What does President Obama think of Senator Harris as the
JARRETT: He thinks absolutely terrific. As he said yesterday, Vice President Biden nailed it. He knows her very well as -- and indeed, and is
competent that she is absolutely ready, on day one, for this job. And he will be out there on the campaign trail, working with the two of them in
any way that they will have him. He thinks this is the most important election in our lifetime. The stakes are extremely high. And he wants to
add his voice to help. And so, I think you will see this collective action by people whose voices are important to make a difference.
I would mention again that back to our letter, we will be doing another letter, soon. We have more to say on the subject. And as you said, anytime
we see it, not just from the media but whoever, including the president of the United States who has recently this morning made a rather veiled,
sexist and racist comment. So, we're going to call it out.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, he has called her nasty and he's called her phony. But beyond that, beyond those words, which you're going to call out,
have you noticed -- what have you noticed about the Republican reaction to this ticket? It hasn't been -- you know, that -- well, tell me what you
JARRETT: Well, the president's tweet this morning talked about how suburban housewives would vote for him because of what Vice President Biden
and Senator Harris might do. But you know what, I bet a lot of suburban housewives don't like being told what they're going to do by the president.
So, in the words that you refer to, like who refers to a man as mean or nasty? And it's not just directed at candidates. We've seen it directed in
the briefing room at reporters, and it needs to stop. And I think the fact of the matter is that more and more women are now willing to speak up, as
are men, to say enough is enough. And that's how we change our culture. That's how we hold people accountable.
AMANPOUR: Valerie Jarrett, thank you so much for joining us.
JARRETT: You're welcome. You're welcome.
AMANPOUR: Very important perspective. Thank you.
Now, law enforcement has long been Harris's ticket from her early days as a prosecutor, through to her time as California's attorney general. And now,
she says being tough on crime does not mean ignoring systemic issues. Civil rights activist, DeRay Mckesson has spoken to Harris about exactly these
issues, and he is joining us now from New York.
DeRay Mckesson, welcome back to our program.
Let me ask you. As, I guess, the more younger generation and more progressive, what is your reaction to the pick of Senator Kamala Harris as
DERAY MCKESSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Yes. So, let's just start by saying that, like, we have to get Trump out of here, right? So, when I think about
Biden and the range of people who could have been the V.P. pick is that there are very few options that he would have chosen that would have been
worse than what we've got right now. I can't think of any option actually. So, that like, we got to get Trump out.
The second thing is that Kamala was already vetted when she ran for president. So, all of the complaints that people had, all of the issues,
like we've had conversations about them. And it's important to note there isn't new information coming up about Kamala Harris. That it is a
conversation that we've been having about her record with regard to criminal justice.
Now, we met with Kamala. And here's the thing, is that Kamala has responses to the critiques that people have. She does. She has a way to talk about
it. She can explain the decisions that she made. I think that what she -- what I'm hopeful that she does in these next couple months is that she
offers those explanations and she helps people understand in public why she made the decisions.
I walked away from my meeting with her, clear, about her stance on issues. Clear about her convictions and her understanding of what systemic change
should be, and it was really powerful. And I hope that more and more people are able to hear these words because I think that's actually what killed
her, when people were concerned when she ran for president. I think that there was just no response from the campaign and that didn't serve her
AMANPOUR: So, it's interesting because, you know, I guess I'm not hearing a ringing endorsement. You say she's not as bad as some of the others that
could have been picked. But, on the other hand, you're saying that you feel that she understands the evolution of what you're describing. She's evolved
in her thoughts about, I guess, parts of the law enforcement record that she has with the times that we're in right now. Am I translating, right,
what you're saying?
MCKESSON: So, let me be crystal clear. Biden and Harris will be an incredible ticket. They will do wonders to make sure this country is put on
the right track. I believe that, right? So, that is like as clear as I can say it. I am happy Kamala Harris was the pick. I think she will be an
incredible vice president and I think she has a long career in politics and I think she will continue to grow on some issues that people disagree with
her on. I believe that.
I also believe that there is a conversation to be had about her record and I know that she is equipped to have that conversation. I'm confident that
she can have that conversation. And will it please everybody? No. But, you know, there are not a lot of things that please everybody. And I can also
be real about that. The third thing is he has to get out of office, right. So, I am saying all of these things are true at the same time, Trump has
got to go is like the third thing that we just have to be laser focused on.
AMANPOUR: To that end, there's either 100 or more than 100 prominent black men in America who wrote a letter basically saying that it has to be a
black woman as the vice-presidential choice for Biden, otherwise, it could cost him the election.
I thought that was really incredible. First of all, men, more than 100 of them, and spanning all sorts of generations and spectrum on the Democratic
Party and areas of -- you know, from Sean Combs to Van Jones, to all sorts of people, it's a pretty big statement, don't you think, that 100 plus
MCKESSON: You know, what I think is really powerful is that black women have been organizing both during this election cycle but in American
history in unprecedented ways in terms of the media coverage, right? So, we know it's always been happening but hasn't been covered in the media. And
now, we're having public conversations about the importance of black women in the political process and in civic life (INAUDIBLE), and that's really
I think the letter that came out is something that matters in terms of the public conversation. But I will just repeat that like black women have been
pushing these conversations and the political left for a long time. So, I think that this is both an acknowledgment of that, the importance of the
black female vote. And I think that this will be historic, in practice.
AMANPOUR: So, obviously, the all-important question is Biden clearly did well with a certain segment of the black community during the primaries.
That's what put him over the top. Most of them were of the older generation, and perhaps not so much of the younger progressives. Everybody
wants to know, and you've said it over and again, that from your perspective and from your constituent's perspective, the idea is to win the
Will people come out for a Harris-Biden ticket? The people who -- you know, those who might have voted for Bernie Sanders, those who are younger and
who want to see much more progressive politics?
MCKESSON: I think that people will. You know, when I think about Biden, when I think about Harris, I'm reminded that they are able to be pushed on
issues, right? So, we know that there are some things that we don't always agree with, with all the candidates. And part of our work, as activists, as
organizers, part of our work as citizens is to push them, right? Is to sort of like say, you know, this is what we believe and let's see if we can find
a way to make it happen. And I'm confident that will happen with Biden. I'm confident that will happen with Harris and I'm confident that people will
Now, remember, Trump is trying to distract all of us. Trump is trying to dismantle the Postal Service so people can't vote by mail. So, I am worried
about voter suppression and I'm worried about people thinking that this will just be a cakewalk and Biden and Harris will just walk in, so they
might not vote. I think that we have to go full steam ahead and just like fight like our life depends on it because it does.
AMANPOUR: So, what does that look like, DeRay Mckesson, in this era? You know, many people at the beginning of the entire presidential race, were
quite worried. Particularly, first, there were questions about Biden and his longevity. Secondly, there were questions about how about how do you
run a presidential race when you can't go knocking on doors and you can't have big campaign rallies, et cetera, et cetera? Well, it seems that, you
know, the Democratic Party seems to have, you know, got its arms around some of the limitations. What do you think has to happen as a sort of
public outreach and to put across some of the, you know, things that you are talking about now, between now and November?
MCKESSON: Yes. I think that when I think about Harris, I think that people have offered the same questions over and over about her record, and I think
the campaign just hasn't responded. I think that they just need to respond. As somebody who spoke to Kamala about these same questions, I know that
there is a response. I know it's a response that answers so many of the things that people are challenged by.
And I also know that she is able to be moved on issues. Like, she is a, you know, smart, capable woman, who has a long career in these issues. Like,
she knows it. She knows the work, up and down, right? And I think that there is a chance for the campaign to help more and more people see that. I
think that the lack of response during the presidential election just didn't go over well. So, I think that would be my advice.
I also think that we need to just be really clear about the issues that people are voting for. That, remember, while we are voting for a
president/vice president, this is also a choice about a cabinet. This is also a choice about who the appointees will be for judges and a host of
offices across the federal government and the cleanup work that has to happen after this administration will be immense.
AMANPOUR: DeRay Mckesson, thank you very much, indeed, for your perspective on this historic day, in fact. Thank you so much.
Now, in a time of bitter partisan politics, not to mention a pandemic and social upheaval, the world can often feel brutal and even terrifying. But
historian, Rutger Bregman, wants us to look at the bright side, not just for the heck of it but because we often miss what's there in plain sight.
In his new book, "Humankind: A Hopeful History." He says that humans are the dominant species, not because we're cold, ruthless predators but
because precisely the opposite is true. And Rutger Bregman is joining us now from the Netherlands.
Welcome back to the program.
You know, it's always interesting to get the sort of counterintuitive, the counternarrative. And I just wonder. You are seeing, you know, this pick,
you are seeing now all the political chat in the United States, sort of, obviously, from the Democrat point of view, a hopeful moment. In terms of
your humankind and the way you look at the world and the untold stories, where do you place this, in context right now?
RUTGER BREGMAN, AUTHOR, "HUMANKIND": This is such an exciting moment in history. I mean, historians have always known that crises are always
opportunities for real shifts, right? And, you know, my new book is about this shift that's been happening in the past 15 to 20 years in science.
So, many scientists, from very diverse disciplines, from, you know, psychologist, sociologists, anthropologists, have been moving from a quite
cynical view of human nature, to a much more hopeful view of who we are, as a species. And so, in this book, I wanted to connect the dots and show that
something bigger is going on. And I guess that's exactly what we need right now. A little more hopeful view of who we are and what we can do together
if we collaborate.
AMANPOUR: So, OK. Today, for many people, you know, who support that party, it's hopeful. But it comes amidst, you know, this terrible pandemic.
The United States has the highest death toll. It's not wrangled, yet. It's still surging. We have this horrendous situation of the killing of unarmed
black men mostly, black women as well, by white police. We have a reckoning for racial justice. And so, some people might not think it's that hopeful.
But you discuss the Overton window, which is the idea of a zeitgeist within a period of time. And I think you think, right now, is a particularly
important time for that more progressive politics and attitudes in public life.
BREGMAN: Yes. Yes. Well, you know, if you would have told me, 10 years ago, by now, in 2020, you know, a 16-year-old Swedish girl kickstarted the
biggest climate justice movement the world has ever seen. You know, we have seen the biggest protests in the history of the United States. Obviously,
the killing of George Floyd. We have seen a newspaper like the "Financial Times," not exactly a left-wing newspaper but even they are saying we need
to reverse the policy direction of the last 40 years and think about things like higher taxes on the rich, a universal basic income to eradicate
poverty, a green new deal, a much more activist role of the government. I mean, I just heard you talking about, you know, the role of Joe Biden and
how sort of more progressive young people look at that.
I mean, I just heard you talking about, you know, the role of Joe Biden and how sort of more progressive young people look at that. It's -- I mean, I'm
thinking two things there. In the first place, this is the most progressive generation we've ever seen. If you look at millennials and people from
Generation Z. You know, most highly educated, most ethnically diverse and very open to progressive issues. And then, Joe Biden is being pulled in
their direction, right?
If you look at his platform, you might think, well, be a little bit disappointed, for example, when you think about, you know, how much he is
willing to invest to combat climate change. But he is actually more radical on climate change than Bernie Sanders was in 2016. So, that is sort of the
shift that is happening in politics, and it's happening very quickly. But you only see that, if you zoom out a little bit.
AMANPOUR: Rutger, I want to sort of pull back a little bit and ask you about a story that you wrote about, which was about sort of "the real lord
of the flies." Obviously, everybody -- well, a lot of people have read "Lord of the Flies," which was written, William Golding, back in 1951, and
what did it show? It showed -- he tried to show kind of the dark side of nature. Stranded kids and just one was left, you know, one was left. And it
became, you know, lord of the flies as sort of a description, almost like a political, social, you know, term.
But you discovered that in 1965 and '66 something like that idea happened, in other words, stranded kids, with a completely different outcome. Can you
just tell us that, kind of briefly, what you discovered?
BREGMAN: Of course. I mean, first, you have to know that this is very old theory in western culture that our civilization is only a very thin veneer.
And that, deep down, we are just very selfish creatures. And "Lord of the Flies," as you mentioned is one of the examples of a story like that. Kids
start just behaving in a monstrous way once they shipwreck on an inhabited island.
So, for this book, I wondered, has it ever happened? You know, could I find one single real historical case where real kids got shipwrecked on a real
island and then, what would happen? And yes, I spent a couple of months on that and after a while, I discovered that actually it did happen in 1965,
as you said. Six kids in Tonga, an island group in the Pacific Ocean. They were bored with school. So, they said, you know what, let's go on an
adventure. They ended up in a storm. Drifted for eight days. And yes, shipwrecked on this island and survived there for 15 months.
And, you know, if this would be some kind of Hollywood movie or fictional story, people would say, oh, that's so unrealistic. This story about kids,
you know, building this small civilization on an island. But the thing is, this is a real "Lord of the Flies." It's really a story of friendship and
collaboration because that's how they survive.
AMANPOUR: Honestly, I just love that story. I cannot get enough of it because it completely turns on its head what conventional wisdom thinks and
with a real-life, you know, example like that. And then, you go on and talk about, for instance, Hurricane Katrina. I covered Hurricane Katrina. Parts
of that back in 2005. And I remember, very distinctly, what the prevailing narrative was when I got there. Oh, my gosh, you know, there's shooting,
there's raping. The superdome. This, that and the other. It's a terrible situation. And there, we actually saw that, actually, people were coming
from all over to try to help and a lot of selflessness was being exhibited. Describe why that's important and what got rooted in the public, you know,
BREGMAN: Well, this is veneer theory again. Again, the notion that people deep down are just selfish. That's what you see every single time in the
press after a natural disaster, like an earthquake or tsunami. There are all these stories about looting and plundering and violence. But then every
time when the real proper journalists come in and the researchers, they discover that, actually, something very different is going on.
We now have more than 700 case studies from sociology since the 1960s who discover that, actually, after a natural disaster, what you get, every
single time, this is not a cultural thing, it's about human nature. So, what you get is an explosion of altruism. People from the left to the
right, rich, poor, young, old, all, working together to save as many lives as possible. That's really sort of what we intuitively do. It's a little
bit, as if disasters push a reset button in our brain and we go back to our better selves.
So that's really also the research that I was thinking of when this whole pandemic started. You know, how will we behave?
BREGMAN: Will it be the same as, like, natural disasters, or will people turn out to be selfish?
And I think, if you -- again, if you zoom out a little bit, sure, you can focus on, I don't know, the hoarding of toilet paper. But the headline of
the past couple of months has just been this huge amount of cooperation by billions of people who have quite radically adjusted their lifestyles to
stop the virus from spreading further.
In your book "Humankind," you write: "It's when crisis hits, when the bombs fall or floodwaters rise, that we humans become our best selves.
Catastrophes bring out the best in people. I know of no other sociological finding that's backed by so much solid evidence that is so blithely
ignored. The picture we are fed by the media is consistently the opposite of what happens when disaster strikes."
Now, as a member of the media, I know that plenty of us do also look for the real story, and don't just take that first -- first idea of what maybe
some people want to say.
Even -- even we had to struggle to push back against the narrative that was coming out of the government that, for instance, the post-George Floyd
protesters were anarchists or terrorists or violent.
BREGMAN: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: We pushed back against that narrative.
AMANPOUR: But why do you think it is, in general, that that side of the story gets so much play, and not the real story?
BREGMAN: Well, look, a cynical view of human nature has always been in the interest of those in power, because, if people can't trust each other, then
they need hierarchy, they need the police, the army, those at the top to keep them in check.
So, once people are saying, well, maybe we can actually trust each other, then those at the top get very worried, because then they're like, well,
maybe this is going to end up in some kind of revolution, where they will realize that we're not actually even necessary.
So, that's really what you see in Western history. Time and time again, cynicism is a tool of those at the top, of the elites. They want you to
watch as much, I don't know, FOX News as possible, because they want you to be fearful. And it's just easier to rule people who are scared.
Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't be scared of things like climate change. I mean, as you can see, I'm melting here in this heat wave in the
Netherlands. But it is important to zoom out a little bit, look at what's going on, and have hope for the future, because hope -- and that's why I
like the word hope -- it's different from optimism.
It's about what we can do together, and it impels us to act.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you.
If there's a criticism of your book and your theory, it's that it's a little Pollyannish. Some of the critics have said -- I mean, look, how do
you explain the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, any number of horrendous things that have happened in our history, if, really, we are such basically
AMANPOUR: How do you rationalize or, rather, reconcile some of the really bad stuff with what you're saying?
BREGMAN: Well, I think we have to recognize that, even though, on the one hand, we human beings have evolved to be friendly -- I mean, biologists
literally talk about survival of the friendliest these days, which means that, for millennia, it was actually the friendliest among us who had the
most kids, and so had the biggest chance of passing on their genes to the next generation.
It is also true that we are the cruelest species in the whole animal kingdom. We do the most horrible things that no penguin would ever think
of, right? We lock up other people. We exterminate them. We do horrible forms of torture.
So, that is really, obviously, the big question that hangs over a book like this. And, obviously, you can't give, like, a five-minute explanation of
all the terrorism in history.
BREGMAN: But I think we can find the beginning of an answer in that theory that people have evolved to be friendly, because there is really a dark
side to friendliness as well.
I mean, very often, people do the nastier things in the name of friendship and in the name of comradeship and of loyalty, right, because they want to
be part of their own group. And then they're being pulled along by some corrupt leader.
So, I think that's part of the reason. But, obviously, there are many, many different things at play. I think the most important thing, though, to
remember here is that it's not deeply within our nature to be selfish. We can be violent, but it's really something that we need to learn, and it
takes a lot of effort.
AMANPOUR: Just very briefly, in our last minute, you also do a case study on an institutional level. You compare certain prisons in Norway with the
mass incarceration in the United States.
And you find really different recidivism results in Norway vs. the U.S. Just give us an example, quickly.
BREGMAN: Yes. This is an old American idea. What if you treat prisoners like people, instead of just criminals that you don't care about?
That's what they do in Norway. Prisoners have the freedom to socialize with the guards. They make music. They have got their own music studio, own
music label that's called Criminal Records.
And the result, which takes a lot of courage, the result is that you have the lowest recidivism rate in the world, the lowest chance that someone
will commit another crime once he or she gets out of prison.
So, this is not naive. This is realistic, and it simply gets you better results. But it takes a lot of courage.
AMANPOUR: And just comment, you also point out that if you expect a lot of people, on the best of people, generally, they will give it. And, by
reverse, if you expect them and treat them as the worst of the worst, generally, they will show that as well.
BREGMAN: Yes. Yes.
We humans, we tend to become the stories that we tell ourselves. Our stories can become self-fulfilling prophecies. So, in the case of "Lord of
the Flies," I mean, for years, for decades, we have been basically forcing millions of kids to read this fictional story about who they are.
And what are they supposed to take away from that? I think we should tell them the real story as well of what really happens, because that could
become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What you assume in other people is what you get out of them. So, I think everything changes once you update your view of ourselves to a more
AMANPOUR: Really fascinating, and an important time to be telling this story, "Humankind."
Rutger Bregman, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
Now, as we wrestle with deep-rooted issues of social justice and inequality, it's plain to see that fairness is in short supply. But our
next guest says it wasn't always the case.
Kurt Andersen is a bestselling author and journalist. His latest book is "Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History."
And here he is talking to our Walter Isaacson about the dangers of America's hypercapitalism and the need to take a step back.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Kurt Andersen, welcome to the show.
KURT ANDERSEN, AUTHOR, "EVIL GENIUSES: THE UNMAKING OF AMERICA: A RECENT HISTORY": Happy to be here.
ISAACSON: Your last book, "Fantasyland," totally amazing, it was about conspiracy theories in America all the way going back to the Salem witch
trials, how that's part of our national character sometimes to believe in fantasies.
And now you're doing another book that is also about a conspiracy, but one you believe in. You kind of make note of that in the book. How did you move
from "Fantasyland" to this book, "Evil Geniuses"?
ANDERSEN: Well, I moved from -- really, the seeds of this book came out of the work, the research I was doing for "Fantasyland."
"Fantasyland" was the history of the last few hundred years, but a bunch of it was the last 50 years and how this proliferation of magical thinking and
delusion and our chronic American weakness for entertaining falsehoods came to undo us.
But the other half of the story was, I realized after I finished "Fantasyland," and so it was really, OK, how did the economics change? How
did the politics change? How does technology work here, all the sort of hard aspects of how America drove into a ditch these last 50 years?
So, that set me on solving this. I mean, when I was out talking about "Fantasyland," more than once, someone would say to me, well, you say that
people deny climate change in America because of this history of not believing science and so forth. What about the Koch brothers?
And it got me thinking, because they had a point, those readers, which is to say, yes, our magical thinking, fantasyland America predisposed us to --
a lot of us -- to believe climate change isn't real, but it wouldn't have happened had we not had this orchestrated effort by the economic right, by
the oil companies, by everybody to cast doubt on science.
That's one of the things, as you know, that I have in this book is these extraordinary memos from the American Petroleum Institute, from the
pollster Frank Luntz, others, saying, oh, we got to start casting doubt on science, that -- in the late '80s and '90s.
ISAACSON: Explain who the players are in this.
ANDERSEN: Well, the kind of -- one of the original players was the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who was just -- had just become
well-known during the '60s, when anything goes, let's see what everybody has to say, even though he was still a bit on the fringes at the University
But he wrote this extraordinary Friedman doctrine, essay, that was published in "The New York Times Magazine" in the 1970s, saying,
businesspeople, forget all this social responsibility stuff. Forget trying to improve the environment. Forget trying to be less racist, all of it.
Profits are all that matter.
And it was kind of a liberating rallying cry for the kind of hunkered-down CEOs and an economic writers to come up. And so he's one.
Lewis Powell, again, a guy who was not a particularly amazing or charismatic, distinguished Supreme Court justice, but who, just as a big-
time lawyer in 1971, commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote out this memo, this 40-some-page memo laying out, here's what we have to do
to take back the power for big business, period. That's what he did.
And because it was so successful within a dozen years, or certainly a generation, it's amazing at how specifically what happened -- develop the
think tanks, take over the media, influencing universities, become seriously militant, you CEOs, about lobbying for things in Washington,
create more lobbying, change the judiciary -- that's our big option.
It was like something in a bad novel, where you go, oh, this is ridiculous, this is too on the nose, how much Lewis Powell's memo in 1971 had it. There
are other memos. There's one in 1980 that, again, funded by billionaires, a billionaire, Richard Mellon Scaife, to say, what do we need to do to make
the law friendly to our right-wing way of thinking economically?
Well, this is what you need to do. And, kaboom, Federalist Society is the epitome of that recommendation. And a year later, it was created. And now
it is the single most powerful kind of influencer of law and jurisprudence.
ISAACSON: When you talk about the 1980s being sort of a paradigm shift, something happens then, what were we shifting from, and what did we shift
ANDERSEN: Well, some of my leftier friends will take issue with the fact when I say that, oh, apart from sexism and racism, America economically --
economically, America was working pretty well from World War II through almost 1980.
We were getting more and more equal. 1976, by the so-called Gini coefficient, which measures inequality in any state or country or whatever,
was the best it ever has been in America, and certainly better than it has been since.
We were doing pretty well. All boats were rising. As productivity rose, so did median incomes. As economic growth increased, all boats rose together,
some poor, some rich, but all boats rose together.
And -- or -- well, take CEO pay. It was 50 times the average CEO made than his or her -- probably not so much her back then -- but made 50 times as
much as the average employee. Then, suddenly, it was decided, not because it had been illegal, but just because the norms changed, and greed is good
as of the 1980s, the average CEO was making 200, 300, 500, today as much as 1,000 times as much as his or her employee.
That's what happened, being -- somehow, we were -- enough of us were hoodwinked to think, no, this is just the way it works. This is the free
market. This is the way it's always been.
But it wasn't the way it's always been. Through progressivism, through the New Deal, through both Roosevelts, we put guardrails up and systems in
place that made it work much better. And it was working much better, until these guys hijacked it and made it work worse, and made it work well only
for the relatively well-to-do or the extremely-well-to-do.
ISAACSON: You say that you yourself was a useful idiot. And you have a wonderful section in the beginning of the book and excerpted some in "The
Atlantic" that talks about how, in the 1980s, 1990s, you were riding high. You were in part of the media world in New York.
And you went along, like most New Democrats and neoliberals did, with this whole change. Explain that to me and how you feel that that played into
this paradigm shift we had in America.
ANDERSEN: Once the shift came, this conservative shift, some of which, some of which, a bit of which, was organic, happened after the late '60s
and early '70s, but these guys, my evil geniuses, took it -- took that slight pendulum swing, that course correction, and went off-road.
So, they really changed the whole way of thinking through -- and by so many means, by setting up a think tank, by giving money to universities, by
changing our beliefs.
Now, our -- again, I don't want to -- I don't want to grab you into my useful idiot cadre, Walter, but there was a good-faith effort by liberals,
by Democrats, of the Gary Hart kind, of the Bob Kerrey kind, of the Bill Bradley kind, to say, wait, we are a free market country, and there's a lot
of room for compromise with the right, with free marketers.
We were played, I think, and I have come to believe, looking back, that we were -- because of the economic right. And that's what this book is about.
It's not so much about religious rightists or anti-abortion people or -- it's about this long game played so brilliantly by these -- by big
business, by right-wing ideologues, the rest.
They kept at it. And we, the New Democrats, said, yes, of course, there are market-based solutions. Oh, good public-private cooperation. Oh, good, yes,
sure. Let's -- some deregulation is good. And it was.
But then it just -- the center kept moving right. And there was no more -- basically, no more economic left. And that's the problem, I think, because
we, many of us liberals, college-educated people were doing well in our professions, and our jobs were not being offshored and not being outsourced
and not being automated.
And so we could afford to sort of take the long view and say, look, the industrial revolutions in the past have all worked out OK eventually. And
it looks, this time, as if this is different.
ISAACSON: But you say that a whole lot of Democrats, including Democratic presidents, like Bill Clinton, they became New Democrats, and they kind of
go along with this agenda.
ANDERSEN: Yes, well, they help by standing down, and not -- they're not being among -- in the Democratic Party, the Democratic coalition, much in
the way of a plausible, visionary, inspiring left alternative on the economy.
Yes, they fail. Again. I -- and I wasn't a politician. I was just a lowly journalist. But I was -- again, I include myself in that mea culpa that we,
because -- I mean, I wouldn't -- we were kind of bought off, right?
I mean, I always rejected that idea. Oh, you mainstream corporate media types, you're just bought off. No, no, no, no, I'm willing to tell the
truth. And that's what we're -- what I'm about, is telling the truth.
Yes, but our -- I would say -- and their -- and Gary Harts and others -- indifference to the people suddenly out of work in the Rust Belt, and all
of the other losers in this changed, go-go, financialized, technological new economy, the callousness was wrong, and took many of them and us too
long to recognize, too many -- like two generations to recognize.
Until the 2000s, really until the 2010s, not that many national Democrats were standing up and going, this is wrong, and it's a systemic problem.
It's harder than it has probably ever been in America to rise up, right, from generation to generation.
And that didn't -- again, it didn't just happen. It happened as a result of all of these changes in norms and laws and regulations that don't benefit -
- not just don't benefit the poor, don't benefit the middle, and don't even benefit the somewhat upper middle anymore.
ISAACSON: I'm going to read you something of a book that I think should be read as a companion to your "Evil Geniuses." I know you have read it, and
you actually cite Michael Sandel, the Harvard professor.
But Michael wrote -- writes in his upcoming book: "The elites who governed the United States from 1940 to 1980 were successful. They won World War II.
They rebuilt Europe and Japan.
"They strengthened the welfare state, dismantled segregation, and presided over four decades of economic growth that the rich and the poor both
benefited from. By contrast, the elites" -- and he said about meritocratic elites, not just a right-wing conspiracy -- who have governed since the
four days -- four decades since then, in other words, our time, "have brought stagnant wages for most workers, inequalities of income, wealth
disparities not seen since the 1920s.
The Iraq War, endless wars in Afghanistan, financial deregulation, the decline of an infrastructure in our country, and a polarization and
poisoning of our politics that comes from things like unlimited money in politics and gerrymandering.
So, don't we want to get back to a time when we protected workers and had more just and fair distribution of the wealth of society?
ANDERSEN: Absolutely, we do.
And that's why I spend so much time at the end of -- near the end of the book talking about the forms of nostalgia. Nostalgia is not all bad,
because nostalgia can also be -- it's a big, broad brush.
And looking at -- well, look, not so long ago, when you and I were young people, America was fair economically, pretty fair. And, yes, there was
regulation. Yes, there was very high taxes on the wealthy, and so on and so forth. And it worked well. And people got rich. And the middle class felt
secure and was expanding.
So, that's not -- so, there are different kinds of nostalgia. There's pointless nostalgia. We're not going to be a big coal mining country again.
And we're not going to have illegal segregation again. And we're not going to -- so, there are wrong and useless and fantastical forms of nostalgia.
Then there's, well, let's look at our recent history and say, like, wow, we were doing it much better. Let's at least get back to doing it as well as
we were doing in 1976 and as well as other countries, our rich country peers, are doing it now.
So, there's useless nostalgia and dangerous and pathological nostalgia. And then there is looking at history. And those are two different things. And
we have to be careful not to say, oh, everything in the past is in the past and it's no good.
That's not true either. There are just -- there are parts of the past that we can look to as models for the future.
ISAACSON: Yes, but we have to remember that the past we're looking for as models was deeply segregated, had great racial discrimination--
ANDERSEN: A hundred percent.
ISAACSON: -- and, for that matter, discrimination against women and gays.
ANDERSEN: Yes, absolutely.
So -- and that's the thing. That's why, in so many ways, the '70s, we were -- we were beginning to address those issues, right? Legally -- civil
rights laws had happened. Title IX and women's rights laws had happened. And we were getting economically more equal.
All these different parts of progress were happening. Yes, you don't want to go back to the patriarchy and white supremacy of life before the modern
times. But that doesn't mean that everything that was in place back then was terrible, because, economically, it was much better.
ISAACSON: What has the pandemic exposed about the truths about this country? And will it force a reckoning?
ANDERSEN: Well, it -- I don't know it will force a reckoning, but it certainly makes, to me, more naked this ruling paradigm of our version, our
American version of hypercapitalism, and all that counts is money, and all other values and communitarian ideas, eh, nothing. It's all about the
money, Jack. It's all about the stock market and the marketplace values in general.
I think the pandemic and the unnecessarily failed response to it, driven by these various ideologies and instincts, will, I think, have the job of at
least convincing people, like, yes, this is screwed up, and these people do not have my best interests or the public good at heart.
So, I think it -- I am hopeful, because I'm a hopeful, optimistic American, that this can be a moment for a reset, for a reckoning. Pick the word. But
talk to me on November 4. And I will just -- I will either be a hopeful American or at some new stage of hopelessness that I have never experienced
ISAACSON: Kurt Andersen, thank you so much for being on the show.
ANDERSEN: Oh, it was totally my pleasure, Walter. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, on this important night, breaking the bronze ceiling.
As Kamala Harris makes history, Central Park in New York will unveil its own piece of history this month, with the first statue depicting real women
in the park's 166-year history. It shows three suffragettes, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, locked in debate, a
sign that working together is the most revolutionary act of all.
Its creation comes at a time of sharp new scrutiny for monuments, of course. And it's worth noting that less than 8 percent of the almost 5,200
statues in American public spaces are of women.
But, as Sojourner Truth said herself, if the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, women today ought to
be able to turn it back and get it right side up again.
Ain't that the truth.
That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.