tv Amanpour on PBS PBS February 27, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PST
welcome to "ammanpour on pbs." tonight we know that russia meddled in the 2016 u.s. election, but how much do we know about america's history of interference in other countries' elections? i'm joined by steve hall, the former cia station chief in moscow, and the former kremlin adviser, alexander nekrassov. plus, comedian and author michael ian black on why america's toxic masculinity is killing us. "amanpour" on pbs.
good evening, everyone, welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. president trump still needs convincing of russia's meddling in the u.s. elections, but the rest of the government seems certain of it. the state department today unveiled a new program aimed at countering state-sponsored propaganda. just as the intelligent chiefs are warning the kremlin is already targeting the mid-term elections of 2018. american lawmakers are aghast at russia's actions, but what's rarely ever mentioned is the united states has been guilty of the very same thing. the u.s. has long used its own power to influence elections all over the globe. so is what russia is doing par for the course, or is there a motivation gap? here now to dig into these questions is steve hall, the retired cia chief of russia operations, and the former kremlin adviser and journalist
alexander nekrassov. welcome to you both, gentlemen. i want to go straight to the american side of things becae, you know, we haven't really discussed this in this ongoing story but, steve, lay it out there. is what russia is doing so out of the ordinary? >> well, christiane, in one sense it's not out of the ordinary because russia, of course, has a long history of involving themselves in what they refer to as active measures which we would call covert action, and it takes a lot of different forms. they've been doing it since the soviet times and even before. that said, this is the first time we've seen at least in recent history the aggressive attack on our elections and, indeed, not just our own but on western democracies across the globe. so it's really a new incarnation, i would argue, of a very old art form the russians and the soviet special services, the kgb and others are
undertaking. >> in terms of what the u.s. did, is that sort of par for the course what russia is doing? >> in terms of what the united states is capable and has done historically? >> yeah. >> i think the phraseology that you used in the lead-in is accurate. motivation and context matters. in the case of covert action in the united states, which is, of course, a legal responsibility of the cia which only acts at the behest of the executive, in this case the president, covert action is certainly one of the tools in the toolbox. but the motivation is important. i would say recently in the past, let's say, since the end of the cold war, the primary motivation for u.s. covert action has been to try to enable in societies that are autocratic enclosed to try to enable individuals in that society to
act in a free fashion. you can imagine an autocracy, where the autocrat has complete control over the press, where there are no free and fair elections, and where the intelligence services and security services of an individual country will actively work against anybody who is a dissident or anybody who wants to somehow oppose the government. u.s. covert action oftentimes seeks to assist those people who are already in a country looking for more openness in their society. >> but in previous history going back to 1946 after the war, we know in iran, an elected official was overthrown. we know in latin america and in all sorts of places. that was pretty toxic stuff, wasn't it? >> well, so if you go back a little bit further, the errors you're talking about, let's say the '50s and '60s, again, context matters.
in a lot of those, not in every single case, but in a lot of those cases what you were looking at is a world basically involved in a tension or a fight or battle between the communist soviet union whose stated effort was to take over and spread communism throughout the entire world and with the united states being labelled as the main enemy, this was a worldwide fight that the u.s. and the west, indeed, was engaged in to try to stop essentially a soviet takeover of the entire world. yeah, i think you could safely say that the gloves were more off there because the context was sort of, for lack of a better phrase, about world domination and the west and the united states specifically felt the need to push back harder in many cases. that was much less so in the '70s, '80s, and '90s and even today. >> let me turn to you. nesby alexander nekrassov,
you just heard how it's been put into context. do you, first and foremost, all these years after the cold war, buy the historical view it have that russia really did or the soviet union had this world domination policy and, yeah, sure, the united states played these covert games and everybody was doing it? >> well, first of all, i need to say something unusual. it is in the nature of intelligence services to exaggerate their role. in every event in the world. and, unfortunately, the kgb did it as well. they exaggerated their role greatly and basically deceived the kremlin on many occasions only to get more money. the cia does the same. a lot of things are happening in the world and intelligence services are trying to get the jump on the bandwagon and say we did it. we did it. we september sent out people and so on. in ukraine, for example, the cia was saying, oh, yeah, we work hard, our embassy so on. unfortunately, it was mostly the russians who messed up everything, and they basically
gave it to the americans. and to say that the russians could influence american election is laughable. any professional will tell you it's impossible. it's physically impossible. you have to spend billions and billions of dollars, and you still get nothing. >> i i want to pick up on that d let's use a president trump tweet. he said a while back, last week, in fact, if it was the goal of russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the u.s., then with all of the committee hearings, investigations and party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. they are laughing their asses off in moscow. get smart, america. alexander, are they laughing as the president suggests in the kremlin? >> well, i can tell you that obviously putin's team was laughing because they have their election campaign done for them
by the western media, by the americans, by president trump. so putin looks le an all-weul leader who can influence elections in america, in europe, all over the place. he can appoint president prime ministers. he doesn't even need to convince the russians to vote for him because they will come out and vote for him so you must understand it's a game and the game is being played and has been played for centuries by intelligence services, by the governments and so on. putin and his team, if you noticed, didn't really reject any accusations in a hardened way. they will say, no, we didn't. they are basking in the spotlight. they're thinking, okay, the americans are doing everything for us. the russian people care about the domestic audience primarily. the russian people are saying, wow, we have a president and intelligence service that can do for peanuts saying $2.2 million
was spent four years on rigging the american election. excuse me? such tiny amounts cannot be spent on this. >> so let's put the indictment aside because that's real, 13 people, three organizations were indicted. let me turn to steve. the way alexander lays it out, peanuts and giving way too much kudos and credibility to the fsb and whoever else might be doing this. does he have a point about the amount of effect they've had? >> i would not agree, not surprisingly. the russian security services have a long history in being able to do this type of thing, and really there's very little in today's world with social media and the ability to get out there and spread one's message. it's much easier than it used to
be and costs a lot less money and infrastructure and resources to accomplish something. the other thing is with the use of bots and trolls, you have almost an automated system. somebody tweets one thing and it gets millions and millions of repeats which is amazing propaganda work really for anybody to do. so this is sort of an old school solution in a new capable, a new technical capability. i would agree -- >> go ahead. >> i would agree with one point alexander did make, we do help the russian side in the sense that the russians don't come up with propaganda all on their own. they see american fissures, splits in society in the west, and those are the things they take advantage of and echo. it's not out of whole cloth. we do provide the grist for a lot of the work that the russians have been able to take advantage of. >> i was going to turn to that.
using whatever it might be that ack lives matter movement, the school shooting, all these very divisive issues going on in the united states right now the russian bots and others are jumping into that. so to exacerbate a very partisan situation. >> well, first of all, i am on social media myself on twitter and i can tell you the impact of twitter is not significant. social media is greatly exaggerated. a lot of people are just bored and want to spend time. i think it's a great mistake to think you can influence public opinion in a country like america or even in europe by using social media. social media is not that active. i think what we're hearing here at the moment is a new type of cold war. it's not as dangerous in the sense we don't have two different ideological camps
standing against each other which is, by the way, much more stable in the old cold war. the new cold war is much more dangerous because it's unpredictable. nobody understands what's going on, who is the real enemy, where is the enemy and what it is doing. i think this debate about russia involvement in the elections, and the russians are blaming the americans now, by the way, for their involvement in the current elections. i don't think it actually works because the americans have failed, for example, in this election in russia to position putin as an enemy which they wanted. a lot of people look and say, no, no, no we'd better vote for putin because this american support for the opposition, we don't like it. it doesn't really work. >> so a final word on how does one end this. steve, we've seen a much more robust pushback against the kremlin, against this kind of interference from angela merkel, from macron and even may here in
great britain. much more robust things coming out of the white house. wouldn't just a couple of well-placed condemnations by president trump go a long way to sort of put this to bed? >> well, first, you make an interesting point. i suppose it's possible all those leaders in the west you were just mentioning to include the united states are somehow wrong or somehow making it up, that social media and the russians aren't taking advantage of that. i think it's pretty much a fact that throughout the west there have been these incursions, if you will, into these open societies. how to fix it, how to figh against it, that is one of the most, i think, difficult questions that we face today as open societies because what putin has figured out how to do is how to leverage open societies against ourselves. we all want the ability to get on social media. we all want the ability to
communicate freely. and what the kremlin has managed to do is insert itself into the process. how do you solve that tension between wanting to have that open communication, yet protect it against outside influences, part of it, i think, is education. if you're talking about actually voting in and of itself, part is doing the best can you to electronically protect yourself, make sure your voting systems aren't hacked into. at the end of the day i think it's going to rely primarily on governments to educate their societies and citizens to understand when news is being manipulated, when information is essentially being weaponized and that, i think, is the real challenge in the years ahead. >> we know some of the european countries are already doing that. finland apparently has a robust program to sort of educate people. well, we're going to be talking about this for a long time to come. steve hall, thank you so much. alexander nekrassov, thank you for joining me in the studio.
turning now to the trauma that continues to shake america. nowhere is the heartache and anger at the school massacre in parkland, florida, more acute, of course, than with the victims, their families, and the first responders. like the schoolgirl maddy wilford who survived multiple gunshot wounds and lieutenant ojeda who saved her life. listen to them both. >> at first sight it was believed that maddy had deceased. she looked very pale. i gave her a sternal rub. i said, hey, how old are you? no response. second sternal rub, how old are you? she came around, she told me she was 17. >> i would just like to say that i'm so grateful to be here and it wouldn't be possible without the officers and first responders and these amazing
doctors and especially all the love everyone has sent. i was sitting on my couch today just thinking about all the letters and gifts everyone has given and all the love that's been passed around. i definitely wouldn't be here without it. >> such emotional firsthand testimonials. and americans are increasingly fed up. a new polling says there is a spike amongst republicans who now support stricter gun laws though many in congress are ssimtithabt ances for action. guns are undoubtedly a central issue. my next guest says there's another aspect we're overlooking, the writer and comedian michael ian black says, quote, what do these shootings have in common? guns? yep. but also boys. girls aren't pulling the triggers. it's boys. it's almost always boys. america's boys are broken, and it's killing us. michael black joins me now from new york.
welcome to the program. thank you. >> you know, that's a really right-in-your-face statement and conclusion. all the guns are wielded by boys. but what do you mean that they're broken? what do you see and feel? >> america's boys, and this could probably be applied to boys worldwide but i'm confining my remarks to america in particular in relationship to the shooting epidemic that we have, are defined as we always have been by our masculinity. the model of masculinity that boys and the men they grow into seems to be broken, and it's having profound and devastating effects not just in these spectala viont episowe see but all across the spectrum of american life.
and i think we can -- we need to look more closely at what it means to be a boy and be a man in america and how we define masculinity. >> i just want a quote from you, yourself, what you wrote in "the new york times." many feel the very qualities that used to define them, strength, competitiveness, are no longer wanted or needed. many others never felt strong or aggressive or competitive to begin with. we don't know how to be and we're terrified. i mean, it is an important conversation to be having right now because it's true many boys/men, say they don't know how to navigate the current environment whether it's the toxicness you talk about or even whether it's the other major issues in the wake of the me too movement. just explain from your writi writing, your stand-up, your
experiences what you think they're feeling. >> i'll speak from personal experience and also as the experience of a father of a teenage son. growing up i felt and observed there was a narrow model of what it meant to be a man in the culture. and that model embraced good qualities -- strength, ambition, at times competitiveness, aggression. but it was and continues to be a narrow model and doesn't speak to the fullness of the experience of being a man. and that fullness can and should encompass all -- the full spectrum of what it means to be a human being. in the piece i talk about how feminism opened the door and changed e language for what it means to be a girl or woman. in the culture.
it greatly expanded how women viewed themselves. so now when we think of, for example, a strong woman, we don't think of a masculine woman. we think of strength as being inherent in being female. at the same time when you look at boys and men, what we don't have is commensurate language. you don't have the phrase sensitive boy or sensitive man existing in a positive way in the full spectrum of what it means to be a man or a boy. so instead those words, there are certain words that have a feminine quality to them. and what i guess i'm looking for and asking for is a decoupling in the language from this idea of femininity associated with masculinity as a negative thing or rather to say that we need a broader language for how we discuss masculinity so we can encompass these ideas. >> the british artist grayson
perry who has written a book about masculinity and about young men and adolescents, he's even more pessimistic than you are about a young man's role or their self-perception in society today. listen to what he told me about when he visits prisons and others. >> young offenders and people and i saw it was when you take away the other ways where a man could have status, he resorts to something very primal which is defending territory and competition with other men. i feel sorry for men that masculinity has become a redundant phenomenon. an architectural term that means something that used to be functional has become decorative.
>> yikes. th is a harsh indictment of how some men thinks of themselves in today's society. i don't know if you think it's that harsh. i guess the question then would be how do you channel that kind of feeling, some of the anger you talk about into relevance, into being able to discuss how you're feeling and into some kind of change in this kind of toxicity? >> i think that is the big question. for men, the way we're raised, we have really two avenues of self-expression, and they both tend to be kind of negative. withdrawal or rage. those are kind of the two socially acceptable means for men to really express themselves and neither are healthy. when we talk about masculinity, there's a kind of stoicism to it.
a kind of strength that we're meant to exhibit. and when we don't feel those things, when we don't feel stoic or strong, we don't have a language to express those things. i don't think masculinity is redundant. what i think it is is too narrowly focused. and i'm trying to figure out a way and i'm looking for help to start a conversation not to redefine masculinity but how to expand masculinity, how we make it okay to have a powerful empathy, how we have the courage to be vulnerable. those are difficult things for most men, myself included. >> well, grayson perry has his men's rights and he's talked about what you just said, the right to be vulnerable, the right to be wrong, to be
intuitive, the right to be uncertain and the right to be flexible and the right not to be ashamed of any of these. i want to just expand a little bit. melaa trump, the first lady, today spoke about social media d some of the challenges in social media but also about the children, boys and girls, who are affected at the parkland school. just listen to this for a moment. >> i have been heartened to see children across this country using their voices to speak out and try to create change. they are our future and they deserve a voice. >> i wonder whether you are impressed by the real strength of these boys and girls from the school and from around that area, what they've done to move the dial and how, in fact, president trump has shown that, you know, he's been affected by their pleas, he's moved his dial
somewhat and now the figures are changing in the country especially amongst republicans who want to see stricter gun laws. >> i'm more than impressed by these teenagers. i'm inspired. and it has been a brilliant, incredible response to yet another one of these tragedies. i don't quite know how they're finding the strength to do this. i don't quite know how they're finding their voices so easily and have such steely resolve in the face of very powerful opposition. it has been heartening, and it has given me, i feel like, courage to talk about this subject in relationship to it. i can't say i'm particularly impressed with either the first lady or the president.
the president in particular his words will always ring hollow to me until we see him actually doing something. i question his ability to be empathetic not only to these students but to anybody other than himself, and so i look for him to lead on this and to actually move the ball forward. >> michael ian black, thank you so much for joining us. and that is it for our program tonight. thank you for watching "amanpour on pbs." join us tomorrow night. "amanpour on pbs" was made possible by rosalindp. walter.