tv 2018 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books CSPAN April 22, 2018 5:29pm-7:30pm EDT
american history colluding the huntington museum that is in l.a. and they have been a great source for me with all of my great work over the years and i consulted various online archives so all of our books i'm sure are deeply rooted in pretty serious research. >> there is a difference between media and research the newspapers only tell you what we don't know without newspapers i would have no book what you need to know was what don't you know? that is where the history comes in will you find stories buried in the archives and people's memories that i read the newspaper so i get a sense of what is going on but
reporters don't know what they are being lied to so one of the characters in my book is the not see counsel and i tracked down who was born in new york and 13 when roosevelt ordered the diplomats out of the country she was american born and raised through 13 and i asked her about the story of her mother that appeared in the l.a. times and said you must've been very unhappy who could not practice and she said what are you talking about? my mother was a party girl i didn't even know my mother my brother owned of the family line choose to go to the west indies to party i was raised by our housekeeper who was my father's secret mistress where did you hear the story i said the l.a. times and she just shook her head how stupid can
these reporters be? [laughter] >> you want to answer that question? [laughter] so after many years in the business with the stupidity. [laughter] >> i have to complement bill here thank you so much for the great impressions and taking the time to come to the defense of what you do with your journalism over the years but when bill was a columnist i was working on a book of mine named twentynine palms about two girls killed by a marine and the man that was accused of killing the girls, the lawyer was subpoenaed and originally i had written about this in the magazine and they
were leaning on me to turn him over and i refused and he came to my defense in the l.a. times and that made a big difference in that two-month long courtroom bought battle one -- battle over my notes. [applause] >> thank you very much. this is a good panel i have enjoyed it. very lively i will remind you to go over to the book signing area number one and our authors will be there to sign books. thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
>> live coverage of the los angeles times festival of books continues in a half an hour we will be talking in the room in about a half an hour we will pick up the hancock building without author and invest is -- investigative journalist co-author of this book russian but. what was the investigative process into this book and how long did it take? be my first let me say as a c-span fan i am delighted to be here at the
book festival which is just an amazing, and amazing event with thousands of people here to celebrate books in all shapes and sizes and i am tremendously thrilled to be here. we started this book januar january 2017 and we spent about 13 months working on it. and our goal initially was unclear. we knew it was about but an ongoing story changing a lot. but what we thought at least at that point a lot had happened already that we had reported on already that we thought the further exploration and investigation but also a description that was not just a daily news story.
c-span viewers know this better but each day we are hit by a blast of fire hoses of information on this story so keeping everything in one spot to have a clear understanding and the scope and to put that into a dramatic narrative so in order to do that we assembled what had been reported but also proceed with new reporting with fresh facts so i don't know if you know this but getting book of the year is a pretty quick pace with 300 pages long dense with facts. so we did this 12 years ago on
the iraq war, we start reporting writing and editing immediately things we know we want, people we want to talk to, start reporting and editing like the tasmanian devil you cannot see all the motion so we used twice as many words but we did not know there are major important and then with that secret source in the kremlin then to tell the official that he had a plan for warfare against the west to undermine liberal democratic institutions we did not know about that but that is a pretty significant chunk
of the book. >> but this does not begin with president trumpet begins way back with the obama administration. >> trumps trip to moscow in 2013 we explain the origins of his romance but then we drop back and we explain basically u.s. russia relations 2008 up and tell the back and to talk about what developed as a grudge match that putin had for hillary clinton when she was secretary of state and we also get into all the warning signs the intelligence community had prior to 2016 that the russians were going to mount this type of cyberinformation war against the west and the united states of there is a lot of backdrop in understanding with trumps relationship with putin and
development of the campaign with russians in the overarching geopolitical context of why putin would feel the need to attack you mentioned president trumps back story with the russians and president putin, how significant was that? be make it rather significant for almost 30 years donald trump tried to do business in moscow and russia obviously focused
on developing a big trump tower in moscow but all the deals failed he had russian money coming into his investments in the united states funding condo properties his sons talked about how important russian investment money was but he wanted a presence in moscow and in 2013 he was a co-owner of the ms. universe contest and the opportunity was presented to hold in moscow and he jumped at it and a partner was the oligarch developer in russia who is very, very close to putin and it was very clear talking to people at ms. universe that trump saw this move to bring the ms. universe contest to russia as a steppingstone to finally getting a deal which
you kind of need to have the putin government permission to do so at least with that tacit assent but doing it in partnership with one of the biggest developers i guy clearly who didn't have the financial connections to build the tower and after the contest was over they announced they signed letter of intent that was owned in part so think about it in 2014 donald trump was in business with the russian government has nothing to do with russia. now that deal ended up collapsing in the spring of
2014 at the same time that barack obama and the administration started imposing sanctions on russia after the annexation of crimea and the military incursion into the eastern part of ukraine. in the whole world rallied against putin and russia. so then running for president a little over a year later he was opposed to sanctions. >> what does president obama know about russian involvement in the u.s. cyberworld? >> in the book using the term failure of imagination not just obama but the whole national security establishment of the cyberattack and we steal that
phrase it was used by the 911 commission to describe what happened with the 911 attack where the government had different pieces of the story even knew the assailants but could not conceive this would happen even though al qaeda affiliated terrorist have talked about such a thing. so what we discovered in the book there was a number of clear warning signs russia was interested in this attack developed in the kremlin they said watch out there is information warfare campaign from putin wanting to wage against the west, the social media aspect like facebook the facebook ads the twitter box the thousands of them and in 2014 as you just saw the russian whistleblower had gone
public but in 2015 a journalist from the new york times wrote a gigantic cover story about the internet research agency and then noted in the podcast all of those twitter bots i followed in the story, all the trolls are now trolling in favor of donald trump so that is a sign of russian military intelligence officer was overheard to say putin had a campaign to get revenge against hillary clinton so a lot of that went unconnected and then primarily that was the system overall the bits and pieces and not
informing the white house or the policymakers but something like this was a foot and they did not fully grasp that until the news came out and the e-mails were released. >> we like our stories to be neat and tidy with the beginning and an end this is not one of those. >> not yet. >> but there are so many dots and pieces out there. >> and don't think people realize the russian attack was extensive and had at least three aspects to it if you think of the hacking and the releasing of the dnc e-mails to affect the campaign directly to hurt hillary clinton and the white house became aware of that publicly there was another operation in
which they penetrated and probed the state election systems to see when the white house found out about that mid august 2016 total freak out they were really worried about the russians could mess things up totally by taking your voter registration number with the last digits and say you are not in the system so not even the results itself but then of course the whole facebook social media campaigns of each of those almost warrants a book in itself and then you have a bizarre connections between the trump world and russia. not just trump paul manafort gave $69 to a russian oligarch and offering him private briefings of the campaign? what is an intermediary?
and i guy named constantine who was a former military officer from the army. so that is just one little piece that people are familiar with the names carter page or the relationship with the propaganda and meeting with the russian ambassador jared kushner also meeting with the russian baker -- banker we wrote twice as many words on the first draft to describe everything going on. >> here is the book russian roulette milwaukee you are on booktv. >> caller: this is some peripheral but it seems like
everybody is anti- russia and i have a close friend who is in russia over 20 years and he presents a very different side of history in recent years but what i'm trying to say is nobody ever seems to speak to putin being angry at the west he did have an election a number of years ago hillary clinton said it wasn't honest so then he we did the election with cameras closely and at the polling places and one again. >> we have a lot of calls. >> i understand the point.
i'm not a hawk generally i don't want to get into a war with russia but it is undeniable that russia interfered in the election we use the word meddling or intervened or interfere really it was an attack it is the subtitle of our book the war on america and whether he is in we are not to put this type of assault or warfare is plain wrong because it gets to the fundamental foundation of our democracy if we cannot trust our elections we already live in a highly divisive political environment if we can't trust our elections then how do we deal with the policy disputes and things we need to resolve to move forward to make america a better country? i know putin has a beef but in
2011 the elections that you refer to legislative indeed were marred by fraud and abuse hillary clinton call that out and putin blamed her for the demonstrations of tens of thousands of russians believing that somehow the cia and state department orchestrated them and that was wrong if he had a beef with america about policy than there are better ways to deal with that then try to subvert our democracy which is part of the bigger mission. >> new york city go ahead. >> caller: hello. do you think it's possible that seeing the image of donald trump presented in america was getting worse and worse but to rehabilitate decided to put pressure on
north korea to talk about anti- nuclear and in order keep him as the useful idiot? or more of a tool of putin than ever because now he is the diplomat having accomplished the north korea contact. >> the organization that replaced the kgb trying to figure out where the russian united states relationship is now, donald trump who has denied more or less that the attack occurred is out there almost every day saying what is contradictory nobody is tougher on russia than he is but that is not the case last week we saw a case that his
own ambassador nikki haley said new tougher sanctions were coming then donald trump killed that and then the reporting within the last week that the last round of sanctions forced by congress detailed taking out 60 officials from the intelligence officers now the number was much higher than what germans in england had done but trump got mad and thought they were too hard. of course there was the bombing raid on syria so at times it seems like he tries not to look like he is in the back pocket of putin but that he keeps saying things and doing things indicates he might be it is tough to sort out of course congratulates putin on his victory that was
most likely a rigged election against the advice of his advisors but with north korea i don't think it is settled yet it is a great act of diplomacy north korea has made promises in the past behave behavior -- better with the nuclear program so if anything it is just the beginning but it is hard to believe that russia is able to manipulate north korea to do something that i didn't want to do but the most important player is not russia. >> a bestseller coming out in march go-ahead georgia you are on the phone. >> caller: thank you trump and hillary well-known public figures over 30 years russia had no impact at all in the election. months before the election every single media outlet if
you're going to be honest i had much more impact on the electorate i don't know how you say otherwis otherwise. >> i can't and a lot of analysts say otherwise as well this is a very close election you can identify those factors that were decisive if gone the other way the election results could have been different that revelation only ten days before election day if that had happened things could have been different if you look at hillary clinton and her decision not to campaign as much then the election could've gone a different way. there are two major points of direct interference in the campaign that we know of with
the 22000 dnc e-mails released right before the convention that took several days of the democratic coordination but it had that division and that party between bernie sanders and hillary clinton and that division never went away then fast forward to october as soon as the "access hollywood" tape is released wikileaks is dumping the e-mails but not doing it like the dnc three months earlier but putting out two or 3000 e-mails per day so for four weeks every day there are stories in the news and what the campaign did at the time as all campaign do they take the focus groups of the swing states and asked them what they were thinking about the headline and based on that
voters were looking at these headline about the e-mails thinking they were about elliott hillary clinton own e-mail server scandal when james comay said she would be indicted so for four weeks of study headlines hillary clinton e-mails that bolstered the idea to some voters that she was shifty and could not be trusted but if you talk to any political consultant they will tell you they had no clear shot to present their message or hurts the campaign and hurt her campaign for weeks on and and almost was a dark incidence teed up on the final act when congress started look again at her
e-mail controversy so it is undeniable these were important events that you cannot quantify the impact but in a race for the margin of victory was 77000 votes so i think the russians got their money's worth. >> westlake village california good afternoon go-ahead. >> david i am a big fan. have you read the democratic national committee compliance and based on your database, do you think they can prove their case? >> if the viewers don't know a couple days ago the dnc filed a lawsuit against members of the trump campaign and parts
of the russian government and intelligence service to conspire during the 2016 campaign to injure the democratic party through the hacking. i am not a lawyer occasionally i play one on tv but i try not to do that too much but i read the complaint the six pages long it is a good compilation of publicly available data there is no new information i've spoken to a few lawyers casually and my reading was in might be hard legally to connect the trump campaign to the specific act of hacking and releasing the documents for some lawyers it may not be that difficult but the aim of any lawsuit is to get past the
first set of hearings before the judge to get into discovery where you take depositions and require documents to be produced and then get more proof of your allegations. but i will take the opportunity to bring up the issue of collusion a term that i don't like it is not a legal term. so the lawsuit aims basically trying to prove conspiracy which is a legal term. but it was clear to me donald trump did not sit down with russian agents to decide which documents specifically to the dnc to put out about john podesta but we do have the campaign of 2016 with those key members of the trump campaign with don junior meeting with the russian
emissary who were told was bringing them dirt by a secret operation to harm hillar hillary. they said we will meet with you. we will take the information presumably to use that so at least they would agree to conspire with russia but throughout the rest of the campaign, trump and his attendance again and again denied the russians were doing anything trump called it a hoax the 400-pound guy sitting in the basement and when they knew the russians were trying to do something when he was briefed by the intelligence committee and was told the intelligence was there that the russians were doing all this so this is how i put it,
if you think of somebody standing in front of a bank robbing a bank while being robbed they are told the bank is being robbed but as people walk by they say there is no robbery here. nothing to see a move on. don't pay attention. in the book we call this aiding and abetting they provided cover for the russians even if they were part of the original caper it made it easier for putin to mount the attack. >> here is the book called russia to let current bestseller and i thank you for having me i love being on c-span this is great. >> two more hours of coverage from the los angeles times festival of books coming up. . . . .
[applause] >> thank you. >> you mention in your book you are raised as a tempted muslim. you converted to fundamentalist christianity during your college years and then you return to islam. you describe yourself more generally as a believer and a pantheist. at the same time your public image as the go to guy for westerners who seek to understand islam. how would you describe your engagement with and your attitude toward islam today? >> that's a big question. it's true. somehow over the past decade i have become the muslim.
it's not a position i want to be in but many religions are diverse and eclectic and by no means should anyone confuse me as the representative of islam or american islam for that matter. it doesn't really matter what religion you're talking about. religion is far more often a matter of identity than it is beliefs and practices but i think a lot of people, particularly nonreligious people, they think religion is just about the things you believe, the things you do that religious people pick up scripture and read the scripture and the scripture tells them to do do something and they go do that. that's not actually how it works.
70% of americans are christian. seven out of ten americans are christian. really? i mean really. honestly. think about that. seven out of ten americans go to church on regular basis? seven out of ten americans can tell you anything about jesus except that he was born in a manger and died on a cross? of course not. the vast majority of that seven out of ten are making a faith statement there making an identity statement. that's true regardless of what religion you talk about. for me islam is deeply a part of who i am. it's how i understand my place in the world, who i am and my relationship to the divine. it forms some of my core
values, the way that i see the world and my role in it, but i also recognize that there are many, many ways to express this religion and that there are many, many muslims who got to disagree with my expression and i'm totally cool with that. >> when i had the opportunity to review your book in the jewish journal, i pointed out that the biography of god has been written many times before. in a sense the bible is the biography of god. your book represents a quantum leap from what has been written before. that's because of your essential premise, it turns out that the compulsion to humanize the divine is hardwired into our brains which is why it has become a central feature in almost every tradition the world has ever known.
the very process that god arises in human evolution compels us consciously or not to fashion god in our own image. i think it's fair to say you have written a darwinian biography of god and i want to ask how and why is the belief in a deity and evolutionary advantage for homo sapiens. >> okay. it turns out that it's not. here's the thing that was really interesting for me. this began with me trying to get to the origins of the experience. where is the concept of god arise, how did it evolve. what we know is that the religious impulse, religion
is, if relying solely on the material evidence at hand, maybe 14000 years old. the religious impulse predates homo sapiens. we have religious impulse so the impulse that is this notion, this belief that we are more than just our material selves, that there is something about us that is eternal, then we'll just use the word soul to talk about that because we all know what were talking about. there is something beyond the material realm. the idea is older than we are as a species. and it's universal. it's an idea that has arisen in every culture, and all parts of the world throughout
all time. this creates a bit of an evolutionary puzzle for scientists because if something like that is universal, if it can be traced back to even before species existed then it must be some reason for it. there must be some evolutionary adaptive advantage for this impulse to be so deeply a part of the human condition. for most of the last 200 years we've been trying to answer what is that advantage. there have been countless answers given. we been told it gives a sense of social cohesion and if you have social cohesion you're more likely serv to survive in groups that don't have that but we know that doesn't work very well because our primitive ancestors created
their collective identity not by rallying around the set of abstract symbols but through kinship and blood. that created the adaptive advantage. it solves certain ministries, it helps us to understand the world. that may or may not be true but there is no evidence that that creates an adaptive advantage at all. in fact, for the most part, what most evolutionary scientists have come to recognize about the religious impulse is that it is an evolutionary does advantage. in terms of the cost of time and resources and energy, all things that are better served trying to survive that if anything the religious impulse in is a disadvantage in our evolution. then the big mystery is why
does it exist. if you are a believer, the answer is because it does. it exist because it does. there's a god and god created us and that's who we are and were meant to be the way we are. there is a thing in our brain that forces us to look for the other, the transcendent, the divine, however you want to define it. if you are not a believer, then the best answer that we have come up with is that it's an accident. but it's an evolutionary byproduct of some other adaptive advantage that arose deep deep in our past. there are a couple of possibilities about what those things are.
one of those things is the hyperactive agency detective thing in our brain that arises very early in our evolution that forces us to see agency in natural phenomenon. the best way i can put it is that the aj dd is the reason you think every bump in the night is caused by someone doing the pumping. that's what that is. obviously can see why that has revolutionary advantages. it's easy to see why someone is bumping and survive and to be wrong and it's fine. the other culprit is something that theorists refer to the theory of mind. that is that thing that snaps on in your brain, sometimes around three in half, four, five months when you start to realize that other beings who look like you feel like you,
that other people have the same emotions, same idea, same thoughts that you have. those are both evolutionary adaptations, according to some theorists as an accident or a byproduct that was never intended created this impulse toward belief in and then fill in the blank. the supernatural or the divine or transcendent or the immaterial or the soul. however you want to talk about it. literally take sides in the argument. i am a believer. i believe in god and so i believe the human condition is designed in such a way for us to have more than just this
material experience. that the fullness of the human condition involves recognizing that this is not it, that your empirical senses are not human were to understand the reality of the world. there is a transcendent reality. i happen to believe that but there's no proof either way. have to say, anyone who tells you they can prove that one way or another is just trying to convert you. you can just ignore them. >> and went to stay with this intriguing cognitive mechanism called the hypersensitive agency detection device. one of the most haunting moments in human history is when you conjure a real-life
version of the biblical eve who notices a tree in the forest with a trunk that has grown into the shape, a shape that resembles the human face and you describe, she transforms the tree into a totem, an object of worship. she may bring it offerings, she may even start praying to it for help in letting her prey, thus religion is born all be it by accident and you explain in the book as you've explained on the stage that this detection device is meant to detect human agency and hence a human cause behind any unexplained event. what i'm going to ask is isn't it counterrevolutionary to transform the face in the tree trunk which actually exists in the here and now into something otherworldly or to follow your praising, if there's something that goes bump in the night, maybe it's
a real material threat and if you dismiss it as a supernatural being you are depriving yourself of a defense against a real threat. >> i think that's just it. what cognitive theorists would say is the device forces you to pay attention to something you would otherwise ignore. the knots on a tree that look like a face. you might just ignore it but you are evolutionary adaptive to notice it and that's one fight or flight starts so you can react to it in case of the predator. once you realize it's not that's one theory of mine takes over according to these cognitive theorists. here's the thing that's absolutely fascinating. as i said, it's that thing in your cognitive development that makes you realize that someone who looks like you also feels the way you do.
it's an empathy device. what's amazing about it is research has shown that we will apply the same emotional connection to an object that may display some human characteristics but is not human. you can see this in very young children. if you give a small child a car, what she will do is imagine the headlights our eyes and the grill is a mouth and the call the car fred. the child knows the car is a hunk of plastic that there's a fundamental difference between the car and mom. they are not the same thing. but because the car exhibits certain human characteristics like a face or like the
strongest version of this is bipedal motion, something that exhibits bipedal motion, we just naturally are cognitively attuned to implant on that nonhuman thing human emotions, human motivations, human characteristics, and because the one fundamental thing that we know about ourselves and this again as part of our evolutionary adaptation is that we have a soul that the concept of the soul is the universal ideal. it's actually a credible researcher named justin just
down the road who has done enormous research on this and has discovered that children, regardless of where they are from, regardless of whether they come from religious families or not, that children are born with an innate concept of the belief that body and mind, and you can replace the word mind with soul, you can call it psyche, you can call it buddha nature work she, you can call it whatever you want but we all know what we mean when we say that. that body and mind are separate and distinct. it turns out that's the distinct that we are born with. it's a believe that we have to unlearn and the reason for that happens to be because of these cognitive processes that are going on. so in this particular case the example that i use is that eve sees a tree, she freezes because she thanks it's a face and turns out it's not a face but now she recognize it has something that looks like a face. she may accentuate that phase or start to give that tree certain human traits because
it has certain human characteristic of the most important trait she gives it is a soul or spirit because that's what she has. the theory is that out of this experience is born tens of thousands of years later what we would refer to as religion. again, it's a pretty good theory, there's no way of proving it and it's as good a theory as we are meant to think this way and it's just sort of up to you which one you think makes more sense. >> i would like to frame a question in terms of a public event in a private event. i heard a passenger on the southwest flight where the engine blew up describe how he addressed a prayer to god, we are going to need you to send
us some angels now. on that same day, a dear friend of mine during his 13-year-old son who died in a traffic accident. god did not send any angels to save that child. this of course is the fundamental theological puzzle but as i learned for my wife and who is here and a psychotherapist, you might say that both of them were engaging in magical thinking and in the realm of psychology, magical thinking is dysfunction. do you allow for the fact that religion, or the proposition that religion encourages and incense magical thinking. >> that's a very old and quite common critique of religion. in fact, it goes all the way back to freud and the concept that what religion is is basically a means of
alleviating anxiety, the anxiety of the human condition, which by the way is a good reminder that freud knows ship about religion because religion is not an anxiety relieving mechanism. it's an anxiety creating mechanism. that's what it is. but nevertheless, what i am more, what i'm less interested in is the idea of magical thinking and religion as the face of psychosis. what i'm more interested in is the way both of those individuals, their conception of the divine and what the divine should or should not do, how the divine should or should not act in any situation is wholly predicated on the knowledge of themselves in other words what they have done, and this goes back deep into our evolutionary cognitive past, if this is how
the very concept of god arose in human evolution and it's only natural that once we start to really begin to actualize the divine, when it's not just an impulse in our brain but when we start to actualize the divine and start to create images of the divine , when we begin to write stories in which the divine is a character we cannot help but to fashion the divine to look exactly like us with a head and arms to be so distinguishing characteristic that sets us apart. maybe it is bigger than we are or has wings or some supernatural powers. it's a human with supernatural powers but that's what it is.
only begin writing about it we have no choice but to put the divine in a narrative that would act in a way we would act. when we are in a place of want or worry or existential angst, whether we are believers or not, when we begin to strive for some kind of supernatural or divine help, when we begin to have that experience of transcendence, whether it's deliberate or involuntary, we have no choice. we really cannot help it but to immediately put ourselves, our own personalities, our own
wants and desires and likes and dislikes, everything upon that god can then expect that god to respond to us as if that god were us. and that is basically all of human religion in a nutshell. there is a way to have a deep meaningful, spiritual experience without personifying although, the fact of the matter of humanizing god allows for a much deeper connection with the divine, obviously. if your god thanks and acts just like you do it creates a pretty close bond between you
and god. it allows for deep spiritual experience. the problem, obviously is that that god also carries your prejudices and your biases and everything that is awful about you. you construct a god that has all your good and bad points pretty god that is superhuman with no human limitations, but whicwith human flaws, and that, more than anything else in my opinion, explains why religion has been a force for both good and bad. i think if you dehumanize god, if you strip god of this personality that you've confronted and think of god less of a divine personality and more as this creative force was that you can tap into that underlies all of creation, that is all of creation, you can have the same kind of spiritual connection but without all that negative baggage that so
often comes with belief in god. >> you write in your new book, and i'm quoting, that you choose to believe that there is something beyond the material realm, something real, something knowable. but you also say, and i believe you said here today that faith is a choice. no one knows better than you and let's recall that the greek word of heresy is. [inaudible] i pointedly say judaism, christianity and islam all insist that any choice but the choice they've made is the radical. do believe true belief is really a deadly enemy of choice. >> true belief maybe is the wrong word for it, but i do
think that this unthinking, exclusive claim to truth that you get from fundamentalism is most definitely an enemy of choice. i do truly believe that faith is fundamentally a choice. i think some of us have this argument about whether faith is rational or not. of course it's not rational. it's not supposed to be rational. it's an emotion. that's what it truly is. it depends on your experiences, your worldview and like all those emotions, it simply can't be explained in these rational ways.
you cannot just reason over love. it's an emotion. it doesn't always make sense, it has everything to do with who you are as an individual and yet very few people would demand proof of love. i can easily disprove your love and that's absurd. if you give -- if you have someone in your life like that you should probably run away. you hear that about faith all the time. partly it has to do with i think, what is an unquestionable fact which is whatever faith is, whatever it is, however you want to define it, it is the result of
complex electrochemical reactions in your brain. that's what it is. i don't know why that has to threaten your faith. of course faith exists in your brain. everything exists in your brain. everything. every experience you have ever had, this experience right here is a result of electrochemical relat reactions in your brain so why would faith be any different. to say that we know the mechanism whereby the faith experience can be had, and therefore the faith experiences no longer legitimate is absurd. we know the exact mechanism whereby the love experience is had. we know that the chemical reaction in your brain. does that delegitimize the emotion? does it devalue the object of your love? of course not. it's all in your brain. because of that people simply
say that we don't need take it seriously anymore. if we don't need to take it seriously anymore than we don't need to take any emotion seriously anymore. >> i feel compelled to quibble on one point, and it reflects back on something about love. i would agree that everything we receive we perceive in our brain but this exists outside our brain or something exists outside our brain. how do you distinguish between that thing that exists outside of perception which can be proven by experiment and nothing that we describe as god which we can never prove.
>> the trick is a talk about multiple observers. when i leave this room do you all cease to exist : maybe, i can prove that you don't. if that's how we prevent, face still works because it has multiple observers. let's get out of this mode. i'm not interested in the question of whether god exists. that's a question that is personal, subjective and a choice. i am interested in what we mean when we say god and more often than not what we mean
voice a god is ourselves, a divine version of ourselves and that's what i think is problematic whether you're a believer or no not. >> one of the ironies in your book is that two of the three great monotheism's family condemn and prohibit the depiction of god in any form, human or otherwise uneven christianity had its iconoclast before the protestant reformation and the protestant reformation strip to the churches of imagery. how do you reconcile the fact that our drive to humanize the deity seems to coexist with three great religions that to 1 degree or another command is not to do that. >> in fact, i think the case of islam is the best example of this. islam has a very strict rule
about humanizing god, about thinking of god in human terms. in fact, islam is one of only a very small handful of religions in the history of religion that doesn't explicitly claim that human beings were created in god's image. islam doesn't believe that. part of the reason why is because the concept of god has to be utterly unhuman. whatever god is, it's not human. that's what god is. and yet, even in that incredibly iconoclastic religion, when you read the koran there are multiple versus in which it talks about god's all seeing eyes and his loving hands and it refers to god in these deeply anti-
arctic ways. the proper response would be that it's poetry, obviously were supposed to read it as metaphor, that's clearly what is being said here. otherwise, if we take it literally then we are denying the single most important restriction in islam which is the restriction toward anti- [inaudible] i should talk about why this is such a big deal. it's not just because we want to see what god looks like but to do so is to limit god and limiting god -ish the greatest sin of islam. any limit on god. if you think of god in human terms then by definition you are limiting god. if you say god has two hands, will why not three, why not a hundred. why not 10000. why would you only have two hands. and why hands? all of that gets you into this
theological problem which is why there this this blanket prohibition on it. the problem is that most muslims, because of the way that islamic authority in the schools of law have sort of codified certain versions of islam, most of read the koran in its figurative sense. from the very beginning you have these great islamic thinkers and theologians who confronted with this massive oxymoron, number one, you are not allowed to describe god in human terms. number two the koran describes god in human terms. what you supposed to do about that and the answer was, it's none of your business. if it doesn't make sense, just move on. and so, what i find very fascinating about that
conflict is that it's really out of that conflict and that the particular branch of islam that i adhere to a rose because there was a group of mystics who said there's a problem here, the central paradox can't continue. we can't at one time say god is fully divine unity and has no human shape or form whatsoever, can't be limited by any means and at the same time we have to read the quran literally when it says that god has hands, that we can't abide by that. this new religious movement arose out of islam, by the way it wasn't new in a lot of ways. it tapped into jewish mysticism and hindu end catholic mysticism and the scripture and the religion and its authority in a completely new and different way.
>> would you agree that christianity provides the proof text for your argument about humanizing god because although theologians speak of the mystery of the trinity, one third of the trinity is god becomes flash. is that an example of the phenomenon you're describing in your book. >> yes, and the mystery of the trinity, the mystery of any faith statement is another way of saying don't worry about it. just look over there, the problem with the trinity is that the church fathers themselves realized that it made absolutely no sense whatsoever, that you cannot have a unified conception of god that can then divide into other forms and still have a unified conception of god. all of these gymnastics that
have been used in order to explain it away don't explain it away which is why, as i write in the book for the first three or 400 years of christianity, monotheistic christianity was an outlier, there's two different gods, yahweh and jesus and adjust -- it just doesn't make any sense. that was one of the primary way until the third century in which christianity spread. the problem with christianity go away. the believe that jesus and only jesus is god and i think
part of the reason why christianity is the most successful religion in the world and part of the reason why figure will continue to be the most successful religion in the world is because it has allowed us to fully surrender to this cognitive impulse. we are all born with this natural inclination to humanize the divine whether you believe in the divine or not. atheists do this as much is the most fervent lever does. when you ask an atheist if you believe in god will say no and then you say what you mean by god and they begin to describe themselves. everyone does this. what christianity does is it says do you want to know what god is? do you want to know what this greatest ministry in the universe, do you want to know what god is? imagine the most perfect
person. that's god. imagine the most perfectly loving, perfectly kind, perfectly compassionate human being. that's god. that is a profoundly potent way of thinking about something that is beyond human thinking. but it does more than anything else all it allows us, i discarded has scratching a cognitive itch. that's kind the key to it. and, i think for a lot of people it creates that very deep bond that people want with the divine. if there is a god, but whatever god is, the holy other, how my supposed to know this, it was just a person who lived 2000 years ago and more
importantly i can craft that person into anyone that i want that person to be. i can think of jesus as a radical, social reformer to the for the poor and the dispossessed against the powerful and the strong or i can just as easily think of that person as a middle-class small business owner who really hated taxes. why? because that's who i am. this is the thing. couple years ago you remember when making kelly said, i believe her exact words were it is a fact that both jesus and santa claus were white. let's give that woman her own nbc show. my response, forget about santa claus, but my response to her was yes, she's right,
her jesus is white because she's white. if you go to ethiopia, jesus is black. if you go to kyoto, jesus is japanese. if you ever get a chance to go to nazareth, to the church in nazareth, they actually have this incredible display of paintings of jesus sent from all over the world and that's all you need to see is the way in which jesus takes on not just the characteristics and personality, but literally the race of the person who worships him. the jesus that they have their from thailand is blue because that's the way in which divine supernatural figures in mythology are often expressed. that to me is the true power of christianity. >> one way to describe what's
happening in syria is that russia, and eastern orthodox country are supporting a regime against various sunni nations in both the united states and israel are playing a role in that fight. another way to look at the same picture is to say that religious affiliation on all parts is just a veneer and what's really at stake is raw, global geopolitics. i feel like you have prefigured your answer but my question is which of these two views do you favor? >> was happening in syria is what happens so often in human history, not just in contemporary history, but throughout human history which is that we have chosen to play a game over power and resources on the lives of
hundreds of thousands of innocent people. to say that it's about religion or about ethnicity is to betray the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people as a result of the conflict there. sorry, when i talk about syria, i get very tongue-tied because it's a situation in which we are all, in one way or another, directly responsible for what is happening there. this is geopolitics at its worst and part of the reason why i get a little bit hesitant and choked up is because i don't see an answer to it. i don't know a way out.
maybe if you asked me this question in 2011 i might've had an answer but i don't have an answer in 2018. that's all i have to say about that. >> and then ask one more question and then we will go to the floor so if you have a question prepared, you might want to get ready to raise your hand and i'll call for questions. my final question is one that i would ask if we were having a cup of coffee, i have been reading observers who say that what is happening on the ground and literally in the air in syria is a literal battle and not merely a surrogate battle between israel and iran. you feel we will see an israel iran war in the middle east? >> no i don't. definitely don't see a hot war between iran and israel because neither side has anything to gain. what i am worried about, however is a war between iran and saudi arabia. i think that's where the true geopolitical line are being
divided in that region. unfortunately, with this administration, and with the charade that is underway right now with the new saudi crown prince who is leader in all but name, this man just finished like a week long tour of the united states. did anybody notice this thing? he was here in hollywood, he had thomas freedman basically worshiping him because he got a nice lamb meal out of it. anyone know what that was all about. he's on the cover of "time" magazine. this man who is responsible for a genocide that is taking place in yemen, who is personal responsible for a genocide in yemen.
he just left france a little while ago and president macron, our liberal hero, he said what he sees in mbs is the true spirit of the french revolution. someone smartly said, is it because of the beheadings? is that what you see this connection. saudi arabia, iran is a terrible tyrannical authoritarian regime that regularly denies the rights of its citizens, oppresses religious minorities, and supports terror groups around the region. true. i got that out of the way. saudi arabia, our best friend, being led by the man who was brought from coast-to-coast in this country and the funding
of ridiculous profiles written by these journalists who just basically fell all over themselves around him, saudi arabia is a jacksonian, authoritarian backward kingdom that slaughters its own people, that denied them the basic right, but might very soon allow women to drive, so therefore he is this great reformer all the sudden. we are being fed lies by the saudi regime and the millions upon millions of dollars they have spent on american pr and advertising firms in order to get us to believe those lies. the real conflict in the middle east is between iran and saudi arabia, that's what's happening in saudi, that's what's happening in syria and lebanon and even in
yemen. nevertheless, i think unfortunately this particular administration, in taking such an explicitly pro- saudi line is called would is inflaming the possibility of an actual war between these two countries, not the cold war. i'm not afraid of israel and iran going to war, i'm afraid of iran and saudi arabia going to wea war. >> we will go to the floor for questions. wait to economic front. >> think you for all of your insight. could you talk a little bit about the irony of unscrupulous individuals throughout history who are affluent, weapon rising the actualization of god, i get the direct probation.
>> so that's a really important question because this entire time, mostly what i've been talking about is a religious impulse. this impulse toward the divine, toward transcendence, toward the other, however you want to specify it, but religion itself is a man-made institution, literally. people with penises. maine made institution, and like any man-made institution, it is fundamentally about authority and power, that's why it exists. the very first temples that we created for the gods were meant to house the gods away from the prying eyes of everyone else. that only the priests could actually enter into these sanctuaries, the priest would direct and watch the gods, they would literally put makeup on the gods and then
occasionally they would remove the gods from the home and take them out to everyone else could see them and immediately put them back where they belonged. it's all about who has access to god and so, it shouldn't come as a surprise that for the ten, 12, many years that we can say institutionalized religion exists that has always been wrapped up in power and money and control and authority, that's what all institutions eventually boil down too. i do think it's important to understand that faith is much bigger than religion. they are not the same thing. religion is a language. it's a language made up of symbols and metaphors that allows a community of faith, of like-minded people to
communicate. they can communicate to themselves and to each other this ineffable experience of faith. it's nothing more than that. faith is much bigger, much more mysterious and cannot be contained by anyone language. as long as you recognize that you are much better off knowing the difference between the man who wears the shiny robes and has all the power and money and the person in the pew there to experience another way of being, another mode of knowing. >> okay. the young lady with the sunglasses. >> i was wondering what draws you specifically to this as
opposed to any other religion or branch. >> what i think, there are very specific theological things that draw me too it, but fundamentally, i think the difference between mystics and mystical movements within any religion and the more mainstream orthodox virgin of those religion is that mystics think of religion as a signpost to god. that what religion does is it points you toward god. it's the path that you take in order to get to god, but mystics are interested in the path, they're interested in the destination. they're not interested in the signpost, they're interested in getting there. they're not interested in knowing about god, they're interested in knowing god by experiencing god directly, and
often times what happens is that as a result of that fundamental desire, the way that religion is a shell and you have to break through that shell in order to actually experience god. as a result of that, they tend to reject authority because the authority is the mediator, the person in between you and god and the mystic has interest in the person in between you and god. they tend to reject law and doctrine, there are dues and don'ts and if you do these things you can get closer to god and if you don't, then you are further from god, mystics have no interest in that kind of idea. the very concept of dualism, right and wrong, good and bad, these are human constructs for they have nothing to do with the divine.
also, mystics tend to be interested in a different kind, a different level of scripture. they see scripture as a kind of, almost like a secret code, like a thing to break through, it's more than just the words and the external meeting that there is a hidden internal meaning that allows for the ultimate goal which is to become one with the divine. the reason i subscribe to this sufi form is because it goes back to the language. it's the language, the metaphors, the symbols that i'm most comfortable with. my favorite quote is something
the buddha one said which is if you want to draw water you don't dig 614 well you dig one six-foot well. islam is my six-foot well. what the buddha was trying to say quite clearly is that it doesn't matter which well you choose, the water is the same, but you should choose a well because that helps you actually reach the water. the symbols, the metaphors, the language, it's helpful, it makes a difference, it helps you put words to your thoughts and your emotions, and especially when you're talking about something as abstract and unknowable as the divine, you need a metaphor for it. pick a metaphor. jesus is a pretty good metaphor. but understand that it's just a metaphor. the different ways in which we talk about god are just
nothing more than languages. so don't confuse the language for the thing itself. don't confuse the well for the water. that's what i would say. >> the german in the back in the middle. >> thank you very much. as an alumni and professor, welcome back to our campus. you had a beautiful series of believer on cnn. it participated in each world practices. what is your single most important lesson that you learn from this? can you encapsulate that in light of what you said. >> thank you for that. i love that question because it has very much to do with exactly what i was a single moment ago. the reason i wanted to do that show is that i wanted to take viewers on an experience, i wanted to show you something
that at first glance looked weird and scary and foreign and exotic and so beyond anything you have actually felt or thought whether you're a believer or not. then, hopefully through my immersion into that community, through me acting as a linguist, as kind of a translator, that i would teach you the language, i would teach you the symbols in the metaphors, and by the end, hopefully you would realize that's not that weird, actually, and i kind of believe something close to that. i think that was the thing i was most proud of, is how often people came up to me and said, i never thought about it that way. i never thought about voodoo in that way.
operably the most interesting one was scientology. everybody in this town has an opinion on scientology, but do you actually know what it is? we know obviously the corruption and the abuses of the church, but a religion isn't a church. there are more than a billion catholics. you can't just say oh because of the pedophilia scandal than all those billions of catholics are all somehow responsible for those crimes. and so, that was the when i thought was very interesting, people had the hardest time with and the hardest time admitting to me that oh, well i guess it's not that weird or it's not any weirder than any other religion. that's the thing. having people sometimes
dismiss scientology because they say well it's just, it's all science fiction and my response is, have you read the bible? >> to have time for one more question? the gentleman. [inaudible] >> i was wondering, could you talk about the role of women in connection with god and also in connection with islam, especially early islam because a lot of times people don't understand the role of women in early islam. : : :
gods of the sky, the sun and the moon and the rain and stars those are the god that guided us in large part. we outlined very clearly when men were responsible for the majority of the nourishment and prehistoric paleolithic community because women were primarily gatherers in the vast majority of the food for a community and the men were primarily behind her i the huntt exclusively but primarily. the deities were primarily fatherly and male deities and the structure was patriarchal.
we swapped the steers and became an agricultural society and suddenly the earth deities began to matter the most and was very much a scene as analogous to the fertility of women suddenly the female deities began to rise to the surface and women began to enjoy a far higher level in society because of the sudden dominance of the female deities. but then because once we began to settle for good and those experiments became mass farming and once we decided they need homes so we start building houses for them and carving them and placing them in those houses
and suddenly everything changed again and it was the men who once more began to dominate the sort of religion in the male deities started to become prominent once more to the. it's not about religion or faith, the divine has no gender and faith is genderless. this is about control and we live in primarily societies that are dominated and controlled by
men. it's to the male-dominated religious societies this is true of islam, christianity, buddhism, hinduism both to be the most religious traditions. the women have begun to essentially sees the authority back to themselves so we no longer have to wait for some man to read the scripture for you and tell you what it means to.
those women have an opportunity to create actual religious movement from actual churches and mosques and synagogues that preach this uniquely feminine interpretation of the scripture and interpretation that has been woefully i think absent throughout most of religious history. signing area number one where we will be shortly to find a copy please join me in thanking him for a fabuloufor afabulous conv. [applause]
you are watching the tv on bookn c-span2, television for serious readers. this is liv has live coverage oe los angeles times festival of books. this is day two and we have been on the air for six, seven, eight hours and we have one more to go. we have set out here on the university of southern california next to the c-span bus and we want to introduce you to the author roger simon. he's written a series of novels and turning right at hollywood and vine and the perils of coming out conservative in tinseltown and here is his most recent book called i know best
how moral narcissism is destroying the republic if it hasn't already. want to let you know also that he's a hollywood screenwriter. he was nominated for an oscar for his best adapted screenplay enemy is a love story and also the cofounder and ceo of pj media. first of all, what is pj media? >> guest:. it was an amalgamation of blogs for the response to dan rather is lying about the bush national guard situation.
he was managing editor or supervisor that called us amateurs for attacking this dishonesty so we decided to form a media company. but he didn't bother to look it up before he attacked us but that's normal because that's what most people do when they attack that is wha but that is d and then it evolved over the years but it's when i was hoping to form it as a media company on the right and left of dialogue between both sides but that fell apart.
it became a center-right i consider myself i guess a libertarian. i don't like definitions much, but that's what happened and now it's a media company reporting and giving opinions on all things the national review does. >> host: what a lot of people considered it a so-called conservative news site? >> despite the honest intention of trying to do the impossible which in our culture today doesn't exist. >> you heard of the book that came out called turning right on hollywood and vine in tinselto tinseltown. were you not always a conservative/libertarian?
>> guest: not at all. you are looking at one of the original financiers of the black panther party. i was pretty far on the left. i might be the living embodiment of that. if a man is not a liberal he has no heart or has no brain. whatever the quote was, people livpeoplelived a lot shorter, bt the idea. >> i am more of a 9/11 person. >> so it impacted your politics. walk us through. >> guest: slightly impacted by the o.j. child. here in la it was a gigantic deal that took over the city as
people remember. i went to the trials and so forth and it disturbed me to see someone getting off for racial reasons because back when i was in the movement i believe integration was a kind of turned tribalism. that didn't change me that much but just disturbs me. and when 9/11 hit, to this day i am pro- gay marriage. marry whoever you want, just have a good lawyer.
so i started blogging at the same time because i am an early adopter i grew up around all kinds of technical staff so i started to blog earlier because i had a novel coming out from simon and schuster. i noticed simon and schuster once and promoting the book very well. i had been an officer for a long enough time i decided i would blog to push the book to one of the author cites but i started tas old as my opinions and it took off like crazy. it took off because i was going
through this political change and i was being honest about it and a lot of people at that time were talking in 2003 going through a change like that and a few remember the post 9/11 period, there was a great deal of unanimity where people said what is happening here. but then he lost reverted to where they were before the. i didn't fully explain myself because i think people are mysterious and why they believe what they do. i think that it's the theme of my life going forward whether it is fiction, film or nonfiction. >> host: did you lose work? >> guest: i lost friendships, parts of my family.
it's a terrible thing. it's gone on in this country all over the place. thanksgiving is not what it used to be. describe what happened in hollywood being a conservative in hollywood what is the reaction? >> guest: it took me a while to realize how bad it was. turn right at hollywood and vine but you know either way i think they should just express what they feel.
when anybody wants to bite eachh other's head off it's crazy. it took me a while to hear back from my agent and manager and it was interesting because he was fairly sympathetic to what i was saying. it's like mount rushmore so were they going to do to you and most people are not that. is there a code of
at the same time there are giant audiences. stockholders of these companies should be a little annoyed. >> host: since you've been identified as a conservative libertarian or as you put in your book i'm a libertarian neocon. in a certain sense such a thing could not exist. i resolve the contradiction this way i made libertarian and interventionist. >> guest: the thing about oaks is the lag time and i'm less interventionist than when i wrote that so for example, trump did the right thing. he didn't go very far which is good. he made it clear we don't like
guessing people. i'm very much in the libertarian camp because i think that change comes from the people themselves and pulling themselves up. since you've come out as a conservative, how has your work changed? >> guest: a lot of the people i worked with dyed. my great collaboration is over. he would say to our friends i don't know what happened i think he is dead.
the day that he died i was with him in the room, not exactly where it happened, but an hour or two before and we were very close. some people were not able to get past the fact. it's not just hollywood. something very bad has happened. i also think of the famous narcissism of small differences. people don't like trump because he's loud and mouthy but what has he actually done? k-kilo word taxes a little bit. he's negotiated with north korea for the first time. that's pretty good. the reality of it and what people attack him for our
different planets but that's not to say that right is pure. they are not. we are living in a bifurcated culture. in the history of civilization, things couldn't be better. it's pretty strange. >> host: good afternoon and welcome. this is the last segment from the festival. screenwriter, author, founder roger simon. we want to put the phone lines up to participate in the program 202, we are talking about conservatives in hollywood and political opinions and we will explore is a little bit more. (202)748-8200 in the east and
central time zones. 748-8201 for those in the mountain and pacific time zones. mr. simon, most recent book as i know best how narcissism is destroying the republic if it hasn't already. in the book you've spent quite a bit of time identifying what you consider to be moral narcissism. >> guest: is how so many identify themselves as good because of what they believe and not what they do in other words as long as you say the right things, what is accepted as the right thing, the results whether they are good or bad or immaterial you see that everywhere. we are in a country that has so
many moral narcissists. lately, saying i am an undocumented worker, baloney. he is the son that has more documents than thomas jefferson. what are you talking about. but that is moral narcissism and people came up with a book that is similar but it was a moral narcissists does. what that does is established in my book nomenclature who live in
the society stalin was called comrade because he has a list of all the people and now we have an immediate politics george stephanopoulos according to what they are supposed to think and therefore become more to that class. if the entire solution is a narcissistic idea because there was no collusion and they are the worst detectives on the history of the planet. it feels like it's been going on for a century with n no anger whatsoever.
we all saw it on television he went over and said vladimir after the election i will be easier on missiles. there are lots of things we could say about trump but that's not one of them, but the moral narcissism meant you have to thinhad tothink a certain way tr the entire media, cnn, cnbc, "new york times," "washington post" even the front pages of the journal spent the last year investigating something that wasn't in existence. it's not there. i used an interesting line in the book from oscar hammerstein who is a great writer and one of
happened in the recent years we went back because people have nostalgia. i hate to use that word, they have a nostalgia to feel self-righteous about this is bad, this is good. but the onlthe only open answero forget about it. when i see that to some people they say you can't forget about it. but the more you create an interesting phenomenon where as if you just say there's nothing more multicultural than los angeles can see it right here in the crowd around us. let it be just to forget about it. when i see black wives matter i think that isn't helping anything. it's really not. and the whole thing about there being the return that's 250.
you know how big this country is, 330 million. the. the answer is not to give them attention but that's why this recent starbucks incident is something where i think no. most people are good about it. when i was running the media and hiring people a lot if a person of color or minority or wh or wr came in, i was happy. i wanted to feel like a good guy to hire them and that isn't fair to the other and i understand that, but that's the way most people are and they should be accepted. i was on the