tv KQED Newsroom PBS May 26, 2019 5:00pm-5:31pm PDT
♪ -next, a "kqed newsroom" special, revisiting some of our favorite conversations with authors... -each step along the way, they comprompled the safety of the pusing the product. -...from an insider's account of facebook's privacy scandals -i thought i wanted to exist. i didn't want to just be invible. -most people you know... -plus, a journalist exposes what he says are the hidden motivations of wealthy philanthropists out to change the world... -those very same people are monopolizing pro in america. -...while the man behind "the onion" uses satire to pokesfun at tech billiona hello. i'm thuy vu. welcome to a special edition of "kqed newsroom" featuring authors whose writings have sparked debate, discussion, and, at times, controversy. one local company that's no stranger to controversy is facebook.
more than 2 billion people around the world log on to facebook to do everything from sharing vacation photos ew to scrolling throughfeeds and streaming live events, but its explosive growth has come at a pre -- data breaches nsfecting tens of millf users, and misinformation campaigns to influence national elections have prompted hearings on capitol hill and a public backlash against the tech giant and its ceo, mark zuckerberg. w a book by an early facebook investor suggests regulation may be theway to preserve privacy and protect the personal data that is key to tpany's growth and profits. joining me now is the author of "zucked," venture capitalist roger mcnamee. nice to have you here. -thuy, it's a pleasure. -you were an early advisor to marzuckerberg and also, later, an investor, and you write about how in 2006, you advised him not to sell the company for $1 billion because you thought ite company could achievmission much better by staying independent. what d feel facebook was back then? -i thought mark had found the holy grail
for creating a large network of peopl who want to interact with each other. he was the first social networ to come along that required authenticated identity. myspace anndster and the predecessors hadn't done that and had quickly been orrun by trolls, but with authenticated identity, as large as google was at that time, and it would be... -you thought it could be a force for good. -oh, totally a force for good. -and what about now? what do you think of facebook now? -well, what basically happened was they discovered it was possible to build a network that connected the whole world, and i think thategas mark's goal at thening, as well, but along the way, they discovered that if tt rid of authenticated identy as a requirement, if ty y relaxed all the privttings that they had in the early days, they would grow a lot faster, and they -- at each step along the way, thpromised the safety of the people using the product in order to get the bigger and bigger growth and more and more profit, and in the end, the real miracle
is thapethey got to 2 billiole on the network before warted to see the problems. i mean, it's a real tribute to how smart and clever they were. -butthe problems they're facing now, right, with data privacy, how they handle user data, the example of facebook, as the technology has evolved, it doesn't seem that mark zuckerberg seems willing to let go of the assumption that everyone will use and view facebook the way he do. -yeah. -so is it possible for him to soln' the problems if he change his thinking along with the way the product has changed? -thuy, this is exactly the issue, and it's not just mark it's not just facebook. the thing i discovered -- i began -- because i s so close to faceboo and i saw the issues first there, i thought originally it was just an issue being done to facebook. what it really is is something that affects all internet platforms that aan based on advertising attention, so google and instagram and youtube and twitter and snapchat are all affected, and after a llile, you think you knowhe answers
and other people don't. the mistakes that were madeere, in my opinion, are forgivable. what i'm having trouble with is the resistance to change in the face of incontrovertible evidence. we know for certain that there are issues with public hlth. there are issues with democracy. there are issues with privacy. and there are issues with competition and innovation. and to google and instagram and the rest, it's harmful to society and it's harmful to everybody. -so if these companies continue to be resistant, as you say, what is the solution here? do you think they should be rulated, and if so, what should that regulation look like? -one of the questions we needp is, there are business practices that take place in our society that we have accepted without thought -- one is that companies that collect our data are allowed to sell it to anybody they want or trade it to others as facebook would do. for example, why is it reasonable for people to collect our credit-card transaction data and sell it to somebody else?
i think we need to have a debate on that. same thing for geolocation data from cellphones. why ishat legitimate? why should it ever be legitimate to gather data on minors, people under 18? this is a debate we need to have. we also need to have antitrust regulation to createpace for an alter mtive vision to come ket. these guys, they're behaving like monopolists, and they're blocking all competitors from coming in. -so you support regulation? -i do. and what i really want to see, though, thuy, at is i want to see regns that are not as complex as the european global data protection regulation, but rather going after the specific problem shch as the selling aning of data that is so private that it shouldn't happen. right now, all of these guys hide behind this notion of consent, but it's like "me too" consent. it's people in power against people without power, so it's at i would characterize as a fair trade. -well, you were an investor early , as i mentioned earlier, and you've made millions
as an investor in facebook. how much responsibility do you bear for some of as happened, and what should have been your role in demanding more social responsibility inside the company? -so, thuy, that is a completely legitimate question. i continue to own my shares of facebook stock. sold some along the way, but i still own it. i was involved there from 2006 to 2009. the business model that created the problems didn't actually begin untimany years after i left, and i'm really angry at myself that it took me toall the way to 2016 ee the problems, and so it is from that self-criticism that i have taken up this mantle. i'm no longer an investor. i'm a full-time activist trying to essentially take my biography, my experience, and the platform i have neto try to both raise awa and help direct us to a good solution. -and this is an in -absolutely. -...as you've pointed out, but really, a lot of people -- t of the criticism has been leveled at mark zuckerberg because of the sheer power and reach of facebook, rig?
but what about the role of sheryl sandberg? because you were also instrumental in her hiring at facebook. she had been offered a top executivposition at the washington post. you said, "no, no, no, no.y n't you consider facebook instead?" she took the facebook position, and you say that, really, when it comes to the company's operations, mark leaves the business side to her how much responsibility does she bear for what has happened? -well, to be clear, they're the leaders of the company, so they bear a lot of responsibility, but the thing i wa to make clear is that the managements of all of these companies began withealistic vision, right? in google's case, to collect all the world's information. in the case of fac to connect everybody. and that was not the problem. the issue was the business model creates all kinds of side effect that currently these companies don't pay the cost for, so it's a little bit like a digital chemical spill, ght? and right now, they're getting away without paying that cost, which they have to. i don't think changing management,
whether you get rid of mark and sheryl at facebook, whether you get rid of larry and sergey at google, i do not think that's thenswer. i think the answer is you have to change the business model, and it would be better if the existing founders did that because they're the ones with the moral authority to make those changes. -all right. a pleasure to talk to you. thanks for being here. -my pleasure. to a personal take on immigration. in 2011, jose antonio vargas, whose journalism career included a stint at the washington post, revealed in a new york times magazine essay that he was living in the us illegally. since then, he has become perhaps the nation's most well-known undocumented immigrant. he's done two documentaries and appeared in numerous interviews to advocate for immigrants. and vargas has written a memoir, "dear america: notes o und" and jose antonios joins me now to talk about his new book. welcome. -thank you so much for having me. -it's been seven yeasi e you announced that you were undocumented
in a new york times magazine essay, and since then, you've produced documentaries. you've appeared in numerous interviews. why did you decide to write a memoir now? -i actually di originally, i wanted to write a book about global migration. according to the un, there's 258 million migrants in the world, and i wanted to understand, what is thn right of people to move? what does thatook like? and then the election of donald trump happened, and i was living in downtown la, and the building manager -- i was living there for like two years at that point -- texted me a few days after the election and said, "we're not sure we could protect you you may want to move out." so then that's when i had to kind of face the reality that i've been here 25 years. i can get deta ped and deported at ant. it's -- -that must have been a tough message to absorb. -and then i -- yes, it was, but it kind of forced me to do something that iever want to do, which i think people don't want to do, which is, like, mental health, right? like, how do you actually feel what this is?
i've been so busy running away from it, i think, and juggling so mangs... -and hiding. -...so i don't have to deal with it. so that's -- you know, the book, as you know, is structured lying, passing, and hiding, right? and so the book is really about what the psychological toll is of being in this country as an "illegalsilien" according to pnt trump. -and for those who don't know your story, your mom put you on a plane from the philippines heading to the us ar to live with your grants when you were 12. you didn't know you were undocumented until you were 16 and tried to get a driver's license. in your bo, you write just really candidly sometimes heartbreakingly about your deep alienation from your grandparents, and you write, "the america they dreamed for me s not the america i was creating for myself." -i had to really tto unded why they did what they did, and when i was a kid, when i was 16, i didn't understand any of it. they smuggled me here. they paid somebody $4,500. they had all the fake papers. my grandfather --
i grew up in mountain view, as you know, and so my grandfather thought, i come here, i work at the flea markeon berr, and that i would marry a woman who's a us citizen and, poof, right? but their thinking was i would work an under-the-table job. i would live kind of this under-the-table life. -and you did not want that life. -i didot want that. i didn't want it because i thought i wanted to exist. i didne, want to just be invisiight? and i think for me that was, like, the number-one thing. the moment i found out i was here illegally, i didn't want to surrender to what that was. -ang so you existed for a ime as a journalist. you won awards along the way, but there me undocumented immigrants who are resentful of the america that you havted for yourself. you write about activists. you write about it in your book, about acvists who want to know, "where were you, jose, fighting for immigrant rights? where were you?" -i was too busy lying, passing, and hiding.
i was too busy trying create the successful version of what i was supposed to be, because i think since alfound out i was here ill when i was 16, i had internalized that i was supposed to earn something, right? and i was very honest in the book about that. know, even when an activist said to me, you know, "you can't represent us. you're not even mexican." right? because this issue has been so married to latinos and specifically mexican. but, you know, look. like, i -- this book for me was a way of really exploring what all these issues are and where all the hurt is. -and you're very critical. you blame the media, too, for some of the hurt and some of the misperceptions. has covered immigration. where do you think the mea has failed? -i think i'm critical of it because journalism is sacred to me, right? hi like, it was the first i ever thought of myself. -you worked for the washington post. -i wor the chronicle just a few blocks that way, right? and so journalism is very important to me. what we do is very important to me, and i think the fact
that we, in general -- there are so exceptions -- have failed to really connect the dots between the 11 million undocumented immigrants like me in this countey and how that is conn to the 43 million immigrant population in america, so you can't separate the undocumented from the documented. this is actually not about immigration reform. it's ahe changing america, right? -and with president trump in office and with more reporting on issues like the border wall and the family separation issue with central american refugees, do you see some improvements in the coverage? -absolutely, and it's kind of embarrassing frankly that it took trump to finally wake up that this is a human-rights crisis. what trump has done and is doing is a culmination of all the policies that democrats and republicans have been a part of. this has been a bipartisan mess. it's not just trump. -i have no idea. i actually -- you know, when i first -- -you're not hard to find. -i'm at starbucks usually, so they'll find me there.
you know, i came out seven years ago, a few months later, when i haven't heard anything from the govnment, i actually called the government myself. i write that in the book. i called ice myself. i said, "hi. i'm jose antonio vargas. i haven't heard from you." right? "what do you plan to do with me?" and the woman on the line was like, "no comment." -really? s -she kne, but she was wondering, "why are you calling us?" "well, i havheard from " you know, as a journalist, i'm like, we have to follow up the story. and so i come out. obama at the time was deporting 400,000 immigrants, y wasn't i one of them? -how has your concept of being a citizen changed since you came out as an undocumented person? -so, i am not a citizen because unwas not born in this y, the accident of birth, i would argue that there's a different kind of citizenship that undocumented immigrants subscribe to, and it's citizenship ofarticipation. i actually think it's miraculous
go to work, send their kids to school, and provide for their families even under this administration. i think that's -- -they need to pay taxes. -pay taxes. parts of their communities. i think that's miraculous, and i think that's a different kind of citizenship anould argue, a deeper kind of citizenship. -okay. jose antonio vargas. your new book is "dear america: notes of an undocumented citizen." thank you so much for being he. -thank you for having me. in an in-depth look, one journalist makes the argument that when today's corporate titans and political leaders try to change the world, they actually preserve the societal problems they say they want to solve. authorennand giridharadas co the rich and powerful are willing to fight for justice and equality but only if it doesn't threaten tir positions at the top of the social order. hi tlatest book is "winnee all: the elite charade of changing the world." and anand giridharjoins us. pleasure to have you. -great to be here. -well, in your book, you tackle the world of philanthropists
who want to do good and doell at the same time. we hear all these buzzwords now, "make a difference," "thought leaders," yet you say that instead of making the worlbetter, they're actually enabling inequality. how so? -it's an a thing that we do live in this age when billionaires are giving money away. in this city right now, you know, and every time you go to the mall, there's red iphone cases that are going to change the worltote bags that are going to change the world, and yet this has been, for all of that elite generosity, an age oe hoarding. this is the most unequal time in america in 100 years. last yea top one percent's salaries grew four times faster than the bottom 90 percent. last year, 82 percent of all new wealth created went to the global top one percent, so the very same people who ta a lot about giving bac who talk here inupilicon valley about dion and starting companies that are going to save the world, those very same people are monopolizing progress in america.
-so on the one hand, they're arguing for fixes, but fixes within the current broken system as opposed to trying to fix the system totally. -when the winners of our age get interested and involved in social change, they change change. they're rarely content to just write a check d support an organization that they think is doing good work. they get involved. they get on the board. they shape it. they shape the narrative. they write books about their theories of change, cause of who they are, that becomes influential. so silicon valley disruption becomes change. higher taxes, mmm, that's not change. -because that doesn't benefit them. rts them. you know, a charter school that they can get involved with, put their name on, mentor a few black kids and say -- they boast that they got them into stanford. that's the kind of change they like. equally funded public schools for all, which would mean that marin and palo alto actually don't get better schools than everybody else? that, they're not interested in. -is it ar of cognitive dissonance, then, or is there an actual moral lapse or evil intent?
-it's a mix. there are -- i mean, i found this wonderful e-mail from 2007 among the goldman sachp that was unearthed through an investigation, in which they talk about a bad new york tim story coming at them that's about their role in the mortgage debacle, and they say in the-mail, "hey, we got to try to pitch this reporter on our gs gives thropy," so they understood that a little bit of giving lubricates the engine of continued taking. but i think here in silicon valley, it i think there's a lot of people, from mark zuckerberg to elon musk to others, who are earnest in their desire to make the world a better place and who have an almost messianic faith and who therefore are totally blind to those situations in which what is good fothem actually diverges from what is good for the world. stcebook is one of the dealistic companies in american history. it's also the first company in american history to perhaps compromise and tip a federal election, a presidential election. there's no accident, as far as i see it, that these very companies that are so idealistic and talk about makbeg the world better hav so instrumental
in building a winner-take-all economy that works for very few people -- them. -so it's clear, what you're saying is that you don't believe market-based philanthropy works. so what are you arguing for? are you arguing for more government intervention, more government spending, and, as an extension, then, higher taxes? -yes, among other thgs, and we should stop being so ashamed of those things. taxes is the price of civilization. i think rich people in this country prably need to pay a lot more than they're paying to get into line with most ofother ric. apple has $285 billion offshore while we have 7,499 homeless people if the city of san francisco were a country -- e five-county area arounsan fra- it'd have the ninth-highest population of billionaires among countries, and yet it's hard to walk down the street without encountering homeless people.
when the winners of our age have built a winners-take-all econo, an economy that predictably, reliably punishes most americans and deprives them of the american dream, and then, having built that economy, reinvent themselves as the only people who can fix it, the people who are disrupters, who are change agents who are going to make things better. -you're also very heavily critical of well-meaning liberals. you think that they actually paved the road for the election of donald trump. can you explain that? -they paved the road for donald trump in two ways. e, a lot of rich liberals have pushed the idea that they can save us -- the billionaires, rich people who caused the very problems that we had can save us, and they pushed a lot of fake change that didn't actually change real problems in america. social mobility was declining. peope angry about trade, angry about globalization. they created space for donald trump to win. bu secondly, they gave donatrump a. the "i alone can fix it" businessman is especially capable of fixing it. that came from these philanthro-capitalists.
the idea that the people who broke things are the best able to solve them, that alone, that came from donald trump. and finallpl the idea that the pwho -- that people can fight for the least among us, a leader like donald trump, can fight for the least among us that idea did not start with trump. that idea started with billionaires who have been promising phonily to save us for years. -all right. anand giridharadas. your new book is "winners take all: the elite charade of changing the world." pleasure to have you. -thank you so much for having me. -turningto something , scott dikkers is theinounder and longest-se editor-in-chief of the popular online satirical news outlet the onion. fr it's never shied awa taking jabs at public figures. now dikkers is aiming s sarcastic wit at elon musk in his book, "welcome to the future which is mine." musk is well-known for being thoutspoken and often flamboyant ceo of the companies tesla and spacex. and right now, the onion's scott dikkers joins me in the studio.nic.
-it's great to be here, thuy. thanks for having me. -well, you know, there are lots of te giants you could have chosen to skewer in your book. skwhy did you choose elon -he's the funniest. he's the weirdest. and he's t that has the most kind of public image. you know, a lot of these guys hide in their billion-dollar lairs or whatever, wherever they live. -but musk loves to tweet. -he's kind of -- yeah, he'shere. he's tweeting. he's doing stuff. so i figure, you know, if you're in the public sphere, you're going to get mocked a little bit. -well, in your book, you include a number of what you call inspirational quotes from elon musk, and onof them is, "the key to success is to ask yourself, 'what's the most ludicrous, most asinine, most futile thing i possibly do,' then make it happen." yos?don't like any of his id-oh. i think his ideas are kind of cool. le like, i think on soml you have to admire someone that you satirize, but you also h find them pretty ridiculous, because if it's too mean-spirited, then it's not or interesting, you know, so... -and you also poke fun at mark zuckerberg, as well.
he's not spared. your book includes a so-called foreword from him where he says, first, give me all of your personal information." it's kind of a funny line until you think about, you know, the data breach they jt had recently affecting 50 million users. -yeah. you know, there's so many times you'll wte something, and you'll think it's absurd and ridiculous or whatever, and then something real life will happen. it's like, "oh, i guess it wasn't that absurd after all." -we livelitically turbulent times right now. does that make satire easier, since you seem to have no shortage of targets nowadays? -satire is easy always because there's always terrible people. there's always awful things going in the world, and the point of satire is to point those things out with humor. underneath, humans are alwae pretty awful to each other, so there's going to be plenty to satiri. and, you know, what's worse is when things are so absurd that the satire you write just comes true all the time. you think you're writing someth
and then it comes true in real life, so i don't know. it's kind of the gold standard for me when that happens. ou've also written that, "good satire afflicts the comfortable and comforts tlicted." can you expand on that? how do you decide who or what toarget? -yeah, so, if you go after an oppressed group nobody wants to see that. or whatever, everybody wants to see them brought down a peg, so, yeah, it's pretty simple. and a lot of times, stuff i've done, especially stuff for the onion, has been perceived as very edgy and maybe inappropriate w, and that's when, you know, you might get perilously close to seemingike you're making fun of the wrong target or whatever, but the subtext is always going after the right targ hopefully, like, if you do it right. -whae difference between humor and satire? -humor is just funny, like, "try not to laugh" vids, you know, aunt myrtle slipping and falling in the backyard.
everybody loves that. or, like, you know, a funny piece by dave barry about how, you know, "i can't believe i'm 50," or, "i hate taking out the trash. don't you hate taking out the trash?" that's humor. but satire is when you find something wrong with humanity or with the world, like you said, some kind of injustice, and you point it out through humor, so there's, like, a secret nugget. nobody wanbe preached to. nobody wants to be told what's wrong with them, but they all want jokes, so the jokes are like the honey on the spoon and the satire, you know, the subtext is like the crumed-up medicine that they're getting with the honey. -and is your goal to create something that's more enriching, more lasting, maybe even when the injustice is so horrible, something that maybe potentially heals? -yeah, because that's the other ing about humor is that it's a really underrated coping mechanism in times of agedy. it's a thing that kind of reminds us that we're human. because when there's a tragedy, we kind of revert to lizard brain or whatever,
so, yeah, i think it's super valuable. -so, one of the things at elon musk wants to do is send people to mars. is that something you would -- -the moon is for chumps. let's make that clear. we're going to mars. mars is cooler. all right? -ioing to ask, would you ever want to go? i think i know the answer. -absolutely not. no. earth is pretty nice. we have trees and water now. -all right. scott dikkers. foof the satirical news outlet the onion. and also your new book called "welcome to the future," poking fun at elon musk. thanks so much for being here. -you're welcome.t to be. -that will do it for us, but before we go, we'dsoike to share with you news. kqed is renovating our current building in san francisco, so for the next two years, we'll be taping our program out of a new studio, but westill bring you the same in-depth discussions and analysis of important issues, and you will still be able to find all of our coverage onlin at the same place -- kqed.org/newsroom. i'm thuy vu. thank you for joining us.
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