Tuesday October 10, 2017

October 10, 2017 Full Episode Transcript

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The Current Transcript for October 10, 2017

Host: Anna Maria Tremonti

STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE

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Prologue

[Music: Theme]

SOUNDCLIP

HILLARY CLINTON: There was certainly a plan from Putin and the highest levels of the Kremlin to influence our election. From Facebook ads.

ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Hillary Clinton's is a prominent voice, but not the only one in the cacophony of questions raised about the potential of Facebook to manipulate or be manipulated by Russia or Russian linked advertisers in the 2016 US presidential elections. News reports put Microsoft and Google in focus this week as well. And the swirl of controversy around Facebook raises questions not only of its vulnerability but of its potential complicity. And whether the social network giant's sheer size makes it too big to stop itself. When the US Congress is the one asking those questions the outcome may not be something that Facebook is going to like. We're on that story in an hour. Also today, it's a movie from the late sixties but its story still has the power to unsettle.

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BEN BRADDOCK: I have to tell you something.

ELAINE ROBINSON: What is it?

BEN BRADDOCK: That woman.

ELAINE ROBINSON: What?

BEN BRADDOCK: That woman, that older woman that I told you about.

ELAINE ROBINSON: You mean that one?

BEN BRADDOCK: Yes, the married woman. That wasn’t just some woman.

ELAINE ROBINSON: What are you telling me?

AMT: Well that was Mrs. Robinson, The Graduate, with a plotline that saw a boyfriend break up with a girlfriend after an affair with her mother that forced a divorce from her dad, underlined the dramatic consequences of infidelity. 50 years on Esther Perel looks at infidelity through a different lens, one that she says can be empowering and even lead to a better marriage or not. Hear her ideas on rethinking infidelity in half an hour. And earlier this year, a court in New Zealand granted legal rights to a river.

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VOICE 1: We have actually associated a mighty river and given it the identity of a person.

AMT: It is an environmental legal fight just begun in Colorado, when those who support it say it is just a matter of time before Canadian courts are petitioned to consider rivers and tracts of land as persons as well. We're starting there. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti, this is The Current.

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Colorado River should have same legal status as a person: lawsuit

Guests: Jason Flores-Williams, David Boyd

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[Sound: crowd singing and music]

ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Well that is the sound of a traditional Maori celebration song in New Zealand's legislature. It's being sung there in March to mark a legal first. A river had just been granted the same legal status as a human. The Whanganui river now has rights and legal protections. It is an entity or a person such as you or me. Indigenous people have viewed nature this way for thousands of years but the legal recognition is ground breaking. What is more, it could be an important new approach to protecting nature. Last week a US environmental group filed a lawsuit in Colorado. It's asking a judge to grant the same rights as a person to the Colorado River. Jason Flores-Williams is a lawyer helping bring that suit. He joins us from Denver. Hello.

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Hi, how are you Anna Maria?

AMT: I'm curious to know what you're thinking. Why should the Colorado River have the same legal rights as a person?

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Well, it's a way of balancing the playing field actually. If you think about it, states, especially corporations, have all sorts of legal rights and resources and they depend upon nature and finite natural resources for their interests. And so this is a way of equaling the playing field so that those natural resources upon which all of life depends have standing in courts and so injuries to those resources can be cognized in our courts. And so that we have better outcomes with regard to the way everything on this planet interacts with one another.

AMT: So what would those rights mean for the Colorado River?

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: In the simplest terms what it would mean is that the Colorado River, injuries to the Colorado River would be cognized as injuries unto themselves, which could be recognized in courts of law. See usually what happens in environmental law, as it stands right now in Canadian and American jurisprudence, is that there has to be some kind of injury to human beings for there to be standing. So what happens is with a lot of cases where the courts recognize that there is damage being done to our environment end up getting thrown out of court due to this procedural defect. So what this means now is that if there is some sort of usage of the Colorado River, which is already over allocated, it is a finite resource upon which all of our lives depend, that kind of exploitation of usage, that kind of damaging usage we would no longer have to show that there is resulting in an immediate damage to a human being, but simply damage to the river itself and that injury itself would be something that we could take to the courts and have the courts recognized.

AMT: OK. And so when you say we, would you be the guardians of this river? Like how would a non-human entity bring a suit to federal court?

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Well that mechanism already exists within all of our laws. So there are tons of situations where, you know, a guardian ad litems for children, fiduciaries, trustees, executors, where entities who cannot bring actions into themselves basically, who cannot walk into court and start making arguments on behalf of themselves are represented by someone who stands in their stead. And so that mechanism is very easy, because it already exists in our court and courts are adept at ascertaining whether or not that mechanism, whether or not that fiduciary relationship is indeed one that serves the best interests of the entity that isn't able to make arguments in court.

AMT: Right. And would the entity, so you’re talking about river itself. What about the banks of the river? What about other nature in the river? Would that be part of it? How do you parse that out?

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Sure. Well that's a great question because what we're really concerned about here are the dynamic systems upon which all of life depends. So the banks of the river, you know, that's when you have a river ecosystem and something as majestic and mighty as the Colorado River, you're talking about not only human beings that depend upon it and are integrated with it, but all sorts of flora and fauna and just innumerable species. I mean, the Colorado River doesn't even meet the Gulf of Mexico anymore, it's dying in certain parts. And along with that death is the death of so many more species and, you know, flora and fauna that actually anybody cares to count. So what this does is in preserving something like the Colorado River, what we do is we preserve an ecosystem.

AMT: And that isn’t already protected under environmental law now?

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Well obviously not. Not really. I mean, if you look, you know, environmental law, environmental lawyers have done a fantastic job but, you know, as you know up in Canada and here is that what's happening is the environment just seems to be getting worse and more degraded as time goes on, despite all the best efforts of people who’d attempt to use environmental laws. So what we need to do now is we just need to simply equal the playing field and say that if you have, look, what draws me to this issue fundamentally is I'm interested in situations where one party has all of the rights and all of the resources and another party has no rights and no resources, even though ironically enough nature is the resource, the resource. So what happens in these situations is that regardless of what you have set up around this and regardless of what laws you have currently, you're going to have negative outcomes. And the way to fix this and address this negative outcome is to say a river, a finite natural resource upon which we all depend, and ecosystems upon which in which we are all integrated, that they themselves are dynamic systems that have standing. And they can go to court so that the courts can recognize injuries to them. And by doing that it changes the way in which all things interact with them on this planet of ours.

AMT: Right. Now, you have brought this case against the state and the governor of Colorado. John, is it John Hickenlooper is that his name?

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Correct.

AMT: OK. We invited him to comment. His press secretary sent a statement. I'm going to read it to you in part, this is a quote, “Colorado and countless partners have long understood the significance of the Colorado River system and the need to balance our needs for water with conservation and enhancement of the river ecosystem.” That's part of the quote and the rest of the quote is, she says the Colorado's water plan is their quote, “to ensure sufficient water supplies for agriculture, cities, recreation, and the environment as our state continues to grow,” end quote. So they are there arguing that the rights of the river needs to be balanced for other needs. How do you fight that?

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Well I mean I think we fight it by [sighs] I don't know if we necessarily fight it. I think that they've done as good a job as they can do with the current regime of laws that are based on property and ownership of the river and ownership of rights to the river. And look at it this way right, this is the best way to address this is if you look at say a corporation wants to go to the river and open a plastic bottling plant. And because this corporation has 50 billion dollars and can do whatever it wants as far as manipulating the current laws that are applicable to the river. It's going to be able to do that. And because we're not able to show that this corporation is the bottling of the river and the reselling it around the world is going to result in an immediate harm to a human being, there's nothing that we can do under our current laws to be able to stop that. So what we do in saying that an injury to an already over depleted river, and this river is already over allocated, it’s dying in certain parts, there's not enough of the river to go around, especially within the context of our current property and water law regimes. What we say is that no, these kinds of relationships that are going to result in the death of the river and therefore the death of everything that depends upon it, and ultimately that does include human beings, they must be scrutinized and so that's how we fight that.

AMT: OK. Well Jason Flores-Williams we'll be watching that. Thank you very much.

JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Thank you.

AMT: Jason Flores-Williams lawyer representing the Colorado River and the conservation group Deep Green Resistance. He joined us from Denver, Colorado. Well the Colorado case has its skeptics, even among those who would like to see better environmental protection. Professor Jody Freeman is the founding Director of the environmental law program at the Harvard Law School.

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JODY FREEMAN: Even when it comes to animals and injuring animals, we don't have a history of them getting legal standing. And it would be a further stretch to say that we're going to give standing to natural objects. I don't want to say it's a bad idea, but there is really not much appetite to enhance environmental protection. I don't think there's much chance of getting legal recognition from our elected officials. We are very very long way in the US from that.

AMT: Well my next guest is calling for a legal revolution. A complete reimagining of the relationship between humans and nature when it comes to legal rights. David Boyd is an environmental lawyer, he's the author of a new book The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save The World. David Boyd joins us from Pender Island, BC. Hello.

DAVID BOYD: Good morning Anna Maria a pleasure to share the air with you.

AMT: What rights are you arguing we should give nature?

DAVID BOYD: Well this is really important Anna Maria, we're not arguing that nature should have the rights of a human being. So, you know, it would be nonsense to say that a river should have the right to vote. What we're saying is that a river should have the rights of a river. And those rights in a river’s context would include the right to adequate flows, the right to maintain its complement of native species, all of the things that a river needs to continue flourishing in a natural state in perpetuity.

AMT: But the recognition would still be as a person as it was in New Zealand though, would it not? Is that not what you're fighting for, that wording?

DAVID BOYD: Yes, as a legal person though, that's distinct from a human being. So what we're saying here is that, you know, our legal system already extends the rights of a legal person, which is kind of a legal concept to all kinds of different non-human entities from ships to municipalities, and as Mr. Flores-Williams mentioned, to corporations.

AMT: To corporations, yes.

DAVID BOYD: Once you have once you have the status of a legal person, then you have enforceable rights in our system. And that's really what this is fundamentally about, it's about transforming our perspective on how we see the world and thus how we interact with the world.

AMT: Now, we know about the New Zealand case. Are there are others in the world?

DAVID BOYD: Oh yes. In fact, that's one of the most exciting things is that this is an idea which has really caught fire in the last ten years or so. So we've actually seen three dozen different communities in the United States pass municipal by-laws that recognize the rights of nature. These are communities from Santa Monica, California to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We've got Ecuador, which changed its constitution in 2008 to recognize that Pachamama or Mother Earth has legally enforceable rights. And those rights have been enforced in the Ecuadorian court system at the highest levels. In Bolivia in 2010 they passed a law on the rights of Mother Earth. And these laws and these court precedences are being followed in other countries. So earlier this year, you had the constitutional court of Columbia ordering the government of Colombia to recognize that the Atrato river is a legal person, and that a guardian must be appointed to look out for that river. A similar decision in India even more recently with respect to the Ganges and Jamuna river. So this is an idea which is catching fire around the world and I think it's an idea whose time has come at the most critical moment. Because as you know Anna Maria, we're facing a biological meltdown. We're in the midst of what ecologists believe is the sixth mass extinction in the four and a half billion year history of the Earth. So we need ideas that can fundamentally transform our relationship with the natural world.

AMT: And of course in the case of New Zealand, it was the Indigenous people of New Zealand who brought that forth. Indigenous people have long thought of nature as having human qualities. Katherine Morrisseau-Sinclair wants Canadians to recognize them in Lake Winnipeg, which is near her home. Listen to what she has to say.

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KATHERINE MORRISSEAU-SINCLAIR: Lake Winnipeg personhood is so important. For people to understand this is not something that's dead. She has a spirit, she is begging for help. Really just needing all the support that we can offer her because of all the gifts that she has given us over the years. She's talking to us, you know, telling us help me.

AMT: OK. She's characterized Lake Winnipeg as a woman with a spirit. Is that what a court in recognizing personhood would see?

DAVID BOYD: Well, whether it's a government who passes a law as they've done in New Zealand or a court as has been happening in Ecuador, Colombia, and India, courts are recognizing that these natural entities have rights that have to be protected. And that's really what this boils down to. It boils down to changing and upgrading the status of the natural world. You know, it's really quite breathtaking to think about humans and our arrogance as one species among millions, and yet we purport to own virtually every single square metre of land on this planet. And what they've done in New Zealand, we didn't talk about this, but in New Zealand the laws that, there's actually two cases in New Zealand. One is the Whanganui river which you mentioned, another involves a large tract of land formerly known as Te Urewera National Park. And the laws passed in New Zealand not only designate these natural ecosystems as legal persons, but they've also transferred title or ownership to those legal entities. So in other words, the river owns its own river bed, and this area 200,000 hectares Te Urewera now is owning itself. So in other words Anna Maria the land owns itself, and that is a profound shift in our relationship with the natural world. From one in which we treat nature as a simple commodity, as a set of resources there for humans to exploit, to a community to which we belong.

AMT: OK. So let me ask you, right. So how does law in Canada view our relationship with nature now?

DAVID BOYD: In Canada...

AMT: Yeah, like those same things. How does the law view them?

DAVID BOYD: Well we treat nature as property. So whether it's a grizzly bear or cat, animals have the same rights, have no rights. They have the same legal status as a chair or a table. And nature itself, you know, human beings, Canadians, whether through our government or through private property, purport to own every square centimetre of this country. So the Indigenous conception, which is much deeper in terms of a reciprocal set of rights and responsibilities, summarized beautifully in the simple phrase all my relations, that's really at the heart of what we're talking about when we talk about the rights of nature.

AMT: Are there any cases in Canada of the sort that was just launched in Colorado? Any test cases, anything going on yet in Canadian jurisprudence then before the courts?

DAVID BOYD: No laws have been changed. No cases have been filed, but I can tell you I have been in conversation with Indigenous leaders from coast to coast in this country, and they find this idea absolutely fascinating and are certainly interested in moving it forward in a Canadian context. And, you know, Canada, we think of Canada as a country that has the common law and the civil law. But there's actually a third legal tradition upon which our nation was founded, and that is indigenous law. And after 150 years, we're finally taking the first tentative steps towards integrating Indigenous law into our contemporary legal system Recognizing the rights of nature and our concomitant responsibilities would be a remarkable and timely breakthrough.

AMT: Would you need this if our laws around environmental protection were tougher or were followed the way they are written?

DAVID BOYD: Yes, I think that it's just a, it's asking more than environmental law can deliver. You know, since you and I were born Anna Maria, we've seen the human population grow from three billion to seven and a half billion people. We’ve see in the global economy balloon by more than 2,000 per cent. And despite the passage of all kinds of environmental laws over the past 50 years, globally we see wildlife populations down by an average of 58 per cent. We see human beings killing more than 100 billion animals a year, mostly to eat, but also for everything from entertainment to research. And so the existing environmental law system simply is not equipped. Its focus is mitigating the damage that we inflict on the environment and protecting nature to the extent that it serves us. But what we really have to do is transform that relation.

AMT: Well if ecosystems have rights, how would that impact things like resource extraction for example?

DAVID BOYD: It would have a significant impact. It would mean treating, it would mean having to reduce the rate of resource extraction. It would mean having to rethink concepts like perpetual economic growth. It would mean people, you know, not having meat on their plate three times a day. It really does require fundamental changes. So this is an idea which has that, and those kinds of changes are not going to happen overnight. But until we see the world in a fundamentally different fashion, until we recognize as Aldo Leopold, that nature is a community to which we belong, not a commodity which we own. Until we have that shift in perspective, we're going to have a difficult time achieving the kind of behavioural changes that environmental law has failed to deliver.

AMT: One would argue if you had that shift in perspective you wouldn't need the law. But how do you get that paradigm shift? How do you create that shift?

DAVID BOYD: Well, it can happen top down or it can happen bottom up. So, you know, in the United States there's this extraordinary community movement where as I said, these grassroots communities that are concerned with local issues such as fracking or water bottling operations are passing these by-laws recognizing the rights of nature. And so that's a kind of a grassroots approach to this. Whereas in countries like Ecuador and Bolivia, we're seeing constitutions change, national legislation change. And what's really interesting in Canada, I was on your show several years ago talking about the human right to live in a healthy environment. And as part of the work that the David Suzuki Foundation has been doing on that issue, they've also asked Canadians what Canadians think about this idea of the rights of nature. And in a survey conducted by Angus Reid, found that 80 per cent of Canadians actually believe our legal system should recognize the rights of nature. So I think this is an idea that really appeals to people at a fundamental level. I mean, what a wonderful world we live in.

AMT: OK David Boyd, we have to leave it on your optimistic note on that front. We have to leave it there though. Thank you.

DAVID BOYD: Thanks very much Anna Maria.

AMT: David Boyd, environmental lawyer, author of the new book The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save The World. He joined us from Pender Island, BC. Let us know what you think. You can tweet us, we are @TheCurrentCBC, find us on Facebook, go to our website cbc.ca/thecurrent and click on the contact link, weigh in on your view of giving nature the rights of personhood. The CBC News is next. And then we're talking infidelity with Esther Perel. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti, this is The Current.

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What infidelity can teach us about ourselves and relationships: therapist Esther Perel

Guest: Esther Perel

ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Hello, I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.

[Music: Theme]

AMT: Still to come, Facebook and Uncle Sam could have some unfriending in their future. Revelations about Russia's use of Facebook ads to influence the 2016 presidential election just keep coming. We're peering into Facebook's future in half an hour. But first, your cheating heart will tell on you.

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ALEXANDRA KING: Mom was cheating on you. When I was home at Christmas, I caught her with the guy.

[Music]

BRIAN SPEER: It was an affair. And attraction was sex. And she sort of got carried away with the whole thing, and I guess I went with it, at least I didn't say no to things that I should have. I love my family.

MATT KING: You’re going to I ask me for a divorce so you could be with some Brian Speer? Are you kidding me? Who are you? You tell me that I got it all wrong. Tell me again that I'm too out of touch with my feelings and I need to go to therapy.

AMT: Well infidelity is inherently dramatic stuff, which is why it's at the heart of so many movies and plays, such as the little bit you just heard there from the film The Descendants. We heard George Clooney's character trying to come to terms with his wife's affair and struggling with it at a time when his wife has fallen into a coma. Infidelity may come in as many shapes and sizes as there are romantic relationships, but it seems sure that as agonizing as affairs are they are not likely to go away anytime soon. In fact, couples therapist Esther Perel says infidelity has something to teach us about ourselves and our relationships. Her latest book is entitled The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. Esther Perel is with me from New York City. Hello.

ESTHER PEREL: Good morning.

AMT: Before we talk about rethinking infidelity, how does infidelity tend to be thought of by many people now?

ESTHER PEREL: It depends on what side of the equation you are looking. If you look at people who have been betrayed, it shatters the grand ambition of love, it makes people rethink their identity, they question their reality. It's a massive violation of trust ,and it can break a whole relationship that has until then been quite successful and quite happy. If you look at the side of the children, you have the experience that you have in this movie, where, you know, what do children do with this reality? How do they make sense of this? If you ask the majority of the population, about 80 per cent of the people have been affected by infidelity, either directly or indirectly, at least in my experience. So as children of, as the lovers of, as the person who counsels the person who is in the affair. So the general conversation at this point is very much this is one of the worst things that can happen in a relationship. This is a deal breaker. This is one of the main motives for divorce in Western countries and women still get the brunt of the blame.

AMT: What effects do affairs tend to have on a couple then?

ESTHER PEREL: Affairs can break a relationship or remake a relationship. It is a crisis in the couple once it is uncovered. The aftermath of the affair goes through a sequence of steps from a massive crisis of confusion, of a shattered reality, of a break of the narrative of one's life. You know, you know that you can't predict the future but you generally feel that you can remember the past. But when your past is put into question your entire sense of reality is altered.

AMT: You said that it affects 80 per cent of people when you add in the families and the children. How common is infidelity?

ESTHER PEREL: We don't know. The research goes from 30 to 70 per cent for men and women. It depends how we define it. The definition of infidelity is elastic, it keeps on expanding. We don't know if we're talking about a love story, if we're talking about lifelong double lives, if we're talking about chat rooms, porn watching, massages with happy endings, returning to exes on Facebook. I mean the line today is no longer clearly defined by an institution. The line today is defined by the couples themselves. So we also know that men lie and women lie but men lie by exaggerating and boasting and over representing. And women will lie by denying and minimizing. When it comes to their sexualities. So the truth is this is one of the most secret subjects that people have often gone to the grave with.

AMT: Mm. And so we could be talking as well about infidelity where someone begins or they have a charged sexual relationship over social media that never actually has a physical component to it but has the excitement. That can be infidelity as well.

ESTHER PEREL: It depends who you ask. But it is clear that the kiss that you only imagine giving can be just as exciting as hours of actual lovemaking. Affairs are erotic plots. They make people feel alive. They are about desire much more than they are about sex. And that desire is the desire to be seen, to be important, to be special, to be desired, to feel to receive attention. It's very little about the actual sexual relationships that take place. They are part of it, but if you ask people across the world what is the one word that they experience around infidelity when they are the ones doing it, it's aliveness. Why aliveness? Because affairs are transgressions. And therefore they break rules and therefore they often are related to I am doing something for myself and it's selfish. And in that selfishness is also sometimes this is the first time I'm doing something for myself in decades and therefore I feel powerful, I feel alive, I feel like I'm doing things I have never thought I could do. And sometimes then it switches and it becomes I can't believe what I'm doing, I can't recognize myself. So it's not always a positive experience that other self that one is recognizing there.

AMT: And so I was just going to ask you what motivates people to have affairs? You're taking me through it right now, that it is that excitement, that that need for something.

ESTHER PEREL: So there are two ways of going at this. There are motivations that are, that mine themselves in the discontents of the relationship, loneliness, sexual frustration, lack of attention, estrangement, intense conflict, neglect, indifference, violence. Loads of reasons from within that make people seek an external relationship. There are internal reasons, depression, unemployment, addiction. And then there are motives that are more existential. And there I would say that yes, people even in happy relationships are known to stray because sometimes affairs are also about longing and loss and reconnecting with lost parts of oneself. And so we look outside not in order to leave the person that we are with, but in order to leave the person that we have ourselves become. And there is no better other than another version of ourselves. And so some motives are symptoms of problematic relationships and some motives are existential, about longing, about loss, about mortality, about things that are very personal and that are not related to the relationship itself.

AMT: What does death and mortality have to do with affairs in your view?

ESTHER PEREL: If you learn to ask every person who is in an infidelity or in an affair if they have lost someone in the last few years. Because I began to notice that often there was that theme lurking in the background. Life is short. Is this it? Is there going to be 25 more years of this? There is this thing that I have never allowed myself to experience. You know, if affairs are erotic stories, as in they make you feel alive, vibrant, vital, renewed, then they are an antidote to death. And one of the motives often is that force against a feeling of deadness that people are feeling inside. Not to blame anybody for it, but it is often the result of lifelong routines that they have established without much attention to the quality of their life. My work is about, is based on the idea that the quality of relationships determines the quality of our lives. And I believe in a world where people can experience a sense of aliveness and vitality. So what I do in the aftermath is less about just making sure people stay together or not, but more how do they reconnect with their own vitality in their relationships without needing to be so destructive about it.

AMT: And what’s your experience? And as you're talking about taking people through their own motivations, how many people recognize their motivation on the existential level that you're talking about when they are in the midst of an affair? Or do they see why they're doing it or do they also give themselves excuses that you have to kind of work through with them?

ESTHER PEREL: Both. By definition if you're acting against your own conscience sometimes or if you’re acting knowing that you are going to hurt your partner, knowing that this is not within your agreement you must have rationalizations. You have justifications for doing why you do what you do so that you can continue do it. Now, some people in the midst of this, depending on where the affair is at, depending on where their life is going are very capable of knowing what's going on. How this happened to them, the meanings and the motives. It's extremely important to know it because that's what you're going to want to understand once you work with the couple afterwards as well. The ones who don't want to ask the questions don't come to the therapist. So we have a selected group of people that we work with, who are people who are there to figure out what's going on with me? What are the choices I need to make? How do I square the fact that I love two people? The majority of people we see in our practice are not repeated offenders as we say, they're not perennial cheaters. They are often people who have been faithful for decades, have been in their relationships committed, and one day find themselves on the other side. And so this is not just a symptom of a of a wrong personality that group. So then we start to ask why now? What happened here? What led you to this? It's not like you haven't had this start before. So why did you do this?

AMT: You made a point as you, at the very beginning, you said women get the blame most often. What do you mean?

ESTHER PEREL: Well for one, throughout history men practically have had a license to cheat. And they have had all kinds of evolutionary and biological theories that would explain why they are roamers and non-monogamous by natures, whereas women are domesticated creatures. Women have still nine countries where they can be killed just for looking in the wrong direction. So this has never been an equal situation for men and women. If indeed men are naturally roamers, then we've also seen women as the ones who need to not tempt them. The women are responsible for men not acting on their urges. Hence if a man does it’s the other woman's fault.

AMT: Mm.

ESTHER PEREL: There is no man home wrecker. There is only a woman home wrecker. There are biases all over the place that blame the woman who is the victim. What did she not do about her husband? And blame the woman who is the lover and blame the woman who is the strayer. So on all sides this is a story that has often favoured men.

AMT: You write, and I'm quoting here, “one of the most uncomfortable truths about an affair is that what for partner a may be an agonizing betrayal may be transformative for partner B.” Can you explain more about that?

ESTHER PEREL: The person who crosses the line is often experiencing parts of themselves that they have never experienced, that they have been curious about, that they longed for, that they once may have known but have not lived for decades. In that sense, affairs are very much seen from a dual perspective. At the heart of affairs you find betrayal, lying, loss, abandonment. And at the heart of betrayal also lies longing and self-seeking and self-discovery. And that's where for what one person is an agonizing experience is often for the other something that has been unique in their life. And that sense of having two very very different experiences about the same event clashing at the same time is what makes this so painful and so unbearable.

AMT: Mm. Can you give me some examples of the transformation you've seen in people after an affair?

ESTHER PEREL: It is the transformation that you see in couples where there is a crisis. You know, I've worked with hundreds of couples and helped them navigate crisis and challenges. And infidelity is one of the most difficult crisis, but it is not the only one. So what starts to happen is that people often will realize that this is an alarm system. God, we could have lost everything. What happened to us? We stopped paying attention to each other. I was completely absorbed somewhere else. The last time we were together that we were intimate with each other, it's years. We're not talking weeks or months we're talking years. I was rude. I criticized you the whole time. I neglected you. I neglected myself. Where have we gone? We do want this, we're going to resuscitate. You know, what often happens in the aftermath of an affair is that people have conversations at a level of honesty that they haven't had in years, because they have nothing to lose at this point. And so everything comes out. Years of silence. Why didn't you tell me? I didn't think I could talk to you. What do you mean you didn't think you could talk to me? Well you never would listen. But you never tried. But you, [chuckles] and it goes on and on. It is a shattering experience. It just is. And then from that place some people will break it and this is it, this is the agony and it's the last straw and that's it, for a relationship that was dying on the vine. And for others it just jolts them into we want this. I love you. This happened but I still love you and I want to be able to love you with dignity. How do I trust you again? How do I heal from this? Where do I feature in this? If today marriage is about the one and only, then an affair tells you that you're not and that's the piece people need to reclaim, their value. That I matter to you, and that this story that we began together still is the one that you want to be a part of.

AMT: Mm. So the person who is the person who has strayed, can be have it as a transformative experience, the person who feels deeply betrayed, do you see evolution at time in that feeling of betrayal to a different kind of transformation as well?

ESTHER PEREL: Yes. Because every relationship has a scorecard. Every relationship has agreements, overt and covert agreements. I may not have done this but that doesn't mean I didn't think about it sometimes, and that doesn't mean that I was happy with the situation and the relationship the way we had it. But I was the one who held the fort. I believed in us. I didn't do this thing. We have a commitment and now that you broke all the rules, I get to ask for all kinds of things that I allowed myself to just accept when I didn't really want to. So an affair will often light up the scorecard of a relationship and give the person who was willing to make more compromises the entitlement, in the good sense of the word, to finally say I want more too. You're not the only one. If an affair or an infidelity is about I want more from life, that doesn't mean the other person doesn't want more from life. It just didn't do it in that way. And so now that it lets the other person say I too want something else from us, from our relationship, from you, from me in my life and I'm going to claim this. This often gives the strength to the betrayed partner to finally claim more for themselves. That's one. Second, it also highlights that affairs are a betrayal, but there are other betrayals in a relationship. Neglect and indifference and violence and contempt are no less marital betrayals and they need to be accounted for. So in the second phase, in the first phase in the aftermath you're really dealing with the crisis and you're dealing with an onslaught of contradictory intense feelings that are flooding you one after the other. I love you and I hate you and hold me and don't touch me and stay with me and leave and we are done and I can't accept this being done. So this back and forth of life and death of the relationship. Then comes the meaning making. This you don't do in the beginning. In the beginning you just hold the relationship, you create a container for all of this intensity and you bring structure and you bring calmness and you bring reassurance. Yes, people do come out of this. Many many of them do and sometimes they come out of it even better. That doesn't mean you needed this and that doesn't mean one would ever recommend this to happen, but crises happen and we need a better way to help people overcome the crisis.

AMT: Mm. You're making the point, some people have accused you of being pro affair and that's not what you're saying.

ESTHER PEREL: Oh my God. You know, it's exactly what I said once when I said I have heard so many people talked a life threatening illness has given them a new perspective on life. Would we ever recommend them to have cancer? I would no more recommend anybody to have an affair then I would recommend someone to have cancer. But I do understand that crisis can sometimes help couples rethink their relationship and reinvest in it and come stronger out of it. Yes, that I have seen many many times. And the fact is that most people today, who are in therapy anyway, will stay together in the aftermath of an affair. We need to serve them better. We need a different conversation that is more compassionate, more sensitive, and more caring to all involved, because an affair is always systemic, it's intergenerational and it's systemic. It's not just two people.

AMT: If we rethought both infidelity and marriage, what could a new possibly more workable version of that kind of marriage look like?

ESTHER PEREL: To understand modern infidelity, you have to understand modern marriage. Affairs do not hurt the same way in all parts of the world. They do not shatter one's identity in that way because the marriage wasn't based on the model of I have found my soul mate. It is part of what we dream we found that makes this become the nightmare that it is. So I think the first thing that needs to happen is that for so long divorce was the stigma. Today we are much more accepting of divorce and it's infidelity that has become the new shame. It is the new stigma. The idea that people would want to continue and be with their partner even after this kind of betrayal often becomes the secret that the betrayed partner has to carry. More even than the secret of the affair itself, because they will be judged for wanting to stay. And that means that we don't really give credit to the resilience of a relationship. That this may not have been a bad relationship, that this may even be, that may still be a good relationship. And we need more than one option for crisis in a marriage besides just leaving.

AMT: Well let me interject here, because you also make the point that happy people cheat. So some people are happy in the marriage, and they're doing it for reasons that, in a strange way, have nothing to do with their happiness with that partner, is your point.

ESTHER PEREL: It’s not strange at all. Yes, but it’s not strange at all. We have developed--

AMT: That’s your point, it’s strange. OK, keep going.

ESTHER PEREL: We have developed the view that if when you marry you have found a person who is going to give you everything. The one person who is going to give you what once an entire village used to provide, with whom you're going to have good companionship and children and family life and who's going to be your best friend and your trusted confidant and your passionate lover and your intellectual equal and all of those things. By definition, if someone strays then it must mean that there's something missing. And either there's something missing in the relationship or there's something missing in you. So we have developed the symptom theory. You wouldn't go anywhere else if you had everything you wanted at home, presuming that such a thing is even possible. People in happy marriages also cheat, yes. Because they have reasons that have nothing to do with the relationship. They're longing for certain things, they're seeking connections with different parts of themselves. Their marriage is only one story. When you pick a partner you pick a story, and this is one story. And other people would say but you made a commitment to that story and you are not to breach it. And that is correct. But once they have done it, it is still important not to blame the partner and not to blame the marriage when this is not where the truth lies. I call it the streetlight effect. You can always find things in the relationship that are problematic but that doesn't mean that those are the things that led a person to stray. People who stray need to take responsibility for their actions and sometimes it involves just themselves.

AMT: Are there lessons there then for every couple?

ESTHER PEREL: If you want to know about a strong, resilient and thriving relationship, it's very useful to read about relationships that have undergone affairs. They will teach you a lot. They will teach you how to maintain aliveness, because affairs are plots of aliveness. They will teach you how to remain intimate and connected. They will teach you what not to do. And they will teach you also how recovering from such a crisis can be healing. We don't learn from looking at the things that go well, we learn from going to look at some of the worst crisis, and how people recover from there. That's where you get your deepest lessons for maintaining a strong and resilient relationship.

AMT: It's fascinating to hear your views and to hear what you, how you work with people. Thank you for speaking with me.

ESTHER PEREL: Thank you very much.

AMT: Esther Perel. She's the author of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. And she joined us from New York City. If you've had some experience with affairs and rethinking infidelity and you want to add to this conversation, go to our website cbc.ca/thecurrent, click on the Contact link. Send us an email from our site or find us on Facebook, tweet us @TheCurrentCBC.

[Music: Extro]

AMT: In our next half hour, facing up to Facebook's power to influence everything from the news and advertisements you see, to how some people may cast their vote. Calls for greater oversight over the social network in about 90 seconds. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you are listening to The Current on CBC Radio One, Sirius XM, online on cbc.ca/thecurrent, on podcast and on your radio app.

[Music: Extro]

ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Hello, I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current. In a moment, we're looking at the future of Facebook. But first I want to tell you about an interview coming up later this week, you won't want to miss it. I'll be speaking with three self-described dudes from Halifax who are the brains and bodies behind the podcast Sick Boy. That's a podcast all about being sick. Jeremie Saunders has cystic fibrosis and he co-hosts with two of his friends Brian Stever and Taylor MacGillivary.

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JEREMIE SAUNDERS: My lung capacity right now hovers in like the mid 60 per cent range. Right now I feel like I can pretty much do everything. Although--

BRIAN STEVER: Except smoke your corncob pipe.

JEREMIE SAUNDERS: [laughs] Yeah.

BRIAN STEVER: You can’t do that.

JEREMIE SAUNDERS: I had to give that up. [laughs] But I can I can pretty much do everything. I mean, I get a little more winded. There's like, I’ll have these moments where I'll be doing something, like I'll be taking my dog for a walk and I take him through this graveyard back in Halifax and there's this hill that goes, you know, and it's not a super steep hill, but we get to the top of it sometimes will notice how winded I am. And I'll be walking with my wife Bryde and our dog, and I'm looking at my dog who is a French Mastiff who's just like panting so hard and I'm like, I feel you buddy, like we're in this together. And Bryde is, you know, she's just breathing normally, breathing easy. But I've got this like pant coming on. The last ten years or so I've been on this very steady decline in terms of lung function. And so it's, you know, every year it just becomes a little more apparent.

BRIAN STEVER: I’ve known Jeremie for about over 15 years now. Jeremie and I first met competing in the sport of sprint canoeing. Jeremie was actually a better athlete than I was when we were 12-years-old. It's kind of embarrassing because he has a genetic chronic lung disease and we were competing in like a timed aerobics sports.

JEREMIE SAUNDERS: [laughs] Yeah.

BRIAN STEVER: But, you know, he was a year older than me. There's a big difference when you're 12 and 13.

JEREMIE SAUNDERS: Excuses, excuses, whatever.

BRIAN STEVER: There’s pictures of us when we were kids, and you can see them in the documentary actually, I'm standing next to him on the podium and he's like a full foot and a half taller than me. So I blame it on that.

JEREMIE SAUNDERS: The podium also was number one, just saying.

TAYLOR MACGILLIVARY: Jeremie and I, serendipitously, we go and take a yoga teacher training together and we get roomed up in Brazil together. And I arrived late at night, Jeremie’s up and he has to do his treatment before he goes to sleep. So he's there, he's got his nebulizer vaporizer contraption that he's doing his medication before he goes to sleep. And soon as I walk into the room I go what's that? What are you doing?

JEREMIE SAUNDERS: I'm smoking that rare Brazilian stuff.

TAYLOR MACGILLIVARY: And then he goes oh uh, he makes some joke and then goes no no no, this is what I do for my illness.

Back To Top »

Why regulating Facebook is inevitable: technology expert

Guests: Virginia Heffernan, David Kirkpatrick

AMT: Well you can hear my conversation with the hosts of the podcast Sickboy Thursday on The Current. They’re the subject of a new film on CBC Television’s POV documentary stream. And that's going to be airing next Sunday on CBC Television. Right now you're listening to The Current on CBC Radio One and Sirius XM, I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. It wasn't long after Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election last year that observers started asking about Facebook and how much of an impact it might have had on the outcome. At the time Mark Zuckerberg, the social network's CEO brushed away those concerns. He famously said it was quote, “a pretty crazy idea”. But pressure has been mounting on the company in the months since then. And revelations that Russia purchased thousands of Facebook ads during the campaign forced Mark Zuckerberg into an about face last month. Naturally he did it on Facebook live.

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MARK ZUCKERBERG: We are actively working with the US government on its ongoing investigations into Russian interference. We've been investigating this for many months now, and for a while we had found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running ads. And when we recently uncovered this activity we provided that information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress. I wish I could tell you that we're going to be able to stop all interference but that just wouldn't be realistic. There will always be bad actors in the world and we can't prevent all governments from all interference. But we can make it harder. We can make it much harder. And that's what we're going to focus on doing.

AMT: Mark Zuckerberg may be bringing in new measures to prevent foreign meddling in future elections. But to many this entire episode has revealed that the influential social network may have grown too big to be left up to its own devices. US lawmakers are scrutinizing the company. Some believe greater government regulation is just a matter of time. So to bring us up to speed on the latest, I'm joined by Virginia Heffernan, she is a digital culture writer and author of the book Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. She's also a contributor to Wired magazine and the co-host of Slate's Trumpcast podcast. Virginia Heffernan is in New York City. Hi.

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Hi Anna Maria.

AMT: What do we know about the ads Facebook turned over to authorities for their investigation into interference in the last election?

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Well we know only bits and pieces. Facebook has, to the frustration of those interested in the subject, refused to show the ads to the public, although they have given a gloss on those ads. And what that gloss suggests is that they are filled with incendiary material meant to sort of stoke divisions along the lines that, you know, that most heat up public debate and division. So immigration and race and gun, gun ownership and guns. And finally, of course during the election material that can only be called anti Hillary Clinton. So they praised and there were ads in favour of Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump. When the material is described as diverse, it's hard to say it's diverse material since it stumped for all of Hillary Clinton's opponents. And defeating Hillary Clinton and stoking divisions seems to have been it's end.

AMT: Now what do those ads look like, Virginia?

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Well, so the ads that were turned over to the government investigating committees we haven't seen at all, we don't know what they look like. We've seen a little bit of what the Trump campaign produced. So these are separate from separate, one hopes, from the Russian ads but possibly the same. We know what they look like, those look like. They show usually a disfigured looking picture of Hillary Clinton or, you know, fake news or marginally fake news around various events that show immigrants to the United States getting, you know, all kinds of benefits while veterans suffer. Those ads, some of them were produced by the Trump campaign, and others were produced by these Russian entities.

AMT: And--

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Or even also bought and distributed or sorry ripped and distributed. So there were some organic fake news made by presumably Trump supporters and other Facebook accounts, and Russian accounts ripped those and distributed them via troll networks and bot networks.

AMT: Right. And so they were targeting specific groups of people?

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Yes. So we're talking first about the ads that have been confirmed to have come from Russia. So Facebook has only copped to selling 150,000 dollars worth of ads for a total of 5,000 ads, sometimes you see that number erroneously reported as 3,000 ads for 100,000 dollars. It's important to respect that it's actually 150,000 dollars for 5,000 ads and that's a significant difference. So those ads, again, we don't know what they were. There's heavy suspicion by the press and by the sort of drip drip drip of revelations that began even well before the election, that Russian entities were pushing as so-called organic ads or fake news that came from Trump supporters and distributing it. But we can't say for sure that those are Russian creations. And it's still too early to say whether what the Trump campaign was making and what Russians were sponsoring were one in the same.

AMT: And do we know how much these ads influenced the election?

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Well that's the question. And it's hard to say what exactly people took to the polls with them. There is ample evidence that the, you know, hammering on Hillary Clinton's private email server as, you know, the scandal of the century was something that voters said cost her their trust. We also know that it definitely was an effort to influence the election, in that some of the targeting was on voters in Michigan and Wisconsin, which as you know were decisive in the election. But, you know, calculating influence on voters is very difficult. There's a separate issue of whether voting software was hacked and what kind of difference that made in the final tallies. But right now we're just speaking of influence operations, Russian influence operations in particular, and the toll they took not only on the election and on the framing of Trump and Hillary and these incendiary issues I just described including racism and anti-Semitism, misogyny. But the effect that they’ve have had on our collective psyche. So there's an ascendant concept called cognitive security. It's sort of in the same breath as national security or financial security people talk about cognitive security. And there's a strong idea that our thinking to some extent has been hacked by this particularly angry rhetoric that shows up on Twitter, Google, and Facebook.

AMT: Well in fact I'm glad you mentioned the others, because in the last 24 hours we've seen Google's initial inquiry turn up about 60,000 dollars worth of ads with connections to Russian internet addresses or the Russian government. Microsoft is looking into the possibility on its own sites. Earlier Twitter talked about what is it 200 accounts appearing to be linked to a Russian campaign. So it goes beyond Facebook.

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: It goes it goes beyond Facebook. If there are, so there's a narrow and a broad focus to the investigations into this, and obviously the media is interested in both. But it's worth drawing a distinction between what the Senate and congressional intelligence committees are looking into versus what special prosecutor Robert Mueller is looking into. So all of them are, you know, in a broad way interested in interference in the election. But the two congressional committees are conducting a fact finding mission about Russian interference generally, they're not looking for prosecutions. They don't begin with the idea that the Trump campaign may have collaborated with Russian entities and then obstructed justice into the congressional investigations. They are doing a fact finding 9/11 style commission to see how Russian interference works here and abroad. And of course people are interested, some, I would say somewhat more in the media about Trump's collaboration with those entities, that is the Mueller investigation which is much quieter and harder to penetrate. The reason I say that is that drawing that distinction is important when we talk about say targeted advertising around, you know, makes us kind of squeamish where if users of Facebook use the phrase say, hate Jews, they get hit with anti-Semitic material. Now that could be a product of the Trump campaign itself. It just could be unsavoury advertising or, you know, incendiary advertising.

AMT: Right.

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: That's different from the ads produced and sponsored by Russian entities. But as I say, there is circumstantial evidence that they were working, the Trump campaign and these Russian entities, were working together.

AMT: Right. So could Facebook end up culpable in the investigations?

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: So, you know, to some extent and I wrote a recent piece in Wired about what it would be for Facebook to make a clean breast of it and also maybe atone going forward. The, you know, Mark Zuckerberg as you said in the introduction initially dismissed the idea that even fake news had influenced the election. And I should say fake news was rampant on the site and visible to everyone. Nobody doubted during last summer, sorry the summer before last, that they, you know, that that material was out there. They went into the inauguration of Donald Trump knowing that was true anyway.

AMT: So could they be culpable?

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Yes. So they could be culpable and it seems like they already know they're culpable. So Facebook is taking steps already to first of all, Mark Zuckerberg took the strange step of offering a Yom Kippur atonement for having had his work quote, “used by bad actors.” And he also issued a statement that you all quoted in your introduction on Facebook Live saying that Facebook was going to take steps to prevent this from happening in the future.

AMT: OK.

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Whether they're more culpable, whether they're arrested or, you know, are charges pending? It's not clear.

AMT: OK. We'll pick that up with our next guest Virginia, thank you.

VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN: Thanks very much.

AMT: That's Virginia Heffernan, author of the book Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. She's a contributor to Wired magazine. She's in New York City. My next guest has been watching Facebook closely for years, and when it comes to increased oversight for the social network he believes it's a matter of time. David Kirkpatrick is the founder, host and CEO of the Techonomy Conference, which looks at the impact of technology on society. He's the author of The Facebook Effect. He's in New York hello.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Hi. Thank you for having me.

AMT: Well, what do you make of the controversy that Facebook is facing over Russian election interference and the push for greater regulation?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Well, I mean that's a big question but certainly I do believe as you mentioned, that regulation is coming, that Facebook probably merited regulation anyway but by its reaction to the election controversy, it has in effect invited it to come much sooner. I certainly would agree with Virginia that Facebook has handled this very poorly. I think one of the most interesting issues is why Facebook failed to anticipate the misuse of its platform in this way. And as she said, also it was astonishing when Zuckerberg called it a crazy idea that Facebook could have, that fake news on Facebook could have affected the election of Trump. Which by the way he said to me on stage at the Techonomy Conference the day after the election, which is just worth mentioning and I'm proud of--

AMT: Mhm.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Because I was probing on that. But, you know, fake news was everywhere as she pointed out. But also Facebook is designed to essentially favour incendiary material. It's designed to, because it's an attention-based advertising driven business, things that command attention are prized and more distributed than other things, and encouraged by Facebook to be distributed because they generate page views and page views generate platforms for advertising. So in general, a advertising-based platform is going to lean towards things that get people's emotions engaged, and anger and rage and fear are two emotions that are quite easily implicated.

AMT: Can we talk about Facebook though without bringing in Google and Microsoft and Twitter if we’re looking at if there's a need for regulation?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Well we can and we can't. I mean, certainly this problem is way way beyond Facebook, and I don't think Facebook is uniquely, I don't like the word culpable by the way, although I'm not sure what it may or may not be pertinent. But, you know, I think all those platforms have a major responsibility, especially Google, to own up to and continue to research what happened on their own platforms and they may have a very similar situation. The difference is that because Facebook is by far the most targetable medium that has ever existed in the history of media because the nature of, you know, of advertising there is based around targeting individuals by very very specific parameters, their age, their location, their views, their, you know, history, you know, their political persuasion in particular. It is the place where if the Russians were buying, which they seem to have been doing, advertising intended to sway the election, they could have more impact because they could very specifically target people. I mean, we saw on the 60 Minutes thing with the digital director of the Trump campaign just the other night, the Trump’s director of that talking about how they could target groups as small as 1,500 people in a region who were concerned about infrastructure, and then they could assume those people probably were historically Democrats and they could craft ads that were specifically intended to appeal to their interest in that topic and sway them to the other side. There's never been a medium that allowed you to target people that exactly.

AMT: Right. So when they say they failed to anticipate this, that’s a bit rich isn’t it? Why would they have failed to anticipate the misuse of this?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: I think it is disturbing. And that has come up, they have said that in several contexts, recently Mark Zuckerberg has said it, Sheryl Sandberg has said it, that they never imagined their service would be used this way. And I find that to be honest, even as a long-time observer who's a believer in the goodwill of these people, quite shocking and disturbing. And really I think it's deeply disappointing and I think what's happened in effect is that Facebook has become such an extraordinary money machine in recent years and it really is, it is the most profitable company of its size in the history of capitalism. And, you know, that is a seductive drug. And I think people who make that much money begin to think of their own virtue a little bit too freely and maybe aren't as vigilant as they ought to be about potential downsides of their miraculous money machine creation. And let's remember Zuckerberg is now worth 70 billion dollars personally, Sheryl Sandberg is probably worth six to eight billion dollars personally. And, you know, that kind of thing causes people to be distorted in their own self-conception in my opinion. And I think it's an unfortunate consequence of the current state of capitalism to be honest.

AMT: OK.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: You know, and that really muddles your judgment. And those two people, particularly Zuckerberg, he is the only person who's really necessary to convince. Everything at Facebook flows from him.

AMT: Well David, I just want to ask more specifically about possible legislation and I’m going to pull it to Canada. We did request interviews with Facebook Canada, Canada's minister of democratic institutions, they declined. We're told they'll be making a joint announcement October 19th regarding Facebook Canada's election integrity initiatives.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Uh oh.

AMT: What does that tell you about where things are headed in Canada?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Well that's the other thing is Facebook operates in literally every country in the world, so these issues are not confined to the United States. They recently made some statement about trying to ensure the integrity of the German elections. They have to be vigilant on this in literally every country where there are elections. So that's very problematic. Obviously Canada is one of those. Canada at least is fortunate that it has people like, you know, integrity of democracy in its government or a privacy commissioner, which we don't have. There is going to be law changed in Canada, in the United States, in the EU, I guarantee you in coming years that will require Facebook by name and other similar companies to change the way they operate. It could be a commercially very disadvantageous development.

AMT: OK. I’m going to just play a clip for you, because there is some concern around that, of experts warning that regulating that they should proceed with caution. This is Daphne Keller, Director of Intermediary Liability at Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society. Listen to her.

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DAPHNE KELLER: A lot of the specific calls for regulation that I've heard aren't very well informed and tend to make proposals that are not realistic about how the companies work or not realistic about what collateral damage the regulation might cause. That perfectly innocent speech will come down, and probably in particular a perfectly innocent speech by people who are talking about controversial subjects or people who are speaking Arabic or Black Lives Matter, activists so that the harmful consequences of badly designed speech removal laws disproportionately fall on the people who most need protection for their speech.

AMT: Could there be some unintended consequences with any regulation?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Completely. I totally agree with every word she said. The reality is we do not know how to regulate entities of this scale. Let's remember, no commercial entity that has this degree of impact on society has really ever existed. The intersection between these commercial entities, and I don't mean just Facebook, I mean Google and also some large degree Amazon and maybe some of the other companies you mentioned, and government. The intersection between those two kinds of entities, government and those entities, is really a new, that's terra incognita. We don't have good ideas. I have never heard a good idea on how to regulate these companies. That does not mean I would take back what I said before. I guarantee you there will be regulations. We deserve and need a much more informed and intelligent discussion about what to do. And unfortunately for Facebook, it will require them to be way more transparent about how their systems actually work than they have been up to now. And I think they have believed they could escape regulation and that by keeping quiet about how things work maybe that would prolong the deregulated era that they've been living in. But unfortunately that is ending. These election controversies by the way are by no means the only ways that their systems can and will be abused and are being abused. So, you know, we need to have a relationship between government and these companies that is different. You know, and how it happens I don't know. There is absolutely a risk that we could suppress speech that should not be suppressed. In fact, I think that's already happening.

AMT: Yeah.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Many people call for companies like Facebook to, you know, do more to suppress this and that, but in effect that's a form of censorship that's being put on a commercial entity which I think is intrinsically inappropriate.

AMT: So lots to watch for David, we're going to have to leave it there. But thank you for giving us some perspective on what to watch for as this unfolds.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Thank you for having me.

AMT: That is David Kirkpatrick. He's the founder, host and CEO of the Techonomy Conference. He's the author of The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting The World. He joined us from New York City. That's our program for today. Now at the start of today's program, we heard how a river in New Zealand has the same legal status as a person after local Maori people convinced lawmakers the river was their ancestor and a living entity. Here in Canada Katherine Morrisseau-Sinclair has been trying for years to get Canadians to view Lake Winnipeg as a person. In 2014 she spent a month walking more than a thousand kilometres along its banks, bringing attention to the failing health of the world's tenth largest lake. Producer Suzanne Dufresne caught up with her to talk about having Lake Winnipeg recognized as a person. And we're going to leave you with that. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti, thank you for listening to The Current.

SOUNDCLIP

[Music]

KATHERINE MORRISSEAU-SINCLAIR: When I was walking around Lake Winnipeg I was thinking about how sick she was. I saw the horrible devastation that is taking place with her. In communities I met with people and they showed me, for example, fish who were so deformed they didn't even look like fish anymore. The green algae just layered over the lake at certain points and it just hurt. It hurt. I felt it in my heart.

[Sound: water splashes]

KATHERINE MORRISSEAU-SINCLAIR: So one of the things that we were committed to doing was to pray for her, to talk with her, and to let her know how much we loved her. Over the course of the last 30 plus years, what I have been able to understand is that everything on this Earth has a spirit because it was created by the Creator. And the Creator put the spirit not only to us as human beings, but also every tree, every rock, the waters. Everything. When I meet with people and the critics say come on Katherine, how can you look at this lake and see a person there? I talk with them and I assure them that this I hold very true to my heart. I believe it because I see her as that. I hear her. The scientists need to incorporate this understanding and we can work together to provide the healing if people would look at her as a person. Because you wouldn't show such disrespect if you saw her as a beautiful woman that she is.


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