California Congresswoman Katie Porter is interviewed. Georgia can remove Mitch McConnell from the leadership of the Senate in those two Senate races that are being run in Georgia right now. Attorney Ron Filipkowski resigned in protest from his position on a judicial nominating commission after he saw that video of the police, guns drawn, in Rebekah Jones' home. Yesterday, people who don't believe that coronavirus is a threat to them, managed to shut down a virtual meeting of public health officials in Boise, Idaho when they protested outside of the office and at the homes of the officials who were in a video conference. The Netflix hit documentary "The Social Dilemma" is about social media's influence on our lives and the way we think.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I was listening to you talk about your book tour for "Bag Man" which I'm holding here on camera while we're talking about it. I know you said, by the way, I know you said in the last hour that's the last time you're going to talk about it. I took that to mean that's the last time you're going to talk about it on your show because you're going to talk about it on Colbert tonight.
Your book tour is two events, that's it, just two events?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yeah, it's only two online events and they happen within two days of each other and that's it. This is pandemic book tour special.
O'DONNELL: Yeah, and for your last book tour you went around the country, there were a bunch of events.
MADDOW: Uh-huh, even though I was on crutches, it was very laborious.
O'DONNELL: There's always something with a Rachel Maddow book tour.
MADDOW: Lawrence, thank you so much for that interview you did with me about "Bag Man." It was -- you were very kind, you picked out stuff from it that nobody else picked out about it.
O'DONNELL: I loved the book, Rachel, it was easy to do. Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. Thanks.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, Mitch McConnell did not cry today. The United States set a record today, the largest number of people to die in this country on one day from the coronavirus, 3,046 deaths. But Mitch McConnell did not cry today.
More people than were killed on 9/11. But Mitch McConnell did not cry today.
There are more people in hospital beds tonight in America being treated for coronavirus than at any point this year. The highest number ever, 106,688 people in hospital beds tonight, many of them fighting for their lives with their families, not knowing if they were ever see them again. But Mitch McConnell did not cry today.
Millions of people out of work, lost their jobs, their income to the coronavirus pandemic, unable to pay their rent, waiting in food lines. But Mitch McConnell did not cry today. Not for them. Not for any of the people suffering tonight in America. Mitch McConnell did nothing for those people, again, today.
The only reason we know Mitch McConnell can cry is that exactly one week ago today, exactly one week ago today, Mitch McConnell cried. He cried on the Senate floor after listening to the farewell speech of the retiring and utterly undistinguished Republican senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander. Mitch McConnell cried.
For Lamar Alexander, who isn't sick, who wasn't dying like the 3,046 people who died in this country today from COVID-19. Lamar Alexander hasn't suffered at all during this pandemic, hasn't lost any income, isn't worried about the rent. And that's who Mitch McConnell cried for. The one time we have seen him cry.
Lamar Alexander was a fully reliable tool of Mitch McConnell in the United States senate. Lamar Alexander had no guiding principles stronger than doing what Mitch McConnell wanted him to do. And nothing could be more important to Mitch McConnell, more endearing to Mitch McConnell, than that kind of blind loyalty to Mitch McConnell and his mission.
Mitch McConnell's mission was described today on MSNBC on Nicolle Wallace's show by Steve Schmidt in one of those extemporaneous short speeches of his that just stop you in your tracks and force you to not just listen but to say the words again in your head and think. And every time you think about the most forceful things that Steve Schmidt says, the most sharp-edged things that he says about the people who he used to work for in the Republican Party, you know that it's true. And Steve Schmidt saying it about Republicans makes it all the more importantly true.
Steve Schmidt ran John McCain's campaign for president. Steve Schmidt has always wanted a Republican to be president of the United States until Donald Trump's became the Republican Party's nominee for President.
What Steve Schmidt said today explained everything, everything that Republicans try to do to suppress the vote in places like Georgia, which we will discuss later in this hour. Everything Republicans do in support of Donald Trump's completely frivolous lawsuits about the election. Everything Republicans do in Washington all day long, every day, was explained by Steve Schmidt in this one searing sentence in the middle of a riveting soliloquy on what the Republican Party has become.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE SCHMIDT, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: The Republican Party is an organized conspiracy for the purposes of maintaining power for self-interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: An organized conspiracy for the purposes of maintaining power.
In Steve Schmidt's analysis, Ted Cruz is a participant in that organized conspiracy. So Ted Cruz said yes when Donald Trump asked him last night if he would be willing to argue the case for him in front of the United States Supreme Court filed by the Texas attorney general, seeking to invalidate the election results in four states, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
In "The New York Times'" reporting of Donald Trump's request for Ted Cruz to represent him before the Supreme Court, there was no indication that Donald Trump had to apologize to Ted Cruz before Ted Cruz accepted the assignment.
Donald Trump, of course, famously insulted Ted Cruz's wife in the presidential campaign in 2016 when Ted Cruz was running against Donald Trump and Donald Trump at the same time suggested that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of President John f. Kennedy. At the time, Ted Cruz said that Donald Trump was, Ted Cruz's words, a sniveling coward and, Ted Cruz's word, a rat.
But Ted Cruz doesn't need an apology from Donald Trump because as Steve Schmidt said, Ted Cruz is part of an organized conspiracy for the purposes of maintaining power. Nothing personal. And the way Ted Cruz remains a member of that conspiracy is by getting voters in Texas to vote for him. Ted Cruz will probably never get a chance to appear in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in that case because the Supreme Court is very unlikely to accept the preposterous case, to throw out millions of votes.
Ted Cruz did not offer to help anyone suffering either physically or economically from the coronavirus pandemic this week. Ted Cruz did not offer to help support the people in Texas who have created some of the longest lines in the country at food banks. Ted Cruz did not try to help anyone who can't pay their rent after COVID-19 took their jobs away.
Our first guest tonight, Congresswoman Katie Porter, just couldn't take it any more. She couldn't take what Mitch McConnell is doing. And she explained it all on Twitter today.
She wrote: When I came to Congress, I knew I had a responsibility to pull back the curtain for the American people and expose corruption in real time. So I'm filling you in on Senator McConnell's attempts over the last eight days to tank a bipartisan COVID relief bill.
You may have heard that Democrats and Republicans have agreed upon spending $900 billion to fund another round of small business loans, support hospitals, and essential workers, and help the 10 million people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Everyone at the negotiating table including Senate Republicans has agreed to a compromise except one.
Mitch McConnell is refusing to bring it to the floor unless it wipes away all COVID-related lawsuits filed that allege injury or death due to corporate negligence. These lawsuits represent the worst of the worst examples of disregard for human life -- cases filed on behalf of nursing home patients, and grocery store workers who died because the company in charge of keeping them safe prioritized cutting costs over protecting them. The same McConnell who said that president Trump is 100 percent within his rights to pursue baseless lawsuits alleging election fraud is now refusing to pass urgently-needed relief unless it strips those same rights from the most vulnerable among us. This must be exposed.
We might break a record again tomorrow. We might have more than 3,046 deaths from coronavirus tomorrow. The one thing we can be sure of tomorrow is that Mitch McConnell will not cry.
Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter of California. She's a member of the House Financial Services Committee and the House Oversight Committee.
Congresswoman Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Take us through what it's been like for you in the House having passed COVID relief bills, massive COVID relief bills months ago that have been ignored by Mitch McConnell and now we're going through this process where Mitch McConnell continues to ignore the best efforts made by everyone else trying to solve this problem.
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): You know, it's not just what I've been going through as a member of Congress. I just want to say what I've been going through personally.
You know, you talked at the beginning about Mitch McConnell not crying today. Well, I cried today, because my grandmother is dying of COVID-19. And she's dying because of people not taking responsibility for this pandemic.
So it's just disgusting to me that Mr. McConnell will not allow a bipartisan compromise to move forward because he wants to give away goodies to huge corporations.
O'DONNELL: Let me just, Congresswoman, please, go back to your grandmother for a moment, I'm very sorry to hear about her condition. Where is she, how long has she been sick, and what are you hearing about her condition tonight?
PORTER: She's in Iowa where she was born and lived her whole life. She's 94 years old. She was transferred to the hospital. We elected to have her put into hospice so she's receiving comfort measures and will pass away in the upcoming days of COVID.
And in the meantime, I'm getting phone calls from constituents who have lost loved ones and hearing stories about workers who are scared to go to work because they don't have enough PPE. I'm putting food in trunks of cars to help people at food banks.
This is the pandemic in America. It's an epidemic of COVID, it's an epidemic of hunger, it's not epidemic of housing security.
You know what it's not an epidemic? It's not an epidemic of lawsuits. And any effort by Mitch McConnell to suggest that that is happening is flat out lying to the American people.
O'DONNELL: Let me ask you as a former law professor yourself about a technical point here that isn't clear to me. How would federal legislation control civil lawsuits within the 50 states each of which have different rules for civil lawsuits within those states?
PORTER: That concept is called preemption. And what it basically does is that when the federal government passes a law, in this case the proposal for Mitch McConnell is to allow corporations to act as recklessly as they want and to not be on the hook if people get COVID and die as a result of their recklessness. And so the federal law would override the state law.
Now, you know, I've been thinking a lot today about my tort class in law school where I learned about how these rules about employer liability came to be. We've put these rules in place because corporations, particularly at the time railroads, were allowing their workers to be maimed, to be killed, and not engaging in any kind of reasonable safety precaution.
So we adopted the standard we have now. So if businesses are following reasonable rules, state public health guidelines, they're not going to face any liability. There is no epidemic of liability.
In fact, there are more lawsuits, baseless lawsuits brought by Trump about this election than there have been medical malpractice or personal injury lawsuits relating to COVID-19.
So Mitch McConnell is in search, this is not a problem. This is simply about giving his corporate donors what they want.
So when I listened to you talk about Steve Schmidt and he's talking about this conspiracy, his words, this conspiracy to keep in power, it's important to peel back, keep who in power?
And the answer is the nation's largest corporations who want a green light. They basically want a license to kill without any liability.
MADDOW: Well, Rachel has covered in depth the way things have been handled in meatpacking plants, including people in one meat packing plant at the management level making bets on how many people working in that meatpacking plant would get COVID-19, they were actually betting on it. That's exactly the kind of situation that Mitch McConnell is trying to prevent any lawsuit arising out of evidence like that that has emerged.
PORTER: We've seen it right here in Orange County. Right here in Orange County, we had 46 workers who got sick at a single call center owned by AT&T. Two of those workers died. And yet, Mitch McConnell wants to let AT&T off the hook for having to do anything to try and keep those workers safe.
If Mitch McConnell's rule were to go forward, then companies would not have to provide PPE. They wouldn't have to follow state public health guidelines. And if they ignored all those rules to put profit ahead of people and people died as a result, they would get off the hook.
That's what Mitch McConnell is holding up relief to hungry people, people facing eviction, over.
O'DONNELL: The bills that the House has passed that Mitch McConnell has just stiffed, not even given a chance to even be considered there, it has a pernicious effect of making Washington and the national media ignore those bills because they don't have a chance to pass the Senate. It's kind of -- it's important work that you've been doing, that Nancy Pelosi has been doing over the whole year, that just gets ignored because of this McConnell roadblock.
PORTER: Well, I think that's understandable from the perspective of the American people. They need help. They need food on the table. They need a roof over their head.
They need unemployment assistance. They need these things. And bill that doesn't become a law doesn't improve and change their lives.
So I understand and deeply sympathize with the American people. But I want them to understand that what's holding us back is standing up to make sure that they're going to be safe in the workplace, that our essential workers will have to have reasonable safety precautions in the workplace. That nursing home patients will have to be protected by nursing homes following reasonable safety precautions. That's what we're fighting for.
O'DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight, and I'm very sorry for what you and your family are experiencing now with your grandmother.
And I am, as ever, impressed by your commitment to working for your constituents and the people of this country, even under these really difficult personal circumstances for yourself.
Really appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much.
PORTER: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: And when we come back, it's all about Mitch McConnell. Georgia can do it. Georgia can remove Mitch McConnell from the leadership of the Senate in those two Senate races that are being run in Georgia right now.
We'll be right back with the latest from Georgia.
O'DONNELL: From now until January 5, each candidate running for Senate in Georgia is invited on this program every night. It's an open invitation to all four of the candidates, the two Democrats and the two Republicans. Both Democrats, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, have accepted that invitation and have appeared on this program. And they surely will again.
But the Republican candidates, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, have refused to appear on this program. They aren't very good at answering questions about the way they have traded on stocks, using information they gained in their position as senators. We would also like to hear about what they have to say about why they are attacking the results of the Georgia election, the election in their own state, which was run by Republicans, a Republican Georgia governor, a Republican Georgia secretary of state, and Republican appointees within the secretary of state's office in Georgia.
Senator Loeffler and Senator Perdue are supporting the lawsuit brought by Texas attorney general who is under investigation by the FBI and probably seeking a pardon from Donald Trump, a lawsuit to completely invalidate the election results in Georgia and other states, including Pennsylvania, where Republican Senator Pat Toomey has said the attempts to reverse Joe Biden's win in Pennsylvania are indefensible.
Republicans did everything they possibly could to suppress the vote in Georgia which Joe Biden still won because of the determination of Georgia voters to not be suppressed by those techniques.
Now, Georgia officials are planning to reduce the number of early voting locations in the most populous counties including Cobb County where Joe Biden won by 14 points.
Tonight, Jon Ossoff, who is running against Republican Senator David Perdue, said this during a conversation on Instagram with Leslie Jones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: There was a Supreme Court decision in 2013 called Shelby County v. Holder. And in that Supreme Court decision, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since that Supreme Court decision, states like Georgia have engaged in more and more ruthless voter suppression but then heroes like Stacey Abrams stood up and said, actually we're not going to let you take away the sacred franchise that people bled and died for.
When people learn someone's trying to take away their rights, we're galvanized in our determination to exercise them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining us now, Lauren Groh-Wargo. She's the CEO of Fair Fight Action. She managed Stacey Abrams' 2018 campaign for governor in Georgia.
What is the situation in Georgia tonight?
LAUREN GROH-WARGO, CEO, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: Well, Lawrence, I think you said it. We have two Republican Senate candidates devoid of any substance. They won't debate the candidates or if they do, in Kelly Loeffler's situation, they speak like an automaton, like a Trump MAGA talking point automaton.
So, look, we have had a 60 percent increase in COVID infections over the past week. In Georgia, we're seeing the surge that we're seeing all over the country and these real issues are affecting Georgia voters. And so, they're turning out to vote, Lawrence. We have over 1.1 million Georgia voters have already requested ballots. Democratic numbers are incredibly strong.
Meanwhile, we have David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler playing all of these Trump politics and all of these political games, trying to sow all this disinformation in the Georgia elections. And I would call them games except they're so dangerous. This disinformation that they are trading in and by supporting all this baloney Trump litigation, they are really just helping bust up all these norms and all of our institutions in the state.
And what's wild about it, Lawrence, is we've got these Republican MAGA folks cheering some of the early vote closures that you just referenced. But, Lawrence, some of these are in Republican counties, okay? These guys need to look at the numbers.
In Forsythe and Hall County, Donald Trump won those counties, guys, and yes, they're targeted at Latinos and Asian-Americans. But early vote location closures hurt everybody in the county.
And because Donald Trump and his cronies are all anti-vote-by-mail, over 70 percent of Georgia Republicans used vote by mail in Forsythe county. Forsythe County is a north suburban exurban north Georgia county, OK? There are a lot of Democrats there, but there are a lot more Republicans.
And so, they're trading in all this disinformation but it's creating quite a backlash because they're trying to turn their folks out at the same time. So we're letting them go through all of this, and, you know, have their sort of interesting war while we're focused on turning out the vote and making sure our folks know where the early vote locations are and how to return their vote by mail ballots while they have this massive feud.
O'DONNELL: There's obviously a massive amount of money pouring into these campaigns, Republicans pouring in more money at this stage than Democrats, apparently. But what has that done to Georgia television? Are voters just overwhelmed with campaign ads at this point when they turn on their TVs?
GROH-WARGO: Sure. It's a big national race. It feels like a presidential, the levels of spending are extraordinary. And you can't watch television without watching a ton of political advertising.
What I'm really looking at though, Lawrence, is all the other activity on the ground. Hundreds of thousands of doors have been knocked by Fair Fight's allies in the field, organizations like the New Georgia Project and Black PAC and Asian-Americans Advancing Justice. There are a whole coalition of progressive and Democratic groups that are tuning all of that noise out and they're getting the vote out. And you can see it already in the numbers.
And so, we've got some important dates coming up in Georgia. If you're a Georgian, make your plan to vote, go to peachvote.com. Monday is the first day of in-person early vote. The vote by mail process is still ongoing. Folks can still request and return those ballots.
And so yes, the money is extraordinary. But at a certain point, folks start to tune that out. And what people are not going to tune out are those knocks on the door or the text messages or the phone calls. There's tons of food giveaways and work to make sure that there's charitable events happening.
It is a really tough time for families. While the Republicans are duking it out, just like your previous guest Congressman Porter talked about, most Georgians are trying to figure out how to have a reasonable holiday for their family, how to get the kid the thing they want on their Christmas list and have unbelievable financial distress.
We all know people who have COVID in Georgia and are struggling. Our ICU capacity is going down. This is a scary time.
And so, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are talking about it those issues and all of the allied groups are really meeting voters where they are to talk about them about those issues and connect the dots.
Republicans are blocking COVID relief to do giveaways to large corporations. Just like Congresswoman Porter said so eloquently. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will be like Katie Porter. They will go to Congress and speak truth to power and deliver for Georgians who need that relief so desperately.
O'DONNELL: Lauren Groh-Wargo, thank you very much for your expertise on the situation in Georgia. We're going to need to hear from you a lot between now and January 5. Thank you very much for joining us. Thank you.
GROH-WARGO: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: And when we come back, a Republican lawyer quit his position in the Florida state government after seeing the video that we showed you last night of the state police raid on the home of health department whistle-blower Rebekah Jones. The Republican lawyer who resigned his position after seeing that video will join us next.
O'DONNELL: Our next guest resigned his position in the Florida government because of what you're about to see. We showed you this video last night when Rebekah Jones, the Florida Health Department whistleblower who was fired for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data, joined us here to describe what it was like when Florida state police officers entered her home at 8:30 a.m. on Monday searching for computer evidence about a possible text that should not have been sent.
They entered her home with guns drawn and aiming those guns upstairs in her home at her husband and her two children, ages 2 and 11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come outside. Outside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who else is in the home ma'am?
REBEKAH JONES, FORMER FLORIDA HEALTH DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEE: My two children and my husband.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is your husband, ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call them down. Call them down.
JONES: You want the children down?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call them all down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Jones, come down the stairs now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police, come down now.
JONES: Do not point those guns at my children. He just pointed a gun at my children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Here is what Rebekah Jones said about that last night on this program.
JONES: I thought I was being arrested. I had no idea what for. But I have honestly been expecting DeSantis to send people after me for six months.
I didn't know they had a search warrant for the house until they started yelling warrant inside and tell me to tell my husband and two children to come downstairs which was confusing because I had no idea why. And they're standing at the top of the stairs, and the -- my husband is holding our two-year-old daughter and my 11-year-old son is behind him and they're pointing their guns at him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: At the end of that discussion last night, I reported the breaking news that attorney Ron Filipkowski resigned in protest from his position on a judicial nominating commission after he saw that video of the police, guns drawn, in Rebekah Jones' home and after he studied the search warrant that was issued by a judge who was appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
His resignation letter from the post that governor DeSantis appointed him to, attorney Ron Filipkowski said, "I have been increasingly alarmed by the governor's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe the policy of this state towards COVID is reckless and irresponsible.
I have followed the events of Ms. Jones and reviewed the search warrant that led to her home being raided. Based on what I have seen and read, I find these actions unconscionable. Even if the facts alleged are true, I would still call her a hero.
I no longer wish to serve the current government of Florida in any capacity.
Joining us now is Ron Filipkowski, former vice chair of the 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission in Florida. He's also a former general counsel to the Sarasota Republican Party. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Filipkowski. We really appreciate it.
Tell me how you came to your decision. Did you see the video first and then read the search warrant and assemble your thoughts from those two things?
RON FILIPKOWSKI, ATTORNEY: Yes. I saw the video, and obviously was pretty shocked and outraged like everybody else. And then I posted something on Twitter about my visceral reaction to that. And actually a Trump supporter sent me a link to the search warrant from the Miami Herald Web site and said, "Well, you know, before you say anything, you better read the warrant and see what terrible things she's done." I did that and it just made me more mad.
O'DONNELL: Well, yes, I'm going to read from the warrant, because it's all about a text. They're in there with guns drawn because a text was sent to Florida -- workers in the Florida health department, maybe to 1,200 people. And the text said this. It was a group text. And it said this. It's in the warrant. It said, "It's time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don't have to be part of this, be a hero, speak out before it's too late."
That was the crime that was being investigated with guns drawn in Rebekah Jones' home.
M1: Yes. It's outrageous. I mean, and the fact that a search warrant was signed which was so broad, which encompassed them seizing all of her electronic devices, with no minimization or limits on what they could do once they received those devices, led me to believe that really their primary -- the primary target of this warrant is not necessarily Rebekah Jones, and the primary purpose of the warrant is not to make a criminal case against Rebekah Jones.
The primary purpose of all of this is to find out the identities of the people inside the state government who are talking to her and what they're telling her. And I think that's really what they're after.
O'DONNELL: Yes, and she has said that she has had some confidential sources in there who have been trying to give her good information about COVID and she worries now that with the seizure of her electronic devices, the identities of those people could well be obtained by the state police whose boss is the governor of the state of Florida. And you make the point that those police officers knew exactly who this woman is, she's kind of famous in Florida now.
M1: Yes, absolutely. There's just no -- I know that the governor's office is denying that he had any knowledge whatsoever about this investigation or this warrant.
I mean this is a law enforcement agency that reports directly to the governor's office. It doesn't report to a state attorney's office locally. So -- and this is a nemesis of Governor DeSantis and has been for six months, an outspoken critic, high profile.
So the idea that his own law enforcement agency would execute a search warrant like this on such a high profile critic and they wouldn't clear it through him or his general counsel first? That just strains all credibility to me.
O'DONNELL: Ron Filipkowski, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And also thank you for taking your oath as a lawyer seriously and your position as an officer of the court seriously. And when you see something like this, say something about it the way you have. We really appreciate that.
M1: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, a meeting of public health officials in Idaho had to be shut down when protesters showed up at the homes of the officials who were in that meeting.
We'll show you what the mayor had to say about that, next.
O'DONNELL: So imagine you're at an important public health meeting, doing your job, and suddenly protesters are outside your home, scaring your 12-year-old son who is home alone. Does that seem like the world is going crazy to you? And how much is social media helping that world go crazy?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRISTAN HARRIS, CENTER FOR HUMANE TECHNOLOGY: When you look around you, it feels like the world is going crazy. You have to ask yourself, like, is this normal? Or have we all fallen under some kind of spell?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: That's our next guest, Tristan Harris from the Netflix hit documentary "The Social Dilemma" about social media's influence on our lives and the way we think.
We have nurses in this country reporting on people who have fallen under some kind of spell about the coronavirus. They don't believe the coronavirus is real, even when they are in the hospital dying from it.
Yesterday, people who don't believe the coronavirus is a threat to them, managed to shut down a virtual meeting of public health officials in Boise, Idaho when they protested outside of the office and at the homes of the officials who were in a videoconference where they were scheduled to discuss the possibility of mandating masks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry, I just got a text from my neighbor that there are protesters at my house. So I'm going to step off for just a moment to call the police because my kids are there. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ok.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've also got protesters outside my house as well. It is not under control at my house. And it's not under control at Diana's house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My child is at home by himself right now and there are protesters banging outside the door. I'm going to go home and make sure he's ok. So I will reconnect to you when I get there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry to interrupt, I got a call from the mayor and it sounds like the police and she is requesting that we stop the meeting at this time because of the intense level of protesters in the parking lot and the concern for police safety and staff safety as well as the protesters that are at some of our board members' homes right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: "The Washington Post" reports the protesters were organized by a multistate network of right wing activists called "People's Rights". The group was founded by Ammon Bundy, a vocal anti-masker and antigovernment activist who gained national attention as part of the 2016 standoff between Patriot movement extremists and federal police at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. One of Bundy's associates in the protest was killed by police after reaching for a gun.
Twitter is now labeling Donald Trump's tweets about election fraud as disputed. Not untrue, not false, just disputed.
Today YouTube announced, we will start removing any piece of content uploaded today or any time after that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
So what Twitter is labeling disputed, YouTube is now refusing to even show on its Web site.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Never before in history have 50 designers, 20 to 35-year-old white guys in California, made decisions that would have an impact on two billion people. Two billion people will have thoughts that they didn't intend to have because a designer at Google said this is how notifications work on that screen that you wake up to in the morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Tristan Harris joins us next.
O'DONNELL: Here's what the mayor of Boise, Idaho Lauren McLean said last night after a meeting of health officials considering a possible mask mandate had to be shut down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LAUREN MCLEAN (D), BOISE, IDAHO: Our officers who are on the front line called in yet again to address a mob of people that have assembled, many of whom are not from our community, to push back on a decision being made to protect our public health.
What we saw tonight and what we're continuing to see more and more is a rise in temperature that is not safe, a threat of violence that is meant to intimidate, but can also ultimately incite, and cause deep, deep problems in our community and tear families and others apart.
I'm seeing what Madison warned against when he talked about small factions and angry mobs, a minority of people that make it impossible to govern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: A minority of people who make it impossible to govern and who are now encouraged by false information flooding into that phone in their pockets every minute of the day and night.
Joining us now is Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist and the co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology. He's featured in the Netflix new documentary "The Social Dilemma".
Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
I want to get your reaction to what we're seeing first of all with these kinds of protests in Boise. Interstate communication necessary because these people are working all over the country.
A lot of communication necessary to get those people to be there in their protest positions. And a tremendous amount of false information has to flow to them in a way that they believe it and they therefore believe that coronavirus is not a threat to them and that's why they're out there protesting.
What is your reaction to that kind of assembly that is based on that kind of information flow?
HARRIS: Yes, Lawrence. Well, watching your tee-up here it's really troubling, right. because we're living in an era where three billion people's thoughts are now jacked into this digital information system that is shaping what all of us are thinking and believing.
Like is there violence on the streets of Oregon right now? Well, how would I know? I'm looking through the binoculars of social media. And whether I get a news feed on the left or on the right that tells me here's infinite (ph) evidence of violence or here's no evidence of violence.
Or you know, here's evidence of voter fraud, if you're in once news feed. You get this micro reality of more evidence of voter fraud, more evidence of voter fraud. And if you're in another newsfeed you see that each one of those cases is being dismissed.
And what social media has done because of this business model, as we say in film "The Social Dilemma", this business model that depends on each of us getting an affirmation feed, not information has really worked our whole collective psyche.
We've divided the collective national psyche against itself. So we are now not seeing the same movie of reality.
You know if you have this talk of there's a coup going on. Well, right now, that language there is a coup, the left sees it as President Trump is actually staging a coup by trying to reject the results of the election and incite his base.
And the right sees it as the results of the election are invalid. I believe the current stat is at 70 percent of Republicans currently believe the election is not valid.
And depending not on having seen the same information, but depending on the fact that we've seen different information. And I think the only way we can have common ground is by realizing how social media has destroyed our common ground. Because that's a common place to stand.
And I think that's what the film, "The Social Dilemma has really accomplished. It's trying to get everyone to see that we're now ten years into this mind warp that has so radically steered us into, as you said, more and more conspiracy theories, and more and more extremism.
O'DONNELL: Let's talk about this distinction between YouTube and Twitter. YouTube saying we're not going to allow you to put up any more stuff about, you know, this election fraud.
And Twitter just using that word "disputed", every time Donald Trump tweets now something that utterly false about election fraud, they just call it "disputed".
And my own reaction to it Trump supporters love that what he says is "disputed". That's part of what they like about being on his team is being on his side of the dispute. And everything Trump does is a dispute.
So it seems to me that that language on Twitter just doesn't do what Twitter might intend for it to do.
HARRIS: It's incredibly hard, because also as the companies start to take down certain kinds of content, that actually also increases polarization.
Or when Twitter -- there's actually foreign adversaries like China and Russia and maybe other countries that use this moment, use the fact that the tech companies will label this as saying this is disputed or we're going to take these things down. They use that to drive up even more polarization because now people will get more upset that the tech companies are taking down certain things. And other people will get upset that they're not taking down other things.
And what we really have to see is that there's no simple way that the technology companies can quote-unquote, "fix" this problem because they created a Frankenstein where there's three billion Truman Shows in which there's not, you know, a person like right now behind your camera who's checking to see if I say something, you know, like a swear word or something like that with the five-second TV delay in doing gatekeeping.
In this model we have 3 billion Truman Shows and there is no gatekeeping. Yes, Twitter may try to flag one thing here but they'll get -- for every one thing they find may be correctly, it may accidentally take down, let's say 100 counts that didn't deserve to be taken down. And that drives up more polarization from conservatives who believe that they're being censored.
So this is the situation that we're in. it keeps getting worse because the core business model, you know, they can grow faster, whack-a-mole sticks and they can say, you know, whack more moles but their business model is a mole farm.
They're growing more problems than they can possibly deal with. And I think the only way to get out of it is have a cultural awakening that recognizes that we've all been through this mind warp, and it has really driven us crazy on all sides.
And I think the film, "The Social Dilemma" is helping people see that even across bipartisan perspectives.
O'DONNELL: So in the end, with all of your thinking about it, it comes down to us taking control of it ourselves, turning off the phone, and breaking our own connection to that kind of information flow.
HARRIS: Well, yes, except honestly, if everybody watching this program right now got off of Twitter and got off of YouTube, it still -- we still live in a country where most other people wouldn't have done that. And we will still see results of each of our elections determined by what people have seen and believed based on social media.
So I think what we need is a cultural reckoning in a addition to obviously reforming the business model. But the damage has been done. Even if you subtracted social media, each of us are running malware, running confirmation bias.
Because one of the things about conspiracies, Lawrence is the best predictor of whether you'll believe in a new conspiracy is whether you already believe in one.
And when social media has dosed us with conspiracies for again, years and years and years now, it has really set the conditions for more madness.
And that's why I think we have to have a cultural reckoning. I'm hoping the Biden administration and others can sort of say just like we have economic recovery, we need to have kind of social recovery because this is the issue beneath other issues.
Whether you care about racial injustice or climate change or the election and whether it's legitimate it depends on us having a shared movie of reality.
O'DONNELL: Tristan Harris, you can hear more from Tristan on the Netflix documentary, "The Social Dilemma".
Tristan that's where I first heard you. I could listen to you all night. I'm going to watch the documentary again. It's really a brilliant analysis that opened my eyes about this in the way that nothing else has.
We really appreciate you joining us tonight.
HARRIS: Thank you so much, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Tristan Harris gets tonight's LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.
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