VICE (2013) s05e28 Episode Script

Post-Truth News & Microbiome

1 SHANE SMITH: This week on "VICE," the battle over what is and what isn't fake news.
Violence against Trump supporters - isn't being covered.
Why is that? - - (WOMAN SPEAKS) I am, madam.
- You're like every other goddamn guy who comes in with a fucking opinion.
ISOBEL YEUNG: "VICE" is fake news? What are you talking about? We did allow the enemy into the house.
SMITH: And then, unlocking the mysteries of human health in our microbiome.
WOMAN: This is a medicine for headaches.
(INHALING) Whoa! We've shifted too far away from the environments which supported our health, and now we need to move backwards a little.
(THEME MUSIC PLAYING) Go, go, go! (CROWD SHOUTING) MAN: We are not animals! Since the last presidential election, America has become increasingly divided.
If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media.
So much so that today's political opponents are not only arguing over the issues, but also over what is actually considered a fact.
Facts really have no meaning.
Facts are only true to the progressives.
That's not what we do.
We are in the business of sussing out what is true and what is false.
SMITH: The debate over what is or is not fake news has become the latest partisan controversy in the United States.
So we sent Isobel Yeung to Washington, D.
, the frontlines in this battle for the truth.
We're here at the White House, about to head into the press room for the media's daily briefing.
During the Trump administration, there's been a lot of tensions playing out between the mainstream media and alternative news sources that have been spreading fake news, and often that battle plays out inside this press room.
(CHATTERING) So, what's the goal? You're going to be Periscoping the whole briefing? MIKE CERNOVICH: Yeah, I'll see what the vibe is.
You want people to watch what you do, as your own brand.
That's the key.
Can I ask you to move over to the left here a little bit? Sorry.
YEUNG: Mike Cernovich is part of a new class of conservative media personalities who garnered huge popularity online throughout the 2016 election, and are now gaining access to the White House press room.
Uh, I hope you guys had a good weekend.
It was definitely a busy one for the Trump administration.
YEUNG: Over 27,000 people watched as Mike Cernovich live-streamed the briefing.
Your questions.
- Sarah.
- SARAH: Thanks, Sean.
- Zeke.
- ZEKE: Thanks, Sean.
Margaret, Margaret.
What about violence against Trump supporters? The media endorses violence.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you have been asked about, uh, President Duterte and his human rights record Well, I think there's an economic piece to this as well.
What about violence against Trump supporters that's happened at Berkeley? SPICER: And again, I'm just gonna let the President will have an opportunity to speak with him about those objectives.
So, with that, I'll see you guys tomorrow.
Have a great day.
Thank you.
What about violence against Trump supporters in Berkeley? The violence against Trump supporters isn't being covered.
Why is that? - (MAN LAUGHING) - CERNOVICH: Why will nobody here cover the violence against Trump supporters, and why won't you demand that leaders of the Democrats disavow the violence from Antifa, the way you demanded Trump disavow violence from his supporters? - You have no answer? - (WOMAN SPEAKS) I am, madam.
It is very important that this get out there.
Thank you.
(INDISTINCT CHATTER) I didn't see actual, you know I didn't see any real journalism there.
A lot of high school kids in there.
I got to take you back behind the scenes and we'll talk soon.
I want the violence against Trump supporters to be I want to hold the Democrats to the fire.
And here's what I know here's the way I know - Time out.
It's the White House.
- Yeah.
You wanna hold the Democrats to the fire, go to the Democrats.
You have a point of view, and I understand, but you don't understand journalism.
You don't understand what we're really here for, and that's what pisses me off.
You're like every other goddamn guy that comes in with a fucking opinion, and instead of listening, instead of really finding out the issues, you want to grandstand at the end of a goddamn meeting.
I just want to see the violence against Trump supporters, which is rampant I want to see some actual leadership from the media on that.
I wanna see them hold Democrats accountable.
We're not leaders! We're reporters! YEUNG: Before Cernovich fancied himself as a political reporter, he was a little-known blogger on the Internet's alt-right fringes.
CERNOVICH: We might have some breaking news YEUNG: During the 2016 election, he began spreading pro-Trump propaganda and conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton.
CERNOVICH: A lot of you don't have the trained eye, so you might not be able to see this right away, but she's doing Parkinson's shuffling.
YEUNG: He now has over half a million followers across multiple platforms.
To get a better sense of his operation, we went to his house slash headquarters in Orange County.
Every day I think, "How am I gonna build a platform and make it bigger?" The old days of, you know, "I'm just one guy and I work for the whatever newspaper," that's how you become irrelevant, that's how you die.
YEUNG: To stay relevant, Cernovich spends his days Periscoping to his followers from a bedroom-cum-studio upstairs.
- So, here it is.
- This is where this is the office.
This is where the magic happens.
As you see, I just have things cobbled together here.
So, this computer here will be my YouTube.
This one will be my Periscope.
These are my burner phones.
And I could do a lot more if I had more - stuff.
- Yeah, you're good at making yourself - sound bigger than you are.
- Exactly.
Well, it depends on how you measure impact, right? How many individual journalists get more views than I do a month? You know? Not many.
And we're back.
Hottest story of the day, of course, is that CNN staging the fake news media thing.
There's a camera guy in the background, by the way.
We did we did allow the enemy into the house.
I met this person, Isobel do you want to say hi, Isobel? Hi, guys.
I'm Isobel Yeung, from "VICE.
" I met Isabella how do you say your last name? Isobel Yeung.
"'VICE' is fake news.
" What are you talking about? CERNOVICH: Here, you can sit down.
They can't see you on YouTube.
"Fuck you.
Fuck 'VICE.
"' Some people are happy, some people are don't.
"Isobel, are you ISIS?" Right, that's that's the new thing.
It's kind of like a new thing.
So, what are you trying to do here? What are you trying to achieve? Just, like, hanging out, really.
So, when I when I go live, I can actually feel parts of my brain activated, because I'm plugging out of this physical world, and I'm plugging into this collective consciousness, this collective matrix.
Anyway, I'll be coming back tonight to do a live show, so like and subscribe.
YEUNG: Do you think that it's the failings of the mainstream media that has allowed for the rise of people like you? Oh, for sure, because they didn't want to cover the kind of stories we thought were important.
If you don't cover stories that a lot of people want to hear about, then that's a market opportunity for other people and that vacuum is going to be kind of filled.
I'm going to ask you a few questions, actually, which will be "yes" or "no.
" Do you believe that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child pedophilia ring? I believe definitely that whole story Yes or no.
Do you believe that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child pedophilia ring? Well, it depends on how you define it, because there's multiple definitions of that.
On the 3rd of November so five days before the election you tweeted "The Clintons were running a pedophile ring.
It's been in the emails all of the time.
We just weren't able to see the code.
- Yeah, I don't agree with that.
- You don't agree with that? I definitely don't think the Clintons are personally running a pedophilia ring.
- So, why did you write it? - That was worded imprecisely.
- It was more that they - Why did you write it then? Well, Anthony Weiner is a pedophile and they're connected with him.
Bill Clinton officiated his wedding.
So, why did you say this if you know that it's not true? Well, it's not that it's not true, it's that it's worded improperly.
- So, now you take this back? - I would reword things definitely more carefully on Twitter.
You pretty aggressively tweeted this.
You tweeted the idea that they were very heavily involved in a pedophilia ring.
You also hash-tagged "Pizzagate" very aggressively, which led to the shooting - - in a Comet pizza restaurant in D.
Exclusive tonight on the conspiracy theory that came to be known as "Pizzagate.
" An armed gunman stormed a pizza place in Washington, D.
, known as Comet Ping Pong.
MALE REPORTER: Police say Welch drove six hours from Salisbury, North Carolina, to self-investigate a conspiracy known online as "Pizzagate.
" Do you understand, or if you acknowledge, the dangers which are involved in spreading this sort of false information? Well, people spun that whole pizza thing out of completely away from what I was talking about.
But can you understand the connection between the two? I definitely believe the Clintons are connected with pedophiles and pedophilia, - the pedophiles in Saudi - Can you make the connection? Do you understand that one is connected to the other, and that you tweeting about Pizzagate and you tweeting about the Clintons being involved in a pedophilia ring led to this shooting in broad daylight in a pizza restaurant in D.
? No, because I'm not connected to what other people are saying on the Internet.
- On an given day on the Internet - So you absolve all responsibility when it goes out onto the Internet? I'm responsible for what I talk about and what I say.
I'm not responsible for what other people talk about.
You think you're one of the best journalists in the country? In Amer Oh, for sure.
Yeah, for sure, but the people who are gonna watch this on "VICE," or on HBO, are not my people.
So you guys could create this, like, caricature of a madman and a monster, and maybe two or three people who follow me on Twitter will, like, even watch it.
So we live, now, in like parallel structures.
Right now there's no shared set of facts in the country.
YEUNG: We wanted to know how polarizing America's media landscape has become.
So, we visited MIT's Media Lab, where Eugene Yi and his team analyzed millions of political tweets throughout the 2016 presidential campaigns.
So, what are we actually seeing from this graph? EUGENE YI: These are people on Twitter who are following each other.
The red indicates the Trump supporters, the blue, the Clinton supporters, and then the green, Sanders supporters.
YEUNG: Each tiny dot represents a user tweeting about politics, with the fine lines showing shared Twitter connections between them, clustering them into tribal networks.
YI: There's very few connections, as you see.
It's very sparse.
Trump supporters are connected and very tightly clustered into their own information world.
Secondly, if you look at the pattern of how these Trump supporters use Twitter, they actually tweet four times more than the average Clinton supporter.
So, did it not come as much of a surprise to you that Trump won, with all this passion behind him here? Well, more than the passion, I think.
Seeing where the journalists are located in this network was way more indicative of some kind of missing feedback loop.
What you see here blinking in blue are the verified journalists, and the yellow represent unverified journalists.
So, both the verified and the unverified journalists are all the way over here.
There's no journalists connecting to the Trump supporters at all.
YI: Yeah, isn't that isn't that very interesting? So, I mean, Trump has a real point when he says we're not listening to the people who really matter because these people's views are not being represented.
At least on Twitter, we see that there is a separation of where the journalists, and who the journalists are following, and no one is really listening or plugged into, uh, this Trump-supporter graph.
This suggests that we are missing, fundamentally in society, some of the voices that led to, um, you know, Trump's success.
YEUNG: These voices included many formerly fringe bloggers and alt-right personalities who saw a golden opportunity to speak directly to Trump supporters and create a mass movement online to elect him as president.
All of these false attacks are absolutely beneficial.
We're only bigger.
Social media feeds across the country were flooded with their pro-Trump messaging, along with highly-targeted adverts fueled by mass amounts of personal information mined from the Internet.
In the case of the Trump campaign, the controversial data-targeting company, Cambridge Analytica, claimed to have been integral to Trump's victory, reportedly using an analytics technique called psychometrics.
We were able to use data to identify that there was very large quantities of persuadable voters there that could be influenced to vote for the Trump campaign.
Psychologist Michal Kosinski is not affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, but he is an expert in the field of psychometrics.
Psychometrics aims at measuring psychological traits.
A computer model, just by looking at the books you're reading, movies that you're watching, or websites that you're visiting, would be able to infer your political views with an accuracy that is not achievable to human judges.
Do you think that people realized, at the time, that their own digital footprint, and that this big data was being used to actually target them with personalized adverts? I think that people do not realize how much an algorithm can know about them.
The same algorithm can also be used to reveal your intimate traits without your knowledge and without your consent, which clearly creates huge risks for the individuals and for the society as a whole.
YEUNG: While Cambridge Analytica has denied any wrongdoing, a UK regulatory authority has named them as part of a widespread investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes in that country.
Is there any proof at all of the effectiveness of psychometrics in the most recent election? One of the pieces of evidence is to look at the amount of money that has been spent on it.
Politicians, very much like companies, are rational beings and they won't throw money at something that doesn't work.
YEUNG: Cambridge Analytica has since backtracked, claiming it never used psychometrics for the Trump campaign after all.
But political campaigns around the world are pumping money into the use of big data for elections.
In fact, one of Trump's top donors, billionaire computer scientist Robert Mercer, invested millions of dollars into Cambridge Analytica.
Mercer did not respond to our requests for an interview, But we spoke with David Magerman.
He was a key architect of Mercer's billion-dollar hedge fund algorithms for nearly 20 years.
Cambridge Analytica themselves have denied that they've really had much impact at all on the elections.
Do you think that that could be the case? I don't believe that's possible.
Bob Mercer is a lot of things.
One thing he is, is brilliant.
If he invested the kind of money that he invested in Cambridge Analytica, and if he asked candidates that he wanted to win to use Cambridge Analytica, he's doing it because he knows it works.
YEUNG: Magerman is suing Mercer for wrongful termination, claiming he was fired for speaking to the press about Mercer's involvement with the Trump campaign.
Mercer's attorney has described Magerman's allegations as meritless.
Wealthy people and businessmen have always given sizable donations to politicians and to political campaigns.
What's so different about what Robert Mercer's done? I think that there's a new wave of political donors that are buying overwhelming influence over the views of the people who they're supporting.
YEUNG: One of Mercer's key collaborators in obtaining that influence has been Trump's former chief strategist, and executive chairman of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon.
Bannon also formerly served as the vice president of Cambridge Analytica.
And Mercer pumped millions into Breitbart News, which was used as a strategic pro-Trump tool during the election.
DAVID MAGERMAN: Bob Mercer saw, before most people, the impact that non-mainstream media could have on manipulating voters and on getting people to believe what he wanted them to believe.
YEUNG: And when the mainstream media began reporting on false information spread by these new alternative outlets, a war over facts arose between the two sides.
Look, alternative facts are not facts.
They're falsehoods.
YEUNG: This has been fueled by the president's personal crusade against the traditional press.
Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC are fake news.
YEUNG: We now live in a world where any facts you disagree with can be labeled "fake," leading to a record low of only 32% of the population now actually trusting the press.
No, not you.
Not you.
- Your organization is terrible.
- You are attacking our news organization.
Your organization is terrible.
Let's go.
YEUNG: One of Trump's favorite targets in his war on mainstream media is CNN and their senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Aren't you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people's faith in the First Amendment, Freedom of the Press, when you call stories you don't like "fake news"? The public doesn't believe you people anymore.
Now, maybe I had something to do with that.
I don't know.
YEUNG: We spoke to Acosta about reporting on the White House in the fake news era.
Do you feel like this term, "fake news," has been hijacked by the administration? Has been jumped on? It's being exploited, no question about it.
They want to damage the credibility of news organizations that are reporting factual information about things that are going on here at this White House.
And when he calls us fake news, okay, let's let's examine that.
I'm not the one who said that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.
That was fake news.
The President of the United States did not have a larger inauguration crowd size than Barack Obama.
President Trump said that Barack Obama was wiretapping him at Trump Tower.
That's fake news.
We're reporting on a president who has engaged, time and again, in his own version of fake news.
Why is it, do you think, that the American public is so divided right now and that there is so much trust in what the president says? You know, I think that bitter partisanship is always going to exist in the United States.
REPORTER: The extreme left and right squaring off in bloody demonstrations - in recent weeks.
- (WOMAN SHOUTS) MARC THIESSEN: These people, Antifa, are Neo-communists and they need to be rejected by the Democratic party, just like Republicans have rejected the Neo-Nazis.
(MEN SHOUTING) JOY REID: The idea that a president of the United States cannot unambiguously denounce Nazism is extraordinary.
It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions, and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions.
The danger becomes when you have somebody in the Oval Office who is fomenting an atmosphere of division.
What's at stake is we get to a point in this country where half of the country only believes something because the president says that's what the truth is.
Um, the president doesn't get to decide what the truth is.
In season three, we covered the search for new drugs to combat powerful and sometimes incurable bacterial infections known as superbugs.
We then followed up that story with our report on the use of fecal transplants, or injecting beneficial bacteria from one person's gastric system into another's, to actually treat these superbugs.
Who would have ever thought this was, like, the cure? You just put other people's poop in you, and it works.
SMITH: As this previously-untapped scientific field continues to evolve, the possibilities for human health could be limitless.
So we sent Thomas Morton to investigate the next steps in this emerging field of medicine.
MORTON: The lady I'm very carefully trying not to infect with anything has an aggressive form of bone marrow cancer.
Her doctors have put her in sterile isolation following a massive dose of chemo which has left her immune system practically nonexistent.
That chart up there, they'll start writing down my red and white blood cells, my platelets, and they'll keep track of it every day.
Today is zero, and then tomorrow will be, you know, plus one.
To replenish her white blood cell count, Anne's about to receive a routine stem cell transplant, but to get her gut back in working order, she'll have to undergo a slightly less routine procedure.
The chemotherapy, like, wipes out everything, and not only does it wipe out your blood cells, but everything in your GI tract.
All this natural flora that's growing there that protects you and has things moving along, is all wiped out as well.
- When did you submit your stool sample? - A couple of weeks ago.
- It's not fun, right? - No.
Especially, you know, 'cause I took the train in from Long Island, so, I have my bag of poop and there's just enough room for me to squeeze in and get my bag of poop, - like, right up in everybody's faces.
- (LAUGHING) So, you're banking your own bacteria? MATTHAEI: And then once I have the red blood cells and white blood cells building back up again, then they would, like, re-inject them into me - with, like, an enema.
- Okay, yeah.
Ying Taur and his team have found that a fecal transplant can increase the odds of survival by restoring the diversity of gut bacteria lost during chemo.
Is there a direct relationship between the diversity of flora in the gut and immune health? In terms of the microbiome, if you look at a transplant patient's diversity during their treatment, if you had a low diversity, then you were over five times more likely to die of transplant-related causes, compared to if you had a nice diversity of healthy, health-promoting bacteria in your gut.
There's this amazing set of creatures living in all of us, working 24/7, for mutual benefit.
And we're seeing links everywhere.
We're seeing links to prevention of infection, to allergies, autoimmune disorders, mood, autism, depression.
MORTON: All these creatures working inside us are what scientists refer to as the human microbiome.
GIRALT: Now, this has opened a whole new dimension in medicine.
You know, it's not science fiction anymore, as you can see, it's out on the frontlines.
MORTON: I don't I don't recall any fecal transplants - in the science fiction I read or saw.
- (CHUCKLES) MORTON: Since the 19th century, germ theory has been the dominant model of medical thinking.
It holds that microorganisms like bacteria and viruses are responsible for infecting our bodies and causing disease.
Therefore, the best way to avoid disease is to cleanse our body and its surroundings of germs.
Unfortunately, this antibacterial dragnet has not only helped eliminate dangerous pathogens from our environment, it's also knocked out the good microorganisms that live in us and are responsible for healthy digestion, immune reaction, and, as researchers are learning, an ever-widening number of vital roles.
We've done an awful lot of work looking at how the built environment that we've constructed around ourselves affects how our microbes develop in our microbiome.
Jack Gilbert is the head of microbiome research at Argonne National Labs.
He has found that living in areas with high microbial diversity significantly reduces the occurrence of asthma and other diseases.
We've got places like Amish communities here in America, whereby the children are exposed to animals and dust and dirt environments that their ancestors were exposed to on a regular basis.
And those children have very low levels of asthma, very low levels of atopy, so, you know, allergic disease, and even lower levels of autism.
If we go into the developing world, those children have many, many, many more microbial exposures.
But there's a cost-benefit analysis there, that they also have much higher levels of infant mortality.
Because their access to medical prevention for diseases and other complications is much more limited.
Would the best of both worlds be to, you know, grow up somewhere with the medicine available to you, to you know, not die when you're sick, obviously, but, um, nevertheless be exposed to much more bacteria than we are, or much more microorganisms? Absolutely, I mean, we've shifted too far away from the environments which supported our health, and now we need to move backwards a little bit.
This is why it's so important to go to Africa, and study populations of people which we wouldn't normally have access to in this community.
So, we did.
We came to Africa.
We're in the Central African Republic right now in a town called Bayanga, smack in the heart of Africa.
We're following Dr.
Andres Gomez, who is a microbiome researcher.
When we talk about Westerners, with our industrialized microbiomes, we lack diversity.
MORTON: To learn what's missing from the industrialized microbiome, researchers like Dr.
Gomez have turned to the planet's few remaining pre-industrial societies, to see what their guts have that our guts don't.
Gomez hit fecal pay dirt while looking at the microbiome's Mountain Gorillas in Central Africa.
He realized that the stool samples he was taking from them bore an uncanny resemblance to samples taken from the people living in the surrounding forest, called the BaAka.
I collected the samples, sequenced their microbiomes, and that's where I discovered this was something this was something important here.
MORTON: The BaAka are traditional hunter-gatherers who live in the Dzanga-Sangha forest preserve.
Their lifestyle is not only pre-industrial, but pre-agricultural.
The fact that the BaAka's microbial diversity is closer to gorillas than industrialized people, suggests that their environment and lifestyle have an enormous effect on their microbiomes.
So, we hiked for two hours into the jungle to see what both these things look like.
This is it.
So, these are all their huts.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) ROBINSON: Everybody is now mobilizing to go hunting.
He's telling the animals to come into his net.
(GUTTURAL GROAN) MORTON: The BaAka hunt by stringing up nets in a large circle (ULULATING) then flushing out animals from the encircled forest into said nets.
(SHOUTING) Which isn't always as cut and dry as it sounds.
(HUNTERS SHOUTING) That's, I guess, the fourth animal that's gotten through a net.
Yeah, today's really a gather day, for sure.
Part of what Andres is studying, in terms of the microbiome, a good deal of that relates to what we'll be gathering: the foods that they eat, and also the bark from trees and stuff they use as medicines.
But the environment itself has a major impact on your microbiome.
JOST-ROBINSON: So, if you can't climb a tree and collect honey, you're not man enough to have a wife.
- MORTON: Is that shrimp? - DR.
Keep pulling.
(CHEERING) Whoa! I did not expect that to come out.
ANDRES GOMEZ: That's food, right? MORTON: The forest not only acts as the BaAka's live-in grocery store, but also their pharmacy.
The barks and leaves the BaAka use as medicine may seem primitive to the average CVS shopper, but unlike modern antibiotics, which don't always discriminate between good and bad bacteria, they're a lot easier on the microbiome.
JOST-ROBINSON: We're gonna scrape this bark.
Oh, you put your breast milk in it and then you would use that and put it in your ear.
This is a medicine for headaches.
You rub it up in your hands.
JOST-ROBINSON: It burns a little bit.
MORTON: Yeah, it does.
It burns a lot.
- Well, headache gone.
- Yeah.
MORTON: Two foods that Dr.
Gomez is particularly interested in, due to their potential connection to the BaAka's microbiome, are cocoa leaves and forest yams, which have a much higher fiber content than their Western counterparts.
This is the thing, if we have the right microbiome, - Right.
- like these people have been adapted to for millennia, those things are now gonna be detrimental for you.
Like how a cow can eat grass, but we can't.
Like how a cow can eat grass, but we can't, yeah.
MORTON: The cocoa leaves the BaAka eat by the pile are likewise ill-suited to our industrialized guts.
MORTON: What role do these play in the microbiome? DR.
GOMEZ: Fermentation.
I wouldn't be surprised if the bloom of specific bacterial groups is a response to this specific cocoa leaf.
MORTON: The BaAka's fiber-rich diet doesn't just make taking stool samples a lot easier, the breakdown and fermentation of complex foods in their colon helps populate the lower reaches of the GI tract with a greater diversity of microbes.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Actually being able to see what the BaAka eat and how they get it, helps explain some of the findings in Dr.
Gomez's research that lab science alone could not.
This basic anthropological observation, combined with the fecal samples, helps paint a complete picture of the BaAka's microbial health, which could, in turn, help us restore or own depleted modern guts to their original nature.
With every advance comes a caveat, a sacrifice.
So, we were able to extend our lifespans, but at the same time, we have starved our microbiomes, and depletion of diversity's correlated to weakened immune systems.
So, that's something we've lost then.
We've lost them, and the real question is, "Are we able to recover them back?" I think future generations are gonna be enjoying the fruits of the things we're doing right now with the microbiome.