Oprah Talks to Christiane Amanpour
Christiane: In just three months, nearly a million people were slaughtered in Rwanda. That will forever be a badge of shame—for me personally, for our networks and news organizations, for the president, for the head of the United Nations Security Council and the Secretary-General of the UN, for the whole world.
Oprah: Why do you call it a shame for you personally?
Christiane: Because I was occupied with Bosnia.
Oprah: That's my point. You're one person, and you were already in Bosnia.
Christiane: I still feel it. I'm part of this sorority of journalists. As a profession, we failed.
Oprah: Even Bill Clinton sees it as a failure.
Christiane: Yes. He has gone to Rwanda and apologized, and so has Kofi Annan. Every time I get an opportunity, I apologize. I still find it very emotional. We were consumed by the good-news story in South Africa, the first democratic elections, the triumph of Nelson Mandela walking out of jail after all those years of apartheid. A lot of our resources went to covering that story as well as the O.J. Simpson trial.
Oprah: That's right. I just saw your eyes tear up as we were talking about Rwanda.
Christiane: That's because of the shame.
Oprah: At a dinner recently, I had the honor of sitting next to Paul Kagame—the man who led the rebel forces in Rwanda and later became president. He said the horror was unimaginable—no words to explain it.
Christiane: Taking it in is corrosive. It all happened in 100 days. People say that it was an even more rapid killing machine than the Holocaust. And it wasn't industrial. It was personal—people with machetes and clubs attacking their neighbors, their friends. Here's another big shame for the media: A radio station there was used as the propaganda arm of this genocide, constantly egging on the extremists and the militias. "Kill those Tutsi; we let them go last time; kill their children; don't let the cockroaches survive!"
Oprah: That's just as it was depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda.
Christiane: It was a constant diet of hate that we also witnessed in Bosnia.
Oprah: Isn't it astonishing that you can get friends to turn against friends in an instant?
Christiane: It's brainwashing that appeals to the most base instincts in a human being.
Oprah: Years ago on my show, we did an experiment with a teacher who taught in a little town in Iowa in 1968, the year Dr. King was assassinated. She was trying to explain to her third graders what prejudice was, so she divided the class into two groups: those with brown eyes and those with blue. She allowed the brown-eyed children access to recess and gave them special treats, and in two days she saw the difference in terms of hate and prejudice. So we brought her in to do a similar experiment with our audience—we gave her false credentials and said that she'd discovered blue-eyed people were stupid. In just an hour, people were calling in to the show saying things like, "I always knew there was something wrong with my sister-in-law!" And then when we said, "You know what? This is just an experiment," people were infuriated.
Christiane: Because they'd been caught. That's amazing. That's why we have to educate people and use the media responsibly.