The World and Everything in It — February 21, 2020

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!

The nuclear family is the most basic building block of society. But over the last 40 years, that foundation has crumbled. Is it time to find a new model?

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: We’ll talk about that controversial idea on Culture Friday.

And I’ll review the latest family film starring Harrison Ford and one of American literature’s best-loved canines.

BROWN: And George Grant reveals a lexicology hoax that fooled some of the world’s best wordsmiths.

BASHAM: It’s Friday, February 21st. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown.

BASHAM: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Stone sentenced to 40 months in federal prison » Trump loyalist and ally Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in federal prison.  That followed a controversial move by Attorney General William Barr to back off the prosecutors’ original sentencing recommendation. 

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed with Barr’s assessment. She said that while Stone’s crimes demanded time behind bars, the seven to nine year sentence originally recommended was excessive.

Stone’s lawyers had asked for probation, citing his age of 67 years, his health, and his lack of criminal history. Instead, he received 40 months.

But President Trump said he believes the trial was unfair. 

TRUMP: The forewoman of the jury, the woman who was in charge of the jury was totally tainted. If you take a look, how can you have a person like this? She was a anti-Trump activist. 

The juror in question was publicly critical of President Trump and even Stone himself before the trial began. With that in mind, his attorneys have requested a new trial. The president said he believes Stone “has a very good chance of exoneration.” 

But he has not said whether he would pardon Stone.

The judge has put Stone’s prison date on hold while she considers his motion for a new trial. He was convicted in November of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness, and obstructing the Russia probe.

Richard Grenell named acting DNI » President Trump has named a staunch ally to take charge of the nation’s 17 spy agencies. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The president picked Richard Grenell to serve as acting director of national intelligence. He’s been the U.S. ambassador to Germany since 2018. 

Grenell, an outspoken Trump supporter, becomes the first openly gay member of the president’s Cabinet. He previously served as U.S. spokesman at the United Nations in the George W. Bush administration.

Democrats quickly criticized the announcement, saying Grenell doesn’t have enough relevant experience to be intelligence chief. And Republicans reportedly pushed the administration behind closed doors to nominate a national security professional. 

But because Trump named Grenell acting national intelligence director, he will not face a Senate confirmation hearing.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen. 

Report: Intel officials say Russia interfering in 2020 campaign » Grenell will follow Joseph Maguire, who has been acting national intelligence director since August. President Trump reportedly had harsh words for Maguire last week. That according to The New York Times. The paper stated Thursday that intelligence officials warned House lawmakers that Russia was again interfering in U.S. elections, working to get President Trump re-elected.

The disclosure reportedly angered Trump, who complained that Democrats would weaponize that intel warning, and use it against him politically. 

The Times said that during the February 13th briefing, Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that the president has been tough on Russia. 

Chinese health officials express optimism, as South Korea battles new COVID-19 hot spot » Chinese health officials expressed new optimism Thursday over the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. The rate of new reported infections in China dropped again yesterday. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus expressed very cautious optimism. 

GHEBREYESUS: The data from China continue to show a decline in new confirmed cases. Once again, we’re encouraged by this trend, but this is no time for complacency. 

Doubts remain about the true trajectory of the epidemic as China again changed its method of counting and new threats emerged outside the country.

The latest front in the widening fight against COVID-19 emerged in Daegu, South Korea. The city’s 2.5 million residents are being urged to stay inside and to wear masks even indoors.

Daegu and surrounding towns reported 35 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday.

Paranoia, racism drove German killer » The gunman who killed nine people in suburban Frankfurt left behind a 24-page rant calling for the “complete extermination” of races he considered inferior. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: In addition to his manifesto, the gunman left a video with delusional musings, conspiracy theories, and an infamous quote by Adolf Hitler.

The attacker was found dead at home along with his mother, who may have been his 10th victim. His website and YouTube channel came down almost immediately, as German authorities tried to prevent his rant from spreading across the internet. 

All of the people he killed during his rampage across the city were of foreign origin.

Germany’s federal prosecutor, Peter Frank, described the attacker’s rants as stocked with “confused ideas and far-fetched conspiracy theories.” It was last modified on January 22nd and reportedly offered no indication he was planning an attack.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Morgan Stanley to buy E-trade for $13 billion » Morgan Stanley is buying up an online trading pioneer in one of the biggest deals on Wall Street since the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

Morgan Stanley, the investment bank for millionaires, big business, and mega-mergers, is buying E-Trade Financial. E-Trade is a brokerage firm that encouraged waves of regular investors to get into the market with ads featuring a talking baby.

The price tag on the all-stock deal will be roughly $13 billion. E-Trade will bring with it 5.2 million client accounts, and $360 billion in retail client assets. Morgan Stanley has 3 million client relationships and $2.7 trillion in client assets.

The deal gives E-Trade some shelter during a time of massive disruption in the retail brokerage industry. Its rivals Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade are in the midst of their own merger. And an ongoing price war has pummeled revenues.

I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: forged families versus traditional, nuclear families.

Plus, George Grant ferrets out some fakery in the dictionary.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday the 21st of February, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up: Culture Friday.

BASHAM: Last week, best-selling author and New York Times columnist David Brooks published a cover story in the Atlantic that sparked a lot of conversation among Christian leaders. In it, he called the nuclear family—that is, a married mom and dad living with their kids—a mistake. 

Brooks’ argued that the ideal of the nuclear family was the product of what he called a freakish and isolated time of prosperity and stability. Roughly 1950 to 1965. 

He said this ideal has become a luxury good that has created a culture of isolation. And it’s time to scrap it for the more modern idea of “forged families.” By that he means forming family-like arrangements with groups you choose rather than groups you’re born into. 

He also advocated living with extended family as a replacement for the nuclear family.

Here’s a bit of Brooks explaining his premise:

BROOKS: People who have been cast adrift by the breakdown of the nuclear family, they’ve lost touch with one or both parents and they’re sort of floating. And they come together and say, you know, we’ll be a family together.

John Stonestreet joins me now for Culture Friday. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. 

John, good morning.


BASHAM: Now, John, lots of people are positively responding to Brooks’ idea of more communal living. But to me they’re sidestepping what seemed to be his main thesis: rejecting the traditional family model. He basically called it an inequality issue, saying, “For those who are not privileged, the era of the isolated nuclear family has been a catastrophe.”

I even heard one Christian author say the traditional family concept isn’t really Biblical. And I’ll admit, that took me aback. Because isn’t a man and his wife leaving and cleaving and having children exactly how family is described in Scripture?

Mona Charen wrote a rebuttal for the Institute for Family Studies. In it she said, “[That’s] a little like saying For those who didn’t get the vaccine, the era of small pox eradication has been a catastrophe.” 

So, is the mom-dad-kids unit the best Biblical practice for families, so to speak? And would you call the nuclear family the cause of social isolation, as Brooks suggests, or is the breakdown of the nuclear family the cause?

STONESTREET: Well, I’m not sure that that’s exactly what Brooks said, honestly, having read the article. And I found it extremely helpful. I thought the title was dreadful. It seemed to put the blame on nuclear family. But when you actually read the article itself, he’s talking about the thing that changed in that kind of golden period of the nuclear family. The collapse, the thing that went wrong, the thing that is the problem is the isolated nuclear family. And this goes back to industrialization when the family and the extended family wasn’t the basic orientation of society. People started to leave the family farm and be disassociated with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins in large scale numbers, right? So the day of large Thanksgiving gatherings is long gone. You go to other developed nations, for example Japan, and they don’t even have things like aunts and uncles and cousins that they know.

The thing is historically—and this includes in the Bible—yes, the traditional understanding of family—mom, dad, and children—that’s irreplaceable. But it was never understood as being isolated. Look at the number of times in scripture that there is this generation to generation to generation look at how discipleship happens, how society is oriented can and so on. You have Paul talking to Timothy and commending both his mom and his grandmother, right? You have, certainly, this multi-generational look of the family that we see throughout the nation of Israel and the centrality of the family unit. Maybe Brooks didn’t say this as clearly as he could have or maybe should have, and I think it led people to think he was actually critiquing the nuclear family. But what he was saying is we’re not a society anymore that gives space for extended families to be beyond. You can’t replace what we call the essential nuclear family or the traditional family. That’s irreplaceable.

And I think it just boils down to this: there’s no substitute for marriage to raise kids. The data is clear on that. But marriage is really hard. Marriage is really hard if you don’t have faith. Marriage is really hard if you don’t have in-laws and strong communities, if you don’t have people looking at you and saying you’re acting like an idiot—whether it’s your wise old grandpa or a strong discipleship leader in a community group. I think that’s the fundamental point. We used to be a society that could sustain not only the nuclear family but the extended family around the nuclear family. The nuclear family becomes really vulnerable. 

Now, let me say just one more thing. And that is when he talks about how the nuclear family now is an item of privilege. The data kind of bears that out. I mean, the liberal elites that have kind of hammered away at marriage for being this chauvinistic institution and advancing causes like same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting where kids don’t need a mom and a dad. They themselves don’t live up to that. As I think Brad Wilcox says, they don’t preach what they practice. What they practice is a really strong nuclear situation. They stay married, they don’t get divorced. You go into lower classes where the financial pressure is greater, the social cohesion is less, there’s not the support network, and so on. And marriage rates collapse. There used to be another layer of support for the nuclear family. Now there’s not.

BASHAM: You know, a few days after the Atlantic published Brooks’ article, they ran an interview with a progressive sociologist who used his argument for forged families exactly the way I would have expected. 

She said, “maybe two friends both want to have kids, but they don’t want to be single parents, so they commit to raising children together, in the same house or not…we can create something entirely new.” 

On the flip side, another sociologist, Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, responded negatively to Brooks’ model of adults living with extended family to help raise the kids.

I’ll just quote Wilcox here. He says, “According to our analysis of the data…men and women are most likely to live with and rely upon their own parents when they are divorced or have never married. And, contrary to the more optimistic gloss Brooks puts on such multi-generational arrangements, adults who live with extended families are not necessarily happier.” 

And of course there’s overwhelming research showing that outcomes are worse for children raised without married parents. 

There just seems to me a disconnect in laying out all the suffering kids experience from not having traditional families, then arguing against promoting it as something people should aspire to.

Am I missing something?

STONESTREET: Well, no, not exactly. I just think a couple things here could be true at the same time. For example, I think an extended family or a dense network of social cohesion and connection can be a wonderful support system and even, in terms of long-term sustainability on a cultural level necessary support system without you actually moving in with them or without you breaking— Listen, there’s no replacement for moms. There’s no replacement for dads. There’s no other arrangement that comes close to producing the outcomes of a child being raised in a home with a married mom and a dad. That research is so crystal clear, it’s unmistakable. What I’m asking is what is the best way to keep married mom and a dad in the home with their kids? And it has to do with that support network. In the past, that’s been parents and grandparents. That doesn’t mean you live in the same house. I mean, we’ve got a whole different problem, which I call perpetual adolescence where adolescents who never grow up move back in with mom and a dad—sometimes with their own kid. Sometimes it’s because of all kinds of social situations. In other words, that’s not what we’re saying is the ideal at all. Again, I don’t want to speak for David Brooks. I’m just trying to say that industrialization disrupted our social cohesion in ways that we don’t always imagine. It brought along a level of prosperity. It also disconnected marriage and family in a way. 

So, look, two single moms living together to raise their kids, is that going to be as good as a mom and a dad? No! I mean, the data there is clear. Overall, there’s no replacement for mom. There’s no replacement for dad. And there’s no replacement for marriage. So, the question is, what are the things we can bring alongside that that best holds those things together?

BASHAM: Turning now to another story about the changing face of family. Last week HGTV, a network I watch a lot of, especially when it’s playing Fixer Upper marathons, featured a “throuple.”

On the popular series House Hunters, a man, his wife, and another woman were looking for a house to buy together right in your hometown, John, Colorado Springs.

Here’s an excerpt from the show.

AUDIO: I am a lifestyle coach. I am a legal videographer. I work in sports marketing. We’re a throuple. A throuple is three people in a relationship. Lori and I got married in 2002. And we have two kids, Jake and Isla, 10 and 12.

What really disturbed me was how casually they referred to the young children who are living with them. 

Now Brooks wasn’t necessarily advocating sexual communal families, but he did highlight the model of the LGBT community as creating “chosen” families. And he did so in a positive way.

So it was ironic that both these stories hit only a few days apart, because this seemed to me the natural conclusion of a lot of what Brooks advocated.

If we discard the traditional family standard, is there any logical way to stand against marriage of groups of adults instead of just two?

STONESTREET: Oh, no absolutely not. I mean, that was inevitable the day we divorced marriage from procreation by legalizing same-sex marriage. The legalization of same-sex marriage made the legalization of polyamory inevitable. And the reason is that because when marriage is not about what’s best for kids and it’s about adult happiness, then it’s divorced from procreation. A fundamental connection of marriage to procreation is the only thing that limits the participants in marriage to two, right? If it’s not about having kids, then why does it have to be two? Why can’t it be a throuple or a quadruple or quintuple or whatever? No, that made this inevitable. And we’ve seen the same march, too, and this is what’s really important. Whereas Brooks might talk favorably about these arranged families, again, my point is that there’s no substitute for mom and dad and kids. But mom and dad and kids need a support network so that on a societal level we keep that structure going forward. 

Polyamory now is advancing along the same lines of same-sex marriage, which is the first thing is making you feel guilty for thinking it’s wrong by saying you probably just think that because of religious reasons. And then we have a series of things arguing—we’ve already seen this—that maybe we could learn a thing or two about polyamory because, hey, they’re really trusting or they’re really this or that or the other. And that follows the script. And then there’s a reality tv series. And once that happens, a law is inevitable. So I think we’ve already passed—that’s “Stonestreet’s Four Steps to Changing Marriage” and we’re already passed number three headed to number four.

BASHAM: Well, John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John, thanks so much.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Megan.

MYRNA BROWN: You know how it is when you try to go out for a nice quiet evening, but something work related pops up that you just have to take care of? 

That happened recently to newlyweds, Chase and Nicole McKeown of Kentucky. They found themselves unexpectedly working on their date night—in the middle of their dinner!

They were eating at a Raising Cane’s restaurant in Louisville when a man in a hooded sweatshirt walked in and aimed a gun at the cashier. 

That’s when Detective Chase McKeown and Officer Nicole McKeown sprang into action. They told WAVE TV…

AUDIO: You know, when it comes to people’s lives —endangered, I feel like any other officer would do the exact same thing. Our conversation leading up to it had nothing to do with whether we were going to do anything. It was a matter of this is happening, we’re trained to act, and we acted.

Surveillance footage shows the husband and wife police team with guns drawn, chasing the suspect out of the restaurant. They later caught him and held him until on-duty officers arrived.

BASHAM: How’s that for a romantic night?!

BROWN: It’s The World and Everything in It.

MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, February 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a warm and engaging adventure story for dog lovers of all ages.

As I walked out of the latest adaptation of The Call of the Wild I wondered if maybe I’d misremembered Jack London’s classic novel, a favorite from my childhood. Maybe my 11-year-old heart had only raced to the poetic savagery because my life was so comfortable and safe by comparison. As an adult, maybe I’d look back and find the first wide-eyed glimpse London had given me into the brutal reality of the natural world was really just a ho-hum affair. Maybe it just seemed astonishing because my childish mind had never encountered fictional animals behaving as anything other than cuddly Disney sidekicks.

CLIP: The Yukon is a dangerous place. You never know what’s coming. I came up here because I didn’t want to be around anyone. And then I met Buck.

A quick skim through a well-worn copy now living on my daughter’s bookshelf assures me that’s not the case. London’s novel is still muscular as ever. More so, really, because so few stories today accept the harshness of fallen creation on its own terms. 

So think of the new movie more as the Call of the Mild—fun, all-ages entertainment very much in keeping with a PG rating.

CLIP: Are They Broken? I promised you, didn’t I? And here we are. You promised me gold. Where is it? In the dogs? [Laughs] And mush! [Barking] Mush! Are they broken? 

Your runners are frozen. You’ll help your dogs a mighty lot if you take the gee pole and break them out. Gee pole? Where you headed, mister? None of your concern. You didn’t buy that map in Skagway, did you? No. That old fairy tale. Lost cabin. River of gold. 

The general beats are still there. Pampered half-St. Bernard, half-Scotch collie Buck is kidnapped from Judge Miller’s sun-drenched ranch in the Santa Clara Valley and shipped off for frozen adventure in the Yukon. He’s still beaten into submission by the man in the red sweater. Well, here he’s more threatened than beaten, but he still learns the law of club and fang. He just does it in the guise of one of those much sweeter Disney dogs.

Rather than rise to the front of the sled-dog pack by tapping into his innate animal ruthlessness, this Buck becomes top dog by being a nice guy.  He sympathetically releases a rabbit rather than devouring it. And not only does he not steal his packmate’s fish dinner, he shares his own.

CLIP: I lost my lead dog. We’ll be two days behind if we’re lucky and we’ve never been lucky. You might want to hold on. Yeah, yeah. And mush!

Even Buck’s awakening to the untamed wolf within is sweet. It’s not a wild brother that draws him away from human companionship but a pretty white-haired sister.

If it sounds like I’m saying this is a bad thing, it’s not necessarily. Harrison Ford turns in a wonderfully gruff but tender performance as prospector John Thornton, the man Buck truly loves. And the CGI canines still capture a mystery second only to the love of a man for a maid: the love of a dog for his master. 

CLIP: We Could Go Come here. This is a map of the Yukon. My son was always reading adventure stories. He was crazy about the news coming out of the Yukon. Wasn’t the gold. He didn’t care about that. It was the mountains. He spent all day looking at maps and pictures of the mountains—dreaming about what was on the other side. Places no one had been. Wild places. We could go. You and me—see what’s out there.

This is a kinder, gentler and often more fantastical introduction to the story. Like when Buck pulls off feats of daring that would put 007 to shame. But it’s lovely all the same. I’d challenge anyone’s heart not to break when half-starved mutts shuffle off to likely doom. Or not to melt at Buck’s faithful service even as another, more instinctive power pulls him. Or not to chuckle at his playful puppy games.

Humans have instincts too and getting a bit misty about the eyes at the purity of soul displayed by our four-legged friends usually tops that list.

So while this Call of the Wild may not be the stuff classics are made of, it still makes for very fine, old-fashioned family entertainment. It’s as earnest, upright, and lovable as an old hound. And there’s little doubt kids in the audience will laugh, gasp, and hug their own pups a little a tighter when they get home.

And if, when the sweetness is all over, you find yourself thinking a bit wistfully of the original tale’s sharper bite. Take comfort. When it comes to stories that capture the stark beauty and harsh reality of the wild, we’ll always have London.

MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, February 21st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Equivalent writers don’t get very far in journalism. But they make great dictionary editors. WORLD’s George Grant explains why on this month’s edition of Word Play.

GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: How can a word that is not really a word, ever actually become a word? If that question sounds less like a riddle and more like nonsense, let me tell you a story.

Apparently in the digital age, publishers of copyrighted reference works have begun to add false or trap information as a sly way to catch cut-and-paste poachers, pilferers, and plagiarizers of their intellectual property. So, digital maps might add fake streets. Online trivia contests might include fake questions with searchable fake answers. And dictionaries might include fake words.

The New Oxford American Dictionary is a single-volume work published by the Oxford University Press. It is abridged from the university’s vast 200-million-word database of contemporary American English vocabulary. 

The dictionary includes an entry for the word esquivalience. It is defined as “the willful avoidance of one’s official duties or responsibilities.” But the word, its definition, and its etymology were all entirely made up by Christine Lindberg, one of the dictionary’s editors.

When a second edition of the work was published, rumors began to circulate in literary circles that it contained a fictitious entry. A sleuthing writer for The New Yorker magazine, Henry Alford, scoured the text and found a host of suspicious word entries. He took these unusual and unfamiliar terms to a panel of prominent academics and lexicographers—but as it turned out most of the words proved to be authentic. 

But, esquivalience inevitably raised a red flag. So, when Alford approached the dictionary’s editor in chief, Erin McLean, she admitted the ruse: the word was indeed a fake, added in order to protect the copyright of the digital edition. She asserted, “Its inherent fakeitude is fairly obvious”—which in and of itself was the height of irony given the fact that “fakeitude” is also a fictitious word.

But, that was not the end of the story. Apparently the esquivalience ploy ensnared a few unsuspecting publishing rivals. briefly included the word—and attributed its provenance to Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary. The online Google Dictionary also included the word for a time, listing three meanings and giving usage examples.

Interestingly, this word that was not really a word has now become a word. Christine Lindberg, the wily editor who conceived of the subterfuge, told the Chicago Tribune that she actually uses it regularly. “I especially like the critical, judgmental tone I can get out of it,” she admitted. “Those esquivalient little wretches—sounds literate and nasty all in one breath.” 

Walker Percy once asserted that language is “both the indispensable means of arriving at the truth and also the snare by which we fall prey to error.”

For WORLD Radio, I’m George Grant.

MYRNA BROWN: Every week, a whole lot of people put this program together. So our thanks to these hardworking folks: Joel Belz, Paul Butler,  Kent Covington, Jamie Dean, Nick Eicher, Kristen Flavin, George Grant, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Mary Reichard, Sarah Schweinsberg, Les Sillars, Cal Thomas and Steve West.

MEGAN BASHAM: Our audio engineers are Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz. J-C Derrick is managing editor and Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief.

And all of this is made possible by listeners like you. We are grateful. And we’d love to hear your feedback. Just call 202-709-9595 to leave us a message.

I hope you have a restful weekend. We’ll talk to you again on Monday.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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