The World and Everything in It — July 10, 2020

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!

More than a hundred liberal thinkers and writers have signed a letter rebuking “cancel culture.” Predictably, critics are trying to cancel it.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.

Plus we’ll tell you about a new war movie that puts faith on display in a way Christian viewers will appreciate.

And Ask the Editor with WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky.

BASHAM: It’s Friday, July 10th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!

BASHAM: Up next, Kent Covington with the news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Split decisions on Trump financial records » The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled both for and against President Trump in separate decisions.

In the first ruling, the high court said a prosecutor in New York City may obtain financial information from the president’s accounting firm. That means a higher standard isn’t required to subpoena a sitting president in a criminal case. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the ruling a “victory for the Constitution of the United States.” 

PELOSI: The Supreme Court, including the president’s appointees have declared that he is not above the law. 

Prosecutor Cyrus Vance is probing payments from the president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. His inquiry will continue under the oversight of a grand jury. Because grand jury proceedings are secret, the president’s financial records likely won’t become public anytime soon. 

President Trump slammed the high court’s ruling on Twitter. He said “This is all a political prosecution.” And he added “now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”

In a second ruling, the justices blocked three congressional committees from issuing four subpoenas for Trump’s financial records—at least for now —sending the case back to the lower courts. They told those courts to give careful consideration to the case’s potential to affect the separation of powers in the federal government.

A 7-2 vote decided both cases, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting.

COVID-19 deaths on the rise in U.S. » COVID-19-related deaths are once again on the rise in the United States as the coronavirus continues to hammer the Sunbelt. 

Florida reported a single-day record of 120 fatalities on Thursday. One day earlier, Texas set a record with 98 deaths and California recorded 114 deaths, just one person shy of its record set back in April. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday…

FAUCI: Any state that is having a serious problem, that state should seriously look at shutting down. 

Fauci heard there on “The Journal” podcast. The top infectious disease expert said states that disregarded reopening guidelines set out by the White House Coronavirus Taskforce are “a lesson” for other cities and states. 

FAUCI: That when you reopen, take a really good look at the guidelines. And in your quest to get things open quickly, don’t jump over the guideposts. 

Texas, California, and Florida have all shut down bars in much or all of those states following spikes in new infections. California and Texas have also further limited restaurants and instituted mask mandates. 

Disney World reopens to guests » Florida does not have a mask mandate, but Walt Disney does. 

Disney World will reopen to guests starting this weekend with a host of new safety measures in place. 

When the Magic Kingdom reopens tomorrow, park goers will hear plenty of familiar sounds. 

AUDIO: [Small World]

But there will also be a few missing. Guests will not hear this…

AUDIO: [Fireworks]

Disney’s iconic fireworks displays and parades will not return anytime soon. That’s to prevent crowds from huddling to watch the displays. 

Also, no up-close “meet-and-greets” with Mickey Mouse or the Disney princesses. 

Senior Vice President of Operations, Jim MacPhee, told ABC’s Good Morning America…

MACPHEE: We have really focused on ensuring that we have a very thoughtful and methodical reopening strategy that’s phased on various attendance levels that allow us to watch, learn, and adjust. 

In addition to masks, everyone will receive a temperature check and will be urged to maintain social distance. No hopping between parks is allowed, for the time being, and visitors will need reservations to enter. 

Animal Kingdom also reopens tomorrow. Disney World’s other two parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, will welcome back guests four days later. 

Unemployment claims drop slightly » More than 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. That’s down—but only slightly—from the 1.4 million claims the week before. 

Another 1 million people filed under a new program for the self-employed and freelancers.

Some analysts are warning that a so-called “double-dip” recession could develop. Consumers are pulling back on spending in restaurants and bars, especially in the hardest-hit states. 

Some small businesses are shutting down, either under government orders or because of a lack of customers. And some large businesses are closing underperforming locations.

Bed Bath & Beyond to close 200 stores » Bed Bath & Beyond plans to shutter about 200 stores over the next two years after sales plummeted in the first quarter. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Bed Bath & Beyond’s quarterly sales dropped by nearly 50 percent due to temporary store closures. Its online sales soared by more than 100 percent in April and May, but that hasn’t been enough to keep the company’s shares from dropping almost 40 percent in 2020. 

Also this week, the oldest continuously operating apparel brand in the country, Brooks Brothers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

The 200-year-old company dressed Abraham Lincoln and nearly every other U.S. president. 

Brooks Brothers survived two world wars and the Great Depression. But the pandemic pushed it into bankruptcy protection. 

Brooks Brothers will permanently close more than a quarter of its 200 stores.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: an unexpected rebuke of “cancel culture.”

Plus, Marvin Olasky on seeing the best in others’ motives.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday the 10th of July, 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. It’s being called the “cancel culture letter.”

On Tuesday Harper’s Magazine released a public statement, signed by 150 writers, professors, and activists, in support of free speech. 

The letter warns of increasing demands for “ideological conformity” and says “It is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.”

It also says: “The free exchange of information and ideas…is daily becoming more constricted…an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism.”

That’s a mouthful but pretty powerful.

BASHAM: Yes it is, and I’d encourage everyone to read it. We have it linked in the transcript.

Well, not surprising, a number of conservative and libertarian writers and academics like David Brooks and Francis Fukuyama endorsed the letter. But what might surprise some is how many people who would typically be viewed as left-wing also signed on:

Noam Chomsky, J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, Fareed Zakaria…I could go on. But it’s Culture Friday, so rather than do that, let’s bring John Stonestreet into the conversation. He’s President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. 

John, good morning.


BASHAM: So John, despite some sort of anti-Trump boilerplate at the beginning of the letter, it still created swift negative reaction. And it was really interesting to see how many other writers and intellectuals immediately lambasted it. I’d like to know how you would respond to some of the most common objections I’m seeing.

So bear with me here as I quote from a couple of responses that were representative of many.

“[Cancel culture] doesn’t really exist. It’s a myth created by people who have been used to saying whatever they want without being challenged and are now surprised when there are consequences to their words.”

So that was one response.

Then there’s a New Republic essay that argues the letter improperly favors free speech over another important liberty: Free association. This essay acknowledges that groups are increasingly joining together to demand firings or loss of book contracts and the like for speech they find offensive. But the author says this is simply oppressed people using the power of the collective to demand accountability from their oppressors.

How would you respond to these arguments?

STONESTREET: Well, it was really a stunning letter and it was really a left-leaning letter. I mean, there were some conservative voices but the vast majority would be center, center-left and certainly those that kind of enjoy kind of a protected position. So for them to actually stick their necks up like this, and we’ve seen what happened. I mean, really, the only person on the list that I could see—at least that I know of that’s really taken the hit for having a culturally unpopular view—is J.K. Rowling. The fact that they included her in the list of signatories is actually a very important point on how serious these folks actually are. And other than that, I was just really happy to see them realize this. I mean, a lot of us have said this sort of thing exists for quite some time. It’s harder to dismiss it as just kind of a whiney sort of position for people who have enjoyed cultural power just because these folks have everything to lose that are sticking their necks up like this and calling for this letter.

So, I really appreciate it at one level. I mean, it was a little weird to have kind of the boiler plate like required slam of Donald Trump and I’m not really sure what that has to do with any of this that they’re trying to communicate. But, hey, I can get—it was just weird, but I can get past it in order to get to this. 

Now, the New Republic essay is a little bit more interesting because the First Amendment holds all the first freedoms together, including freedom of religion, which has been violated in order to cancel people. Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech, I mean, that’s all kind of right there in the First Amendment. But our founders understood that those things shouldn’t be in opposition to one another. This isn’t an either-or or a zero-sum game. Like, let us associate and you can’t talk. Or let us talk and therefore you can’t associate. Associate all you want. Make the case all you want. But don’t steal public debate, particularly on things that offend you that haven’t been culturally decided upon. That’s what happens in cancel culture is that the real debate is preempted. And that was a big part, I think, of what the signers of this letter were trying to say.

BROWN: John, the one word that seems to keep coming up in tweets and articles in response to this letter is hypocrisy. We don’t need to get into the weeds, but I read several tweets accusing some of the signers and even the magazine’s leadership of doing the very things that are being exposed. Is that kind of backlash predictable and unavoidable?

STONESTREET: It is. And it’s true. I mean, there is a hypocrisy to it. For example, as the letter calls for free debate, there are plenty of issues that many of these signers would think is beyond the pale of a liberal progressive society and is not worthy of debate. I mean, for example, Margaret Atwood who’s the reason we have so many protesters now dressing as puritan women. Thanks, Margaret. But she would say that debating abortion is beyond the pale. It’s not actually something—she would never actually take seriously a conversation with a pro-lifer and she’s proved that in how she has written. 

I’m thinking of Jonathan Rouch who signed this. He has debated, as a gay man, the LGBT issue and the same-sex issue. I moderated one of those debates. Some of these are not hypocritical in saying this. But many of them are responsible for creating the culture that has led to this kind of trend of cancellation. But, you know what, I still welcome them on board because what they’re pointing out is still the right thing to point out even if they are being hypocritical.

And God help me. I’m glad I still get to sign onto things and say things from the Scripture that I’ve been hypocritical on.

BASHAM: You know, while we’re on subject of backlash, I saw a television critic at claiming that the letter makes people, specifically trans people, less safe. There was no mention of transgenders or transgenderism in there, by the way. But one of this person’s co-workers, the left-wing writer Matt Yglesias, had signed it. So the person was calling on Vox bosses to respond.

This is something we see a lot in these cases. New York Times Editor James Bennett lost his job after running Tom Cotton’s essay because Times’ staffers claimed the essay made black people less safe.

Can you talk about that a little bit? Why is couching these arguments in terms of personal safety such an effective way of shutting down debate and what’s the response to it?

STONESTREET: You know, that response and the claim of loss of personal safety is exactly why this letter is necessary in the first place. That’s the irony is that now I can claim because you said something that I don’t agree with, you’ve made me unsafe. It has been a tactic used by plenty on the left, but it’s not been used by anyone more than the transgender community. Can you imagine a group of people that daily look in the mirror and see something that is not there and then demand everyone else agree with it? And at some level I think we’ve got to get down to that and so that’s why at some level when we say, you know, hey, let’s have a conversation about whether we should just open the door to the end of female sports or let’s have a conversation about just asking why we should believe someone’s internal sense of reality and not their body parts rather than their body parts and not their internal sense of reality? Let’s have a conversation about that. And the debate goes out the window and the cry is a cry of safety. And the reason is there’s literally no evidence whatsoever for their deeply held convictions about these things except this inner sense of who they think they are. 

So, I think at some level that’s why the retreat to this call of personal safety has been so common from the transgender community because there’s really nothing else to resort to. And, of course, we’ve seen—in a culture that feels instead of thinks—that calling someone mean is far more effective than calling someone wrong. And calling someone happy is far more effective than calling someone right. So, that is very much a—should we call it a pre-existing condition of the American culture? That when you build a culture around emotivism and away from rational, logical thought and certainly moral norms, that’s what I think you get when you dig below the surface of this kind of claim of being harmed.

BROWN: Finally John, changing topics before we go. The Supreme Court just issued a ruling in favor of the Little Sister’s of the Poor in the Obamacare contraception case. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion. Have you had a chance to digest that yet and what it will mean for religious liberty going forward?

STONESTREET: I have a little bit and let me just say first off that please maybe this can be the time that the government will just leave these poor nuns alone. Like, good heavens, stop harassing these poor women. I do think this session of the court is going to have a huge impact on how our country proceeds on religious freedom. And I think it’s something we need to continue to look at because here’s what we had: We had the court continuing a trend to strongly protect religious institutions, allowing them to be religious institutions.

At the same time, what the court effectively did is draw this line on religious freedom between “religious institutions” and non-religious institutions, which is a fundamental change in how we have seen religious freedom applied, religious freedom rights applied in the American context. And I think it is a net win for religious institutions, but overall we’re going to see this term as a loss for religious freedom per se.

BROWN: Well, John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. John, thanks as always for being here.

STONESTREET: Thanks so much.

MYRNA BROWN: It’s not a trip to space, but according to one Florida company it will be as close as you can get without leaving Earth’s gravity. 

A startup company called Space Perspective has teamed up with the Alaska Aerospace Corp. to offer balloon rides to the edge of space by 2021. 

Passengers will be able to board what the company calls Spaceship Neptune. The Neptune will be tethered to a hydrogen balloon the size of a football stadium. After ascending for two hours, the Neptune will reach its maximum altitude of 19 miles above Alaska, giving passengers a view of the northern lights from the edge of space.  

After a two-hour descent, the capsule will splash down off the Aleutian Islands and be recovered by a ship. 

You can grab your seat on Spaceship Neptune for $125,000 per person.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, July 10th. 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 major new streaming show.

Okay, you’re probably thinking I’m talking about Hamilton. Which is great and you can read WORLD’s interview with Austin Smith, one of the original cast-members of the hip-hop musical about America’s founding, on our website. Smith is a Christian and the son of a Baptist minister, so some great insight into that smash production.

But actually, I’m talking about another big, patriotic movie that hits Apple TV today.

It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good. And the pandemic that exploded Hollywood’s traditional release model has acted as jet fuel to the expansion plans of streaming outlets. Case in point: Greyhound

CLIP: Dear Lord, let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul. Amen.

Based on the 1955 C.S. Forester novel The Good Shepherd, the World War II, inspired-by-true-events drama is about as prestige as it gets. Its writer and star is arguably the most A-list performer of our time, Tom Hanks. He plays United States Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause. He and his crew must provide escort to a convoy of Allied ships bringing troops and supplies across an area of the Atlantic known as the “Black Pit” because it’s out of range of air cover. No surprise, Greyhound was originally scheduled to hit theaters on Father’s Day weekend. Perfect timing to capitalize on summer crowds in the market for a dad-pleasing option.

When COVID-19 nixed that plan, many industry insiders expected Sony to shelve the film until fall. Instead, the studio partnered with Apple TV+ to release it on July 10. It was a move entertainment news site Deadline described as “a real shocker.” Apple’s $70 million purchase marked the company’s biggest feature film commitment so far and could signal a turning point in the war for entertainment dominance. It could also signal that the streaming platform intends to make its mark by going less gritty than competitors Netflix and Amazon. 

CLIP: The tanker, sir! Survivors! Men in the water! Port bow, port bow! Contact, bearing starboard side 538, 538. Distance two hundred yards. who’s your junior? Wallace sir. Get him out here. Sir, a message from Cadena. Read it out. Merchant ships vulnerable at rear of convoy, attack eminent, request your assistance. Captain, survivors, 500 yards Starboard, sir. Proceed with rescue? Get down to midships, put down a scrum unit, and get those men out of the water.

As the USS Keeling, better known by call sign “Greyhound,” begins the hazardous trek toward Great Britain, Krause, who’s never commanded before, finds his tactical skill tested to the breaking point. 

CLIP: Sonar reports the crunch of a sinking vessel sir. Greyhound, we have cited evidence of a kill. Congratulations captain, more food for the fish. The prize is yours sir. But we will need evidence of a kill for the Admiralty. Nothing but the captain’s charges will do I’m afraid. congratulations sir. Should I set a course to collect the debris to verify the kill? No Mr. Watson, the convoy is unguarded take us back to station. Aye sir.

Often when studios promote films to Christian press as having a “faith element,” it means a character mentions a Bible or maybe wears a cross around his neck. Not so with Greyhound. Krause is no blink-and-you’ll-miss-it believer. In various situations he prays for wisdom to execute his mission, thanks God for preserving his life, and prods the men under him to remember casualties as “souls.” 

CLIP: Flusser. I regret the incident, sir. Shannon. I, too, regret the incident. I will tolerate no more fisticuffs on my ship. So, restore the relationship you have damaged and fill me with peace Sir? Captain requested at bridge, captain requested at bridge.

More specifically, as he squints into the distant sea weighing how best to thwart Nazi U-boats known as “the wolfpack,” he counsels himself with Matthew 10:16: Be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. The film is rated PG-13 for war violence and language, but quick asides of, “Sorry, Captain,” whenever the crew let slip a profanity make it clear Krause doesn’t approve, no matter the provocation.

The thrilling action sequences and patriotic themes make it a shame other elements of the film don’t hold up as well. Most movies suffer from being overstuffed, but Greyhound feels like it could have used a bit more. At a brief 91 minutes, Hanks and his team could have taken another half hour to add deeper layers to the characters. Krause is the only figure we feel much for, and even he is thinly drawn. We know he’s a committed Christian and that he hopes to survive to marry his sweetheart, Eva. But beyond that he’s a bit of a blank slate.

CLIP: Yesterday, today, and forever. That’s beautiful I’ll put it on my tree. All right, your turn, come on all right. Monogrammed. What’s this? Congratulations, your first command.

Are Krause and Eva widowers, divorcés? Did they meet in youth and lose touch? Why aren’t these two middle-aged people married already? The Wikipedia entry on Forester’s novel says Krause “broods over his career; his wife left him partly because of his strict devotion to duty.” It’s a pity almost none of that intriguing detail makes it on the screen.

While it may not meet the level of the best war films, Greyhound is a decent entry into the genre and a hopeful sign of the direction Apple TV may be taking its brand.

MYRNA BROWN: Today is Friday, July 10th. 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. Next up, WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky on using the judgement of charity.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: This past month we’ve received lots of generous letters from WORLD members, but I’ve seen two concerns. Here’s the gist of one of them: “You’ve interviewed two Democrats, Michael Wear and Justin Giboney. You seem sympathetic to them. I thought WORLD was a Christian magazine.”

We are a strongly pro-life Christian magazine. Sadly, the national Democratic Party is the pro-abortion party. It would be wonderful for unborn children if the Democratic Party became pro-life. That’s what both Michael and Justin want. 

If that happened, the Democratic Party would probably have other problems, including its tilt toward socialism. But we can still remember, by listening to Michael and Justin, that political opponents are not enemies. Writing for or reading a Christian magazine reminds Christians that while we were still sinners, Christ died or us. 

The second question from several readers goes like this: “How can anything good come out of people saying “Black lives matter. What about white lives?” 

The Bible tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We do not want others to interpret our words in the most negative way. We should not assume that anyone who says “Black lives matter” is anti-white. Using the judgment of charity, I hear people saying “Black lives matter too.” 

Christians should agree with that. At the same time we should note that the slogan is not the same as the organization called Black Lives Matter. BLM embraces unbiblical ideas. It emphasizes radically changing structures rather than hearts. We can reject the organization while being glad that attitudes are changing.

After all, when I taught journalism history at the University of Texas, I told students about a New York cub reporter a century ago. He runs into the city room all excited. He tells the editor he has a great story, about a murder on the subway. He wants to write 1,000 words about it. The editor asks, “Who died?” The reporter says, “Colored man.” The editor replies, “OK, give me two sentences. No one cares.” 

Christians should care. 

I’m Marvin Olasky.

MYRNA BROWN: It takes a lot of people to put this program together each week. Thanks so much to our team: Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Nick Eicher, Kristen Flavin, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Mary Reichard, Sarah Schweinsberg, Cal Thomas, and Emily Whitten.

MEGAN BASHAM: The guys who stay up late to get the program to you early are audio engineers Carl Peetz and Johnny Franklin. J.C. Derrick is managing editor, Marvin Olasky is editor in chief. 

And you. Without you, none of this happens.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians asks us to ponder: Does He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

Something to think about this weekend. Will 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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