The World and Everything in It — January 15, 2021

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

Big Tech shuts down the president of the United States and then Parler, a competitor of Twitter. We’ll talk about the moral ramifications.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: That’s ahead on Culture Friday.

Plus I’ll review the new Tom Hanks movie, News of the World.

And Myrna Brown profiles British poet and musician Joshua Luke Smith.

REICHARD: It’s Friday, January 15th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Good morning!

REICHARD: It’s time now for the news. Here’s Kent Covington.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Biden unveils near-$2T coronavirus/stimulus plan » President-elect Joe Biden last night addressed the American people, unveiling a nearly $2 trillion stimulus plan.

BIDEN: The American Rescue Plan that will tackle the pandemic and get direct financial assistance and relief to Americans…

He said the proposal would send more funds to state and local governments to help speed up vaccinations and safely reopen schools. 

The proposal also calls for another round of stimulus checks—$1,400 for most Americans. 

BIDEN: It would also provide more peace of mind for struggling families by extending unemployment insurance beyond the end of March for millions of workers. It would be a $400 per week supplement. 

But the proposal comes with a $1.9 trillion price tag. 

Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus bill last month. Many Republicans are skittish about adding more to a national debt that now is approaching $28 trillion.

Impeachment trial could start on Inauguration Day » Incoming Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Biden’s proposal will be his chamber’s top priority. It’s not yet clear, however, whether an impeachment trial will interfere with other Senate business on day one of the Biden administration. 

When the Senate will begin Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will depend heavily on when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the article of impeachment to the upper chamber. Some Democrats have suggested holding back until the new president has a chance to kick start his agenda.

Jobless claims surge » Nearly a million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the COVID-19 surge continues to take a heavy toll on businesses. 

Mark Hamick is senior economic analyst with 

HAMRICK: By any measure, I think this is shocking. We see the depth of this economic downturn, now at 43 weeks. 

Last week’s total of 965,000 jobless claims is the most since late August.

Applications declined over the summer but have been stuck above 700,000 since September.

Before the pandemic, weekly applications typically numbered around 225,000.

Economists expect the economy to begin bouncing back in earnest in the second half of this year after coronavirus vaccines reach most Americans. 

Twitter CEO defends Trump ban » Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is defending his decision to ban President Trump from the platform. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: In his first public comments on the matter, Dorsey acknowledged the move could set a dangerous precedent. He wrote that extreme measures such as banning Trump highlight the extraordinary power that Twitter and other Big Tech companies can wield without accountability or recourse.

But he said when pro-Trump demonstrations at the Capitol last week turned violent, he felt Trump’s tweets posed a risk to public safety.  

He also wrote, “I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban [President Trump] from Twitter.” But he added: “I believe this was the right decision.”

Critics argue that Twitter and other social media companies are operating outside the scope of politically neutral platforms and should lose certain legal protections. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Two former Mich. officials face manslaughter charges in Flint water crisis » Prosecutors in Michigan are charging two former state health officials with involuntary manslaughter in the Flint water scandal. 

They are former state health director Nick Lyon and former state medical executive Eden Wells.

Nine people died of Legionnaires’ disease during the water crisis. And prosecutors say the two ex-officials are largely to blame for the lead-contamination of Flint’s water system starting in 2014. 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy told reporters Thursday…

WORTHY: Our work on this case begins with the understanding that the impact of the Flint water crisis cases and what happened in Flint will span generations—and probably well beyond—the way others will live our lives.

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder faces misdemeanor charges of willful neglect of duty. He is pleading not guilty. And Snyder defense attorney Brian Lennon said the allegations are “unjustified” and the case a “travesty.”

WHO team arrives in Wuhan to investigate pandemic origins » A global team of scientists is now on the ground in China to investigate the beginnings of the coronavirus. 

After multiple delays, the Chinese government finally allowed researchers with the World Health Organization into the country. 

WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus said this week that the probe would start at the original epicenter of the outbreak. 

GHEBREYESUS: The studies will begin in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the early cases. Scientific evidence will drive hypotheses, which will then be the basis for further long-term studies. 

More than a dozen researchers are now in Wuhan, but it’s not clear that the Chinese government will fully cooperate. 

A government spokesman said the WHO team members will “exchange views” with Chinese scientists, but gave no indication whether they would be allowed to gather evidence.

And some analysts are concerned that Beijing could try to prevent embarrassing discoveries.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: censorship and social media.

Plus, redemptive art.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday, January 15th, 2021.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Well, one of many decisive moments this week saw Big Tech either preventing insurrection or assaulting free speech. Depends upon your perspective.

One week ago, Facebook and Twitter banned the president of the United States and several of his supporters from its platforms. President Trump had tweeted that his supporters would not be disrespected or treated unfairly, and that he wouldn’t be going to the Biden inauguration. 

Twitter said this was sufficient to incite violence and on that basis banned the president.

REICHARD: Then Google, Apple, and Amazon Web Services pulled the plug on Twitter’s competitor. Parler launched in 2018 as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter; it had 15 million users before it was forced offline last Sunday. Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon in a Seattle federal court, alleging Amazon kicked it off servers for political and anti-competitive reasons. 

And now news that YouTube also banned the president. 

Of course, all this is in the context of the riot at the U.S. Capitol nine days ago. To be clear, decent people condemn the riot as vile and damaging, unpatriotic and a threat against the American government.

Yet it’s fair to ask: why no such bans on politicians and supporters following riots across the country all summer long? Riots resulting in property damage that set a record for insured losses, likely exceeding $1 billion. And precious lives lost.

BASHAM: Joining us to discuss all this is Trevin Wax.  He’s senior vice president of Theology and Communications at LifeWay Christian Resources. He’s also a visiting professor at Wheaton College. 

Good morning, Trevin.

TREVIN WAX, GUEST: Good morning.

BASHAM: Well, let’s start with what defenders of these shutdowns say: that Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube are private companies. They can do what they want to do. After all, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech from government infringement. These are private actors. 

You’re a publishing executive, so do you resonate with that argument?

WAX: Well, on this one I do resonate with that argument. To some extent I don’t want the government telling private companies what they must and must not do. One of the challenges about this, though, is that these private companies have over the years acted as if they are the public square. 

So, yes, as a private company, for example a Kroger, would have the right to kick someone out of their store who was saying incendiary things or yelling in the aisle. But what these companies have done, now they’re saying, well, we’re like Kroger. We can kick people off. But they have marketed themselves and they have platformed themselves over the years as if they are free speech areas, public square places where people can come and can share all sorts of opinions and that’s been the appeal of it. That’s really been—for an advertiser’s perspective—what has driven the financial system that props up these companies. And we’re having the conversation right now in the middle of one of the most polarized moments in American history with unprecedented events taking place at a rapid speed, where the news is changing day to day. This is probably the worst time to have the conversation about Big Tech, but we are — it is what it is and we are where we are.

REICHARD: More of a theological approach: What about the idea that social media platforms are using ever-changing terms of service that only shut down one side? Does that not violate our sense of fairness or justice?

I mean, I can think of many disturbing examples that didn’t result in shutdowns like this— Chuck Schumer saying before a crowd that Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh “have released the whirlwind and (you) will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you” if they vote a certain way?  Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley calling for “unrest in the streets?” So many other examples. 

So Trevin, Christians care about fairness. Our antitrust laws address monopolies, and all these companies simultaneously shutting down Trump and his supporters looks a lot like collusion. So what about that or is that just so much whataboutism?

WAX: Well, I think all of these questions are valid and legitimate and even now, the double standards are pretty glaring. You have Louis Farrakhan who says awful things about Jews that is still on the platform or I saw this week people were retweeting the Communist propaganda arm of China talking about their wonderful treatment of the Uighurs you know. I have a visceral reaction to censorship as an American, as a free speech advocate. It’s not exactly censorship to be kicked off a platform when you can go to another platform or you can go to something else to be able to say what you want. But when Big Tech becomes this powerful, it should strike a note of concern in everyone, even if you are someone who agrees with the decision to ban Trump from these platforms at this moment to get us to the inauguration or whatever. That kind of control is going to make it very difficult for certain opinions that are not completely out of the mainstream or incendiary or threatening violence to be able to have their day in the future.

BASHAM: I want to talk about what precedent this sets for Christian organizations. Christian doctrine that holds to traditional marriage, binary biological sex and so forth could well become hate speech. That in turn could shut these organizations out of the public square. What’s the role of Christians here?

WAX: Well, I think Christians need to recognize some of what we say is going to be seen as untenable in the future. So, one of the things we have to come to terms with is that some of just historic Christian truth claims are going to be seen as beyond the pale. In certain parts of the country, I think people already recognize that they’re there—certain university settings or on the coasts in certain areas. They feel like they’re already in a position where they are definitely the minority and saying things that would not have even been controversial 20-30 years ago are now seen as hate speech. For example, talking about our male and femaleness rooted in biology not just in our mental state. So, I think we’ve got to prepare for the fact that that is coming and in some places is already here.

At the same time I think we have to recognize that we do have recourse in the courts, we have recourse in a number of areas. We can’t let the Southern Poverty Law Center be the definer of who is an extremist and who is not. And I’ve actually been encouraged to see some, I think, well-meaning people on the left begin to question the over-the-topness of some of the organizations that just immediately label a group as a hate group. People that are rushing to label any group that they find out of the mainstream of popular opinion on sexuality or anything like that as being a hate group. So, we’re going to have to continue to stand up for free speech and at the same time, I think we will have to partner with people who disagree with us on some of these issues and yet who recognize the importance of those issues still being able to hashed out in the public square, who truly do — this is what I would say are the old school liberals who do believe in a society where free speech and free opinions can flow and there can be good discussion of these events. It’s going to be some weird partnerships in the future with some of those folks.

BASHAM: I was having an interesting discussion with one of our editors and he brought up the Hollywood blacklists of the 1950s and those were technically, again, private companies choosing not to work with certain actors and screenwriters, but as you look at the PR damage that that did for decades, the Republican, the right-wing brand, that was pretty lasting and I have to look at that and wonder if there are parallels here.

WAX: That is a great analogy. It was remarkably effective and successful in the short term but incredibly damaging in the long term. And it could be that we are seeing something as, since you mentioned that as an example, of something of an overreach in this moment among some of the tech companies and some of the practices that they’ve done on the left. The kinds of speech especially I would think on gender issues, it may be an overreach to say that it’s beyond the pale of respectable opinion or that it’s violence to say that male and femaleness is related to our biology. Some of the overstepping and exaggeration of some of those claims, it could be that in the next decade or so we see things turn around to where we have more free speech because people have kind of seen the bluff of that, they have seen that that’s actually over the top and leading to a kind of censorship that activate some of the, what I mentioned before, the old school liberals who are committed to free speech principles, even principles that they disagree with. We should never look at history, we should never look at our current moment as if they trajectory is set in stone and is always moving in a particular direction. History is full of surprises—as we have seen over the last 5 to 10 years—and it could be that there is a backlash against this kind of thing and to where the companies for the sake of their own business models have to engage and change course due to some of the decisions they’ve made and the fallout from them.

REICHARD: Maybe we humans can learn from our history. Trevin Wax is senior vice president of Theology and Communications at LifeWay Christian Resources.

WAX: Thank you so much.

BASHAM: Thanks, Trevin.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Well, if you’re looking to change up your diet a little bit, we have some news for you. 

An exotic delicacy’s been added to the list of foods safe to eat, according to the European Food Safety Authority.

Ready for this, Megan?

BASHAM: I’m ready. 

Dried yellow mealworms. 

BASHAM: Always up for dinner ideas! 

Thanks for the heads up. Researchers said the worms are a protein-rich snack. You can eat them whole or in powdered form. Or as an ingredient in more fanciful dishes. 

Of course, mealworms are the larvae of the darkling beetle and usually fed to pet reptiles and fish. The “yuck” factor may lessen over time; after all, Central Americans and Africans already enjoy them. 

I think I’ll pass.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, January 15th. We’re so glad you’ve turned to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a new movie about a man on a mission to bring the news to a nation still reeling from its greatest conflict.

It’s 1870 and the Civil War has settled the greatest argument our nation has ever engaged in, through the bloody clash of state against state, brother against brother. But that doesn’t mean America has put resentment and division behind it. No one knows this better than Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, played by Tom Hanks. He rides a circuit of Western outposts, synthesizing stories from newspapers all across the country and retelling them in engaging fashion to disconnected townsfolk who pay a dime a head to gather and listen. He is, in essence, an Old West beta version of a news anchor.

Kidd is so good at his job he manages to persuade a group of bitter Texas isolationists to see themselves in the suffering and triumph of some Northern Yankee coal miners. 

CLIP: I’m here to tell you about the 11 men who lived. Who survived that fire. Who fought back against their deadly fate. I thought I told you to read from the Erath paper. See Mr. Farley, I was wondering if folks might prefer some storytelling from places outside of Erath. Just for tonight Mr. Farley. I think you had a read from the Erath all the same Captain. Sort of thing these people expect to hear. How about we vote on it? All those who want me to read for Mr. Farley‘s Erath journal. Now all those who want me to keep on with the story of the men in the mine.

But he needs every ounce of his rhetorical and martial skills when he agrees to transport an orphaned German girl to her relatives in California. She’s been living with the Kiowa tribe so long she’s forgotten her native language.

CLIP: Do you see that bird? Bird. Bird. Yeah. Yes, good. Good. Guto. Bird is Guto. Buffalo. Since you’re so smart. Prickly pear cactus. There’s some sage. Sage, yeah, that’s right. It smells good. So what else can you teach me?

As Kidd and little Johanna make their way across the dusty trails, the film becomes a classic Odyssey story. Each town, each bend in the road, offers some new threat to escape or riddle to solve. Yet within this simple, quiet plot is a world of emotional complexity.

In movies like Sully and Greyhound, Hanks has shown he’s more than capable of carrying an action-heavy film. But News of the World proves he can successfully channel his inner-Eastwood as well. He trades fire and steely barbs with a pack of outlaws without sacrificing any of his innate fatherliness and warmth. The shootouts, mild for the genre, and a few instances of profanity earn a PG-13 rating. 

CLIP: Hey, you’re good for a man of your years. But aren’t you just so damn tired of all this? Help me. Didn’t you have body and soul broke out there? Seems an awful shame for it to end like this when you could just join us. This world is Rich Pickens for Sam but slim pickings for the rest of us. God dammit. You go. Take the horses and go. I shoot you go.

But Kidd’s more important weapon is empathy. “I hear you. We’re all hurting,” he tells a mob of angry ex-Confederates. It’s hard to recall any other recent film showing its hero making a connection with characters like this. They likely would have established Kidd’s goodness by having him give a blistering speech of condemnation. But of course he can’t. Because he was a Confederate too.

Perhaps that’s why when confronted with the horror of how Johanna came to lose her family and live with the Natives—there are whispers of defenseless throats cut, babies brains dashed out—he’s able to counsel, if not precisely forgiveness, at least a determination not to pursue perpetual enmity. He knows the past always provides enough sins to go around, and the only hope for the future is for everyone to move forward with grace.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Friday, January 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next: Redemptive Art!

Recently, Senior Correspondent Myrna Brown met a poet and musician who is using his art to heal some of the world’s problems.

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: In the winter of 2019 nearly two dozen singers, writers, and instrumentalists packed the inside of a 250-year-old English barn, about 100 miles west of London. 

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: Just imagine like huge timber beams that run all the way up and across… 

For Joshua Luke Smith, the converted music studio was an acoustic oasis.

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: Just played the first chord and it was like, this is going to be good. 


The 30-year-old poet and producer is the founder of a music community made up of self-proclaimed “Jesus followers and industry disruptors.”


JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: We were at the cusp of the music industry changing from “go and get a record deal”  to “do it yourself.” So as we started doing it, we realized we could help other artists do it.

Orphan No More is that music community. Its name is lifted right from the pages of Scripture. 

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: John 14:18, towards the end Jesus says to His disciples, “He says to them these men, I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” I remember reading that and thinking, that’s what my generation needs. What if it’s true that we are loved. What if it’s true that we belong? If that’s true, then so much of society’s deepest, most disruptive issues could be healed…

Using music as its tool and under Smith’s leadership, Orphan No More began the work of tackling contentious issues that plague both the United Kingdom and the United States. 

VIDEO: Allow me to share something I swear is true. That which we don’t know impacts people as much as that which we do…

Part of that process included creating the Check Your Blindspot project, a website to help fight racism. Posted on the site, a poem written by Smith with a provocative message.   

VIDEO: Take me for example. Educated, and yet unaware that my entire life I’ve benefited from a system that was never fair. It’s advantageous to be white. And when you’re not,  there are cultural connotations that minimize your rights. You can choose to look the other way, but as of this day,  you can never again say that you didn’t know. Check your blindspot!

Smith is a gifted communicator, a craftsman lyricist. But the passionate wordsmith is not the first to decry the evils of the culture. Does he practice what he preaches? I ask him.

MYRNA QUESTION: What’s your blind spot?

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: Ah, good question. I married into a black family. I’m a white man growing up in a white family and now my relatives on my wife’s side are black. So I’m experiencing culture and history that is so different to mine. 

Smith and his wife of 10 years, Kara Ann, are new parents of a baby girl who he says will grow up with a multi-layered history.

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: So my daughter’s mother’s maiden name is Robinson and her father’s name is Smith, right? Both British names. But they exist on both sides and so my wife’s and my heritage meets at a point and it meets in a place of injustice.

MYRNA QUESTION: Would you call that white privilege?

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: Yeah, I find that term is, in today’s conversations, we have to keep defining our terms, and what we mean because people have different definitions, but I would. I would. As an Englishman in 2021 I have benefited from the same system that built slave ships.

MYRNA TO JOSHUA: I want to look at privilege more from a theological perspective rather than a philosophical one. For instance we all have at least one spiritual gift. But some of us have more and that’s a privilege. But the Bible tells us what we should be doing with those gifts, which is edification of the body.

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: I think of Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. When he came back what he wasn’t impressed by is how much they had. What he was impressed with was the faithfulness that they did it. And so what I realized is the privilege of being able to write songs and doing a few other things, compared to somebody who says all I can do is get a glass of water for a thirsty man, at the end of days when I stand before Jesus, it will be treated with the same lens, which is were you faithful?

Last year Smith asked members of his music community to read a book with him from an author who writes about the black experience in England.

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: And in one of the pages she says look, you might be reading this as a white man, thinking, I’m going to create space at the table for someone else, right? And she says well the step further is to give up your seat. I’m looking for spaces I can give up my chair…


That might sound good in theory, but Smith’s music collective may actually demonstrate the opposite. He’s not giving up his seat in the music business. Instead, he’s using his influence to make room at the recording table for those who haven’t had access to it. He’s using his experience, gifts, and opportunities to welcome and promote those who haven’t had those same privileges. 

JOSHUA LUKE SMITH: You can call it discipleship. We like talking about community just being with one another and helping each other grow more and more into our truest selves. Getting rid of the bondage, getting rid of the fear, getting rid of the shame and making incredible redemptive art out of that place.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Well it takes many people to put this program together each morning. So we want to say thanks to: Ryan Bomberger, Anna Johansen Brown, Myrna Brown, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Nick Eicher, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Kim Henderson, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Cal Thomas.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: We tip our microphones to thank audio engineers Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz. They stay up late to get the program to you early. Paul Butler is executive producer and Marvin Olasky is editor in chief.

And you are our support to make all of it happen. Thank you so much! 

May you have a restful weekend, and worship alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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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