MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
Wow! We’ve got a treat for you! John Stonestreet returns for Culture Friday and today we’ll find out whether he bought stock in GameStop.
NICK EICHER, HOST: We will and we’ll discuss science, de-platforming, and erasing history. Lots to tell on Culture Friday.
Also today: a documentary on the esteemed economist Thomas Sowell.
And Marvin Olasky answers your questions about his sources for news and political commentary.
BROWN: It’s Friday, February 5th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
BROWN: Up next, news with Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Biden delivers first foreign policy speech at State Dept. » President Biden delivered his first foreign policy speech at the State Department on Thursday.
Biden again vowed to steer away from former President Trump’s America First approach and strengthen ties with U.S. allies.
BIDEN: American alliances are our greatest asset, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies and key partners once again.
Biden said he will halt the withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed in Germany. President Trump announced the plans last year to redeploy nearly 10,000 troops currently stationed there.
He also said he will end support for Saudi Arabia’s military offensive in Yemen.
The president saved some of his toughest words for Russia.
BIDEN: The days of the United States rolling over the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens are over.
President Biden also condemned the coup in Myanmar. And he called on military commanders to free the political leaders and activists it is now holding captive.
UN backs democracy in Myanmar » The U.N. Security Council also spoke out on the matter Thursday.
The sitting president of the council, Barbara Woodward, said members strongly back a return to democracy in the country.
WOODWARD: They stress the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.
The council also urged the Myanmar military to immediately release the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other top officials.
Meantime, citizens continue to protest the coup. Demonstrators banged on pots in pans in the streets of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.
The military has blocked access to Facebook in an effort to prevent citizens from organizing protests.
House votes to remove Rep. Greene from committees » Lawmakers on Capitol Hill voted last night to remove Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from all House committees.
AUDIO: On this vote, the yeas are 230, the nays are 199. The resolution is adopted.
The largely partyline vote came after hours of floor debate with Democrats arguing Greene is too radical to serve on House panels. They cited past controversial remarks and her online sharing of conspiracy theories.
Greene pleaded her own case on the House floor, wearing a face mask emblazoned with the words “free speech.”
GREENE: I never said any of these things since I have been elected for Congress. These were words of the past. And these things do not represent me. They do not represent my district, and they do not represent my values.
But Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts fired back…
MCGOVERN: She continues to fundraise off this stuff. Read her social media. I’m sure you do. So, I mean, come on!
Republicans complained of a double standard, arguing that Democratic lawmakers weren’t kicked off of committees after controversial remarks. And they charged that removing Greene from House panels is thwarting the will of Georgia voters.
The 46-year-old lawmaker won election to Congress last November.
Unemployment claims dip unexpectedly » The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits has unexpectedly dipped to a two-month low. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The Labor Department says just under 780,000 Americans filed unemployment claims last week. That was a drop of more than 30,000 from the week before. And it marks the third straight decline.
While that number is still historically high, it’s the lowest it’s been since early December.
The drop in jobless claims the past few weeks suggests that layoffs have eased slightly. Some states recently loosened coronavirus lockdowns as a surge in new cases dissipated.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Judge halts Texas order blocking Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funds » A judge in Texas has blocked the state from booting Planned Parenthood out of its Medicaid program.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had issued an order withdrawing taxpayer dollars from the abortion giant. The order was supposed to kick in yesterday, but the group filed an emergency petition and hours later, Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a two-week restraining order.
The Democratic judge ruled that withholding funds from Planned Parenthood would cause “immediate and irreparable harm.”
In his state of the state address this week, Gov. Abbott called for new legislation…
ABBOTT: We need a law that ensures that the life of every child will be spared from the ravages of abortion.
Republican state lawmakers have filed more than a dozen pro-life bills in the current legislative session.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: cultural reflections on the GameStop stock wars.
Plus, Marvin Olasky offers some media recommendations.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, February 5th, 2021. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday and so let’s welcome John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.
John, before we even say good morning, I need to know how much money did you make in the stock market this week? This was crazy!
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: A crazy week and I plead the fifth. No, listen, I think this —
EICHER: You mean you didn’t invest in GameStop? Is that what you’re telling me?
STONESTREET: I did not. I can confirm that. But I tell ya, what we saw over the last couple of weeks and particularly this past week is a fascinating micro picture of our cultural moment. I know there’s a ton of economic details, there’s the technological realities that would never have been possible a decade ago. So, this is a new reality for Wall Street. But I think the backdrop of this is even more interesting.
EICHER: Yeah, I mean, tell me what you think about that. You say it’s a microcosm, but a microcosm of what? Seemed like a bit of a microcosm of our politics: free money!
STONESTREET: Well, this wasn’t just about making money. In fact, one of the interesting facts was the Reddit users not only posting pictures of paying off their debts or making a lot of money, but also buying in of the stock at the highest level. In other words, really proud that they were able to drive it up, even though it was a terrible decision and even the most uneducated retail investor would have known that. It was a real sense to basically squeeze out these hedge fund folk who short stock. And it was this frustration that we have been seeing in our culture for 20 years.
Here’s what I mean: People forget that postmodernism is not a reaction against Christanity, it’s a reaction against modernism. It is a frustration and despair that comes from the unfulfilled promises that our modern institutions and our modern science and our modern technique is going to basically build a perfect world and we’re going to be able to make everything get better and better and better. And when it fails to do that—because there’s no other place to look in secular societies—you don’t look up because there’s nothing up there, you’ve just got to look at human systems, then basically let’s just burn the thing down. We saw that over and over and over in 2020. That was the impulse of 2020. Anger. Frustration. Despair. And that’s what drove this. And the idea of kind of the modern system feeling like it was impervious to any sort of manipulation was clearly wrong. And at that same time, the retail investors thinking that it was OK to manipulate prices that don’t reflect at any level the value of a company, and to do what they did out of the frustration or out of the sense of revenge, I guess more accurately, that’s A) foolish investing. It’s not a wise way to live your life. And it just wasn’t truth. And that’s the modernist-postmodernist conflict. There’s not a good guy and bad guy side to this, Nick, in my mind. There is a human fallenness side that infects our most deeply established institutions as well as just the individual trying to react and make sense of the world. What a fascinating, fascinating story this was.
EICHER: Let me ask you about the big social media story involving the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The story of two publications and Twitter. It was a Focus on the Family publication. It referred to the president’s pick to lead that office. It’s a medical doctor, Dr. Rachel Levine, who is—quoting from the Focus on the Family tweet—“a transgender woman, that is a man who believes he is a woman.” Then another publication, Catholic World Report, referring to Dr. Levine as—quote—“a biological man identifying as a transgender woman.” Both of these publications saw their Twitter accounts locked for those tweets. CWR was unlocked. The reference remains online. But as far as I can tell, that Focus on the Family account no longer has that tweet up. So, question is — and, listen, it’s interesting because Dr. Levine is going to need Senate confirmation. This is going to be publicized. We’re going to have to deal journalistically with the pronoun question and I wonder how all that is going to play out on social media, but when we talk about the minute details of stories like this, it could seem like we’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Are we or do you think this is in truth a big deal?
STONESTREET: This is a big deal. It’s big deal for two reasons. The first is we’re talking about the Department of Health and Human Services. This was the office that under the Obama administration gave the most direct challenges to religious liberty of the entire U.S. government in any of the branches. This is the department that saw the most dramatic shift and swing in the philosophical approach to matters of the entire presidential administration between President Obama and President Trump. In other words, HHS under President Obama and HHS under President Trump could not have been more different. Even more so than the Department of Education, by the way. This is a big deal.
Look, if this had been the Secretary of Transportation, it wouldn’t have been a big deal that this is a transgender person, a man who believes that he is a woman. I mean, that’s why it made no sense this week when all of the major news outlets announced that Pete Buttigieg being confirmed as the Secretary of Transportation was historic. There’s nothing historic about it. To say that it was historic downplays the significance of the office and downplays the identity of Pete Buttigieg, right? I mean, in other words, you want a guy who can actually do the job and it’s not clear what Pete Buttigieg’s — from all the headlines and articles — what his qualifications were other than the fact that he is a gay man married to another man, right? It didn’t matter in that position.
In this position, it absolutely matters. And that brings up kind of the second key point and that is we’re talking about the Department of Health and Human Services, right? In other words, does it matter that we have someone who denies biological reality, who embraces “science” that will be rejected in 100 years because it denies chromosomes, hormones, reproductive organs, and external genitalia as being legitimate to determine one’s sexuality or one’s sexual identity. And we’re saying this is kind of the nation’s top person in the area of health? Yeah, I think that matters.
Now, of course the other side of this is just the thing that has so many folks just really reading 1984 all over again and that is the absolute control of thought, the control of speech, and the deplatforming and the fact that the new public square is managed by companies and there’s an unimagined in times past level of power of a few tech companies to control speech and control thought. And just like that, somebody like Focus on the Family can be deplatformed for saying something that was utterly uncontroversial five years ago, maybe? Yeah. That is a big deal, but that is the tech side of the story and what is it going to look like to actually express views that are considered to be unthinkable in this context. I don’t know what the right answer to that is other than good for Focus and good for the Catholic World Report for being willing to say what’s true about Dr. Levine.
BROWN: Well, so deplatforming is one thing. But erasing history is another.
I’d like to ask about the San Francisco board of education voting to change the names of more than 40 of its schools because of alleged associations with slaveholding, colonization, or oppression. Here’s a partial list of unacceptables: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Louis Stevenson, Paul Revere, even the senior Democratic senator from California Dianne Feinstein.
Let me read a passage from an article in The Atlantic: “[George Washington] the leader who won America’s war of independence … and [Abe Lincoln] the one who saved the union and issued the Emancipation Proclamation … were dispatched without further discussion. The decision to rename Abraham Lincoln High took five seconds; George Washington took 12.”
Shouldn’t we at least take 60 seconds to discuss?
STONESTREET: Maybe, I mean, at least 60. One wonders, look, if a board of education of a major U.S. city cannot tell the difference between the KKK and George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, they probably don’t have any business putting up schools anyway. This is just really a stunning thing.
But what’s really behind this, it’s really in a sense the same sort of impulse that drove the GameStop story and that’s this collision between postmodernism and modernism. I remember, Nick, in the spring of 2002 hearing a major theologian and apologist announce that postmodernism was dead because certainly no one could believe in absolute morality after seeing 9/11. I was young and I didn’t want to challenge this guy, but I thought he was absolutely wrong because I thought, look, a culture pre-committed to relativism is not going to look at this and say, you know, we have to believe in absolute truth. They’re going to look at this and say it’s people who believed in absolute truth and morality that did this. And that impulse to question everything in the past and all the promises of progress and all of that sort of stuff comes right along with what C.S. Lewis called chronological snobbery. And that’s this kind of deeply held impulse that, well, we would have done it better. We would have done it right. And if there’s one disease of our generation, it’s the fact that we somehow think that we can look back in the past and completely condemn in one fair swoop of an entire history of America as if we would have done things differently had we been there. We would have been the just ones. We would have been the moral ones. And I just think that the tone deafness here is just absolutely stunning because 150-200 years from now, what are they going to look back at us and say? Those are the guys that castrated little boys who thought they were little girls and fed into delusions. Those are the ones who would actually rip apart little babies in wombs. There’s no moral high ground that we have over generations that are past. And the other part of this that is huge is that you do not have a nation to speak of without a history of that nation. You don’t know who you are if you don’t know the story of which you’re a part. And this whole impulse is not pointing out the wrong parts of the story. It’s not trying to correct parts of the story that we got wrong so that the next part of our story we’ll get it right. It’s an attempt to erase the story. This isn’t the way forward.
EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.
BROWN: Thank you John.
STONESTREET: Thank you both.
NICK EICHER, HOST: The last 11 months or so have been tough on healthcare workers, to say the least. And they certainly deserve our thanks.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently crashed a Florida hospital’s Zoom meeting to do just that—to thank them for their life-saving work.
And he had a little surprise for the staff at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
GOODELL: The reason that I wanted to get on this call for a minute to thank you all is that I wanted to tell you that we want each member of your team to be our guest at the Super Bowl. (celebration)
22,000 fans will attend the game this Sunday in Tampa and at least 7,500 of them will be healthcare workers, all guests of the NFL.
In fact: all 32 teams will also send healthcare workers from their hometowns to the game.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the first team in history to play in a Super Bowl hosted at their home stadium as they welcome the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, February 5th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan Basham has a review of a new documentary she thought was a perfect pick for her first review of February.
And I agree. Probably the greatest living economist.
Its subject: a man, a myth, a legend.
Its title: Thomas Sowell.
MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: Sometimes you just have to thank God for His providential timing. Last week I was casting about for a film recommendation to kick off Black History Month. Then I received an email about a new documentary on the life of one of America’s preeminent philosophers and, arguably, our greatest living political theorist.
CLIP: For me, Thomas Sowell is that rarest of species. An honest intellectual. He spent a career putting truth above popularity. He’s explored the answers to questions others were afraid to even ask. He’s followed the facts where they lead. And accepted the findings however unpopular or politically incorrect.
The film, hosted by Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley and streaming free right now on YouTube and Amazon Prime, is aptly subtitled, Common Sense in a Senseless World. It shows us how Sowell’s early love of books developed into an incisive mind that refused to be taken captive by emotional appeals not backed by hard data. Over a 60 year career, his commitment to reality over theory, heedless of who reality might offend, has never wavered to accommodate the times.
As if to underline the point, the film isn’t shy about grappling with those Sowell quotes that tend to cause a lot of consternation in our current cultural moment:
CLIP: If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would’ve gotten you labeled as a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago, and a racist today.
In many ways Sowell’s journey is similar to that of another great American thinker, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Sowell also grew up in the Jim Crow South and spent his early 20s committed to Marxism. But it wasn’t reading or debating Republicans that convinced him liberal ideas are harmful to the black community. It was his personal experience in the Department of Labor. What studying under the great conservative economist Milton Friedman couldn’t do, working for the federal government did. By the time he was a professor himself, Sowell saw nothing but mischief in the welfare system and policies rooted in identity politics.
CLIP: In 1965, Thomas Sowell took a teaching position at Cornell. Like many other colleges it became a focal point for anti-war and anti-discrimination protests and demonstrations. When armed black students took over a building on campus, Sowell had little sympathy for school administrators. Blacks had been recruited to Cornell under lower standards to diversify the student body and Sowell observed that many of the same students were now causing trouble and feeding racial divisions. For Sowell it was an example of the unintended consequences of affirmative action.
While our nation has no shortage of smart economists, the film illustrates what sets Sowell apart from so many ivory tower academics: his plain way of speaking. His arguments are as easily understood by the gardener as the grad student.
Here’s talk-show host Dave Rubin describing what happened when he interviewed Sowell with the aim of introducing his ideas to a new generation raised on YouTube and podcasts.
CLIP: There’s an absolutely beautiful moment where I ask him about his own political evolution. So then what was your wake up to what was wrong with that line of thinking? Uh facts. I love that moment. I mean, I knew the second he did it, I was like, we got our clip. That’s as good as it gets. And it gets to, what does this man care about most? Does he care about how he feels about things? How he wants the world to be? Or how is the world as it is? Because that’s what he saying, I care about facts. The world is a certain way, and now, using that as a baseline, we can try to figure out how to make things better.
I joked on Twitter a couple days ago that in trying to select soundbites for this segment, my notes had turned into, basically, a full transcript of the movie. And while that’s true, it doesn’t mean the film has no failings. We can often learn as much about a man and his ideas from his critics as we do from his fans. So it’s a shame Riley doesn’t talk to any. And occasionally, he digresses into making his own arguments rather than focusing on his subject.
The film is most insightful when it examines Sowell’s softer side, illustrating how even his photography hobby underlines his worldview. To borrow a metaphor from Ephesians, in it we see a mind too sharp and too strong to be blown about by every new wind of cultural doctrine or ideological fad.
CLIP: If you close down the diaphragm, then you get lots and lots of stuff in focus near to far. On the other hand, you’re cutting down the amount of light. And a theme in Tom’s work on society is that all policies involved trade-offs. And Tom often loses patience with people with sweeping visions. Here’s how we can improve society. Here’s a solution to a problem. And Tom points out in his political writings there are no solutions, there are only trade-offs. Just like photography.
Perhaps as a result of their relative isolation, it seems like many conservative black scholars are banding together, creating a body of documentary film work that will leave a legacy for the future. Just the last few months gave us Larry Elder’s Uncle Tom, the excellent What Killed Michael Brown from Shelby Steele, and, of course, Created Equal, on the life of Clarence Thomas. This deep if, at times, overly reverential look at the life of Thomas Sowell deserves a prominent place among them.
I’m Megan Basham.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, February 5th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
WORLD listeners and readers regularly ask editor in chief Marvin Olasky about his sources for news and political commentary. On this month’s Ask the Editor, here they are.
MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: One frequent question these days comes from conservative readers who realize the danger of paying attention only to right-wing media. They are grateful to WORLD for introducing them to people or places they would otherwise be unaware of. They are looking for additional ways to be saved from life in a bubble.
I’ll start by saying I don’t fault anyone for falling into bubble life. Conservatives have endured four decades of increasing disparagement by liberal media. Why follow what slanders you? But the bubble isolates us. Some recent Trump voters know no one who voted for Joe Biden. It was easy to generalize from personal experience and think Donald Trump won in a landslide.
The January 6 assault on the Capitol opened many eyes to the dangers of bubble life. That’s why some WORLD members want to develop a Twitter stream that includes both liberals and conservatives. I follow on Twitter liberals like Conor Friedersdorf, Emma Green, Sarah Posner, Michelle Boorstein, Michael King, Megan McArdle, and others. I also follow conservatives from National Review and City Journal, along with David French, Ross Douthat, Andrew Sullivan, and Rod Dreher.
When asked, I also explain that after last year’s racial tension it seemed good and right to read more from black Christians—so I follow on Twitter George Yancey, Esau McCaulley, Derwin Gray, Jemar Tisby, Glenn Loury, Mika Edmondson, Trillia Newbell, and others. (All these names are on the World and Everything website.)
Many WORLD members listen to podcasts, so I’ve also told them about my own listening during daily walks with my dog. I usually start by listening to the Bible through a podcast titled ESV: The Story of Redemption. It’s a daily read through the English Standard Bible. Also in my first tier are The World and Everything In It and our weekly Effective Compassion podcast.
My second tier includes three excellent podcasts by church leaders and teachers: Gospel in Life, which is Tim Keller sermons. Christ Covenant Church, which is Kevin DeYoung sermons). The Briefing, which is Al Mohler’s daily commentary.
The third tier is made up of the Listening In podcast, but also two liberal programs: On the Media from NPR flagship WYNC, and Church Politics from prolife Democrats Michael Wear and Justin Giboney.
Two little nuances. First, I use Tweetdeck rather than Twitter: That allows me to see at one time what my wife Susan posts, what my WORLD colleagues post on the World News Group feed, and what the hundred people I follow post. Second—here’s my dirty secret—I play all the podcasts at 1 ½ speed.
I’m Marvin Olasky.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Well it takes many people to put this program together each morning. So we want to say thanks to: Megan Basham, Anna Johansen Brown, Kent Covington, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Bonnie Pritchett, Jenny Lind Schmitt, Sarah Schweinsberg, Les Sillars, Cal Thomas, Emily Whitten, and Whitney Williams.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Many thanks to audio engineers Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz who stay up late to get the program to you early. Paul Butler is executive producer and Marvin Olasky is editor in chief.
And you! Without you, none of this happens. Your support makes the difference. Thank you so much!
As the Psalmist reminds us, Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. For His steadfast love endures forever!
May you have a restful weekend, and worship alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ.