The World O' Crap Archive

Welcome to the Collected World O' Crap, a comprehensive library of posts from the original Salon Blog, and our successor site, (2006 to 2010).

Current posts can be found here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

First Sunscreen, Now Cousin Marriage -- Damn That Nannystat

While it’s been eclipsed by Ann Coulter’s latest screed, contrarian crank John Stossel also has a book out. And so, like Ann, John is deliberating being provocative and annoying (and wearing black cocktail dresses to interviews) in order to help sell the thing.
Just note the topics of his columns from the past couple of months:
Many Politicians Are Big Hypocrites (We note that this represents a bold stance on Stossel’s part.)
And so on.
Thus, with a diminishing supply of stuff to be contrarian about, it’s no surprise that John’s latest effort is “Incest? It’s No Big Deal.” (Or, as John titled it, “Think your cousin’s cute? Relax.”
It’s short, but here’s a shorter version:
I used to believe in the myth that marrying your cousin would result in retarded mutant offspring, with gills and webbed toes. But then I became a Libertarian, and now believe that the government has no business telling you whom you should marry (except in those instances when your choice of a partner would be totally depraved and icky).
But John tells some parts of the story better than I do.  So, here’s Johnny!
Half the states in America have banned cousin marriage, but there’s no good reason for it. You can marry your cousin and have perfectly intelligent kids.
Take Albert Einstein — was he intelligent enough for you? His parents were cousins, and he married his cousin. So did Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria. Worldwide, 20 percent of all married couples are cousins.
And that little problem with hemophilia that afflicted so many of Queen Victoria’s offspring, due to the interbreeding among the crowned heads of Europe?  Don’t give it a second thought!  (John didn’t)
As with so many of our laws, there is little reason for the ban. The laws date back hundreds of years to a time when the Catholic Church campaigned against cousin marriages, because in the Bible, in Leviticus, it says, “None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin.”
But a cousin isn’t terribly “near.” Just ask Brian and Caren Wagner. Brian’s dad and Caren’s mom are brother and sister, so Brian and Caren spent a lot of time together at family functions. Eventually, they fell in love and decided to marry.
So, you can see that their relationship wasn’t terribly near, just like John said.  They were just two strangers who happened to meet regularly at family functions.
So, let’s skip John’s summary of one study that shows that having kids with your cousin only doubles their chance of having a serious problem like spina bifida or cystic fibrosis, and skip to the moral we should derive from it.
There are risks and challenges in any marriage, but it should not be for politicians to decide such intimate matters as whether you get to marry the person you love. Love, marriage and procreation are personal choices better not left to “experts” who are often repeating myths.
Very interesting column, John. And I even agree with a lot of it, including your premise that it shouldn’t be illegal to marry your cousin.
But what did John’s Townhall readers think of it?
Well, along with noting the obvious (that John’s columns are becoming progressively more stupid week by week), some readers noted that once again, John’s science seems faulty, as he has presented one study as the definitive answer to all questions involving the genetics of interbreeding among cousins.
Many readers also wanted to know what sparked this interest in the issue of cousin-marriage rights, since one might think that John could find more important things to whine about (such as a follow-up to the columns about banned sunscreen).  As one commenter put it:
I can’t help but wonder if you ran out of things to write about. Do you have eyes for a cousin perhaps?
Perhaps. But perhaps John is just part of the One-World media elite that is trying to force us to accept immigrants and to marry our cousins!
He’s not talking about siblings marrying…at least, not yet. That will be next, and why shouldn’t it be, using his logic? Introducing this practice and getting the American people to soften up to it and accept it has been in the works for years by our so-called elites, because they recognize that it is accepted throughout much of the (mostly) Third World, and our immigration policy does not allow for any discrimination as to who we let in this country and who we keep out. Middle Eastern Arabs have been marrying cousins for centuries. Might this not explain their apparent inability to form functional societies and have rational discussions without wild conspiracy theories driving everything? There are also very high incidences of otherwise rare genetic disorders in the Arab Muslim world that are kept hush-hush by the MSM but that are directly attributable to cousins marrying for too many generations.
Why must our traditions constantly be under attack? Why can’t the people who come here adapt to our accepted practices and social norms?
Why indeed?  And if John wants to marry his attractive cousin, why can’t he just move to Shelbyville?
[Obglitatory Simpsons Quote}
Jebediah Springfield: "People, our search is over. On this site we shall build a new town, where we can worship freely, govern justly, and grow vast fields of hemp for making rope and blankets."
Shelbyville Manhattan: "Yes, and marry our cousins."
Jebediah: "What are you talking about Shelbyville? Why would we want to marry our cousins?"
Shelbyville: "Cause they're so attractive. I thought that was the whole point of this journey."
Jebediah: "Absolutely not."
Shelbyville: "I tell you I won't live in a town that robs men of the right to marry their cousins."
Jebediah: "Well then, we'll form our own town. Who will come and live a life devoted to chastity, abstinence, and a flavorless mush I call rootmarm?"
Now, back to the commenter's interesting theory that inbreeding causes a belief in conspiracy theories:  I find it to be worthy of investigation, and hope that some intrepid genetic counselors will conduct a survey among the Freepers, Lucianne-ites, and LittleGreenWhatevers.
Anyway, other readers came up with a more sinister explanation for John’s column: it’s really a coded message of support for gay marriage!
But other’s disagreed:
John Stossel is right on the money with this article. It will be as difficult to refute as the arguments presented by the global warming scare-mongerers. [Note: I think the poster didn’t mean this ironically.]
I’m not sure what this has to do with gay marriage either. These are separate and distinct issues. … A relationship between consenting adults (i.e., a man and a woman) is not a problem, except in the eyes of religious nuts and the woefully misinformed/ignorant. This is not deviant or aberrant behavior except in the eyes of those perpetuating ancient societal taboos passed from generation to generation. I believe this is the same crowd still thinking they will go blind if they pleasure themselves.
Yes, this issue is indeed completely different from gay marriage, in that it involves a relationship between consenting adults who are of DIFFERENT SEXES!  While you’d have to be one of those idiots who perpetuate ancient societal taboos from generation to generation to think that there’s something wrong with marrying one’s cousin, it’s self-evident that same-same marriage is deviant and aberrant.
Another reader also addressed the allegation that Stossel favors gay marriage:
I don’t think his article is as ridiculous as some are suggesting here. …As for any connection to the gay “marriage” issue, I think they’re completely separate and distinct. … It’s a far cry from challenging the fundamental historical definition of marriage as one man and one woman.
See, the historical definition of marriage is based on the teachings of the Bible (as is the condemnation of homosexuality), while the laws against marrying one’s cousin are based on a teaching from of the Bible that can be interpreted various ways. Understand now?
In any case, we wish John well in whatever romantic plans he may have, whether they involve marrying a comely Stossel cousin and raising up a passel of mustached children, or whether he actually plans to legalize his relationship with Gene Shalit.
Posted by s.z. on Thursday, July 20th, 2006 at 7:17 pm.


I, for one, welcome our new cousin-marrying cultural overlords.

WTF is Stossel up to? I can’t shake the feeling he’s laying the ground for some argument. Either that or the nanny state didn’t manage to protect him from BSA-infected burgers.

Left by D. Sidhe on July 20th, 2006

Well, D. Sidhe, my own theory is that Stossel is simply a fuckin’ moron. I know, as theories go, that might be a little “out there”, but it’s just my gut feeling.

Left by Bill S on July 20th, 2006

I hate to say it, but Stossel is mostly right, technically–the increased genetic load from first cousins marrying is slight. (Hemophilia is X-linked, inherited from the mother; it ran through European royalty not because of inbreeding but because the genetic pool of females was artificially small.)

But that brings up two points related to “why’d you bring this up?” Marrying your first cousin is legal in nearly half the states already, as he notes, so what’s the problem? And how is it he writes about this–essentially an “It is illegal to give a penguin a bath in Waterloo, Iowa” column–without ever mentioning gay marriage?

But then Stossel’s “Libertarianism” is the same breed as the employee I had many years ago who regularly “misread” the schedule and came in at noon when he was supposed to show up at 8 AM. ‘Long about the third time I asked him how it was he never showed up at 8 when he could still be home in bed? Stossel’s “out of ideas” at a time when the Congress of the United States is wasting money–YOUR money, we could hear him saying–trying to force kids to pledge allegience to God, and interfering with what could be life-saving technologies in the name of Bronze Age moralisms, Republican nannyisms about which he says nothing.

Left by Doghouse Riley on July 21st, 2006

Rudy Giulliani married his cousin. It sounds crazy, but so does Stossel, but maybe this is just a long term project to make cousin marriage just a normal thing, and not something that’s sick or weird?

Or maybe he’s just a big fan of Jerry Lee Lewis.

Left by Prudence Goodwife on July 21st, 2006

“Inbreeding causes people to believe in crazy conspriacy theories. The Media is covering up the genetic defects of Arabs!”

Who else found this ironic?

Left by Hysterical Woman on July 21st, 2006

You know, it’s absolutely true that gay sexual relations can never be characterized as being between “consenting adults.” You have to choose between having relations with willing, horny minors, or rape. Personally, I don’t find kids attractive, so it’s rape, rape, rape. It’s hard work–the stalking, the extreme violence with which I subdue my victim(s). And, technically, it’s against the law. But, laws are for little people, yes? Ah, well–at least it’s cheaper than traditional dating.

Left by Marq on July 21st, 2006

Didn’t Cyrano de Bergerac fall in love with his cousin?

And then there was Alfonse Van Worden, who married two of his cousins, who were themselves sisters.

And let’s not get into the clan incest taboos of this coubntry, which often rendered affairs between people unrelated by blood incestuous while still allowing cousins to marry.

Let’s face it, people like to marry their cousins!

Although I can’t imagine what prmpted Stossel to write this, especially without mentioning gay marriage. I think he’s just gone completely round the bend.

Left by Christopher on July 21st, 2006

There’s some point he’s setting up here. I mean, this is not the first study that says inbreeding is not in itself especially dangerous.

You really need a *lot* of recessive genes and a *lot* of people with them before it becomes an issue. A few people in one family marrying cousins over the course of a hundred generations won’t give you webbed toes. It takes concerted effort to get you, for example, a breed of incredibly neurotic dalmations. And most people don’t like their family that much.

And Doghouse is right, this is very much one of those people-whining-about-obscure- unenforced-regional-laws- almost-nobody-wants-to- break-anyway columns.

The funny thing is, one of the very few areas with which I agree with Stossel is that he’s actually not an anti-gay asshole. His skepticism (and bad journalism) extends to the ex-gay movement, for example. The man’s a dick and an idiot and a short-sighted libertarian and kneejerk contrarian, but he’s never really shown any signs of bigotry towards people, as long as they’re not poor.

So I have no idea why he, clearly deliberately, left gay marriage out of this. I have to wonder if he’s not working his way around to it.

It’s either that, or he’s genuinely gone nuts.

Left by D. Sidhe on July 21st, 2006

Now, hang on, gang….we ought to be applauding, you know in our typical bleeding heart liberal way, Stossel’s efforts at pumping up the self-esteem of the Bubba element in this country.

Think about it: you know how they’re always on us about, you know, ending every T ball game in a tie and all that?

Well, I’m sure the marriage of Aunt Beru to Nephew Phil probably has some of them on edge and nervous that, you know, some Federal judge is going to crack down on them…that whole “marriage must be between a man and a woman” sort of loses its meaning when you inbreed that much.

So all Stossel is saying is that…well, cousins are good enough, smart enough and dammit, people LIKE them!

Left by actor212 on July 21st, 2006

Charles Darwin did indeed marry Emma Wedgewood, his first cousin. Let the Wikipedia take up the tale from there:

“Several of their children suffered illness or weaknesses, and Charles Darwin’s fear that this might be due to the closeness of his and Emma’s lineage was expressed in his writings on the ill effects of inbreeding and advantages of crossing.”

Left by jpj on July 21st, 2006

Half the states in America have banned cousin marriage, but there’s no good reason for it. You can marry your cousin and have perfectly intelligent kids.

I… just… there are no words…

Left by Brad R on July 22nd, 2006

An interesting statistic I came across is that 80% of all marriages in human history were between people who were at least 2nd cousins or closer.

“What could be more natural than to love a cousin?”

Beginning of a short story in Harpers’ Monthly, 1858.

Left by The Dark Avenger on July 23rd, 2006

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