malcolm gladwell = the capital punishment :-(

February 28, 2014

The Sweeping Generalissimo strikes again! Oh mommeeeee!!! (or) Oh Gladwell, what a sad  sickness! (or) there is absolutely NO reprieve, sorry.

The problem with some  kinds of popular science writing is that, well, they are written to be popular with the people who want to be popular – which they do by being seen  with the book. It is of course, a wince-wince  situation. The best-selling author and the  ‘best-seller buying readers‘ both enjoy the reflected glories of the symbiotic relationship.

I understand that these kinds of work always aim at the Minimum Common Denominator – the likes of the uncritical, all accepting fans of Oprah Winfrey (the Grand ol’ Ma’am of moralization & mediocrity) and Rahul Gandhi  (the Grand Duke of terrible, terrible snafus) & Arvind Kejriwal (the Chief Propagandist of preachy middle-class morality and middle-classy vicarious rabble rousing). But, still

Yes. This Malcolm veX, reminds me of another of those sweeping theorists who grandly generalize based on exactly one single rather lonely  data point or even  less, if they could help it.

Yes, you are verrrry corrrrect… immediately,  the image of The  Jared Diamond floats up, claiming his inherent  right to be the Grand Duke of the Great hall of Grandiose theorists – but then, it would be kinda jarring to bring up this rather pricey carbon allotrope, so I choose to desist from dealing with this man… I merely gnash my teeth, for the time being. Oh my GAWD!


So, when I read Malcolm Gladwell (henceforth referred to as MG) sire’s Tipping Point (‘The little things can make a big difference’) I must admit that I sat up and noticed. This must have been in the year 2000 or so, and even though it was easy to dismiss the book as a famed Y2K bug, I did not swat it. In fact I sweated it out. aarrghhhh!

Then came  ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking’ and I really started blinking (obviously without thinking), amazed at the power of human imagination to singleheadely pursue febrile and laboured patterns.

Then I read  ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ and am sure it was a success all the way to the cash registers with their lovely clinking clanking sound… A veritable music to the ears of, um, MG.

And every kOOl_dOOd and kewl_lady made scientifically & statistically literate by a mere blink of MG, would want to see only outliers  everywhere, without even blinking once… The power of the minimum common denominator is a terrible, terrible  one…

But, I must  admit and plead guilty to the fact that I have read all the above, mea culpa  and all that —  but  (=therefore) did not go anywhere near  his other book ‘releases’ such as ‘Personality, Character, and Intelligence: Part Three from What the Dog Saw’ and ‘The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs’ and ‘What the Dog Saw’ and many other volumes in the series of ‘What the Dog Saw’…

This was because, the whole series reminded me of any  given dog that would keep marking its territory rather nonchalantly… Of course, I have no shame in sadly admitting to the fact that,  I dared to browse through the book of MG –  ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus‘ – which he co-wrote with Seth Godin, because I have some respect for the latter…

However, Generalissimo MG has had a couple of decent ideas, I agree – but his painstaking and paingiving  attempts at  stretching them to impossible limits here  and performing logical somersaults  there  to weave a general web of fat books, does not even come near a sad comedy.

My plea to MG is, if you do NOT have anything new to say, or any well informed and logically developed opinion to share,  please, please DON’T say or share it, that too again and  again, get it? You can’t keep on milking one lame idea after the other, got  it??


But, but… man, won’t my troubles ever end?

MG has gone ahead and written ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giant‘ – released it in 2013 – I got a free copy of it, strongly recommended by a ‘friend’ – and I was completely floored by it. In fact, I am not able to get up from wherever I am now! I am rolling on the floor laughing my ass off – continuously  for the past few months.  Believe me.  Really. Help!

And, just when I was thinking of doing a funny review (how else  can one approach the dogs and the underdogs – tell me!) of the book, Grand Ma’am [Natasha] Lennard has penned a sarcastic article in Salon Magazine. I thought I will give you some excerpts from it, but the whole article is lip-smackingly delicious, is worth quoting in toto  and is rather short, therefore am going ahead… Enjoy. Copyright be damned.

Radical activist sentenced to read Malcolm Gladwell

(Natasha Lennard, in Salon Magazine)

A punishment cruel and unusual: A jailed 90’s environmentalist faces a harsh, moralizing sentence

A radical environmental activist in the 90′s, Rebecca Rubin was sentenced Monday for taking part animal rights-related arsons allegedly perpetrated by the collective “The Family” over a decade ago.

Rubin has refused to give evidence against any other activists to federal prosecutors, accounting, some say, for her considerable sentence of five years in prison (determined by minimum sentencing laws — a scourge of the legal system).

The details of Rubin’s punishment are nothing short of cruel and unusual. She was ordered to pay more than $13 million in restitution upon her release and perform 200 hours of community service. Add to this the bizarre requirement that she read Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” — the author’s sweeping work of pop science with a message to “misfits and underdogs” that essentially combines non-violence and capitulation, undergirded by an appeal to a scientific method with far-reaching topic matter, and little argumentative strength.

Of “David and Goliath”‘s core message, Gladwell himself said: “The fact of being an underdog changes people in ways that we often fail to appreciate. It opens doors, and creates opportunities and educates and permits things that might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.”

Demanding a jailed activist — who has remained resistant to years of state intimidation — read such a work seems not-so-subtly dystopian. Gladwell as state-enforced antidote to rebellion.

One hopes that Rubin’s supporters send her ample countervailing reading supplies, too.

:)))))) 8-)))) B-))))! Thanks! Keep writing Natasha, and please do continue to rip the mediocre pieces of work to shreds.


Postscript: I really wonder, as to which Tamil Author or Authors would a learned and erudite  Tamil Judge punish the dastardly Dravidian Criminals with, in lieu of Death Penalty.

Any suggestion(s)? ;-)

My suggestions would be: (of course, you can guess who these critters are)

1. Ezra Kilotonne

2. MazumdarDevi

3. ManiacPuthri

4.  <…fill in the name of your ‘favourite’ author>

5.  <…fill in the name of your ‘favourite’ author>


One Response to “malcolm gladwell = the capital punishment :-(”

  1. jag673 Says:

    Tipping point was kind of ok – but not scientific. With every subsequent book, MG just risked spreading his ‘fancy hypothesis masked as rules’ too thin. With the latest, he had spread it so thin that a lot of people could see that the mask was torn or that it was too transparent to serve it purpose. And i am happy, he really had his comeuppance.

    Thanks for the link you shared. Another interesting review can be found at

    Like our es.ra types, such writers do a lot of damage and it is always important that these are identified, categorized and respected for what it really is … ‘pseudo xxxxx’ ( xxxxx = science in MG’s case).



மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s