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Malcolm Gladwell: "Blink"
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My new column “Malcolm Gladwell Blinks at Racial Realities” is a demolition of #1 bestseller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by the New Yorker writer who authored the 2000 hit The Tipping Point. Gladwell describes Blink as “A book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye.” 

Here’s what I learned from Gladwell’s style about what the lucrative corporate audience wants a nonfiction writer to do:

  • Find or concoct marketable buzzwords for concepts with which readers are already familiar. For example, Gladwell uses the term “thin-slicing” to put a positive new spin on the old practice of judging a book by its cover.

  • Don’t even try to make sense. Logic and consistency just annoy most readers.

Blink’s individual anecdotes are interesting and well written. But taken as a whole, the book is a mish-mash of contradictions. Gladwell strongly encourages you to rely upon your snap judgments … except when you shouldn’t.

Now, it would be tremendously useful if Gladwell had figured out some general rules of thumb for when to rely on your instantaneous hunches and when not to.

But as far as I can tell, his book boils down to two messages:

  • Go with your gut reactions, but only when they are right.

  • And even when your gut reactions are factually correct, ignore them when they are politically incorrect.

The most intriguing aspect of Gladwell’s book is that its hopeless confusion and mind-melting political correctness stem from the author’s own racial background. Although mostly white, Gladwell is partly of African descent (his mother was black, Scottish, and Jewish). But he doesn’t look noticeably black in most of his pictures.

The origin of Blink, he writes on his website, came when, “on a whim,” he let his hair grow long into a loose but large Afro. As you can see in this picture of Gladwell with his Afro, he wound up with more of a Napoleon Dynamite Mormon ‘fro than the genuine kinky kind that ABA basketball players espoused back in the 1970s. Still, it does finally make him look marginally black.

As soon as Gladwell grew his Afro, he claims, he started getting hassled by The Man: highway patrolmen wrote him speeding tickets, airport security gave him the evil eye, and the NYPD questioned him for 20 minutes because they were looking for a rapist with an Afro. “That episode on the street got me thinking about the weird power of first impressions,” he says. “And that thinking led to Blink.”

Obviously, Gladwell is not being wholly honest about why he chose to grow an Afro, which is an extremely high-maintenance hairstyle. (I know, because I looked just like Napoleon Dynamite myself back in 1978. If you are thinking about growing an Afro yourself, trust me when I tell you that anytime you lean your head against a wall or the back of your chair, you will dent your ‘fro.)

People pick a hairstyle to project an image, and Gladwell presumably wanted to shed his nerdy son-of-a-math-professor look and start making first impressions that reeked of that dangerous, sexy, black rebel glamour associated with famous Afro-wearers like Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver and blaxploitation movie hero Shaft:

“Who’s the cat that won’t cop out
When there’s danger all about?
Right On!”

Now the inevitable downside of trying to look dangerous to impress girls and interviewers is that you look dangerous to cops.

But you aren’t going to hear about tradeoffs from Gladwell, nor about racial differences. He makes a huge amount of money lecturing corporations, and he prudently toes the EEOC-enforced party line about how there’s no contradiction whatsoever between “diversity” and profit maximization.

Steve Sailer’s homepage and blog is 

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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  1. […] the past, Steve Sailer had done a superb job taking the overrated Malcolm Gladwell down a notch or two. More recently, he’s been aiming his salvos at Daniel Kahneman of the Thinking, Fast […]

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