March 2, 2006

Does Malcolm Gladwell really belong in's "Smart Enough to Know Better Hall of Shame?"

You may have noticed that the guys who get on my nerves the most are the smart enough to know better intellectuals who instead choose to mislead the public for personal or political gain: Stephen Jay Gould, Jared Diamond, Steven D. Levitt, Michael Barone, Karl Rove, Nicholas Lemann, The Economist magazine staff, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Ledeen, Francis Fukuyama, Christopher Hitchens, and so forth, along with less objectionable characters who still have their moments of moral weakness, like the great population geneticist L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, Richard Dawkins, Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Steyn, and the Thernstroms.

I'd long considered Malcolm Gladwell a prime member of the "Smart Enough to Know Better" gang ... until I discovered his personal website There, Gladwell publishes his thoughts without benefit of The New Yorker's expert fact-checkers and editors, and it's not a pretty sight. Instead, you get howlers like:

"Sailer and Poser [sic] have a very low opinion of car salesmen."


"If you look, in fact, at emergency room statistics, you'll see that more people are admitted every year for non-dog bites than dog-bites--which is to say that when you see a Pit Bull, you should worry as much about being bitten by the person holding the leash than the dog on the other end."

Now, Gladwell isn't being paid to say idiotic things like this, which raises the horrifying possibility that he actually believes them. So, maybe I've gotten Gladwell all wrong. Maybe Gladwell isn't the Machiavellian mercenary spin-meister I'd assumed. Maybe he's more the Chauncey Gardiner of millionaire sales convention speakers.

My apologies to him.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

wow. that's pretty harsh. after spending almost an hour reading your criticisms of gladwell, i am rethinking my affection for his books. in truth, i just finished his last book, david and goliath (i skipped outliers), and it left a lot to be desired. while it had some good stuff, a lot of it kind of sucked, actually.