This is the time of year when we get bombarded with ‘best of’ and ‘worst of’ lists, increased by the fact that it could be for the year or for the decade. The only lists I pay attention to are of films by critics I respect to get tips on what might be worth watching.
This list of Things We Hope Will Die in 2020 is a little more interesting but the item that really jumped out at me and I wholeheartedly agree with is the suggestion by Jacob Rosenberg.
Malcolm Gladwell’s career: Let’s thinslice: Malcom Gladwell needs to stop writing. Gladwell’s theories are wrong (stop and frisk) or obvious (1,000 hours) or dumb (talking to strangers is the problem with everything). He made his bones at a time when glib, crypto-conservative contrarianism was the reigning media ethos. Today, the shtick has been worn so smooth as to be transparent. Flip through his latest book and you’ll find an easy-pass treatment of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State and a determinedly apolitical reading of the death of Sandra Bland—two cases of institutional pathologies that Gladwell turns into parables about a quirk in human nature. Powerful people thus get excused for their mistakes, under the guise of Gladwell’s interrogating some orthodoxy or another. You don’t need to be a bestselling author of pop-science airport books to come up with a word for this stuff: bullshit.
I have long been mystified by Gladwell’s popularity.