In recent years, David Brooks of the NYT has taken up Malcolm Gladwell`s rhetorical straw man device of writing as if the conventional wisdom in 21st Century American media circles consists of a cartoonish caricature of my ideas. Gladwell and Brooks then go on to refute Sailerism to vast applause.
Not surprisingly, Brooks writes in the NYT:
Itâ€™s become fashionable to bash Malcolm Gladwell for being too interesting and not theoretical enough. This is absurd. Gladwellâ€™s pieces in The New Yorker are always worth reading, so Iâ€™ll just pick out one, â€?Offensive Play,â€? on the lingering effects of football violence, for a Sidney award â€” in part to celebrate his work and in part as protest against the envious herd.
Gladwell`s problem isn`t that he`s “not theoretical enough.” Gladwell is relentlessly theoretical. For example, he entitled one chapter in his bestseller Outliers “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.” Gladwell`s problem is that most of his countless theories are so wrong that a few minutes of reflection can debunk them.
Note that the one Gladwell article Brooks specifically endorses is one that I endorsed in a post entitled “David Brooks` lonely struggle against the Sailerite conventional wisdom.” Unlike Gladwell, Brooks is smart enough and sly enough to know he doesn`t want to get in a headlong battle over simple matters of fact, so he chose to endorse a Gladwell article pre-approved by me.