Omar: I also heard Malcolm Gladwell speak at the New Yorker festival.
Me: I hate that guy!
Omar: [laughing] He was such an amazing storyteller. He had no slides, just him standing there talking, and the audience was spellbound.
Me: I have no doubt of it. His books are beautiful stories. They really work their way into your heart. But they're depressing and they're lies. For example, he says that 4% of the population is over six feet tall, but some large percentage of CEOs are, like 50%. He concludes that height leads to people thinking you're powerful, and hence success.
Omar: I remember this.
Me: It's really annoying for me, since I'm not as tall as you are, Omar. But there could be some third factor that leads to both! Maybe it's actually that rich families feed their kids well (so they grow up to be taller) and give them more education and connections (so they grow up to be CEOs). Maybe height isn't the cause at all.
Omar: Yeah, there's another part where he says that crime in New York City fell, and it was due to punishing small crimes like littering. But there are studies that have shown that wasn't the reason.
Me: In Freakonomics, they actually did regression tests on all the factors. They ran a scientifically controlled algorithm, and found that it wasn't the small crimes at all. It was by legalizing abortion.
Me: At least if Gladwell's books are uplifting, there would be some redeeming value. But they're not. He has another section on sexism, and how it's subconscious and pervasive. He doesn't motivate by saying, 'Hey, let's band together to fight and make a difference!' No, he ends on a note about how it's everywhere and there's nothing we can do because it's so deeply rooted.
Omar: The story of the female trombonist.
Me: His stories are so compelling that it's hard not to be influenced, and a lot of it is not even factual. I fall into all the unfortunate categories that he describes. I'm not six feet tall, I'm a woman, I'm not Caucasian. If I were to believe his books ...
Omar: You're fucked!
Me: His message is: "Well, you're boned. But thanks for buying my book!"