Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell (Pop!Tech / CC BY)
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You probably know Malcolm Gladwell [above] from his book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceSince that 2000 breakout bestseller Mr. Gladwell has written four more hits, all exploring the nexus of psychology and sociology. So when The New Yorker podcaster and executive editor Dorothy Wickenden quizzed Gladwell (her employee) on the impact of gun control on school shootings, you’d expect him to take a measured view. And you’d be right . . .

What we’re looking at here is a powerful, contagious, adolescent, uh, cultural pathology that has, uh, used the availability of guns to extend its reach. But, you know, there have been school shootings in Germany and Norway and Canada and places where there aren’t a lot of guns, so, I don’t know. And if you look at the cases of these kids, uh, in many of these cases they got access to guns that would still have been available even in the presence of much more, uh, draconian gun control measures.

Fair enough? Maybe so. But not nearly good enough for Ms. Wickenden, whose enthusiasm for civilian disarmament is evident whenever The New Yorker addresses “gun violence.” Gladwell — unlike fired Gun Guys author Dan Baum — soon abandons rational thought and analysis to parrot the company line on gun control.

GLADWELL: Yeah, [gun control] doesn’t solve, doesn’t solve the [problem of school shootings], you know, you and I could go online and buy all the materials we need to make a bomb that can do serious damage. So it just seems to me people are looking for an easy solution here. Now, bef-, let me say one crucial thing here — this should in no way undermine the importance of gun control!

WICKENDEN : There! That’s what I was waiting for you to say.

GLADWELL: This is a, gun control can solve the much bigger problem of the kind of unpremeditated shootings done in the heat of passion or drunkenness or drug use that claim the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year. That’s the reason to ban guns. School shootings are a wholly separate and more complex phenomenon. Let’s not muddy the waters by trying to extend an incredibly powerful and important social initiative to this specific, difficult issue.

Does Mr. Gladwell really believe that there are “tens of thousands” of “unpremeditated shootings” carried-out “in the heat of passion or drunkenness or drug use” per year in the US?

Even a simple Google search reveals that about two-thirds of all firearms-related fatalities are suicides — which would occur at their current rate even if guns disappeared. The majority of the rest are gang-related homicides which are also impervious to gun control initiatives.

It’s hard to believe that a man famous for using statistical data and reason to reach insightful conclusions would throw firearms factuality under the bus for political correctness. Or, indeed, job security. But there it is.



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  1. Disappointing to say the least. I loved Blink and The Tipping Point. I had always assumed a mind capable of those works would approach most things with the same measured reason.

    • I enjoyed those and Outliers as well. It’s a damn shame that he didn’t apply the same thought process to this.

      • Often time the personal disconnect with the official company line will reinforce deeply held beliefs and instigate a search for a different employer.

        I think the dude should send Reason or PJ media a resume…

        • Nice thought, but neither Reason nor PJTV could come close to affording his salary, let alone his perqs and the engagement fees which come (in part) from his position at the New Yorker. Which is why he’s kinda stuck toein’ the party line.

    • He’s never written a book on gun control. A spur of the moment answer, is rarely all that well thought out. If he set out to write his gun control book, by the time the stats were compiled, he may well have ended up like John Lott.

  2. “That’s what I was waiting for you to say” kinda gives the game away, doesn’t it?

    • We knew she was going to be a huge loser in the gun control argument, we just wanted to see if she could lose by enough cover the point spread. And leave it to the POS(D) to get that done, she did.

  3. I am sure ISIS, MS13, and the Russian and Chinese militaries would all agree with him.

    • Hell, I don’t even know the HE agrees with him. Like I said, that “That’s what I was waiting for” from his boss kind of compromises the whole thing. I’m pretty amazed he had the stones to say, well, no, gun control actually wouldn’t do much of anything about school shootings.

  4. Let me boil it all down. “I love freedom of choice. As long as you choose what I choose.”

    • Alternative version:

      I love freedom of choice, as long as I get to determine which choices you can make.

      • In ancient Rome
        There was a poem
        about a dog
        who had 2 bones
        He licked the one, he licked the other, he ran in circles til he dropped dead.
        Freedom of choice… it’s what you’ve GOT.
        Freedom from choice… it’s what you WANT
        -Devo “Freedom of Choice” (or, the liberal theme song)

  5. Perhaps Gladwell made an intuitive statement based on an intuitive (although highly inaccurate) guess at data involving criminal use of firearms?

  6. Arguably the main constituent of the anti’s ptogram is peer pressure. Get the message out there and denegrate those who do not conform. No one wants to be denegrated regardless of their intelligence. Mr. Gladwell knew what to say to prevent his near future from becoming a living hell. And those are the only facts that matter.

  7. One should ask Malcolm what is the “tipping point” in a murder, robbery assault or rape? What tipping point establishes submission? Does a gun help prevent that?

  8. Wow. That is quite amazing. He literally desroyed gun control, but was then pressured into agreeing we should do gun control anyway. Perhaps he should take a moment and study this conversation he just had. What’s on display here is a perfect example of liberal brainwashing.

  9. Another Brit lecturing us on why guns are bad, because guns. Water’s wet, sun rises in the east, what else is new?

  10. This is a, gun control can solve the much bigger problem of the kind of unpremeditated shootings done in the heat of passion or drunkenness or drug use that claim the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year. That’s the reason to ban guns.

    So ban all guns? That is his solution? Come on. What about guns saving people’s lives in defensive situations? His solution is to disarm innocent honest respectable citizens while criminals are not going to disarm? Criminals aren’t going to follow the law. They will make guns, steal guns, and continue to make victims of honest people. What about the old, the sick, the disabled? Are they to wait the 15 minutes for the cops to arrive while they are getting beaten stabbed or shot? What a cruel ineffective solution.

    11000 a year from (gun) homicides. Does he really think that “drunken, drugged, or angry heat of the moment” people are going to eliminate or even reduce the 11000? Almost all the homicides in America are performed in the metro and city areas at rates higher than rural areas. These are criminals, burglars, gang violence, drug dealers. This guy portrays this picture as regular Joes in America are killing each other all the time in the moment. Wake up. Look at who is dying. They are inner city poor, the impoverished, the uneducated, the fatherless, the motherless. These are not middle class people. Trying to take their stolen guns away isn’t going to improve their situation. Taking my purchased guns away certainly isn’t going to improve mine.

  11. I read his books and enjoyed them immensely and learned a ton. He’s very good at shining a light on something that you may have always sort of known, but never really thought about. Good reads, all of them.

    Interview sounds like he just wanted it over; she got him on a spot, didn’t like his reasonable answer and he gave her the answer he (correctly) intuited was the one she was looking for. It’s ok. He can be a good thinker and writer yet still be human enough to suck it up to the boss. Not a scion of moral courage, perhaps, but I’ll still buy his next book, even though i’m sure I’ll be thinking, “dude – you are better than that! don’t be such a dumb ass.”

    There are enemies and there are allies, and in the middle there are a ton of people that parrot what they hear. That doesn’t make them enemies, just misinformed or opinionated or shallow thinkers. There are always opportunities to turn the middle ground our way. The facts are on our side. I truly think we will get there, one day. Or rather, that we may get there one day, but it will be through hard-ass work and not just because it happens.

  12. The November 4th stabbing attack was recently reclassified as a terrorist attack. That makes 3 major terrorist attacks (or attempted attacks) within a year in the USA. I think I’ll stick to my guns, as it were.

  13. The bottom line, they have a goal to reach no matter the cost ! That goal, the complete disarmament of the American civilian population. Until that happens we will never be subservient to the powers that be. As shown in the article above the writers know, understand the ultimate goal, and are all in for it !

  14. The man is clearly a good writer and can make a convincing story. I’ve read “Blink” and generally agreed with and saw his point on the fact that over-analysis is exactly that–over-analysis. But hard to swallow the “ban-the-gun” attitude after Chapter 3, “The Warren Harding Error”, in which Gladwell discusses how people were easily duped by the good public appearance of Harding. The general attitude being, “damn those silly people, falling for such silly marketing tactics.” Well as Mr. Gladwell says himself:

    -“We need to accept our ignorance and say ‘I don’t know’ more often.’” –p.71 Blink

  15. I AM SICK AND TIRED OF IT. PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS BLAMING GUNS……GUNS THIS…. GUNS THAT. I wish any person spewing senseless “rable rable rable” about all these guns killing people would take two seconds of thought and allow logic to say “BOOO here I am”, and then the thought and logic would make love and have a baby of fact. FACT is BULLETS, it’s bullets killing people. Maybe just bullet proof walls erected around the areas where non-law abiding trash “be stayins” would eventually solve 97.253% of the bullet related deaths. coughorgiveoutmorefreeboatridescough. I’m embarrassed by the harsh reality of the facts being a man of darker color myself.

  16. I’m surprised he’s still held in high esteem here. There is a large body of work on the internet ripping his books to shreds. Steve Sailer in particular savages him pretty good.

    • Taking Sailer completely seriously? Really? Sure, he’s got some good points about genetics (Gladwell would never make the NFL with 50,000 hours of practice and we can’t retrain Fred who worked the Chrysler line to work at CERN except as janitorial staff.) That said, the rest of his stuff is pandering at most generous.

  17. I work in mental health and research shows that when people do not have access to a firearm and have to go out of there way to kill themselves, the suicide rates go down significantly. Access and ease does matter. The author’s assumption that suicide rates are the same with or without access to a firearm is completely wrong, although I see how it would seem logical on the surface.

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