The Fading Star

Tyler Cowen posted his latest Conversations with Tyler. His guest was Malcolm Gladwell, the famous gadfly and popularizer of the blank slate. Of course, Cowen slobbers all over him, because that’s what good thinkers are supposed to do when they get to meet someone like Gladwell. It’s a way of letting the other good thinkers know you are not the sort that colors outside the lines. Gladwell is one of those guys who is more famous for what he represents than anything he has said or written.

Celebrity intellectuals are not famous because they have offered up a great insight or discovery. There’s no money in that. New ideas challenge the orthodoxy. The people with the money to help an aspiring celebrity intellectual live the sort of life they deserve tend not to like challenges to the orthodoxy. Instead they gravitate to people who confirm that the current arrangements are as the heavens ordained. That’s Gladwell. His celebrity is rooted in his ability to flatter the Cloud People.

The typical path to celebrity for these guys is not much different than the way mediocre comics get rich and famous. The game is to flatter the right audience. Making a bunch of bad whites in the hill country feel good about themselves is not a path to the easy life. You can make a nice living, but you’re not going to be doing Ted Talks or getting five figures to do the college circuit. Figure how to let the Cloud People on the Upper West Side feel like champions and you have the golden ticket.

People fond of biological realism and quantitative analysis tend to enjoy making sport of Gladwell, mostly because he makes some hilariously stupid claims. His 10,000 hour rule argument was so stupid it was not even wrong. Steve Sailer has made a hobby out of pulling apart Gladwell’s claims. Sailer is a smart guy, who understands that if he tossed Gladwell off a roof, Gladwell would eventually hit the pavement below, so I suspect he is offended by the idea of a bullshit artist like Gladwell getting rich by peddling nonsense.

The thing is, guys like Gladwell exist off a number of biases and one of them is that they are sincere in their intentions. They truly believe the things they are saying. The difference between a con-man and a moron is that the moron really believes what he is saying. The grifter not only knows he is spouting nonsense, but he crafted the nonsense to take advantage of people. A big part of the Gladwell act is that he presents himself as a sincere dork, who just happens to notice that his audience is on the right side of history.

Of course, what really helps Gladwell is the fact that he is mixed race and  the best kind of mixed race. His mother is black and his father is a English honky. Unlike Barak Obama, Gladwell can pass for white so he gets to play both sides of race street, sort of like how white women like to say they are part Native American. It is the dream of every Progressive white women to get all the victim points of being black, without having to actually be black. As a result, Gladwell makes an excellent totem.

In fairness, Gladwell did catch lightning in a bottle with his first book. It came out just as the Great Progressive Awakening was getting started. Many Progressives saw the Bush election as a tipping point. Bush winning the White House was the nightmare made real and it became a rallying point around which their great cause would be based, at least until that incarnation of the 12th Invisible Hitler was vanquished. Gladwell’s book confirmed what many Progressives were feeling, particularity those in the chattering classes.

As the Great Progressive Awakening comes to an end, so does the rock star status of Malcolm Gladwell. His last two books sold well, mostly due to his name, but both were panned by critics. He was never really an idea man, more of a zeitgeist man. From his perch at the New Yorker, he could take the temperature of his fellow Cloud dwellers and come up with ways to titillate them. The mood has turned dark and angry in the Cloud, so Gladwell’s child-like sense of wonder does not titillate like it did at the beginning..

He will get the same treatment as Jon Stewart, who was replaced as the Official Cloud People Comic by a colorful array of bitter losers. Stewart’s exaggerated irony face routine was replaced by a turkey-necked old hen, who spends 30 minutes a night screeching into the camera. Stewart’s comedy was for people who believed they were riding the tides of history to the promised land. Samantha Bee is for losers, who are being carted off to Babylon and a life of servitude. Somewhere, a blue haired lesbian with a face full of fishing tackle and an apartment full of cats is writing the next Cloud People best seller.

30 thoughts on “The Fading Star

  1. I have watched Tyler Cowen’s intellectual descent with some amusement over the last 3 years. That conversation with Gladwell reached new depths of intellectual mutual masturbation, however.

    I keep hoping that all of it is some sort of master-of-self-parody act, but I know that isn’t. At one time, about 7-8 years ago, Cowen was one of the most consistently interesting and provocative economics writers out there, but at some point he sold his soul, and one can pretty much mark that point when he started writing opeds for The New York Times. What a loss, and I now feel a bit embarrassed at having been amused by it, too.

  2. Amy Schumer has NEVER been funny except to people in love with “stupid slut comedic gags” told by a politically-connected, fat, unattractive and insecure Jewish girl from Manhattan’s tony Upper Eastside who confirms/validates the audience’s Northeast US liberal establishment beliefs and values. Like the great majority of modern female comedians, she plays the role of stupid slut to confirm to her audience it is okay not to use judgment in your daily life but demand that life still owes you happy outcomes, rainbows and butterflies, a distinctly sad failing of modern feminism. Her success mirrors that of other successful female comedians and writers these days, e.g. Lena Dunham, Whitney Cummings, etc. They all come from privileged backgrounds, have never worked a real job a day of their adult lives and were set up in their entertainment roles by family friends and relatives. They all make money by playing the role of victim of the (usually white) male.

  3. Samantha Bee is 100 on the annoyingness scale. A stricter enforcement of the immigration laws woul perhaps have kept her out. I don’t get the attraction- she’s not attractive, not funny? Whom did she “you know what” to get her job?

    In a similar vein, I saw the Book of Mormon on Broadway. I was prepared to like it- I’m a South Park fan. Very disappointing. Parker and Stone merely pandered to the prejudices of their liberal NY audience. I hold out hope that it has all been a cynical ploy by those two scamps.

      • Holy crap – you watched the show? I get annoyed with all of her ads during Seinfeld reruns. I’m trying to relax after work and then some spinster comes on my TV and starts screeching at me.

    • Pandering, got that right. It’s all tasteless and lacking in substance and class because none of it would be possible without a collective deep underlying river of contempt and envy for the dirt people. Because if I’m no mistaken, it is directed at us dirt people in one shape or form.
      Seems like it is predicated on another form of using media as a vehicle for the purpose of insulting and degrading dirt people. It’s no less fake than the agitprop and narrative of the fake media.
      I saw Whoopy Goldberg in a dive bar near Kenworth Station back around like 82′ I think. She was hilarious, make you hurl you laugh so hard funny. There wasn’t a stitch of PC or marxist signaling. It was down to earth in the gutter every day dirt people humor. Always made me wonder who she sold her soul to. You can’t be that kind of funny without understanding the honest nature of honest people. But you got to be some kind of sociopath to become an act the purpose of which is to brain wash and socially engineer millions of people.
      She was no fake when I sat 5 feet from her watching her routine. I see her on TV, well used to, threw that hideous contraption in the trash, and it is so contrived it makes me sick.

    • Ditto here. Tried to watch an episode. It was awful. If my goal was simply to be screeched at by a 40-something blonde I’d prefer to just piss off my wife. At least in the latter case there is the possibility of make-up sex at the end.

  4. A very interesting insight about the Cloud zeitgeist during the period of the GW Bush election. I remember the time well. The Boomer Progs. were steadily advancing, their ecosystem of studies, commissions, NGO’s, grants, etc. was being staffed and funded left and right. Predatory sex by Cloud Alpha Males was officially validated (so long as they affirmed and fully funded feminism), etc.

    Then, all of a sudden in Nov 2000, the astroid hit, GWB was elected, another, earlier, great, “NOOOO_!!!,” echoed throughout the Cloud. So they made Gladwell rich when he re-assured them that any day now, their ship of full control would arrive right after The Tipping Point was reached.

    Yet the strange thing is, in domestic affairs, GWB didn’t defund any of their many, many projects and added others. All he did was steady-state them, which in Cloud speak is a cruel beltway cut from their rightful 2x GDP growth rate.

    AND, in foreign policy, he made them look bad at Davos: Cheap shots from smug EUpers stung them ever so sharply. And so they hated and hoped. And THEN, in 2008, the rainbow reappeared in the form of the Magical Mulatto to resume all things good: Not a tranny studies grant went unfunded, barely a community went un-organized, no transfer payment went unpaid.

    And yet things tipped another direction (for now). So, is Gladwell’s growing, well deserved, obscurity a favorable omen_?

      • Right. And yet they hate GWB to this day. Sort of like Nixon who gave them a lot of what they said they wanted (NEA, EPA, etc.).

        Re Gladwell, I reread the transcript of that slobbering podcast (you were right). He strikes me as an amiable mid-wit who got lucky and knows it at some level. He’d have been a regular at the Paris Salons before the French Revolution. Apparently that role is still open in a revised and far more profitable form. I think that the salon guys only got a free lunch and a shot at Madam’s boudoir instead of $40k a crack of stockholder money so that Cloud CEO’s could look hip.

        • Re joint venture: True. But by contrast, look how well the Malignant Mulatto did. It’s almost as though O was serious about his spending (despite claiming the contrary in ’08) and W was not serious about not spending (despite claiming the contrary in 00). And I say this despite still liking W as a man.

  5. ‘Blink’ was the only really interesting Gladwell book, and was apolitical….Gladwell should have stuck with that kind of thing. When he got into more intellectual matters, especially the Blank Slate nonsense, he was way over his head.

  6. I agree, there is no taste for Gladwell in today’s dark and angry Cloud World. “Delightful,” pseudo-insightful rumination will not do. Hence, DeRay Mckesson and Leslie Jones, the Cult’s new gibberish-spouting idiots.

    Footnote: Randy Moss hated to practice and did his best to avoid it. Ditto Alan Iverson. Sorry, Malcolm. Talent— that’s the bottom line.

    • I can pretty much assure everyone here that 1000 hours of practice would not have gotten me to the NHL, or indeed even to my Minnesota high school’s team.

    • The beauty of Gladwell’s 10,000 hour idea is it exploited the lack of numeracy among his peers. To the target audience, it is just a very big number so they were not going to think past it. What they heard is the deserving got what they deserved because they worked really hard for it.

  7. Ok, “…. face full of fishing tackle…”, I’m so going to steal that. Excellent

  8. I’ve noticed a similar dynamic in economics; the main way for an economist to become influential/well-known/a “public intellectual” i.e. Keynes. Friedman, etc., is to offer politicians an intellectual justification to do what they wanted to do anyway

  9. I’ve been observing the career of Amy Schumer with morbid fascination. A decade ago she was a regular guest on the old XM Opie & Anthony show. Back then she portrayed herself as tough, completely non-PC comic. She was able to hold her own in rough banter with people like Jim Norton and Patrice Oneal. She made me laugh on occasion.

    I assume somebody in Hollywood offered her a gigantic amount of money to sell out, reveal who her uncle is, and go full-PC-retard. Or else she decided to drop the act and be herself. Either way, she’s no longer funny, just annoying.

    • She was the one on those Bud Light election commercials, right? Frikkin’ bizzaro ads, they were. Could not figure out why anyone would want to buy a beer after seeing that.

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