Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Gladwell and Brooks Bashing Cottage Industry

One of my main motivations for reading Malcolm Gladwell and David Brook's columns is so that I can understand the context when bloggers meticulously deconstruct their anecdotally fueled arguments point-by-point.

For example, consider this recent, confused article by David Brooks about how the Republican party is erring too much on the side of individual choice and responsibility. As evidence, he draws heavily upon 1940s and 50s Western films. Will Wilkinson trashed it thoroughly here:
What in tarnation is this man talking about? Where is this Republican Party of “untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice”? Did Ron Paul just become House minority leader or take Michael Steele’s job or something? Have the Republicans put up the white flag in the War on Drugs? Are GOP Senators stumping to end the legislation of morality? How did I miss this? It’s like Brooks was kidnapped by a Romulan and is sending us op-eds from an alternative timeline.
Next, we have this lengthy Malcolm Gladwell piece, about the full court press in basketball, parts of which I thought were quite astute. But then Deadspin author Dashiell Bennett convinced me that it his narrative is mostly bollocks:
Because hustle is not all it takes. It's actually very difficult to run a well-executed press and teams that specialize in it are usually lousy at everything else. (Because all their precious practice time is devoted to pressing.) All it takes is one calm point guard to mess everything up... Sooner or later you run into a Goliath who can dribble through a trap. Gladwell's other examples of this winning strategy include a military simulation from a computer that places no value on human life and the actual story of David and Goliath, which did not really happen.
I should also probably mention Mark Liberman, whose impassioned take downs of David Brooks in the past have made me wonder whether there is some sort of personal vendetta at play.

Tyler Cowen reads authors for their peaks. I read Brooks and Gladwell for their troughs.