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Malcolm Gladwell: Former Big Tobacco Shill

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Uncle.Ruckus, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. Uncle.Ruckus

    Uncle.Ruckus Guest

    Since many sports writers, including Simmons, worship at the altar of Malcolm Gladwell, something interesting was just unearthed.

    Turns out Gladwell spent much of the 1990s, including time at the WaPo and New Yorker, carrying the tobacco industry's water.

  2. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

  3. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    In Gladwell's defense, people smoking and dying early is good for the economy and may by the only hope for righting Medicare and Social Security.

    He's a visionary, dammit.
  5. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    While scratching off lottery tickets.

    Now we know that Al Gore and Gladwell have something in common.
  6. But... what Gladwell is saying is true. If having smokers die young costs less than letting them live long, then that's a fact, not an opinion. Then he says that scientists guessing about the amount of toxins in cigarettes isn't good enough for other scientists? Yeah, that's a good thing.

    I'm a big fan of Gladwell's - and of contemporaries such as the Freakonomics writers and their blog contributors - so I appreciate that numbers are sometimes ugly but that doesn't make them untrue. The whole point of what they write is that we shouldn't accept conventional wisdom before looking deeper, beyond what emotional triggers drive us to our first conclusion.

    And as for him being on a mailing list where the tobacco industry sends out its news, as slanted as it may be, any good journalist covering the industry had better get himself on as many of those lists as possible.
  7. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Gladwell has made a very nice career out of turning conventional wisdom on its head, and these writings certainly fit into that. I have always thought he tries too hard sometimes in that regard and is going to find a way to be different regardless of what side that puts him on -- not political side but "right" or "wrong" side, because many times he's just wrong -- and it looks like that's what happened here. The failure to question the origins of that study about Social Security are a journalistic shortcoming.

    None of that makes him a "shill," though. A shill is someone paid by the company to promote its agenda. If that's ever found to be the case, then it's lights out for Gladwell's career. But I doubt that was the case.
  8. Simon

    Simon Active Member

    This is true.
  9. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    This isn't as disturbing as him being a shill for the full-court press.

    As for the tobacco stuff, I don't know, one of the things cited is he criticized a journalist who compared tobacco execs to the Nazis (and Kanye). I don't think you'd have to be a tobacco shill to think that's not a very good comparison.
  10. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    I'd dislike the tobacco companies more if they didn't have millions of people who bought their product.

    The tobacco companies are in it to make money, and they don't care what they have to do to get there. They put out a product that has zero positive effects for humanity, yet people buy it, as they are free to do. It's not completely the fault of "BIG TOBACCO!!!!" that so many people are willing to hurt themselves.

    Marketing to kids, that's another story. But with few exceptions, kids aren't reading Gladwell or the Post.

    Gladwell can do what he wants. No one has to read or believe his work.

    Noteworthy part of the blog:

    "it was such obvious and shameless pro-tobacco propaganda that I couldn’t believe someone of Gladwell’s stature put his name to it–or that he hadn’t been ashamed enough to scrub it from the WaPo’s archives."

    Ah, so having potentially embarrassing work deleted from the archives (and thus leaving an incomplete record of his career), that would have been the morally upright thing to do?
  11. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I would contend that if it's not completely the fault of Big Tobacco that people smoke, it's not from Big Tobacco's lack of trying.

    The spend billions to market a product with no redeeming value.

    They add substances to make it addictive.

    They spent decades lying about the clear harm smoking causes.

    Screw 'em.

    Al Capone running bootleg whiskey was a better citizen than these guys.
  12. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    Tobacco's biggest partner? Government.

    Profiting on death.
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