Jack Shafer Exposes Malcolm Gladwell's Lies About Lying

Remember when I freaked out that Malcolm Gladwell, the most successful pop-non-fiction writer of our time, was bragging about pulling pranks at the Washington Post? And remember how I was further irked that Gladwell was lying about lying? And remember how Pareene was like seriously, Rebecca, this is tired? Actually, you might not remember that, because it was a private conversation we had. But Slate media critic Jack Shafer thinks it's interesting.

Shafer devotes thousands of words and dozens of Nexis searches to Gladwell's tall tale, which turns out to be quite tall. In the story, Gladwell claimed to have been put on prohibition at the Post, which no one at the paper can remember. William Booth, Gladwell's former colleague at the Post and Billy in the story, denies there ever being a "perverse and often baffling" contest. Many of the articles that Gladwell cites never actually ran in the paper.

Shafer also agrees that it was lame of Gladwell and This American Life to encourage listeners to believe the story was true, so ha, Pareene. Shafer, Malcolm Gladwell and This American Life host Ira Glass, all media people I adore, have thoughts on this pet topic of mine. Now I can relate to what Gladwell said in the Moth story about his first mistake at the paper, which incidentally, was a fib: "All of a sudden there is a little glimmer, and I can begin to see that there is some hope in this profession and this thing that didn't make sense to me is now kind of making sense." [Slate]