You really ought to read The Umlaut, a new online journal on innovation and society staffed mostly by George Mason University-affiliated writers. Today’s lead story is on the rise of self-criticism among that strange class of people known as “thought leaders” and “idea men”–the post-ironic phase of the TED Talk set:
Malcolm Gladwell’s books The Tipping Point and Blink were immediate bestsellers and launched Gladwell, hair first, into his current career as an “idea man.” The popularity of those books also lead to a profusion of similar works emphasizing counterintuitive aspects of science, economics, or technology. Merlin Mann, the Internet productivity guru, characterized this as the “Turns Out” phenomena, the ability to “make a random observation sound insightful by preceding it with, ‘Turns out.’” But as the trend grew, the counterintuitive conclusions and clever research results became cliche and mainstream, leading to an arms race to come up with even more counterintuitive findings. Eventually, the average reader began to expect, and demand, the unexpected. Today, successful journalists must embrace a paradox of our post-Gladwellian age: the intuitive is now counter-intuitive.
He suspects some of these criticisms “will go too far,” but for the time being they’re performing a valuable service “challenging the last decades’s worth of exuberant claims made by journalists, Internet gurus, and others.” Here, here.
For what it’s worth, it’s not like these charlatans have gone unchallenged until now–Steve Sailer had a fantastic takedown of Malcolm Gladwell (with an assist from Richard Posner) in 2006. There are plenty of others too, but his point is there are more of them now, and their criticisms are getting more attention.