Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell

I listened to the audio version of Malcolm Gladwell's new book, "Talking to Strangers". It was like listening to a podcast, complete with music and actual interviews of certain events.

Gladwell begins by telling us about Sandra Bland, the black woman who was arrested by a white patrol officer in Texas for failing to signal for a lane change, and then hauled her off to jail. After 3 days, she ends up hanging herself. Gladwell then discusses how and why we have these mismatches of communication and truth occur. He takes us on a journey of showing us examples of different mismatches in communication and truth in court cases we are all familiar with.

He begins by sharing a study on comparing crimes committed after a judge releases someone on bale or parole vs the decision as to whether to release someone being made by a a computer. The results were overwhelming in that the computer did a better job. Gladwell then goes on to discuss how our eyes often deceive us and we see what we want to see. There is a mismatch between what is really true vs what we want to believe is true.

Gladwell then presents the stories and examples that show us these types of mismatches. He discusses Bernie Madoff and how and why all the safeguards against this ponzy scheme failed. In part it was because Madoff presented himself as confident with lots of bogus data and people saw and accepted THIS as the truth rather than the facts. 

Amanda Cox, the American who was jailed in Italy for years, was an opposite mismatch. Because Cox didn't appear to be sad or sorry for the death of her roommate, she was jailed for a murder without any evidence other than an inappropriate demeanor.

Then there is Jerry Sandusky and Larry Nasser, the convicted pedophiles who abused children for decades, and in some cases, even did this in front of others, in part because our default is to trust people in those positions of power.

Gladwell also discusses misplaced aggressive techniques in policing, Guantanamo, torture, and interrogation methods, and how these methods have creeped into our society.

Gladwell concludes by returning to the Sandra Bland story, reminding us this tragedy could have been prevented. These tales made me realize that justice is not blind nor equal. We still have a very long way to go.