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Is Malcolm Gladwell America's Most Successful Propagandist and Corporate Shill?

Propaganda works best when it is not perceived as propaganda, but works more subtly. The master of this nuanced approach is Malcolm Gladwell.

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Even as Gladwell slowly started to rebrand himself as something of a “liberal” during the Bush years, his support for the tobacco industry remained constant. In 2006, Malcolm Gladwell told the  New York Times that although he believes the tobacco industry should be regulated, he also "thinks that filing product liability lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers is absurd."

Put in simpler terms: Gladwell thinks people should not sue suing tobacco companies for knowingly and purposefully misleading customers about the dangers of cigarette smoke. By this time, no one could maintain credibility while arguing against regulation of tobacco; however, the industry’s biggest problems lay in the ongoing lawsuits that Gladwell forcefully opposed. Across the US juries were handing out massive awards against tobacco companies—like the $37.5 million a  Miami jury awarded in 2002 to John Lukacs, a 76-year-old former three-packs-a-day smoker who lost his tongue and lower palate, in his lawsuit against Philip Morris for false advertising and consumer fraud.

While Gladwell went around blasting such lawsuits as "absurd," the industry, led by Philip Morris, was  funding a major effort for "Tort Reform” to drastically limit and curtail Big Tobacco’s liability exposure to ongoing and future lawsuits.

The tobacco industry that Gladwell defends has plenty of reason to fear lawsuits: arguably, the tobacco industry is responsible for the largest, focused mass murder in human history. According to the CDC, "More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined." Tobacco  kills about 500,000 people every year in the US, and is expected to annually kill 8 million people worldwide by year 2030.

Multiply these grizzly numbers by decades, and you will have death tolls that make the Holocaust, Stalin’s crimes and America’s aggregate war dead pale by comparison—all that murder and death for the profit of tobacco industry shareholders and executives. You can see why they would consider Malcolm Gladwell such a valuable asset.

Big Pharma

You can’t get much worse and more amoral than shilling for tobacco while posing as a mainstream journalist. Once you’ve gone there, there’s nothing holding you back from propagandizing for highly-profitable merchants of death from any industry—and by “you,” we mean “Malcolm Gladwell." Along with big tobacco, he took up the cause of the pharmaceutical industry, defending the industry's right to reap mega-profits on the backs of schoolchildren who were being turned en masse into highly profitable amphetamine addicts.

In 1999, the  New Yorker published a Gladwell article in which he all but promoted the powerful stimulant drug Ritalin as a safe, non-addictive way to treat childhood A.D.H.D. "Obviously, taking Ritalin doesn't have the same consequences as snorting cocaine . . . It's not addictive," he wrote.

The article was titled " Running From Ritalin" and came just in the nick of time for Big Pharma—amidst a fierce national debate about the alarming rise in prescriptions for powerful stimulants like Ritalin to treat childhood hyperactivity.

"Mommy, can you up my Ritalin dose today? Mr. Gladwell says it's good for me . . ."

The 1990s decade saw a sevenfold increase in the production of ADHD stimulants, causing a growing number of medical professionals to complain that the drug was being over-prescribed, and wrongfully prescribed to treat what often would have been considered normal childhood behavior.

In 1998, the year before Gladwell's article came out,  Time magazine put Ritalin on its cover and ran a negative story that questioned the skyrocketing use of Ritalin and other powerful psychotropic drugs  among American children. Even Hillary Clinton got into the fray, announcing a campaign to combat the growing problem of overmedicating children.

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