This book is bad. Don’t read it.
Why? Try to imagine a cis, straight, white male. He’s smart and probably been told this all his life. He isn’t blind to the injustices in the world but he also values his own success such that the very idea that he had a leg up on other people is anathema. How does such a man navigate the modern landscape, in which people are recording their own murders by police, where coverage of a woman wrongfully accused of a murder because she wasn’t in feminine tears at finding out about a death is everywhere, where other cis white men are suddenly being jailed for sexually assaulting *hundreds* of children, sometime with their parents in the room?
It’s simple. You engage in Cirque de Soleil level gymnastics trying to find a way of explaining these situations in a way that completely dismisses patriarchy, white supremacy, and hetero-normativity as primary drivers for these stories.
It’s premise is that the reason for so many tragic events is that we are terrible at telling if strangers are lying to us, regardless of who you are (he features spies prominently as terrible judges of truth). Except virtually none of the high profile, click-baitey stories he uses to build his narrative involve lies.
The cop that stopped Sandra wasn’t worried about her lying. He was the one lying and Sandra had no power to believe or disbelieve him. To suggest that he wouldn’t have known that she’s been stopped tons of times before is irrelevant. At this point, if a cop doesn’t assume, when stopping a black person, that they are going to be intensely stressed, that they have likely been stopped multiple times before for no reason, they are being willfully ignorant.
Larry Nasser didn’t lie to the parents of the children he assaulted, at least not in the events recounted in the book. He didn’t need to. The parents decided their kids were lying, probably because the alternative was too much to bear. And their kids aren’t strangers, I should hope so it’s not relevant to the thesis of the book anyway.
Amanda Knox’s case is so obviously rooted in the expectation society has of women that even Gladwell acknowledges it, but dismisses the reason for her ordeal as cross-cultural misunderstandings and the fact that she was a “weird kid” rather than a “femme fatale” as if her sex life, real or imagined, has any bearing on whether she’s a murderer.
The faulty logic that threads throughout the book seems rooted in the assumption that systemic problems don’t exist, and if they do, it’s a good thing!
His conclusion is that we are bad at telling lies as an evolutionary trait because it helps build and maintain societies. This has value, which means that we should just accept that now and again a few hundred children will be assaulted, every woman and person of colour on earth will live their life in perpetual mortal fear of looking at someone the wrong way and being hurt or killed. That’s just a sacrifice that this dude, who will never experience the problems he’s signing off on being Just Part of Society, is willing to make.
Suggested concurrent reading with this book is White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. It might help you isolate and name the discomfort you feel with Gladwell’s analysis and conclusions.