This book is bad. Don’t read it.
Why? Gladwell is clearly an intelligent man. He isn’t blind to the injustices in the world. This book however, seems to suggest that how he has learned to cope with those injustices, built on a society designed to benefit him in many ways, is to dismiss the idea of there being systems in place to perpetuate harm which is not only bad for the individual but for society.
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 – at least when they’re being lied to by plain-looking women). 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 and have had numerous unpleasant interaction with police, 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, so it’s not relevant to the thesis of the book anyway. There is also no research which he presents which would explain why people could be prone (assuming such a theory is even remotely true) to believe a stranger over someone they know intimately, especially over something where the person they know would have no incentive to lie.
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. He did not look at any data at all, which is clear because if he had he would have seen centuries of women like Amanda being falsely accused of crimes or disbelieved when they report crimes against them exclusively on the basis on how they look like and act as compared to the Ideal Woman, who is meek, weak, unintelligent, and emotional to the point of hysterics.
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, so we should just accept that now and again a few hundred children will be assaulted, and 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.