On the blog Ask a Korean! the author recently explored the concept of faulty memes and facile narratives in the context of the recent Asiana Airlines crash. He pointed out that the connection Malcolm Gladwell suggested in Outliers, where he suggested the relatively high rate of airline crashes by Korean Airlines in the late 1900s was due to specific culturally-derived relationships among cockpit crew members. In the post, the author critiques Gladwell’s arguments, showing several instances where the known facts of the events leading to a 1997 crash of a Korean Air flight were omitted or misinterpreted.
The post boils down to saying Gladwell used the facts that were convenient to the story he was trying to tell, and ignored those that didn’t fit, and that the result was too great a focus on cultural factors as the driving narrative behind these crashes.
This touched a nerve. I currently subscribe to about 50 people on twitter and among those about five tweeted or retweeted links to the post. On Ask a Korean! the author related that within a day that post had received 24,000 views. Malcolm Gladwell sent a response which was published yesterday, and other bloggers have chimed in with their own views.
My own take is a personal one. For me the greatest immediate impact was on my own writing and what I try to do as I blog. As I write I am trying to tell stories, to put out ideas, because that seems the natural and most engaging way to put out information. And I think it can be very easy to be selective in the use of facts and information to try to make a case. Which is something I don’t want to do, because then I’m not drawing real connections between interesting things happening in different fields, I’m just building a tidy, pretty facade.
I’ll try not to let preconceived notions get in the way, and I’ll also ask you–all four or five of you that read this blog once in a while–to call me on it if you see something inaccurate and misinterpreted or selectively reported. I don’t claim to be a journalist, but I do want to be fair and truthful in the things I say.