January 16, 2005


David Brooks has a pithy review of Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink." And here's a great discussion on the subject (posts + comments). Both pieces I'm linking find a political angle in the book's ideas about the value of quick, intuitive thinking. Brooks says:
What is the relationship between self-conscious reason and backstage intuition? Which one is right more often?

And if I have to cast my vote for either George ''I go with my gut'' Bush or John ''I deliberate until the cows come home'' Kerry, how should I evaluate their rival cognitive styles? Most important, that thick-slicing part of my brain, which is blessed and burdened by self-consciousness, wants to know the meaning of what Gladwell is telling it. When he is talking about the cognitive powers of the brain, he's not just reviewing a cool piece of software. He's talking about us, the thinking process that is the essence of who you and I are.

Richard Lawrence Cohen (the post at the second link) says:
Apparently, the key to success in these pre–deluge years is going to be the ability to make ever–snappier snap judgments. Go to war or not? No problem, the fix was in before any of the evidence was gathered. Undo seventy years of lawmaking that makes most Americans’ lives less of a desperate struggle? We’re getting right to it! Destroy vast tracts of irreplaceable wilderness in order to feed our money addiction? Sure, who needs them, they’re not worth anything!

In a culture where sustained attention is obsolete, where the workforce has an almost 50% annual turnover rate, where the president doesn’t do nuance and subtlety is for losers, BLINK provides the perfect justification for those who feel most fulfilled when creating messes for later arrivals to clean up. Its cultural origin—not that anyone cares—is the Old West motto, “Shoot first, ask questions later.”

A more sensible view, it seems to me, is that "Only bad things happen quickly." ... The "only" is hyperbole, of course, but the underlying truth is one that endures, and has endured, and will endure, after the fad for snap judgments has blinked itself out. And it’s authentic conservatism, not the reactionary madness that has misappropriated that honorable word.

(Disclosure: RLC is my ex-husband.)

UPDATE: The NYT has the first chapter of "Blink" available for reading on line.

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