Well, it's a really badly written article, full of "association" but I can't really find anything damning, just a bunch of innuendo, which could be invented about most any sufficiently prolific journalist.
I've read a lot of Gladwell's writing -- the only main theme I can find is that he just tends to write articles that fly in the face of received wisdom. That's his whole shtick. He plays devil's advocate.
So obviously, if he defends unpopular positions, you can read into that all you want, but I don't see any real evidence that it's ideological or driven by corporate support. It's just his writing style, and you can probably find just as many counter-examples.
If you are a journalist, the faking of a quote, even if it's something as benign as, "Sally Smith, an 8-year-old from Chicago, said, 'I really love the clowns. They mak eme smile'" is punishable by the (journalistic) death penalty. No one was harmed, especially if 'Sally Smith' was herself made up, yet such a writer would have a very, very hard time finding work at a reputable non-fiction publication.
To a non-journalist (who, in this case, is anti-fossil-fuel), though, someone who worked in the Exxon PR department as an entry level job out of college and then worked his/her way into a respectable columnist position, would always have the taint of Big Oil Money...even if said columnist never fabricated a quote in his/her career.
> To a non-journalist (who, in this case, is anti-fossil-fuel)
My point was that the consequences of the transgressions of plagiarism and shilling are relative to whether you're a non-journalist or a journalist, and less so about the actual worldly-impact of such transgressions.
IOW, both you and tptacek are right...but it depends on from what perspective you're looking at this from. Lehrer will likely never get a writing gig as prestigious as the New Yorker, even though what he allegedly did pretty much hurts no one (but the trivial truth).
Another example: in the military, lying about a medal is hugely dishonorable -- the U.S. Navy's supreme commander committed suicide when Newsweek questioned two "valor" pins. But you could be a commander whose decisions resulted in needless destruction/deaths and still get an honorable discharge. The latter case had more actual real-life impact, but the former case resulted in more "punishment" within the group.
How do you figure? Do you actually think that corporate shills cause less harm to society than people fabricating a few (largely inconsequential) quotes?
If I'm allowed to parenthetically assume that the shilling also is "largely inconsequential", then yes, it causes less harm.
On the other hand, it's hard to argue that cigarettes aren't actually dangerous, since they kill around 500,000 Americans per year.
Accentuate the positives, believe the same truths your customers believe.
If you're a journalist, whose job it is to report the truth and nothing more, lying of any sort is arguably the gravest offense you can commit (short of rape, murder, etc.)
"I like to grab old women's tits from behind, they never know what's coming" laughed the mayoral candidate in a private moment last night. By the way, Coke is better than Pepsi.
* pushed ritalin for big pharma
* defending tobacco corporations on settlements
* advocating for financial deregulation
* and defending Enron executives
There's no evidence of a quid pro quo anywhere.
The real issue here is that people don’t understand how profound the
problem of conflicts of interest really is, and how easy it is to buy
people. Doctors on Pfizer’s payroll may think they’re not being
influenced by the drug maker — “I can still be objective!” they’ll say
— but in reality, it’s very hard for us not to be swayed by
money. Even minor amounts of it. Or gifts. Studies have found that
doctors who receive free lunches or samples from pharmaceutical reps
end up prescribing more of the company’s drugs afterwards. It’s just
a fact of human life: we are compelled to reciprocate favors, and an
ingrained inability to disregard what’s in our financial interest. As
author Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to
understand something when his salary depends upon his not
understanding it.” http://danariely.com/2012/07/09/disclosure-not-good-enough/
As I understand it, the experimental evidence is clear that measures like self-regulation, intuitive judgement, and disclosure are nowhere near sufficient to prevent the corrupting effects of conflicts of interest. What we need are new, simple rules grounded in the empirical findings. We're a long way from that, and it seems that such rules are likely to seem pretty extreme by today's standards, but as long as the science continues to pile up this way it seems like we will eventually have a shot at cleaning things up.
I like a good muckraking as much as the next guy but in the end, judging individual actors as "shills" or whatever obscures the important issues, which are systemic. It may even be that tarring a few people as shills and frauds is a big mistake insofar as the rest of us then take that as a license to let ourselves off the hook.
In my opinion academia, medicine, and journalism (to pick three pretty important institutions) are all corrupt in this systemic way, a way that has little to do with individual choice (apart from a few ethically gifted souls whom we can all admire but mostly won't imitate) and much to do with human nature. And this is a big, big deal because it deeply affects what those institutions are producing. Think of all the work done on how big pharma gets doctors to push their product into people who don't need it, or about how journalists are mollified by "access" (friendly personal contact) with powerful people they're covering.
The really great thing about what researchers like Ariely are doing is that it could lead to an objective basis for preventing the conditions for corruption from arising in the first place. Can you imagine what a difference that would make to society?
In 2007, Gladwell took up the financial industry’s cause. He argued that Enron’s investors were to blame for their losses, rather than accounting fraud, which he dismissed. His "analysis" was debunked and mocked by U.C. Berkeley Economics Professor Brad DeLong.
That same year, 2007, Gladwell hailed ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson’s move to head the Treasury Department, praising him for being among those “self-selected toward public service. . . ” Gladwell did not mention that Paulson saved himself roughly $100 million in taxes by moving straight from Goldman Sachs to Treasury.
He's a contrarian. Maybe wrong, maybe even stupid. But that is different than corruption.