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The Malcolm Gladwell Interview; Malcolm Gladwell's Unique Way of Knowing People. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired November 29, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Welcome to this 360 special, the Malcolm Gladwell interview. Malcolm Gladwell has been studying and writing about human behavior for decades. He's written five bestselling books about subjects like snap judgment, success and under dogs. He's now at the sixth book that takes a look at situations we're all faced with on a regular basis.
The book is called "Talking to Strangers: What we should Know About the People We Don't Know." It's a fascinating look at how common it is for people to jump to the wrong conclusion. Often with dangerous or even deadly results.
If you think you can tell when someone is lying to you or if you think you can judge someone based on a direct encounter with them, you'll quickly learn that you're often wrong.
Gladwell draws on many well-known cases from the false murder charge against Amanda Knox in Italy, to the network of Cuban spies who fooled the CIA, to the world's largest Ponzi scheme somehow pulled off by Bernie Madoff.
The book explains how so many people were fooled for so long just because they're human. According to Gladwell this misunderstanding has real consequences when it comes to police, judges and juries and others who have to make important decisions based on false assumptions.
But it's not all bad. He also explains why humans have never evolved to better detect liars and why that's good for society. I sat down with Malcolm Gladwell whose book is now on the bestseller list about his book, his life, and family. And why he doesn't write about American politics.
COOPER: You don't discuss politics. You don't -- social media and politics are kind of two topics you really don't write a lot about.
MALCOLM GLADWELL, AUTHOR, TALKING TO STRANGERS: Yes.
COOPER: I've heard you in the past it's one in social you feel like it's so written about you don't necessarily have anything specific to add at this point. With politics is it just a lack of interest? Is it a lack of -- you know, it's so polarizing. It's just not worth going into?
GLADWELL: Yes. It's like what's point of writing a book if you declare a bias really early on that has the effect of alienating.
GLADWELL: Like, I don't. There are lots of things. Ninety percent of the things in this book have no -- or 95 percent have no ideological orientation. And I just think it's -- I'm interested in having a dialogue, an intellectual dialogue with, you know, people on wherever they are on the spectrum.
GLADWELL: I don't, so, I don't -- I just think it's pointless. There's a lot of like -- and by the way.
COOPER: Listen, I enjoy reading something that had nothing to do with politics. So, I'm not -- I'm decrying this.
GLADWELL: Yes. Great.
COOPER: I'm just -- I just, you know.
GLADWELL: Yes. It's a deliberate choice on my part.
GLADWELL: And I do think as a Canadian, you know, Canadians when you meet them go out of their way to emphasize the things they have in common. It's funny. Canadian stranger account is all about you spend the first five minutes, like what are the things do we agree on. We both love hockey. We both like, you know.
GLADWELL: Americans do the opposite. They like, they don't want to talk about what they have in common. All they want to do is emphasize where they -- you know, they kept to them --
COOPER: And yet, we have more in common than we have --
GLADWELL: Huge amounts -- huge amounts in common. Yes. I mean, it's like, I think it's a crazy strategy for society to set itself up so that people want to -- I mean, even the most -- if I took an upper west side liberal and a MAGA hat wearing person from Alabama. And I force them to make a list of all the things they believed in and then compared the list. Ninety percent of those things would be, they would be in agreement on.
COOPER: You sent out a tweet in 2018 said what did we talk about before Trump I forget.
COOPER: I do find that -- I sit down in places and people say look, I don't want to talk about Trump.
COOPER: And the first -- and these are your social interactions, and then within five minutes they're talking about Trump. And I'm just sitting and listening because I'm not.
GLADWELL: Yes. I swear to God it's why I'm a sports fan. Just because I -- Trump doesn't come up in discussions of the NBA.
COOPER: Yes, that's the whole language I don't even understand. I don't understand -- I know this is a complete detour, but I don't understand when guys are talking about, they're like did you see the game last night? It was a great game. I never understand. How does everybody know what the game is? Because it seems like there's --
GLADWELL: You're --
COOPER: -- a gazillion games going on. Yes. ESPN 47 has a Croatian women's volleyball tournament on. They're not talking about that --
GLADWELL: That's not the game.
COOPER: Yes, that's not the game.
GLADWELL: My friend Tommy sent me a picture. He organized a dinner which had (Inaudible) if you know --
COOPER: Yes, they're great.
GLADWELL: Hilarious guys.
COOPER: I was just on their show, yes.
GLADWELL: Charlamagne tha God.
GLADWELL: The kind of fabulous talk. A guy named PFT Commenter whose one of the most hilarious kind of online sports guys. And Pete Buttigieg. So, I said to Tommy, like Tommy, and in my naivete I said, what did they talk about? And he looked at me like an idiot and said fantasy football of course.
And that is (Inaudible). It's the most fantastic thing about like sports that, you know. Secondly, it kind of, does it sort of makes me love Pete Buttigieg. I don't -- not -- it's not a political statement.
COOPER: Well, that's because, you know, he has to focus on sports early. Just get along.
GLADWELL: I love that -- no, but apparently, he's a legit --
COOPER: No, I'm sure he is.
GLADWELL: -- he can talk, he can legit talk --
COOPER: I'm sure he can.
GLADWELL: -- fantasy football. Like, my hat is off to him.
GLADWELL: Nine languages --
COOPER: See, I don't know what fantasy football is.
COOPER: I have all sort of ideas but none of them are close to the reality.
GLADWELL: You're not -- but in addition to reading like Norwegian novels in the Norway he's like watching Monday night football.
COOPER: There's a couple of things you have said about just politics and you said that one of the most disturbing lessons of elections was that the U.S. isn't open to the idea of a woman in power.
Do you think that was something specific to Hillary Clinton being -- because in the past she said, you know, she was an unlikable candidate. Even people who were going to vote for her. Some of them did not, you know, necessarily love her. Do you think that is still the case?
GLADWELL: Well, we'll find out.
COOPER: That women in power have to be different, they have to not seem as ambitious.
GLADWELL: I would like to think that constraints on the way women are allowed to behave in public life are gradually loosening. I saw the -- so I was at this meeting and one of the speakers was that -- she's now left, the secretary of the air force. It was a woman named Heather Wilson.
And Heather Wilson is this really, really gracious, thoughtful, brilliant. She's -- you meet her and you're like, you know, and your first thought is she could run for president. She's -- and she's like has a glittering resume and she's humble and she's amazing.
But I realize as well, at the same time I said that, it's like, it's -- there are the universe of men of whom I would say they could run for president is this big. But for women were like, they've got a thread a really, really narrow window. Right?
And so, there's still that's not fair. And that's wrong. But we do it. I mean, maybe it's a reaction to the way we know that society is. But you shouldn't have to be as perfect as Heather Wilson to be a presidential candidate.
COOPER: There's a certain mold of society still places on women --
COOPER: -- that they need to fit --
GLADWELL: They need to fit in.
COOPER: -- in order to be in the same leadership position as a man in some place.
GLADWELL: Yes. Because apparently, it's not that hard to be considered for a leadership position if you're a man.
COOPER: Have you written anything about Trump?
GLADWELL: No. Never will.
COOPER: And that never will. You have an episode in your podcast where you talk about a theory called moral licensing.
COOPER: Something does something good and because they've done something good, they feel that they're then allowed to kind of backtrack on it?
GLADWELL: Yes. So more or less in seeing we see that a lit with women. So, a woman will be a group will let a woman in, other as a member or as a leader. And then having done that, then feels free never to have a woman again as a leader.
So, it's like you or you hire one black person and you say look, I'm not racist and you never hire another one. Or that's more a licensing, this idea that doing a small good act then frees you up to return to your old ways.
So, it's an important idea because I think sometimes, we're fooled into thinking that when changes happen, when one small change happens it is kind of harbinger of a sign that many more good things are going to happen.
COOPER: Right. It's like the arc of history move in one direction.
GLADWELL: Yes. In fact, that's not the way history works. Sometimes a small good thing happens and that allows society to take two steps back.
COOPER: Does that have applications for, you know, the political world?
COOPER: You know, President Obama.
GLADWELL: You have a black president. And then you say OK, I have demonstrated that I am an open-minded liberal person. And then immediately afterwards, the country goes in another direction. I came very close to talking about politics.
COOPER: You're a big spy fan. I want to ask you what you thought about -- I know you've been following the latest about this high-level Russian source who was exfiltrated. As a spy fan, I mean, that's gold.
GLADWELL: Yes. Like it's extraordinary that, you know, I tell in my book two spy stories.
GLADWELL: But literally I pick them at random. Because like I said they all have this basic -- and the other thing that's the best thing about it is the -- in spy novels, spy novels are all about how brilliant the spy is. Right? The spy is a mastermind and evil genius, a master disguise, or this or that, the other thing. It's this James Bond idea that the --
COOPER: And you read a lot of spy novels.
GLADWELL: All of them. If it has the world spy then I have read it.
COOPER: All of them. GLADWELL: But in real life the spy is never -- the spy success is not due to the spy's genius. It's due to everyone else's blindness. Like the spy novels all have it backwards. So, most spies are actually really lame.
Aldrich Ames one of the most famous spies in American history did more damage to the United States security interest than anyone in the cowboy (ph) era. He was a terrible spy. He was terrible at his job. He got mediocre performance reviews. He was a drunk.
When the Soviets started paying lots of money, he just spent it. So, he's like living in northern Virginia on a government salary. And he's like driving a fake Mercedes.
COOPER: With a lot of red flags, we should have --
GLADWELL: And getting a tooth capped.
COOPER: -- they have (Inaudible).
GLADWELL: But this is proof like, I begin talking with the story of this what happened in Cuba.
COOPER: Right. This is, I didn't know about this case.
GLADWELL: It's such a hilarious perfect spy story. A guy defects, the guy named Florentino Aspillaga who is work -- hide in Cuban intelligence, defects in 1987. And he goes to the American embassy in Vienna and he says I have something to tell you. And they go, OK, and they take to Frankfurt for the debriefing center. And he says I want you to bring in the former CIA station chief in Havana.
They bring in this guy called the mountain climber. Its legendary CIA operative. And he goes, you know, one of your spies who you relied on is his name was such and such, he worked for such and such. He was working for us. And the mountain climber is like, my God.
And then Aspillaga, he says, and this other I know he spy for you too. He was here, he gave you this. He was also working for us. And they were getting more and more shocked. And he keeps going. And it turns out 48 spies worked for the entire group of spies that the U.S. had recruited inside Cuba to spy for us on behalf of the American government. They were all been working for Fidel Castro.
COOPER: And had been, if not from the very beginning somewhere along the way return.
COOPER: And in your book you write about how the Cubans had video tapes --
COOPER: -- of CIA case officers making drops and under fake rocks in Havana.
COOPER: And knew and actually took sent the double agents on a tour around, a celebratory tour around Havana. And that's how they had duped America.
GLADWELL: So, this is -- this it's proof of the reason I tell these spy stories is I'm really interested in this notion of why is it so easy for human beings to be deceived.
And so here we have the extreme case. If anyone shouldn't be easy to deceive it's the CIA. They are expecting to be deceived. They have trained people who go around trying to figure out who is deceiving them. And they are a sophisticated multibillion-dollar organization. And yet, they have been deceived left and right over the course of their history.
COOPER: Which makes me think that if, I mean, if they can be deceived, you know, as a reporter, you like to think when you're talking to somebody you can get a sense of if they're honest or not. But I mean, after reading your book, I sort of feel like do we really know who we're talking to?
GLADWELL: Yes. I don't think we do.
GLADWELL: One of the premises of the book "Talking to Strangers" is that we greatly over estimate our ability to make sense of somebody who we're meeting for the first time or with whom we have limited experience.
So, there's a great gap, in other words, between we're good at friends and family. That's what we're built to do. So, give me 30 years of -- my best friend and I met 50 years ago last week.
GLADWELL: So, I have known him for half a century. That's how old I am. He -- when he -- I know him backwards and forwards. I know all of his idiosyncrasies, it's really hard for him to fool me. I know when he's upset. I know all these things because I have all of that -- all that time spent.
And human beings give us that much time and experience with someone and we're good. But those same tools that we use to make sense of all that information over 50 years, betray us when we're meeting someone for the first time. And that's a hugely important an overlooked fact.
COOPER: I mean, you also hear that all the time when somebody has, you know, done a mass shooting or killed somebody or done something extreme. Their neighbors and friends always say, you know, he's not the kind of person I ever thought would do that.
COOPER: Or if somebody dies by suicide.
COOPER: You say I never thought this person would do that.
GLADWELL: Yes. Yes.
COOPER: Is that just because we don't -- we don't really the way people present themselves, their facial cues, all those things which we think we can read, we really can't.
GLADWELL: We can't. So, this is what I called the transparency problem, which is, so I did this really fun thing in the book where I took an episode of friends. And I gave it to a psychologist who's an expert in cataloging human emotion.
COOPER: By the way, when I read this section, I thought I cannot imagine Malcolm Gladwell watching friends. Will you like a "Friends" fanatic and see --
GLADWELL: I watch, I watch some "Friends." I'm more of a "Seinfeld" person t be honest.
GLADWELL: But I will watch "Friends" and I will -- the thing about --
COOPER: Because you really went deep on "Friends."
GLADWELL: I went deep on "Friends."
COOPER: I was like, wow. OK.
GLADWELL: So, if you watch "Friends" this is -- the plots are absurdly complex. And, but nonetheless, we can always follow them. Right? And million things were happening. The question is why.
So, I had a psychologist take an episode, break it down, and catalog all of the facial expressions used by the characters in "Friends." And what you discover is every time they have an emotion it is perfectly represented on their face.
When Joey is angry his brow furrows. His lips tighten.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't even see the line. The line is a dot to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GLADWELL: When Phoebe is surprised her jaw drops, her eyes go wild -- wide. And her eyebrows go up.
They are these, that's why it's so easy to follow because they are telling you visually everything they're feeling. And if you watch a lot of TV you can fall into the trap of thinking that's the way human beings are.
As it turns out, that's not the way we are. That there's a huge difference between the way actors act and the way human beings. So, most people do not.
In fact, if I did something right now to shock you and asked you what, Anderson, what happened on your face? When, you know, I pulled that up baseball bat and I crushed that can of Coke next to you. You would have said, my God, I probably leapt out of my chair and my eyes must have gone, you know, up here, my eyebrows must have raised on. I'm sure my jaw dropped. I will guarantee you your face would do none of those things. You were probably like this.
COOPER: Different people react in different ways.
GLADWELL: Different people react in different ways.
COOPER: I find when things get more stressful and chaotic, I become much more focus and sort of quiet and organized.
GLADWELL: Yes. Well, you were a -- you're a wartime correspondent. That is, you can't be wartime correspondent if you don't have that reaction to high stress situations. Right? If your voice go up two octaves when you were terrified, how could you report from a war zone when you're squeaking?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Also, two media centers - well, that was rather a large explosion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GLADWELL: We, the viewer who watches you week in week out gets to know this fact about you that under stress you have that particular reaction. And we -- we may warrant that. We may -- that maybe what we like about you.
But the -- if I never met you before and I saw you react to a very stressful situation by having that calm face, I might think that you are cold and unfeeling.
GLADWELL: I might think what a guy, he was like completely indifferent to all the suffering around him. In fact, you're engaged and that's how you manifest your engagement. But it's so easy to make that mistake.
COOPER: Let's start with what got you kind of thinking about this and focusing on this. And I guess it was Bernie Madoff. Is that right?
GLADWELL: It was some combination of Bernie Madoff and, you know, there was one guy, Harry Markopolos who is the one who is only one who realized that at least who came forward and said Madoff is a fraud. And he was saying it for 10 years before the SEC finally realize what he was saying was true.
So, he was this voice in the wilderness and he writes, and after Madoff his family caught, Markopolos becomes a hero and testifies in Congress. And Markopolos wrote a book describing his experience. If you read the book you realize, well, half of you like, first of all, Markopolos is brilliant that's why he saw the truth behind Madoff.
But he's also really weird. Right? Like deeply weird. And by the end he describes how he become he's so incredibly paranoid. His paranoia and suspicion are why he was able to see the truth behind Madoff.
COOPER: Because he's suspicious of pretty much everyone?
GLADWELL: Of everyone. So, it also means though, that after he's turned in, Madoff, he becomes convinced -- first of all, that Madoff is going to have him killed. And then he becomes convinced that the SEC is going to break into his house with guns drawn and seize all his documents because he's embarrassed them.
So, he's sitting at home armed to the teeth up at night with his gun chained to the door waiting for the agents to come. The agents of the SEC by the way, as if the SEC had -- like so you get a window into like, his psychology.
So, I went to see this guy and sure enough that's what he is. Not -- he's not embarrassed about it. But he's someone who sees that darkness the potential darkness in every situation.
And my point in telling that story is he is highly unusual. So, he's not gullible like the rest of us are. But he pays a price for that. And the price is really high. And you don't want to -- you actually you think you want to be him but you don't want to be him.
COOPER: Well, it's really interesting you say this. Because the last time I saw you I ran into you, I think it was a thing in Texas. I mention that my mom was a huge optimist and that she saw the best in everything.
COOPER: And she, you know, always kind of imagined the best thing was yet to come and great things are right around the corner and that everybody has good intentions.
And I mention to you that I consider myself I don't -- like say pessimistic because it sounds so negative. But I consider myself a catastrophe as I always expect the worse to happen and I want to prepare for it. And you said that my mom's philosophy is actually better or leads to a better way of living than -- or I'm paraphrasing --
COOPER: -- than my, you know, I guess I'm more of a Markopolos then.
GLADWELL: You're more -- I mean, that's also (Inaudible) this question.
COOPER: I haven't yet come to ask --
GLADWELL: What do you think the odds that you will have a life as happy as your mom?
COOPER: Definitely not.
GLADWELL: Definitely not?
COOPER: Yes, no.
GLADWELL: So, I mean, like.
COOPER: I'd still, but, you know, yes, I know.
GLADWELL: How would you not like, what's fascinating of course is that you observed this role model --
GLADWELL: -- of optimism --
GLADWELL: -- and then the exact opposite.
COOPER: Well, I believe her optimism was only possible because I was there like furiously peddling under the water, you know, to keep us all float. (CROSSTALK)
GLADWELL: She was optimistic long before you came.
COOPER: But there's the default to truth --
COOPER: -- that you write about.
GLADWELL: So, this is -- this is the theory that undermine -- underlines what I'm talking about. It's an idea from a brilliant psychologist called Tim Levine at University of Alabama. What he says is -- he's trying to solve the puzzle of why are we so bad at knowing when we're being deceived. Because we are bad, there's no -- absolutely no question. Human beings are not good at this.
And his answer is -- also, it doesn't make any sense because you would think that evolution would have prepared us. You would have thought that people who were good at telling who was deceiving them would have an advantage evolutionary but that is clearly not the case.
Levine's point is, well, the reason for this is actually the evolutionary advantage is being like your mom. That if you trust everyone, your life is so much more efficient and you're capable of doing so much more and you're capable of forming so many more meaningful relationships and you can start businesses, you can put your child on the school bus in the morning and not worry about whether the bus driver is who he says he is.
GLADWELL: You can do all these things and as a result, that's the advantage. The cost of that is every now and again, somebody is going to cheat you. So what? If you're an optimist, you shrug it off.
COOPER: And you see that as an anomaly.
GLADWELL: But a small price to pay for being trusting.
COOPER: You actually write that society functions because of the default --
COOPER: -- that society would not -- we won't be able to function if most of us did not --
GLADWELL: It doesn't work.
COOPER: -- believe the best.
GLADWELL: This is Levine's point. It is like we don't -- this extraordinary society that human beings have built over the last thousands -- several thousand years is built on trust.
COOPER: In the book, you sort of focus on two kind of key ideas that there's the default to truth. There is also transparency.
COOPER: The idea that the way we present ourselves, that you can tell by talking to somebody face-to-face what -- if they're lying, what kind of person they are, what they're actually thinking, where they're coming from.
COOPER: And --
GLADWELL: When I was --
COOPER: We can't do that.
GLADWELL: We can't. So when I was talking about that example of "Friends," so the actors on "Friends" are perfectly transparent. They are trained to be that way. Joey looks mad when Joey is mad. In the real world, that's not the way people behave, but we expect them to.
So, I have a chapter on Amanda Knox. The Amanda Knox case, one way to make sense of it is it's all about transparency. She goes -- she's a teenager from Seattle, does a year abroad in Italy. She's been there a couple weeks. Her roommate is murdered. She gets falls under suspicion immediately. Why?
There's no evidence linking her to the crime. There is no plausible scenario in which an 18-year-old girl from Seattle engages in a murder sex game that results in a death. I mean, the whole thing is totally farfetched. It's all based on the fact that she does not behave in the aftermath of her roommate's death the way the Italian police expect someone who just been through that kind of experience to behave.
COOPER: And the Italian police -- I mean, they say this. I mean, I think one of them, you know, was talking about -- the lead investigator was talking about kind of looking at her and her -- she just didn't seem like somebody who was innocent.
GLADWELL: Yeah, which is such nonsense.
COOPER: It's interesting that when you point to an interview that Diane Sawyer did with Amanda Knox, in it, she asked Amanda about -- about the way Amanda acted in the wake of --
COOPER: -- being accused.
GLADWELL: Diane Sawyer -- by the way, can I say how much -- we are not --
GLADWELL: She's doing something we all do.
GLADWELL: But she couldn't -- none of us even after Amanda Knox is cleared, and it's 100 percent clear, she had nothing to do with that murder, when she was interviewed, she was still forced to account for her behavior as if it was relevant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA KNOX, CONVICTED FOR MURDER: For all intents and purposes, I was a murderer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GLADWELL: Why did you kiss your boyfriend in the waiting room of the police station when you were -- why did you buy underwear, as if like none of that is -- the idea that people should have to defend their own idiosyncrasies is crazy. Why can't we simply accept the fact that people are different?
COOPER: The case of Sandra Bland is one that you focus on both in the beginning and at the end of serving forms the whole book. And what you're looking into is the use of -- sort of how the default -- the default to truth and transparency played into what happened --
COOPER: -- in this interaction between police officer in Texas and Sandra Bland.
COOPER: Just explain -- Sandra Bland -- this happened in 2015.
COOPER: She was in Texas for a job interview which she got and was pulled over by a police officer. Sandra Bland was African American. The police officer was white.
GLADWELL: Yeah. So, he's -- this is in the -- in the wave of cases of African American police encounter cases that start with Ferguson and go through Eric Garner, hers is in the middle of that.
[23:40:06] GLADWELL: To my mind, it was the most emotionally affecting in some way, at least to me.
COOPER: And the interaction is caught on the dashboard camera.
GLADWELL: Yes. So we have the whole -- the entire conversation. You can find it on YouTube, the entire conversation. That's the kind of the text this -- my book, that conversation between the two of them, because it starts out -- it's the middle of the day, a Texas town, she doesn't signal a lane change.
Police officer pulls her over, walks up to her window, and a conversation ensues. And what happens is that she is very upset, and he misperceives her distress as being somehow threatening. And they get into an argument. She lights a cigarette. He asked to put it out. She won't. He yanks her from the car and arrests her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will light you up! Get out!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GLADWELL: Puts her in jail. She commits suicide three days later. This is heartbreaking. But in every time, that encounter in my mind is this perfect encapsulation of a very modern kind of problem, because 100 years ago, she's from the same town as the cop, same age, they are both 28, I think. They would have gone to high school together. He would have pulled her over and say, Sandy, right?
COOPER: You said where you grew up in Canada --
GLADWELL: Same thing.
COOPER: Same thing.
GLADWELL: That's the town --
COOPER: You knew the police officers, they knew you.
GLADWELL: Yeah. The cops were all friends with my parents. I had been pulled over by cops in Canada, in my hometown. That's exactly the conversation that happens. The officer comes up, it's like John Campbell, father of somebody I go to school with. John Sergeant Campbell says to me, Malcolm, what are you doing? Do you know how fast you were driving? Now, you have a situation with Sandra Bland where neither of them -- they have never met before. One is from Chicago, one is from Texas. One is a man, one is a woman. One has a gun, one feels vulnerable. One is sitting in a car, one is looming down. You can go on and all the ways the encounter is imbalanced.
And what we have done in that encounter is asked a police officer to make a very, very consequential decision and the whole thing is over in two minutes. So in two minutes, this guy has to decide, you know, to make understand who this woman is and treat her in the way that he thinks is appropriate. It is a lot to ask, right?
COOPER: And you said that the police officer, Brian Encinia, doesn't have a default to truth.
GLADWELL: No. So, he -- what we want, I think, is police officers who do what the rest of us do, which is give people the benefit of the doubt, proceed on the assumption that the person you are dealing with is telling the truth and change your mind when evidence becomes so overwhelming that there's no way to -- I think that's a very healthy attitude. And if police officers had that attitude -- by the way, in many situations, they do or historically they have.
They wait to hear your story and then they -- what happened in the last generation is that American police has a taken U-turn and we started to do this kind of proactive policing where we have encouraged police officers to very aggressively go out in the world and cast suspicion on otherwise innocent activities, on the grounds that if you go on these kind fishing expeditions, you will in some percentage of times, turn up a gun or drugs or bad behavior.
This is a case that is symbolic of a whole universe of interactions, deeply problematic interactions, between authority and many people, African Americans often that are trouble because of the way we have set up our systems of law enforcement.
And it was don't turn this into another one off story with, you know, a whacky woman and an evil cop in a corrupt small town in Texas. No, no, no. That makes it -- that allows us to dismiss it. Let's take a step back and understand that we are all in some sense is implicated in this because we built a system of law enforcement in this country that proceeds on a set of assumptions about reading strangers that are not true.
COOPER: The book is dedicated to your dad --
COOPER: -- who passed away in 2017. It's fine if you don't want to say anything about it, but I just wondered if you learned anything after his death. Was it what you expected it to be like after his death?
GLADWELL: Well, you would know, having gone through this yourself recently. It is always harder than you imagined it would be. And you are nearly presented with this problem that you've never had to think about before, which is how you keep the memory of a departed loved one alive, right?
I mean, I had never -- that's something I had never even -- never even realized was a category of things you had to think about. And to me, the most distressing part of grieving was the notion -- was the fear that I would fail at keeping his memory alive. So even little things like the book begins with this story of my dad, which I tell because I think it fits, but also I tell because it's a way to keep him alive, you know, to kind of --
COOPER: Tell the story because it's --
GLADWELL: Story -- my parents would come -- so my dad was an engineer -- a mathematician. He was, as you would imagine, he was an absentminded professor. He had no understanding whatsoever of anything to do with popular culture.
So I was a joke. I would always put my parents up at the Mercer Hotel because it's the celebrity, you know, center. The idea of my two adorable parents, you know, universe of people, none of whom they recognize was just hilarious. So one time, I picked up my dad and said what did you do this afternoon? My father is English. I had a lovely discussion in the lobby with a charming man. I said what did you talk about?
COOPER: So your dad was somebody who would talk to people in the lobby?
GLADWELL: Oh, he was quite chatty. I said what did you talk about? He said gardening. My father was a great gardener. He said the only strange thing was that people kept coming up to this man and making him sign little bits of paper, taking pictures.
So it's clear that it was someone famous, but of course my father didn't know who this guy -- had no clue. So I've been -- and he couldn't -- I asked him a bunch of questions. I couldn't get -- all I know are the following facts. One is the person was probably within my father's age range.
GLADWELL: So an older man.
GLADWELL: Probably English because my father's great delight was discovering other Englishmen far from home. My dad really -- he just made his day. So we have an Englishman who would have been born in the 1930s who was a fan of gardening and who was so famous that even at the Mercer, people -- like the Mercer is a safe haven.
GLADWELL: But you can't go in the lobby unless you're staying in the hotel. So even within the safe haven of the Mercer, people were coming up to this guy and asking for autographs and pictures. So it's a very small universe.
COOPER: Yeah. Paul McCartney?
GLADWELL: Yeah, but why is McCartney at the Mercer? I think -- someone recently said to me Michael Caine.
COOPER: Oh, that's a good --
GLADWELL: Isn't that good?
GLADWELL: I think it might be Michael. But if Michael Caine is watching, tell me, was it --
COOPER: In the book, you put an appeal out to whoever this may be, to contact you.
GLADWELL: Whoever it is -- long beard, English guy, talked about gardening.
COOPER: It's interesting you said that about the story thing. One of the thoughts I've had recently is with my mom's death, my dad, my brother and my mom, all the people who kind of made up my strange little family growing up are gone. And I suddenly thought it's a very strange feeling to be the only one left who remembers the stories, who remembers, like, all those little moments that were the -- you know --
GLADWELL: Did you tape your mother telling --
COOPER: I did. I shot a documentary with her and wrote with her, so there's a lot -- yeah, there's a record of it. But, you know, my dad died when I was 10, so I don't know how much -- I talked to Stephen Colbert about this recently -- I don't know how much -- what I remember of my dad is from -- he wrote a book about families and his family, and I don't know how much of it is just from that book and how much is stuff I actually remember. I'm not really sure of my memories on what's real and what's not.
GLADWELL: Yeah. Do you think about this question of how you keep these memories alive?
COOPER: Oh, totally, yeah. And also, I mean, I always expected to die at 50 because my dad died at 50 of heart disease. Now, I'm 52. I've been told, you know, I'm going to be around for a little while. And it suddenly -- it's been a huge -- I suddenly sort of like I got to think of -- like I never planned beyond 50.
GLADWELL: This is the catastrophist in you. COOPER: Yes.
GLADWELL: You assumed -- meanwhile, your mom lived until --
COOPER: Yeah, 95.
GLADWELL: Ninety-five. I mean --
COOPER: Well, you know --
GLADWELL: You have cause for optimism if you have a 95-year-old mom.
COOPER: You said you're an introvert. I'm an introvert. Why are so many introverts on television?
GLADWELL: Why are you asking me that question?
COOPER: Because you say you're an introvert and you're on television.
COOPER: I'm trying to figure out myself. People ask me that question all the time.
GLADWELL: Well --
COOPER: Also, why do introverts -- and I do this, always talk about being an introvert.
GLADWELL: Well, first of all, OK, so let's unpack this. Being an introvert doesn't mean that you are not -- you don't need to be -- to perform --
GLADWELL: -- or like performing.
GLADWELL: It merely means that performing is costly.
COOPER: I agree with that.
GLADWELL: So, we're just engaged in a costly activity. So is working out.
COOPER: When you say costly, I mean, the way I interpret that is I need to, like, rest if I'm in a social environment, I then need to take some time afterward and just --
COOPER: -- be by myself.
GLADWELL: For every minute I spend talking, I need to spend at least ten in utter silence.
COOPER: I totally agree.
GLADWELL: So, whereas an extrovert is the opposite.
GLADWELL: Bill Clinton, classic extrovert, the more he talks, the more he wants to talk.
GLADWELL: So, that's fine. It totally makes sense so long as we -- but it just means we say that because we don't want people to confuse us with the extrovert who is so energized by a one-hour interview on television that they want to go to a bar and meet people. We're just saying don't confuse me with that person. Leave me alone.
COOPER: And every minute that ticks by in this interview --
COOPER: -- you're going to have to pay an additional --
GLADWELL: Both of us.
GLADWELL: Both us are going to go --
COOPER: I'm going to nap as soon as we're done.
COOPER: I'm so excited about that. Thank you very much.
GLADWELL: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Malcolm is an incredibly interesting guy. His book --