Joe Rogan & Malcolm Gladwell Talk Sandra Bland, Blackout Drinking & Mind Reading


“Joe Rogan Experience” is one of the most beloved podcasts amongst the increasingly vast sea of podcasts. Evidence of this is the fact that his latest episode has garnered over one million views on YouTube in just four days. However, many of these viewers likely tuned in to hear the fascinating bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell, speak for almost three hours.

Gladwell hosts his own popular podcast, “Revisionist History”, and recently released a new book, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know, but his discussion with Rogan was not focused on promotional interests. His book did serve as a launching point into the topic of Sandra Bland’s death. Gladwell analyses her encounter with police officer, Brian Encinia, in 2015, as an instance of deep misreading. He unpacks the details of Bland’s case and proposes the interpretation that she committed suicide, in contrast to the suspicions that she was mistreated by officials while in custody. “She had a history of this bullshit stuff with cops,” Gladwell says. “The same trap that many poor people in this country get into, which is the police use people as an ATM. They set them up on trivial things and, when they can’t pay the fine, they get another fine. She was part of that trap… There’s a scenario where you can see that she just began to despair… I think it’s almost more tragic that she committed suicide.” 

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The theme of misreading manifested in another form when Rogan shared his conviction that mind reading will be a development in the not-too-distant future that will totally shift our world. He believes it will “eliminate a lot of the bullshit of communication.” In response, Gladwell raises an interesting point. “Wouldn’t your worry be that, if we’re able to read someone’s thoughts and intentions, what we would in fact discover is even more confusing than what we know now?, he asked. “In other words, maybe what’s in my head right now are 35 different thoughts and intentions warring with each other.”

The conversation later transitioned to the dangers of alcohol and the absurdity of its consumption being more socially acceptable than marijuana. Rogan and Gladwell compare drinking habits in different demographics, touching on the prevalence on university campuses of drinking to the point of blacking out. Gladwell shared some anatomical information about excessive drinking, which fascinates him so much that he dedicated a chapter in his new book to discussing it. “A crucial point about blackout which is that your hippocampus doesn’t necessarily control how articulate you are or how fluid your speech is – it’s just about memory,” he said. 


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