Do you kids like the TED talks? They’re a series of conferences where David Brooks pretends to explain scientific innovation or a “social media pioneer” babbles about how clicking a new computer button on a computer program will save Africa or… well, let’s just see what the top video on their website is right now: “David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence.” We’d rather listen to John McCain sing Ke$ha. “Bart Knols: Cheese, dogs, and pills to end malaria.” Oh my god. “Reuben Margolin: Sculpting waves in wood and time.” Whatever, fraud. “José Bowen: Beethoven the businessman.” Each one is just a fresh new apocalypse. Why not post a talk about, say, the major socioeconomic issue of our era, income inequality and stability? Apparently this would have been too “political” for the TED folks, so they won’t post it online. This deserves some extraordinarily negative feedback.
National Journal had the great scoop of how these Idea Leaders thought it would be too “political” to distribute an actual worthwhile chat that might make some Republicans (or corporate donors) sad:
TED organizers invited a multimillionaire Seattle venture capitalist named Nick Hanauer – the first nonfamily investor in Amazon.com – to give a speech on March 1 at their TED University conference. Inequality was the topic – specifically, Hanauer’s contention that the middle class, and not wealthy innovators like himself, are America’s true “job creators.”
“We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years,” he said. “Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Rather they are a consequence of an ecosystemic feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.”
Sounds pretty perfect and relevant and backed by empirical data. Well done, organizers! BUT THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
You can’t find that speech online. TED officials told Hanauer initially they were eager to distribute it. “I want to put this talk out into the world!” one of them wrote him in an e-mail in late April. But early this month they changed course, telling Hanauer that his remarks were too “political” and too controversial for posting. […]
Hanauer’s talk “probably ranks as one of the most politically controversial talks we’ve ever run, and we need to be really careful when” to post it, Anderson wrote on April 6. “Next week ain’t right. Confidentially, we already have Melinda Gates on contraception going out. Sorry for the mixed messages on this.”
And then Anderson had a patronizing little email chat with Hanauer about how he was wrong about stuff:
In a May 7 email to Hanauer, forwarded to NJ, Anderson took issue with several of Hanauer’s assertions in the talk, including the idea that businesspeople aren’t job creators. He also made clear his aversion to the “political” nature of the talk.
“I agree with your language about ecosystems, and your dismissal of some of the mechanistic economy orthodoxy, yet many of your own statements seem to go further than those arguments justify,” Anderson wrote.
“But even if the talk was rated a home run, we couldn’t release it, because it would be unquestionably regarded as out and out political. We’re in the middle of an election year in the US. Your argument comes down firmly on the side of one party. And you even reference that at the start of the talk. TED is nonpartisan and is fighting a constant battle with TEDx organizers to respect that principle….
Chris Anderson is everything that is wrong with the world right now and should self-deport to a remote cave forever.