TED Talks Back

No this is not a post about America’s favourite gun wielding ‘dick sucking’ guitarist Ted Nugent. I duped you, sorry. It is actually about TED — you know ‘Ideas worth spreading’ TED. (Search ‘Ted Nugent dick sucking’ on YouTube if you don’t get the dick sucking reference)

I love TED. There I said it. I’ve finally ditched the cool kids playing their la crosse and taking girls down to make out creek in their 1968 Dodge Charger. I am a man of science and computer screens and shutting out the meatworld beyond my window.

Truth is I am not special in this love affair, we all love TED and you shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet if you don’t.

Well over the last few days they have had a hard time of it when uber-wealthy entrepreneur, speaker, Nick Hanauer was denied a spot on the front page (or any page for that matter) of with his talk on Income Inequality. The Huffington Post along with The Business Insider and Reddit quickly kicked up a stink and Twitter jumped on the free speech, inequality, controversial band wagon, calling TED cowards for not posting Hanauer’s talk due to it being a sore subject and politically controversial.

The Internet blew up with moron’s calling TED out and gargling and swishing each others opinions on the subject of the talk, where everybody became an expert, ranting and rambling their thoughts, until they spat it all back out onto my lovely Internet in a haze of hot breeze.

Regardless of others opinions or worse yet, my own opinions on this topic, yesterday TED posted a reply. One that seems very plausible to me, dang maybe I am just a trusting kinda guy or maybe I am gullible or maybe I just allow being force fed other peoples views and stances on topics direct into my dormant anesthetized brain, like an oxygen tube rammed down my comatose gullet.

Having watched the talk I do back most of Hanauer’s points. He just doesn’t grab me and even though the audience let out an uncomfortable whispering giggle at one of his jokes and even stand clapping at the end, they don’t seem completely convinced by his speaking skills either.

TED’s curator Chris Anderson nails it in this reply posted yesterday, Hanauer just aint getting the point across properly (that’s my quote not Anderson’s). Below is the TED response statement and the actual video of Nick Hanauer’s talk and you can make up your own opinions over the talk and TED’s response to the backlash against them.

Here an excerpt from the Business Insider post and you can read the whole thing HERE:

I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me. 

So when businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it’s a little like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around.

Anyone who’s ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a capitalists course of last resort, something we do only when increasing customer demand requires it.  In this sense, calling ourselves job creators isn’t just inaccurate, it’s disingenuous.

That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When you have a tax system in which most of the exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.

Here is the response statement from TED’s Chris Anderson:

“Today TED was subject to a story so misleading it would be funny… except it successfully launched an aggressive online campaign against us.

The National Journal alleged we had censored a talk because we considered the issue of inequality “too hot to handle.” The story ignited a firestorm of outrage on Reddit, Huffington Post and elsewhere. We were accused of being cowards. We were in the pay of our corporate partners. We were the despicable puppets of the Republican party.

Here’s what actually happened.

At TED this year, an attendee pitched a 3-minute audience talk on inequality. The talk tapped into a really important and timely issue. But it framed the issue in a way that was explicitly partisan. And it included a number of arguments that were unconvincing, even to those of us who supported his overall stance. The audience at TED who heard it live (and who are often accused of being overly enthusiastic about left-leaning ideas) gave it, on average, mediocre ratings.

At TED we post one talk a day on our home page. We’re drawing from a pool of 250+ that we record at our own conferences each year and up to 10,000 recorded at the various TEDx events around the world, not to mention our other conference partners. Our policy is to post only talks that are truly special. And we try to steer clear of talks that are bound to descend into the same dismal partisan head-butting people can find every day elsewhere in the media.

We discussed internally and ultimately told the speaker we did not plan to post. He did not react well. He had hired a PR firm to promote the talk to MoveOn and others, and the PR firm warned us that unless we posted he would go to the press and accuse us of censoring him. We again declined and this time I wrote him and tried gently to explain in detail why I thought his talk was flawed.

So he forwarded portions of the private emails to a reporter and the National Journal duly bit on the story. And it was picked up by various other outlets.

And a non-story about a talk not being chosen, because we believed we had better ones, somehow got turned into a scandal about censorship. Which is like saying that if I call the New York Times and they turn down my request to publish an op-ed by me, they’re censoring me.

For the record, pretty much everyone at TED, including me, worries a great deal about the issue of rising inequality. We’ve carried talks on it in the past, like this one from Richard Wilkinson. We’d carry more in the future if someone can find a way of framing the issue that is convincing and avoids being needlessly partisan in tone.

Also, for the record, we have never sought advice from any of our advertisers on what we carry editorially. To anyone who knows how TED operates, or who has observed the noncommercial look and feel of the website, the notion that we would is laughable. We only care about one thing: finding the best speakers and the best ideas we can, and sharing them with the world. For free. I’ve devoted the rest of my life to doing this, and honestly, it’s pretty disheartening to have motives and intentions taken to task so viciously by people who simply don’t know the facts.

One takeaway for us is that we’re considering at some point posting the full archive from future conferences (somewhere away from the home page). Perhaps this would draw the sting from the accusations of censorship. Here, for starters, is the talk concerned. You can judge for yourself…

No doubt it will now, ironically, get stupendous viewing numbers and spark a magnificent debate, and then the conspiracy theorists will say the whole thing was a set-up!

OK… thanks for listening. Over and out. ”

Below this is a video of the talk itself by Nick Hanauer

We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic so hit us up and leave us a comment, get into it!

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