D’oh! TED decides anti-Income Inequality talk not worth spreading

Jim Tankersly in the National Journal:

There’s one idea, though, that TED’s organizers recently decided was too controversial to spread: the notion that widening income inequality is a bad thing for America, and that as a result, the rich should pay more in taxes.

(RELATED:The Speech That’s Too Hot for TED)

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.”

(RELATED:The Slides That Are Too Hot for TED)

“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.”

Basically, Scott Brown and Mitt Romney’s campaigns boil down in large part to trying to hide this data-driven truth:

In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are consumers, the middle class. And taxing the rich to make investments that grow the middle class, is the single smartest thing we can do for the middle class, the poor and the rich.

Fortunately, BMG is reality-based, and we can handle the truth, even if TED and, more generally, the GOP can’t.

Recommended by somervilletom, jhmccloskey.


10 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. ?

    You write Ted “pulled” a talk. But the article you linked to says they never posted it and pulled it. Instead, they emailed with the guy about doing so. Am I missing something?

    If not…I’d submit there’s a difference between “pulling” a video already up, and simply not choosing it to be promoted. A large difference.

    For example, BMG gets user posts. You choose some to front page. Others not. Are you deciding that each post you don’t front page is “not worth spreading?”

    • I don't think that's how TED works.

      Can’t be sure… but I think, and the sense I got just from the above, is that the talk took place, was filmed, but then either placed and pulled or never placed in the first instance… So maybe, instead of ‘pulled’ the notion is ‘refused to air’…?

      • Yes, "refused to air" is better

        The article speaks for itself. I removed the adjective “pulled,” which is confusing.

        The basic point though is that this millionaire has it right.

  2. Talk pulled for dumbness

    Maybe they pulled this talk because it’s a dumb idea.

  3. TED's Curator Speaks


    TED’s Chris Anderson and his cohorts seemed to not be upset at the topic, but thought it wasn’t a very good talk and that it was hyper-partisan.

    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….

    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.

    But anywho, here is the controversial talk:

    We can watch and judge for ourselves? Is this up to par with our favorite talks of the past? Or is it a rehash of stuff even we here have articulated on BMG? I’m *leaning* towards this being a mediocre talk.

    • I think it's right on the money

      Objecting to this as “hyper-partisan” is nonsense that reminds me of those who expressed similar complaints about “An Inconvenient Truth”. Such complaints are pure hogwash. I’d like to know which assertions anyone challenges. If you think Mr. Hanauer is stating something that isn’t true, then say so — and share what you think the truth is.

      I think it’s a great talk and does an excellent job (no pun intended) of distilling a variety of complex ideas into a well-done and accessible short clip.

      I think TED blew the call on this one, I can only speculate about why.

      • My problem is the mediocrity

        It’s mediocre compared to my favorite TED talks, but you may disagree.

        I think Hanauer articulates well a point that I agree with, but not significantly better than what a number of people here on BMG could do. This isn’t radically new way of looking at things. When I tune into a TED talk, I want to either learn something cutting edge or I want to be able to look at problem in a way few have looked at it before. What Hanauer delivered was neither. Even many of our right-wing counterparts have heard exactly this argument before and it is nothing new to them.

        The talk may be right on the money, but as my best English profs always asked me, so what? The sky is blue. The ocean is art and wet. A TED talk, if it is going to live up to the TED brand, should be well above ordinary.
        (Allow me to also say that my last paragraph in my previous post is poorly formatted and the ? in the first sentence is a typo.)

      • You judge out of context

        I think BMG fell victim to a PR campaign that sought to re-frame this into TED’s decision about whether or not to post this one particular video. Reality seems more like “TED has to pick one talk to post out of a very large number, and they picked a different one”. Hundreds of other talks could’ve hired PR agencies to get everyone to second-guess TED’s decision not to pick this one or that one, but they didn’t, so we’re all focusing on the one that did so.

        I’m sure there are *many* talks they don’t post that many people would find good, but the ones they *do* pick to post are consistently great.

        • Fair enough

          I don’t much care for TED, it tends a bit more towards the breathlessly “cool” for my taste — I’m sometimes reminded of Disney’s “TomorrowLand”. Your point is therefore well-taken — perhaps this is simply another example of an editorial policy of TED that works for its audience and doesn’t work for me.

          My bottom line is that I liked this piece. If a better piece on the same topic comes out of TED, then I’d like to see it as well.

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