The Idea TED Didn’t Consider Worth Spreading: The Rich Aren’t Really Job Creators

Late last week, The Nation­al Jour­nal pub­lished a sto­ry called The Inequal­i­ty Speech That TED Won’t Show You, along with a relat­ed sto­ry explain­ing the con­tro­ver­sy, which boils down to this:

TED orga­niz­ers invit­ed a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Seat­tle ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist named Nick Hanauer – the first non­fam­i­ly investor in – 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.”…

You can’t find that speech online. [Note: it has now been inde­pen­dent­ly pub­lished on YouTube.]  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.

The Nation­al Jour­nal and Hanauer present it as a case of cen­sor­ship. But TED’s lead cura­tor Chris Ander­son respond­ed in a blog post, say­ing: “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.” He went on to offer this anal­o­gy: Some­times you send an op-ed to The New York Times and they don’t pub­lish it. Does that mean your ideas are being cen­sored? Or does it maybe mean your ideas aren’t very well put? Or did some­one else do a bet­ter job of fram­ing the argu­ment?

One way or anoth­er, TED did­n’t see Hanauer’s ideas as being “worth spread­ing.” The video now appears on YouTube. You can watch it above and decide what you think: Cen­sor­ship or selec­tiv­i­ty? Or, let me add a third option: a desire to please any­one and every­one at the expense of open­ing deeply-held beliefs and oft-stat­ed mantras to real debate?

via Fora

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Comments (27)
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  • cainmark says:

    Cen­sor­ship. Def­i­nite­ly not par­ti­san, explained at very begin­ning of talk.
    Reminds me of the his­to­ry of MLK. Once he start­ed talk­ing about income inequal­i­ty, the media ignored him until he was assas­si­nat­ed.

  • Max Fiction says:

    These are not “deeply held Amer­i­can beliefs.” Rather, it’s recent dog­ma and talk­ing-point mat­ter of what­ev­er it is the GOP has become.

  • Andre Kelley says:

    Ok, let’s be hon­est that speech real­ly is mediocre.

  • moggg says:

    No it’s not bril­liant but it’s sim­ple and effec­tive. Con­tent over pre­sen­ta­tion. If you have more spe­cif­ic crit­i­cisms about medi­oc­rity, here’s the place to list them.

  • Thorn says:

    The indus­tri­al­ists who pay for polit­i­cal lob­by­ing, invest in par­ti­san politi­cians, are mak­ing direct­ed, but effec­tive­ly, self tax pay­ments. Much the same as Lot­ter­ies are a tax on des­per­a­tion. Brave new world, same old.….…

  • Stephen says:

    A good ques­tion for TED to answer would be, “How many speech­es giv­en at TED con­fer­ences have nev­er been post­ed as a result of being ‘low qualtiy’?”

    I sus­pect the answer is “no” … which would mean that not post­ing this video is cen­sor­ship.

    Anoth­er point to note is that in the case of a news­pa­per edi­to­r­i­al there is a cost to pub­lish­ing, so if you have a choice of pieces, you will choose the one that gives you the best result in terms of keep­ing / gen­er­at­ing read­er­ship.

    How­ev­er, in the case of TED, there is almost no cost relat­ed to pub­lish­ing. The record­ing was already com­plete. All that was need­ed was to hit the upload but­ton. So the anal­o­gy with the NYT and the like fails on this lev­el also.

    Whether I agree with the con­tent of the talk itself, I have to say my for­mer­ly high opin­ion of the TED brand has dropped marked­ly.

    Thank you for bring­ing this to my atten­tion.

  • David Wees says:

    I’ve seen a few peo­ple com­plain­ing that the argu­ment used in this video is weak — but I have seen much weak­er argu­ments being made for much less bold changes. I also did not find this talk to be par­tic­u­lar­ly par­ti­san, with the excep­tion of one men­tion of a polit­i­cal par­ty. In fact, it is derid­ing the poli­cies of the last 30 years, and last time I checked, both the Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans have been in pow­er dur­ing that time peri­od.

    I call cen­sor­ship.

  • Kelly says:

    Cen­sor­ship. It was con­cise. Sure, I would like to hear more log­i­cal con­nec­tions, but as I’m already clear on the deficits of neolib­er­al eco­nom­ics, that’s not nec­es­sary. One the I would like cleared up is the con­ceit about “job cre­ator” not being called that by acci­dent. I’m sure he’s privvy to brand­ing con­ver­sa­tions I’ve nev­er heard, so I’d be inter­est­ed in at least an anec­dote.

  • BOF! says:

    I’ve always been skep­ti­cal of Ted as an orga­ni­za­tion, espe­cial­ly how they present them­selves online. They seem to pre­fer to post the lofty and inspi­ra­tional talks that enter­tain or have no rel­e­vance to their online vis­i­tor’s every­day lives. They get more views that way, I’m sure. But ‘Ideas worth spread­ing’ is def­i­nite­ly pre­tense and mis­lead­ing.

  • Dorian says:

    I see no rea­son why TED would drop the talk. It was well pre­sent­ed, and the argu­ment cogent. Not earth-shat­ter­ing­ly new, but a mes­sage that has not been voiced in the main­stream suf­fi­cient­ly.

  • thomas says:

    I liked the com­ment “TED=DED”. I’ll now have to ques­tion every oth­er video from them. If this video was one that did­n’t fit their “accept­able” para­me­ters, then I’m not sure I want to view the ones that did.

    Good sto­ry, glad to see it on OC.

  • markalan says:

    Best point of the talk: “Any­one who’s ever run a busi­ness knows that hir­ing more peo­ple is a cap­i­tal­ist’s 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.” Amer­i­cans are averse to the noun “cap­i­tal­ist”.

  • chilangado says:

    This guy is an exam­ple of a crony cap­i­tal­ist, not of a cap­i­tal­ist. A 30+ yr old idea that is wrong. Maybe TED rec­og­nized that they want to spread ideas, not inun­date fools with lies … so yes they cen­sored a waste of time. I’ll post a youtube that was the real idea worth spread­ing, and won the nobel prize in eco­nom­ics.

  • markalan says:

    Fried­man and Epstein under­stand very well how to cre­ate wealth and income in cap­i­tal­ist economies. What they choose to dis­miss is the neg­a­tive effects of wealth and income con­cen­tra­tion on most peo­ple in cap­i­tal­ist soci­eties.

  • Thomas says:

    I’ve actu­al­ly watch all Ted-talks that they ever post­ed, and from that I can say two things for sure:

    - If he would have praised entre­pre­neurs and “over-achiev­ers” like 100 oth­er often bad talks do, he would have been front page.

    - This talk was not mind blow­ing — but way above the aver­age.

    - In no way was this talk par­ti­san. I mean real­ly… the “job-cre­ators” game is played by both par­ties hap­pi­ly. They both only lis­ten to peo­ple with mon­ey.

    - They nev­er mind­ed par­ti­san talks before, if it goes in the direc­tion they like.

    Also there were emails by Ander­son that are at con­flict with his open blog post.
    This thing is crys­tal clear: Their clien­tele is mil­lion­aires that want to feel great about them­selves — and I guess we found a mes­sage they don’t like to see spread­ing.

  • Birgit says:

    Thank you for this post ! I’m sad­dened to hear that TED has no balls to post this talk. Thanks for draw­ing my atten­tion to it. Won­der­ful to see. x

  • papajohn704 says:

    What was the Point?
    Wealthy peo­ple do pay taxes,bu
    some of us don’t pay taxes.As RR
    said every­one should have a skin in the mix.
    Now a new tax struc­tur­al to account for all of us, with no
    The back­bone of our sys­tem has been the free­dom and lib­er­ty for all to become cap­i­tal­ist with
    small busi­ness being the dri­ving force for income, wealth, jobs.
    So what was TED’s solu­tion but seman­tics?

  • Nilsson says:

    Ok, it’s not spec­tac­u­lar.
    But it’s from some­one who, by talk­ing against the grain, wins a talk­ing posi­tion on this.
    It’s like War­ren Buf­fet talk­ing against what you’d expect from oth­ers in the finan­cial sec­tor.
    How­ev­er much Ander­son found it less stim­u­lat­ing than some — it’s almost cer­tain that his oppo­si­tion was for oth­er more venal rea­sons too.

  • chilangado says:

    to markalan.

    Mil­ton Fried­man actu­al­ly believed/argued/showed that true cap­i­tal­ism most­ly ben­e­fits the ordi­nary man, and leads to less con­cen­tra­tion of wealth when com­pared with any alter­na­tive.

    For exam­ple,

    Amer­i­ca’s top 1% total wealth is about $16.8 tril­lion (NOT ANNUAL income).
    The top 1% is about 3.04 mil­lion peo­ple mean­ing about $5.6 mil­lion per per­son.
    The ANNUAL fed­er­al bud­get in 2011 was $3.6 tril­lion.
    The num­ber of mem­bers of con­gress is 535 peo­ple mean­ing $6.7 bil­lion per per­son in one year.

  • A says:

    It costs thou­sands of dol­lars to attend a TED talk con­fer­ence: TED is a busi­ness, thus is caters to its cus­tomers. Who can afford a $7500 con­fer­ence? The extreme­ly rich. Why do they go? Many rea­sons, prob­a­bly: to schmooze; to scope out invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties; as a sym­bol of afflu­ence. They cer­tain­ly do not go hop­ing to come home feel­ing guilty. I can eas­i­ly imag­ine that this speech made a few of the audi­ence mem­bers feel uncom­fort­ably guilty, which must wor­ry TED. After all, it needs those peo­ple to feel good about their expe­ri­ence so that they return and encour­age their rich friends to attend. Mon­ey, mon­ey, mon­ey.

  • Eurf says:

    @Chilangado: You’re point being what exact­ly? You’re try­ing to tell us that the top 1% wealth = top 1% pop­u­la­tion?
    And you’re imply­ing that your con­gress­men and women divide the fed­er­al bud­get amongst them­selves?

  • Mike Hickey says:

    The real job cre­ators are the vision­ar­ies like Steve Jobs. They fore­see a world that might exist and make it hap­pen, while most of us just tight­en the nuts and bolts of those who pre­ced­ed us or buy what the vision­ary cre­at­ed.

  • Layman says:

    What a fan­tas­tic post!
    And this is what MK Gand­hi told us eight decades ago. His advice to his fel­low coun­try­men was that if they refused to buy the goods, it would break the back of the invad­er. And it did. Today, if the mid­dle class REFUSED to buy the goods pro­duced, no “Job Cre­ator” will be rich for long.

  • Michael says:

    This guy real­ly has no idea what he is talk­ing about. Mid­dle class peo­ple nev­er pay 35% tax. In fact most mid­dle class pay 15% just as he states the rich do. I for one would love to have my income break $388,350 so I could pay 35% on my income over that lev­el!!

  • shaktideva says:

    I thought it was a sin­cere talk by a con­cerned cit­i­zen hon­est­ly pro­fess­ing an idea for a future to be pos­si­ble. I noticed the stand­ing ova­tion and think the TED admin­is­tra­tors chose poor­ly in cov­er­ing it up. He was like daniel in the lions den to say those things to the usu­al TEd talk mil­lion­aires

  • nemo says:

    I fig­ured out what TED was about sev­er­al years ago . TED dis­tracts it’s view­ers with this that and the oth­er non eco­nom­ic top­ics . Then TED brain­wash­es It’s fans with how won­der­ful neolib­er­al eco­nom­ics is , and won­der­ful is the Finan­cial sec­tor and glob­al­iza­tion are and that we need­ed to bail them out instead of Nation­al­iz­ing them like any sane soci­ety would do dur­ing the 2007 “finan­cial cri­sis” . I find TED rather dia­bol­i­cal quite frankly

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