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

by | Permalink | Comments (27) |

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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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