By Lauren Kelley · 21 May 2012
TED curator Chris Anderson initially called the piece "one of the most politically controversial talks we've ever run" and said "we need to be really careful" when it gets posted online, but he made it sound as if it was still a matter of when, not if. But soon, TED's tune had changed:
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”....
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.
As the Journal points out, Anderson's argument that the talk is too "controversial" or "political" seems pretty bunk, given that TED has promoted plenty of controversial and political talks in the past. And if there was ever a time to promote a talk about income inequality, it seems like it would be now, what with the recent surge in conversations about the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent. Anderson's comments make one wonder if he was more concerned about offending his rich donors than anything else.
In early May Anderson followed up with Hanauer to inform him he’d decided not to post his talk.
National Journal e-mailed Anderson to request an interview about what made a talk on inequality more politically controversial than, for example, contraception or climate change. Anderson, who is traveling abroad, responded with an e-mail statement that appeared to swipe at the popularity of Hanauer’s speech.
"Many of the talks given at the conference or at TED-U are not released,” Anderson wrote. “We only release one a day on TED.com and there's a backlog of amazing talks from all over the world. We do not comment publicly on reasons to release or not release [a] talk. It's unfair on the speakers concerned. But we have a general policy to avoid talks that are overtly partisan, and to avoid talks that have received mediocre audience ratings."
"He's not just talking about inequality, he's saying that the title of 'job creator' is undeserved. He's being blunt, and rude," Cooper writes. As for Wilkinson's talk, "it's rather remarkable how this kind of thing goes over fine with the rich job-creatin' TED attendees, while a more moderate but less polite version gets censored. It's almost like they're sitting in their seats, blissfully unaware of what the speaker is actually talking about, but feeling good about being part of a hip, trendy, high-status event."
Significant privileges have come to capitalists like me for being perceived as "job creators" at the center of the economic universe, and the language and metaphors we use to defend the fairness of the current social and economic arrangements is telling. For instance, it is a small step from "job creator" to "The Creator". We did not accidentally choose this language. It is only honest to admit that calling oneself a "job creator" is both an assertion about how economics works and the a claim on status and privileges.
The extraordinary differential between a 15% tax rate on capital gains, dividends, and carried interest for capitalists, and the 35% top marginal rate on work for ordinary Americans is a privilege that is hard to justify without just a touch of deification.
It's still curious how TED's stance on the talk went from "The world must see this!" to "We'll get to it later..." to "Actually it's too partisan" to "It might upset businessmen."
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.
Right wing tech nerds
Chris Anderson is a former editor of Wired magazine and an advocate of freemarket techno utopianism. Remember the dot com bubble and that funny time in the mid 90 when it seemed everybody would get a job as a web designer and live to 120- chris anderson and his pals. Overall his pals and he promote a deranged vision of super empowered yuppie gods, eugenics and ecocide. Dig. Google. They are Nazis with coke bottle glasses.