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Did TED Really Censor A Talk For Being Too Political? (Video)

Did TED Really Censor A Talk For Being Too Political? (Video)

TED, the organization devoted to sharing “ideas worth spreading” on topics ranging from education to climate change, is facing accusations that it censored a video of one of its TED Talks for being too partisan.

In the video, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer discusses income inequality and attacks the idea that the wealthy are the ones creating jobs. Instead, he says, consumers are the only people with the power to create jobs. It’s a short speech, only about 6 minutes long, but it’s interesting food for thought:

But the video never made it onto TED’s website.

Why? Well, that’s the question National Journal asked yesterday. According to Hanauer, he’d been getting mixed messages from TED since delivering the speech, first being told how much officials wanted to share it with the world, then being offered various reasons it hadn’t run yet, and then finally receiving word that they’d decided to pass. The National Journal claims the reason was that the talk was considered “too political” and “overtly partisan” to run during an election year. (Even though Hanauer clearly calls out both parties as complicit in the problem.)

TED curator Chris Anderson, of course, tells a different story. On his blog, he explains that TED can only post one video a day out of the 250+ recorded at TED conferences and 10,000 recorded at independent TEDx events all over the world. Obviously, the majority of that content just isn’t going to make it onto the site.

Anderson explains his reasoning for cutting this particular video, saying that even though he agreed with the overall points made, he found the arguments unconvincing. He implies that the speech was “mediocre.” And Anderson’s policy is only to highlight the truly exceptional talks for inclusion on the website. He calls the entire controversy “a non-story about a talk not being chosen, because we believed we had better ones.”

Anderson also accuses Hanauer of threatening him if the video was not posted on the TED website, saying the speaker hired a PR firm and made clear he would go to the press and claim he’d been censored. And that is pretty coercive and doesn’t exactly make Hanauer look sympathetic, if it’s true. Anderson went ahead and posted the video in question to YouTube to let readers decide for themselves whether the decision was appropriate – and also chose to highlight a number of previous talks on income inequality that made it onto the site.

While claims that the talk is too political to be appropriate for TED’s site ring false (they’ve posted plenty of controversial material before), I think it’s fair to say that, no, it’s not one of the best TED Talks I’ve ever seen. Compared to many of the highlighted speakers, Hanauer just isn’t as engaging. And, more important, true as his points may be, he just doesn’t offer much evidence to support them in terms of facts and figures. I don’t think it meets the usual standards of the material TED posts, and I can see why it wasn’t chosen.

But I don’t think many of Anderson’s stated reasons for rejecting it are good ones, either.

Related Stories:
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Five Worst People of the One Percent
The Rich Are Different From You and Me – They Pay Fewer Taxes

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Photo credit: visual.dichotomy via Flickr

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10:58AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

my reaction is a bit delayed because i didn't see this article, but the talk was posted on one of my care2 groups...which brings me here. i see it was also in the c2nn. i know very little about economics, but this was a refreshing point of view and i hope we her more from nick hanauer.

too political? what isn't political?

7:33AM PDT on May 28, 2012

This was an eloquent, factual, calm presentation of the facts. Simply becasue he did not rant or become passionate in his presentation does not make it a poor presentation. I have actually been awaiting such a calm presentation from an accredited 1%'er.

7:33AM PDT on May 28, 2012

This was an eloquent, factual, calm presentation of the facts. Simply becasue he did not rant or become passionate in his presentation does not make it a poor presentation. I have actually been awaiting such a calm presentation from an accredited 1%'er.

8:45PM PDT on May 19, 2012

Well done Nick Hanauer. Your presentation was courageous and inspiring. To bad Boehner, Cantor and McConnel are wearing ear plugs. It is too bad that your presentation did not air on TED and reach a wider audience. It is even sadder that TED does not have the same level of courage that you have.

8:33PM PDT on May 19, 2012

There is a declared war on the middle class by the rich, powerful and established. The problem is that even if the Republicans get their way and the poor and mdidle class loose social security, medicare. medicaid, food stamps, unemployment, PELL grants etc. The rich will still not be rich enough. The greedy never are. What will they atatck next. The majority of the wealthy do not understand that unless you have a growing and succeeding middle class large corporations and small business will not have a client base. History and experience have taught us that trickle down economics does not work. The wealthy believe in the zero sum paradigm. If the middle class have more they will have less. The truth is that the wealthy will be even wealthier when the middle class expands and does well and the number of poor in this country diminishes.

2:05AM PDT on May 19, 2012

I think we need more, not less, discussion on this topic and am appealing to TED to Please give us MORE.

please sign if you agree.

1:40AM PDT on May 19, 2012

Social leaning capitalist! Yay! I like the sound of Nick Hanauer

1:10AM PDT on May 19, 2012


12:59AM PDT on May 19, 2012

Great talk! Maybe it's something personal between the two of them, or maybe it's Anderson bowing to big business though I find that highly unlikely, it's probably because his figures may be in accurate or shoddily done. But there is something about this that I like.
And as for 'trickle down' economics, the only thing to trickle down is a little piss on our heads and we're supposed to be grateful for a few crumbs off the kings table!

12:28AM PDT on May 19, 2012

Thank you for the infomation.

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