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.
Photo credit: visual.dichotomy via Flickr