The Politics of TED

Source: Dissent

Is the topic of income inequality “Too Hot for TED“? Controversy has erupted in the past week over this question after a talk planned for the organization’s popular website was pulled at the last minute. The incident has offered an interesting window into the politics of the group.

Here’s what happened: recently, wealthy Seattle-based venture capitalist Nick Hanauer gave a talk challenging the idea that the rich are “job creators.” Countering this concept, he made the demand-side argument that consumer spending is what generates employment, and that more equitable distribution of income, in turn, produces more robust consumer demand.

Having made much the same point in an op-ed last November, Hanauer dressed up his views with some slides and presented it in a short, TED-style talk. (For those unfamiliar with it, TED was initially launched as pricey conference presenting cutting-edge ideas in “Technology, Entertainment, and Design”; over the past decade, it has spawned its own genre of internet-friendly, pop-intellectual presentations.)

Hanauer expected that his speech would be featured on the popular TED site last week. Indeed, it was prepared for release. But the weekend before it was set to go up, TED director Chris Anderson personally intervened to pull the video. This pissed off Hanauer, who released emails from Anderson which showed that the video was being yanked because it was too “political.”

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