Is TED Primarily About Assuaging The Egos of the Super Rich?

TED opted not to air the Nick Hanauer video below in which he talks about the problems with income inequality. Hanauer’s camp caused a big stir by getting word out that this was a talk “that TED doesn’t want you to see”.

TED does not release the videos of all their talks online. But Alex Pareene thinks that this video was not going to be promoted in either case because it did not fit with a biased and unadmitted worldview that he accuses TED’s organizers and primary audience of sharing.

Pareene characterizes the average TED Talk as involving four common tropes:

  • Drastically oversimplified explanations of complex problems.
  • Technologically utopian solutions to said complex problems.
  • Unconventional (and unconvincing) explanations of the origins of said complex problems.
  • Staggeringly obvious observations presented as mind-blowing new insights.

What’s most important is a sort of genial feel-good sense that everything will be OK, thanks in large part to the brilliance and beneficence of TED conference attendees.

Pareene’s specific explanation of how Hanauer went off this script to TED’s dismay follows shortly after:

Because TED is for, and by, unbelievably rich people, they tiptoe around questions of the justness of a society that rewards TED attendees so much for what usually amounts to a series of lucky breaks. Anderson says he declined to promote the Hanauer talk because it was “mediocre” (that has never once stopped TED before, but we needn’t get too deep into that), but an email from Anderson to Hanauer on the decision was more a critique of Hanauer’s thesis than a criticism of his performance. Anderson cited, specifically, his concern that “a lot of business managers and entrepreneurs would feel insulted” by the argument that multimillionaire executives hire more employees only as a “last resort.” (The entire recent history of the fixation on short-term returns, obsession with “efficiency,”  and “streamlining” of most American corporations escaped the notice of Mr. Anderson, apparently.) I can’t imagine this line-by-line response to all the points raised in a TED Talk happening for an “expert” on any subject other than the general uselessness and self-importance of self-proclaimed millionaire “job creators.”

He then goes on to attack Anderson for using rhetoric of avoiding “partisanship” as justification for steering away from promoting ideas like Hanauer’s.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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