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TED: ‘A Money-Soaked Orgy of Self-Congratulatory Futurism’

Posted on May 25, 2012
jurvetson (CC BY 2.0)

Bill Gates speaks about malaria and education in Africa at a TED conference in 2009.

In the wake of a recent scandal over TED’s refusal to publish a talk about income inequality, Alex Pareene at Salon performs a neat takedown of the organization’s driving ethos. (Hint: It has to do with the “1 percent” that the Occupy movement is raging about.) —ARK

Alex Pareene at Salon:

Strip away the hype and you’re left with a reasonably good video podcast with delusions of grandeur. For most of the millions of people who watch TED videos at the office, it’s a middlebrow diversion and a source of factoids to use on your friends. Except TED thinks it’s changing the world, like if “This American Life” suddenly mistook itself for Doctors Without Borders.

The model for your standard TED talk is a late-period Malcolm Gladwell book chapter. Common tropes include:

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. (Well, that and a bit of Vegas magician-with-PowerPoint stagecraft.)

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