TED, the sleek pioneering giant of the online video salon, boasts the tagline: “Ideas worth spreading.” But the group declined to post a talk by Seattle-based venture capitalist and Amazon.com investor Nick Hanauer, who said the middle class, not wealthy financiers like himself, were the nation’s real “job creators.”
The organization invited Hanauer, the first non-family investor in Amazon.com, to speak about inequality at its university conference March 1. Hanauer told the audience that rising income inequality was harmful to society and that the rich should pay more in taxes.
But statements like that won’t do in an election year. Although one organizer told Hanauer in late April that TED “wants to put this talk out into the world!” the group later deemed the speaker’s remarks too “political” to post.
In an email to colleagues in early April, TED curator Chris Anderson wrote that Hanauer’s lecture “probably ranks as one of the most politically controversial talks we’ve ever run” and that the group needed to be “really careful” about when to post it.
In an email to Hanauer himself, Anderson later spoke more directly about why TED declined to post the talk. See his explanation below, then read Hanauer’s talk here. —ARK
“… Even if the talk was rated a home run, we couldn’t release it, because it would be unquestionably regarded as out and out political. We’re in the middle of an election year in the US. Your argument comes down firmly on the side of one party. And you even reference that at the start of the talk. TED is nonpartisan and is fighting a constant battle with TEDx organizers to respect that principle….
“Nick, I personally share your disgust at the growth in inequality in the US, and would love to have found a way to give people a clearer mindset on the issue, without stoking a tedious partisan rehash of all the arguments we hear every day in the mainstream media.
“Alas, my judgment - and it is just a judgment, and that’s why my job title is ‘curator’ - is that publishing your talk would not meet that goal.”
jurvetson (CC BY 2.0)