David Frum

05.17.12

Income Inequality is Too Hot for TED

gardens-democrazy-book-cover

UPDATE: Read Chris Anderson's response to this news story here.

Nick Hanauer is the co-author of The Gardens of Democracy, a book I reviewed here on the blog back in February. The book looks at how our current understanding of science might require us to change how we form civil societies and practice our democracy.

Hanauer recently gave a TED talk on income inequality that apparently was too scandalous to be put online and shared with the world. TED curator Chris Anderson explained his reasons for not publicizing the talk in a series of emails with Hanauer:

"But 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."

I can understand Anderson's bind, being perceived as an organization that is overtly partisan can be bad for business. Look at what happened to Susan G. Komen for the Cure earlier this year.

On the other hand, choosing to eschew a controversial talk about income inequality while still putting up lectures on how to tie your shoes and the benefits of being buried with mushrooms raises questions about your seriousness.

UPDATE: Chris Anderson responds and the video of the talk can now be seen here.