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How ideas worth spreading don't
May 17, 2012 - 3:57pm

As noted by The Atlantic, the group behind the TED conferences -- of which I'm generally a big fan -- has decided not to post video of a recent invited talk by Nick Hanauer.  Hanauer is a businessman -- a multi-millionaire, courtesy of a long entrepreneurial career and an early investment in Amazon. He's also a realist and one of those Warren Buffett-like folks who think the middle class is getting a raw deal. More important, he recognizes that it's middle-class consumption, not the investment incentives of the 1%, that is the real job creator.  So when the middle class suffers, the economy suffers.

The TED folks claim that, since he shoots down the argument that the rich are the job creators, his talk is "too controversial" during an election year.  But, while it may be controversial, it's not something that the only two parties we've got disagree about all that much.  Sure, as Hanauer notes, the Republicans are far more devoted to the idea than the Democrats are, but it's not like any significant number of Democrats are out there proselytizing against the rich.  How could they?  Both parties depend on the rich for their financing.  Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

But Hanauer has reached the level of financial security where he can pretty much feed himself, so he can call them as he sees them.  Even if the call goes against the interests of the investor class.  Even if it goes against what passes for conventional wisdom.  TED's tagline is "ideas worth spreading", but what's more truly worthy than an idea (backed up by data) that calls conventional wisdom into question?  In fact, if everyone were to agree on all the important questions, would conferences like TED's even be worth attending?

Admittedly, it's easy for me to criticize the TED folks from the synthetic ivory tower that is Greenback U.  But, in truth, it's also a little disconcerting to see such a blatant effort to kill a message.  Even in the day of Roger Ailes and Fox News, I still think that the greatest power the media has is to spike a story, and the TED group seems to be exercising just that power.  But I have to admit that on campus the same power exists.  And gets exercised.  It's just that we don't call those who do the spiking "editors" (or, in the case of TED, "curators").



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