First They Came for the TED Talkers, and I Did Not Speak, Because I Had Better Things to Do

Nick Hanauer was censored – censored, he tells you! Last night, National Journal ran an explosive story about the venture capitalist’s horrible experience with the TED conference. He gave a short talk about inequality that compared the absurdity of supply-side economics to flat earth-ism.

TED officials told Hanauer initially they were eager to distribute it. “I want to put this talk out into the world!” one of them wrote him in an e-mail in late April. But early this month they changed course, telling Hanauer that his remarks were too “political” and too controversial for posting.

TED’s Chris Anderson responded today by accusing Hanauer of crying wolf. “He had hired a PR firm to promote the talk to MoveOn and others,” wrote Andersen, “and the PR firm warned us that unless we posted he would go to the press and accuse us of censoring him.
And he released the “censored” video – recorded, just not selected for the TED stream of daily hits – so that we might judge.

I’m inclined to agree with Anderson – part of what Andersen said. In the emails leaked by Hanauer, the editor says that he doesn’t like the way this turned out “in an election year.” That’s running into the problem Greg Sargent wrote about this week – the Ornstein/Mann case that “Republicans are the problem” losing the attention of taste-makers because it’s “partisan.”

The difference: Hanauer is not actually being silenced. He’s written a book on the “tax the rich to let the middle class grow and buy things” topic. He’s talked about it on MSNBC, multiple times. He’s talked about it on Fox News. He’s talked about it on Russia Today. It is a little bland for TED, and maybe that’s a statement about TED itself, but it’s hard to expand that into a larger bias argument.

Now, this is a TED political talk.