This week's Internet-based teapot tempest swirled around the venerable TED talks, which were accused by one presenter of censoring his talk because he spoke truth to power and talked about income inequality.
Shenanigans, replied TED's Chris Anderson. Shenanigans and poppycock. But here's the thing: TED's biggest problem isn't that it's engaging in too much censorship, it's that it's not censoring enough.
Venture Capitalist Nick Hanauer basically leveled a charge that the J Mortimer Moneybags, esqs, of TED weren't comfortable with his talk because it was about income inequality and so did not post it online. This narrative was picked up first by the National Journal, and then all over the Web. Let's forget for a moment that TED talks lean farther to the left than Russell Simmons' penis. That they are more touchie-feelie than an 8th grade boy in a RealDoll factory. That they are to earnest sincerity what Gawker is to snark. That they are constructed entirely of liberal guilt and stage lighting. Let's set that, which makes Hanauer's claim unlikely, aside.
TED's Chris Anderson took to his blog to reply that in essence, the talk wasn't posted because it just wasn't up to TED's standards. That it engaged in too much partisanship, and did not rise above the din and spectacle of every other partisan debate about income inequality. That, in other words, it kind of sucked. But that wasn't the most interesting thing Anderson said; this was the part of his post that really jumped out at me:
At TED we post one talk a day on our home page. We're drawing from a pool of 250+ that we record at our own conferences each year and up to 10,000 recorded at the various TEDx events around the world, not to mention our other conference partners. Our policy is to post only talks that are truly special.
The notion that TED posts 365 "ideas worth spreading" a year? Hah! As if.
What has been lost in all this kefluff and drang is that TED talks long ago quit being special. It has been several years since TED talks felt fresh and vital. It has, sadly, let a slew of TEDx talks water down its brand like a single bag of Lipton's in an 8 gallon water jug. Just look at this map of TED talks. Does that appear highly curated? It's no wonder Hanauer thought his talk was going to be posted. TED's bar has become staggeringly low.
Pick it up, Anderson & co. Start culling the herd and making your talks rare animals again — instead of just cash cows. Save me, save me, save me from yet another TED diatribe by an overly-coached tween.