Attack on a Left-Leaning One Percenter

Almost everybody famous, inventive, erudite, or eccentric has spoken at some time or other at the great TED conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design)–make that TED conferences, once held only in Monterery, now in Long Beach and Palm Springs, and various sites in Europe and Asia.

Now a controversy has broken out over a 6-minute talk delivered at TED last March by left-leaning billionaire Nick Hanauer. He spoke on income inequality, arguing, among other things, that the rich don’t create jobs–the middle class does through consumption.

Though conference attendees seem generally left of center, the audience reaction was said to be negative, and TED refuses to post the video on its site because it is not “special” and “framed the issue in a way that was explicitly partisan.” These quotes come from TED’s Chris Anderson, who added, “…we try to steer clear of talks that are bound to descend into the same dismal partisan head-butting people can find every day in the media.”

Opposition to partisan head-butting has my full support, but I think this decision is unworthy of TED. Hanauer’s talk was polite and calm. He mentioned Democrat-Republican differences once at the start, and after that, he attacked no one and named no politician or party. So I don’t think he deserves the turmoil of an after-the-fact hit from TED. See the talk for yourself here on YouTube and draw your own conclusion.


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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