Saturday, May 19, 2012

TED Frauds Not That Cool? We've Had It Backwards for Over 30 Years (But It's Profits Over Everything!) Overharvesting Humans (Watch Out For Personal Data Sponges: Needle In the Arm Keeps Customers Loyal (As Marketers))

Watch this, dammit!

Remember the commentary I ran yesterday on the very "elitist" (right) TED group that wanted to be seen as politically correct on the inequality front, but not really? After all, that's where the real money is.

Here's the official reason why (if there is an official reason), although it leads to a much more important question. Wasn't this just a meeting of those who want to be seen as cool enough to admit (academically, anyway) that the raging inequality debate is important to the long-term health of a democracy, but not actually important enough to affect their tax status? Yeah, definitely too partisan (and a mediocre effort).

Friday, May 18, 2012

TED: Even More Elitist Than We Thought

A censored talk about inequality causes controversy - and proves that the conference has some curious values

By , Alternet


Nick Hanauer (Credit: YouTube)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

We’ve long heard complaints that TED is elitist. The annual conference in California costs $7,500 to attend and is nearly impossible to get into, even for those who can afford the price tag; it is widely considered to be “unofficially invite-only.”

Still, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t gone down a TED video rabbit hole at least once. Snobby as they may be, those TED folks sure know how to pull together some fascinating speakers and share their talks online in a compelling way. There are some questionable TED talks in the archives, sure, but most of them are solid, and some are great (for example, the scientist who studied her own stroke).

So it is disappointing, if not terribly surprising, to hear that TED organizers originally chose not to share online what sounds like an important talk on income inequality, after initially expressing enthusiasm for the talk. The National Journal had the story:

TED organizers invited a multimillionaire Seattle venture capitalist named Nick Hanauer – the first nonfamily investor in – to give a speech on March 1 at their TED University conference. Inequality was the topic – specifically, Hanauer’s contention that the middle class, and not wealthy innovators like himself, are America’s true “job creators”….
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.
TED curator Chris Anderson initially called the piece “one of the most politically controversial talks we’ve ever run” and said “we need to be really careful” when it gets posted online, but he made it sound as if it was still a matter of when, not if. But soon, TED’s tune had changed:

In early May Anderson followed up with Hanauer to inform him he’d decided not to post his talk.
National Journal e-mailed Anderson to request an interview about what made a talk on inequality more politically controversial than, for example, contraception or climate change. Anderson, who is traveling abroad, responded with an e-mail statement that appeared to swipe at the popularity of Hanauer’s speech.
“Many of the talks given at the conference or at TED-U are not released,” Anderson wrote. “We only release one a day on and there’s a backlog of amazing talks from all over the world. We do not comment publicly on reasons to release or not release [a] talk. It’s unfair on the speakers concerned. But we have a general policy to avoid talks that are overtly partisan, and to avoid talks that have received mediocre audience ratings.”
As the Journal points out, Anderson’s argument that the talk is too “controversial” or “political” seems pretty bunk, given that TED has promoted plenty of controversial and political talks in the past. And if there was ever a time to promote a talk about income inequality, it seems like it would be now, what with the recent surge in conversations about the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent. Anderson’s comments make one wonder if he was more concerned about offending his rich donors than anything else.

Later comments by Anderson seem to confirm that suspicion. Anderson wrote Hanauer another letter on May 7, saying he had re-watched Hanauer’s talk but still was not interested in posting it online. The long and detailed email, printed in full by the Journal, takes issue with several elements of the talk, including the line hiring more people is a course of last resort, done if and only if rising consumer demand requires it.” “I think a lot of business managers and entrepreneurs would feel insulted by that statement as given,” Anderson wrote.

Anderson continued, “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.”


To make matters more perplexing, Raw Story‘s Stephen C. Webster dug up a TED talk on income inequality that was given by Richard Wilkinson last summer (pre-Occupy movement) and posted online in the fall. Why was that talk okay, but not Hanauer’s?

Blogger Ryan Louis Cooper hypothesizes that it’s all about tone; even though Winkinson’s talk was far more radical in its content, it was more palatable to wealthy TED-attending types than Hanauer’s talk. Cooper cites the following passage from Hanauer’s talk (which you can at last read online here):

Significant privileges have come to capitalists like me for being perceived as “job creators” at the center of the economic universe, and the language and metaphors we use to defend the fairness of the current social and economic arrangements is telling.

For instance, it is a small step from “job creator” to “The Creator”. We did not accidentally choose this language. It is only honest to admit that calling oneself a “job creator” is both an assertion about how economics works and the a claim on status and privileges.
The extraordinary differential between a 15% tax rate on capital gains, dividends, and carried interest for capitalists, and the 35% top marginal rate on work for ordinary Americans is a privilege that is hard to justify without just a touch of deification.
“He’s not just talking about inequality, he’s saying that the title of ‘job creator’ is undeserved. He’s being blunt, and rude,” Cooper writes.

As for Wilkinson’s talk, “it’s rather remarkable how this kind of thing goes over fine with the rich job-creatin’ TED attendees, while a more moderate but less polite version gets censored.

It’s almost like they’re sitting in their seats, blissfully unaware of what the speaker is actually talking about, but feeling good about being part of a hip, trendy, high-status event.”

On Thursday, Anderson responded to the mounting criticism and accusations of censorship on his blog. Here’s his account of what happened:

We discussed internally and ultimately told the speaker we did not plan to post. He did not react well. He had hired a PR firm to promote the talk to MoveOn and others, and the PR firm warned us that unless we posted he would go to the press and accuse us of censoring him. We again declined and this time I wrote him and tried gently to explain in detail why I thought his talk was flawed.
So he forwarded portions of the private emails to a reporter and the National Journal duly bit on the story. And it was picked up by various other outlets.
It’s still curious how TED’s stance on the talk went from “The world must see this!” to “We’ll get to it later…” to “Actually it’s too partisan” to “It might upset businessmen.”

Anderson also posted the video of Hanauer’s talk on YouTube. Watch it for yourself.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

This is the way of the future for the 1%. Yes, they want to eat you up (and all you own).

This was nothing new. One of the goals of the advertising agency I worked for in the late 1980s was to work with our clients to put a $40-a-month needle in our customers' arms. This was easy in the early days of cell phones when we gave away free phones to get people to sign three-year airtime contracts, and which soon turned into a multi-million dollar business.

Today the entire credit-financing model works on that principle. Cars are "purchased" for $120 a week. T.V. and Internet entertainment packages are offered for "low" and not-so-low monthly fees. And services have replaced products as the new corporate cash cows.

The trend is about to become even more sophisticated. On CBC's Under the Influence radio program, host Terry O'Reilly talks about the development of "hyper-targeting," the business of electronically fingerprinting online customers.

The goal is to data mine our personal online histories to place customized pieces of advertising directly in front of us just as we're about to make a purchase. Say if we're filling out the option sheet to get a price on a Ford Focus, competitor GM will place an ad on the sidebar offering a 10 per cent discount on a similarly optioned Chevy Cruze.

O'Reilly tells us that this is just the beginning. Credit card companies already track our online behaviour to predict our future credit-worthiness. If we check our card balances in the wee hours of the morning too often, the card companies might flag our accounts as indicating financial stress or marital problems.

So we are being groomed even before we’re harvested (connected to debt machines) by these companies.

This is a new level of intrusiveness now includes the new national security legislation emerging in the U.S. and Canada, legislation that may ultimately give government agencies access all our online activities and personal information stored with our Internet service providers.
The technology is now in place for both kinds of spying, and O'Reilly talks about the rise of a new class of algorithmic data geeks managing these new systems.

Surprisingly, some people are fine with these new incursions on our privacy. "If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear," their thinking goes. Others of us take exception to these new developments but feel powerless to stop their advance.

But what's driving this advance?

After the development of agriculture and the rise of feudalism, we entered a new age of technology during the Industrial Revolution. This freed the landowners from harvesting their lands, cut the farmers free from their ties to the soil, and bonded a new class of dreadfully under-rewarded workers (think of Dickens’ child workers slaving in the poor houses) directly to production. This, of course, led to all kinds of social distortion, including the rise of socialism, communism, two world wars and now, unfettered capitalism. John Ralston Saul writes eloquently about this in his 1995 book, The Unconscious Civilization.

The Digital Revolution has now liberated the owners from the ownership of any means of production, which is now done offshore by independent, invisible supply companies in former ‘Third World’ countries. This means that not only cash is digital and thus borderless, so is labour.

But first, a word from our corporate sponsor: money.

Today, lending institutions create digital money out of thin air. So every time these banks write a loan, there are little to no actual funds to back it up. The banks simply “declare” they have the money, and transfer the appropriate number of digits into another bank account. No cash has changed hands.

To say that this is a big temptation to manipulate the system is an understatement. It’s no surprise that sub-prime mortgages were bundled together and sold as commodities on the investment market, and then market bets were placed on the futures of those bundles until, well, the whole thing collapsed and millions of ordinary people were thrown out of their homes.

To offset the threat of financial collapse, governments around the world bailed out the commercial banks and investment companies while homeowners went broke. Here in Canada our government printed out $114 billion dollars to tide over four of our large banks through the crisis.

The overall result has been the creation of a new generation of indentured debt slaves, enslaved to debt not based on real money (human energy) at all, but to electronic ciphers that generate perpetual interest payments to the masters of these financial systems, and government dedicated to protecting the interests of the banks over the interests of its citizens.
So how did this happen? Corporations, technology, centralization and capitalism have welded together an unholy alliance designed to harvest, that is, asset- and cash-strip, everything in its collective path. Profit has become the guiding force of every human activity. Profit, not social well-being or working for a healthier planet.
The entire system is now a vast bloodsucking network pumping profits from every region of the human collective body to the centralized head office at the top. Those in charge of driving those profits, the executives, managers and administrators, now make up 50 per cent of the population.
Of course, in a healthy human body there is always the other half of the circulatory system, the arterial network that drives blood through the lungs and delivers re-oxygenated blood throughout the body to refresh and renew the entire system. But in our society, we are destroying that arterial system, our publicly-owned social services network, so in fact, we are now living in a diseased society.
We witnessed the first symptoms of this in the environmental destruction caused by industrialization. We are now witnessing the controlled leeching of profits, that is the harvesting of human energy, from every human being on the planet, through an intentionally-designed, centralized, technologically-driven organism.
That was my revelation. But I had to travel to a meeting in Chicago to have it reinforced. It was the trip that did it. I, along with several thousand other passengers, was herded like livestock through miles of yellow cordoned, serpentine walkways through international airports to have my papers checked, my baggage X-rayed and my body scanned.

(I was even singled out for a new, random full-body scan - or a full-body grope; my choice).

I watched as my fellow travelers, virtually all of us peaceful, law-abiding citizens, acquiesced to this indignity. Rather than putting an armed guard on every plane, if it really were terrorism we feared, we we’ve been conned into investing trillions of dollars to train ourselves to accept the basest submission.

The humiliation our system is imposing (on) humanity is now global. Not to mention the new class of militarized, psychopathic bullies we've created and are now enduring. I can only conclude that the effect is not for security but for the mindless control of the subjugated masses to continue the harvest.

So, what can we do to staunch the relentless bleeding of our fellow human beings? The answer? We have to put a stop to this suicidal process of putting profits above everything else. That means rebuilding a conscience-driven government disconnected from corporate interests. And if we think about it, that's not really so hard to do.

Because our living planet, in all of its marvellous diversity, desperately needs time to heal.


International Trade Examiner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
International Trade Examiner said...

Thank you for sharing this information. This article is important, especially since the economic debate seems to focus mainly on economic growth versus austerity while barely focusing on how to address the income inequality that results from failed economic policies.

Cirze said...

You are very welcome and thank you for commenting.

I consider this the premier political issue of our times from which we will suffer for many generations if not addressed knowledgeably.

But I've been writing about this for years, so it's nice to see it begin to get national traction, even if people like Hanauer have to shout to be heard.

And we all do.