Apr 14, 2013

Self-Deportation from TED?

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I was wondering if and when we might start hearing from the other TEDx Whitechapel speakers. In their open letter, discussed here, the Whitechapel team said that a number of the speakers were unhappy with how Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake were treated by TED, but that they had been willing to wait and see how it would all play out. I noticed on my Reality Sandwich feed this morning that at least one of them has now gone public. Charles Eisenstein wants his talk removed and is urging others who are displeased with TED's actions to request the same.

With this in mind, I have a modest proposal that I'd like to extend to anyone who has (as I have) spoken at a TED or TEDx event. I propose that we respectfully request that our videos be taken down from TED-affiliated youtube channels just as Sheldrake's and Hancock's were. One might frame this as an act in solidarity with two fellow speakers who received shabby treatment, but really, I have no ax to grind. I do not want to punish TED, or make them regret their actions, or set them up as the bad guy. It is simply this: TED says it doesn't want to implicitly endorse the views of these men by having them associated with the TED brand. By the same token, I would prefer not to implicitly endorse TED's repudiation of the realm of inquiry those two (and TEDxWestHollywood) represent, by having my "brand" associated with TED.

Pretty straightforward, really.

Eiesenstein also beautifully articulates the problem with TED's position. (read: the opinions of the super-secret "science board" and the New Atheist special interest group that now dictates TED policy)

First, there's the scientism.

It is certainly true that the work of Sheldrake, Hancock, and many of the WestHollywood speakers is far removed from mainstream scientific thinking. Part of the mythology of science is that cogent thinking equals scientific thinking, and that therefore anything that science rejects is likely founded on shoddy reasoning, poor observation, self-delusion, or perhaps outright fraud. This belief depends on two assumptions: that the Scientific Method is superior to other sources of knowledge, and that the institution of science honestly upholds and applies the Scientific Method. Granting all that, we can draw a convenient line in accepting or rejecting new ideas by asking, "Is this idea consistent with accepted science?" 

Then, there's TED's unquestioning acceptance that what's good for technology and science is good for the world.

More broadly, TED generally seems to stand for several overarching principles that are foundational to our civilization's dominant narratives: that technology is a force for good, that technological solutions exist to all our problems, that life is getting better and better. The TED presentation aesthetic communicates a can-do spirit, offering a kind of showcase for the Next Great Thing. Unsurprising, given its origin as a celebration of "technology, entertainment, and design."

. . .

The challenge to science (as an institution if not as a method) that Sheldrake, Hancock, and several of the exTEDxWestHollywood speakers pose implicates much more than science. For instance, science has often been an agent of colonialism, devaluing and replacing indigenous ways of knowing. It has been an agent of social control, celebrating as progress the transition from traditional, organic, community-based modes of interaction to those which are planned, optimized, centralized, and engineered. It has often been an agent of economic and ecological exploitation, disregarding and destroying anything it cannot or will not measure. TED's genuflection toward science (as institution), and in particular an intransigent faction within that institution, is actually a defense, however unwitting, of a primary pillar of the world as we know it.

The business of TED is business... and imperialistic ethnocentrism.

Eisenstein and his "crowd of researchers" found many talks in TED's archive that don't seem to conform with TED's newly-defined, slavish devotion to the status quo. He is therefore calling on past speakers whose talks don't  align with global corporate hegemony as a value system to leave TED willingly.

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