Oct 10, 2013

TEDx Gets Punk'd

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

While some of us were focused on TED's censorious and insular nature, the many people who don't care about that were noticing something else: TED has simply jumped the shark. Snooty articles are popping up all over the place opining about the fact that the once clever packager of ideas has devolved into self parody. TED hate is the new black.

And so the stage was set for the self-important TED talk to be lampooned by an ostensibly serious TEDx speaker.

Everyone is annoyed by TED Talks these days, those vacuum-sealed idea nuggets. So comedian Sam Hyde sneaking onto an (independently organized) TEDx program at Drexel University last weekend and delivering this incomprehensible 20 minute talk on the "2070 paradigm shift" must be seen as a symbolic victory in the war on bullshit, even if it gets kind of old after minute 10. (Which is, I think, part of the joke.)

The best part: "What inspire me, is teaching African refugees how to program Javascript. What inspires me is finding out how to use MagLev trains to get resources to the moon. These are the challenges that tomorrow's going to face."

And on it went:

“Guys, pat yourselves on the back right now, okay? I’m not gonna let you stop until I see everyone do it,” he began. “That pat on the back is for saving the world.” Hyde launched into a discursive presentation that touched on the “trash economy,” described a future in which gay men will develop the ability to procreate, and recounted his experience traveling to Africa with Elon Musk to give iPads to the impoverished:

“Now, we looked at the data, and what we found surprised us. What we found was that culture is a sewer. We’ve got lewd media, nasty bedroom things on TV. And they’re sexualizing young girls and it’s getting to the point where even I have a problem with it. And it shouldn’t be that way.”

. . .

“Great ideas come in all shapes and sizes,” Hyde said in his talk on Saturday. “9/11, September 11th. We’re gonna use some reverence here and not be silly about this, but look at what they accomplished with no weapons and just 11 guys who didn’t even speak English? And that proves that sometimes great ideas are actually horrible ideas.”

Fifteen minutes of this shite, delivered by a lunatic in a sweatsuit and a gladiator breastplate that looks like it was nicked from a college theater department discard pile. It is at once insufferable and hilarious.

So how did Sam Hyde get past the door? Apparently with a pitch perfect pitch to TEDx organizers so drenched in narcissistic bullshit that they couldn't tell the difference.

One wonders if the organizers of TEDx whiffed on vetting Hyde, which wouldn’t have taken more than a few minutes of Googling. [Dhairya] Pujara was not immediately available to comment afterward, but Hyde allegedly fed them a good story. Hyde said: “I told them I had just returned from Mogadishu where I was shooting war journalism following this group of women cleaning up the neighborhood, and by picking up trash, they had lowered crime rate. So it’s like broken window theory there, or whatever the fuck. A little Malcolm Gladwell. [They] wrote back and said, ‘Wow, that’s exciting. We got some real hard hitting stuff here.’”

I can't help noticing that he titled his talk with the phrase that should have made him an easy target for TED censors: "paradigm shift." But I guess as long as he wasn't talking about non-local consciousness or the correlation between nutrition and health, he could squeak by.

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