TED conference censorship row
Paul Bignell is an Assistant News Editor at The Independent. He has previously been the acting News Editor of the i Paper, a home news reporter for The Independent for one year and a reporter for the Independent on Sunday for six years.
Sunday 07 April 2013
With over 500 million YouTube views, TED Talks have attracted guest speakers such as Bill Gates, Richard Dawkins and Julian Assange and in the process, made conferences cool again.
But in recent weeks TED Talks – with their mantra - ‘ideas worth sharing’ - have been accused of censorship after two British speakers had their talks removed from TED’s official website.
The row involves two British speakers, the journalist and author Graham Hancock and Cambridge and Harvard University lecturer Rupert Sheldrake. Both speakers have been deemed as ‘provocative’ amid accusations of ‘pseudoscience’ at lectures they gave at a TEDx talk – a franchised spin-off of the main TED Talk brand. Hancock describes a ‘war on consciousness’ that prevents the world from gaining a higher state of awareness through shamanic principles and psychoactives like the South American potion, ayahuasca.
Rupert Sheldrake, a biochemist gave a speech which was loosely based on his book, The Science Delusion in which he refutes enduring dogmas which he claims are holding back legitimate scientific enquiry.
Both speakers who spoke at the TEDx conference in east London last month had their speeches pulled from its YouTube channel. After complaints from Sheldrake and Hancock and many TED viewers, their videos were reinstalled, but not on the main website – ‘in the naughty corner’ as Mr Hancock described it.
Hancock and Sheldrake have also called for the anonymous science board which advises TED on the legitimacy of speakers, to be revealed –something which TED is refusing to do, citing they are unpaid volunteers.
At the talks, speakers are given 18 minutes to present their ideas, which range from a mixture of science and culture through to storytelling.
But in recent months, a series of controversies dogged the not-for-profit organisation and whose acronym stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, leading many to question the integrity of the organisation which charges audiences several thousands of pounds to watch a speech, yet pays its speakers nothing. In 2009, TED decided to license its brand allowing anyone, around the world to stage ‘TEDx’ events.
Last week in California, officials withdrew the license awarded to organisers of TEDx West Hollywood. Organisers said the conference theme who were talking about the reality of ESP, was “pseudoscience”.
Graham Hancock, said: “I think it comes down to the management of popular culture, rather than leaving people to make up their own minds.
“I think the dilemma that TED found themselves in, was as a corporate brand they didn’t want to be associated with these talks which they had put out on their TEDx YouTube channel. But then when they find it doesn’t fit their corporate brand, they reserve the right to take them down again,” he said.
In a statement, TED said: “The reason people are upset is because they think there has been censorship. But it’s simply not true. Both talks are up on our website. If you Google them you will find them immediately. Both have attracted significant views and numerous comments. This whole flap stems from an initial alert put out by one of the speakers that he thought he might be about to be censored. And when you shout censorship on the Internet, it’s like shouting fire in a cinema. It causes chaos regardless of whether it’s true. In this case it was a misunderstanding on his part. We had made clear from the start that these talks were not being removed from the web.”
Life & Style blogs
Apple expands reuse and recycle scheme, letting Android phones be swapped for iPhones
Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
When did the Eiffel Tower open to the public? Six things you didn't know about iconic structure
Pacman Google Maps: company offers chance to play classic arcade game on real streets
Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
- 1 Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
- 2 Britain First 'acting like Ukip henchmen' by invading meeting of activists in revenge for pub protest against Nigel Farage
- 3 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 4 Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
- 5 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...
£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...
£58000 - £65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA - Bromley, South East London...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager ...