TED is one of those Internet phenomenon that makes me glad I’m still alive to see this kind of thing. Some of the most interesting ideas and talks have emerged from this forum.
But, the controversy surrounding them today and particularly Chris Anderson, TED’s leader (and not the same person as the editor of Wired and author of Long Tail–at least not according to wikipedia) shows what today’s social discourse and media/social media environment is like.
They opted not to post a talk about inequality that was clearly very partisan. Even though the audience and orientation of TED seems a little leftish, when they opted not to air this one based on its partisanship, they got hammered. They were threatened by the PR firm the author hired that if they didn’t post they’d get blamed as being a tool of the Republican party. Sure enough, National Journal took the bait and TED got hammered by the lefties.
So, in this post explaining what happen, Anderson nicely gives the background, and then finally at the end explains why they are now publishing. Oops. Hammered again, this time from the right.
This is similar in many respects to the Komen Foundation issues, in that when something touches on political hot buttons, you are in a no-win situation. Someone is going to get ticked off and try to start a firestorm. The digital lynchmob is waiting, surrounded by dry tinder. That’s the environment we live and try to build and protect brands in. You’re right, I don’t like it much and wish it would change. But, that’s the world and learning how to maneuver in it, how to build companies, do our jobs and survive the brickbats and outrage, that is the challenge. It doesn’t seem to be getting easier.