Lefty bubble: Should TED Talks put a Brexiteer centre stage?

By Kitty Knowles 28 February 2017
TED Founder Chris Anderson at TEDGlobal 2013. Pic: CC/James Duncan Davidson

TED Talks have come under criticism for creating liberal echo chambers.

There’s no doubt that TED Talks are popular – together they’ve been viewed well over a billion times.

With speakers like the late great Hans Rosling, top boss Arianna Huffington, and thought leader Cindy Gallop, this is hardly a surprise.

But today, the platform faces new criticism from right-wing think tanks; criticism that’s been welcomed by TED founder Chris Anderson.

The question to ponder today is:

Are TED Talks as open-minded as you think?

A lefty bubble

We’ve told you about the danger of life in social media echo chambers – if the views we read are always those closest to our own, we never broach debate, learn and grow.

People have even developed apps to broaden your Facebook experience, to burst the bubble, as it were.

Now, as viewers, we should consider has TED fallen into a similar trap? It claims to be nonpartisan. It is “not a place for . . . one-sided arguments.”

But researchers including Theodore Bromund, of conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, and Robert Oulds, director of the Eurosceptic Bruges Group, do not think this holds up.

TED talks exist “to flatter the prejudices of their self-selecting audience”, Dr Bromund said. “If [Mr Anderson] hasn’t found a person who can effectively articulate the ideas that he opposes . . . this can only be because he hasn’t looked, isn’t interested in looking and doesn’t care.”

TED “needs to be open to the new ideas . . .  the ideas that are driving the most exciting political movement in a generation — Brexit,” said Oulds.

Criticism welcome

Anderson acknowledged the platform didn’t cater to the “valid” position of Brexiteers, but said he’s “yet to find” someone who could articulate their views powerfully enough to put on stage.

“I welcome the criticism. The fact is that we’re actively looking for speakers from all sides of the political landscape,” he said.

“It’s important the world doesn’t close down into mutually exclusive echo chambers.”

Do you think the accusations put a blemish on the TED brand’s blend of fact and entertainment?

Perhaps it’s rightfully just a matter of time until a Brexiteer broaches the TED stage.