Jan 29, 2014

The Ruins of TED

A friend of mine posted a video lecture the other day by another casualty of TED's war on "pseudoscience." Above is the TEDx talk that was removed from TED's platform after its super secret science board had a go -- or perhaps it was just another Reddit feeding frenzy.

I'm not terribly surprised that they disappeared Jim Vieira's talk. It's on unacknowledged ancient monuments in New England and disputed reports of the skeletal remains of a race of giants. It's pretty outre stuff, slightly more so than the Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake talks that were deleted. Not so much more controversial that it should be treated so differently. And it was treated very differently.

I've searched the entire TED site and found no official reference to Jim Vieira or his talk. All I was able to turn up was the original announcement of that TEDx event, a complaint about the deletion, and a comment about it in the discussion thread about the Hancock and Sheldrake deletions.

During the fracas over Hancock's and Sheldrake's talks, we heard repeatedly from Chris Anderson and his various acolytes that it wasn't "censorship" and how dare anyone call it that. How could it be censorship when the videos had been reposted in an unembeddable format, padded with shaming text from TED, and offered with a time limited discussion to amuse the hoi polloi? As Anderson explained it to Hancock:

In informing us that they are about to delete our talks from the TEDx Youtube channel, TED also state in their letter: “The talks won’t simply disappear from the web. Instead, we propose to feature them in a new section of TED.com that allows for debate, in which talks are carefully framed to highlight both their provocative ideas and the problems with their arguments.”

Ooh, a "new section." But, of course, there was nothing new about it. The videos were posted on the site blog, which dates back to September of 2005. Next they moved the "debate" to TED Conversations where it was well and truly hidden. This message board isn't new either and it was definitely in existence when they deleted Vieira's talk. I know this because a member posted his query about its removal on TED Conversations.

This "naughty corner," as Sheldrake termed it, was invented for no purpose other than containing the damage of deleting authors whose following was every bit as prepared to attack TED's choices as the New Atheist scientism brigade that got the videos deleted.

I think the only thing that bothers me more than the censorious nature of TED -- its suppression of ideas that don't flatter the establishment or its well-heeled donors -- is Anderson's bald-faced bullshitting.

It's very obvious what happened. TED realized that Hancock wasn't going to back down and that he could bring the weight of a very energized fan base. Jim Vieira had, only a few short months before, accepted his deletion with a sense of resignation and clearly couldn't marshal the same kind of numbers in his defense.

Jim Vieira posted this on his Facebook after being notified of the deletion:

Censorship is alive and well. I have just been told that my TEDX talk will be taken down. At over 116,000 views it is the most watched TEDX video in the world in the last month. I imagine pressure from Anthropologists and Archaeologists led to the decision. the same professionals who have studied texts and scientific journals that have been censored of these giant skeleton reports. Alex Hrdlicka was named the Smithsonian's first curator of the Division of Physical Anthropology in 1910, before Hrdlicka's reign there were no denials of giant skeleton reports. Hrdlicka and associates purged further reports from the historical records but could not erase the thousands of accounts in the Smithsonian's own Ethnology reports, town histories, Scientific American, American Antiquarian, New York Times headlines etc... so he explained that those accounts were made by scientists not understanding human anatomy. Beyond that the fact that many of these accounts reported anatomic anomalies like double rows of teeth was never addressed. Hrdlicka believed no race existed in America before 4000 years ago and called Louis Leaky a heretic to his face. Hdrickla was a pre-Nazi eugenist who was quoted in the Science News letter V13 #353 1928 pg.21 as saying "the greatest danger before the American people today is the blending of the negro tenth of the population into the superior blood of the white race." In 1927 he endorsed a comparison of African babies with young apes. In 1937 he published findings in his American Journal of Physical Anthropology to "prove that the negro is phylogenetically a closer approach to primitive man than the white race." He viewed Native Americans and African Americans inferior to whites based on cranial measurement. Not one of my historical and documented quotes was cited as in error but nevertheless my video will be censored. I have a host of radio interviews in the next few weeks including Coast to Coast AM where I am sure this will be a hot topic. I urge others to pass this post along and contact TEDX to convey your disgust. I am working with the crew from GCTV to do an hour and a half video on this subject that won't be censored so stay tuned. Thanks for the support

Vieira never got the chance to directly challenge TED in its "new section." The video was deleted permanently, not reposted in any "naughty corner." The only place their reasons have been outlined is in this letter from the TEDx affiliate who'd invited him to speak. If you look at the comments, it got no response until the Hancock and Sheldrake fiasco. And then a number of their points were capably disputed by commenters. But open disputes are something TED would like to avoid because the next thing you know they have to cross out their entire argument with nothing to replace it.

It just shows what kind of contempt TED has for anyone outside of the establishment. They don't want to debate the ideas -- just ridicule, trivialize, and marginalize them. To debate them would assign them too much validity. But mostly, they can't debate them. Given every opportunity to have a real debate with Hancock and Sheldrake, they ran away. They didn't even politely and directly decline. They avoided and sidestepped.

It's very clear that when TED censors TEDx speakers, they prefer to do so quietly. Any public response from them is entirely reactive. If you're popular enough, they'll even invent whole "new sections" that are nothing but Potemkin villages propped up on sections that have existed as long as their website. And if you're as wealthy as Nick Hanauer and can afford a PR campaign, you can even shame them into posting the offending video on their main platform. But if you're a little guy, a stone mason armed with nothing but some very intriguing questions about obscured archaeological history, down the memory hole you go.

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