TED Backs Down: People Power Wins Against Censorship

Following popular outcry in response to TED’s censorship of recent TEDx talks by leading thinkers Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake – and against the accompanying slanders on their reputations – TED is forced to retract its position and put the talks back online in a “reserved” area of their site. By then, however, pirate copies already existed and from these, in an example of guerrilla action on the internet, hundreds of people independently uploaded the talk to their own Youtube channels.  Just one of these many Youtube channels indepently hosting the talk in defiance of TED is here.

This week saw a remarkable victory in the court of human justice with the public climb-down by internet media giant TED in light of their error in censoring last week, the challenging talks by leading thinkers Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake. The much loved TED brand has been called on its trustworthiness for the first time and forced to retract its position.

The videos of the talks by Hancock and Sheldrake, which went down a storm at a recent TEDx conference  in Whitechapel, London – ‘The War on Consciousness’ (Hancock) and ‘The Science Delusion’ (Sheldrake)  – were removed Thursday 14 March from the TEDx Youtube channel , with TED citing “factual and scientific errors”, none of which they were subsequently able to substantiate, sparking a public internet outrage.

Graham Hancock said on Facebook, following TED’s rebuttal:

“I want to put on record my immense appreciation and respect for the tremendous efforts made by so many members of my Facebook community to get this injustice righted, not only by their posts here but by their engagement on the TED website and the blog posts they have made there. I am touched and heartened, buoyed up and encouraged by this remarkable level of support and it is a sign of the times that our voice has been heard.

“TED continue to refuse to restore the talks to the original platform on which they appeared – the TEDx Youtube channel … I regard it as unfortunate in the extreme that all the conversations and comments that appeared there have been hidden along with the talks, and that those original links have been broken, and I will continue to press for the restitution of our talks to the TEDx Youtube channel separate from and in addition to the presence they now have on the TED blog pages.”

TED – the world renowned nonprofit organisation devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ which started out as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago – has hosted talks by many of the world’s most prestigious global thinkers, including Bill Gates, Richard Branson and  Al Gore.  TED talks have now garnered over 800 million views.  At a TED conference, presenters speak for 18 minutes and their talks are made available as free inspiration on TED.com.

TED’s ‘TEDx’ platform provides a way for individuals or groups to organise local events around the world and so it was that Hancock and Sheldrake came to talk at a one-day TEDx conference in London’s Whitechapel on 12th January, an event dedicated to “Challenging Existing Paradigms”, along with ten other leading pioneers of what has become widely known as ‘The New Consciousness’ movement.

Hancock’s talk, The War on Consciousness, drew on cutting-edge academic research to suggest that the emergence into fully-modern human consciousness, less than 100,000 years ago, was triggered by shamanism and visionary plants like ayahuasca. He criticised our society’s rejection of visionary and altered states, and criminalisation of hallucinogens like ayahuasca, saying he believed they could be a crucial catalyst for the further positive evolution of human behaviour.  By contrast, he highlighted our society’s alarmingly wide use of “anti-depressant” pills, “attention-deficit” pills, coffee, tea, alcohol and sugar to alter consciousness, around which industries are built, suggesting a society based on this consciousness was not working.

Hancock’s presentation concluded:  

“I stand here invoking the hard-won right of freedom of speech to call for and demand another right to be recognised and that is the right of adult sovereignty over consciousness. There’s a war on consciousness in our society, and if we as adults are not allowed to make sovereign decisions about what to experience with our own consciousness while doing no harm to others, including the decision to use responsibly ancient and sacred visionary plants, then we cannot claim to be free in any way and it’s useless for our society to go around the world imposing our form of democracy on others while we nourish this rot at the heart of society and we do not allow individual freedom over consciousness.”

The talk, along with Sheldrake’s, was duly posted on the TEDx Youtube channel on 13th February, where Hancock’s talk was viewed by more than 132,000 people (Sheldrake’s by more than 35,000) before TED removed them last Thursday, 14th March, following complaints made to the TED organisation by sceptic bloggers such as atheists Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers who proposed that the lectures were pseudoscience and were tarnishing the TED brand.  Under pressure from these bloggers and their readers, TED ultimately decided to pull the videos from their Youtube channel, citing complaints from their “Science Board” (the members of which still remain undisclosed).

TED’s decision provoked a furore of anger and protests against TED on social networks about censorship, in response to which TED created a special blog post on the TED site where the two presentations could be viewed (but no longer be externally embeddable on other websites). Responding to the criticism, TED staff claimed, “We’re not censoring the talks. Instead we’re placing them here, where they can be framed to highlight both their provocative ideas and the factual problems with their arguments.”

On Monday TED finally publicly retracted their actions, by crossing out their original misleading statements about Hancock and Sheldrake on the Blog Discussion page.  They also opened up a new page for further discussion.  On this page they honestly concede, that deluged with outraged messages, they:  “…felt compelled to accelerate our blog post and used language that in retrospect was clumsy. We suggested that we were flagging the talks because of ‘factual errors’ but some of the specific examples we gave were less than convincing. Instead of the thoughtful conversation we had hoped for, we stirred up angry responses from the speakers and their supporters.”

The flood of comments in response to TED’s latest action – both on the TED blog post and on Facebook – highlight the power of the internet and social media for lobbying with large powerful organisations.

A commentator on the TED Blog page said:

“And so TED now you see the power of the free market. Treat your supporters with contempt and watch as your support dries up and people vote with their feet. Beware the power of the internet and the boycott. Goodbye TED. TED= Tired Educational Doctrine.”

See also here:  http://www.c4chaos.com/2013/03/rupert-sheldrake-and-graham-hancock-ted-ideas-not-worth-spreading-a-fresh-take/

And here: http://celestial-reflections.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-ted-censorship-saga-continues.html

For background on this TED censorship scandal, visit Graham Hancock’s website

And author Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Author.GrahamHancock?fref=ts

STOP PRESS:

TED OPEN UP FURTHER PAGES ON TED.COM FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION OF THE CONTROVERSIAL PRESENTATIONS BY GRAHAM HANCOCK AND RUPERT SHELDRAKE:

http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/19/the-debate-about-graham-hancocks-talk/

http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/19/the-debate-about-rupert-sheldrakes-talk/

SEE HANCOCK’S RESPONSE ON FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/Author.GrahamHancock/posts/10151560463442354