Sandbagged at TED
Colleges and universities are not the only ones grabbing the headlines. There is plenty amuck in non-academic arenas that claim to support the “civil deliberation of ideas but mostly provide safe spaces for progressives who have no interest in engaging viewpoints that dissent from their own,” exposes Jason L. Riley in the WSJ.
Take TED Talks, the organization that claims to support the civil deliberation of ideas but mostly provides safe spaces for progressives who have no interest in engaging viewpoints that dissent from their own. Mr. Riley first met Coleman Hughes in the late 2010s. At that time, Mr. Hughes was an undergrad philosophy major at Columbia,
Since then, his writings have been published in the Journal and the New York Times, among other outlets. (Hughes) has testified before Congress and participated in academic conferences in the U.S. and Europe. And he’s only 27.
Colorblindness a Dirty Word
Mr. Hughes was invited to give a talk about Colorblindness, which is also the title of his forthcoming book, continues Mr. Riley.
The talk’s theme, as he explained recently in a podcast interview with Glenn Loury, was that colorblindness shouldn’t be a “dirty word,” which it has become on the political left.
The concept (colorblindness) “was at the core of the antislavery movement, the core of the civil-rights movement, and was later abandoned,” Mr. Hughes said.
“We should reinvestigate the wisdom of it as a principle. The idea of colorblindness is that no one ever gets penalized for their racial identity. And there’s a logic to that for governing a racially diverse society in the long run.”
That’s common sense, continues Mr. Riley, “but we live in an age when common sense is not only uncommon, it’s controversial.”
- It’s controversial to argue that children fare better in two-parent families.
- It’s controversial to argue that someone who swam on the boys team last year shouldn’t be allowed to swim on the girls team this year.
- It’s controversial to condemn unequivocally Hamas’s massacre of unarmed Israeli civilians on Oct. 7.
- And yes, it’s controversial to argue that race-neutral policies are preferable to polices that promote racial favoritism.
Mr. Hughes received a call from Mr. Anderson the day after delivering his talk. It seems black employees at TED were upset by Hughes’s remarks. When Mr. Anderson asked Mr. Hughes to meet with them. Mr. Hughes agreed, but the employees backed out without an explanation.
Two weeks later, Mr. Hughes received an email from Mr. Anderson explaining that he was under pressure to not post the talk online. The email cited an unnamed social-scientist friend of Mr. Anderson, who said Mr. Hughes’s argument for colorblind public policies was “directly contradicted by an extensive body of rigorous research.”
The Pretense of Fact Checking
No wonder Mr. Hughes was confused. “I’m thinking, are they preparing the grounds to censor my talk using fact-checking as a pretense?”
Mr. Hughes said his talk had passed TED’s own fact-checking process: “Every word of a TED talk is fact-checked before it gets spoken. And you don’t deviate from the script at all. And I didn’t.”
Sandbagged at TED
Mr. Hughes accepted an invitation to participate in a “moderate conversation” (debate) with a columnist from the NYT. Both his talk and the debate with the “opponent of colorblindness” would be published online. Hughes’s talk was posted on the TED website on July 28, and the debate was posted two weeks later.
Still, Mr. Hughes believes TED didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Mr. Anderson “pleaded with me to adopt a strange release strategy in order to ‘amplify’ my talk––which I suspected was a bit of corporate spin doctoring at the time,” Mr. Hughes wrote in a Substack post recounting his ordeal. “Then, TED did the opposite of amplify my talk: they deliberately under-promoted and sandbagged it on their website.”
TED, Mr. Hughes concluded, claims a devotion to “ ‘reason, wonder and the pursuit of knowledge—without an agenda.’ “
“My experience suggests otherwise,” says Mr. Hughes.