Friday, 25 May 2012

New media, same old hegemony

TED, as you may know, is a purveyor of controversial, ground-breaking, free-thinking ideas promoted by the finest, most untrammelled minds of our times. They're delivered to very exclusive audiences of the mega-rich and powerful, then released over the web for those of us who move in less exalted circles. 
TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.
Our mission: Spreading ideas. 
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. 

Here's an interesting TED talk that - almost uniquely as far as I can tell - was not deemed an Idea Worth Spreading. In fact they declined to make the video available - only bootlegs are available. 

See the accompanying slides here. No. 8 is good: as millionaires' taxes plummet, unemployment rises - despite the plutocrats' claims that freedom from taxes creates jobs. No 10 demonstrates that while wages have dropped considerably, unemployment has risen - despite Tory Chancellor Lamont's claim that unemployment is 'a price worth paying'. Capitalists say that minimum wages prevent people being employed - but actually it inserts a floor which keeps a bit of cash in the economy. 

Why ever not? The format's right: a billionaire enthusiastically outlining his big idea for fixing the economy. Exactly the kind of thing TED usually likes. 

Not this time. Because Nick Hanauer is a RENEGADE! He's a billionaire who dared tell TED's sugar-daddies that billionaires don't create jobs. Even more devastatingly, he makes the simple (and to me very familiar argument) that high wages = healthy economy. But don't take my word for it. Henry Ford was a very rightwing and rapacious capitalist - but he realised that for American workers to afford his cars, they had to be paid well. Modern capitalism, as you'll all know because it's happening to all of us - operates on the basis of relentless cutting wages to inflate profit margins. Money that would have gone into wage packets and thence into the economy is diverted to a tiny group of managers and shareholders. 

It's really simple: a bit more money in millions of pockets helps the economy a lot more than a lot more money in a few pockets. Even Tory Simon Jenkins agrees: he says it may be time for 'helicopter money': time-limited vouchers sent to everyone in the country rather than pumping £325bn into the banks' coffers. I agree with him. I'd stipulate that it could only be spent on goods made at home, to stimulate manufacturing. I'd treat myself to a fine tailor-made suit, thus supporting apprentices and craft skills. Or a selection of the smelliest cheeses known to humanity, as long as none of them were made by Alex James who should be hung from the nearest lamp-post by the Cotswolds peasantry. 

They keep it offshore away from the tax man, or invest it in property: nothing that helps the economy. The idea is that if we don't cut wages ('brutally', to quote Google's disgusting CEO), jobs will go to China or elsewhere - states which are happy to essentially enslave their workers. That's how capitalism works: it encourages us to see fellow workers in other countries as competitors to be undercut in a race to the bottom. But the Chinese government doesn't agree. As export demand slumps, it's realising that domestic demand is the only thing which can fill the gap - and that requires decent wages. 

Clearly TED's mission is to think the unthinkable… until its sponsors' ideological hegemony is challenged. TED really is just a rich man's plaything with little to add other than tired old technodeterminism. A genuinely open debate welcomes controversy. A fake one shuts it down. This, friends, is a small example of what happens when hegemony is challenged. 

New tech, same old tyrants.

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