‘During a Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-year-old Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after tackling another player. Medical personnel administered CPR on the field and restored his heartbeat, after which he was transferred to a nearby hospital, where he remains in critical condition.
As players and coaches of both teams gathered, some shedding tears and others circling in prayer, and fans expressed concern over Hamlin’s condition, figures on the far right immediately began spreading unproven claims that the COVID-19 vaccine was responsible for Hamlin’s collapse.
“This is a tragic and all too familiar sight right now: Athletes dropping suddenly,” said Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk on Twitter, referencing a conspiracy theory that has been spread by right-wing pundits and Republicans like Sen. Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) that COVID vaccines are causing athletes to die on the field.
Other far right figures — including conservative former candidates for political office, pundits and anti-vaccine figures — also joined in spreading the lies. “Prior to 2021, Athletes collapsing on the field was NOT a normal event. This is becoming an undeniable (and extremely concerning) pattern,” wrote far right activist Lauren Witzke, the failed Republican nominee for Senate in Delaware in 2020.
Platforms like Telegram were flooded with similar comments, with some accounts citing disgraced cardiologist Peter McCullough, who has falsely touted ivermectin as a cure for COVID-19, after McCullough said in an interview that the vaccine was related to Hamlin’s collapse….’
A thoughtful history of the rise and fall of the TED talk phenomenon, and why, by Melbourne-based writer and journalist Oscar Schwartz, himself a TED veteran.
It is common knowledge that, beginning in the early 2000’s, TED talks began to take on a particular rhetorical style codified by its entrepreneur owner Chris Anderson. In his book,
‘…Anderson insists anyone is capable of giving a TED-esque talk. You just need an interesting topic and then you need to attach that topic to an inspirational story. Robots are interesting. Using them to eat trash in Nairobi is inspiring. Put the two together, and you have a TED talk. ‘
Schwartz calls this fusion the “inspiresting,” finding it
‘earnest and contrived. It is smart but not quite intellectual, personal but not sincere, jokey but not funny. It is an aesthetic of populist elitism. Politically, the inspiresting performs a certain kind of progressivism, as it is concerned with making the world a better place, however vaguely.’
The problem is that, in Anderson’s view, all of this can be achieved without any serious transfers of power. Politics is dismissed as toxic “tribal thinking” destroying the world changing potential of the free movement of ideas. And TED was not the sole purveyor of the Inspiresting. As Swartz cited:
Suddenly, circa 2010, everyone was sharing TED talks and TED (a not-for-profit) revenues were exploding. Fortune and fame were made from TED talks and the book contracts and speaking engagements they precipitated. But, soon enough, quality control was compromised, not the least through the 2009 creation of the TEDx franchise allowing licensees to use the brand platform to stage independent events around the world. But it became increasingly clear that the ’emperor had no clothes.’ “Inspiresting” reasoning and rhetoric began to be pilloried by science bloggers and social critics. Evgeny Morozov wrote in The New Republic, “TED is no longer a responsible curator of ideas worth spreading. Instead it has become something ludicrous.” A long profile of Anderson in TheNew York Times Magazine called TED “the Starbucks of intellectual conglomerates.”
By 2013, Benjamin Bratton, a scientist giving a pitch for research funding before a donor, described — in a TED talk! — being dismissed because his complex presentation (not in the TED-publicized rhetorical style) was criticized by the recipient as “uninspiring”, “not enough like Malcolm Gladwell”. Bratton described TED’s influence on intellectual culture as “taking something with value and substance and coring it out so that it can be swallowed without chewing.” He opined, “this is not the solution to our most frightening problems. Rather this is one of our most frightening problems.”
TED became, some would say, little more than an ironic meme. For instance, you might post something banal in email, social media or your blog and close by saying, “Thank you for listening to my TED talk.”
The backlash against TED broadened to embrace the increasingly evident fact that the technocratic elite was just not playing a part in solving the world’s big problems. Twitter had failed to bring democracy to the Middle East. Social media were only free because our personal data was being mined and sold to advertisers. Obama was not the political savior many had hoped him to be, especially around the banking crisis. Upward mobility, social equality, and the utopian promises of technology were empty. TED talks continued, endlessly re-articulating Tech’s promise without any serious reflection, as if they could create the world out of nothing, with willpower and well-crafted oratory alone. Boldness of vision was not tempered by much if any recognition of realities, particularly political realities, and the TED philosophy became little more than a magnet for overblown ambition and narcissism.
And in the meantime Trump became the US president.
‘Yet the TED progeny continued to offer bold, tech-centric predictions with unfaltering confidence. And they have continued to do so.…
[A]s the most visible and influential public speaking platform of the first two decades of the twenty-first century, it has been deeply implicated in broadcasting and championing the Silicon Valley version of the future. TED is probably best understood as the propaganda arm of an ascendant technocracy.’
‘…[T]here is an argument, albeit one that would only comfort an economist, that today’s crises are both rarer and less severe than those of even the recent past. Consider the mid-1990s, a time that Americans tend to remember as one of global stability and optimism. If today were really a time of exceptional turmoil, then surely that world would look better in comparison?
In reality, the opposite is true. The mid-1990s saw genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia. Years of war in Europe amid Yugoslavia’s collapse. Devastating famines in Sudan, Somalia and North Korea. Civil wars in over a dozen countries. Crackdowns and coups too numerous to mention.Such events were in fact more common in the 1990s than today. Prior decades were, in most ways, even worse.
But you are unlikely to remember every decades-old disaster as vividly as you might be able to recount, say, a terror attack or political crisis from this week.And reductions in such crises have only reduced the world’s problems, not erased them. No one wants to cheer a famine that is less severe than it might have been in the past, especially not the families whom it puts at risk, and especially knowing that future conflicts or climate-related crises could always cause another.
Still, the feeling that the world is getting worse is not universal. In fact, it is mostly held by residents of rich countries like the United States. Survey after survey has found that a majority of people in low-income and middle-income countries like Kenya or Indonesia tend to express optimism about the future, for both themselves and their societies…’