WWW--The reaction to this has been--well--retarded, and that's being far too kind to most who organized and attended TED. As the story goes, Sarah Silverman was invited and paid to do her stand-up routine at the TED convention in the ugly town of Long Beach, California that took place from February 9-13.
Silverman's appearance seems to have been on the last day. Most Americans don't even know what the fuck this convention is or even care (I'm in their ranks), but they made the news with Silverman's routine and are smarting over it for some reason. They're also trying to misrepresent what happened and show a great case of being unable to think laterally or outside of the box. In other words, the public doesn't know or care about TED for most of the right reasons.
This is what TED is: a lot of bullshit propped-up by money and more bullshit to recruit and to not listen to people with ideas, misuse and misapply them, piss the originators of said ideas off, and then watch them quit in disgust a few months later like most employer-employee relationships in the happy old US of A. But hey, when you have a dumbshow of already ossified bourgeois mummies you have to at least go through the motions:
TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize. ... The annual conferences in Long Beach and Oxford bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). (Ted.com, "About" page)That's exactly what they got from Silverman, yet the organizer of the event, Chris Anderson, isn't exactly a genius, and that's why he's not showcased as a real thinker, slagged Silverman for her routine. This was the talk of Silverman's life and she felt very strongly to do what she did, think what you will. Did she take the TED engagement seriously? I believe so, this wasn't a "for the hell of it deal." You see...how soon we forget.
Silverman's repertoire and themes are always changing, just as they have with the great American stand-up comedians and social critics like Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Mort Sahl, and even Noam Chomsky (one of the most often-quoted intellectuals in Western history, yet apparently never invited to speak at TED in its 26 year history). For some reason, the onus is on Silverman for saying the word "retarded" at least ten times in her stand-up routine, and again, remember that she was invited, she didn't crash the event and run up onstage yelling the word without any logical context. That would be the job of another woman named Sarah, a goyische one, a WASP one. Besides, seeing things without any logical context--as we all know--is the job of CEOs, politicians and the public in these here United States. Context is everything, or nothing, if you find thinking painful.
But not more than two weeks ago we had a "controversy" about the word "retarded" and all of its many permutations (my favorite being "tard," mostly because it sounds funny and makes the person saying it look and sound funny), and it was trotted-out all over by a supplicant media and Internet by none other than failed VP candidate, Sarah Palin who has a child with Down syndrome. It should be mentioned here that most women approaching and past the age of forty years old are or should be informed by their personal physician or gynecologist that the risks of having a child with Down syndrome become considerably higher with a woman in this age range. But she had a child anyway, and drags the poor baby around the country while she's trying hard not to get elected. Never mind all this, it's just context, very inconvenient context, and it's all about that evil Sarah Silverman.
It gets better, and in case you've been in a coma, here's a little summary of the last couple weeks of political and cultural idiocy and general human folly:
The latest battle over the R-word kicked into high gear with a Jan. 26 Wall Street Journal report that last summer White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel blasted liberal activists unhappy with the pace of health-care reform, deriding their strategies as "[expletive] retarded." Palin, the mother of a special-needs child, quickly took to Facebook to demand Emanuel's firing, likening the offensiveness of the R-word to that of the N-word. Limbaugh seized the low ground, saying he found nothing wrong with "calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards," and Palin rushed to his defense, saying Limbaugh had used the word satirically. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert took her up on it, calling Palin an "[expletive] retard" and adding, with a smile: "You see? It's satire!" ("The case against banning the word 'retard'," The Washington Post, 02.14.2010)Yes, it's "satire," but only the elect (not elected, however) get to use the term, and in whatever context they feel they want to use it in. But not anyone else, and they'll use the word to suppress other words if they have their way. Players only, yo.
As a matter of fact, the herding instinct has already set in and very naive and pathetic people are taking pledges like it's go time at Masada. In that same Jewish tradition, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel fell on his sword, but probably not without a lot of prodding from his ostensible boss, the president, a man who seems intent on fucking-up and showing no vision or leadership skills unless he's left with no other alternatives. Hey, it's America.
But what did Silverman say exactly? This is where things get kind of sketchy since we're not seeing any footage with audio yet, but I would imagine we will eventually. Tech Crunch.com seems to have the most cogent version so far from a female attendee in the audience:
“I want to adopt a special needs child (to which one person applauded), because adopting a special needs child, who would do that? Only an awesome person, right?” I looked around the room and I knew exactly what was coming next. She was going to say retarded and not only was she going to say it, she was going to drop it like 10 times. I knew it wouldn’t be ok, but I was excited about it.
Words are powerful. They are mightier than the sword and all of that, but if you let them have too much power, you can create what I feel is evil. You create a society of people who are so concerned about what they say and what is PC and you destroy creative expression. ...She went on to say:
“The only problem with adopting a retarded child is that the retarded child, when you are 80 is well, still retarded and that she wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms of setting them free at age 18, so she was only going to adopt a retarded child with a terminal illness so it has an expiration date, because who would adopt a retarded child with a terminal illness? Well, someone who was awesome like her”.
The room went silent and she went on with her show and sang a song about how all of the penises in the world couldn’t fill your heart holes. ... ("TED Organizer Trashes Speaker [Silverman], Fails Social IQ Test, Tech Crunch.com, 02.14.2010)
According to the attendee, roughly half of the audience applauded, and out of those, half appeared to have "gotten" the real message. We're a slow culture, so bear with me, please, since the future hinges on it. Apparently they, and a few others in attendance, have a clue where Silverman and the nation have been and what actual stand-up looks and sounds like. It's no secret that she's a shock comedienne, she's even on Comedy Central with her own show, and has been around for over twenty years. It seems TED is as ignorant about Silverman as the public is about them.
Certainly the well-heeled puds that were populating some of the ranks of the audience that received her well-aimed cultural assault on the suppression of words had little idea of who she is and what kind of a comedienne she represents. Silverman is a social critic and a satirist. She is brave, and she's cut through the bullshit of our culture...if only we had eyes to see it and ears to hear it. At least some of us do. Sarah Silverman just did America a very big favor and she's a hero, you betcha!
"Is Sarah Silverman Retarded, posted 10.13.2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRegd02Qiew
"TED Organizer Trashes Speaker [Silverman], Fails Social IQ Test, Tech Crunch.com, 02.14.2010: http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/14/ted-organizer-trashes-speaker-fails-social-iq-test/
TED (not your uncle): http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/7