Morton Bast

editorial coordinator, TED


This conversation is closed.

Clean version of Sally Kohn's talk available on YouTube

In response to several requests, we've uploaded a profanity-free version of this talk to the TED YouTube channel:

We understand that our audience is very much of two minds when it comes to talks that contain profanity, so we wanted to make sure that everyone felt heard, and had access to this content in a form they were comfortable watching and sharing with friends and family.

And we'd love your feedback on this! How important to you is having a clean version of a talk? Is profanity helpful in making a point, or would you prefer to see it left out of TED Talks?

  • Dec 14 2013: I can only hope that you asked permission of the speaker, after all it's their words, their beliefs, their soul that was exposed in this talk. And to change a persons words, is to take away their meaning, irrespective if you like their content. It is akin to censorship, and akin to an interpretation that 'some' prefer. It reminds me of religious fundamentalism where people focus on what they want to believe, what they want to hear, not what the speaker or writer said. Even the side bar says 'contains profanity', rather like 'contains nudity' do you think who ever you believe the creator was is ashamed of nudity, as some would have you believe.

    All of that above, if you so choose you can ignore.

    But I don't see how one can ignore that the profanity in the talk actually came from a zealot that hated her. You see the profanity, and hate belongs to them. Further by not showing/hearing that in the un-edited version, you really miss the point of the talk 'emotional correctness' as your editing out the very emotion (hate) that the writer has for her, and how she is asking people to overcome it.
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      Dec 14 2013: I fully agree Steven, but to get TED staff to listen, don't call it "censorship", call it "content curation" or I'm afraid that your criticism will fall on deaf ears.

      " really miss the point of the talk..."

      This is something that I often feel that TED does, doesn't seem like the staff is watching and hearing the Talks like we users do...

      It's like when Chris Talked about "let the light in" and just yesterday I was told by Morton that "We're not able to reveal everything about our process"... which is to say the least...
      • Dec 15 2013: Jimmy, they can call it "content curation" - I call it a rose by any other name.

        But the name,does not matter, what everyone really should care about is...

        The stupidity to censor something when you don't even understand what the content is about - there have been many people in history, who have banned or burned books, censored on bias, who have not taught our children well - based solely on their own prejudiced and ignorance.

        Strange I thought we were in the 21st century - some unfortunately are still in the Dark ages, I can only hope that one day they'll like the peoples in history will get to "The enlightenment".

        Until that day happens, we all have to protest this, in what ever way we see fit, and help them to get to that enlightenment ... we cannot idly stand by as Churchill once said, 'for evil to prosper, good men need do nothing'

        And Jimmy, how does being a Ted Translator effect things?
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          Dec 15 2013: "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose" - Gertrude Stein

          I agree.

          Actually, what you call it matters to TED, there's at least one staff member who feels very strongly about this distinction and will go to that instead of what's followed by the word censorship.
          Scroll down to the second comment by "Airreck" and you'll understand why I say this.

          I agree on everything you say.

          For me it doesn't affect anything, I'm a very inactive translator. I tried to check the transcripts for the languages that the Talk has but I'm not good enough in any language to see if there's been any affect.

          I for one would not translate this because of what I've learned or if I did I'd probably use the really "profane" translations for the words that have been censored.

          Edit: dammit, I mean curated!
      • Dec 16 2013: A rose by any other name - From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

        Benefits of a classical education ... lol
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    Dec 16 2013: what is the exact opposite of important?
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      Dec 16 2013: It seems to be "unimportant", here are some synonyms according to Google if you'd like to choose one of those.

      insignificant, inconsequential, trivial, minor, slight, trifling, of little/no importance, of little/no consequence, of no account, of no moment, non-essential, immaterial, irrelevant, peripheral, extraneous, not worth mentioning, not worth speaking of, petty, paltry, insubstantial, light, inconsiderable, superficial, inferior, worthless, nugatory, pointless, frivolous...
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        Dec 16 2013: none of these words are powerful enough to illustrate how much i pity those that got offended by said "profanities". i certainly envy some people's problems.

        thanks anyway :)
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          Dec 17 2013: Haha...

          I too pity those who where offended, imagine living in this word and being offended by such things... That must be a hard life to live, angry all day every day.
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    Dec 13 2013: There are reasons why strong language exist, it's to convey emotion to statements.
    And since this Talk is on emotional correctness, I think that TED made a big blunder here.

    Have you ever heard of the "No-cussing club"? It's founder is self proclaimed as the most hated person on the internet.

    I'm having an (somewhat) in-depth conversation about TED curation with a TED employee and this is definitely a case where TED curation has gone way too far.

    Have you asked Sally about her opinion about this?

    And OMG you're a woman Morton! I always thought you a man... This changes nothing :-P

    Edit: I just realized that "TED" in this case might be you Morton... if so, I think you made a mistake in curating away the "profanity".
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    Dec 12 2013: I don't think profanity typically provides a direct benefit to the listener, but it may be important to the speaker if it is part of that person's fluent speech. If a person must change drastically his natural way of speaking, he may not convey his ideas as well.

    I have not been bothered by the level of profanity in any TED talk, but I think materials on the TED-Ed section of the site should be profanity-free. I think that your action is reasonable of cleaning up a talk you realize after the fact has great classroom potential.
    • Dec 14 2013: Well put Fritzie, I found your statement fair and level minded , thank you for putting into words your thoughts it saved me the trouble of unscrambling my mind to come up with the same results. Peace
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      Dec 14 2013: Materials for TED-ed should be remade and accustomed for that audience, however this Talk is not a part of TED-ed and should not be modified to it before it reaches that point. And I think that if TED-ed wishes to "clean it up" that is a question for Logan Smalley.

      TED-ed is irrelevant to this case of content curation.
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    Dec 16 2013: What was dirty about it?
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      Dec 16 2013: Well, from what I've been able to assess they edited out the word "cunt" at 1:18 in the original, see how the camera switches?... Now that's only assuming that the "original" hasn't also been edited after this...
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        Dec 16 2013: haaaa, you used profanity, you'll be cleaned up as well !!
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          Dec 17 2013: If that happens Morton will have to have a lengthy debate with me since I only quoted a part of the TED Transcript for the Talk...

          Here's what that part of the transcript says.

          "And that's just on air. The hate mail I get is unbelievable. Last week alone, I got 238 pieces of nasty email and more hate tweets than I can even count. I was called an idiot, a traitor, a scourge, a cunt, and an ugly man, and that was just in one email. (Laughter)"

          And TED writes the transcripts in English, no translator can be blamed.

          I, come, prepared!
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        Dec 18 2013: The Scottish use that word as an insult between males as do the Italians and South Americans consider using any profane word used to describe ones mother as a grave insult, again, just between males.

        Now if the emailler used the word "%ock" it would've raised her eyebrows in confusion, since she was called a %unt would she be just as insulted as a male might be if he was called this?
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    Dec 14 2013: Morton, Having worked in government, law enforcement, and prisons .. Most people use cussing as a tool for intimidation, bluster, and to "cow" you into their way of thought.

    Education should provide you with the tools to communicate without the use of cuss words. When you do not have the mentality to cope with the situation and must resort to verbal violence it destroys your argument and shows a weakness in you that requires attempts to intimidate.

    I do not like when people cuss in their replies or when speakers cuss to make a point ... it is unnecessary.

    As a secondary input .... TED is a open forum and the web does not limit access to only those of XX age.

    I would suggest that TED maintain a professional image that is acceptable to all ...

    This could also fall under the Terms of Use that TED has provided .... cussing could fall in three areas ...

    Thank you. Bob.
    • Dec 15 2013: Dear Bob,

      swearing is most often used for two things:
      1) to show hatred.
      2) as a course of in-action, how many people, who would normally fight, just swear at each other instead. Look at cats screaming at each other, they do this so they DONT fight. Humans do the same thing.

      But realistically your missing the point of the swearing that the speaker does... I repost that perspective here...

      But I don't see how one can ignore that the profanity in the talk actually came from a zealot that hated her. You see the profanity, and hate belongs to them. Further by not showing/hearing that in the un-edited version, you really miss the point of the talk 'emotional correctness' as your editing out the very emotion (hate) that the writer has for her, and how she is asking people to overcome it.
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        Dec 15 2013: The question is "would you like to have a clean version"?

        Your perception and mine differ .... and that is all good.

        She starts off by declaring herself as a lesbian talking head and that many people hate her .... that made the point. If you dwell on that and express how much people hate you it becomes "poor me" and I lose interest.

        In my environment Law enforcement and prison work ... when people start cussing each other the fight is on .... we have different perspectives. In prison if some one calls you names and you do nothing about it you are a punk .... that ain't good. On the street if you are called out and do nothing about it ... life will become very difficult for you and your family. Facts.

        But back to the issue .... I prefer the no - cuss version. My choice.

        Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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          Dec 15 2013: The part that was edited out was the part where the TED audience laughed the hardest... Clearly it wasn't offensive to those attending.

          And we're not in prison Bob...
        • Dec 16 2013: I'm afraid that your experience in law enforcement and prison work may have colored you opinion, i know that a friend of mine, who i too disagree with, who also works in law enforcement, believes the same.

          My comments are not designed to change your mind Bob, far from it, I recognize that your entitled to your option - what ever that maybe.

          But I certainly can correct you in the last part .. "on the street".... there are other ways to handle 'being called out on the street', i have many a time, and in every circumstance, have been able to diffuse the situation, there was no fight, there was no violence, and due to my understanding of the person, their intellect their motivations, myself and family were in no danger at any time ever. And that Bob, that was in Nigeria, where let me tell you, life is not worth a plugged nickel, in fact people will kill you for a nickel. Same for Uganda, Chad too. And in Fact the same situations have arisen in NY, San Francisco, Miami, and many other locations. I'm still here, and still uninjured. That's a fact too :)
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    Dec 14 2013: I sure hope that you don't delete this conversation since TED is getting so much criticism for this.
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      Dec 15 2013: Reply to "We are not in prison Bob". Steven Why and I were discussing why's of cussing .... which is relevant ... we discussed our separate perspectives and gave examples.

      But if you had read both replies you would have already known this. We also returned to the question which I expressed my opinion of ... would rather not have cussing.

      • Comment deleted

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    Dec 13 2013: Sally didn't use profanity on her own but only repeated terms used in mails she got.
    I have no problem with that and think "cleaning up" the talk will also remove some of the points she was making.
    But then, as Greg already said, there shouldn't be a general rule and a decision should be made on a case by case basis.
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    Dec 12 2013: can't make a general rule, whatever serves the talk best