So while bopping around the Innertubes this weekend I somehow managed--through LORD knows what sort of vile traipsing; really, let’s not pull that thread--to wind up at a TED talk. Like many people, when TED talks first became popular I enjoyed a great many of them, but sheer volume has not been all that kind to the franchise. Sure, the REAL TED people are smart enough to put a little “x” to tell you it’s not REALLY a TED talk, but merely someone who borrowed the name for free, but the more things get diluted the less the quality and the more.... pretension? I’m going to say pretension.
So the TL;DR version of the above paragraph is, some talks with the word "TED" in them now really, truly suck. Which is one of those things I happened to stumble upon this weekend: a sucky TEDx talk. Some nobody, pretending to be An Authority, blathering on for a quarter hour about something, I suspect, they actually know very little about. Which does not stop the blathering and pretension, of course; you just have to make the presentation all that GRANDER. Part of the pretension, I've noticed, is to speak like David Carradine in the old KUNG FU television show, wherein speaking bumper sticker slogans slowly and carefully is mistaken for profundity. (Ah, we were a simpler people then. A simpler people who were not above cashing in on cultural appropriation. But I digress.)
This nobody was so particularly dreadful I bothered to check out their bio. I shouldn’t have. The very first phrase they used to describe themselves, apparently written in complete non-irony, was something I had not hitherto seen before: they called themselves a “thought leader”. First on the list, I swear.
My first instinct was, “okay, this sounds vaguely Orwellian”. My second thought was, “WHO ON EARTH WOULD ACTUALLY CALL THEMSELVES THAT?” Granted, I am the sort of person who feels kinda bad for those over the age of fifteen who not only apply but FREELY ADMIT to membership in MENSA--like that’s some sort of accomplishment that’s going on your gravestone--but “Thought Leader” has to be a new high for someone who already thinks very highly of themselves.
So I Googled the phrase. And sure enough, once you get beyond the misguided sort who led their own thoughts in a certain direction long enough to think it was a super-cool thing to be (and those currently cashing in on the apparent trend by salting their I-started-a-Twitter-account-therefore-I'm-an-important-social-media-consultant-please-oh-please-hire-me websites with the phrase (and, of course, post-mortally claiming people like Einstein were ALSO thought leaders so, ya know, they’re now buddies with Einstein (wow, how will even an obvious genius like Mojo keep track of these parenthetical statements?))), good ol’ never-wrong Wikipedia (unlike SOME people, I *DO* enjoy saying things ironically) reports “The phrase ‘thought leader’ is identified by some writers as an annoying example of business jargon, and appeared in Forbes magazine's 2013 annual ‘tournament’ of ‘corporate America’s most insufferable’ business buzzwords and clichés.”
My, that was quick. Granted, I am out of the loop for many, if not most, trends, but this one whooshed by like a fighter jet. Here I am looking at the chemtrails, idly thinking in my artless Mojo fashion, “huh, wonder what made them chemtrails?” when everyone else is done with the exciting air show, packed up their picnic lunches and are now home flopped on their couch watching, um, I dunno, maybe THE BACHELORETTE or something (people have been talking about it on Twitter so I am guessing THE BACHELORETTE is something big?), leaving me alone in a muddled wake yet again (and possibly being somehow mind-controlled by chemtrails).
One good thing that came out of this Googling, to bring this whole shebang full circle, is this TED talk parody that not only cashes in on Thought Leadership but also amusingly illustrates the argument I have nowadays with many TED-esque talks (and, unlike MOST YouTube videos, the comments section is an absolute hoot):
Humble head nod
Humble head nod
Walk off stage
Steal jokes from others,