VANCOUVER (CUP) — “Are you serious?”
That was my reaction when editors in the Ubyssey office started buzzing about how we had to make a last-minute change to the paper to pay tribute to Steve Jobs, the just-deceased multi-billionaire former CEO of one of the most profitable corporations in the world. Its only current competitors on the stock market are oil companies like Exxon Mobil.
We put it to a vote, and my side lost.
“You’re just being a contrarian!” one of our editors yelled at me. He went on to check Twitter on his iPhone, surf the web on one of the 10 Apple computers in the Ubyssey offices, and later watch a movie on the personal Mac he has in his bedroom. He’d shit in an iToilet, if it existed.
To be clear, I don’t have any special antipathy toward Jobs. I think Apple products are pretty cool, though I’ve never owned one — mostly because of the price tag. I recognize that Apple has revolutionized many aspects of computers and gadgets. I also think Apple products look neat and work well.
But whoopty-doo. The world is full of brilliant innovators, and though it’s fine to pay tribute to their lives when they pass on, it’s creepy and weird for a student newspaper to get all misty-eyed over a very aggressive and successful businessman. And, slowly, other publications are beginning to say the same. Gawker recently published an article called “What everyone is too polite to say about Steve Jobs.”
As Andrew Potter of the Vancouver Sun has sharply pointed out, Jobs was the most successful brand marketer of our generation. The progressive, creative class anti-conformist types go nuts for Apple, even though Apple is the most conformist tech company out there. If you have one Apple product, you better start buying them all, because no other product is going to work with it. Did I mention how expensive Apple products are?
Don’t bother asking about Jobs’ or Apple’s philanthropic contributions: they’re meager, despite a certain U2 frontman’s claims to the contrary. Apple’s use of patents against its competitors is a massive drain on open competition and innovation. Want to design an app for an Apple product? Only if Apple employees review and approve it. Does somebody suspect you have an Apple prototype phone in your house? Apple security guards may well show up at your door and raid the place, just as they did to a Gizmodo editor in April 2010. No, seriously — they will actually do that.
And again, I don’t single out Jobs for these things. He has done what you have to do in order to accumulate a net worth of $8.3 billion. But look at what people say about other enormously wealthy corporations and their CEOs. CNN once reported on a website where visitors could slam a pie into the face of a virtual Bill Gates to the musical accompaniment of the Nutcracker suite. If this isn’t a double standard, I don’t know what is.
Enough with the Apple fetishism. Stop fawning over Jobs as if he were some sort of revolutionary artist; he was a very smart and cunning businessman, possibly even a genius in that regard. Salute him for that, and then move on.
Oh, one last thing. I suppose some of you will accuse me of setting up and knocking down a straw man, so here’s a sampling of the comments I’ve seen on my Twitter and Facebook streams in the wake of Jobs’ death:
“i love my mac and each time i turn on my mac from now on i will think of the creator of Apple.”
“The future seemed less intimidating when Steve Jobs was around.”
“Imagine a Steve Jobs in the auto industry, in health care, in energy, even in government. We would have a different country.”
“I don’t know what to say yet, so I’m just going to wear a black turtleneck and jeans tomorrow.”
“Tonight I am ashamed to be a Windows user. Remember Steve Jobs and his civilizational contributions.”
“Look at your ipod, ipad, iphone, mac. Now imagine life without them. RIP Steve Jobs.”
“Our era’s Ford, Disney, Einstein.”
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