Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)
How do I hate thee, Steve Jobs? Let me count the ways.
Yes, I know it’s his birthday – Jobs would have turned 60 today – and therefore churlish, but let me count them anyway. I’m four years too late to send him an exploding cake.
Most Jobs haters would start with the fact that he was a complete prick: he screwed over his business partners, fucked over his handful of friends, refused to acknowledge paternity of his first daughter and support her until forced, engaged in a felonious stock swindle because his sorry entitled ass hadn’t been feeling “special” lately, and made his employees feel both unappreciated at work and miserable at home for no reason other than Jobs’s own need to feel powerful and important. Apple products would have been just as successful – possibly more so – with half the mishegoss and none of the sociopathology.
A recent just-okay documentary and a hyperventilated feature (by Danny Boyle) portrayed these and Jobs’s other personal transgressions reasonably well, but none of that matters to me in the least. I didn’t work for Steve Jobs or know him personally, so his prickness is water cooler gossip – nothing more – and doesn’t make me “think different” about the products he supervised and marketed. Things that do matter (because they have impact beyond one businessman’s inner circle) include the following: an already rich Apple used virtual slave labor in China to make a rich Jobs and the company’s rich stockholders exponentially richer; Apple shipped countless other jobs overseas that could have stayed home, again to make the filthy rich filthier; Apple (and Jobs personally) used tax dodges and other morally indefensible behavior to make sure the United States government and its people enjoyed sparse benefit from this made-in-America company’s success.
Some of the the above, fairly standard Robber Baron stuff (worthy of a lesser Koch brother, Bill maybe) wouldn’t bother me as much if Jobs hadn’t pretended to be this real spiritual dude, an acid-dropping hippie dude, the Sad-Eyed Dylan of the Microchips. No, Steverino, you weren’t any of those things. You weren’t even an inventor, man. You were just Henry Ford in designer jeans. And, for a few years – the NEXT years, after the Board of Apple sent you into exile – you were Edsel Ford in Target-wear.
A lot of business guys – even narcissistic possible sociopaths such as Jobs – would settle for Henry Ford on a casual Friday with unimaginable wealth, but not the guy who used to pass out hand-written Dylan songs to potential girlfriends as if to say: “See, this is who I really am.” No, Steve, that is who Bob Dylan was and is and who you never could be. You were a little better at writing code than song lyrics, but not by much. And you don’t belong in a photo alongside important people of history – some of whom were geniuses – any more than whoever is currently president of McCann Erickson.
One of the worst things about Steve Jobs’s delusion that he was a creator, a visionary, a genius on a par with his Much Betters and More Importants was that he persuaded so many others … mostly young people … to share it. Thereby cheapening (possibly forever) the idea of what it means to be those things. And popularizing the notion that you can acquire them – and just about any quality, really – through the purchase of the right technology. You can download creativity. Sample vision. Remix yourself into a genius. At least for a moment. In your own mind. And on your screensaver.