What do Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe, John Kennedy, and Steve Jobs have in common?
They all died before their time, and have been somewhat immortalized as a result.
Despite the fact that we know negative things about each of these people, they are on the whole regarded in a positive manner.
Because of this, any comparison of a living person against one of these people can get complicated, because the living schmuck cannot in any way compare to the dead revered one.
Which is part of what was going on in this Kara Swisher article that asked what would have happened if Steve Jobs had been around to witness the political triumph of Donald Trump. In essence, while Jeff Bezos and others are strangely silent as President Trump attacks their beliefs, Swisher argues that Jobs wouldn't have stood for Trumpism. Her opening to advance this occurs when an insider at a Washington eatery notes that the era of pirates is over.
Pirates - as in the people who hoisted a pirate flag over a small building at Apple's headquarters.
Where has that once-celebrated sentiment gone? Pirates. Break things. Disrupt. Resist. Win by being smarter and better. Believe in and embrace the future. Gone, it seems, with the election of one loud-mouthed politician, which makes me worry about what will inspire the next generation of innovators.
I'll get back to Swisher's question in a minute. But first, let's see what she said next.
It also makes me wonder how Jobs would react now to this Trump situation and what he would say in the face of an administration hostile to much of what Silicon Valley has stood for for so long.
Then, an admission that Jobs wasn't perfect - but he was no Trump:
I was lucky enough to interview Jobs many times over the course of my career, and it was entirely true he was deft at throwing up an epic reality distortion field, which was still in no way like the “alternative facts” that the Trump administration’s most deft Pinocchio, Kellyanne Conway, spews with an enthusiasm last seen in public when Joe Isuzu ruled the airwaves in the 1980s.
Then she provides an example of Jobs himself stating an alternative fact:
Look, Jobs did some sometimes dissemble, as do many in tech. He committed an epic whopper, for example, when he told me and Walt Mossberg onstage in 2005 that he was not likely to make a phone, even though he was working hard on the breakthrough iPhone he introduced in 2007.
Reality distortion, dissembling, an "epic whopper" - but no, Steve Jobs never uttered an alternative fact. As a beloved comedian used to say in a routine about Noah, "RIIIIIGHT."
But at this point the offended fanbois' necks are getting visibly red around their turtlenecks. "How can you compare Saint Steve to Trump?" they ask. "Look at the evidence! Trump, for all his bravado, is a complete failure at business! Steve Jobs was an unqualified business success!"
Um, not so fast. He was doing well at the beginning, and was doing well at the end, but there were some lean years during which he ended up leaving (or being forced out of) his own company, and then had to find a buyer for his new company that failed. That buyer, of course, was Apple, which was also infused by Microsoft money - a little tidbit that the fanbois sometimes don't get around to mentioning.
Oh, and one more thing...
Remember the question that Swisher asked about the pirate sentiment? Break things, disrupt, resist and all that?
While Swisher is bemoaning the fact that the pirate mentality is gone in the tech industry, you don't have to go far to find a remarkable example of a pirate in action.
Someone who was certainly disruptive, who did all sorts of things that you weren't supposed to do, who resisted (and continues to this day to resist) any attempt to conform to conventions. Someone who, despite being a pirate, triumphed in an industry where he wasn't supposed to triumph, over a competitor who was seemingly much, much smarter than he was.
If you haven't figured it out already, I'm talking about the "loud-mouthed politician" that Swisher hates - and frankly, who I don't really like myself.
But when you look at results, Donald Trump's electoral triumph is a "pirate" achievement comparable to the Macintosh, and the iPhone that Steve Jobs lied - yes, lied - about. Heck, Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway would be perfect flacks for Jobs - except that Jobs' huge ego wouldn't allow him to share the stage with anyone.
And before we talk about Trump's lapses in morality, what was the name of the product that came out before the Macintosh? And how much contact did daddy have with daughter during her first years?
We try to make pirates into beloved cuddly creatures, but pirates can be cut-throat and not nice at all. There are a bunch of victims of Donald Trump, just as there are a bunch of victims of Steve Jobs. The talent, or curse, of pirates is that they have the vision and temperament to look at a society and its rules and decide to do something better while breaking a number of rules along the way. For each pirate, we have to decide if piracy is worth it.
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