Through Eolake's Eyes - Coming Second to Steve Jobs
by , 12:30 PM EDT, October 11th, 2000
(The irony runs thick. Hardly have I published my statement about my Kind Eyes before I am required to write an article that makes me put on my unkind glasses.)
UpsideToday has published two articles about the new unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, by Alan Deutschman. The articles deal with supposed religious themes and a general overview of the book.
I think that the articles, and assumedly the book (which I have not read, and don't intend to), typify what the press and many journalists do best: the disguised attack.
It is something every person who becomes a celebrity has to suffer, and it is something that destroys the lives of many of those people. Some people are strong enough to get over it. For example, David Bowie was once asked in an interview if he had read the two books about him. He replied that it was not two, it was 24 (and this was back in the late eighties), and that he had stopped reading them after he realized that they typically were written by people who had not known him and were not as successful, and deeply resented that fact. I suspect something similar as the motivation for the author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.
The basic slant of the book is to liken Steve Jobs to a religious guru. This is of course an invisible but efficient attack, since people all over the world have an ingrained mistrust of any religion that is not the Politically Correct one (in the west, this is Christianity. In Asia, Hinduism, and in the Middle East, Islam.) So this automatically and instantly creates resentment and mistrust.
Quotes from the articles:
In his book, Deutschman makes a point of portraying Jobs, in his overbearing leadership roles at Apple, Next and his entertainment company Pixar (PIXR), as a charismatic thinker with qualities of a cult leader.
In one instance, Deutschman makes several parallels between Jobs' role as chief executive and Werner Erhard's leadership of the controversial Est movement in the 1970s.
"It is easy just as a joke to refer to Steve Jobs' companies as a cult, but in doing research for the book I actually found many similarities to actual cults such as Est [Erhard Seminars Training] and elements of the 1970s human potential movements," Deutschman says while being interviewed in a San Francisco cafe.
Like the technology movement, Est was born among a class of progressive thinkers living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Deutschman explains. The movement attracted well-educated, high-achieving people who he notes were nonetheless very emotionally insecure and neurotic.
So now Apple engineers, employees, managers, and customers are "very emotionally insecure and neurotic"? If that is what he means, it is clearly BS. If that is not what he means, why does he mention it at all? Just some careful positioning?
Comparison to Est
Erhard and his followers would spend marathon sessions locked away in windowless hotel rooms as the charismatic leader berated participants, verbally abused them and subjected them to both physical and emotional pain.
"It's not too many steps to look at Apple or Next or today's typical Internet startup as having that sort of similar situation," Deutschman says.
Right. I don't doubt that Steve can act like an asshole, but comparing it to being locked up and being treated to "both physical and emotional pain"? Gimme a break.
Deutschman also identifies religious overtones in Jobs' business and personal life. In his book, he calls Jobs the "unexpected savior" of Apple and compares his failure with the Next Cube computer as "the equivalent of Heaven's Gate: A gifted artist producing a horrendously costly flop."
Oh sure. Now a business failure makes you a religious savior? That will come as good news to many, many people.
Deutschman backs these claims up with real stories [...] the time he tried to make a deal with the Catholic archdiocese to take over an abandoned monastery to house his failed startup Next.
Oh, he wanted to use the building of an abandoned monastery? Lock up that man, fast!
Don't call it Waco yet
Study this headline well. I remember a female movie critic once commented on David Lynch's movie Blue Velvet, and the fact that Isabella Rossellini appeared in it nude. She said that "it is very brave of Ms. Rossellini to dare to show that her body is not as perfect as her face". Can you say "meow"? Similarly, the writer with the headline above accomplishes the neat trick of making the reader think that the reader himself was just about to compare Apple to the Waco cult, but the big-hearted, well-intentioned journalist calls for moderation!
I don't doubt that Steve Jobs has some big character flaws. Most of us have. But I would take out my own appendix with a sharpened spoon before I would trust the kind of writer who seeks to sponge of some of that fame he believes he deserves so richly himself but which unexplainably went to the likes of Steve Jobs, by writing books which under the guise of being "critical" are simply covert and cowardly attacks.
Eolake Stobblehouse is a contributing editor to the Mac Observer, specializing in cultural matters, and comes to us by way of MacCreator.