Stop Exploiting Steve Jobs

Stop Exploiting Steve Jobs

Apple founder Steve Jobs died more than seven months ago. All kinds of people are lining up to hijack his memory for their own purposes. It’s time to stop.

One way that people are doing this is digging up and publicizing “lost” tape.

For example, old Apple corporate videos, created to fire up sales people at conferences and meetings long forgotten, are suddenly appearing. One video shows Jobs portraying FDR rallying the troops against the menace of IBM. Another shows Jobs acting in a Ghostbusters-themed video.

And “lost” interviews with Jobs are popping up and being exploited. Magnolia Pictures is distributing a 70-minute “lost” interview with Jobs in movie theaters in 19 cities. Another interview, touted as lessons learned from Jobs’ so-called “wilderness years,” is also making the rounds.

Jobs’ comments on various things are being referenced in the service of banal punditry. His statements, for example, are being used to predict that Apple won’t ship a 7-inch iPad because Jobs said he hated the idea. (Yeah, right. He also said nobody reads anymore. That was just a few years before he launched a long-term initiative to take over the publishing industry.)

And Jobs’ career is used and abused to validate advice about management and product design.

One widely mis-represented quote by Jobs, who himself was paraphrasing Picasso, went something like this: “Good artists borrow; great artists steal.” (By “copying,” Jobs and Picasso meant going through the motions to ape something without fully understanding it. By “stealing,” they meant fully understanding and “living” an influence, and making it part of who you are as an artist.)

Another thing that happens to great artists is that the value of their work suddenly goes up when they die. And that’s what has happened to the trade in Steve Jobs-generated ideas and content.

As in the art world, Jobs’ untimely death has created a speculative bubble in all things Jobs. That’s the only reason this stuff is emerging.

None of this content was “lost.” The guy was a CEO. He did things that CEOs do. He made sales videos. He granted interviews with the press. All this was recorded. And it’s been sitting around ignored for years because it didn’t have any value.

When Steve Jobs died, some people sensed a shameless once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get money or attention from bringing these recordings out.

I have three problems with participation in the exploitation of Steve Jobs:

1. It’s out of context

Jobs tended to say things that were right for the moment, that were expedient and helpful to whatever his objectives were at the time.

Those goofy videos were meant for a specific and very small group of people for a very narrow purpose.

For the second half of his career, Jobs was very disciplined in what he said publicly, and why. Comments in an interview, now consumed posthumously as the man’s “beliefs,” were often narrowly constructed to promote developer acceptance of a platform or consumer acceptance of a product or to create FUD about a competitor.

If we want to learn something from and about Steve Jobs, we should learn about contextualizing communication.

2. It’s tasteless

The death of Steve Jobs was tragic. He was at the top of his game, the pinnacle of his life. For so many people to come out of the woodwork to exploit his name, and less than one year after his death, is tawdry and shameless.

If we want to learn something from the life of Steve Jobs, we should try to avoid bad taste.

3. It’s unfair 

Jobs was remarkable in part because he never stopped evolving. He always kept growing as a CEO, a technology visionary, a leader, a family man and a human being. To reach into the past and highlight and surface old content is unfair to the man he became.

Jobs was always an interesting person. But the very best Jobs was the final one, the person he became in the last years of his life. If we want to learn from Steve Jobs, let’s learn from the man he evolved to, not the man he evolved from.

Enough with the “lost” corporate videos, interviews and the shameless exploitation of Steve Jobs.

There’s so much to be learned from the life of Steve Jobs. But publishing out-of-context, tasteless and unfair material from the past is nothing more than a demonstration that we haven’t learned.

If we want to learn from and be more like Steve Jobs, let’s reinvent the future, not dwell on the past.

(Image painted by Richard Davies.)

  • VGISoftware

    Your last sentence is very true.

    Companies and individuals would indeed follow his example, not merely remain envious spectators.
  • VGISoftware

    That should be “should” not “would”.

  • Mark Dowding

    This isn’t new though, is it?  Its all part of the cult of celebrity.  How long before holographic Steve Jobs is launching Apple products?  Its naive to think this sort of exploitation won’t happen.

  • Jeff Briant

    people can’t help it.  someone well-known dies and everyone tries to cash-in because there is no-one to stop them.  it’s aweful.

  • TXCraig

    Was the post some kind of rant? There are icons like Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, they all went out on top… and that makes them legends. Steve will be nothing less.

    I enjoy seeing old videos of Steve in the 80’s and interviews of the past… what is the problem? I don’t think they tarnish his image, they help keep his status as an icon going. I hardly see it as an exploit.
    Your children’s children will lean about Jobs in school… and there is nothing wrong with that. If you don’t like seeing old interviews of Steve or him in internal sales videos – don’t watch them, but I think this blog is the wrong place to complain about it. 
  • rogifan

    And can we also stop with the Apple is doomed because Steve is no longer around? It’s very unfair to guys like Ive and Forstall. Steve wasn’t the only one at Apple with ideas or vision. We only hear about the times he forced a product to be changed because he didn’t like it. A the company memorial for Steve Jony Ive said sometimes Steve’s ideas were “truly dreadful”. Of course we don’t hear about them because they don’t fit the meme that Steve could do no wrong.

  • nerfsqueezer

    Totally agree with everything stated in this piece.  I find it disgusting and have avoided watching the “lost” videos as I have no interest in the narrow purpose, yet have much more interest in Jobs’ strategies “big picture”.  Thanks for saying what many will not.

  • adkmacman

    Sorry fans and foes … As with politicians, sports “Heros” or any other public persona with power or priviledge (such as a +zillionaire) … privacy in life and in death will always be a sacrifice. Even more so because of the personal electronic explosion that Apple and others have hoisted us upon!
    That’s right … Thus isn’t hoisted upon us, we were hoisted upon it!

  • Rubr1k

    I have a request! Make a coverage of hypocrites and why they should be banned from life, preferably kept in a straight jacket. Because as I recall it, you were the ones advertising that shitty t-shirt of yours, saying “Steve Jobs Would Have Worn Cult of Mac’s New Tee Under His Turtleneck”.

    But don’t take my word for it. After all, I’m just your average Mr. Complaining-reader-guy. I’m never satisfied with anything ever, am I? I feel like visiting this site has gotten more and more of something to put up with, rather than getting something out of it. This site is cluttered with bulky “Related links”, “Apps you might like”-features and even degrading the overall quality, of your usually high standard reportages, by publishing ads, or “promoted posts” what you probably would prefer calling it, where you advertise these awful t-shirts.

    So yeah, you can take your Steve Jobs defensiveness and shove it. Preferably in an archive of deleted news posts, if there was to be such a thing. Otherwise, the publishers bottom will do.

    Link related.
    http://www.cultofmac.com/156146/steve-jobs-would-have-worn-cult-of-macs-new-tee-under-his-turtleneck/

  • Dahlijo

    Thank you for a great article

  • Allan Cook

    Good luck with that.

  • Richard Oles

    Great article.  I  agree with 90% of your argument.  The understatement to all that you’ve outlined is the “tastelessness” of what is being done in Jobs name.  However, if I may, I would like to point out that your very first point was about “Context.”

    Yes, I agree that what is being used is out of context.  But, to simply accept a man because of who he was at the perceived apex of his life, and disregard the man he evolved from, is an incomplete experience of the whole person.  To totally ignore a history is to willfully impose a near-sighted understanding, and only allow that which is rosy to color our view of a thing (or someone).
    This always happens when someone dies; we find things out (post mortem) that are not always pleasant to accept.  They are magnified in proportion to celebrity status because the public eye is involved.
  • Baronet

    Should members of another famous cult, Christians, only talk about the last year of the life of Jesus or when he was at the top of his game, dying for our sins on a cross? No, They exploit the whole story, from conception to resurrection, going through the flings and tantrums just so we can better identify with him. And it’s a great story that keeps getting exploited. Dry your tears and move on with YOUR life. You can do all that he did and more if you believe in yourself.


      
  • NovaXpress
  • tscho5590

    Jobs was truly a great and a visionary.. You can’t knock a guy that built the most valuable company in the world.. Fuck the haters whatever he did or didn’t do he’s a genius and nothing will change that.. Look at the facts he was the trigger man.. I won’t be watching the “lost” videos I think they’re a bunch or crap that other people are trying to use to exploit him, but it must of worked at the time.. Jobs went HAM nobody can deny that.. And if they do we’ll say.. “Oh, well who do you know that built a more valuable company?”

  • benandarchie

    Just forget about the death of someone you’ve never met before and move on with your life. Thousands of people die every day and we dont spend months mourning for months for each one do we? Get some sense apple fans.

  • stevecelano

    I understand that you don’t like people exploiting Steve Jobs, but (almost) every time his name shows up in this post, it links to an ad…

  • razeditto

    This article is exactly right. All of those lunatics should read it, but they don’t mind because business is business. When he lived, all the time Apple did something a bit curious it was all over the place. Now he is Picasso (worshiped more after his death than during his life) and since products he helped to invent are still in hands of people such as Tim Cook and Jony Ive, who are both respectful enough to his name, nobody can sell golden iPads, or plastic figures of Jobs. But forgotten interviews? Sure! And why not to make a whole movie worth of cinema out of it? The way I see it, some things never change. 

    But at least before he died, he knew already that we all liked him :). 
  • Krazykrzysztof

    This article is so stupid because it’s people like yourself who are doing these things.

  • ApplePr0n

    I agree. It’s annoying how people are coming out of nowhere and pretending like they know some huge secret about him or Apple so they write a book. Turns out they were his gardeners assistant at one of the houses that his mother owned that she rented out to puerto ricans on vacation

  • SteveW25561

    This article itself could be seen as hypocritical.  Isn’t any new article written about Steve Jobs in some way exploiting him?  If anything, a contrarian article tends to drive traffic to a site — not unlike the Apple doomsayer analysts who say Apple is about to tank every time there’s a new earnings call.  Or sites posting rumors about the next Big Thing from Apple.

    The “lost videos” and “lost interviews” still provide more insights into a man who, by all accounts, will never be forgotten and reviled and revered.  The hokey promo videos also give a lighter edge to the Steve Jobs persona.

  • Jean Louis Ntakpe

    Great article!

    Thank you Mike
  • mr_bee

    Mike, mike, mike…  Aside from being hypocritical (as other have already mentioned), please take the time to go look up the word “exploit” and read that definition a few times over until you actually get it right.  

    Almost nothing you talk about here is “exploitation” and you have no basis for even assuming you know the various motivations of the people involved. Several of the things you mention seem more like “homage” than exploitation.  
    You might want to also keep in mind that a sentence does not make a paragraph (they are two different things), that sentences don’t begin with the word “and,” and that most sentences have a sort of subject-object-predicate kind of construction.  Again, look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about. 
  • mr_bee

    Mike, mike, mike…  Aside from being hypocritical (as other have already mentioned), please take the time to go look up the word “exploit” and read that definition a few times over until you actually get it right.  

    Almost nothing you talk about here is “exploitation” and you have no basis for even assuming you know the various motivations of the people involved. Several of the things you mention seem more like “homage” than exploitation.  
    You might want to also keep in mind that a sentence does not make a paragraph (they are two different things), that sentences don’t begin with the word “and,” and that most sentences have a sort of subject-object-predicate kind of construction.  Again, look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about. 
  • razeditto

    I hope that all who “disagreed” with comments that said to forget Steve already and move on understand what those comments mean: they mean that Steve Jobs was a great man. And I think this article means it too. But it also means that he should remain that great man, even in grave, resting in peace, and should not be “haunted” by paparazzi. This have nothing to do with Apple fans. 

    Seriously, how many of you think that the movie Sony is making is truly made to glorify this man? I do think that in the longer period of time it would be better if we could just “memorise” him, the grand man he was and not always try to find “the next big thing” he invented on his dead bed. I hope you get what I mean here.
  • Fabio Correa

    You just did it yourself.

  • ApplePr0n

    @rubr1ck. Ouch, that is ownage at its finest my friend

  • Claude La Roche

    Quotes are always out of context…  that’s the idea!  

    Jobs was very good at putting himself under the spotlight and using his own image.  He turns himself into a brand…  like Ronald McDonald.  So, if people use this brand for their purpose…  It’s a commercial issue, not a moral issue.  
    Jobs was brilliant and lucky.  He was also a struggling human being who had a very hard time understanding the basics of human relationships.  Certainly not someone worth emulating in this regard.  Turning him into an untouchable idol is ridiculous. 
    He died young…  That’s sad.  Sad and tragic doesn’t mean the same thing.  
  • Terra Evony

    Yet this P.O.S site continues to peddle its overpriced burlap sack with a Microsoft Word clip art of an old vintage computer and Times New Roman “In Love With Lisa” scrawled on its surface. Steve Jobs would have never worn that, he would have burned it just like how he wanted the abysmall Lisa to burn.

  • Terra Evony

    Or how about you fire that shit head Eljiah, eliminate him and 98% of the Jobs-splotation will end.

  • ronenmendez

    Although I find the way some of this “lost” content is being depicted, I must say I enjoy watching it and I don’t find it insulting to his memory. Just today, I watched the 90-min video of Steve on D8 and it was amazing and yesterday I was full of bliss remembering the old antics of Apple against IBM in the Ghost Busters parody and I hope to keep on seeing old interviews and videos that’ll, for me, keep his memory alive.

  • PJ Cabrera

    The best way you can fight this exploitation is by not linking to it. But a site with so many monetized “related” and “you might like” links, you’re bordering in hypocrisy. How about you stop exploiting your readers too?

  • kentsageek

    >>2. It’s tasteless

    As tasteless and shameless as that photo you posted of Jobs looking sick and frail two days after his resignation? Yeah, I still remember. Many apple-centric sites chose not to run that sad photo out of respect. You on the other hand…

  • erfon elijah

     “…you were the ones advertising that shitty t-shirt of yours, saying “Steve Jobs Would Have Worn Cult of Mac’s New Tee Under His Turtleneck”.

    Link related.
    http://www.cultofmac.com/156146/steve-jobs-would-have-worn-cult-of-macs-new-tee-under-his-turtleneck/

    I meant that title to be humorous  — everyone knows Steve Jobs went camo under that turtleneck.  Kidding aside, I never expected people to think I was actually implying Steve Jobs would wear our Lisa t-shirt, nor were we intending to profit off his death with that title.  I hold Steve Jobs in high regard, and the day he died I felt a deep personal loss.

  • erfon elijah

    Or how about you fire that shit head Eljiah, eliminate him and 98% of the Jobs-splotation will end.

    You know, once you get to know me, I’m actually not so bad.

  • RobertSantellan

    <i></i><i></i><i></i>I have a request! Make a coverage of hypocrites and why they should be banned from life, preferably kept in a straight jacket. Because as I recall it, you were the ones advertising that shitty t-shirt of yours, saying “Steve Jobs Would Have Worn Cult of Mac’s New Tee Under His Turtleneck”.

    But don’t take my word for it. After all, I’m just your average Mr. Complaining-reader-guy. I’m never satisfied with anything ever, am I? I feel like visiting this site has gotten more and more of something to put up with, rather than getting something out of it. This site is cluttered with bulky “Related links”, “Apps you might like”-features and even degrading the overall quality, of your usually high standard reportages, by publishing ads, or “promoted posts” what you probably would prefer calling it, where you advertise these awful t-shirts.

    So yeah, you can take your Steve Jobs defensiveness and shove it. Preferably in an archive of deleted news posts, if there was to be such a thing. Otherwise, the publishers bottom will do.

    Link related.
    http://www.cultofmac.com/156146/steve-jobs-would-have-worn-cult-of-macs-new-tee-under-his-turtleneck/

    It’s also worth nothing that several of the things mentioned above that they consider distasteful were posted here on Cult of Mac. LOL

  • RobertSantellan

    Should members of another famous cult, Christians, only talk about the last year of the life of Jesus or when he was at the top of his game, dying for our sins on a cross? No, They exploit the whole story, from conception to resurrection, going through the flings and tantrums just so we can better identify with him. And it’s a great story that keeps getting exploited. Dry your tears and move on with YOUR life. You can do all that he did and more if you believe in yourself.


      I think compare Steve Jobs to Jesus Christ is a bit much don’t you think?

About the author

Mike ElganMike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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