Steve Jobs: Beyond the Personality Cult

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The press (and even public) reaction to the death of Steve Jobs was out of proportion. Even in the Arabic press (including Al-Akhbar), coverage of his death was way out of proportion, and it was extremely laudatory. The right-wing Daily Telegraph was one of the few papers that carried a critical passage about him.

People started linking the invention of Apple products to the genius of Steve Jobs. But Jobs’ success was the success of savage capitalism and the standards of unfair and unethical competition, which is the hallmark of the US capitalist system. People are talking about Jobs as if they owe him gratitude for the production of Apple products, when it is obvious that the man never invented a single product. He promoted what he did not invent. Jobs was good at what he does, though: showmanship, PR, marketing, and the pursuit of dubious techniques and methods to crush the competition.

People are talking about Jobs as if he changed our lives. And the coverage of his death ignored his business and management style: which was based on arrogance, abuse of workers, and disregard of ethical responsibilities by corporations, and the obsession with the profit motive. The acclaim surrounding the personality of Jobs was partly due to the personality cult that he helped develop. This is a person who flaunted basic rules of courtesy: he defiantly parked his car in the Handicapped spot of his company. But capitalism needs heroes to spread its opium among the people. Steve Jobs did not even engage in the token charitable work that his colleagues did, largely for show (and for tax deductions). His motive was competition. In the popular lore, Steve Jobs invented all those cool products (and he designed them for the rich, and not for the average person, in the US and elsewhere). Jobs did not have the public good on his agenda: he knew how to spot a technological trend or a unique innovation and market it.

And it was sad to see how some Syrians (and the US embassy in Damascus—which is working overtime to produce propaganda nuggets these days) are trying to claim Steve Jobs as a Syrian. His Syrian father abandoned him as a child and Steve never showed interest in his father at all. He never expressed interest in Syria or in the Arab world. This may point to a sad unfortunate influence of Lebanese culture, where pride is derived from people who are real or factitious Lebanese—let us remember that LBC TV celebrated the Greek-American director, Elia Kazan, as a Lebanese - regardless of whether they considered themselves Lebanese or not. Jobs had no connection to things Syrian or Arabs ever in his life.

America’s dream is a work of propaganda, very much like Plato’s Myth of the Metals in the Republic. It is used for consent and hegemony. Such is the nature of capitalism: it wants to give people false hope lest they rebel. The cases of exceptional success—defined purely financially—are used to tranquilize the masses and to promote the myth of equal opportunity, when in realiy it does not exist. It is unfortunate that even the Arab press (the non-Saudi Arab press, I should say) fell for it.


Steve Jobs knew how to take an idea and turn it into something cool that everybody wants. He had great vision into what people wanted, even before they knew they wanted it. That is what made him a unique person.

I did never thought about this. Really apple is making noise about Steve Jobs death to get benefited. Thanks for sharing this post...this helped me in learning a lot of things...

"He promoted what he did not invent. Jobs was good at what he does, though: showmanship, PR, marketing, and the pursuit of dubious techniques and methods to crush the competition."

Sounds to me like the typical definition of a Lebanese.

Writing with anger would be fine, but relying solely on jealousy and ignorance of the subject makes a rotten basis for it, as the above effort demonstrates.

Stick to what you know, As'ad, like pimping video of Ghadaffi being sodomized ... while boasting about being a 'feminist' and condemning the double-standards of others.

Sincerely etc., UNF

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates actually did change the world. Their personal antipathy and competition accelerated the speed of innovation. They were not millionaires (billionaires) 30 years ago.

If this is written for the sake of gaining the credit of having different point of view or causing lots of noise just like any other mass media stream, then fine. However, if the author or readers would think of this as true, then we need to set most of the content straight.
1- Being able to promote useful ideas is not an easy "job" and humanity lost many good opportunities because of the lack of ability to market or sell them.
2- You do not have to be a genius to be successful, and vice verse. It is all about hard work, and doing what you are good at.
3- Success can have multiple measures but financial impact is a measure that is not to be overlooked whatever the criteria is, regardless of nationality or religion
4- USA is the current world leader, so their capitalism system must have more positives than other systems and less negatives than other systems. Nothing is perfect, it is just the best among others, for now.
5- Stanford speech is better than many Friday speeches I heard.
6- I like the guy and I can not think of the world today without him doing what he did.

Dear Asaa'd,
your contributions are really causing lot of damage. there are ethical red lines that you are crossing/ one which are your articles about dead people. it might be a smart move as they can not respond. the Real Arab thinkers and intellects who are doing the genuine change are regarding you as a burden, and even think you are a part of the Conspiracy theory for devaluating their impact. take a break, you need a serious self evaluation.

The cult of capitalists, be it Ford or Jobs is a key part of USA capitalist ideology. It is another side of a disregard of workers and, generally, non-millionaires, esp. non-whites.

"successful"=1 000 000. A great artist or scientist, a great revolutionary is NOT successful without 1 000 000. Was Walt Whitmen successful? Was ML King?

Asad Abu Khalil never wrote beyond the cult of "Wadi Hadad and George Habash"!!!

Well said by everybody on teh prose & cones of the death of that "syrian" or whatever you want to claim his origin. But waht I see in this is a sad part that the ethics of his father (Abdul Fattah Jandali) who migrated to the US in pursue of his "Higher Studies", I see a disasterous result in the religious and cultural heritage to get to know a "Girl friend" and without the bond of marriage they end up getting a child. at teh urging request of the mother's father (A German) they have to give the child up for adoption. I see in this a seed of deterioration of ethics, of religious principles, degrading human ethics and human values. Look at the same son who followed his father's footsteps in getting also children out of the marriage bonds. I see this as an act of "non-humans". The sufferings and the agony of Steve's father in regretting his act and regretting the fact that he orginally did what he did, the the extent of only hoping to sit down with his son for a cup of coffee at least. Yet his son refused to answer his father for that wish. I see no human values in someone who builds a family on no ground. regardless of the millions and billions you make in fortune you still lack the values of human degnity.
R. Hakim

As'ad, you're missing a couple of things:

First, citing the Torygraph (as you did on AANS) is always an error, and this is no exception. For instance, among the boilerplate rhetoric, they attempt a factual claim: "He had little interest in the intricacies of circuit board design and persuaded his 16-year old friend, Steve Wozniak, to do the job for him, offering to split any bonus fifty-fifty." That would have made Steve Jobs 11 years old at the time. Also, that a Tory paper would write a hit-piece as an obit for a Republican target is not exactly news.

Second you missed that that's a symptom. The same people praising him, except the really die-hard far-righters like the Telegraph, are the ones who actually looked down on Jobs and Apple in life. One reason for that was that Jobs always supported Democrats while alive, and was a friend of Al Gore who convinced him to join the Apple board and tried to draft him to run for president in both 2004 and 2008. That ties him in with global warming science, which is a big GOP target.

Conversely, some fans in-life are now persuaded to pretend Apple was somehow atypically egregious as a big tech business. The way Apple is singled out right now for practices that are basically typical of the industry reflects a right-wing smear campaign that has been ongoing for years. as well as mirroring the excessive credit Apple and Jobs get for things that are often just part of the technology landscape, as your AANS-cited Daily Struggle article correctly observes.

Finally, it'd probably be good for you, personally, to acknowledge the factor of idiosyncratically liking a company or not - for one good instance, you defend a reactionary business - Whole Foods - whose owner claims antiscientifically that people don't need health care, among other things, but just to shop at Whole Foods. In fact, you kind of mock people who tell you it's a bad business. Just saying.

you always see things for what they are. I admire you for this ability.

I knew I could count on Abukhalil to take issue with the reaction to Steve Jobs' death. Americans must not think highly of their successful citizens! He sees it as his special role to debunk any pride whatsoever in our cultural or historical icons. They must be perfect and reflect the correct ideology to be considered worthy.
None of what he states about the other side of Jobs is new information. All of the foibles and limitations of Steve Jobs as a man and as a boss have been covered in the press. It's just that most of us wait a bit after a death, before we take the knives out.

The authorized biography by Issacson is said to be brutally frank...and Jobs knew it, and did not try to prevent its publication, but sat for numerous interviews. That will be coming out within weeks, so the real Steve Jobs is hardly being hidden from the public.

I won't even waste my time commenting on AbuKhalil's complete misunderstanding of what constituted the American Dream.

On a finer note:
Cherokee Artist Roy Boney Jr. Reflects on Steve Jobs


What complete nonsense! If you do not have a clue about how Apple products were designed and created, then do not write about Steve Jobs. This is possibly the most ignorant, and the most pointless and irrelevant, piece I have read about Jobs, in life or in death. What a waste of space!

I don't personally care about Steve Jobs as a person or about his origins (even if he was 100% Lebanese), but one thing I do know is that this man has achieved a lot and was a MAJOR contributor to Apple's success. However, you make incredible statements (which are most likely false) about his work and ethics as if you have witnessed him working and interacting with people first hand. Ok, he's not Gandhi, but he has done a lot of successful business that has affected many lives. Apple products are expensive like any other electronic products that are released and marketed by American or European multinational companies or corporations, however the difference between Apple products and other electronic products is HUGE. We use Apple products at work, as they are more convenient in many cases, also faster, and user-friendlier than other computer products in our line of work. Apple products make our work flow faster and Yes, we had to pay the price, but ask me "is it worth it?"
In this world unfortunately YES, otherwise we would have a much slower workflow, which would immediately affect our business negatively. As for your statements about Steve Jobs’ work methods and him being the man that obviously “never invented a single product”, I think those statements are ridiculous. In corporations, it is very, very rare that one person does anything alone, let alone inventions. In big corporate companies such as Apple, colleagues contribute on almost everything and one thing is certain, Steve Jobs was a massive contributor to the development of Apple’s products and their success.
Sure the capital system has very many obvious cracks, but it's not like Jobs created the system, he simply played the game and played is very well.
The fact is masses are always going to blow events out of proportion due to extensive news coverage on several mediums, such as the Internet, which almost everyone can access these days. Steve Jobs happens to be one of the pioneers of the computing and Internet industry, the very same tools you use to blog or write your articles on. Therefore it is only natural that he will get over-the-top praise. If you don’t think he deserves all the credit, that’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, but in my opinion the man deserves some recognition and the majority of your article is out of proportion.

Give me a break, the man has just died from cancer and you are critiquing what amount and type of attention he got in the press? Wow, pretty surprising from someone who gives off the image that he is humanitarian to the core. I'm sorry, but this entry is just too lame.. The man was an innovator, a genius - a legend to the age of technology, and whether he was "ethical" according to your standards of morality is simply irrelevant in the face of his global contribution. Your anti-western jargon in this case (as in many other cases) does not apply so please just suck it up/and better luck next time.

Good commentary, As'ad. I use Apple products and think they are fine examples of useful technology. But the cultic eulogizing going on now over Jobs is just too much! Any time people talk about a thing, a discovery, a person that "changed our lives," there is sime kind of hardcore and fundamental propagandizing going on.

Well said!
The famous speech at the Stanford University (now considered deeper than Jesus Mountain speech or Martin Luther King speech!!) is a perfect example of the harshness of American nightmare: saying "Follow your dreams untill the end and stay hungry" means put the nietzchean desires of your navel at the center of the Universe and don't care nothing of the others.

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