Contributor Post Created with Sketch. And We Mourned This Man?

 

Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs makes him sound so personally nauseating that I take back all my sadness about his loss:

He had the uncanny capacity to know exactly what your weak point is, know what will make you feel small, to make you cringe,” a friend of his tells Isaacson. Jobs gets his girlfriend pregnant, and then denies that the child is his. He parks in handicapped spaces. He screams at subordinates. He cries like a small child when he does not get his way. He gets stopped for driving a hundred miles an hour, honks angrily at the officer for taking too long to write up the ticket, and then resumes his journey at a hundred miles an hour. He sits in a restaurant and sends his food back three times. He arrives at his hotel suite in New York for press interviews and decides, at 10 P.M., that the piano needs to be repositioned, the strawberries are inadequate, and the flowers are all wrong: he wanted calla lilies. (When his public-relations assistant returns, at midnight, with the right flowers, he tells her that her suit is “disgusting.”) 

He got his girlfriend pregnant, then denied the child was his? Did everyone but me already know that?

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    He was well known as a class-A jerk, but somehow his products excused all that.

    • #1
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:20 AM PST
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  2. Underground Conservative Coolidge
    Underground ConservativeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I wouldn’t say the child issue was common knowledge before he died, but it did come up in his obituary phase fairly frequently.

    I’m always torn about these types of revelations. I think the evidence is quite strong that a multitude of geniuses in our history have been off their rocker in one way or another. Do we squelch that? Insist on conformity? Or do we let them create in only the one true way they can.

    Conservatives praise innovation and individualism, but we also adore common decency. It’s the balance beam of life.

    • #2
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:22 AM PST
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  3. Diane Ellis Contributor

    Well, yes, I knew that last part about the denied paternity. But he later owned up to it and established a relationship with his grown daughter.

    He certainly wasn’t the paragon of humility, gentleness, human decency, etc. But his ingenuity left a huge imprint on the world, and that’s why people celebrate him.

    • #3
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:24 AM PST
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  4. BThompson Inactive

    I knew about the daughter. Her name is Lisa. He did initially disavow paternity, but soon (within the first couple of years soon, that is) take responsibility and he named one of his early computers after her, the Apple Lisa.

    He was definitely a piece of work. It seems that his uglier side got smoothed out some after getting kicked out of Apple. But believing you deserve to be judged differently because of your greatness seems common among people who achieve at the level Jobs did.

    • #4
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:28 AM PST
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  5. Illiniguy Member
    IlliniguyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller weren’t considered cuddly, but I wouldn’t trade their accomplishments for all the Ben & Jerry reputations in the world. Remember Jobs for what he accomplished and forget the personality that stood behind them.

    • #5
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:31 AM PST
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  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    And We Mourned This Man?

    Well. I didn’t.

    I mean, I admired his products and all, and I didn’t even know his personal history. But I saw no reason to mourn him.

    We all die. That’s life. And he had a better run than most — I mean, not including his jerkitude.

    • #6
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:33 AM PST
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  7. Adam Freedman Contributor

    Well, I think we mourned the loss of a great innovator, not a great human being. Hey, I’m glad that America had Henry Ford, notwithstanding his virulent anti-semitism. And consider what Nikola Tesla said of Thomas Edison:

    He had no hobby, cared for no sort of amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene. […] he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor’s instinct and practical American sense.

    And yet, the man was a great innovator.

    • #7
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:40 AM PST
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  8. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Dave Molinari:

    I’m always torn about these types of revelations. I think the evidence is quite strong that a multitude of geniuses in our history have been off their rocker in one way or another. Do we squelch that? Insist on conformity? Or do we let them create in only the one true way they can.

    Conservatives praise innovation and individualism, but we also adore common decency. It’s the balance beam of life.

    Here’s the thing. If you’re born with an unusual talent, every moment you spend developing that talent is one less moment you’ve spent learning the common decencies of life, and vice-versa.

    So yeah, at some point, outstanding achievement and common decency compete with each other for your time, and you can’t have more of one without less of the other.

    What amazes me, though, is the vast swathes of time some geniuses are apparently able to waste on activities that neither develop their talents, nor their common decency. There’s no excuse for that. If you have that much extra time on your hands, would it kill you to spend some of that time learning to be a decent person?

    • #8
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:40 AM PST
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  9. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I never wrote an obit for Steve Jobs because, as a long-time Mac evangelist, I was angry at his nerd bait-and-switch, first by spoiling us with OS X (based on BSD/UNIX and opening up the Mac with open source) and then slamming the door shut again with iTunes (which only works with iPods), the closed-source iOS, and the new Mac App Store.

    Fool me once…

    • #9
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:40 AM PST
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  10. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. DouglasJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This brings to my mind a passage:

    “And let the rich man glory in his humiliation, for like the flowering grass he shall soon pass away, for the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass, and its flowers fall off, and the beauty of it’s appearance is destroyed. So, too, the rich man in midst of his pursuits will fade away.” (James 1:9, 10)

    We are better human beings when remember our greatness is transitory in the passage of time, and that one day we may meet One greater than ourselves.

    • #10
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:45 AM PST
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  11. Bereket Kelile Member
    Bereket KelileJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This is the first I heard of the daughter he had. I thought the outpouring of celebration and mourning was strange when he died but I didn’t want to be insensitive with the bad timing and all. I understand everyone was celebrating him for his innovation but I wonder if we’re overvaluing that aspect of his character, or anyone else for that matter.

    P.S.-To clarify, I got the sense that Jobs was being celebrated. I mean, how much can you separate him from his work?

    • #11
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:47 AM PST
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  12. Profile Photo Member

    Read Issacson’s biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. There is much about their behavior that is not very admirable either. You could pull out excerpts from those books and paint a similarly unflattering picture.

    Steve Jobs was a complicated guy — yes, often mean — but an undeniable genius who disrupted several industries. He got incredible work from his employees and made thousands of them wealthy. Yes, he rode them hard, but pushed them to do great work. and everyone who worked for him knew want they were getting themselves into.

    P.S. At the end of the book (which I have read), Jobs apologizes for a good deal of his behavior, including the denial of fathering his daughter — but not the results. American industry could use a lot more Jobs (in both senses of the word).

    • #12
    • November 9, 2011, at 10:53 AM PST
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  13. David Williamson Inactive
    Blue Yeti: American industry could use a lot more Jobs (in both senses of the word). · Nov 9 at 9:53am

    Thanks for the book recomendattions – so many books to read, so little time!

    Of course one of the many ironies is that Jobs made Apple successful by shipping manufacturing jobs to China, where hundreds of Chinese workers jump out of the factories that make our toys.

    I’d prefer a role model who made US jobs and great products…. this is our challenge.

    • #13
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:00 AM PST
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  14. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    David Williamson Of course one of the many ironies is that Jobs made Apple successful by shipping manufacturing jobs to China, where hundreds of Chinese workers jump out of the factories that make our toys.

    Those could be American workers jumping out of American factories, by gum!

    • #14
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:05 AM PST
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  15. Alan Weick Member
    Alan WeickJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    William Manchester tells the story about Winston Churchill being confronted by one of his secretaries. Churchill had a famous temper and when one of his directives was not obeyed to his standards he would lash out in demeaning verbiage at the transgressor. Once, one of his female secretaries fell victim to this wrath. She stood up to him and told him he had no right to address her in such a way. Possibly feeling somewhat ashamed he responded,”Yes, but I am a great man.”

    Great people can be petty tyrants. So can ordinary people in their personal lives. We just don’t know about them. We should be able to celebrate the achievements of great people without turning them into demigods. In Jewish teachings, it is the job of the individual to strive to have his good deeds outnumber his bad ones, thus acknowledging that people are flawed and the best we can hope for is to have a positive ledger balance when we’re called to account. Jobs and Churchill could be cruel people and perhaps, we would not want to be personally associated with them, but on balance they had a positive account.

    • #15
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:09 AM PST
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  16. Profile Photo Member

    From the book:

    “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done,” Jobs said. “It infuriates me.”

    Jobs said the Obama administration was not business-friendly and said it was impossible to build a factory in the United States due to regulations and unnecessary costs. Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, where it was much easier to build and run a factory, Jobs said. He said Obama was “headed for a one-term presidency” if the administration didn’t improve.

    Jobs also said the American education system was “hopelessly antiquated” and crippled by teachers’ unions. Apple’s factories, for example, needed 30,000 skilled engineers — something the U.S. education system was not producing. He suggested the President completely overhaul the system and proposed an 11-month school year with days that lasted until 6 p.m.

    “You can’t find that many in America to hire,” he said. “If you could educate these engineers, we could move more manufacturing plants here.”

    • #16
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:24 AM PST
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  17. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Adam Freedman…another thing that goes on the negative side of the ledger for Edison: the sleazy, fear-based tactics he used in his failed attempt to discredit AC electricity.

    Edison’s great rival, George Westinghouse, was nearly his equal as an innovator…inventor of the railroad air brake and improved gas lighting systems, as well as the sponsor of AC power…and by all accounts (including Tesla’s) a much better human being. (A glimpse of Westinghouse’s management style here.)

    There is some danger that admirers of Jobs’ innovative success will also find it appropriate to imitate his jerkier aspects…

    • #17
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:28 AM PST
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  18. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHillJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Let me summarize: There is an accepted level of obnoxious, immoral and illegal behavior that is to be tolerated if one can provide a sufficient level of societal contribution and/or corresponding political correctness.

    Don’t we criticize the Left when they do it? (See: Clinton, William J. and Polanski, Roman)

    • #18
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:33 AM PST
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  19. BThompson Inactive

    EJ, no one is condoning the ugly behavior. I think what is being said is that it has been ever thus. I think everyone is saying that they love his products and the positive contribution to several industries, but think his personal life choices were often terrible. What do you want people to say, that he should have been burned at the stake, or that we should not acknowledge the quality of his work because it would somehow equal approving of his personal life? What would be the proper response according to your moral outrage meter, EJ?

    • #19
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:42 AM PST
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  20. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    EJHill: Let me summarize: There is an accepted level of obnoxious, immoral and illegal behavior that is to be tolerated if one can provide a sufficient level of societal contribution and/or corresponding political correctness.

    Don’t we criticize the Left when they do it? (See: Clinton, William J. and Polanski, Roman) · Nov 9 at 10:33am

    Steve Jobs never raped any 13-year-old girls, as far as I know.

    • #20
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:43 AM PST
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  21. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian ClendinenJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I always hated Job’s business practice’s. Job’s from a business prospective was cut throat and would sell is mother out for profit in a second.

    Apple was able to push the limits of legality on monopolistic practices and get away with it that other companies like IBM and Microsoft could never do because of Apples PR juggernaut. Marketing Genius, expert operator, demand of perfection. However I would not use a lot of Apples business model as an example on how to run a company. Great products with unethical business practice to gain market share and protect it and profitibility.

    • #21
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:47 AM PST
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  22. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Brian Clendinen: I always hated Job’s business practice’s. Job’s from a business prospective was cut throat and would sell is mother out for profit in a second.

    So?

    Brian Clendinen: Apple was able to push the limits of legality on monopolistic practices and get away with it that other companies like IBM and Microsoft could never do because of Apples PR juggernaut.

    Precisely how did Apple’s practices “push the limits of legality”, specifically?

    I agree that Apple gets away with stuff that IBM and Microsoft wouldn’t, but for me I think it’s more likely that IBM and Microsoft SHOULD be allowed to get away with most of it.

    • #22
    • November 9, 2011, at 11:57 AM PST
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  23. Valiuth Member
    ValiuthJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What is it with all these people that admire his products. I will grant that they are fine machines, but for the most part they are more style than substance. He created a closed off enterprise and exerted draconian control over his applications, which are riddled with restraints meant to force people into purchasing more apple products. The apple world is great if all one wants to do is have nothing but apple products their designs and capabilities dictated by the whims of Steve Jobs personal aesthetics. I’ve never been a big fan of apple or jobs, and I don’t understand why anyone found him so inspiring.

    • #23
    • November 10, 2011, at 1:11 AM PST
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  24. Valiuth Member
    ValiuthJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Misthiocracy
    Brian Clendinen: I always hated Job’s business practice’s. Job’s from a business prospective was cut throat and would sell is mother out for profit in a second.
    So?

    You can’t trust a man who’d sell his own mother. We all know this to be true.

    • #24
    • November 10, 2011, at 1:16 AM PST
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  25. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHillJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    BThompson: What would be the proper response according to your moral outrage meter, EJ?

    It’s just that fame and fortune seem to create their own extenuating circumstances. Had Steve Jobs been a boss at a paper mill or some other arena and deemed more expendable, both employees, law enforcement and the general public would have treated him very differently. Had his politics been right-wing instead of left-wing he would have been treated differently.

    I know we all tire of the hypocrisy lament but there’s nothing more to it. He was famous and brilliant at what he did and therefore he got away with it. Poor people are crazy, rich people are eccentric.

    • #25
    • November 10, 2011, at 1:21 AM PST
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  26. K T Cat Inactive

    I’d heard about the daughter, but it wasn’t until recently that I read about what a sociopath he was. The dude was a complete scumbag. I understand the products are great, but it wasn’t like he made them himself. He just beat everyone around him until everything was the way he wanted.

    • #26
    • November 10, 2011, at 1:28 AM PST
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  27. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    K T Cat: I’d heard about the daughter, but it wasn’t until recently that I read about what a sociopath he was. The dude was a complete scumbag. I understand the products are great, but it wasn’t like he made them himself. He just beat everyone around him until everything was the way he wanted. · Nov 9 at 12:28pm

    Poor babies. They can dry their tears with their paycheques.

    • #27
    • November 10, 2011, at 1:30 AM PST
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  28. Joseph Eagar Member
    Joseph EagarJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Yes, Steve Jobs was the classic CEO Of A Large Tech Firm–the same stories (other than the unacknowledged child part) also exist for Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. I get the impression that this is common among leaders of gigantic, but new, corporations.

    • #28
    • November 10, 2011, at 1:33 AM PST
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  29. BThompson Inactive

    I don’t think people are giving Jobs a pass at all, to the extent they admire him, despite his shortcomings, it’s not just because he was rich or famous or liberal. I think people loved his products, felt those products gave consumers rich, wonderful experiences and that Jobs had created something that changed the culture and many people’s everyday lives. It’s not like Steve Jobs is in the category of Paris Hilton or the cast of The Jersey Shore and people are just fascinated by his celebrity. Jobs contributed something to society that people experienced on a personal level which helps balance out some of his personal shortcomings.Of course people will feel differently about Jobs than they do someone who runs a paper mill.

    • #29
    • November 10, 2011, at 1:36 AM PST
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  30. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member