A judgment you may’ve missed as to the sphinctral status of the late Steve Jobs

Supreme Court of Assholedom: The People vs. Steve Jobs | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

The vexing question here is whether making beautiful, intuitive, powerful computer gizmos crosses the good-cause threshold. I don’t think it does, unlike his supporters, who insist that “the bulk of his contributions to society may reside in the quality and innovation of Apple’s products ….” This is EXACTLY the kind of weird category error that gives me the creeps: “Oh, he was a good man because he had exquisite taste and made the coolest phone in the world.”

Justice Adam Whitmer, meanwhile – the sole member of the court with military experience – articulated what we ultimately decided to call the “useful douchebag exception” by drawing from his own experience:

I was a marksmanship coach for 3 years, which involved weapons training and general safety. A couple of times, a shooter would point a gun at me or another shooter, or just do something generally unsafe. In these circumstances I had to be a huge douchebag to these people and shame them/make them feel like a complete idiot so I knew they wouldn’t do it again. Sometimes being an asshole is the only way to get the job done.

The court definitely agreed that being an asshole is occasionally necessary and even laudable. We were happy to make new law there.

Where we struggled was in deciding whether or not Jobs qualified for this “useful douchebag exception.” Clearly, Jobs’s assholism was necessary to bring Apple products into the world. But are Apple products necessary? The court in the end decided to punt on the issue, using a technicality to send the question of Apple’s necessity back to the circuit courts for an en banc review.

Still, we considered other questions, like:

Does public demand for an asshole’s services ever vindicate the asshole to any degree?

Justice Mara Schmid, the moralist of the court, expressed the majority opinion here best:

[Public demand] doesn’t vindicate the asshole, but it additionally condemns the ones demanding the assholism.  Like Rush Limbaugh fans.

We generally agreed that Jobs’s nearly undeniable assholism – particularly in the area of using child labor – made all of us accomplices in his crime. One proposal we considered was parceling out some of Jobs’s asshole points to all of his customers – for instance, if the court gave Jobs 5000 points on a scale of 10,000, each of his customers would be given 500 points of their own.

What was particularly troubling, however, was how little the prospect of punishing ourselves seemed to scare any of us. Echoing the collegial spirit of George W. Bush’s unabashedly anti-UN UN Ambassador, John Bolton, our very own Justice Drew Magary openly shat all over the Court’s authority when he wrote:

I mean, on a certain level, if you talk about exploiting kiddie workers or whatever, we’re ALL assholes.  So sure, give me 500 points.  I’ll survive.

Justice Jenny Boylan took the opposite approach on this question, getting all serious on us:

The issue of redistributing an asshole’s points to all of us who use that asshole’s products sets an important precedent …. This is a fundamental problem of democracy …. If we all really had to suffer the consequences for enabling Apple, or Microsoft, or, I don’t know, say, the Pentagon, it’d be a different world.  Instead we – I – just lollipop along, members of world bound by such mind-blowing webs of injustice and mendacity that we feel safe just shrugging and concluding that it’s all too huge for us to do anything about.

This was eloquently put by Justice Boylan, but I never got to read her whole opinion because all that gravity started to bum me out, so I decided to play “Angry Birds” on my iPad to cheer myself up. Then I spent the whole night watching old BBC detective shows via my Netflix app.

Eventually, of course, we took on the biggest question:

Was Steve Jobs an asshole?

By a vote of 8-1, we decided he was.

In the end, we gave Steve Jobs 3,613 asshole points, which places him above Elton John (despite Justice Boylan’s contention that Jobs “does not meet the exacting Elton John standard”) but well below Hosni Mubarak (squaring both with Justice Whitmer’s rule that nobody who hasn’t killed anyone should get more than 5,000 points, and my own rule that columnist George Will’s 5,000 should represent the maximum score for a non-homicidal defendant).

Curiously, however, we also voted on Thomas Edison, and gave him 5,629 points; the court apparently counted Topsy the elephant’s death as a homicide. Edison’s inflated score vis à vis Jobs was largely due to his vastly more extensive record of idea-stealing (particularly with regard to Nikola Tesla), his proud history of cat-and-elephant-frying, and his tireless advocacy of the inferior DC system.

The lone dissenter on Jobs was Justice Mara Schmid, who wrote:

I’m sure he was [an asshole] at times.  But overall, I don’t think he embodies assholism. The asshole that he sometimes was came, I believe, from a place of passion and obsession and dedication, and I’m willing to consider that okay.

Justice Amy Bearden, who doubles as the Clerk of the Court, quite sensibly complained that we were late to the party – “I get pissed when Maureen Dowd beats us to the punch” – and also admitted that her vote was compromised by her love of her iPad (“the pending media hype currently circulating is too much when I fucking love my iPad, MacBook, and iPhone”).

This led to the only rancorous exchange in the debate, when Justice Jessica Kourkounis awoke from a longstanding indifference to the Jobs case to lash out.

I start off thinking I don’t feel passionate about the whole Steve Jobs thing and then someone mentions not wanting to do this vote because they love their iPad, iPhone, etc., and suddenly I feel a fire building in my gut …. Are we that low?

Fight! Fight! But cooler heads prevailed and both Kourkounis and Bearden ended up voting “Yes” on the asshole question.

The rest of us, meanwhile, mainly agreed that Jobs was in fact an asshole (his labor record being a huge part of that calculation), and his score was definitely affected by the revolting lionization of Jobs in the commercial media (” am creeped out by the Princess Diana/Michael Jackson-level grief that followed the death of a guy who successfully marketed consumer gizmos,” wrote Kreider).

But generally speaking, we were in agreement that Jobs was, as Sirota wrote, a “my-way-or-the-highway dick” who gave virtually nothing to charity despite being one of the richest men on earth, who tried to squirm out of the paternity of his own daughter, and whose atrocious labor record was only slightly mitigated by the utility of his assholedom.

“I think you have to be something of a demanding asshole to get your designers to create a music player that has no buttons,” explained Magary. “But Jobs is proof positive that the world NEEDS assholes, that it wouldn’t necessarily be as good of a place if assholishness were somehow made extinct.”

5 comments on “A judgment you may’ve missed as to the sphinctral status of the late Steve Jobs

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  1. Magary has hit the ass on the hole there. The world needs assholes, but it always has exactly as many as it needs. We don’t have to add to the count. Personally, I would call Jobs a dick rather than an asshole. I think the defining characteristic of an asshole is defensiveness. People who are defensive are assholes. Jobs seems more pokey. Pokey people are dicks. Defensiveness is what tightens your sphincter, and while everyone is defensive sometimes, being generally defensive makes it very difficult to be funny and being funny is what keeps you from being an asshole.

    • But part of what makes an asshole truly an asshole is the fact that when he looks in the mirror he doesn’t see an asshole but rather a “prime prick.” That’s only possible if he lives in the illusion that there was ever a prick who wasn’t just an asshole waiting for a bigger and primer prick to come along, and ever an asshole without pretentions of prickery, or ever a prick who, in the final analysis (which is always anal, as you know), wasn’t just another mucous membrane, good with the bad, bad with the good, asspricks every one.

  2. Yes, and Thomas Watson, made Hitler’s accounting that much cleaner, and Shockley ‘borrowed’ the patent for the semiconductor from Bardeen and company, what is the point of this accounting,

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