posted by Adam S on Fri 16th Jan 2009 21:39 UTC
IconThe subject of Apple CEO (and Messiah) Steve Jobs has been in the news quite a bit lately. It's nearly making me sick, the nonstop debate -- not about his health, but rather, about whether or not it's okay to discuss his health in the first place. I'm here to tell you: it's perfectly fine. Long ago, Steve Jobs forfeited his right to any privacy on this matter. Read on and I'll tell you why.

There is no real "right to privacy" in the US Constitution. It's a concept with which we, as a nation, have become enamored, but ultimately, it's not a guaranteed right. Yes, certain aspects of it are inferred, but it's not an enumerated right. After all, we report on crimes and arrests, we publish non-flattering news articles. Nonetheless, it's treated as though it's an inalienable right by many, and I fear political correctness has gone amuck when people start backing down from discussing this situation. Anyone telling you that discussing Steve Jobs' quite obvious sickness is out-of-bounds needs to get off their high horse and loosen up. There, I said it.

Steve JobsLet's discuss this as fact: Steve Jobs is sick and everyone knows it. Just look at the dude at his last few keynotes. His gaunt frame looks sick. But it didn't really make it much beyond engine puttering, largely because the main stream media largely ignored it and took the "he's fine" line from Apple, so everyone decided to "respect his privacy" and not be too nosy. Beyond the first "Wow, Steve is thin" comments, there was nary a peep. Fast forward to now and people can still see that something is wrong with Mr. Jobs. People want to know what's going on. Let's rewind a little further.

When Steve Jobs resumed the helm as captain of the S.S. Apple in 1997, Apple began building a brand. Very intentionally, as they shifted their design of their hardware and software to futuristic and user friendly, they slowly began to paint Mr. Jobs as the savior of the company. And as Apple users grew increasingly satisfied with their devices, the image of Steve Jobs became merged with Apple. Soon, Jobs became the face of Apple itself, and people regularly discuss whether or not the company can survive his tenure. Of course we all know it can, but Jobs' notorious tight-fisted control plays into the illusion that every decision is made expressly by him. He built this image, and he must live with the consequences. His followers see him as almost God-like, rumors swirl: he drives a car with no license plate and just pays the tickets as they come, he reads every single email sent to his account personally, he only permits features into OS X that he personally approves. Eventually, the company plays second fiddle to the man.

Apple has not helped the situation by intentionally playing coy with everyone, all the time. Why only release hardware upgrade at a trickle? Why have your CEO personally announce minor updates? Why lie and deceive people about stories regularly?

You don't see that at Microsoft; in fact, Gates has left as all but Chairman of the Board. You don't see this at Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Dell, Budweiser, Sun, IBM, or even the American car companies. They all outlive and outshine their CEOs. But Apple, as they always do, thought different. And they've built an iconic image of their founder, and their cult-like following, me included, eat it up readily. We love our Macs and think those who don't use them just don't get it. It's more than a simple tool, it's a way of life. It's why I have a stupid white Apple sticker on the back of my car.

Steve JobsNow, Mr. Jobs, it's time to reap what you've sown. As your health appears to continue to decline, you owe us, as Mac users, as stockholders, as tech enthusiasts, an explanation. Not the details of your sickness, because those are private, but a revelation, or a confession, that you are, indeed, sick. You owe us the truth, because you are Apple, and for those of us that own Apple stock, we own Apple. And as brilliant as you are, if only evidenced by the team you've assembled to bring Apple back to the big time, you have failed us in a very large way: you have not defined a clear succession path. And that's why it's our business. Because neither Jonathan Ives nor Phil Schiller is Steve Jobs. Because you can't just bring in an outside CEO like a Carly Fiorina and expect things to be peachy. Because Apple's existence is tied to you and your existence. It may not be true, but that's the gist of the mysticism you've played a key role in creating.

By not creating a celebrity leader to follow in your footsteps, there is no heir apparent to the Apple empire. So, when you drop 50 pounds and go very gray very fast, that, I'm afraid to say, is news. Especially for a site like OSNews.

It's not immoral for us to wonder what will happen to Apple. It's not immoral for us to want to know what's happening to Steve Jobs any more than it was for people to care about Kurt Cobain or Jerry Garcia or John Lennon. Jobs has affected many people's lives via his company, and by creating a persona, he has people who feel tied to him. The danger of being king is that one day, your subjects will feel that you belong to them.

Yes, it's perfectly okay to discuss Mr. Jobs and the state of his health. It's not okay to call his doctor or bribe the orderlies at the clinic. But the future is unclear for Apple without Steve Jobs navigating the waters. So it's completely normal discourse for us to wonder what's up. I say if it looks like news and smells like news, let's discuss it.

The above editorial is the opinion of the author and not necessarily those of OSNews, LLC or its staff

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