Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who Will Throw the Hammer This Time?

Steve Jobs 1984 Who will throw the hammer this time?

During the 1984 Super Bowl, Apple released an ad where gray, drab people are transfixed on a giant screen with a talking head who tells them how utopian their uniform world is. A female athlete jogs in and throws a hammer at the screen, the screen explodes, and a new voice announces the release of the Apple Macintosh.

The ad riffed off of the George Orwell dystopian novell Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell's 1984 features a powerful central state that controls society absolutely. One of its mechanisms for control lies in saying one thing while meaning the opposite. The Ministry of Peace is in charge of war, the Ministry of Truth is in charge of the falsification and censorship, etc.

In an exchange with Gawker's Ryan Tate, Steve Jobs attempts some verbal judo but comes out with some near doublespeak of his own. Tate says "Revolutions are about freedom" and Jobs replies "Yep...Freedom from porn."

Look, I'm not advocating for porn. It seems to be doing just fine without me. But I am irritated by Jobs deliberately muddling "freedom" as in "in a democracy you have the freedom to vote" with the opposite "in a dictatorship you have freedom from worrying who to vote for." Combined with licensing that squashes Flash, Scratch and RunRev and the Apple world starts looking gray and drab. Meanwhile, Jobs explains that all this "freedom from" stuff is really what we want in his magic little utopia.

So we come full circle and I ask who will throw the hammer this time?

Post Script

BoingBoing has a video with a premise similar to my picture.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

stephen said...

That misconstruction of "freedom" evokes Orwell's description of Newspeak, in which "free" would lose all connotations of liberty and at last only make sense in the sentence "this dog is free of fleas."

Martin said...

These devices are free from Newspeak.

Vlad Patryshev said...

You are on the first page of google search for freedom from jobs: