Jobs’ “freedom from porn:” well-intentioned treachery

I agree with those who’ve said, in the wake of Ryan Tate’s early morning email exchange with Steve Jobs, that Jobs will regret a certain statement:

Tate:

If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company?

Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with “revolution?”

Revolutions are about freedom.

Jobs:

Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is.

The path to hell is paved with good intentions, and I’ve no doubt that Steve Jobs means well here. He’s also expressing dangerous thinking, however, for the ultimate question about the future Web is who calls the shots? Human history proves that we are either ruled from within or ruled from without, and well-intentioned exterior rulers come and go, often to be replaced by those whose intentions aren’t so pure.

After the invention of the printing press, one of the first cultural influences was the printing of erotic novels. Sex apparently sold then as it does now, and of course, there was a hue and cry against such from the moralists. But the freedom of what to print came with the ability to print, and erotica has always been a source of both demand and profit. What would have happened if some well-intentioned ruler was in charge of all printing presses back then?

The imagination cannot be kept in darkness; it must see the light of day, and to restrict one aspect thereof is to restrict every aspect. You want to know why America is so innovative? Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We respect freedom. Steve Jobs respects his interpretation of freedom. It is treachery disguised as a smile with a piece of candy.

But Jobs’ world is a private place, a private network where he can and apparently will do as he likes. Thankfully, he’s not in charge of the bigger picture, so we all have the ability to disapprove by not participating. This is why, for all it’s wonderful goodness, I will not buy any Apple product, laptop, phone or tablet. Steve Jobs represents a dying age, one in which the haves have and the have-nots never will. He functions as the governor of his devices, and that’s fine, but I can choose not to live in his state.

In the Apple world, copyright is property. Those with cash can play, knowing that nothing they create can be stolen, because nothing is ever really purchased. It’s rented, and that’s the way the copyright industry wants it. I can’t share anything I rent, which makes the industry happy, but it’s really just a smokescreen for the real issue of that same industry peddling garbage in the name of art. You want that one song? They want the album price, and you’ll pay it, because they control access to the song. You don’t think this is the issue? You’ve just lost control of your TV’s input (and output), so don’t complain when that finally becomes real to you.

First, they came for the downloaders, but I wasn’t a downloader, so I didn’t do anything…”

Apple’s view of the apocalypse is the chaos of an even playing field, and so Jobs would naturally shift the idea of a revolution away from openness to that which is controlled, for the status quo needs freedom from those who would disrupt it. I’m sorry, but the Bob Dylan of my youth would disagree.

So here’s a prediction. Two worlds will continue to evolve, one that takes us backwards, deep into the bowels of modernism’s command-and-control; and a second that advances the concepts of openness and the even playing field. The copyright industry’s self-delusion is that it alone can make money from information and entertainment.

We shall see.

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