Steve Jobs is a fascist. That’s what everyone loves about him: he tells us what he wants, and he convinces us we are going to like it. And we do, not because he’s right (despite popular opinion), but because it’s so rare to get such definitive, brazen, top-down, abusive treatment in this era of lowest-common-demoninator wishy-washiness. It doesn’t matter if he’s right because his design sense is so definitive, it outstrips truth in favor of legend.

In that sense, Jobs’s departure from Apple’s helm has to be seen in the same way as would the departure or deposition of a dictator, but in reverse, since it is Apple’s primary feature and value. Has Jobs successfully “downloaded” his own authoritarianism into Apple writ large, such that it can continue as a machine without figurehead? I don’t know. Even though it’s a metaphor rather than an analogy, most authoritarian political regimes are cults of personality, and in that respect, the golden era may be over. I suspect that’s the reason for all the elegiac sentiments we’ve seen in the press since the announcement of his resignation as CEO. It’s not Jobs’s health everyone is lamenting, but the end of his regime.

From the perspective of legacy, Jobs should have deployed nepotism and divine right, rearing one of his children as a successor. Tim Cook may make the trains run on time, but the people don’t want trains, they want cold, grey dirigibles slinking across the bright sky, glints of sunlight blinding them, so far below, so far below.

published August 27, 2011


  1. Jesse Fuchs

    Two comments:

    1) To say that “it doesn’t matter if he’s right” (by which I assume you mean elegantly congruent with the preexisting hardware of homo sapiens sapiens) is, to put it charitably, moronic. Obviously, it matters that he was at least right _enough_, as if he weren’t, he would never have had a demesne to dominate. You think Jobs is the only quasi-autistic megalomaniac in the sea?

    2) Typo alert: In the first sentence, you seem to have misspelled “artist”.

  2. Mike Keesey

    The auteur theory of corporations.

  3. Ian Bogost

    Jesse, it is always a pleasure to hear what you have to say, largely because I never know what to expect.

  4. Brian

    My life changed when I got my iPad. Seriously. It is so awesome. I still have my netbook but it’s covered in dust. It just seems so antiquated now.

  5. Fab

    Brilliantly put.

  6. Allan Fowler

    A fascist CEO, how about that? Not the first and won’t be the last. Your analysis is spot on.

  7. Robert Jackson

    Steve Jobs may have left Apple – but he will not die.

    We own millions of his horcruxes

  8. Cobb

    Jobs is something no other great computerist is, which is an enemy of interoperability. He alone had the nerve to build a set of products that needed nothing to do with the rest of how the world did computing. And from that basic premise of purity, everything else follows. Jobs basically said, I don’t need to cooperate to build something I would love. He is your basic idiosyncratic perfectionist, and to my way of seeing things, exactly like every other entrepreneur who said, I built the thing I wanted and I hoped everybody would be just like me.

    All his presentations have been about telling us how excited he is about the thing his company built just for him to his most exacting standards. And he had been doing it for years until all the right things clicked. There is so much weirdness in Apple’s closet. By what standard is the original iMac anything but atrocious? The NexT cube, that was beautiful. And back in those days (take it from an old Xeroid) computer companies built everything proprietarily. There was nothing wrong with that, ever. Except Oracle took market share from IBM and began the necessity for interoperability standards in the lucrative world of enterprise computing with SAP and others contributing to make corporate IT what it is today – an ungodly mess. But Apple didn’t give a crap about all that. They wanted to make what they wanted to make. Quadras. PowerMacs. And when Power Computing came around and made it cheaper and faster, Jobs killed them. Murdered them.

    Apple is now like Mercedes Benz or BMW. It is the single mass market premium brand for computers. It’s fair to compare Apple the brand to any luxury car brand for whom its parts are hard to find and not quite interchangeable. That Jobs stood alone is more curious than anything, because for the most part we’re suckers for that obsessive who builds the spare-no-expense, ultra-hip, status symbol of perfection with its own walled garden of accessories.

  9. Ian Bogost


    The iMac was Apple’s return to designed products (which came with the return of Jobs), after a decade of Quadras and Mac LCs and the like. That’s why it was important, even if it is atrocious to today’s eyes.

  10. Tim Morton

    When I was a nipper we had a slogan in my band. When it came time to write a song, that person was dictator for the day.

  11. Tim Morton

    Talking of fascism, check out this logo:


  12. Josh

    I had the same reaction to Jobs stepping down. Why no grooming of his poor successor? Because he’s not working at Apple for Apple’s benefit. He’s going to sacrifice Apple for … I dare not say what I think is his motive. It’ll just sound like flamebait.