OFF THE GRID

The iPad Is Political

Jan 28, 10 | 6:57 AM   byMichael Wolff
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In the media business, consumer technology has entered a pitched political phase. What you think about a trend or product likely reflects your organization’s interests, beliefs, and hopes for survival.

The question for media companies about a new tech development is now most basic: Is it good for the Jews? (As it were.)

Journalistically this is a conundrum. Many of the news organizations that are most actively covering the technology business have a vested interest in what happens. It’s a dollars-and-cents interest. But it’s religious, too. It’s about their own good works, and craft, and, even, DNA, making it into the future. It’s loaded to the point that a clear eye is pretty much impossible.

Yesterday’s announcement of the infelicitously named iPad—curiously bound up with the president’s State of the Union address—had the feeling less of product announcement than of political rally. Apple has always identified itself with a certain quasi-political and religious fervor and linked itself to a dedicated base of supporters. It has also always commanded—and demanded—a level of loyalty well beyond that associated with most consumer products. But even for Apple, yesterday seemed extreme.

Certainly many of the journalists at the event became in their affect and enthusiasm indistinguishable from Apple employees and business partners—many, indeed, were looking forward to being Apple’s business partners.

The New York Times, it seems to me, is most of all at the center of politicizing Apple—that is, making Apple and Jobs about an idea, and way of life, and future direction. Now, this has always been part of the Apple shtick (and even charm), but it turns into something else, something much more strident and ideological, when you link it to your own survival.

The Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote a column the other day which did nothing less than equate the future of the country with Steve Jobs and what he stands for. The Times’ media writer, David Carr, began much of the iPad frenzy with a ga-ga inside look at the device a few weeks ago (likewise Carr has been aggressively anti-Google, the enemy of newspapers). Yesterday, the Times’ reporters covering the launch could not restrain their shock and awe.

The Times is making no secret that it believes that its survival depends on some technological innovation that will both preserve and transmute its form. It has, I doubt coincidentally, developed a front bench of media and technology writers who are dedicated cheerleaders of any technology that might facilitate this.

You can’t diss Apple at the Times. It’s the meal-ticket. It’s the hope. Steve is the leader.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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