OFF THE GRID

Is There Anything That Can Trip Up Steve Jobs (Except the Grim Reaper)?

Jul 19, 10 | 7:59 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Apple got caught. It’s hard to be more caught. Consumer Reports conclusions—so awfully judicious, thorough, and boring—tend to be inescapable. Little doubt then: There’s a design flaw in the damn iPhone which drops even more calls. (I say more because irrespective of this design flaw, the iPhone loses calls at a fantastic and infuriating rate. This seems due to the ineptness of AT&T—although if you call AT&T they will invariably blame it on the instrument and suggest you call Apple.)

But in a bravura demonstration of stonewalling, righteousness, and hurt sincerity, Steve Jobs successfully took to the stage the other day to deny the problem, dismiss the criticism, and to spread the blame among other smartphone makers.

Here’s the picture: a defective product and a hostile, take-no-responsibility company—and yet, apparently, a sanguine consumer and a happy ending.

This is a level of modern marketing, corporate spin, and crisis management about which you can only ask with stupefied incredulity and awe: How do they get away with it?

Or, more accurately, how does he get away with it?


(AP Photo)

I suppose there’s not a lot of mystery: Steve Jobs is the last charismatic individual.

The grim, skeletal appearance, the absolutism, the ecclesiastical bearing, the sense of his relationship with the sacred, really works, and, in this instance, allows him the privilege of magisterially deciding what is meaningful and what is trivial. Dropped calls and a faulty antenna don’t amount to a hill of beans in such a classy upgrade.

There’s no other company or CEO that would not, at this moment, be offering abject apologies, proffering new incentives, and swallowing massive recalls.

Instead, Steve is out there in the clothes that hang off his body, saying, in effect, who dares to challenge me?

In a world were every public person is triangulated by his utterances, reduced by exposure, mocked for any hint of the self-serving, Steve talks and we blink.

He has just, I suppose, become the one true intermediary between consumers and technology, between consumers and the future—so a shaman. And there is his own precariousness which makes anything less than certain belief in him seem, on our part, awfully chary and unworthy. Steve, for as long as we’ve got him, is a national asset.

Still, I felt sure the bum antenna, such a basic and necessary thing to get right, was at least going to necessitate a little humility. Silly of me.

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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