I don’t know Tim Cook personally, nor have I ever worked at Apple, Inc., but to my knowledge, he’s a man who lives in a transparent container. Some people call it an Apple. Others call it a bubble of privilege and protection, which is needed to preserve the integrity of a range of products.
An October 30 Businessweek article has been attributed to him. In my opinion, it was written by a male of average intelligence, with a bachelor’s degree. One of three things happened. He was grinding away in a cubicle in Apple’s public relations department, he’s an assistant, or he’s a copy editor at Businessweek.
All versions male have done a terrible job with this writing assignment, because it screams “I’m a plant.” In other words, the article doesn’t read as if written by a CEO. Regardless, it was published for a purpose other than that stated.
The article stood out to me primarily because the announcement is gratuitous. Tim Cook has hardly courted personal press. To date, the obsequious Vanity Fair has not managed to win a personal interview with him, even though they put him on their Establishment List. (Shame on them for employing that thick Middleton girl). They were left scrambling, just as the Telegraph has, after the article was published in Businessweek. Such a face slap, that.
At first, my bad mind went to “extortion via sex tape” but that made no sense. The media would not be interested in “outing him” as gay, as this is not the 1950s. If I were to give this article the Louis Litt treatment, and go all Showtime Drama on it, I would say that it hints at a power struggle at Apple.
In theory, Cook would be advised to make a public statement about his sexual orientation. Businessweek is respected, reliably bland, and the thirteen people who read it on that day would skip over it. Did you read the entire article? Exactly. I get the feeling that nobody is interested in Tim Cook or what happens in Tim Cook’s pants. I mean, this information does not influence the value of Apple stock, right? Moving on, Louis Litt would say that when the Board tries to replace him, he could sue for discrimination, sexual harrassment, or something cool I haven’t yet thought about.
The phrasing and references in the article itself further raised my suspicions. I’ll throw them together and call them markers of insincerity. I explain a few of them now.
Markers of Insincerity
Staged photo. Note how the sunlight makes a perfect halo around the back of his chair. The halo has two effects. One is to signal him as an evolved human, a person who others look up to. The other is to highlight the smallness of his chair. It signals his humility. The ring also gives the illusion of a wheelchair, which is to suggest that he’s a member of a marginalised or non mainstream community. His head is bowed in an attitude of meditation much like a celibate priest’s would be, at vespers.
Signalling. “I come from humble roots” underscores the intent of the staged photo, in case your brain can’t make that kind of association without help.
Substitution. “Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world,” means, “I am closely watched.” Substitute “it” for “me”.
Inversion. Something said positively is inverted from the negative truth. He says, “It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple,” but in reality wants to tell you “I don’t care about your feelings. If you don’t obey me, I’ll make your life hell. I’m a God.”
“So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone,” means to say, “My sexuality had nothing to do with my promotion to God status. Pesky teenagers bore me with their angst but I should align myself with them to get sympathy.”
In my opinion, the following statement is highly improbable. The two people he calls out as inspiration were masters of spin. Their public personas were at odds with their private lives. One of them is not from a humble background and the other has a history of violence towards intimate partners. I don’t see how we could read this without laughing. It looks like a blatant lie:
“When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league.”
The truth would sound rather like, “I’m in their league. I’m the most important man alive today. I’m a visionary, a leader, and one day I am sure elementary school textbooks will have chapters about me.”
“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now.” This means he’s hidden it until now and is only reluctantly acknowledging it publicly.
Flattery. “I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them,” sounds a lot like, “The thing I’m hiding is really big and will cause a media firestorm. If I make flattering remarks here, readers will be distracted further.”
Discomfort. “So let me be clear:” If someone says this while they’ve got your attention it’s being said for emphasis and not clarity. Followed by, “I’m proud to be gay,” this means “I don’t want to say it here as I feel exposed but this is my only play.”
Emotional argument. “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority.” It does not, and he is not. We should be upset that he’s trying to say he knows what it’s like to be (no offence) an illegal immigrant single mother with four children working for less than minimum wage, and who has no health insurance.
Being gay does not provide any white male who was coddled by academia, and who climbed up the corporate ladder “a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day.” He also says greedily that “It’s made me more empathetic,” but this cannot be true. Your sexual orientation does not affect your personality traits.
The rest of the essay is caramel flavoured popcorn. Sweet, crunchy and immediately satisfying, while lacking a substantive point.
~ Update ~
November 4: Reuters reports that Russian memorial to Steve Jobs dismantled after Apple CEO comes out as gay, on November 3. This reaction is beyond stupid, but the anti-gay retaliation by a sovereign state would be hard to quash in case discrimination would need to be argued.