MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Most people who have read the late-night email exchange Friday between Gawker writer Ryan Tate and Apple kingpin Steve Jobs will simply take from it that Jobs is anti-porn. Why else would he have responded so explicitly to Tate’s opening email questioning the “revolutionary” and freedom-loving status of the iPad with a retort that included the seeming non sequitur “Freedom from porn”?
Jobs also followed up in a subsequent email to Tate, who had said he didn’t want freedom from porn (and neither probably would his wife), with the comment, “And you might care more about porn when you have kids …” But who knows what the Apple magnate really had in mind when he wrote those words. Maybe he was having fun with Tate, whose emails got longer and more incensed as the “conversation” continued past the 2 a.m. hour. Maybe his conception of freedom conflicts with Tate’s. Maybe Tate wants Apple to be “free” in a way that Jobs finds abhorrent, or vice versa.
Or maybe, as Jobs writes at one point, “Its [sic] not about freedom, its about Apple trying to do the right thing for its users. Users, developers and publishers can do whatever they like—they don’t have to buy, develop or publish on iPads if they don’t want to. This seems like its your issue, not theirs.”
To which Tate replied, in part, “You have the chance to set the tone for a new platform. For the new phone and tablet platform. The platform of the future! I am disappointed to see it’s the same old revenge power bullshit.” The revenge comment seemed to be in reference to Apple’s apparent animosity to Flash because, according to Tate, “Adobe tried to fuck you guys in the late 90s.”
Tate’s last email unquestionably took the bait—hook, line and sinker—in response to Jobs’ comments asking why Tate sounded so bitter over what amounts to a technical issue.
“Because I don’t think it’s a technical issue at all—it’s you imposing your morality, about porn, about ‘trade secrets,’ about technical purity in the most bizarre sense,” he wrote.
Jobs closed out the deteriorating tête-à-tête with his own personal aside, "By the way, what have you done that was so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others work and belittle their motivations?”
Ouch … all the way around.
Like all content, porn just wants to be free. It has no inherent agenda other than its own will to express. Jobs is Apple, so when he says that Apple’s motivation is “to try and make (and preserve) the user experience we envision,” with the admonishment that Tate and others “can disagree with us, but our motivations are pure,” well, we are simply observing the capitalist’s prerogative at work, nothing more and nothing less.
The Apple-obsessed can bray all they want, disappointed that the world isn’t the way they want it to be, but who really gives a crap what Jobs decides to do with his company? There will be plenty of other devices available on which to watch porn or any other legal content made available for these devices.
Likewise, Jobs will have to figure out a way to keep porn off of his devices, if that truly is his goal. People who produce porn don’t care if they’re in the App Store or not! There never was porn in the thing, anyway, only badly designed softcore titillation fare unworthy of the true porn connoisseur’s time of day. The real stuff can be found easily enough, even without the blessing of Apple.
Gawker, for their part, might want to assess their own position in the great porn debate. It’s good to hear that Tate has no problem with porn, but he might then want to have a chat with his boss, Nick Denton, who apparently remains somewhat confused about what is at stake in the porn wars.
The Gawker website may be a porn-free site, but Fleshbot most certainly is not. It contains a veritable wealth of sexually explicit content and deliciously witty commentary.
Unfortunately, the site also claims not to trigger the same 2257 federal regulations that Perez Hilton so flagrantly flouted recently, about which it could not be more mistaken. Fleshbot is most certainly required under federal law to maintain 2257 documentation, which it does not currently appear to do.
It may not like the law, which is fine—join the Free Speech Coalition lawsuit, then! But Gawker itself is on thin ground complaining about Apple’s admittedly bizarre position with respect to porn when it itself can’t be bothered to join the fight for porn to be free, but instead decides to look the other way while the industry it profits from suffers the consequences of an unconstitutional law.
No, what these emails really reveal is the great cultural divide that shows no sign of closing, but instead threatens to become a chasm over which we can no longer hear one another speak. Porn, as this writer has believed for years, remains on the front line of the culture war, and we are only just beginning to learn who is and is not taking sides.
While it is now more clear what Jobs wants for Apple, less clear is what he wants for porn, if anything. He seems to have a libertarian bent on the subject. Let those who wish to masturbate go elsewhere. That's a far cry from trying to tell someone that they have to accept content they find vile, even if they own Apple! It looks increasingly like the real work will be for the millions of porn-loving Macheads who now have to readjust to the new reality that Big Daddy is living on another cloud.