Geekonomy, Technology, Homosexuality, Culture, and Apple

This may be one of my longest post names.

Last week I mentioned I was curious about Tim Cook's appointment as Apple's CEO and the fact he was gay, though it was a subject he didn't talk about (and frankly there's no reason he should or have to).  For me he's a reliable, wonkish, even-handed appointment who's good for a temporary CEO as Apple deals with the change of Jobs – but may have the chance to set a vision and go long term (his stock options hint at that).

As Cook was outed by Gawker (and 'Out' magazine listed him as the most powerful gay person in the world), I'm concerned that his sexual preference might become a Geekonomic/Geek culture issue due to some other trends I want to discuss.  Thus I consider this relevant to the blog, but at the same time feel a bit invasive.

That's a long-form way of kind of apologizing to Mr. Cook if against the odds he reads this or hears about this.

Right now it seems issues of homosexuality are more prominent in politics – mostly dragged in by a mixture of Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum (for the gods' sake don't Google his name) and increased reaction by what are frankly homophobic forces to same-sex marriage laws.  Tim Cook's appointment has made me wonder if culture-war issues could again affect Apple now that Mr. Cook is in charge.

Apple's been in the culture wars before, needless to say:

If you follow human rights issues, you'll find Apple keeps getting yanked into the culture wars or deciding to merrily wade into them.  Let's face it, the 'It get's better video' showed delightful cajones.

Now a gay man is CEO of one of the cornerstones of the Geekonomy, the Nerd Nirvana, the Big Ecosystem.

Why do I bring this up beyond the obvious 'bigots will be screaming'?  Because, unfortunately because of said bigots, this has a chance to affect parts of the Geekonomy:

  • This may be used as a rallying point for various anti-gay-rights groups which has the potential to cause assorted trouble for Apple, from simple protests to worse.
  • We're going to probably see more legal challenges over Apple and App store content, and perhaps more attempts to get homophobic content into these venues as a way of provoking legal confrontations.  That could set and change legal precedents for app stores and technology.
  • I'm not sure we'll see an Apple boycott (considering how many people use Apple products), nor can I see one being particularly successful.  There may be some sad, token efforts.
  • Politically, Apple may find itself under further scrutiny by those with ties to homophobic groups or those that see it as a great political boost.  Apple's probably pretty damn fortunate to be in California – beyond the awesome weather.
  • Any lobbying attempts by Apple may attract opponents opposed to gay rights just out of  . . . well it being Apple.  They may oppose some of their endeavors no matter what they are.
  • If the truly homophobic violent nuts come up – as they do now and then when they crawl out of their rocks – we might see some anti-Apple violence.  I would normally not worry about this, but again, homosexuality seems to have returned with a vengeance as a hot-button political issue these days.

So I see Apple having some trouble, some precedents being potentially set, and potential legal annoyances are a possible issue of this.  Not enough to destroy them or damage them, but something that is worth following if you work there, work in technology that's very public, and if you're at all involved in geeky law and geek politics.

I have an overall concern that the Geekonomy could find itself more politicized than it is already, with this acting as a "gateway" issue for people to rally against games (again), media (again), etc.  Certainly Apple could be worked into a variety of crazy conspiracy theories.

Of course I wish this wasn't an issue.  I wish I didn't feel the need to speculate.

But it's telling in this time that I feel I do.  Apple's lead place in the Geekonomy, and the culture war issues, mean that we as professional geeks need to be at least aware of the situation and potential issues.

I wish it wasn't.

I wish Mr. Cook well.  He's got an enormous responsibility to a pretty awesome company, and I'd rather a bunch of bigots not make it harder.

But for us, the professional geeks in technology, those for whom a legal challenge in an app store or the politics of companies will affect us, we need to be aware.

Steven Savage

For those wondering I am blatantly for gay rights in that they're human rights, and don't give a flip about the gender or former gender of the person you or anyone else are marrying.  I also think that many anti-gay rights organizations are rightfully called hate groups, and also are basically moneymaking scams (in fact I could go into my whole "false consultancy" theory but thats not the time).