As the worm turns: Apple exposed

FBI disclosures about Steve Jobs and Occupy Apple protests take their toll on the tech giant's reputation -- though not its sales

This just in: Legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs lived inside a reality bubble of his own creation. That's the conclusion of a confidential background check report just released by the FBI.

The G-men investigated the Jobs-man back in 1991, well before his second coming to Apple and the iMiracles that followed. It seems the then-CEO of NeXT Computer was being considered for a position on the President's Export Council, on which he served until January 1993.

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One can only imagine what those Council meetings were like.

The other highlights from the report? Mostly stuff we knew already.

  • He was the target of a million-dollar extortion threat while CEO of Apple in 1985.
  • He fathered a child out of wedlock while in high school and graduated with a C+ grade point average.
  • He experimented with hashish, marijuana, and LSD in college, yet despite all that was not a member of the Communist party.
  • Most of the more than 35 people interviewed by the feds did not personally care for Jobs but still respected his talents and recommended him for the post -- proving yet again that a solid grasp of reality and high moral standards are not requirements for government work.

I find it interesting this report came out the same week the "Occupy Apple" movement has gone public, with demonstrations outside Apple stores protesting the shabby treatment of hundreds of thousands of employees who assemble the machines that make Apple enormously rich.

Jobs's personal flaws are well known, despite the near-deification that followed his untimely demise last October. But Apple has largely been shielded from the kinds of accusations being thrown at it now.

Writing for the Huffington Post (yes, it occasionally commissions original work instead of sucking everything into the aggregation turbine), law professor William K. Black accused Jobs and Apple of being "criminogenic":

There is no indication that Jobs had any recognition or concern that Apple's bidding process for suppliers created a perverse Gresham's dynamic in which bad ethics would drive good ethics out of the markets. Apple created such an intensely criminogenic environment that it was certain that its suppliers would frequently engage in anti-employee control fraud that would put their workers' lives and health at risk.

Yesterday, protesters in San Francisco delivered petitions containing more than 250,000 signatures to Apple, demanding that its Chinese factory workers be treated more humanely. Demonstrators camped outside a half-dozen Apple retail stores to make that point publicly.

But while Apple's reputation has taken a hit, it's unlikely that sales will suffer. The number of protestors outside those stores will be dwarfed by the number of Apple fanboys lining up to buy the iPad 3, whenever it ends up going on sale.

As one of my favorite satirical websites put it, protesters were "so outraged by the deplorable working conditions at Apple's Chinese factories that they would almost consider not buying another iPhone or iPad, unless Apple introduced a new model in the next six months with some really kickass features."

As long as that continues, nothing will change.

Have you changed your mind about buying from Apple? Weigh in below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "As the worm turns: Apple exposed," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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