For Occupy Wall Street, Is Steve Jobs an Inspiration or the Enemy?

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 6 2011 12:58 PM

Steve Jobs vs. Occupy Wall Street?

111006_BB_jobsOccupy
Left, Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivers the keynote address at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference. Right, Occupy Wall Street protestors and union members stage a protest near Wall Street in New York.

Photograph of Steve Jobs by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images. Photograph of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

Big news stories have an interesting way of colliding on Twitter—and few collisions have been as intriguing as the one that happened last night, when the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs was announced during one of the largest demonstrations so far for the ongoing protest movement Occupy Wall Street.

David Haglund David Haglund

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

On the one hand, Steve Jobs is the CEO of one of the most profitable corporations on the planet, one that employs many overseas workers to make its products. This point was made by Twitter user @VoidDelete:

RIP Steve Jobs?......How about RIP AMERICAN JOBS? #occupywallstreet #ows Apple products are made in China
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Some, like @MistrGreen56, saw the attention for Jobs as an example of misplaced priorities:

#iSad ppl care more about steve jobs, who cares nothing for us, than ppl care about #OWS, a movement trying to make everyones future beter

But Jobs was also a creature of the counterculture, as he himself often said, whose company’s most famous slogan is “Think Different.” Many of Occupy Wall Street’s supporters—like Twitter users @saramikaila, @adbridgeforth, and @screwcomforttoo—see him as an inspiration:

“because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do” -Steve Jobs #OccupyWallStreet
"Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish". + Steve Jobs #p2 #ows #WeThePeople
Be like Steve Jobs and help build a future that gives more people tools and a voice. #ows #p2

There have also been plenty of tweets from the anti-Occupy Wall Street crowd, claiming Jobs as one of their own, or mocking the perceived inconsistency of the other side—like this one, from @anticoolness:

To all the #occupywallstreet folks who are sad for Steve Jobs: He wasn't the 99%. He was the 1% you're supposed to take Wall St. back from.

Some people pointed to the all-over-the-place Steve Jobs tweets as further evidence of the inconsistencies—or, at least, wild heterogeneity—of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

But it’s also testament to the complexity of Jobs himself. He did identify with the counterculture. He did “think differently” as a CEO in many ways. He also was an enormously successful businessman. And at least one pro-Occupy Wall Street tweeter (@Barney_Miller) would just like other people to have the same opportunities Jobs had:

Think about how many Steve Jobs are out there with great ideas who can't get a loan today to start the next Apple.#Occupywallstreet

(Further reading: Jonathan Chait on why those at both extremes, right and left,  are wrong about Steve Jobs, Apple, and Occupy Wall Street.)

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