Thursday, October 6, 2011

Respect & Shame

It's been fascinating seeing how many people have responded to the death of Steve Jobs exactly the way I did. It's truly amazing how many people who never met the man feel not just that the world has lost somebody significant but that they themselves have lost a friend.

Hearing others express exactly what I'm feeling? It helps. And, for the most part, the media has been right there with us, responding to Steve's death by focusing on his impact and the good he has done.

I really hope seeing how many peoples' lives he has touched is helping Steve's family and friends get through this.

But not all of the media has chosen to focus on the good. I won't link to any of the actual articles, but Gawker and the New York Times top a short list of media outlets that have chosen to focus on Steve's flaws and to stand up and shout out to anybody who will listen that Steve was… well… human. Imperfect. Flawed.

There's a custom in modern society that's often called "respect for the dead". It has nothing whatsoever to do with the dead. The dead don't care what you say about them. It's about the living who cared about the dead, and they do. It's because they care that mourning is such a difficult process. Painful. Sad. It's not a time when you want reminders of the flaws of the person whose absence you are trying to come to terms with.

No human with with a shred of empathy or decency chooses to publicly criticize the recently departed, famous or otherwise, regardless of how they felt about them. Doing so is an act of cruelty. It's hurtful. Little. It's kicking people hard when they are already as low as they can be.

For those, like me, who care, but didn't know Steve Jobs personally, people like this are an annoyance. They're just another crass, classless obnoxious Internet loudmouth that we have to make an effort to ignore.

But for Steve's family, friends, and coworkers… the people who really knew him, it's a hell of a lot more than that. It breaks my heart to think that they might read those articles.

Shame on you, New York Times. You're better than that. Shame on you, Gawker. You should be better than that.


Adam Eberbach said...

Same reaction and I was surprised at the decency of most people in forums.
I continue to be annoyed whenever I click a shortened link and find I've landed at a Gawker site. They've shown their quality too many times.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Most people - even Apple's competitors and biggest critics - have been fantastic. Respectful. Which makes the few glaring breaches of etiquette… no, not etiquette… decency - stand out even more.

Chris said...

Well said Jeff. I never knew Steve, but like you and many others in the world, it felt like I knew him through the products Apple produced.

NYT and Gawker should be ashamed at dishonoring and polluting the memories of Steve.

andrewjs said...

Well said.

e.dolecki said...

Wonderful post. 99% of everyone has been great during this time. I've been told to get a life because of my feelings of grief, but that cad was the exception and not the norm. I still feel a little lost. I grew up with this man's visions enabling my career. Hell, if it weren't for that Apple ][+ my father bought for VisiCalc, I wouldn't have the life I do now.

Mark Petereit said...

NYT and Gawker: The Schadenfreude Media

Loath them or ignore them, you can't possible read them.

Life's too short to spend time with their bitter rants. Compare their marks on the world to Steve's.

'Nuff said.

Sam said...

I agree with you Jeff, but I would add one caveat. In my experience excessive eulogising can be a burden too if you lose someone close to you.

It is nice to remember the good sides of someone, but it's unreal to pretend that they didn't have quirks and flaws, and it can get a bit painful if you feel that someone is being turned into something that they weren't. If you lose someone close, you want to remember them as they were - a human being - and not as some sort of mythical paragon.

Of course in this case it is very complicated because Steve has such a public profile and genuinely was a hero to many.

You point stands though: it's good to acknowledge that we all have flaws, but it's not good taste to then start listing them...

Somebody Else said...

It's a shame people act like that. You don't have a disgrace a man's death just because you don't like the products he helped to create.

Sef Tarbell said...

I know that you can write about cocoa, iOS, OS X, etc... with competence and make it interesting, which is a bigger feat. But you have once again shown that you have a real talent for writing in general. I could not agree with you more, shame on them.