Tim Cook and Being Politically Correct

April 2nd, 2015

In the days when Steve Jobs ruled Apple, he very rarely ventured forth to make comments outside of a few interviews and those famous keynotes. Politics were not part of the picture. A notable exception included a blog calling for the end to DRM on iTunes. He wrote, “Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.”

Well, it wasn’t long before the music industry was persuaded — or coerced — to go along with his demands, and iTunes songs became free of DRM. With it came iTunes Plus, a higher quality version of the AAC files that were said to be much closer in quality to a CD. Some said indistinguishable. Of course, there were also several price tiers, topping out at $1.29 for a single track rather than 99 cents. There had to be give and take to get what Apple wanted.

In short order, even rival music systems no longer had DRM. However, movies and TV shows still carry unbearable restrictions, due to the intransigence of the entertainment companies that perhaps believed the music industry caved too quickly to Apple’s demands.

Later on, in response to requests that Apple support Flash on iOS, he went on to explain how Flash was a 100% proprietary format, and about its miserable record for security. The beta version of Flash for Android never left beta. Mobile operating systems supported HTML5 instead, and nowadays Flash is restricted to the desktop. But not completely, as more and more web developers are moving to open standards, even though that sometimes entails a fair amount of work.

In these two cases, Jobs’ comments strictly impacted Apple’s products and services. He stayed away from politics.

Tim Cook, however, has gone off in a more open direction. In addition to addressing the working conditions at Apple’s contract manufacturers in Asia and other matters, he has now entered the contentious political arena. His recent editorial for the Washington Post lambasts the legislators and the governor of Indiana for passing what he regarded as an overly restrictive so-called religious freedom law.

But Cook wasn’t alone. His views were embraced by other companies, commentators and sports teams. When a similar law was approved in Arkansas, the CEO of Walmart, that state’s largest employer, took the hint and spoke out against it. Within short order, the governor of Arkansas decided he needed to return the bill to the legislature for reworking to make the bill more acceptable. The governor of Indiana had previously agreed that state’s law should be tweaked.

Now the facts around such contentious matters aren’t as important as the fact that Cook felt it was important enough to speak out, and to assert that Apple fully supported him.

As you might predict, certain political talking heads have attacked Cook for daring to speak his mind. What about Apple customers who do not agree with him, they said? Would they decide to buy products from someone else? Should it even matter what a corporate executive thinks when you pay your hard-earned money for one of their products?

Some of those talking heads went on to complain about Apple selling products in countries where individual freedoms are extremely limited. But that’s true for all companies who sell products in those countries. Besides, Cook is a citizen of the United States, and Apple’s headquarters are based in the U.S. So shouldn’t they have the right to comment on issues that impact this country? Where would they come off attacking what is done in other countries?

Clearly, Apple doesn’t appear to be concerned that some customers might give up their iPads, iPhones and Macs because they don’t agree with the political views of the CEO or the corporation in general.

Now it doesn’t matter what you or I think. The executives of any company have the perfect right to express their points of view. By the same token, celebrities, people in the entertainment industry, have long taken on political or social causes. Sometimes it impacts the box office receipts or TV ratings, but usually it doesn’t seem to matter.

And of course one actor actually ran and was elected for the positions of governor and president. Did it impact his career when he first decided to run for political office, or, as some suggest, was Ronald Reagan’s career at a low ebb, where he was mostly doing TV shows, before entering politics? That came at a time when TV wasn’t taken near as seriously as film. But I wouldn’t presume to comment, except to suggest that any citizen has the right to express their point of view about any subject. Do you really care about the politics and beliefs of an entertainer when you decide whether to watch a movie or TV show? Should you?

Certainly we are seeing Apple as a more open and activist company, and it’s no doubt a work in progress. So I do expect we’ll see more statements and guest editorials from Cook as the need arises. Nobody should be surprised.

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18 Responses to “Tim Cook and Being Politically Correct”

  1. Louis Wheeler says:

    I attempted to post but was accused of being spamy. I interpret that comment as your desire to suppress dissent.

    Leftist often are incapable of engaging in a rigorous discussion. I will leave to inhabit your blue bubble.

  2. Jorge Rizo says:

    The ability to refuse to provide service if you feel it’s against your principles. Doesn’t have to be religious. Hope some neonazi doesn’t demand a cake being baked with a swastika on it, because I will have to refuse as it’s against my personal beliefs. Or do I have to bake and deliver it?

  3. Louis Wheeler says:

    I never spoke about Illinois or its laws, but about the danger of Apple adopting a public position which irritates its conservative customers. It could lose sales.

    Homosexual activism is a fad which may not last, because the Leftists are out numbered. They are losing strength in every election.

    What we have here is a contest of “freedoms.” Does a constitution “right of association” and the right of Americans to “freely exercise their religion” in the 1st amendment trump a state anti-discrimination law? This will be fought out in the courts and the legislatures for decades.

    If your system had said that my “spamy” post would be moderated, I would have no objection. An outright denial smacked of censorship.

    • @Louis Wheeler, It’s Indiana, and I hardly think it’s fair to suggest that activism to gain one’s freedom should be dismissed as a “fad.”

      What about when one’s right to freedom of religion tramps upon someone else’s right? How do you weigh that?

      Let’s end it there.


  4. Louis Wheeler says:

    I noticed that I was not allowed to edit the above post to correct that error. But, you allow others to dispute my position. That seems rather bigoted.

    We have a dispute as to what freedoms homosexuals have. I don’t believe that they more rights than I do.

    I don’t believe that I have a right to compel people to do work for me which offends them, because that would make them my slave. This is forbidden in the 13th amendment. I would rather find someone willing to serve me.

    This is an attack on Christian religion and that is forbidden by the 1st amendment.

    There is nothing in the Constitution which permits this. I called homosexual activism a fad, because it is new. The Democrat Party’s position was different a mere four years ago.

    • @Louis Wheeler, There is no setting I’m aware of that prevents you from editing your comments for a brief period.

      If someone is prevented from going to a public place because of race, color, religion or sexual orientation, that’s discrimination.

      I find nothing in Christianity that says freedom is wrong.

      Let’s close it there, OK? It’s way beyond the scope of this blog.


  5. Louis Wheeler says:

    By the way, you keep wanting to end this conversation. As if having the last word means that you have won.

    I would like you to refute my comments on the 1st and 13th amendments. Soon enough, you will ban me. You have banned me before when you couldn’t deny my arguments.

    You brought up politics on this webpage, not me. You should expect that someone would disagree. Why are you so against a vigorous debate? Are you so deep into your blue bubble that you never thought that there would be an honorable opposition?

  6. Louis Wheeler says:

    Repeat after me, “I guess we’re not going to agree.”

    You keep inflaming the argument, which I must reply to. If you make no other comment attacking me, my morals or ethics, I’m gone.

    Otherwise, I’ll stick around on the basis that evil arguments need to be refuted.

  7. SteveP says:

    Louis: You’re a bore – and a boor – here and on most every site I’ve seen your posts on. And I’m not a “leftie”.
    Gene was being polite! I’d say go away and post on a site like “The Hill”. They seem to appreciate irrationality.
    (IF Gene allows this post! 😉 )

  8. dfs says:

    There is a possible argument against Tim’s expressions of opinions on sociopolitical issues. The job of a CEO is to maximize profit for his corporation’s shareholders. If a CEO makes unnecessary pronouncements that risk alienating any segment of the purchasing public, then his conduct might threaten to interfere with his effective performance as a CEO. Personally, I have no opinion on this subject, positive or negative. But I certainly do think that Apple’s Board of Directors and AAPL shareholders have a right to pass judgment on Tim’s public statements, if they were to conclude that these are not in Apple’s best interest. They are entitled to have a wide range of available reactions ranging from enthusiastically supporting his positions to reprimanding him or even removing him from his position, and I would not care to criticize them for doing any of these things, if they see fit.

    The only thing I would disagree with is Gene’s blanket statement that “The executives of any company have the perfect right to express their points of view.” Sometimes if you hold a certain job, of necessity you forfeit your absolute freedom of speech. As a former professor, for example, I was keenly that I was not free to shoot my mouth off on a wide variety of subjects, particularly if I were to speak up in situations where I might be interpreted as being a spokesman for my university or if I were to say something that might bring it into disrepute. There are many other jobs where similar principles apply, and being a corporate CEO is arguably one of these.

  9. Louis Wheeler says:

    SteveP, I posted a reply, but Gene censored it. He’s done it before.

    I’ll post where I please. I don’t tend to post on Leftist websites, because they have no respect for freedom of speech. I post here occasionally to try to get Gene to respect the rights of his conservative readers. It’s a hopeless cause, but I have the time, because I’m retired.

    I had a nice reply to your comments, dfs, but it has vanished, just as this post is likely to be. Tim Cook has his rights, but it is mistake for him to commit Apple to political correctness. The Left are riding high right now, but “pride goeth before a fall.”

    If you are interested in what I see coming for the Democrat Party, leave an email address. It would be interesting to get your take on the immediate future.

    I have been corresponding with Gene, but he isn’t rational on some subjects.

    • @Louis Wheeler, This is not a “leftist” blog, nor a political blog. We deal with technology and seldom venture into political waters. When posts get too far afield, they are gone.

      Oh, and by, the way, it’s the Democratic Party. Not the Democrat Party, which is a known pejorative from the opposition.

      Unfortunately, Wheeler seems to have a curious idea of what’s factual and what’s not and what’s rational and what’s not. Let’s leave it at there, since you won’t be seeing any further responses from him in regard to this article.


  10. dfs says:

    Dear Gene: if you haven’t already blocked this guy, please do. Like anybody else who’s too interested in politics for his own good, he’s incredibliy boring.

  11. Louis Wheeler says:

    Gene, drop the politics on this site. It brings out the worst in people. That was my point.

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