Infinite Loop 32: Vote Mac: What if the Mac were Politicized?

On November 4 CNN held its “Rock the Vote.” You know this from the (im)famous “Do you wear boxer or briefs Gov. Clinton?” question back in 1991. It is supposed to be for young people, college-aged and college-educated mostly (a built in bias from the start mind you) to get involved with politics. Recent poll by Pew, however, have found that modern college students are more politically active and interested than ever before. Yet, we all supposedly know that voter turn out is miserable in this nation. It is changing with the polarization brought about by the Clintons – being polarized brings strong feelings, so 50/50, right down the middle, equal armies, are at bay, and that’s where we are at, so, enraged, more people are voting. But people are voting more out of anger and against things, rather than voting out of a rational inquiry of the real issues and real people involved in any election. That’s what polarization does – it makes us dumb.

Anyway, one girl got up and asked this question, “It’s not quite boxers or briefs, I know, and I have received a lot of advice from my mom and dad, but I want to ask you: “Mac or PC?” I lifted my head from what I was reading, my wife ran into the living room to watch the answers, suddenly, a boring, overdone. Totally scripted political event had RELEVANCE for me and my family! Now mind you, this was all by chance. I distrust CNN and was surfing around and just by chance and left the TV channel there to see the debate for a second when this happened. Otherwise I would know nothing of it. What immediately hit me is how me and my wife reacted: we were interested to see the answers. Think about that, just because the Mac was introduced to a political Town Hall Meeting Debate made it interesting to us! What a growing deficit, more deaths in Iraq, the real threat of terrorism to our nation (and I fly often), could not do, namely make us pay attention to politics, a computer did!! My God, have I become so dull? A dullard? Has my political banality come to this? Am I a political nihilist? (“. . . a nihilist is a man who judges of the world as it is that it ought not to be, and that of the world as it ought to be that it does not exist.” – Dostoevsky.) Does it take the Mac to make you interested in politics? God help us if it does.

But as unnerving as these questions were, what was even more unnerving was the immediate question raised by this girl’s question: What would happen if the Mac became a political issue? If the Mac-PC debate became a political debate? What if the Mac was politicized? (I am assuming it has not been, and that is dubious at best.) Think about it…

But first, I know you are wondering, “How did the candidates respond?” Okay, I was kind of lost in thought by that point thinking of this very article coming to life in my head as I watched this event, but Braun said “My kids have a Mac, I have PC (embarrass smile).” Dean: “PC.” Others mostly PC, Lieberman said “Wireless portable” thinking he could dodge the issue by not taking sides. Politicians are snakes. Has it come to this? Is it that hot of a topic? Kerry: “Mac.” Edwards, “PC.” Cacinich, “PC.” But the always entertaining Rev. Sharpton stuck out his chest and said, “The ‘politically correct’ Mac.” There was a small cheer in the audience each time someone said, “Mac.” I shudder even to recall it. But what of this – What if the Mac became politically correct, as Sharpton suggest it is?

Oh… my …. God! We could say nothing bad about the Mac. If a design was disappointing we would have to deny it or just accept it as a difference making for ‘diversity’ in a multicultural nation of computers. And think how, like the white European brought disease, weeds (weeds, I have seen this documented in scholarly works), and death to the untarnished Indians – excuse me, ‘Native Americans’ – so the nasty corporate types stole the soul of the Macintosh from the virginal Steve Jobs and his artistic vision, profits be damned!! Scully usurped the real vision of the nation as a free people, free to design and write and draw during the DTP revolution of the eighties! Remember that? It was when us colonials – read those shut out of professional publishing – were under the intolerable rule of the mother country, the King, King George III in our case, professional publishers who had all the goods and knowledge to publish, kept us under submission. But we in a Boston Tea Party, Lexington-Concord, Paul Revere “The Regulars are coming!” ride, on the night of April 19, 1775, we rose, we rallied, in 1984, we’d been preparing for a long time, reading about typography and page layout on our own, and fought the Regulars, the Red Coats, and we demanded no taxation without representation, that is, writing and printing without our input, the Desktop Publishing Revolution (DTP recall), we took back the presses and were now able to create, to publish on our desktop, our desktop of all things! We had been liberated and would form a loose federation of states that one day would become the USA, that is, the Mac users we are today. Power to the People. That was the call of the Mac – anti-conformity, ‘Think Different.’ And Scully and all of them took it away, along with the Grand Piano in the lobby of One Infinite Loop, and coming to work in T-shirts and sandals, to make us like them, IBM. There were so many Macs (Performas of every color recall), we didn’t know what to do. No one did. So they didn’t buy. We’d have to make sure high school textbooks told the real story of the rise of the computer, and the real hero, the Woz, would be one of our founding fathers. But in a second American Revolution Steve Jobs came back and we bought AAPL again and the iMac came out and “The Mac is Back baby!” Remember that?

Back to my point. What Sharpton meant by the ‘politically
correct Mac’ is obvious, right? To have a Mac is to
be against monopolies, big business, rich white men
with no taste making design decision in Texas and
making black patristic boxes that look like toys not
art, and the Mac is art, you are special, and you
vote for freedom and individuality and artistic freedom
and against big brother when you get a Mac and that
is politically correct because those types offend
people and to be inoffensive and be on the right side
of the debate we buy Macs. That is exactly what he
meant. You know. Buying a Mac is an anti-big-business
statement, something Democratic populists and unionist
are against, right? To stand for the Mac you stand
for those who think different and are free and real
‘Artistes.’ Conservatives use PCs because they are
for big business and the rich and wealthy. That is
exactly what he meant. And if you believe that about
the Mac then the Mac, for you, has been politicized
and the Mac-PC debate is a political debate and one’s
choice of computer has become a political
choice. But then again remember when the Democratic
National Convention had iMacs all over the place in
2000? Maybe the Mac has been politicized after all.

Anyway, back to my point: What if the Mac became politically correct, remember? Politicized? What does it mean to make something political anyway? To be politicized is to be whatized? Can you tell me?

I have just outlined the the PC story of the Mac. We could say nothing bad about it. We would have to accept its flaws as differences. So a culture kills its elderly in a gruesome way – so what!! It’s just different, not wrong, in this multicultural world of ours. And we could not say it was “just a computer.” That would be stereotyping, right? Racist even? PC users would be… what? Some bigoted, ill-cultured, – educated, red-neck, fuel-using and SUV driving, intolerant person who offends everyone all the time and always uses “he” and never “she” in his prose? That’s who! That’s all right, that kind of person does not exist, as any stereotype does not exist. And of course, we would all have to wear an Apple lapel pin? Like the AIDS ribbon. If you don’t wear it means you are Pro-AIDS – PRO, mind you, for, encouraging and cheering the disease itself because you do not wear a lapel pin. We’d lose our freedom and we would all be handed new dictionaries and be told how to really talk about Macs and computers so as not to offend anybody. God forbid if the Mac ever became politically correct.

But what if the Mac became a political issue? Here is the real grabber. That girl asked our political candidates, “Mac or PC?” The debate and the product had become politicized. And what happens when something becomes politicized?

Well, first we’d need a PAC, a political action committee. We would organize it as a not-for-profit organization and set up an office in D.C. Bright-eyed, just-graduated-college-kids would come up and run it with visions of political and Washingtonian fame in their idealistic eyes. Then we’d need a logo. Oh, we have one, that’s right. So we would need, as said above, a lapel pin to identify us as Pro-Mac, just like we’d be Pro-Life, or Pro-environment, Green, (“Are you green?” Get it?), Pro-for-the-children, and elderly, and so on. That is right, you are either Pro-Earth, -Life, -Health, -Kids, -Moms and -Dads, -Soccer Moms, or you are AGAINST them. You cannot just be “not for” something, you immediately become “against” it. There is no leap of logic here my friends – to be “not for” means you are definitely “against.” If you are not Green then you are most certainly Anti-Earth, like you would destroy the very thing that keeps you alive.

But the PAC – called of course MacPAC – would come into Senators’ offices and strong arm them to support the Mac, to vote for legislation that would get Macs into schools, to vote on bills that help the Mac industry; and the Congressman would represent the “good people back in Cupertino, the Silicon Valley constituent.” All IRS and Medicare billing would have to be done on Macs and Macs only. The Pentagon would contract out Macs. That would be the PAC’s agenda of course. Hum, I better be quiet or I might get in trouble with Redmond… ahem.

We would have bumper stickers “I own a Mac and I Vote,” threatening all who would dare to tailgate us; and of course on every back window would be the white Mac logo decal you get with every purchase of a Mac, clearly signaling our political loyalties to others, to brothers and sisters of the club.

And then would come the political attack ads. We must have those. There she is, a sweet little Macless child, a girl humming a love-me-not-tune to herself in a field full of daisies. The screen becomes black and white, like a picture negative, a picture of Bill Gates appears with threatening music. Then the (yes, definite article, the bomb, that one) bomb goes off, mushroom cloud, as she picks the last petal off the daisy, “he loves me not.” If you vote for an anti-Mac candidate – please note, that you are either Pro-Mac or Anti-Mac, and if you are Anti-Mac then you are also anti-computer, anti-technology, against all computers of course – then this is the world you would bring down on your children: A world without Macs, lifeless, dull, colorless, full of corporate and infinite varieties of conformity, in a post-nuclear, apocalyptic wasteland, where a “Mad Max” character roams the highways in search of gasoline, on a godless, lifeless Earth with the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the shoreline beach sands… and as we say, “April is the cruelest month/Breeding lilac out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.” (T. S. Eliot, “The Wasteland”) Is that what you want for your children if you vote for a candidate that does not use – sorry, is anti-computer – a Mac? Is this the world you will bequeath to your grandchildren? A world without Macs? iPods? No more music choice? No more choice at all, in fact down-right anti-choice because we must have a choice between what kind of computer we use because if we do not we lose our free will and if we lose that then what do we become but machines and automatons robotically moving a mouse with a cold steel Terminator forearm as we blankly glance, without a soul, into a deep and bottomless hole of the PC blue screen, falling into one concentric ring of hell after another, not knowing which way is up or down. Is that what you want? Huh? Tell me, do ya?!!

And the non-attack ads? “It’s morning in “America…” “Are you better off now than you were with a PC?” But I won’t go there…

Okay, you are pro-choice, environmentally minded and recycle carefully each milk carton, and you want more money for schools (ignoring the fact that massive amounts to schools in the last decades have only reduced the quality of education so why not throw more money at schools that teachers will never see; we must ask “Who teaches the teacher?” that’s the real problem and it’s a dozy), so that your children will have a better education, less money for bombs and more for children and lunch and schools and the elderly and free choice against corporate HMOs who are taking away our right to die with dignity, and now, do you own a Mac on top of all that? Will it become a litmus test for voters? “Does he use a Mac?” “I know he is against drilling in the wilds of Alaska but I don’t know where he stands on the Mac. Damn!!”

“Tonight on Crossfire! Mac or PC? We’ll debate the issue with Mr. Norman A. Dellman, C.P.A., M.B.A., an avid PC user, and Starlight Jones, a design artist and Macolyte.,” says the announcer. Paul Begalla starts the debate, “Now Mr. Jones, you can’t be serious about the Mac being a better computer can you? I mean, it’s the megahertz stupid.” “I disagree,” responds Starlight, ” there is much more to computer performance than megahertz, there is BUS speed, memory, RISC…” “Now wait, wait,” interrupts Begalla. “All this wonk, nerd talk is good for those in the computer belt-way but what about the average working man out there? You know as well as I do that rich people have twice as many Macs as middle class, it’s a computer for the rich and wealthy while the middle-class pays more taxes.” Bob Novak steps in: “Now you do not accept these liberal talking points about the Mac do you Mr. Dellman? I mean really, is the Mac the worst thing to happen to America since the Depression? Is it killing the elderly and children by its faulty design?” “I just want to say,” says Mr. Dellman, “that I have been using a PC since 1984 and I know DOS and the PC has been the choice of executives and companies for years and they love it.” “But isn’t it true,” Mr. Dellman, responds Novak, “that they have been forced into using it by a monopolistic gargantuan in Redmond and you don’t believe in real choice?….” Blah, blah, blah.

And then the real politicos come out from under whatever they live under… Jesse Jacksonesque figures would strong arm the Nerd Community, yes, the Open Source Constituency, marching down the streets of San Jose, in the Silicon Valley, the new ‘South’ as it were, claiming that it is the “most segregated community in America,” even more than NASCAR (!!), and demanding reparations for years of injustice to those who have not used Macs, or were forced against their wishes to use PCs like chattel, never having their own computer to use. (Just a thought: I mean really, how many Mac sites do you know are run by African Americans? We lost Rodney a year ago as we all know, here and at other sites, may he rest in peace, but now? What does that say about us as a Mac community? Maybe nothing, it’s just the effect and not the cause, the real cause being the digital divide of course, one of the foremost causes on the MacPAC platform. But then again we are not supposed to notice things like this, are we?) Yes, the Open Source Community is the most segregated, there are too few Mac users and we need equality so we need quotas, we need more Mac-using execs at Dell because that company is too PC (I just use the initials, you can read what you will into it), so Dell has to pay the MacPAC ten million dollars for years of oversight and abuse so they can run more ads and get more of the Mac Party into office. And one day, yes, one day my fellow citizens, we will have a Mac-using President. No more prejudices and injustices, we’d be a computer blind society at last. We would not judge a man by the computer he uses by the his character. If we were computer blind then we would not notice who uses a Mac and who does not and we would then not ask about computer preferences on job applications (it’s just a life-style choice after all), and people would not be denied jobs and rights because they use Macs and we would at last be free, free to be proud to herald our Mac heritage, the Mac culture would be one more culture in the multicultural soup that makes us so diverse and distinctive and that, differences, would be good, it’s good to be different.

And then… we would wear our “Think Different” T-shirts and get into our “I have a Mac and I vote” bumper-stickered (next to the soccer decal and the Mac logo) mini vans, to go to sign up voters at the local MUG meeting every first Monday of every month, meeting in damp, dark, stinky high school classrooms at night by the grace of a Mac-using teacher at the school, almost clandestine, which, said MUGs, would become hotbeds of radical political activism and not just places for those in their forties whose “income now has to go to my children’s college education or else I’d buy that G5 darn it!” to come together and recall the good old days of the Mac SE 30s and trade old copies of MacWorld like comic book junkies at conventions looking for ‘Superman #1.’ Indeed.

“Only in America!” So, politicize the Mac…ah, wait, politicize anything, and see what happens? Maybe Epicurus was right – “stay out of politics if you want to be happy.” But I will just let you… think about it…

David K. Schultz

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