It's Gawker vs. Jobs in e-mail debate over porn

With a refreshing directness, Apple's CEO has apparently offered his views about the company's "freedom from porn," not to mention the future of publishing and that iPhone incident, to Ryan Tate of Gawker's Valleywag.

I understand that Apple and Gawker are enjoying something of a difficult relationship.

I'm given to believe that Apple accused Gawker of making pornographic films using a prototype iPhone that a drunken topless man found in a bar. Then Gawker accused Apple of breaking the doors down of one of its editors in order to find some proof of the pornography, which the company believed threatened its image and livelihood.

Oh, there are probably some facts askew there. Suffice it to say that I never expected to be reading a frank, joyously emotional e-mail exchange between Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Ryan Tate of Gawker's Valleywag. At least not in any current dimension.

Yet, here I discover, in the pages of Valleywag, what appears to be this very thing. And it's a lot more riveting than I suspect "Robin Hood" might be this weekend.

According to Tate, his emotions were set off by the new iPad ad , the one that rather aggressively reinforces the product's claims to a revolution by showing it in the lap of everyone but the gods.

It seems that Tate likes to drink something that sadly involves white creme de menthe. So, this being late Friday night, and feeling his loins and fingers emboldened, he reportedly penned an e-mail to Steve Jobs, reading: "If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with 'revolution.' Revolutions are about freedom."

Now for those of you who are wondering about this Dylan character, I am told by some older folks that Steve Jobs is extremely keen on the works of Bob Dylan. And, for slightly younger readers, this Bob Dylan is someone whom you can hire for your "corporate event, private party, fundraiser, college, fair or festival."

I am fairly sure that Tate would not have expected to receive a reply. However, Jobs, perhaps with "Blood on the Tracks" humming in the background, reportedly penned this: "Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin' and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is."

"Go on, ask me anything." CC Erik Pitti/Flickr

There are different kinds of people in the world. Some would be moved to focus on the technological issues here. And some would take a mental leap and focus just on the porn. Tate managed to straddle both. He engaged Jobs on his hostility to Flash. But he added: "I don't want 'freedom from porn'. Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree." Jobs reportedly jabbed back: "You might care more about porn when you have kids."

My jaundiced mind, naturally reinforced by the allegations that Apple was behind the breaking down of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's doors, whispered at this point: "How does he know this Ryan Tate doesn't have kids? (Tate only revealed this in a subsequent email) If I write to him about porn, will he already know how many kids I have?"

Perhaps I was alone in this.

Meanwhile, from the extracts it appears that Tate began to engage Jobs (presumably the real one, and not a cheeky imposter ) in considering whether many publisher's iPad apps were worth less than a single sock. For one moment I thought I was present at one of those Obama-Clinton debates. I half expected Tate to tell Jobs he was "likable enough."

While Jobs insisted no one has to publish for the iPad, they choose to; Tate countered that he felt his attitude towards Adobe was "the same old revenge power bull****." Yes, he says he said that to Steve Jobs. And I have no reason to disbelieve him. A Jobs-ian rebuttal insisted that Tate shouldn't be so bitter about "a technical issue." This, he said, was Apple trying to do the best for its users.

Tate seemed to scream "technical issues!!" and then point to his behind. He accused Jobs of "imposing your morality about porn, about 'trade secrets', about technical purity in the most bizarre sense."

At this point I admit I reached for a glass of the technically purest Failla syrah, because no one could maintain concentration and equilibrium simultaneously reading this e-mail correspondence. It is very fortunate that I reached for the syrah, because Tate's fingers jabbed through his laptop screen and into Jobs' glasses: "I don't like Apple's pet police force literally kicking in my co-worker's doors."

Jobs did not seem stunned. Within nine minutes, he would appear to have shoved his hand through his iPad screen, ready to seize Tate's throat: "You are so misinformed. No one kicked in any doors. You're believing a lot of erroneous blogger reports."

Well, now. A blogger is accused of erroneously believing other bloggers? Other allegedly erroneous bloggers who work for the same company? This was almost too much to take. And to take in.

Yet the exchange, at least the parts that Gawker published, was not quite over. It seems to have ended with Jobs insisting that Apple's motives are pure. And then this difficult rejoinder: "What have you done that's so great? Do you create anything or just criticize others work and belittle their motivations?"

Really. Yes, really. Please sit down. Would you like a glass of Failla syrah too? I have two more bottles downstairs.

Everyone will have their own views about this particular entertainment. Everyone will have their own views about the technical arguments. But let's just get the important element out of the way. Banning porn apps (of which the Playboy app does not appear to be one) is an exercise in image, rather than reality. Those who would like to download porn on their iPads can just go surfin' Safari and do it through their browser. The iPad might like to offer "freedom from porn", but it doesn't.

The truth of the Jobs-ian argument is this: Apple bothers to sell products that people actually want. It bothers to design products people actively desire. It uses its talent for doing that, in a very competitive marketplace, to place its own imprint on how those products might function. You can take it or leave it. An increasing number of people take it. So please clean my sneaker with your beak.

However, somehow this exchange may offer something more--a wonderful insight into a CEO whose passion and forthrightness is uniquely modern and progressive for an aficionado of Dylan.

We are repeatedly being told by Facebook that the world is all about sharing. We are repeatedly being reminded that we should live in public and not have a different personality in our private sphere. Yet, here is a supposedly old-school CEO who is apparently willing to debate the issues, willing to share his views, in the middle of the night, with someone who happens to e-mail him. Someone, indeed, who may not be entirely well-disposed towards him, just at the moment.

Would, for example, Mark Zuckerberg ever do that? Isn't it time he did? Friend me, Mark. I'm ready to chat at least until midnight every night.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Still taking notes with pen and paper?

Bump up your grades and school supplies with these laptops, desktops, and tablets!