Media

Steve Jobs and Apple Cut Deal with Murdoch, Showing Contempt for Core Users' Liberal Orientation

Did Steve Jobs screw over progressives -- and America -- for the right to sell Fox programs on iTunes?

It's enough to launch an Apple boycott by progressives: Steve Jobs, master innovator of those hipster devices of choice, just delivered a kick in the teeth to Apple's most ardent fans with news of his deal with Rupert Murdoch for an iPad-only newspaper to be known as The Daily, to be made available through Apple's App Store. Subscriptions will go for 99 cents per week.

The New York TimesDavid Carr reports that other, unspecified publishers have sought the kind of deal that Murdoch struck with Jobs -- a subscription-based newspaper app -- only to be rebuffed. He hints at a possible quid pro quo in Murdoch's decision, as CEO of News Corporation (the parent company of the FOX Broadcasting Company), to allow Apple to sell certain Fox shows on iTunes for 99 cents an episode -- against the wishes of other Fox executives.

Go to any coffeehouse frequented by progressives, and you'll enter a world that looks like a grubby version of an Apple Store: MacBooks, iPhones and iPads abound amid the tables splashed with java and banana loaf crumbs.

If Apple were a political party, progressives would be its base. Before Apple was a multi-gajilliion-earning company, progressives embraced its products as an antidote to the cumbersome operating systems and meglomaniacal reach of Microsoft. Without the stalwart, almost cult-like support of progressives, Apple wouldn't have survived its catastrophic decision in its early years to offer its operating system only to consumers who purchased its hardware, while Microsoft earned great profits by offering its operating system as a stand-alone product. The early Apples were quirky, often clunky machines with tiny monitors, but progressives loved the vision that created them. For their loyalty, progressives are about to see Murdoch get the first crack at developing a "news" product specifically for the spectacularly successful Apple iPad tablet.

I have to put "news" in quotes, of course, because Murdoch's primary aim has little to do with the delivery of news: it's all about propaganda. Even legitimate news products, such as the newsroom content of the Wall Street Journal, also owned by Murdoch's News Corp., simply exists as a legitimizing delivery device for the paper's editorial-page content, some of it created by two of Murdoch's own community organizers: columnist John Fund and editorial board member Stephen Moore, both of whom shill, as AlterNet reported, for the programs of David Koch's Americans for Prosperity Foundation. But I digress. Kind of.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument that Carr's hint is correct, and that in return for giving Murdoch a special deal to sell a subscription-based, iPad-specific newspaper (not a Web site), Jobs got a sweetheart deal for Fox TV content. What did Murdoch get? Carr crunches a few numbers to show that The Daily is not likely to be a big money-maker for Murdoch. Sure, not as a retail product. But Murdoch has long been willing to prop up enterprises that don't earn big bucks (or sometimes, as in the case of the New York Post, lose big bucks) for the sake of advancing his ideological agenda -- an agenda that, should it be enacted, would yield Murdoch billions more than the 6 billion he's already worth.

Take Glenn Beck (yeah -- please). If Glenn Beck's purpose in life was to earn mega-advertising dollars for Murdoch, he'd have been off the air more than a year ago, once Color of Change's successful advertiser-targeted campaign lost Beck nearly all of the big, corporate sponsors for his eponymous Fox News Channel show. Yet, Beck remains in place because he organizes grassroots activists in the service of Rupert Murdoch's anti-Obama, anti-regulatory, anti-labor, anti-government agenda. Should that agenda succeed, Murdoch stands to reap billions more than the measly millions a rehabilitated Beck might bring in if Proctor & Gamble sold soap in Beck's time slot.

And so Beck is free to draw his multi-episode, defamatory, lie-infused campaign against George Soros, billionaire and donor to progressive causes, straight from the pages of Mein Kampf (without attribution, of course). That Soros is a Jewish Holocaust survivor is somehow twisted to prove the point. If Rupert Murdoch had a problem with Beck's hate-mongering, with Beck's desecration of the memory of 6 million murdered Jews, Beck would be gone in a minute.

But Murdoch does not. And, apparently, neither does Steve Jobs. What's a little Holocaust revisionism when 99-cent episodes of "The Family Guy" are at stake?

In getting the green light to create, without competition, a brand-spanking-new product specific to the iPad, Murdoch will have the opportunity to make inroads into opinion-makers of a demographic group currently beyond his reach: the upwardly mobile hipster, the slick early adopters, cats who are too cool to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and its iPad app but who just might go for a first-of-its-kind product developed specifically for the device, available nowhere else, especially if it's dressed up with smart-boy writers, such asNew Yorker music critic and designer Sasha Frere-Jones, who is reported to have signed onto the Murdoch project.

This is same Rupert Murdoch who walks hand-in-hand with David Koch, whose AFP Foundation and sibling organization, Americans For Prosperity, convinced a certain contingent of fearful white senior citizens that the new black president was looking to use health-care reform to kill them off. Together, the organizations headed by Koch -- who also heads a corporation that is a major polluter -- and Murdoch advance race-infused conspiracy theories in their campaign against the president of the United States that poison the national culture, render facts irrelevant and make bipartisan cooperation impossible.

But what's a little race-baiting and lie-telling when you have a chance at a really cool job on an excellent new start-up?

That Rupert Murdoch -- whose news chief, Roger Ailes, is free to call news executives from other media entities "Nazis" even as his loss-leader cable news star apparently mines Nazi literature as guidance for his attacks on liberals -- is anything other than a pariah speaks to the perilous moment in which we live. That innovators like Jobs and Frere-Jones would cheerfully help Murdoch advance his malicious agenda is frightening.

A boycott of Apple would no doubt be painful to many of us, but that's precisely why we should do it. Those of us who have bitten into the Apple are now in nose deep. (Full disclosure: I'm writing this on a MacBook.) It's not so hard for us to boycott Glenn Beck's advertisers; an Apple boycott, on the other hand, would show progressives walking the walk.

Don't buy that new iPhone, and talk to your friends about why. Check out the deals offered by Credo, a progressive service provider (and AlterNet advertiser), on other smart phones, including the BlackBerry Curve. New tablet devices by other manufacturers, including BlackBerry, are coming online.

Don't buy your music from iTunes.

Ouch, I know. But is the hippest new app or device really worth the destruction of the nation?

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.