This report on Apple CEO Tim Cook’s visit to a UK school to promote the company’s new coding curriculum for schoolchildren could hardly be a better illustration of the way the Guardian newspaper serves as a key propagandist for aggressive global corporate capitalism, helping to create for it a façade of humanitarianism.
The Guardian presents Cook (no relation) as a concerned global citizen, a gay man who fights for LGBT rights and might have been Hillary Clinton’s running mate if things had turned out differently. The article could just as easily have been a press release straight out of Apple headquarters.
Unchallenged by the Guardian, Cook claims via the article to be promoting coding as a universal language bringing people together and serving as a great leveller of mankind, offering everyone the chance to become … multi-billionnaire Tim Cook.
Or as the Guardian puts it:
The one-year coding curriculum adopted by Harlow college, half an hour north of London, is intended to teach students computing skills through the use of a variety of games, lessons and interactive materials. Every student is given an iPad loaded with coding apps and tools, and the teachers guide them through the concepts of coding.
There is not a hint of scepticism or suggestion that Cook and Apple are using the schools coding programme to promote their products among a captive and impressionable audience, and to counter growing concerns – even among those in the hi-tech industries – that the social media integral to Apple products is designed to be addictive and damaging to children.
Indeed, the emphasis of the article is on an apparent concern from Cook – who has no children – with the welfare of his young nephew. The piece accepts at face value Cook’s claim that he gets to decide how much time his nephew spends on social media rather than, as happens in all other families, the boy’s actual parents. Cook says he limits his exposure
In fact, given the growing alarm over the likely role of social media in impairing children’s development, Cook’s visit might be better compared to inviting the CEO of a tobacco company into schools to promote sports as a welcome complement to the habit of smoking 20 a day.
According to Cook, his famous predecessor Steve Jobs’ passion was to “serve humanity”, with Cook readily jumping at the chance to join that mission when Jobs poached him from IBM. “I finally felt aligned,” he adds.
So how did Cook contribute to serving humanity at Apple as senior vice-president of worldwide operations? Here is the Guardian’s extremely brief and bland summing up of his early career at Apple, the period that presumably proved him worthy of being Jobs’ successor:
He closed factories and warehouses, replacing them with contract manufacturers in Asia. He also kept costs under control and secured long-term deals in soon-to-be-crucial parts for the company, including flash memory storage for the iPod Nano, iPhone and iPad, which locked out competitors.
If one pauses long enough to decode that passage – and the Guardian gives every appearance of preferring you don’t – it reveals Cook (as one might expect of a successful CEO of a global corporation about to become the richest in the world) as a ruthless, cut-throat businessman, who turned large numbers of Apple’s employees out on to the street and left many others in far worse conditions, working for “contractors”.
But why delay over trivialities like that? Let’s get back to how great Cook and Apple are. The Guardian hastily returns to hagiography:
Since then, he has put his own stamp on Apple. In a 2014 profile to mark Cook’s announcement as person of the year, the Financial Times noted his passion for doing “things for other reasons than a profit motive, we do things because they are right and just”. As CEO, he has championed health, e-waste and renewable energy initiatives (claiming to run its own facilities mostly on renewable sources) plus Apple’s educational coding projects.
There’s more, much more – and not a word of it suggests that Cook might be primarily thinking of Apple’s brand image, and the effect on sales, as he puts on a few sticking plasters to try to conceal Apple’s central place in an unsustainable pyramid scheme of endless growth and wealth creation on a planet with finite resources.
Cook has, says the Guardian, “become a vocal proponent of privacy against global surveillance, and education to fight issues around gender diversity.”
So presumably all those security flaws and backdoors – the ones we know about so far – that allowed Big Brother states claiming to be western democracies to spy on us were unintended by Apple and its competitors. There is absolutely no way they might have been efforts by these mega-corporations to placate our increasingly authoritarian governments, in a trade-off to ensure no obstacles were placed in the way of their business affairs.
More Cook: “Introducing coding at an increasingly early age will help gender diversity too.”
Now one can see why Clinton might have wanted Cook at her side, the good business cop to Donald Trump’s bad business cop. Cook obviously knows how to exploit identity politics – to the exclusion of other kinds of politics – to maximum effect.
Please do not think I am so naive as to believe that either Cook or Apple could operate in any other way in what is a dog-eat-dog corporate business world. This is not criticism of them for being who they must be in a global competition in which one either devours or is devoured.
But let us not also kid ourselves that this neoliberal world we have allowed to be created in our names is not deeply sick and self-harming – and that, now with climate change accelerating, we are not caught in a death spiral.
We have to change course. That can only happen when we recognise that the corporations we idealise are really psychopathic in nature, and that the corporate media we trust is enabling and hastening their – and our – descent into madness.
Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair