‘Carthage must be destroyed’

(UPDATED) Apple COO Tim Cook is now running the company – again – because Steve is away – again – on medical leave. Cook is a workaholic gay man, according to a report from Gawker that quite clearly is accurate to anyone versed in the Kremlinology of reporting on gay celebrities. (It’s reporting, not “outing.”)

From any rational cultural perspective, Cook is homosexual, not gay, but the distinction crushes to dust under the onslaught of the men of the computer press. I didn’t read any claims that Gawker got it wrong, because on this score, its record is perfect. (Did they get it wrong with Anderson Cooper [q.v.]? Do you really think Anderson Cooper and Tim Cook aren’t gay? Where’s your “proof”?)

Instead, the narrative holds that the subject should never be discussed at all. The Macalope was first to fall on his antlers shouting about how unimportant it all is. (Because that’s what we do with a topic of no importance: We shout it down.)

[I]f there’s one thing that people need to know, it’s the sexual orientation of all the executives of the company that makes their phone or their computer…. Seriously, try to imagine any of this being written about a straight executive.

Hats off to the Macalope for aiding and abetting the closet without even knowing it. (Surely the worst way.)

We don’t write “about a straight executive” as such because the closet maintains every such executive already is straight unless you can provide a signed confession of the sort produced at gunpoint by prisoners of war. (Even then the Macalope wouldn’t report who signed it or where to load it in a browser.)

When you tell us it’s wrong to report on gay public figures, you are telling gays not to come out of the closet and journalists not to report the truth. (What you’re telling us as gay journalists is even worse.)

When you insist being gay couldn’t possibly matter less, what you actually insist is that the subject never be brought up in the first place. You do this even though the Macalope’s imagined straight executive takes his wife to the Christmas party and his daughter to work on that annual day, wears a wedding ring because marriage is legal for his superior caste, sets up an iPad on his desk just to run a slideshow of family photographs, has his daughter’s picture as his iPhone lock screen, fills his Facebook and Flickr streams with vacation photos of the happy opposite-sex family, and talks about them nonstop when he isn’t running his business. Get him drunk enough at the Christmas party and he’ll admit the first thing he noticed about his future wife was her rack, but it’s all very wholesome and natural.

The Macalope is the kind of ruminant who believes straight people have lives but all we have is “sexuality.” Obviously it follows that reporting on gay sexuality is one step removed from pornography. Especially for gay males, the most troubling group on earth for the heterosexualist male technology journalist.

And then, right on cue, came Miguel Helft’s profile of Tim Cook in the Times, a paper that for decades – well before Helft’s arrival – deliberately elided the truth about gay lives. The context is this: Gawker scooped everybody on the truth, which the mightiest paper in America rushed to cover up.

Just as TMZ broke the story of Michael Jackson’s death, which incumbent reporters refused to repeat until one of their own dared to do so, the epitome of establishment journalism refuses even to discuss a germane fact about a de facto CEO because a blog it looks down on reported it first. In the intertwined Kremlinologies of reporting on gays and Apple, the company gave Helft the perfect dodge – as ever, it refused to comment.

Helft did not knowingly evade the issue. He didn’t have to; Apple blanketed him with silence. (“I did not interview him for this article,” Helft told me.) Effects are what matter, not intent, and the effect here is to use the full weight of the most powerful journalistic organ in the United States to suppress the truth. That’s what the Times does.

Helft went on to demonstrate his misunderstanding of the issue and his ignorance of his paper’s institutional record: “[W]e generally do not report things that we cannot confirm ourselves,” he wrote. Again, journalists seem to think the only way to “confirm” if someone’s gay is through a signed confession, or, failing that, a statement read from a script at a press conference. Having no interview gives the Times a pretext to hide the truth.

Helft continues:

Incidentally, some of his former close colleagues, who[m] I did interview, told me they never saw him with a male or female partner and that even they didn’t know his sexual orientation.

If that were really the criterion, the Times wouldn’t have pretended Susan Sontag wasn’t Annie Leibovitz’s lover. She was: “With Susan, it was a love story,” Leibovitz eventually stated. (Michael Bronski: “[E]ven though Sontag or Leibovitz were never connected romantically with men, spent a huge amount of social and working time together, lived right next to one another, and for 20 years were rumoured to be lovers, the New York Times could not ‘substantiate’ any relationship.”)

Sontag and Leibovitz’s being seen together was one of those many ways of confirming Sontag’s homosexuality without a signed confession, but that too wasn’t enough. In practice, being seen with a same-sex partner and never being seen mean the same thing to the Times. In neither case is the “evidence” good enough to report.

John Gruber, who writes the most important Macintosh site and never mentions gay at all (even with an obvious news hook), made a similar category error: “I don’t believe I’ve written anything about Jobs’s spouse or children, either,” he told me. Jobs’s girlfriends (and estranged daughter) have been covered in the press, but neither of those, nor who Cook is seen with, says anything about being gay. (Single people still have a sexual orientation.)

All those examples do is raise the bar on the evidence needed to “prove” Tim Cook is gay – unattested observations by “former close colleagues,” a spouse, “children.” What next?

Bronski again: “The mainstream press, out of a misplaced sense of decorum, will often not speak of homosexual romantic lives of certain well-liked public figures and simply ignore the obvious. This is especially true when the public figure shows any reticence about showing some aspects of their private life.”

The technology business and its press are run by heterosexualist men who style themselves liberal. They tell themselves they’re pro-gay even while remaining ignorant of our lives and the press’s generations of lies and omissions about us.

The technology press thinks it is striking a brave chord for equality when it whines, at roughly-eight-month intervals, that “too few” women work in its industry. (The male technology press has one “progressive” issue.) But when a competing news outlet with an attitude they dislike scoops them on a story that calls their ethics into question, these bleeding-edge journalists revert to what journalists have done since time immemorial: They erase us.

“It’s discriminatory,” the Macalope cries, “and it’s a childish invasion of someone’s privacy.” Remember: What you have is a life, but all we have is a secret you want us to keep to ourselves.

Update

(2011.08.25) Steve Jobs resigned as Apple CEO yesterday, no doubt due to poor health. Tim Cook is now Apple CEO. Journalists can’t ignore the elephant in the room now that he’s running at $74 billion company.

Respected technology journalist Felix Salmon has echoed the sentiment that talking about Cook’s being gay isn’t outing, it’s reporting. Vicious attacks followed my original post here (most egregiously by soi-disant pundits like Jason Snell and Glenn Fleishman), which otherwise-decent people allowed to pass. Sometimes bullies get away with it; sometimes it does not get better.

But we all can change and grow. Salmon’s generous coverage gives ignorant technology journalists another chance to enter the 21st century, report facts rather than suppress them, and cease defending the indefensible. These journos, who style themselves liberal and nonhomophobic, have one more chance to learn the truth about a group they tell themselves they defend but don’t.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.02.02 14:38. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
http://blog.fawny.org/2011/02/02/gaylives/

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