Tilting at Windmills

March/April 2012 With heroes like these …

By Charles Peters

It is now well known that Apple’s Chinese suppliers have employees who work twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and are housed in dorms with, according to the New York Times, as many as twenty people crowded into a three-room apartment. Banners on the factory walls warn: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.” In light of all this, it is difficult to understand why Steve Jobs has been so lionized.

And I still can’t figure out why Mark Zuckerberg is treated with any respect. There is considerable evidence that Facebook was based on a stolen idea. As for Zuckerberg’s pious assertion that Facebook’s purpose is to “accomplish a social mission,” he is of course absolutely correct. It was founded to serve the snobbery of Harvard students. I concede that it has grown to play a role in enabling friends to reconnect and keep in touch and in serving good causes as well as bad ones. For far too many of Facebook’s users, however, it has turned friendship into a numbers game. Furthermore, its success is partly based on exploiting the self-absorption that has become one of the more unattractive features of modern life.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.