Fake Steve Jobs, Not So Fake Agenda

When Fake Steve Jobs (FSJ) first hit the scene just over a year ago, most people found “him” outrageous. That is, in the sense that FSJ was funny and entertaining and how-the-hell-does-he-get-away-with-it? While playing at “being” Steve Jobs, he used time-honored schtick to lampoon the public character of Steve Jobs.

As recently as three or four years ago, you couldn’t read about Apple, Inc. (née Apple Computer, Inc.) without “beleaguered” prepended to each and every mention, but since its fortunes have changed (the iPod introduced many people to the real talent of Apple) the world has gone almost overnight to calling it a monopoly. It’s not just people who’ve lost the knack of moderation, just as it’s not just gay men who can be huge drama queens. Story for another day, though.

There was a hunt going on for a while to discover who exactly FSJ was. Reminding the world that the cheekily-named (the clever stops there) “Valleywag” is a one-trick pony, they searched for weeks and weeks and came up empty. It took Brad Stone, a New York Times reporter, about a second and a half to find out it was Daniel Lyons, a Senior Editor at Forbes Magazine. Gooooo, Valleywag.

Forbes is well-known for championing static inertia and the almighty dollar, but for a while it seemed that Dan Lyons—also well-known as anti-Open-Source, anti-blogger and overall a pro-Microsoft kinda guy—would keep playing at his parody without agenda: FSJ was a particular point of view, albeit one synthesized doubly-indirectly as a sort of WWSJD? kind of thing. Still, FSJ was funny, and biting and like all good parody, an entertaining—if often conflicting-with-reality—voice.

But more and more, FSJ is emerging as Dan Lyons. For real. The first smack of something going wrong was when Lyons started to trash OLPC (one laptop per child), Nicholas Negroponte’s initiative to get computers into the hands of kids in third-world countries, something I consider admirable and admirably-long-term in its thinking. Yet Dan Lyons takes every effort to trash the whole thing. It’s not funny stuff, it’s just plain mean. Mean in the sense that he appears to make every effort not only to poo-poo it, but to bring it down.

Who the hell would attack a charitable effort? Who the hell wouldn’t want to promote egalitarian ideals, to say nothing of the material benefits of third-world countries helping themselves? Oh yeah, a pro-money, pro-Microsoft guy who works for Forbes. All those countries are just “new markets” to a guy like Lyons, and OLPC is a threat.

Even with all that, it’s still occasionally fun to read FSJ when he’s going after other public figures—including Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Jonathan Schwartz and “himself”—but as time goes on, it gets harder and harder to read as it gets more and more strident and ugly.

And that’s not funny, that’s just sad.