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Job death shows Americans' love of big business

By Aaron Chatterji (Shanghai Daily)

09:09, October 19, 2011

The protestors occupying Wall Street provide a visible symbol of recent polling data that indicates Americans are losing confidence in business leaders and increasingly feel corporations have too much influence on our society.

How then do we square these observations with the obsessive media coverage of Steve Jobs' passing, the outpouring of grief across social media platforms and the scores of flowers being left at Apple stores across the nation?

It is safe to say that no other American CEO would garner this amount of adulation if he died today, much less receive uniformly glowing tributes from the president, corporate competitors, media heavyweights and ordinary Americans. So what makes Jobs, the billionaire corporate CEO of a huge multinational company, different than GE's Jeff Immelt, JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon or BP Capital's T. Boone Pickens, besides the fact Jobs was far richer?

First, there is certainly the perception, in spite of Apple's dominant market position, that Jobs remained an iconoclastic entrepreneur and perennial underdog. This narrative has been reinforced by Apple's clever marketing, most memorably in their Mac vs PC ads. Jobs' counterculture roots and trademark black turtlenecks infused Apple's culture and branding so significantly that their consumers still feel their purchases reflect a bold statement of individual identity, no matter how many millions more have the identical model.

Second, there is the notion that Apple and Jobs made tangible products and created tremendous social value for a wide swath of Americans, a direct contrast to the well-worn critique of Wall Street titans.

Of course, the truth is more complicated. Apple products are manufactured by contractors like Foxconn in China while Bank of America argues that it provides access to credit, not iPads, to small businesses who hire on Main Street.

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