Breakfast with an Apple lawyer

So the Ones Who Must Be Obeyed accepted my offer to fly out here but they pushed the schedule up a bit. The guy who talked to my lawyer on the phone last night got on a red-eye to the East Coast and I went to see him this morning in a suite at the Four Seasons, even though my lawyer, Tony Clifton, who lives in New York, could not attend and had told me not to agree to anything but just to listen and hear the guy out and report back to him. I won’t use the Apple dude’s name here, for the sake of I don’t know what — decency? — but I’ll tell you how it went down.

The guy is maybe in his early forties, very friendly and polite, seems like a decent enough person, wearing some funky teeny-tiny eyewear and a blue suit with a fresh shirt and tie, which is I guess his way of reminding me that he’s a real live lawyer but otherwise he’s totally down to earth, big handshake and a smile that seems genuine. He’s had pastries and fruit salad and juice and coffee brought up, and offers me some, and we both get a cup of coffee and settle into a pair of easy chairs for our chat and it’s all very informal and relaxed, not some big hard-ass negotiation over a conference table.

He starts out by saying that he’s read all my stuff about the Think Secret situation and he’s been brought up to speed on my own interaction with the guy on his staff and he wants me to know he apologizes for the way things have been handled in some of the recent correspondence and so-and-so is one of the younger members of the staff and maybe a bit overeager and, don’t take this the wrong way, but he’s maybe a bit too much of an East Coast kind of guy, and there was never meant to be any threat to me and it seems like maybe there was just some misunderstanding on my part about some of the letters I received and he can see how that might happen but he wants me to know we’re not having this conversation as adversaries, blah blah.

In other words, Relax, we’re not going to sue you, and even though one of my punk kids got all Glengarry Glen Ross on you and threatened to have Katie Cotton beat your punk ass into oblivion (photo), in fact that’s not what we meant, except that we did, but not really. Or something.

He says that in fact Apple did not force Nick Ciarelli to shut down his blog, he wanted to shut it down anyway and so an agreement was reached and it really worked out really well for both sides. He also says that in terms of Apple’s reaching out to me he’s here because everyone at Apple really admires the blog, and the company wants to help me take the next step in my career and move onto the next thing, which they’re sure could be even bigger than FSJ, and while certainly there’s a monetary component to that there are also other ways in which they’d like to help me. However, regarding the money, he thinks I’m looking at this thing the wrong way and he hopes I’ll give him a chance to explain why he thinks there’s another way to view this, which is that imagine you’re a really avid surfer, but one day you realize you need to get a job. And a condition of the job is that you have to be in the office five days a week, Monday through Friday from nine to five, so you can’t go surfing. In other words, you’ve sold some of your freedom for money. And so maybe what we’re talking about with the blog is giving up a little of your freedom in exchange for money, but this is a transaction we’re all making every day.

Then he says he’s prepared to offer me two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and he says that while he can’t tell me what Nick Ciarelli got I can feel confident that this is a very good offer on Apple’s part.

I’m like, Dude, do you realize that guys like Nick Ciarelli don’t write their blogs because they want to hurt you, they write their blogs because they love Apple? And do you not also realize that you could put a lot of this stuff to rest simply by announcing product roadmaps instead of living under the cone of silence and locking yourselves down like some kind of weird Scientology cult and threatening to ruin people who write about you?

He says, I can go to three hundred thousand.

I’m like, Dude, no, okay? Look, do you not realize how nasty and offensive that offer is? Do you not understand why it’s wrong to offer someone money to stop writing about your company? Sure, Nick Ciarelli is just some college kid with a blog, and I’m just some dope writing jokes, but where does this end? It’s the principle of the thing, isn’t it? So forget the offer, because I’m not going to take it, but let’s just talk like two human beings, and what I really want to know is, how can you do this job?

He sits there. He says, I can go to four hundred thousand.

I go, Look, even if you’re not a nice guy, even if you have nothing but a little tiny black piece of coal for a heart, can’t you see why it’s a lousy idea for Apple to pay reporters to go dark? Do you not realize how Putin-esque this is? And okay, sure, in Russia they’re a bit less sophisticated and they just kill the reporters they don’t like, so maybe you get points for being more civilized but do you really not get why this is a bad idea for you? Really? Because even if there are people who are willing to take the money and shut down, even if Nick Ciarelli really did want to shut down his blog, do you not realize how incredibly awful it looks for you to attach the payment of money to the shutdown of a blog? Do you realize what a terrifying precedent this sets?

Think about your brand. What does Apple stand for? It’s about freedom. It’s about independence. It’s about people who think different. The crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. Maybe I’m an idiot but I actually believed that stuff. I guess I’m naive. I really wanted to believe that you meant that stuff, and maybe by wanting to believe in that I allowed myself to get duped.

But you guys put Martin Luther King Jr. in your ads. And John Lennon. You had Gandhi in your ads. Gandhi, dude. Think about that. Think about what Gandhi did in his life, what he stood for, the price he paid for freedom of expression. You drag out a symbol like that, it’s a pretty loaded reference, isn’t it? It’s a pretty powerful metaphor. I mean Gandhi is not just some celebrity dipshit singer like John Mayer. He’s not some guy you’d trot out just to flog a product. You drop the G-bomb and you’re trying to say something about the kind of company you aspire to be. But now you’re paying off reporters to stop writing about you? What the fuck has happened to you guys?

He says, I’m authorized to go as high as five hundred thousand dollars, but that’s it.

I’m like, Dude, are you not even listening? No, dude! The answer is no! For your sake as well as mine, no! Please, for the love of all things holy, go back to Cupertino and tell them to stop doing this! I’m begging you. It’s important. Tell them this: Siooma. Siooma, siooma, siooma.

By then he’d already put on his coat and picked up his briefcase and was on his way out the door. After he was gone I called Tony Clifton and told him what happened and he’s like, Well, my friend, you really screwed the pooch on this one. A half million? And you turned it down? Well, good for you, you dumb prick. It’s like I always say — some people deserve to be poor. Merry Christmas, moron.