Fortunately, I was able both to have my ancient Mac resuscitated and to find a newer, refurbished model at a reasonable price (since I know that Old Nellie must expire of exhaustion eventually). Yet the more recent model—and, being of 2016 vintage, it will already be viewed by some as a clunker—presents certain problems. What bothers me most is that I cannot back up my files after doing a bit of writing or editing. A thumb drive will not fit a Thunderbolt port; such a device requires (let me see if I can remember all this) a USB Type A female port. Can I sue Apple for not creating gender-fluid ports, so that I needn’t spend anywhere from twenty to a hundred bucks on more hardware?
Well, no: Apple makes most of its money off of innumerable adapters that must be purchased along with every upgrade. So I was told by a very helpful chap at Wal-Mart, after he apologized for his store’s not being licensed to market Apple products. (I’m guessing that the Fruit people demand an exorbitant skim-off for every sale.) My brain started spinning and spinning. What to do… where to go? Hey, what if I just email to myself each altered file as an attachment, then collect it on my old Mac and save to a back-up device? Fine… except that the purchase of the new (or refurbished) Mac was intended to anticipate the day when the old model refuses to work. Hmm.
I asked my son what he does in such cases. Easy: he saves to “the Cloud”—to iCloud. Pictures, videos… whatever he wants is secured out in cyberspace. After a little further thought, however, I had another round of misgivings. In the event of an Electro-Magnetic Pulse, the Cloud would probably be obliterated (and pardon my writer’s vanity: an EMP would destroy a lot more than my classic novels—I merely point out that one reason for backing up would be nullified). Perhaps even more disturbing—for an EMP may at least be a simple natural occurrence—is the “i” in iCloud. Yet another chunk of my life surrendered to the avuncular hands of Apple…. The big red Eden-spoiler already owns the means of my authorial production, and already bleeds me dry when these means spiral into their planned obsolescence. Saving my work to iCloud will also place in its clutches my most intimate thoughts and painstaking creations.
Do I want that? Do we? Between the two of them, Apple and Microsoft (but especially the latter) have encroached upon governmental and educational services to the point that they nestle deep in our kitchens, our dens, our bedrooms, and our children’s lives. They practically own us. They are very near to crossing the line that separates a permitted monopoly from an arm of government. What happens if the successors of Steve Jobs decide that my forthcoming short story collection expresses too many politically incorrect sentiments? Might I attempt to access a saved file of my work from the Cloud one day only to find broad gray lacunae in the text where “naughty bits” have been purged by Super-Nanny?
It’s already happening on Twitter: the Gray Gap. One sees it up and down the screen. “This Tweet is no longer available,” “This Tweet contains sensitive content,” and so forth. If the suppressed Tweet is accessible in such cases, I certainly don’t know how to reach it (and I admit to being a Twitter ingénue). What I see is a lot of mutilated or truncated discussion whose thrust is no longer coherent. Very clever: KGB-clever. Neutralize the obnoxious opinion or sentiment by depriving it of any context, so that it becomes mere words in a vacuum.
Of course, Twitter has grown vastly more infamous (like the odious Facebook) for pulling its hair-trigger ban on contributors who are deemed by a logarithm to have uncooperative or disruptive principles. The sort of operation going on here is itself the source of a rising controversy: viz., should a privately owned and operated platform for communication be allowed to refuse access to views repellent to its ownership? Last night I heard an eloquent but Facebook-banned commentator (I can’t seem to retrieve his name: search “Tucker Carlson guests 4/5/2019” and you dredge up lots of invective against Tucker Carlson) explain that such media platforms have in fact ascended to their present position of exclusive influence thanks to government intervention. I couldn’t follow the intricacies of the explanation, for it was hasty and forced into a very narrow window (as is typical of all communication nowadays); but I recognize the pattern. The line between private and public sector, for all practical purposes, doesn’t exist in these cases. It exists for display: it exists as part of the propagandistic delivery system.
My helpful friend at Wal-Mart sermonized that such is the capitalist mechanism: less and less consideration for the customer, more and more manipulation of the marketing process to squeeze out profit. I remonstrated with him just a bit. This is the mechanism of late capitalism as it dangerously veers into corporatism. In the old days, free enterprise was precisely the engine that promoted courtesy to clients, individuation of product, respect for the patron’s tastes and privacy… and the forces that have hounded those benign small competitors off the evolutionary plain and left it to voracious predators mostly point back to government intrusion (often invited by the emerging monsters).
The text of my own sermon would be this, in a nutshell: you cannot oppose such abuses as the monopolizing of our means of communication by favoring more government, for government was the initial lubricant of these abuses. An alien pair of eyes peering into your bedroom will not be chastened by a new pair of peering eyes—not just because the former is paid by a corporation and the latter by your taxes. You are being watched and will be watched more in the future. Insofar as it’s still possible, try to learn how to build a tent.