Sunday night was the finale of Halt and Catch Fire, a show that I looked forward to from the first glimmerings of rumors, and even through the first couple of episodes that I quite enjoyed, perhaps in retrospect due more to the subject matter than the quality of the show. Dustin has an excellent overall review of that finale here, but it’s taken me a few days to piece together my precise thoughts on a post mortem. Because the thing was, by the end of the show it flat out made me angry. I didn’t just dislike it because it wasn’t good television, there was something deeper wrong with it making me furious.
And so I’ve picked and picked at it, a scab that my subconscious has decided to gouge into a scar instead of letting it be. I’ll leave the general criticism of the show to others, and hone in on that scab, on what makes me burn.
It begins and ends for me with the character of Joe, a character that the show worked very hard to build into a proto-Jobs, an ambitious dreamer who’s as much conman as businessman. The problem is that exactly like Jobs, Joe is the sort of person that is a cancer on the tech industry, in all industries really. And even more cancerous than their delusions of being visionaries is that the media and our common culture foster that idea. They build up these legends of inveterate assholes who were good at nothing but convincing people to part with money while the workers with actual skills did all of the actual work and had all of the actual ideas. And there’s this narrative that they were flawed geniuses, that somehow these impossible and horrible people are a necessary evil to the process of creation.
I’ve worked for Joe, and more than once. I’ve been fired by Joe, or rather, he ordered the company’s second employee to fire me, the fifth, over a conference call on a Wednesday when I was out of town.
Joe and his aspirations of being a dreamer and a visionary, built on the backs of people with actual dreams who did the actual work every step of the way, can shove it up his talentless snake oil ass.
Joe is the only person who I have honest to god, personally wished to die. And I don’t mean that everybody wishes Hitler would die, or that even terrible people kind of wouldn’t mind if all sorts of particular bad people died in the abstract. I mean in that deeply personal way, in which you would look them right in the eye and not lift a damned finger to save them. That deep hate that leads you to idly speculate whether it would be better to piss on his grave in the light of day or the middle of the night.
There is no surer way to become a socialist than to work for a pure capitalist.
Russians think of capitalist as a term for a used car salesman, a slimy, dirty creature who exists to steal the crowns off your teeth and sell your children to the sausage factory while your back is turned. And they’ll do that with a smile and the honest conviction that they are good people who deserve all the good things they steal.
That’s Joe. And he’s not a visionary, not a necessary evil, not a complex man who despite being terrible does great things. He’s just an asshole. And I wish that the media would stop confusing leeches with geniuses.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.
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