The Real Problem With Apple's Ad

In 2002, a press release went out from Dow Chemical.

It explained that the company would not be taking responsibility for the people affected by the Bhopal disaster, a 1984 chemical accident that killed more than 2,200 people and injured more than 570,000. It linked to a website,, for more information.

Journalists who visited the website were met with some… unusual corporate content. “Dow is responsible for the birth of the modern environmental movement,” it claimed. “Rachel Carson’s 1962 book 'Silent Spring,' about the side-effects of a Dow product, DDT, led to a groundswell of concern and the birth of many of today’s environmental action groups.”

The release and the site were not, of course, created by Dow Chemical itself. They were created by the Yes Men, a “culture jamming” outfit created by Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos. Servin and Vamos practiced what they called “identity correction”: they took people and organizations that they felt were fundamentally dishonest and represented them in ways they felt were more accurate.



They’ve created identity-corrective websites for companies like Monsanto (“Pesticide-resistant GM crops… [increase] the demand for pesticides that the public would never otherwise agree to introduce into the most fragile parts of our ecosystems.”) and the World Trade Organization (“Globalization, like many huge things, results from two opposite, but eerily complementary, forces: 1. Early efforts by well-meaning people to build a better tomorrow (on the raw material of historical horror), [and] 2. Long-term efforts by single minded corporations to build better profits (on the raw material of the above).”)

These websites have, on occasion, netted them speaking invitations from organizations that didn’t realize the sites weren’t real. They were invited to “represent” Dow Chemical on the BBC, or to “represent” the WTO at the Center for International Legal Studies in Austria, and at a textiles conference in Finland.

Their hijinks have been chronicled in three movies: ”The Yes Men,” ”The Yes Men Fix The World,” and ”The Yes Men Are Revolting.”

The Yes Men are compelling, astounding, confronting. They are effective because they are willing to say things that are not only outrageous, but true. Their “identity correction” names every elephant and owns them all.

And this is what Apple’s Crush ad does.

The ad, which you’ve probably seen by now (I know I’m late to this party), uses a gigundo hydraulic press to destroy a piano, an arcade-style video game, tins of paint, a guitar, and dozens of other real-world creative tools and artifacts. And people are furious.

Hugh Grant called it “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.” Julian Sancton described it as “All of human creation sacrificed for a lifeless gadget.” Within two days of releasing the ad, Apple issued an apology, saying, “Our goal is to always celebrate the myriad of ways users express themselves and bring their ideas to life through iPad. We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry.”

But the problem with the ad wasn’t that Apple missed the mark with the video. The problem was that it was too close to the bone.

Apple didn’t destroy the paint industry. Pianos still exist, as do guitars. We are the ones abandoning them. The problem is not with the iPad, it’s with us.

The real problem with the ad is it forces us to reckon with all the ways we’ve abandoned tactile, physical, real-world experiences in favor of our digital toys. It forces us to reckon with the fact that, in large part, we prefer the tech option. It forces us to reckon with ourselves.

Apple identity-corrected itself, and inadvertently stated what we already knew to be true: We have lost our connection to the real world. We have lost our tactility, our viscerality. The ad makes it so we can no longer feign ignorance about who we’ve become.

And that, it turns out, is unforgivable.

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