On a daily basis, I sit in awe at the amount of nonsense that pervades the world’s media. The latest is the preoccupation with the ethnicity of Steve Jobs’s biological father.
Steve Jobs was adopted at birth. And until his untimely death last week, as far as almost anyone in the world knew, he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Jobs.
In fact, as far as Steve Jobs himself was concerned, his only parents were Paul and Clara Jobs. As the New York Times reported nearly 15 years ago (“Creating Jobs,” Jan. 12, 1997): “Jobs holds a firm belief that Paul and Clara Jobs were his true parents. A mention of his ‘adoptive parents’ is quickly cut off. ‘They were my parents,’ he says emphatically.”
But reading much of the world’s press in the past week, one would be excused if one came to think of another man as Steve Jobs’s father.
The amount of attention paid to his biological father, a Syrian-born American named Abdulfattah Jandali, dwarfed the amount of attention paid to Paul (or, for that matter, Clara) Jobs.
By all accounts, Mr. Jandali is a fine man, and nothing written here is meant in any way to counter that assessment.
But I have to ask, given that Mr. Jandali and Steve Jobs never once met, and that Steve Jobs thought only of Paul Jobs as his father, why all the attention to Mr. Jandali? And why no attention to Jobs’s biological mother?
For example, take this headline in the International Business Times: “Steve Jobs Dies: He Was the Most Famous Arab in the World.”
Or this headline in the New York Times: “Steve Jobs, Son of a Syrian, Is Embraced in the Arab World.”
I suspect that there are two unimpressive things going on here: political correctness and a widespread belief that blood is important and therefore adoptive parents aren’t a person’s “real” parents.
First, the political correctness.
The press feels bad for the Arab world in general and for Arab-Americans in particular. The former is almost never in the news for anything positive, and the latter are deemed victims of xenophobia and Islamophobia. So if one of the giants of our age can be declared an Arab and an Arab-American, many in the media are only too delighted to do so.
Although the biological father played no role whatsoever in the life of Steve Jobs, article after article has been written about Mr. Jandali. That this has been motivated by a desire to label Steve Jobs an Arab-American is further proven by the fact that we read nothing of his biological mother — which is particularly noteworthy given that those who are preoccupied with blood parents are almost always more preoccupied with the identity of the biological mother than with that of the biological father. But the poor woman is merely a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a member of the only American group that is granted no special status by the politically correct.
So a man whose parents were WASPs, and one of whose biological parents was a WASP, is now declared an Arab. Type “Steve Jobs Arab” in Google and you get 86 million hits.
The other unfortunate trend is the belief — widely held in the media, academia, the social-work community, and among the well-educated generally — that adoptive parents are not one’s “real” parents. Even many adoptive parents have been persuaded by social workers and others to believe that their foreign-born son or daughter must be educated in the language and culture of the group into which he or she was born. Instead of regarding their Korean- or Chinese- or Honduran-born child as fully American, many American adoptive parents are convinced that they must teach their child the Korean, Chinese, or Spanish language and culture. And many of the particularly sophisticated are adamant that their child must one day go to the country in question to find his or her “birth family.”