The iPod murder

A teenager was stabbed in Brooklyn late last week because he refused to hand over his iPod to his attackers, who fled with the mp3 player, a cell phone and the boy’s sneakers. The front page of the Sunday New York Post read “iPOD MURDER” and the New York Times also ran a brief on the slaying.

When I saw the huge headline Sunday I wondered if Apple would respond to this. The headline was the kind of thing that can make your PR people go berserk.

NY Times reported today that Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, called the family to express condolences.

What’s happening here?

Having a kid murdered because of a product your company put out, must surely be damaging. But it’s more than that. The reaction of the media says the iPod has become a cultural icon, a status symbol that speaks as much of wealth as it does of taste.

With prices ranging from $100 for the Shuffle to more than $400 for the large capacity players, iPod is no more expensive than its competitors. But we don’t hear of Rio Carbon murders, or Creative Zen stabbings.

The iPod dominates the market, but there is something else at play. The connection to the iPod is stronger than the connection people develop to other gadgets. In the first-person essays journalists wrote (and some continue to write) about their own iPods, they talked about the individuality they felt, the beauty of their personalized play lists which they organized by genre, or even mood. A Newsweek report last July, featuring Jobs and the iPod on the cover, stopped short of building a temple for the white and silver music devil.

The iPods are becoming the Air Jordans of this decade.

The New York subway authority has put up ads trying to curb iPod theft: “Earphones are a giveaway. Protect your device”). Now, a kid has been killed and newspaper editors who own an iPod felt threatened. What if they would be next? This was not just any robbery — this was an “iPod murder.” The attackers were looking to steal the kid’s individuality and become part of a pack of white-budded urbanites that use the same device to enhance their uniqueness.

And so hysteria begins. iPod users, change your earphones.

My mp3 player handles playlists as well, but there aren’t any ads telling me how to protect it from theft. It’s a useful gadget, and an entertaining past time, and if it’s stolen, bad luck. But what if I owned an iPod? Would I feel like I’m walking around with a target on my back?

A poll in a free New York paper yesterday asked people if they are afraid to have their iPods stolen in view of recent events (according to police, 50 iPod thefts were reported as of April — that’s fifty more than in 2004). The poll respondents said they were aware they carried a desired object, and one man said muggers would have to kill him to get it. Imagine that.

4 Responses to “The iPod murder”

  1. Hey, great site you guys have here. I’m a fan, have linked on my blog. Keep up the good work.

    As to iPods, the media are again blowing something out of porportion. Yes, iPods are looked at as a fasion item, but that doesn’t mean the iPod caused the kid’s death: the killers did.

  2. I don’t really see what the big deal with MP3 players are, but I hear that if I had one I would “understand.”

    I don’t think I want to understand.

  3. Another reason why I’m glad I got a Rio– it’s a lot cheaper, designed for running, I can throw it against a wall and no one gives a shit about it.

    iPods are fun, and while I enjoy fucking around with my friends’, there’s really no incentive to own.

  4. oh, that’s me above. damn computers.

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