The 18th century British historian Edward Gibbons once wrote that the vicissitudes of fortune “spare neither man nor the proudest of his works.” American technology company Apple might want to remember that.
Last week, the company earned accolades in Ukraine when it released an advertisement for the new Apple Watch. The video featured a skateboarder zipping through Kyiv’s Central Trains Station and its beautiful Zoloti Vorota metro station.
This week, however, some Ukrainians are up in arms over a new Apple Watch ad that they believe supports Russian disinformation. And they’re letting Apple to know how they feel.
The controversy surrounds the term “cyborg.” The new Apple ad highlights how the Apple Watch allows people to “live healthier lives.” It features satisfied customers reading letters to company that describe how the watch has helped them lose weight, monitor their blood sugar, or train for a marathon. But one of the first people depicted is a man with a prosthetic leg, walking towards a swimming pool. “This is a Russian cyborg writing you a letter,” he reads.
That may sound innocuous enough. After all, a cyborg is a person who gains superhuman abilities through mechanical additions to the body — for example, an Apple Watch. But the word has a different meaning in Ukraine. Here, it refers to the Ukrainian soldiers who held out against Russia-backed separatists for 242 days in a bloody battle for the Donetsk Airport.
Although the Ukrainian fighters ultimately lost the airport to their opponents, they are viewed as a symbol of heroism in their country.
Now, a group of Ukrainian “cyborgs” has appealed to Apple in a new video. They feel that the very phrase “Russian cyborg” is a distortion of Ukraine’s recent history.
“Dear Apple, I am a Ukrainian “cyborg,” the video’s first narrator reads. “I know that you will see this. But I’m certain that you don’t know why your advertisement angers me and my country.”
A series of narrators — all “cyborg” veterans — explain that Russian regular forces and Russia-backed separatists attacked Ukraine and that they joined the army to defend their country. The pro-Russia forces “called me ‘cyborg’ because I survived so long [in Donetsk Airport] that they simply could not believe it.”
The “cyborgs” in the video accuse Apple of “wittingly or unwittingly colluding with the Russian Federation in its propaganda war against us.” They demand a written apology from Apple and a correction of the commercial.
They also reference the Apple ad shot in Kyiv, noting that “the railroad station in your video is still working because I defended it.”
Apple could not be reached for comment by press time. However, it appears unlikely that the company was aware of the meaning of “cyborg” in Ukraine or that it was trying to make a political statement with the ad.
READ MORE: Ukraine’s Last Flash Point: Donetsk Airport
/By Matthew Kupfer