Hackass

Leander Kahney is the Apple beat writer for Wired News. Surely you have seen links to one or more of his stories about Apple Computer and its crazy-ass customers, under the rubric “Cult of Mac”.

Mr. Kahney is writing a book, also titled “Cult of Mac”. Mr. Kahney’s stories are never actually about the Macintosh, or anything important related to it, but instead are about the type of kooks who name their kids “Quadra” and “Centris”, or who get married while wearing a dress made entirely out of old Apple ADB mice.

This nonsense doesn’t exist next to Wired News’s serious coverage of Apple, because there is none. The URL for the “Cult of Mac” series is simply http://www.wired.com/news/mac

Typical of his asinine coverage of Apple is this gem from last week’s article “Apple: It’s All About the Brand”:

Marketer Marc Gobe, author of Emotional Branding and principal of d/g worldwide, said Apple’s brand is the key to its survival. It’s got nothing to do with innovative products like the iMac or the iPod.

“Without the brand, Apple would be dead,” he said. “Absolutely. Completely. The brand is all they’ve got. The power of their branding is all that keeps them alive. It’s got nothing to do with products.”

This passage exemplifies not only what is wrong with Kahney’s so-called journalism, but what is wrong with so much of the American news media today. It’s not journalism at all. It’s just button-pushing — stirring up controversy and conflict for the sole purpose of drawing attention.

There are only two possible explanations for Mr. Gobe’s utterly misinformed statements above:

  1. Mr. Gobe is an idiot, and has no understanding of Apple’s products.
  2. Mr. Gobe is a childish attention whore, and he knows full well that his statements are nothing but inflammatory nonsense, intended only to provoke an emotional response from thin-skinned Mac users.

In either case (or, most likely, both), it is a journalist’s duty not only to see through this type of crap, but to call him on it. But Kahney simply lets Gobe’s quote stand for itself, unquestioned. It would take no more than two or three follow-up questions to obliterate Gobe’s credibility. Such questions are obvious; surely you thought of several yourself immediately after reading the excerpt above. Here’s how I’d start: “If the iPod’s success is due solely to branding, can you name another portable MP3 player that is just as good as the iPod?”

There is a disconcerting trend in the modern media which holds that all opinions are equally valid, and that it is not appropriate for ostensibly unbiased journalists to declare which opinions are right, and which are wrong. It is thanks to this trend that we have CNN presenting Jerry Falwell as an informed expert on global warming, a man who used this opportunity to declare that “global warming is a myth,” that “top scientists” do not believe in it, and at the conclusion, offered this advice: “I urge everyone to go out and buy an SUV today.”

Calling bullshit “bullshit” is not bias. It is journalism.

It is obvious that Kahney’s goal is not to illuminate, but rather to instigate. And he’s been rather successful at that — the more asinine his articles get, the more widely they are linked.

So now that he’s successfully kicked up another bogus shit storm, Kahney has the gall to write “Hey, I’m a Loyal Mac User, Too”, wherein he laments the derogatory comments his articles generate, because, hey, he uses a Macintosh and loves it.

Which misses the point entirely. It matters not whether Kahney uses a Macintosh himself. (Was this ever even in dispute? Surely only a fellow Mac user could ingratiate himself with the platform’s lunatic fringe.) What matters is that he is a muck-raker, a yellow journalist, and yet he is a staff writer for an otherwise respectable news publication — a publication whose recent coverage of Apple paints the company’s customers as bearing a strong resemblence to the Moonies.

Rather than writing him hate mail, may I suggest simply ignoring him?

Postscript

Speaking of the lunatic fringe, who remembers Ben Haller’s old “Lunatic Fringe” game, which ran as an After Dark screensaver module? Now that was a damn fine game.

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