Why Apple Fans Hate Tech Reporters: Response to Farhad Manjoo

Why Apple Fans Hate Tech Reporters: Response to Farhad Manjoo

MacBook Air

In a recent Salon.com article (Machinist, Tech/Gizmos) titled ‘Why Apple fans hate tech reporters,’ Farhad Manjoo makes the case that Mac partisans (Mac vs PC) see bias where non partisans see little to none. This should come as no surprise to anyone who understands the self-fulfilling nature of our assumptions and lightning speed with which we form them.

Indeed, whatever you assume to be true, you will inevitably act (or read, in this case) like it’s true, and then look for evidence that you can use as proof in order to be right about what you assume to be true. Manjoo is doing it too! He writes:
“…many fans of Apple often seem to want more. They care little for honest opinion. They want to pick up the paper and see in it a reflection of their own nearly religious zeal for the thing they love. They don’t want a review. They want a hagiography.”

Really? How many fans seem to want a hagiography (biography of saints)? In addition to being a mouthful of a word, it’s a large brush with which to paint a group of people. And it fails to account for the behavior of those many Mac partisans who, year after year, subscribe to review mags like MacWorld and Mac/Life (originally called Mac Addict, and targeted at the people who were stubbornly keeping the platform alive) that offer sometimes STINGING descriptions of Apple as a company and product shortcomings?

Methinks the issue is trust here. Sources that are considered fair, reliable, and responsible for the opinions they express don’t suffer the extreme reactions of those review outlets perceived as having had unfair, unreliable and downright dishonest Apple bashing as a part of their editorial policy at some point in their somewhat recent past.
Ok, I confess it, I’m a big fan of Apple. I think their products are designed with users in mind, and allow creative types like myself to develop my computer based skills and abilities with the least hassle and maximum benefit. I like that Apple operating systems and hardware designs are people-centric, organized around the way I work, instead of PC-centric, where the user has to organize him or herself around the way the computer works.

And yes, I like to think that I ‘think different’ about all kinds of things, like change, communication, and conflict. And yes, I’ve written my share of letters and emails in response to perceived bias in the press regarding the Mac and Apple, or to companies whose products discriminate against Mac users (over the years, this has included banks, phone companies, shopping carts, video vendors, and the like.)

Yes, I admit that I was a proud letter writing MacEvangelista (thanks to Guy Kawasaki, who saw in the Mac subculture a force that could be marshaled and reckoned with for the salvation of the platform, at a time when Wired Magazine showed the Apple logo on its cover with a crown of thorns and the single word PRAY emblazoned across the image.) Being a MacEvangelista trained me to respond together with others in order to have some influence, and to let our collective voice be heard, rather than suffer in silence. (And, it came with a swell TSHIRT!)

So, please forgive me if I write here as an apologist for Apple fans who are quick to react to perceived media bias against the computing platform they love.

It was only a few years ago when a Mac user’s business was pretty much unwelcome in any brick and mortar store. That was true until Apple tired of wrestling for space and built some stores of her own. This decision at the time met with the same derision in the media as every other choice Apple made. But look at the business statistics and you quickly discover that Apple is a retail store miracle story.

It was only a few years ago that every mention of the name “Apple” carried with it the reference of “beleaguered computer company.” No matter how great their products, no matter what Apple did, they were the Rodney Dangerfield of computing, and couldn’t get no respect. The worm may have turned, but the feelings of distrust and dismay linger.

I recall reading the Sunday Oregonian on the floor of the living room at my in-laws’ home in Hood River. The front page of the business section was talking about Apple’s latest product releases. I found them all drool worthy. The business numbers all looked good. Yet, the headline ran “Beleaguered Computer Company Releases New Offerings.” And somehow, the article managed to spin a positive story into more proof that Apple’s days were numbered, and implied that anyone who believed otherwise was kidding themselves.

Here’s my explanation for this reactive behavior. When people learn to be defensive, there’s usually a good reason for it in the learning time. Reinforced with enough repetition and intensity, defensive behavior is a hard habit to break, even when circumstances change.

To make his point, Manjoo points to a study conducted by Robert Vallone, Lee Ross and Mark Lepper, psychologists at Stanford University, in the aftermath of a massacre by Lebanese Maronite Christians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in West Beirut. But his use of this valuable study makes my point.

Manjoo is simply looking for proof to support his own point of view. Not that I blame him.

We all are. We can’t help it. Make the assumption. Act like it’s true. Look for proof. It’s human nature. And when people are quick to judge, quick to react, when people are quick to go on the defense, it’s usually because they’ve already been on the defensive for a while. That makes it easy to see bias, to believe in it and fight against it. I don’t think this is the best choice, but I think it’s understandable when people make it. Not sure why Manjoo is on the defensive. But I have to believe that he’s feeling somewhat beleaguered himself to paint with such broad strokes.

Final word for me is this. The idea that many Mac fans don’t want honest opinions regarding Apple products is ludicrous. What they want is respect, fairness, and (at least it’s true for me,) some acknowledgement that there is bias in the way news is reported. And that gets me thinking.

Perhaps it’s just as hard for those meta-commenters like Manjoo who are reporting on the reporters to admit that the reporters sometimes get it wrong for long periods of time, as it is for the people reading the reports to admit they’ve over-reacted. It’s the genetically encoded CONSISTENCY signal at work.

People stand strong in their positions because they think it means they have strength of character. I’ll discuss this signal further in a future post.

I’m open to hear your thoughts about making assumptions. Mac lovers and everyone else.

The complete article by Farhad Manjoo is here.

Dr. Rick

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