The news that Steve Jobs won't give the keynote at Macworld '09, and that Apple won't participate in future Macworlds, may spell good news for the civility of the Internet -- perhaps it will finally mean the end of the aggressively rude Apple fanboys who prowl the Internet, looking for virtual fights.
What does the end of Jobs keynotes have to do with Apple fanboys? Plenty. Jobs has built a cult of personality around himself and around Macs. His annual keynote is a way to fire up the true believers, who appear to believe it is their job to denounce and insult anyone who doesn't bow down the the cult of the Mac.
I've certainly been victimized by this throughout the years. I'm not alone, though. Just about every journalist I've talked to who has said anything remotely critical about Apple in print gets the same treatment.
For example, Dan Mitchell in the New York Times wrote a piece titled The Thin Skin of Apple Fans, in which he says:
Anybody who has ever written about Apple products will tell the same story -- introducing even a hint of negativity into a review or article will bring down the wrath of Apples most fanatical fans.
Mitchell quotes Farhad Manjoo, a book author and writer for Salon, who has also been victimized, as saying that the most zealous Apple fans "care little for honest opinion." Manjoo goes on to add:
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.
In an excerpt from Manjoo's book "True Enough: Living in a Post-Fact Society, published on Salon, Manjoo cites numerous examples of journalists who have felt the wrath of Apple fanboys, including the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg and David Pogue of the New York Times.
All this is why I think it's very good news for Internet civility that Jobs' keynotes are at an end. The true believers now won't want to participate in their annual Hajj to the Mecca of Mac. They won't come back fired up with the religious conviction that any deviation from the worship of Apple needs to be stamped out right away.
This isn't to say that all Apple fans are like this. The vast majority aren't. And Mac fans certainly have good reason to favor such a well-designed piece of hardware. From now on, perhaps the quality of the hardware itself -- rather than the angry vitriol of the most fanatic fanboys -- will be the public persona of the Mac on the Internet. And that's a good thing.
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