The lovefest known as the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference starts Monday. As with any such event that involves Apple announcing new products, the global outpouring of love will be matched by a rising outpouring of hate.
Some people hate Apple. Other people hate people who hate Apple. Many of these haters have turned pro, leading to a lucrative “hater industrial complex.”
I know, because I’ve been the target of hate from both sides. I’m on the hate list of both the most extreme anti-Apple haters and pro-Apple haters.
Passion in technology, flame-wars, fanboyism and its discontents are nothing new. But in the past couple of years, something new has happened: The loudest, most insistent hate is now coming from the anti-Apple crowd, rather than the pro-Apple people.
I’ll tell you why below.
Also, it needs to be said: Haters are rare. The vast majority of users — and the vast majority of bona fide fans — don’t fall into the “hater” category. But haters appear to be everywhere because they’re active and vocal, and their rants memorable.
But first, let’s understand once and for all who hates, how they hate, and why.
There’s No Hater Like a Pro-Apple Hater
For decades, the most vocal, active and vicious haters were Apple fans. Apple fanboyism used to be about computers, and Apple systems have always been in the minority.
The main rival and object of Apple-fan derision, Microsoft, Windows and Windows users, had the luxury of remaining more aloof in the platform wars because Windows’ dominance was so absolute, or appeared to be.
To the Apple fan, there was so much to mock and deride about Windows and its apologists that a market, of sorts, emerged for anti-Windows rants. As a result of this demand, a career path was born: The professional fanboy troll hater. Reading these obsessive, detailed and often apoplectic attack pieces became a kind of entertainment for Apple fans.
Professional pro-Apple trolls make their living seeking out criticism of Apple and Apple products, and nit-picking every word to death. A typical counter-argument will literally post an article sentence-by-sentence, with long-winded argument leveled against every word.
The trolls make their living with blogs and even otherwise respectable publications by pushing the facts to an extreme, and combining personal attacks with mockery to excite emotion in the reader.
The reason this works economically is that the emotion and controversy is a win-win. When they attack you, a non-response is a win for the troll. They win the argument by forfeiture. Their readers see the attack, but not the rebuttal. They encounter the object of that attack exclusively through the context set up by the troll, so even the criticized article is presented in a way that routes around objective judgement.
But if you defend yourself or attack them back, that’s an even bigger win for the troll, because it drives traffic to their sites and posts and helps them build their “brand” and name recognition.
This is the same dynamic that has fueled the rise in obnoxious political talk radio and cable TV, and has ruined political discourse in the United States. Hate-filled, personal attack rants have a better “meme” quality than reasoned discourse. So the haters win.
Another curious anomaly in the pro-Apple hater racket is that they operate on a blacklist system. Once you’ve crossed Apple in any way ever, you’re on the blacklist and can never get off. (Not coincidentally, this is the case with Apple itself. Ask any journalist who can’t get an invitation to any Apple event.)
For example, I wrote two columns critical of Apple — one in 2006 and another in 2007 — and these columns are still used as evidence as to why I’m an evil shill worthy of painful torture with dental instruments. They still come up in professional pro-Apple troll articles. And they come up in the comments in this blog, as an automatic way to invalidate any opinion I might have about anything.
I write an average of four columns a week, which means I’ve written more than one thousand articles since then, more than 200 of these about Apple specifically. No matter. I’m on the blacklist. I’m an evil person. Bad. Rotten. Horrible. I once criticized Apple.
In just a few years, my entry on the professional pro-Apple troll hater blacklist will exceed the lifespan of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie.
Sometimes I write things that are so pro-Apple and heavily talked about that the professional pro-Apple trolls are forced to acknowledge the existence of these articles. But they often do so in the context of the blacklist, saying things like my having the correct opinion was a “fluke” or “accidental.” Or they say my objectivity is evidence of dishonesty.
Pro-Apple haters are really like no other in both scope, magnitude and longevity. And they used to corner the market. But no more…