Rushkoff on Apple fanboy rage at Steve Jobs for having the audacity to have had a liver transplant

"Life, Inc." author and former BB guestblogger Doug Rushkoff has a piece up on Daily Beast about the fanboy fallout over recent news of Steve Jobs' liver transplant:
Feel better Steve, but what about me? I mean, I know cancer surgery is no picnic, but what does the possibility that you'll reject your new liver mean for my Apple share price? Or my iTunes collection? Should I be converting it all to MP3? I just got a friggin' iPhone - what if you leave us before my five-year contract with AT&T ends? I made a commitment...How about you?

Sorry, but that's the emotional current underlying nearly all of the coverage I'm seeing about the Apple founder's just-revealed liver transplant operation in Tennessee for his metastasized neuroendocrine tumor. It's not what I expected from the Apple community, but perhaps it does serve as the most accurate expression of where the once-renegade personal-computer company has ended up.

To buy an Apple product is to bet on the longevity of the closed system to which we've committed ourselves. And that system is embodied--through marketing as much as talent--by Steve Jobs.

"He said all he needed was a little rest!" one commenter on the Fortune magazine Web site complained. "This is bullshit." On Bloomberg, all the talk is about share price, Apple's chronically cryptic and delayed press releases on Jobs' health, and whether this deputy Tim Cook is capable of taking the helm. Such "me-first" sensibilities don't fit with the highly humanized, creative individuals celebrated in Apple's early commercials--but rather the cultish consumers and shareholders that those commercials, and the products, actually succeeded in generating.

Apple's Army of Whiners



  1. I’m not a huge fan of the Apple cult myself, but the evidence this guy is using for his assertion is gleaned from a few online posts? Is he new to the Internet?

  2. Rushkoff’s heart is in the right place, but his piece repeatedly reveals that his interest in the subject (and his familiary with it) is quite shallow. A trivial but illustrative example: he calls it Apple Computer Inc.., but it changed its name to Apple Incorpoated years ago.

  3. Huh. It would be fair to call me an Apple fanboy, if you like throwing around such names, and I consume a fair amount of Apple-related media (news/rumors sites, podcasts, etc) and I haven’t picked up a whiff of this attitude Rushkoff is ranting about.

    Maybe the problem is that he’s looking for “fanboys” at places like Fortune and Bloomberg, certainly not where *I’d* go to find the “Apple community.” People concerned with Apple’s stock price and people who admire Apple’s products are not identical groups.

    But I’d agree that the people he quotes in this peculiar essay do, indeed, sound like cretins.

  4. Rushkoff’s thesis–“Steve Jobs’ Apple turned computer users from fellow hackers into private, cultish consumers”–is based on so many oversimplifications and errors that it’s difficult to pick out the worst one, but this will do:

    As the PC proved popular with consumers and businesses, it was actually Microsoft that sought to develop a computer-literate user capable of issuing the commands that make a computer operate, while Apple worked toward the simplified world of icons, metaphors, and clicking. Users didn’t know how any of it worked; Steve just made it so.

    Stone the motherfucking crows, he’s praising MSDOS. Never mind that the Apple ][ had a command-line interface, or that MS rolled out Windows just as soon as they could bolt it onto MSDOS. Oh, and in Doug’s world, the endless hassle of getting Windows to talk to devices was actually a virtue. Honestly, this is the weirdest, most-Bizarro-world thing that I’ve seen from a BB guest blogger since Rudy Rucker’s neck wrinkle rant.

  5. There’s a huge list of people waiting for liver transplants. This is what’s known as a “David Crosby Manuever”, getting up on the list because of high profile.

  6. I am disappointed in all of those people, that is not the community we know and love, I am not an Apple fanboy (“yes you are”) that would defend the company with my last breath, but I do enjoy the spirit and excitement usually found in creative people. Most of whom happen to also enjoy and get excited about Apple. But THESE guys, damn, they sound like a rabble of Xbox users.

  7. I saw comments like that in the financial media, but I’ve yet so see an Apple “fanboy” be so crass. And certainly not leading Apple bloggers (like Gruber or TUAW.) Maybe Rushkoff could quote his sources or would that get in the way of a nice strawman argument ?

    Barlow: “Sideshow Bob, councilman Les Whinen says that you’re not experienced enough to be mayor. Sir, what do you have to say about that?”
    Bob: “I’d say that Les Whinen ought to do more thinking and less whining!”
    [audience laughs and claps]
    Lisa: “There’s no councilman Les Whinen.”
    Bart: “[chuckling] Good line, though.”

  8. I just read the whole thing and that is really a baffling piece. I like much of what I’ve seen of Rushkoff’s, and I basically agree with his premise at least so far as it’s ugly and pointless for people to be discussing Jobs as a capital asset while he’s trying to recover his health.

    But! Rushkoff’s historical analysis is mostly fantasy and the whole piece jam-packed with mean-spirited and unnecessary attributional insults:

    “But Apple’s products and policies have always been biased toward childish, whiny, and self-centered behavior”

    “Steve Jobs’ personality more than compensated for any fear of corporate fascism. ”

    “Jobs’ narcissistic personality disorder”

    What is the point of all this? And why would I want to see it on the front of BB?

  9. @6 A trivial but illustrative example: he calls it Apple Computer Inc.., but it changed its name to Apple Incorpoated years ago.

    That’s a particular funny one, since I had Apple Inc in the piece I turned in and the copyeditor changed it to Apple Computers Inc! They must be using an old style guide.

  10. Hmmm, saw a tweet convo yesterday, RT’d by Brent Spiner:

    You know, @rocky69rhodes, if you’re going to wish death on someone (hardly ever a good idea) I’m sure there are better candidates.
    2:30 PM Jun 20th from web

    RT @rocky69rhodes hope the bastard dies he shldn’t b able 2 get a liver when others r dying because the wait is so long-Wow. And I’m angry?
    2:24 PM Jun 20th from web

    Congratulations to Steve Jobs! Live long and…well, I guess I don’t need to say that part.
    12:04 PM Jun 20th from web

  11. There are 2 points that are so crucial since we are all neck deep in stocks and future profits of companies.

    1. Apple Inc is Steve and the two have become inseparable.

    2. This leads to finance guys worrying about the stock value and fans worrying about products in a post Jobs world !!

    No company is so defined by one man and for the most part Ceos are constantly being replaced but it will be impossible to find a brilliant mind or an ego the size of Jobs.

  12. I personally think that the Steve’s head should be separated from his body, so that it lasts for the rest of time. Like in Futurama!

  13. I skim through various Apple and general tech blogs, podcasts and so on, and this is the first I’ve heard of any anger directed at Jobs. From the article, it seems to emanate entirely from the business sphere.

    Some Business Types See Personal Hardship In Business Terms. Pope Still Catholic. And Now, The Weather.

    As for the rest of the piece… well, I’m sure it attracted a lot of clicks, and that’s the main thing.

  14. “But! Rushkoff’s historical analysis is mostly fantasy and the whole piece jam-packed with mean-spirited and unnecessary attributional insults:”

    I’d have to agree. And thought I generally am not a fan of the hipster arm of the Apple crowd, I’m sick to death of the needless Apple hate I constantly have to endure. Why? What’s the point of it?

    I can’t help but feel that its a classic embodiment of the base human instinct to hate and distrust “the other”. “Those damn Mac users with their iPhoto and their Safari and their Garageband! Always stirring up trouble…”

  15. @ #9
    Oh sure, stereotype another group of end users to prove your point about not stereotyping. Well played sir.


  16. @#3 Daemon

    Seems to be fairly in character for the iRobots to act like this.

    uhm, iRobot is the company that makes the Roomba robotic vacuum. Although, I appreciate the sentiment.

  17. It’s always so funny to watch Apple fanatics get defensive when attacked over any little thing. They’re often the same pricks who can’t help butting into Windows conversations with aggressively unhelpful comments like “Wanna know how to solve your problem? Buy a Mac!” Many of them are computer-illiterate ignoramuses who wouldn’t know a command line from a conga line. (That whole ease-of-use thing has its downsides, after all.)

    I have a healthy respect for Apple, but my employers have always used Windows networks, so that’s the reality I have to live with. And you know what? WinXP machines work really, really well. I haven’t had an OS crash in years, and the only system-level problems I ever seem to have are in the hardware, not the OS. Contrast that with the 2% of total computing time I spend on Macs … during which I’ve crashed the OS more times than I can reliably track. Don’t believe all the marketing hype — Macs aren’t perfect.

    But that’s all beside the point. Steve Jobs may be an industry force and the engine behind Apple, but he’s also a human being. Best wishes to the guy, and good on him for trying to maintain some semblance of privacy.

  18. Corporations don’t care about me and I don’t care about them. Doug, are you going to be thrashing about if the guy who helped lead the company that manufactures your alarm clock gets a spot of the cancer? I didn’t think so.

    Also, I agree with udders here that you really didn’t do a good job of picking out true “fanboys”. Try MacFixit, MacWorld, etc. instead of Fortune, Bloomberg or whatever.

    This post reminds me of all those people that go around saying there’s a ton of Mac people that keep saying their Macs are “invulnerable”. I’ve been waiting for years to see this mythic beast.

    Please, if you are a Mac user that thinks your machine is invulnerable to all security threats… please speak up here. It would be amazing to finally meet one of you.

  19. And you know what? WinXP machines work really, really well. I haven’t had an OS crash in years, and the only system-level problems I ever seem to have are in the hardware, not the OS.

    I’d like to meet these mythical people who have WinXP installs that don’t suffer the classic slow but inevitable degradation over time (like fish going bad) that every Windows install ever has had.

    Plus, Windows requires anti-malware software such as Kaspersky (KIS) just so it’s not assimilated into a botnet swarm within hours of connecting to the Internet.

    I like OSX because it’s an easy to use and stable UNIX. I like Mac laptops because they’re easy to repair (thanks to online guides such as those by iFixIt.)

    1. zuzu,

      I’ve always had Windows, currently XP. I’ve managed to keep each computer that I’ve had for six years with no crises. And, as is obvious, I work online and use my computer all day every day, including checking out all the suspicious links that we get through the comment system. I find Windows easier to use than Mac, which I think is purely a matter of personal workstyle. It’s the user who screws up a computer, not the OS.

  20. Zu, OSX is not a UNIX. It shares some code with several Unices as well as several other OSes.

    Linux and OSX are much like UNIX, and more or less inspired by UNIX, but calling OSX “an easy to use and stable UNIX” is like calling a giraffe “a very long necked spotty horse”.

    VMS was just as POSIX-compliant as XNU/Darwin is, incidentally, and nobody considers VMS with DECwindows to be a unix, although I am sure most people would find them indistinguishable.

    Personally, for a desktop, I prefer OSX to any true UNIX. I prefer linux to OSX, but that’s probably because I dumpster-dive most of my hardware.

  21. Here are the first responses to the liver transplant story at
    1) Let’s hope he does come back soon. I hope he feels better. *crosses fingers*
    2) Hope he gets better. Take care SJ.
    3) These stories are always really sad.
    4) So thats what caused the bump in the stock today…
    5) The good news is he’s getting treatment, and he has the best money can buy. Get well soon, Steve!
    6)pretty amazing that this was kept under wraps for 2 months…
    7)Well, as long as he’ll be back, awesome! Phil, while being a nice guy and all… damn he’s a horribly boring presenter!
    8)wow, that’s a shock. Can’t believe they were able to keep this a secret.
    9)holy cow….where did that come from? I hope he is doing much better now.

    I don’t really see the self-centered anger alluded to in this story.

  22. I’ve kept Windows XP running for years. But I do need to repair it every other week. Usually, it’s just new security software or a system upgrade. But it’s every other week and some of them hang while installing requiring a reboot and reinstall.

  23. I work in IT, as a network/desktop admin, and the easiest way to spot my fellow administrators? Not one of us owns a Mac. If one of the Macs we support breaks down, we draw straws to see which poor sucker has to go try to make it work again; six times out of ten, if it’s not something tiny, it has to be sent back to the company for repair. Closed system, indeed. Try getting a driver for a multifunction office printer to work consistently on a Mac. It’s hideous.

    I’ll recommend Macs to people who are very, very computer illiterate and can’t perform even the most basic configurations, virus protection or installations, sure. They’re great for that section of the population, since they’re close to idiot-proof. But god forbid you want to get in there and mess around, or need to fix something that’s broken. It’s like trying to change the oil on a car that’s had its hood welded shut.

    On the other hand, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with XP (Vista is a different story) and actually enjoy working with the OS.

    I think Rushkoff made some excellent points, which are illustrated in realtime every day at my job. The products have lovely aesthetics, are very expensive, and are marketed as status symbols more than functioning tools. It’s a cult of personality, and when the leader of the cult wavers, it’s no surprise that the followers get uneasy.

  24. We are spirits in the material. There are spirits in the machine. Insert money into floppy disk slot.

  25. May Mr. Jobs have a speedy recovery!

    Judging from Mr. David Crosby’s case, and others, people can keep ticking a long time after having this procedure. According to this link , it’s at about 58% survival after fifteen years – not bad at all for a major organ transplant.

  26. OS war on BB?!

    The portrayal of OS X as exclusively for computer illiterates is flawed. There are extensive geeky nether-regions to be explored in AppleScript and the Unix dungeons which lurk below.

    (Anonymous #25, Leopard is a certified Unix when running on Intel. )

    I have loved every OS I’ve tried this century. XP is great, stable and wonderfully tweakable; the Linuxes offer a magnificent buffet of perverse delights; Windows 7 is shiny and exciting. OS X is my favourite, but the best thing of all is this: I don’t have to pick one.

    As things have stood for the last several years, none of the three major platforms suck. Why some people display such a deep commitment to pretending otherwise, I have no idea. But then, I use a Mac, so I’m obviously not very bright.

  27. RE #9:

    Part of the reason the transplant was done here in Tennessee is that we have one of (if not _the_) shortest waiting lists in the US. We also have two of the top liver transplant teams in the world at Vanderbilt and Methodist in Memphis.

  28. Well, of course it’s a minority (fanboys with shares) of a minority (people who comment), and it isn’t classy. But it’s hardly a class movement.

  29. @15

    “No company is so defined by one man and for the most part Ceos are constantly being replaced but it will be impossible to find a brilliant mind or an ego the size of Jobs.”

    Unless you drive a whole 22 miles from Cupertino to Redwood Shores and introduce yourself to Larry Ellison, jrkwd.

  30. Factual accuracies or inaccuracies aside — is it true, is it not true, who cares? — reading this article gave me a perverse thrill, akin to some dark and vicious joy.

    The responses from the Mac fans have been delightful as well, each confused, baffled and occasionally angry response being like a slice of dark chocolate for the soul.

    Oooh, wank harder for me Mac fans, I’m almost there.

  31. @#29 POSTED BY CREWBABY, JUNE 22, 2009 2:55 PM

    I work in IT at times as well and clean up the mess IT “experts” like you make on both Windows and Macs alike. Sounds like you ship back a bunch of Macs where all you probably had to do was zap the pram or something. You can’t get a Mac to work with a multifunction printer? You should be fired.

    > I’ve had nothing but good experiences with XP

    You, sir, are a liar… and not a very good one.


    I hope Steve Jobs dies because I’m a Mac fanboy… the end.

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