Our asteroid field moment; or, why this backlash could be good for us


Was having dinner with George Lucas last night and he made a really interesting point about Apple and all our current headaches. Goes like this. I’m sure you remember the scene in Ep. V where Han and Leia escape the bad guys by flying into an asteroid field. It’s a pretty common movie plot — they use a version of it (mine field) in Galaxy Quest too. Gist is, sometimes you have a-holes pestering you, and you’re taking all kinds of crap, and the only way to get through it is to fly through a friggin mine field or asteroid field and get bruised up a bit, but trust that it will hurt them more than it hurts you.

Which is a long way of saying that this is where we stand right now at Apple, and in a perverse way it’s a good thing for us, because keep in mind: this only happens to companies that are winning. People get scared when a company starts doing too well. They want to see you humbled a bit. They want to see you take a few shots. They want someone (the government, your rivals, whatever) to remind you (and reassure them) that you aren’t totally completely all-powerful. The Borg had their time in the asteroid field back in the 1990s, courtesy of the DOJ. At first they didn’t get it, and they played it all wrong, getting all huffy and fighting it. But then they realized what was going on, and their response became the textbook for how to handle this stuff. You go all humble. You screw up on a few things, and stumble a bit. You remind people that you’re human.

It’s like the Jesus narrative: first you amaze everyone, you do some miracles, raise a few people from the dead; but then everybody starts to hate you for being so cool, and they send you to stand before Pontius Pilate and get whipped in public and stagger around with a cross on your back and even die (sort of). They want to see you bleed. They want to see you get hurt. So fine. You do it. But if you smart you play this the way Jesus played it, or the way Obi-Wan plays it with Darth Vader: you let the a-holes strike you down, because you know that once they do, you’ll become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. (Don’t know if you’ve ever met Lucas, but if so you’ll know that he sees everything through the lens of Star Wars. He loves to talk about the Jesus myth and Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey; but he also goes on and on about the three later Star Wars films, ie the shitty ones, which he regards as the equivalent of the Bible and believes will one day be studied as important cultural artifacts. But I digress.)

Anyway, at Apple we’re hitting asteroids now, like this piece where a guy says he spent thousands upgrading his Apple equipment and it all looks just like the old stuff, isn’t really any faster or better except in some subtle ways which he, of course, is totally aware of and can appreciate because he’s fully hypnotized so totally fucking smart and techie and Apple-insidery, but he worries that regular muggles won’t notice any difference and will need more pizzazz to keep them happy. And this piece where a longtime Apple fanboy is foaming at the mouth because he installed Snow Pussy on five machines and it lobotomized every single one of them. Says he: “Don’t wag your finger at people like me for pointing out shit that shipped empirically broken.” Others say Snowy is blowing up their SuperDrives.

Some people are even starting to use the “V word” — Vista — about Snow Pussy, like this jackass at CNET. Which wouldn’t matter, except now that meme has been picked up by the Christian Science Monitor, which runs a question headline that asks, “Will Snow Leopard be Apple’s Windows Vista?”

(Katie says there are two reasons why hacks phrase headlines as questions. One is, they know that whatever they’re asking isn’t true — ie, their article will basically answer their own question with a resounding “No” — but it’s so inflammatory that they can’t resist using it and getting the traffic. Or, this is what they secretly believe, but they’re too pussy to assert it as a statement, so they weasel out and write it as a question.)

We don’t really worry about the Christian Science Monitor, but the risk is that the meme might now get picked up by newspapers whose owners are not superstitious freaks who refuse to take medicine or have surgery. In other words, the Monitor may act as a bridge that allows the meme to travel, like a virus, up out of the cesspool of blogs and trade rags and into the mainstream media.

NEXT POST: What to expect next, and how to prevent being infected by Suppressive Persons and anti-Apple propaganda.