By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
March 18, 2008

As any reporter who covers Apple knows, its fans — and detractors — are quick to find bias in almost any press report. Farhad Manjoo, who writes the Machanist column for Salon, tells the story of Walt Mossberg’s 2004 review of the iMac G5 in the Wall St. Journal. It began:

I am writing these words on the most elegant desktop computer I’ve ever used, a computer that is not only uncommonly beautiful but fast and powerful, virus-free and surprisingly affordable. (link)

The piece was, by any objective measure, a rave. By Manjoo’s count, only 70 of the column’s 900 words had anything negative to say about the machine, and those complaints were minor (the lack of a photo card reader and Mossberg’s feeling that Apple had “scrimped on memory”). Yet Apple partisans felt slighted. What did he have against Apple, they wanted to know.

What’s going on?

Mossberg calls it the Doctrine of Insufficient Adulation, and Manjoo (who has experienced the effect first-hand) addresses it in a new book entitled
“True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.”

Manjoo writes:

There are many tribes in the tech world: TiVo lovers, BlackBerry addicts, Palm Treo fanatics, and people who exhibit unhealthy affection for their Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners. But there is no bigger tribe, and none more zealous, than fans of Apple, who are infamous for their sensitivity to slams, real or imagined, against the beloved company. (link)

The chapter that deals with Apple (AAPL) is excerpted in Tuesday’s Machanist column. Manjoo finds parallels in a Stanford study of pro-Arab and pro-Israeli students — as we as some choice tidbits from the mailbag of David Pogue, tech critic of the New York Times.

I don’t claim to be in Pogue or Mossberg’s league, but for anyone who has wondered about the phenomenon, I think it’s a must read. See here.

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