Giving Mac Guy the What For

Via Megan McArdle, I came across this whitheringly funny attack on the insipid Apple Guy vs. PC Guy ad campaigns from Charlie Booker in The Economist from a few weeks back.

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don’t use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, “I hate Macs”, and then I think, “Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?” Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.

Now, while I’m a dedicated PC user, I don’t have any particular disdain for Macs. The column does have an unquestionably British style that James Fallows remarked on in a 1991 essay about, ironically enough, the appeal of The Economist from which Henry Farrell quoted recently:

The other ugly English trait promoting The Economist’s success in America is the Oxford Union argumentative style. At its epitome, it involves a stance so cocksure of its rightness and superiority that it would be a shame to freight it with mere fact. American debate contests involve grinding, yearlong concentration on one doughy issue, like arms control. The forte of Oxford-style debate is to be able to sound certain and convincing about a topic pulled out of the air a few minutes before, such as “Resolved: That women are not the fairer sex.” (The BBC radio shows “My Word” and “My Music,” carried on National Public Radio, give a sample of the desired impromptu glibness.) Economist leaders and the covers that trumpet their message offer Americans a blast of this style. Michael Kinsley, who once worked at The Economist, wrote that the standard Economist leader gives you the feeling that the writer started out knowing that three steps must be taken immediately — and then tried to think what the steps should be.

Indeed.

What’s unique about this style is that it is simultaneously in-your-face and yet within the bounds of civility; obnoxious without being vulgar. Christopher Hitchens, Mark Steyn, and, occasionally, Andrew Sullivan do it quite well. The only contemporary American essayist who I can think of who has a similar style is P.J. O’Rourke.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Charlie Brooker Sends Coded Message…

    In this column, he subtly hints at how he feels about competing computer technologies…….

  2. William d'Inger says:

    Basically, the PC vs. Mac argument is an updated version of the Ford vs. Chevy arguments I heard in the 1950s. Back then, the issue pretty much died out when Toyota and Volkswagen arrived with superior products. I keep waiting for something similar to happen with computers.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Look, I just want a computer that works and not give me problems I don’t want to deal with. I’ve been all PC up to this point, but frustration with Windows and hardware/software integration issues are making me look hard at a mac for the next upgrade. I admire Apple’s job in tightly controlling its hardware and software integration so when you buy a mac, you know all software for it will work as advertised. I’m not a power user, so I don’t worry much about upgrading my computer except for additional memory or drive capacity. The PC’s versatility is also its greatest source of frustration with multitudes of peripherals that may or may not work with your computer. Plus there’s the Windows security issues that constantly pop up.

  4. Jewels says:

    As I sit here writing this on my mac, perusing OTB with my three button and a scroll wheel mouse, I can’t help but think that anyone from either side that exhibits as much hate for either the Mac or PC side while simultaneously revealing to the world his grand lack of knowledge of said computer, is a fool.

    Of course, I use Mac, PC, and even Linux, so perhaps my openness to all three makes me biased or something. Ha.

  5. Anjin-San says:

    PC v Mac is hardly a “Ford v Chevy” argument. More like Saturn v Porsche…

  6. steve says:

    PC v Mac is hardly a “Ford v Chevy” argument. More like Saturn v Porsche…

    Spot on…right down to the price differential. I fondly recall the 1984 commercial. I always thought the poor proles sitting in the audience were Mac users waiting for the next os release.

  7. I agree with, Angin-San.

    PC is Porsche: touchy, finicky, temperamental, always needs some tweak or adjustment or trip to the shop to resolve problems from all that “precision”.

    Mac is Saturn: twist the key, and go.

    And I use both, but am migrating my home equipment over to Mac because computers are no longer a hobby for me; they are a resource for work, education, amusement. I have no time to be mucking about with patches, chasing bots and virae, etc. My home server will be Linux.

  8. RJN says:

    You get two birds with one stone today if you go to:

    http://www.theagitator.com./

    and see the video.