A paper written by two Texas academics indicates that Apple is no longer a maker of over priced gadgets but acts and behaves like a religion. The paper with the catchy title “How the iPhone Became Divine: New Media, Religion and the Intertextual Circulation of Meaning” is penned by Heidi A. Campbell and Antonio C. La Pastina both of Texas A&M University.
The paper’s central idea is that religious metaphors explain how Apple and its followers behave and how religious language may communicate both positive and negative aspects of a technology and instigate an unintentional trajectory in popular discourse as it is employed by different audiences, both online and offline.
The idea of Apple being a religion is not new. In my novel “When a Tree Falls“, I wrote of a parallel universe where Apple becomes a techno religion following the death of Steve Jobs. But lately things seem to be getting worse.
Basically religious myths have several core elements.
Firstly they have to explain a creation. It does not have to explain the creation of the universe. In this case it is the creation of an Apple fanboy from a 1970s nerd. This Apple fanboy, and the article does not use the term, “highlighting the counter-cultural origin and emergence of the Apple Mac as a transformative moment”.
There has to be a hero myth. In this case it is the Mac and its founder Steve Jobs as saving its users from the corporate domination of the grey PC world.
It is a myth largely because of Satan. There has to be a myth of ultimate evil. This role in Apple land presents Bill Gates as the anti-Christ when Microsoft really has not been a competitor with Apple.
However Microsoft is always evoked as the anti-Apple Satan. People who say bad things about Apple must be pro-Microsoft, even when the person might be an Open Sauce fanboy.
Then there is a death and resurrection Myth of the hero returning to save a failing company which was nearly bought by Microsoft (Satan again). To these points we would add another myth. All good religions need a bit of persecution even when there is a lack of evidence.
All major religions have myths of murdered martyrs and saints. Even the relatively new religion of Wicca has a myth of the “burning times” which claims that millions of witches were burnt in the Middle Ages.
In the case of Apple there is a belief that only they are “thinking different” and the rest of the world hates Them. Actually the rest of the world hates them for being brain dead morons who spend too much money on an MP3 player and smugly tell everyone how superior their toys are. We guess some persecution is justified.
Apple is essentially a cargo cult where you buy the stairway to heaven. Happiness is found by a like-minded community of people who all share your philosophy and always buy what ever Steve happens to want to sell you.
Magic is not the art and science of changing consciousness at will, it is turning on an iPad. A miracle is not turning water into wine, it is getting a large number of MP3s onto a single hard drive.
To anyone who has had religious experiences it seems paper thin, hollow and above all incredibly stupid. It is like those other modern religions fundamentalist flavours of the Christianity and Muslim religion, none of which existed before the late 19th century, only without the intelligence or subtlety.
In the iPhone Flaw Fiasco Steve Jobs posted a slide which said “We love our users, we built 300 shops for them.” Yes, Jesus loves you, he built you a shop where you can buy things. Don’t worry about improving yourself, trying to overcome your material and spiritual limitations. Go to an Apple store and let Steve hawk you something and you will be better.
When I saw that slide, I could not help but thinking what Bill Hicks would have said. Probably along the lines of “Stores are not Cathedrals you sick f***. The money changers have taken over the temples and are replacing meaning with the dollar.” Then there would be a pause while the Apple fanboys waited for a joke and Hicks would say. “There is no punchline – you are lowering the spiritual standards of the world and you should be ashamed.”
Certainly Campbell and Pastina’s theory works when it comes to the recent iPhone fiasco. If it was a product people would be demanding their money back. Shares would plummet and the company would eventually backtrack.
However Jobs dealt with it as he would the leader of a religious community in trouble – he blamed an outside force for his cock-up. In this case he blamed the press for persecution. Apple blaming the press is a bit like blaming your loyal dog for your own farts.
Early converts to the Apple religion were the US press which has shown itself unable to print any Apple heresy. He essentially said: “Our phone is broken in the same way that everyone’s is broken, but we have been persecuted.”
Instantly the Apple fanboy community goes into defence mode. They forget their broken phones. This is an attack on what they actually believe in. They must rally and see off the persecution. For Jobs it is problem solved and he does not have to replace anyone’s gear.
In the middle of it all though, I don’t think that Jobs believes in his own religion. I dunno why. I guess it is because I don’t think he is that stupid.