Is the "Cult of Apple" really a cult? – Part 1

As an avid Mac user and a new convert to all things Apple, I have experienced the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) first hand at MacWorld last year during the key note when Steve Jobs launched of the MacBook Pro (which I am using right now).

I have seen many books on the “Cult of Mac” or “Cult of Apple” but with the growth in market share and its appeal to the masses, I wonder how much is really true.

This weekend I came across an article called “The 8 Marks of a Cult” and it was written in 1961 when the beat movement was in full swing and the Communist threat put our paranoia on full alert.

So with full tongue and cheek humor, let’s take the 8 Marks and see how they shape up…

Mark #1 – Milieu Control
Definition: (Taken from “The 8 Marks of Cult“)
“Milieu” is a French word meaning “surroundings; environment.” Cults are able to control the environment around their recruits in a number of ways, but almost always using a form of isolation.

Observing Apple’s Actions
If you look at how they talk to the press and keep a tight lip on product releases their control of the press is legendary. Witness the Macworld Keynote where they absolutely control the environment and it is filled with MacHeads in isolation waiting for Steve Jobs.

Close to the Mark? 7 on a scale of 1 to 10

Mark #2 – Mystical Manipulation
Definition: (Taken from “The 8 Marks of Cult“)
In religious cults, God is ever-present in the workings of the organization. The organization is given a certain “mystique” that is quite alluring to the new recruit.

Observing Apple’s Actions
Everywhere there is Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs is everywhere. There is no more to really say here

Close to the Mark? 6 on a scale of 1 to 10

Mark #3 -Demand for Purity
Definition: (Taken from “The 8 Marks of Cult“)
The world is depicted as black and white, with little room for making personal decisions based on a trained conscience. One’s conduct is modeled after the ideology of the group, as taught in its literature. People and organizations are pictured as either good or evil, depending on their relationship to the cult.

Observing Apple’s Actions
All the products are usually in black and white with the “professional” silver throw in. Don’t forget the occasional colors to mix it up but it always comes back to black and white.

Another example – Apple good. Microsoft evil. I would say that is pretty black and white, wouldn’t you?

Close to the Mark? 10 on a scale of 1 to 10

Mark #4 – The Cult of Confession
Definition: (Taken from “The 8 Marks of Cult“)
There is often a tendency to derive pleasure from self-degradation through confession. This occurs when all must confess their sins before each other regularly, creating an intense kind of “oneness” within the group. It also allows leaders from within to exercise authority over the weaker ones, using their “sins” as a whip to lead them on.

Observing Apple’s Actions
Most people who switch love to start their story with confession. “I used to be a Windows user for 10 years until I found the Mac and made switch”. As if almost they have found oneness to admit their wrong and connect with the fellow MacHeads.

Close to the Mark? 7 on a scale of 1 to 10

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NEXT TIME: Part 2 and the other 4 Marks analyzed.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

3 thoughts on “Is the "Cult of Apple" really a cult? – Part 1”

  1. Many Apple sites have gone on at length in how poorly Apple is doing and what it needs to do to set things right. If Apple were truly a cult, the Holy Steve would smite these people with one blow of his Sacred Powerbo…um Macbook Pro!

    Many people have even, shocking as this may seem, criticised the Holy Steve himself, and somehow they have managed to dodge His wrath.

    Try criticising L Ron Hubbard to a member of the Church of Scientology and see how far you get :-).

    The Holy Steve does not require us to avoid those of other faiths, or force them to switch upon pain of His wrath.

    It is true that the Holy Steve is a control freak, and at his Sacred Gatherings members of other faiths might feel a little out of place. But that’s true in any gathering, not just those of cult members.

    I think Apple people are more like sports fans. Thye love their team but are not blind to its faults, and they will criticise it like crazy if its management seems to be failing.

    If the Apple Cult is one, it’s pretty benign. All it expects us to do is buy its Sacred Products.

    A member of Scientology, on the other hand, is expected to break off friendships and even family ties with non-scientologists, and spend virtually without limit on Scientology services (which can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year).

    I do like to joke about worshipping the Holy Steve. This is definitely a testament to the appeal of Steve and Apple. But certainly if Steve told me that to be a true Steveologist I would have to participate in weird life-endangering rituals and confess all my secrets to Apple Store employees in the Church of Steve, I’d leave the cult right away.

    So no, except as a funny joke, Apple’s not a cult. I’m not asking you to discontinue this series – I hope you continue it. But in paralell to it, people should understand that joining a real cult is not a laughing matter.

    Hope that interested you.

    D

    My old Scientology pages – http://www.amazing.com/scientology/ – have some links to information about the
    organization and why it is so bad to be in their clutches.

  2. Football teams. That is an interesting and apt analogy.

    So it is more like Fanatic than cultist.

    With the Superbowl this weekend, it is appropriate and worth a further analysis.

    -Steve

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