Daniel Eran Dilger
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Wired’s Leander Kahney Attacks Steve Jobs, Again

Daniel Eran Dilger
An author who has devoted his career to deriding Steve Jobs’ Apple as being “irredeemably evil” and portraying its users as a “cult” has scribbled up a new missive for Wired that attempts to hijack the company’s upcoming iPod event and replace any discussion of new technology with a tasteless personal attack of the company’s CEO.
“He’s expected to introduce a new iPod,” Leander Kahney wrote of Jobs, “but the only thing I care about is how healthy he looks.”

The comments were made under two undated pictures of Jobs, one with a 40-something Middle American belly, and the other looking like a SoCal Disney Mogul in his 50s with a penchant for yoga. The supposed scandal here: that Jobs sought to recover from cancer surgery by eating well. And that he is perhaps not fat enough to be a president Americans can relate to.

Steve Jobs Ba

Kahney, the author of “The Cult of Mac,” “Cult of iPod” and “Inside Steve’s Brain,” referred to tomorrow’s iPod event as an “infomercial” before writing that “Jobs’ health has been the burning issue surrounding Apple this year. The company is firing on all cylinders (except the odd glitch like MobileMe) but the CEO’s health is an ongoing issue of extreme concern that will not go away. All eyes on Tuesday will be looking to see how healthy Jobs looks – and fingers crossed he’s OK.” [emphasis his]

Is Kahney really that concerned about Jobs’ health, or is he just playing up petty nonsense in a personal attack? Kahney didn’t seem to be concerned about Jobs’ brush with obesity ten years ago, nor the current obesity of Microsoft’s CEO, a health risk that likely isn’t enhanced by Ballmer’s throwing chairs and tantrums.

The Age Thing.

Over the last decade, Jobs has gone from 43 to 53, which I hear is not exactly easy on the face and body. Still, Jobs seems to have pulled it off pretty well, as the archives of YouTube indicate. If Jobs’ struggle with cancer in 2004 was the “burning issue of extreme concern” that Kahney is trying to maintain it is, why didn’t it have some significant impact on Jobs’ appearance between 2003 and 2005?

Steve Jobs 1997 2000
Steve Jobs 2003 2005
Steve Jobs 2007 2008

This year, Jobs has assumed a more grandfatherly character, but that’s because he is now of a grandfatherly age. Don’t look now, but this happens to everyone.

Leander Kahney isn’t notable enough to have such a complete series of photos in the public domain, but clearly he’s been ravaged by age as well. Kahney is ten years younger than Jobs, and his photos below are promotional pics he has issued, not candid shots from unflattering angles captured while he was speaking on stage.


I’m about ten years younger than Kahney, and I also haven’t been tasked with raising four kids yet as Kahney has. However, over the last several years I’ve been beaten rather unmercifully by the ravages of age as well.

In 2003, I hadn’t yet been run over twice on my bicycle and sent to the ER three times from motorcycle accidents. In 2006, I was visiting the other side of the world for the first time. And in 2008, I’m looking like I could be Jobs’ peer. Of course, that hangover photo was taken after being up all night partying in Vienna, but I don’t really look much better than that under any circumstances any more.

Daniel Eran Dilger

Kahney’s Fictional Fluff: Historical Revisionism.

Kahney’s preoccupation with painting Jobs’ advancing age as a deathly illness is not just pandering, distasteful journalism. It’s also a blatantly self-promoting effort to push his latest book, a supposedly inside look at Jobs’ “brain,” despite the lack of any relationship between Kaheny and Jobs.

Kahney has a ridiculous history of repainting reality to make black white and vice versa. In 2006, Kahney rewrote the history of Bill Gates and Jobs, explaining that “perceptions are wrong. In fact, the reality is reversed. It’s Gates who’s making a dent in the universe, and Jobs who’s taking on the role of single-minded capitalist, seemingly oblivious to the broader needs of society.”

Ostensibly, this was because Gates was funneling charity funds (or at least software licensing) into schools worldwide in ways that promoted Microsoft software, while Jobs continued to act as a CEO of a relevant tech company and sat on the board of Disney. Of course, Jobs was also never under the gun to shift vast amounts of corporate wealth into his own private foundation in $5 billion increments as a Federal monopoly antitrust verdict loomed over his company.

Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech

Kahney’s Fictional Fluff: Simplification and Dramatic Embellishment.

Earlier this year, Kahney wrote up an epic condemnation of Apple paradoxically “getting everything right by doing everything wrong.” Irony is a wonderful thing, but Kahney’s article was so riddled full of inconsistencies and contradictory logic that bloggers had no problem ripping the article to shreds.

In fact, Daring Fireball’s “How Leander Kahney Got Everything Wrong by Being an Irredeemable Jackass” reads shockingly like Mac Journal’s 1997 take on Jim Carlton’s book “Apple, the Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders.” That book attempted to similarly spin Apple’s decade of history prior to Jobs with the same sensationalism and exaggerated drama as Kahney’s more recent “Apple cult” themed books skewering Jobs.

Back then, MWJ wrote, “Unfortunately, it [Carlton’s book] suffers from the same problems as much of the [Wall Street] Journal’s coverage of Apple Computer. Specifically, the book interprets the same facts different ways in different places, depending on which way makes Apple look worse; it misfires badly when discussing items that didn’t come from multiple sources; Carlton is in way over his head on technical matters and it clearly shows; the research in some cases is so sloppy it gets things wrong that you could verify with a single phone call. Annoyingly, the book also mixes hindsight with foresight, assuming that something that is clear today was equally clear ten years ago if you were smart enough.”

Daring Fireball “How Leander Kahney Got Everything Wrong by Being an Irredeemable Jackass”
Mac Weekly Journal 1997.11.03: Jim Carlton’s “Apple”

You Want the Truth? You Can’t Handle the Truth!

Wouldn’t it be great to get an inside look at Apple that captured reality rather than invented “reality show” theatrics? Imagine a “Soul of a New Machine” written about the return of Apple and the future plotted out by Jobs and his executive team.

That’s something the world needs for inspiration. We don’t really need more passive titillation invented to tell a convenient story of good and evil and the irony of apparent paradox, promoted by nonstop personal attacks intended to turn Jobs into a mysterious and exaggerated caricature that only Kahney can decipher for us.

Steve Jobs, if you want me to write it, just let me know. And we can even publish it a decade from now when I’m 40, and you’re 60. And if you all out there want to read it, you’ll need to write Jobs yourself to ask him to let me write it, because he apparently reads your emails but not too many blogs.

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  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    Now that would be a treat!

    As for Kahney … it was actually Dan Lyons I was expecting you to put in the sights today. Both are rather too fond of peddling whatever hype happens to be the prevailing wind, but Lyons’ first piece at his new gig was a classic example of Apple are the New Microsoft, at least six months too late!

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    Gruber’s probably right that Jobs will appear similar tomorrow to the last keynote, as he’s hardly a recluse so it won’t be a surprise.

    As for the weight loss which is the key part of the ongoing spin, a link of Gruber’s which seems to cover it nicely lies here:

    Cancer surgery is one thing. Subsequent nutritional troubles another. I expect it’s under control.

  • gus2000

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, Daniel. The last 8 years have been rough for everyone.

  • Scott

    Jobs let Daniel write the book. Get it?

  • http://murrquan.livejournal.com Murrquan

    You’d be great at writing a book like that, and I’d personally love to read it. Why do you need Steve Jobs’ permission?

    Incidentally, I snickered at Microsoft’s Windows 6 x3 in the last article, but the cover shot here’s kind of offensive to me.

  • PerGrenerfors

    Oh come on Daniel. It could be worse. I will be 26 in about a month and my hair started to turn gray two years ago.

    I read “Inside Steve’s Brain” and it’s not a very good book. There’s very little orignal thinking, are any real knowledge about Steve Jobs thinking. There are some amusing stories from Steve’s youth but the Folklore site is so much better for the occasional entertaing “Jobsism”.

    Really Daniel, you SHOULD write a book. I know it would be awsome. I’d buy it and do my best to promote it to every geek in my country.

  • PerGrenerfors

    What if Jobs has been on the tried and tested Pizza-Beer-Doughnut diet since last time he went on stage? He should come on stage portly and with a beard, just like Santa. Would that make Kahney happy? I mean, everybody knows that Ballmer replaced Gates as CEO because he is fatter. Fat people make for better CEO, obviously.

  • jimbatt

    And nobody said how sexy Daniel is??
    Everybody knows that :
    1. Mac user : gorgeous
    2. PC user : ugly.

    And fat people are the best CEO (in a PC world)…

    Once again a really good article. Thanks!

  • gus2000

    If Jobs needs more body fat, I’d be happy to volunteer as a donor.

  • SamLowry

    I don’t know “Inside Steve’s Brain”, but I do know that Rob Enderle wrote it were a good book. Knowing Enderle (from reading) as a 100% reliable counter indicator (remember his praise of HD-DVD a few DAYS before it collapsed?), it is clear what a smelly load of crap that book must be.
    For those who wonder why I read Enderle’s whatshamacallit, it is like watching the “black channel” on east-german tv before the wall came down in ’89. It was pure propaganda aimed to convince east-germans that west-german tv were all propaganda. all very professional, not funny at all, but so perfect in turning everything upside down that it was like a sit-com.
    A book from you, Daniel, would be well worth reading, but I’d agree you don’t need permission to write.

  • toddb

    I don’t agree with many of Kahney’s comments but don’t kid yourself, the cult comments are not too far from the truth. I remember growing up in a time when people had Chicago Bulls, Dallas Cowboys and NY Rangers logos in the windows of their cars. Yet I see more white Apple stickers plastered all over cars when I drive to and from work than any sports team. I guess if Sony had included WALKMAN stickers with their cassette playing marvel of the 80’s……..Jobs’ 1984 Volvo 245 DL would be stylish.

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