Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane has written a book about Apple, Inc. since the death of Steve Jobs. A highly critical book, apparently. In an email to reporters Jobs’s successor Tim Cook has basically called the book bullshit. In response, you might have expected the author to find a more or less deft way to say “No, it’s not bullshit.” Instead, he turns to psychobabble:
For Tim Cook to have such strong feelings about the book, it must have touched a nerve. Even I was surprised by my conclusions, so I understand the sentiment. I’m happy to speak with him or anyone at Apple in public or private. My hope in writing this book was to be thought-provoking and to start a conversation which I’m glad it has.
Not very encouraging. “Touched a nerve” is the sort of thing people say because it sounds good, but when you think about it, it really isn’t. Or rather, it could be good or bad, depending on the fundamental issue to which no response has been given. If the book’s account is accurate, then the fact that it touched a nerve among Apple’s leadership suggests that it’s also important. But if it’s bullshit, then “touching a nerve” means that it’s really offensive bullshit. The same with thought-provoking. If the book provokes interesting and well-grounded thoughts about the nature of modern capitalism, that’s a good thing. On the other hand, if it provokes utterly specious thoughts based on misconceptions, or provokes thoughts about the irresponsibility of modern publishers, that’s probably not a good thing.
It reminds me of an interview I once read with Bob Dylan from the 1970s, where he complained about the people who come up to him after a concert and say “Lotta energy, man!”