I regret to inform you all that we have reached peak Polishing Cloth. I take full responsibility for my small part in getting us to this point.
The gag was simple: Looketh over here and gawp with me at yet another outrageously priced Apple accessory! The internet demands clicks, and nothing gets more clicks than something that’s egregiously overpriced when it shouldn’t be. It was, as we say in the shitposting industry, a bit.
Don’t get me wrong. The Apple polishing cloth thing is stupid. The $19 glorified microfiber square is now back-ordered into oblivion. But after saying my piece about the cloth, I figured it’d slither away into the black hole where so many forgotten blogs have died before it. The news cycle is always churning, and we as a species need to constantly be entertained, outraged, or focused on making/sending memes. A stupid $19 cloth inspires all three, but the internet also has the attention span of a gadfly. It’s only a matter of time before Apple surfaces the “next” polishing cloth.
I asked my editor Caitlin McGarry, who came into possession of an Apple Polishing Cloth when she reviewed the nano-textured 27-inch iMac last year, how she would describe the product: “It feels like luxury, that’s all I can say,” she said. It’s better than a microfiber cloth, but not something she’d actually spend her own money on. This is probably the natural conclusion we should’ve all reached.
But alas, here we are. iFixit has done a teardown of the cloth. (Surprise, it’s actually two clothes glued together.) The New York Times has published a semi-ridiculous, overly serious investigation into the cloth. There is a Twitter parody account. Some asshat is selling it on eBay for $48, and another asshat out there will probably buy it. Apple is likely watching all this with befuddled bemusement, patting us chuds on the head for giving it free marketing for something that doesn’t deserve this much attention, counting its billions. As of this writing, the cloth is back-ordered through early January. You jackals. This was not how the polishing cloth jokes were supposed to turn out, and really, it was over the second Elon Musk tweeted about it.
I was wondering why this made me so furious, but I think I’ve figured it out.
This whole cycle is depressing, in the way many things are these days in tech media as we hurtle toward our dystopian metaverse future. Something is silly so us bloggers poke fun. Is it our best work? Our most meaningful? Not particularly, but life is hard. Sometimes a chuckle is what gets you through the day and so, you might as well have as much fun as you can. After all, Google has an algorithm, and if anyone is going to pay attention to the good stuff, we gotta talk about the stupid stuff, too. You do it because the good stuff is why you log on every day, why you deal with asinine forces you can’t control. You do it because when you get it right, it’s the best feeling in the world, and you’ll chase that feeling until you simply can’t anymore.
But the silly dumb thing that makes people laugh inevitably becomes warped into something it wasn’t meant to be. It gets co-opted by the Elon Musks of the world, corporate dingbats with more hair than brains who somehow hold all the power. There’s nothing I, a lowly writer, can do about that, even though I’ve been complicit this entire time. I just wish we could’ve enjoyed the stupid funny thing a bit longer.
You might be thinking: It’s not that serious. It’s just a $19 polishing cloth. But it was never about the polishing cloth.