This story from ABC News gets into some issues that allow me to play devil’s advocate. It concerns the removal of an app on homosexuality from Exodus International. Exodus International is the ministry that believes they can pray the gay out of you and ultimately homosexual men and women are forced into a charade. ABC says that nearly150,000 people signed a petition in order to request the removal as it was deemed to be bigoted by Apple and, because “…it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”
I’m aware of iTunes’ strict policies as I have submitted several cartoon apps where the editors rejected them the first time around because many of my cartoons were deemed “offensive” for really trivial things. As I pointed out to one of my buddies working on the projects, iTunes can carry a rapper who says “fuck” and you can download his album, but if I use any swear words in a cartoon I’m rejected (and I never even tried the word “fuck”). Also, if I showed any cartoon skin such as a cartoon woman in a bikini that was also rejected–and my cartoon women are silly, hardly a turn on!
So on one hand I see Exodus International as an ignorant religious group trying to stop homosexuality and on the other hand I see iTunes as a media-providing-giant that is deciding what we can and can’t download. Is the new method of transporting wireless information the same as old school printed books? The reason I ask is Amazon.com long ago stuck to its guns when it came to controversial or bigoted material because they did not believe in any form of censorship. The best example being that they carry Hitler’s Mein Kampf despite pressure from certain Jewish organizations. And I agree with the Amazon policy. That makes me question iTunes’ stance on censorship. They have the right to do it, but should they do it? If apps provide information similar to books (many apps are essentially Ebooks) then this seems to have some implications.
For instance, if I, as a freethinking individual who supports gay rights, wants to download the Exodus International App for research, shouldn’t I be able to do it? Shouldn’t I be able to make that choice if I want to understand what Exodus International has to say or even investigate what they’re up to? Now I know the rebuttal is that I can just go to their web site but that isn’t the point. Wireless media should be just as free as media elsewhere. Banning material never seems to work as a solution. The solution is always to provide a counterpoint or in this case an opposing app.
I guess I just hate censorship in any form. I like the dirt to be exposed with all its filth so that life isn’t sanitized. If it were up to me iTunes would carry anything and everything from all religious, social or political groups. Even the bigots.
One last argument for exposure is avoiding the feeling of persecution. When I was a Christian in my youth what sucked me into the Christian counterculture (including anti-gay rhetoric) was that our opinions were banned or marginalized by the popular media. The persecution complex can make nonsense feel like truth and it fuels donations to bigoted ministries. When bigoted nonsense is out in the open and not banned, it’s attraction depletes.
Itunes is a private company though and they can censor whatever they like, but if their criteria is to censor whatever offends large groups then that is an ill-defined policy. If Christians make up the majority of America and we can’t even get gay marriage laws on the books then isn’t it the homophobic majority that is being offended by pro-gay apps? What about as an atheist if I put out a critical app of the Bible? I’m offending a large group and so my app would be pulled too. Christians could put out an app that conflicts with Mormonism and have their app pulled. It becomes so subjective and ridiculous. The criteria should never be about offending a large group. They need to define the offenses such as: “No Apps promoting racial hatred of African Americans.” Because I feel if I do a critical app of the Bible it falls under theology or religious criticism, not bigotry towards Christians in general. I also feel that if Christians make an app critical of me as an atheist then it still falls under evangelism and is not bigotry towards atheists. The only exception would be something stupid like an app that instructs others to kill all atheists which I don’t think a Christian developer would ever do.
Fortunately, Apple is losing some of its stranglehold over apps as Android is putting a dent into the iPhone business model. I still own an iPhone so I have not explored the Android market yet. Hopefully it hasn’t gone the way of iTunes.