Apple: The Reluctant Arbiter, Exodus & The National Story

| Hidden Dimensions

 “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Whenever there’s a heated debate, a breakthrough in insight can come from an outsider with a fresh perspective. This has happened in the case of Apple and the Exodus International app. A writer from outside our inner circle instructs us.

I have been following the case of Apple, the Exodus International app, views on homosexuality and the current petition to have the app removed from the App Store. The basics of the story were covered by TMO just a few days ago.

Typically, a case like this starts with heated discussion on both sides that may or may not lead to a change in course by Apple. In the course of reading the two sides of the story, what I found missing was a unique, breakthrough viewpoint that shed significant light on the whole issue. Then, bingo, I found it in this article, “The Internet, Freedom of Speech and the Anti-Gay App,” by Victoria Pynchon. I do not know Ms. Pynchon, and she’s certainly not one of the heavyweights in the Apple analysis community. But her observations are important, and you can go read it now, or follow me along and go back to it later.

Ms. Pynchon’s contribution to the dialogue is that Apple has created an iconic device in the iPad. More to the point,

The furor over the Exodus App suggests that the iPad, by virtue of its shape and function, is assumed to be carrying our national “super story” – the tale a community tells about itself to establish a shared identity. As scholars explain, these national narratives hold us together and keep us apart. They help us make sense of our experience as we flip through the various idealized images the culture suggests we adopt as our own. When we fail to find our own story within the larger narrative — or find ourselves demonized by it — we lose confidence, hope and coherence. We want to be celebrated, or at least included, in the tales told around the community camp fire every evening.”

In other words, and this is a nuanced issue, the iPad has become the de facto village newspaper and the views expressed there, via apps, are subject to the judgment of Apple. Everyone wants to become a part of the national super story by having their voice heard on that so very popular platform. That, in turn, has placed responsibilities on Apple whether or not it likes the idea.

The Legacy of Newspapers

In the history of print, newspaper editors have long wielded considerable power and influence. They learned professionalism, values and judgment from many years on the job. If an outsider were to try to seize the tone of a newspaper’s content, it would be resisted. For example, if I were to write an essay for submission to the Denver Post that President Obama’s grandfather was a Nazi and a murderer, it would likely be rejected on the basis of the editor-in-chief’s knowledge, experience, and training. And their estimate my credibility and professionalism.

Similarly, every day, you come to TMO and find content that is the accumulated judgment and experience of our editors. You do this, realizing with wisdom that the people who most annoy us are sometimes the people we grudgingly respect*.

That’s not to say that newspaper editors haven’t made mistakes in judgment — they’re human. But if making a single mistake, any mistake, must lead to instant loss of position, then no editor could long endure his office. We live and learn. As I am fond of saying, “Judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

The nuance is that while numerous newspapers seek to have their presence on the iPad, each with its own voice, the irony is that the iPad itself has become the delivery vehicle, via apps, and thus the arbiter of the national super story. Apple takes a stand on what it considers decency and honor amongst apps.

The American Princess

Another popular arbiter of American values in the past has been the winner of the Miss America contest. During competition, her views and goals are assessed and combined with other attributes, not to mention basic good looks. Some people have been jealous or alarmed by this institution because winners have often articulated values that leave them out in the cold, isolated from the national super story. Watch any contestant take a stand on sexual values, and watch the fur fly.

Over time, for various reasons, we decided that this was not the best platform on which to tell our national story. Too many voices were left out. But also, the forces that tried to marginalize the often very good values if the young women became more strident and influential. It just goes to prove Ms. Pynchon’s point: the more influential an American icon of national story telling is, the more other voices will struggle to be heard. Sometimes the force of gentle reason doesn’t seem sufficient and opponents go overboard.

Core Values

Now we’re geting down to the core issue of the Exodus International app which seeks to assist the user to better explore and understand his or her feelings and values. (I have examined the app.) The reason Apple approved the app is because it’s honest and sincere about helping people follow what is believed to be the teaching of the Bible. One problem here is that people of different religious faiths interpret the Bible differently. Forcing other people to believe what you believe never works and is offensive. However, helping people understand themselves is a good thing.

Ms. Pynchon makes a critical observation: “These religious beliefs (that sexual conduct outside of a one man-one woman marriage is sinful and can be “cured” by Jesus) are held by fewer and fewer Americans. They have also been repudiated by many liberal American Christian churches (including my own. -JM] They fly in the face of American secular legal principles [read as separation of church and state - JM] and contradict our contemporary scientific understanding. They are matters of faith, not science or reason.” What this author is summarizing is what is becoming the national story — that our individual DNA is our essence, and we treat our essence with respect. It’s similar to our other national stories, for example, that you don’t stone a woman to death for adultery.

However, and please read this carefully, there are those who believe that self-realization and fulfillment can come from pain, struggling to become what one is not yet, even if pain includes falling on the sword of one’s own DNA. Those who hold to this view want their voice also heard on the national iconic platform, the App Store. With sober reflection, we realize that while those who oppose them may win by the sword of their petition today, they may die by that same sword tomorrow. There is a place in American life for science and the best that religion has to offer. 

Corporate Values

The emerging arbiter of the above is Apple. Apple’s executives are women and men with lots of technical experience, and now they’ve assumed the role, perhaps unwillingly, of being the editors of our iconic platform. Occasionally, they make mistakes, but they usually correct them. But one thing is certain: we want our corporations to have values. And when they betray us, we seek to punish them.

We expect our agri-businesses to sell food that’s safe to eat. We expect our wireless carriers to have fair, transparent pricing and honorable license agreements — even if we don’t always get all that. We expect our banks to protect our money and we expect Facebook to protect our privacy — even when that’s not one of its business goals. We hope and pray that when companies start selling personal robots that they will inculcate Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Without those laws, humans risk becoming an extinct species. Because corporations are so entwined in our modern technical village, the policies they have and the products they build are increasingly tasked to represent our society’s values. When they fail us — or allow others to harm us — we are appalled. When done right, we celebrate.

Everywhere we turn, we expect corporations to adhere to our national sense of American values and the national super story. And yet, when confronted by those values, many who would have no master seek to change the direction of the national story for their own ends. It’s almost like the situation in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart. We get a glimpse of how Bedford Falls could have gone so terribly wrong, a wretched hive of scum and villainy, in an alternate timeline bereft of the values brought to bear by George Bailey.

We look at instant replay in sports events in infinite, slow-motion, excruciating detail over and over to make sure the game is played fair and without brutality. We also expect corporations to treat us fairly, and to do that, they must have values that we sign off on. All those things that Apple won’t tolerate in the apps that it approves are a by-product of those American values and are part of emerging national super story — like the newspaper editors and beauty contest winners they are replacing. I hope they’re up to the task because that is the task that fate has thrust upon them in our technical village. There is no turning back. None.

And the Winner is…

Don’t look for a verdict in this spot, for I am not here to take sides. There is grace to be found on both sides of the Exodus argument. The applicable value could well be tolerance for the softest and most reasoned voices of love, or it could be intolerance for emotional and strident voices of anti-science. I’d hate to think, however, that the default value lies in demagoguery and, simply, a poll of how many people are offended.

In any case, we honor Apple, the reluctant arbiter in our technical life, for having the courage to make a stand, to represent our best national values, our national story. The company’s greatest failing would to be rudderless, to have no values at all.

Author note: Just as this essay was published, it was learned that Apple pulled the app.

___________

* For me, that’s columnist George Will.

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Comments

FlipFriddle

Thoughtful article John, thanks.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

In any case, we honor Apple, the reluctant arbiter in our technical life, for having the courage to make a stand, to represent our best national values, our national story. The company?s greatest failing would to be rudderless, to have no values at all.

That’s the problem, John. Despite these examples getting stickier and more dramatic with time—they are evolving—Apple fans simply accept that Apple needs to stick its opinion in via the approval/rejection process.

Forget this battle. It’s over. The next one is already upon us. US Senators are calling for Apple to expunge an app that informs drivers of DUI checkpoints, this despite the fact that police departments in many states MUST widely publicize their intention to set one up prior to doing so, and despite growing criticism that these operations are much more effective for fund-raising (tickets, impounds, forfeitures) than for getting impaired drivers off the road.

I’ve had grave concerns about the App Store choke point from the beginning, and specific criticisms of very unfair and unjust decisions Apple has made along the way, starting with the original South Park app. I started by wishing nothing but grief on Apple for going down this path. Lately, I’ve come to realize that they thrive on the controversy and drama, Exodus being a clear example. But I’m almost giddy to see the gasbags in Washington starting to pile on. Apple’s approach is untenable. It’s an affront to decency and freedom of expression. It’s built on a lie, serving the single purpose of giving Apple control over the app revenue space. And at this point, nobody in the Apple press/analyst game is obligated to defend it. It’s a farce, with those who don’t explicitly realize that it is treating it like one with their calls to ban this and ban that.

Me

What a BS article.

Just I should make a kiddee porn app, apparently you can justify hate and evil if you make it sound nice enough.

FlipFriddle

It’s going to be interesting to see if Amazon will face the same general outcry, since they state that they will only deny an app from their store if it fails to function or is a device security risk. When will they get their first Neo-Nazi app, or Anarchist Cookbook app, or the app showing you how to build an IED? What’ll happen then?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Flip: Listen closely… It does not matter with Amazon because Amazon’s Appstore for Android is not the only legitimate channel for getting software for Android devices. That is and always will be the crux of the “problem” for Apple’s App Store until side loading is allowed on iOS devices.

As for the Anarchist’s Cookbook… They sell the book.

Modena

Not sure where the separation of church and state come into this argument.

And as for the science, there are some serious problems. The American Psychiatric Association delisted homosexuality from its disorders list not because of science but because of intense political pressure.

Since then, they have declared such efforts by Exodus as unscientific because there is not enough science behind reparative therapy to practice it.

But at the same time, their stand has been that it is medical malpractice to try to change a homosexuals orientation even if they should seek it.

So you stop all research and then you say there is not enough research.

Meanwhile, the attempts to identify a gay gene has proven to be a wild good chase. The problem with facts is that they tend to be sticky.

I only say this to balance out those who try to stifle ideas by shouting them down. I don’t believe in bashing gays and I don’t try to tell them how to live.

However, if a person is uncomfortable with their sexual orientation and have found those reassurances to be unsettling - shouldn’t they also be afforded the opportunity to seek out change?

rbarker

Excellent article, and amusingly the comments are backing it up. We all want our point of view to be part of the conversation. I think it’s rude, however, to disallow a voice in that conversation just because you don’t happen to agree with it—as long as it’s civil.

And it seems that despite being bad science, the ex-gay app seems to hold to standards of civility—agree with it or not. I certainly don’t, but hey if their point of view is so flawed what’s the harm in letting them show the world how wrong they are?

bweels

Thoughtful article, John, thanks. I get so tired of the shouting matches from both sides on these emotional issues. I feel for Apple, but they’ve put themselves in this position, and I agree with you that it’s better they take a stand than let the App Store be a free-for-all and turn into a “a wretched hive of scum and villainy”. It’s priceless for me not to have to worry about my kids being in the App Store.

However, I don’t really understand why our “National Story” can’t be what it actually is - a story that represents a cross-section of our society, minority views included. We are what we are. But yet people with unpopular views routinely get shouted into submission with sometimes much more visible hatred than that shown by those who they’re blaming for being hateful.

I’m not intending to take sides on this particular issue. But a lot of (though not all) conservative groups like this are sincerely motivated by care and concern for individuals and for the larger society. Call them misguided, anti-science or just plain wrong if you like, but groups like Exodus are plainly not motivated by “hate”. It’s hard to even know what that word means anymore. So often its definition seems to have become “views that don’t agree with mine”.

I tend to be a center/right person in my outlook on both politics and social issues, much more moderate than many on the right, but a far cry from the far left. Even without being an extremist - by any means whatsoever! - I’ve been insulted, accused of being evil and immoral, screamed at, derided, not tolerated and, yes, hated with a passionate virulence by liberals, the display of which is almost on par with the Westboro Baptist Church. The most intolerant people out of everyone I personally happen to know are liberals, and I’m growing tired of the hypocrisy.

I don’t agree with Exodus and I’m not behind their cause. But look at the language used on both sides of this debate. Spokespersons from national organizations critical of the app have used the following words:  “hate speech”, “disturbing”, “shameful”, “deceptive”, “these closet cases”, “peddling false speech”, “dangerous”. Exodus, on the other hand, hasn’t responded with any hint of anger or resentment. Who are the grown-ups here?

I don’t know who coined this phrase, but I’m finding it to be more and more true: “Republicans think Democrats are wrong. Democrats think Republicans are evil.” Replace Republicans and Democrats with Conservatives and Liberals, and replace “evil” with (your choice) “stupid”, “scary”, “ignorant” or “rednecks” and you’ve boiled down much of the political debate in this country as of late.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I wouldn’t want to live in a society with homogenous views. Why are we trying to shut up any minority ideas and values - or any ideas and values, period - and personally attack and marginalize anyone who doesn’t agree with us? Save your righteous indignation for the Westboro loons, who truly are motivated by hatred.

APA Science

“The American Psychiatric Association delisted homosexuality from its disorders list not because of science but because of intense political pressure.” - Modena

Please - there was not hard science to say that homosexuality was a disorder or an illness, and that was the reason why activists took aim at psychiatry and psychoanalysis and challenged them to come up with the data to support that position. And they couldn’t!

The only data they could come up with were psychoanalytic theories that were not data. The data that they called data was presented from small groups of clinical populations of people who are gay who didn’t like or didn’t want or couldn’t accept being gay. That was the population from which this so-called data was extracted.

What the gay activists did in the 1970’s was pull out the true data, the scientific data that they could find, and presented it to the diagnosis committee of the American Psychiatric Association and persuaded them that the science that did exist was on the side of homosexuality not being a disease or a disorder.

That is why the diagnosis committee—the Nomenclature Committee, which is what it was called—suggested to the Board of the American Psychiatric Association that it be removed, and it was.

Victoria Pynchon

Thanks, John, for the thoughtful review and the kind words about my piece. By the way, the Fitzgerald quote is one of my favorites (separated at birth?)

Here’s an excerpt of a comment I left over at Truth Wins Out that clarifies my opinion that Apple shouldn’t be excluding apps based on their content for any reason other than those the courts use - defamatory material for which Apple might be sued, advocating violence (or shouting “fire” in a crowded theater) and “hate speech,” though its definition is still vague and I agree with the commenter here who notes “if their point of view is so flawed, what’s the harm in letting them show the world how wrong they are.” Excerpt from Truth Wins Out comment below:

The internet, for instance, is morphing again as commercial interests find new ways to monetize their ?content.? One of the ways commercial interests are doing this is to move their content from the free internet to the Appl-sphere. The New York Times is there, as are several versions of the Christian Bible, the Torah, and the Koran. These ancient texts contain material that is wildly contrary to the beliefs of just about everyone and ?offensive? to many.

If we empower a corporation like Apple to give a thumbs-up or thumbs down to the expression of opinions, we?re asking a corporate entity whose reason for being is profitability not human welfare to patronize and infantilize us, the ?consumers? of ?information.?

Is that what we really want? Don?t ?we? ? those people whose opinions lie at the margins of the society ? have the most to fear from a corporate entity deciding what is ?good? and what is ?bad? for consumers at the same time as it is assuming greater and greater control over the availability of what we read and watch?

Isn?t it bad enough that we?ve allowed the MPAA for more than 40 years to tell young people what they can and cannot see at their local theater by rating movies PG-13 and NC-17 (and, by the way, applying stricter standards to gay sexual themes than are applied to heterosexual themes).

TitanTiger

I realize Apple is in a difficult position, but to me this is just a sad approach to navigating these dicey situations.

I understand they’re not a government entity and as such, freedom of speech isn’t something they are bound by in the same way the government is.  But that ethos permeates (or at least used to permeate) American society as a whole.  Viewpoints and beliefs we don’t agree with may make us upset or offend us, but the thoughtful among us don’t resort to trying to win in the marketplace of ideas by simply getting the opposing view expunged from the square.  Silencing the opposition by fiat is not the way America works.  We win in the marketplace of ideas not by decreasing speech but by offering more speech.  Our speech.  The arguments are truly won by presenting better ideas than the other side.

So for Apple to remove the app based on it offending a substantial amount of people is troubling at best.  What other ideas in the future will be deemed offensive enough to nudge Apple into shutting them down?  Talk about your slippery slopes. 

Preferably, this would have been a moment to educate and frankly, to tell people (on either side) who are offended when other people don’t agree with them on a matter to “grow up.  “

You really missed the mark on this one, Apple.

akcarver

ugh.

Just I should make a kiddee porn app, apparently you can justify hate and evil if you make it sound nice enough.

A child pornography app wouldCLEARLY be illegal, and not only should be rejected, but should also be reported to the nearest civil authority as quickly as possible for prosecution.

I don?t, however, agree with Apple?s decision about the Exodus and Manhattan Declaration apps. Apple should not be putting itself in the position of arbiter of what speech is acceptable and what is not. The cure for speech you disagree with is more speech, not censorship.

Windsor Smith

Bosco (Brad Hutchings) wrote:

Lately, I?ve come to realize that they thrive on the controversy and drama, Exodus being a clear example.

Brad, I agree that Apple’s approach is untenable. But I never got the impression that Apple took that approach for the controversy and drama. What makes you thinks so?

Dean Lewis

The problem is apps have already been added or removed based on a substantial amount of people, with substantial being different base don the app and the amount of publicity the issue gets. So this Exodus app is not new regarding the talk of whether to remove it or not.

Ms. Pynchon brings up the salient point: does this rise to the level of crying fire in a crowded theater? Many argue that it does. It’s equivalent to talk in “the olden days” (and they aren’t that olden, and they continue even now) that races shouldn’t mix and it was an abomination to marry outside your color. That kind of talk today, for the most part, elicits laughter, but there was a time it elicited violence. This kind of othering by the likes of Exodus is not good for the national conversation. There are not always two sides to every argument, and to let the ignorant side (and saying ignorant might be generous) have a say in an environment where people are being killed because of their sexual orientation is irresponsible.

akcarver

Not sure where the separation of church and state come into this argument.

It doesn?t. Apple is neither church (despite the religious devotion their products engender in some people) nor state.

ctopher

Why can’t I get the Exodus App on my Wii?

John F.

Removed (someone else made the same comment before I clicked Submit).

Victoria Pynchon

I don?t know what secular legal principles she?s talking about, but I don?t think it would be ?separation of church and state?.  Apple is not a state.

I’m suggesting that Apple voluntarily adopt the legal principles that have controlled the separation of church and state as Apple comes to control more and more of what we say and see and read. It’s not the state but it’s becoming as powerful as a state.

mhikl

John, Though I have followed this debate (discussion?), I have not entered in because the complexities are beyond me. I have read your outline and the links and the complexities are a still a befuddlement but I am closer to some understanding than before. Though an improvement over my previous state, as I read your article I kept thinking that as I took time reread your article things would become clearer. And then I came to your Author note. There is science and then there are ethics and from ethics arises faith. What a complicated species we are!

I look forward to the discussions that will follow and any additional thoughts you have to offer, especially in light of the latest twist. This is a profoundly interesting discussion from all points of view, be they based on science or on values. It is the faith part that stymies me.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Brad, I agree that Apple?s approach is untenable. But I never got the impression that Apple took that approach for the controversy and drama. What makes you thinks so?

Timing. If they hadn’t thrown down the ban hammer today, Bryan might be writing an article about trying the Android Appstore free app of the day in his web browser. Today’s app is World Series of Poker: Hold ‘em Legend. Well, no test drive available on that one. We’ll just have to trust the reviews that it sucked.

And whether they do it intentionally or not, they get controversy and drama. They’d have to be pretty dumb not to notice and pretty incompetent not to play it at this point.

Mattheww

I don’t think the issue was ever whether an Exodus app has the right to exist; it was what Apple itself was saying by approving that app while rejecting so many gay-friendly ones.

Personally I think there should be porn and KKK and Exodus apps available, just as there are currently websites for all those things.  But Apple has appointed itself arbiter of what’s obscene.  So if they then say two men kissing is obscene and demonizing homosexuality is not offensive, well there’s a name for those kind of views.

The real takeaway for me is, the sooner Android marginalized iOS, the better it will be for everybody.

TitanTiger

Other than some sort of gay porn app, what gay-friendly apps has Apple rejected?

John F.

The news editor as gatekeeper model touted by the author is an interesting one.  The recent decline of that very model in favor of greater diversity in gatekeepers would suggest that Apple’s single-gatekeeper approach will be hard to sustain, and at the same time points the way to what may possibly be a better approach.

I’m personally happy to have an app store with no porn or hate-promoting apps in it.  I would be more than annoyed if Apple changed that.  I don’t want to have to sift through that stuff, and I especially don’t want it there when my young kids borrow the iPhone.  But by insisting on being the one entity that makes wise decisions for everyone, Apple is inviting people with different values or tastes to try to push them in direction that makes the app store a better fit for them at my expense.  It’s a zero sum game.

Why must it be that way?  We are technologically capable of supporting a divergence of tastes and opinions.

Apple may continue to choose to stand in the crossfire of a big culture war over every controversial app—with people trying to control what everyone has access to by badgering them to either ban or permit it.  Or Apple can foster a diversity of gatekeepers.  Let consumers decide what standards they want applied, and choose whichever gatekeeper they trust to make good choices, whether than means minimal filtering (anything legal) or strict filtering along the lines of whatever standards the consumer chooses.

Apple could then make their current system the “default”, but let consumers change it.  I think that would go a long ways toward defusing this whole issue.

Jack in Chicago

No doubt Claude Levi-Strauss himself would be impressed with your anthropological rifts on the I-Pad app community, but it may be that you are reading way too much into things, and elevating Apple to a stature last shared by the priests at Alta Mira.

Apple’s singlemost valuable asset is entirely intangible—it strives always to be uber-hip.  Apple devices must be the coolest, the software the most elegant—everything screams cutting edge. All that drives sales. So along comes the Exodus App.  And how hip is that?  How about an Intelligent Design app?  After all, that’s based on religious belief too, or maybe an End-of-Days countdown app? 

Science rests on reason, religion on belief, and the difference is not resolved by facile grammar: i.e.: “There is a place in American life for science and the best that religion has to offer.”  People have gone to war and killed defending their idea of “the best” religion has to offer.  As to science, it took the Church 300 years to forgive Galileo for his heresy.

The “we” you use in your essay is “you.”  Fess up.  It’s certainly not me.  It’s okay to believe whatever you want, including that the I-Pad can show us the face of God.  But writing in third-person portentous, basing your thesis on the reader buying into the idea of a “shared community” via I-pad apps is quite a stretch.

John F.

I?m suggesting that Apple voluntarily adopt the legal principles that have controlled the separation of church and state as Apple comes to control more and more of what we say and see and read. It?s not the state but it?s becoming as powerful as a state.

And I think that Apple should simply cede that control to its users by letting them establish and choose their own arbiters (see my post above).  Having a single arbiter only ensures an endless culture war which no one ultimately wins.

Mattheww

There?s one more thing niggling me about the reaction to the Exodus app protest:  A certain and not-tiny percentage of straight people—even progressive ones—never seem willing to fall on their sword over a gay issue.

Gay marriage?  Stop whining, you?ll blow the general election.  Gays in the military?  Not if it will deplete clout Obama could use on something, you know, important. 

Here you see a lot of people waxing on about free speech and slippery slopes.  It?s hard to imagine them mounting so full-throated a defense agains a Jew-curing app, but again since the upside is remote to many, all they seem to register is what they could lose.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

And I think that Apple should simply cede that control to its users by letting them establish and choose their own arbiters (see my post above). Having a single arbiter only ensures an endless culture war which no one ultimately wins.

Well, I can give you about 1.8 billion reasons why Apple won’t do that. The endless culture war and other “problems” that result from Apple’s choke point are a small cost of doing that business. That’s what should give Apple customers and fans some pause. They have no incentive to do the right thing, only the popular thing.

By contrast, the Android ecosystem would allow the Exodus app and an app that shows two dudes kissing without any drama at all. And as a bonus, you can have incoming text messages read to your through your Bluetooth headset. That’s allowed too!

dmuzzy

John wrote:

And I think that Apple should simply cede that control to its users by letting them establish and choose their own arbiters (see my post above).? Having a single arbiter only ensures an endless culture war which no one ultimately wins.

I agree. I am surprised that Apple hasn’t offered a filter that leverages the content ratings on the apps. Example: I set my maximum rating and I only have access to apps that rise to that level. This would also allow parents to have better control over the apps that their children might download/see when browsing the app store. They might need to add additional levels for “Controversial” or some such moniker to classify apps such as the one just pulled.

Apple could still “hold the high ground” of protecting users from offensive / harmful apps, while ceding control to the user for what they what to expose themselves to.

webjprgm

I agree with all the comments above stating that free speech be allowed (except in legally limited cases).  We should have both gay and anti-gay apps.  Apple was wrong to ban this one.

@mhikl I don’t know much about ethics, since to me ethics seems to be doing that which is morally right, and morals are defined by one’s world-view, which is often based on faith, or a combination of faith and science.

I think science vs. faith is a non-issue.  People use it in rhetoric to say that science is reasonable, faith is hate-based or old-fashioned or ignorant, and then claim that science supports their viewpoint.  The real issue is not a conflict of science and faith but rather is what John M. pointed out in his article, that people want to be heard and not marginalized or ignored.

Here’s a brief summary of faith vs. science:  Both seek truth, one by guessing at why things we observe are as they are and the other by belief in what is true but unobserved (or unobservable).  The point is to have enough understanding to make rational decisions for our actions.  Faith is always meant to be temporary, since if we believe in God eventually we’ll die and see him and thus have knowledge and not faith (assuming God exists and that there is an afterlife).  If faith is a good model by which to base actions, then hurray.  If science comes up with a good model, the hurray for that too.  Whichever produces a good model by which to make decisions is useful.  If they disagree then one or the other or both is wrong.  We can’t say it’s always faith that is wrong, because science itself often shows how previous “facts” were wrong.

Thus science and faith are both complementary belief systems (to help us make rational decisions).  There are also different views in science and many many different faiths.  Most are viable (at least to some degree), so we should not shut them down.


(p.s. Some of this is based on a comment from one of my math professors, that math and physics are just models of the universe that approximate things enough to be useful but are still horribly wrong.)

webjprgm

I don?t want to have to sift through that stuff, and I especially don?t want it there when my young kids borrow the iPhone.

I’m not sure how viable my idea is, but, just don’t give your kids an iTunes account password.  They can’t even get free apps that way.  Then you the parent be the censor of what gets on the iPhone.

p.s. I don’t want porn on the app store either, but I’d favor the side of free speech and just request that we be given content filters (aka “parental controls”) to remove things labeled as indecent, like with the “explicit” tag attached to songs.

Lee Dronick

Just subscribing to the discussion.

Nemo

Mr. Martellaro seems not to have understood Ms. Pynchon at all.  Her view is that Apple should not be any sort of arbiter whatsoever in the public square of controversial views based its senior executives’ values and opinions.  Let’s look at the parts of Ms. Pynchon’s essay that Mr. Martellaro did not quote:  “If the iPad and iPhone have become, by virtue of their information app-lization, a version of the public square, we?d be better off letting the public decide whose ideas are more consistent with our national character and whose are not. Though the private sector is entitled to suppress speech and support any crazy idea it wants, we must live with the consequences of that suppression ? consequences that include our increasingly polarized electorate and the impasse in governance that it causes.”
What Ms. Pynchon argues is that it is the individual members of the public, not Apple or any other corporation, that should be the arbiters of our national story.  And the public should have that right with the App Store, because the App Store has become “a version of the public square.”

Ms. Pynchon goes on to say:  “Agree or disagree, what is most troubling about the Anti-Gay App Hubbub is the apparent ease with which we?re willing to surrender our national story to a computer manufacturer. If, as some have predicted, we are moving away from an unregulated Internet wild west and toward a more ?orderly? electronic society of pre-packaged App-voices, we do ourselves a frightening disservice to ask Apple, or any other corporate entity, to serve as our national gatekeeper.”

What Mr. Martellaro isn’t getting is that once you become—not a newspaper with an editorial board, which Apple isn’t and has never claimed to be—but a public square where members of the public must go to be heard by large segments of the public, the only line that the owner of the square has a moral right to draw is at civil and decent discourse.  Any further line simply imposes the views that the owner likes, while excluding the views that he doesn’t like, and that is simply bigotry.  And Apple is providing a perfect example of that bigotry by excluding the Exodus and Manhattan Declaration apps.

Yes, we want Apple to stand for something in its business values and ethics, and it should express those values only in how it designs its products, treats its employees, and serves its customers, obeys applicable law, and honors our most cherished values.  Apple can even start a newspaper if it wants or develop its own apps and engage in the same kind of yellow journalism that Rupert Murdoch engages in but only from the left.  None of that would be inconsistent with our values.  But, where, as is true for the App Store, Apple has established a public square, its values, that is, the values and views of its senior executives, have no place in deciding for the rest of us what civil and decent expressions will not be heard in that national public square, at least not when it is an American public square.  In an American public square, for those who subscribe to and cherish the values set forth in the documents of the American manifesto, all civil and decent discourse—whether the ideas expressed in that discourse be right or wrong, good or bad—has a place and should be heard.  Contrary values from Apple’s executive suite that would exclude disfavored views from the public square is simple bigotry and does nothing but dishonor the American values that Apple should be standing for in its App Store and works to further erode our polity’s value of civil and free discourse, or, as Ms. Pynchon states: “. . . we must live with the consequences of that suppression [that is, corporate suppression of speech]? consequences that include our increasingly polarized electorate and the impasse in governance that it causes.”

John Martellaro

Nemo: I understood the scope of Ms. Pynchon’s essay well. As you saw, parts of it resonated deeply with me.  But I came to some different conclusions, and I elected for the sake of brevity and politeness not to dwell on our differences but to celebrate her insights and then draw my own conclusions. Our communications with each other suggest she understands that.

John Martellaro

The Roman Catholic church, after having gotten into some fairly embarrassing trouble with Galileo, currently maintains an advisory council of scientists: astrophysicists, biologists, geneticists, climatologists, etc. to keep them well educated about scientific matters as they relate to religion.  Perhaps Apple might consider a similar kind of advisory council.

http://www.insidescience.org/current-affairs/scientific-advisors-meet-at-vatican

jfbiii

Everyone wants to become a part of the national super story by having their voice heard on that so very popular platform.

True enough. But some messages are not civil, even when masked under the conventions thereof.

That, in turn, has placed responsibilities on Apple whether or not it likes the idea.

Not at all true in the sense that Apple has somehow put itself into a position with responsibilities to anyone except their stockholders, i.e. a responsibility to permit any message to be distributed through its App Store.

Exodus International was founded as a political organization with a political goal and funded by a political religious group. They have historically taken political positions again and again in an effort to continue the marginalization of a minority. They routinely work with people too young to give consent and unable to defend themselves against potentially harmful therapies. They have routinely misrepresented the lives of LGBT people.

As Dean pointed out above:

There are not always two sides to every argument, and to let the ignorant side (and saying ignorant might be generous) have a say in an environment where people are being killed because of their sexual orientation is irresponsible.

Exodus International is not a “live and let live” organization. Yes, they want to be careful about making sure that they are only accepting a certain type of person seeking to change and leave everyone else alone, but that is only so that they curate good PR. At the same time, they also do not want anyone to be LGBT at all; the existence of a happy, equal, and free LGBT population is completely at odds with their mission and makes it very nearly irrelevant: absent political prejudice, religious prejudice against LGBT people looks exactly like religious prejudice against racial minorities. They have a vested interest in the continued political discrimination of LGBT people and they act on that interest.

farmboy

It?s not the state but it?s becoming as powerful as a state.

Hyperbole. There are over 350,000,000 citizens in the U.S. Apple has sold around 15,000,000 iPads. Daily newspapers are sold to about 45 million, and passed along to an equivalent number. Another 23,000,000 watch evening TV news on the 3 majors every day. Sorry, Apple doesn’t seem to meet the “powerful as a state” level.

Nemo

Dear jfbill:  No one is being killed because of anything in either the Manhattan Declaration of the Exodus app.  The only thing that is being killed is the right of civil discourse, and the only interests being advanced is bigotry on behalf of a particular viewpoint.  That is established and gives the lie to any idea that Apple is simply banning uncivil and/or indecent discourse by that Apple’s own reviewers who, even after Apple rejection of the Manhattan Declaration, gave the Exodus app a 4+ rating, finding, as it initially did with the Manhattan app, no objectionable or offensive content.  There is nothing in either app that a reasonable and fair person—by which I do mean that you are being unfair—would find uncivil or indecent.  And certainly Apple reached that conclusion itself, as evidenced by its initial approval of both apps, until certain groups, falsely clothing their objections as a demand for civil rights, pressured Apple to remove apps that they and probably Apple’s senior executives disagreed with.  Apparently, bigotry can be speciously, though effectively, transformed into civil rights, if one thinks and casts the other fellow’s ideas as instances of baddness.

Your other red herring is that Apple needn’t permit everything in its App Store.  Well, no one, as far as I know, has said that Apple has to do that.  What I have said is that Apple is morally wrong to exclude civil and decent discourse based on either protest by bigots or by imposing the views of its executive suite to choose for the rest of us or any of us which civil and decent views may be expressed in the App Store, because each of us has the right and ability to do that for ourselves.

And your final red herring:  That Exodus thinks that the LGBT life style is wrong, wants there to be no LGBT folks, and is trying to persuade people to accept their views.  So what.  That is America, diverse views, right and wrong and everything in between, as long as they civilly express views that comport with universal standards of decency.  That the members of Exodus are trying to do any of the above is neither uncivil or indecent; it is simply their opinion and, as such, has no less dignity than your or anyone else’s opinion.  No view needs to be correct, politically or otherwise, to have a right to be expressed in a public square, even the view that groups of others should or should not have certain rights.  So if the Exodus or Manhattan apps are wrong, say so and explain why they are wrong, if you can.  But by merely telling them to shut up, you and Apple beg the question of whether their position has merit, and you both wrongfully deny to others, who dissent from your views, the right to civilly and decently dissent in the public square.  Perhaps, you’ll be better pleased if you must deal with their uncivil dissent.

Nemo

In arguing against Apple’s censorship of civil and decent speech I have said that Apple’s had at least a moral obligation to permit all civil and decent discourse.  I said at least, because there is one U.S. Supreme Court (Court) case, where the Court held that the 14th Amendment is binding on a private company as it is binding on the states.  In that case, the company had established, if I recall correctly, a timber town.  It was a company town in the extreme:  The company imposed local traffic law and other laws, had its own private police department for the town, ran the town newspaper, ran the primary school, and, in short, did all the acts common to government.  The Court held that in such circumstances, the company was for all intents and purposes a de facto government and thus should bound by the 14th Amendment’s provisions, which makes the entire Bill of Rights, including democratic governance, binding on the states and their subdivisions.  While the analysis in that case applied to a de facto government, if Apple becomes a dominant or even significant public square so that its decisions to exclude at least civil discourse effectively bars that excluded speech from presentation to a significant portion of the public, the Court may in the future conclude that it is time for another revolutionary extension of the 14th Amendment to Apple’s App Store on the grounds that it exercises de facto government control over the public square.

However, it is an ironic truth that the Court’s present conservative majority is unlikely to ever so extend the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to Apple’s App Store.

Lee Dronick

Unless this app is advocating violence against gays then I say let it stay. The way I see it the people who wouldn’t download if they stumbled on it wouldn’t go looking for it anyway, I have enough trouble finding apps of interest to me. I do need to ponder the topic more before making a final decision, but I have a lot of irons in the fire that need most of my attention.

“Gay marriage?  Stop whining, you?ll blow the general election.”

Now that would suck.

Nemo

And Dear farmboy:  That company town, where the U.S. Supreme Court imposed the 14th Amendment on the private company that ran the town, had a population that wasn’t more than a few thousand souls, well short of the fifteen million users of Apple’s iOS devices.

Victoria Pynchon

Hyperbole. There are over 350,000,000 citizens in the U.S. Apple has sold around 15,000,000 iPads. Daily newspapers are sold to about 45 million, and passed along to an equivalent number. Another 23,000,000 watch evening TV news on the 3 majors every day. Sorry, Apple doesn?t seem to meet the ?powerful as a state? level.

But none of these outlets ARE “the state.” You are right to correct me for hyperbole however because “the state” is always more powerful than the information written about the culture. “The state"can criminalize behavior or make it civilly wrong. It can imprison. Depending upon your opinion of water-boarding, it can and does torture. Television news and the daily newspapers are owned by powerful corporate interests, as is Comedy Central, the voice of Gen-WhatEVER. The “state” communications bureau is largely housed in public libraries (being shut down daily for lack of funding) and the public school system (suffering a long decline). They are still far more powerful than Apple, but losing ground.

Victoria Pynchon

I-Pad can show us the face of God.

The iPad ISN’T the face of god????

ibuck

Some questions for all:

1. How is Apple’s app store the public square? What small percentage of Americans own iPads, iPhones or iPod Touches? and use ONLY the Apps on them for all their news and information consumption? In other words, only the apps and not the World-Wide Web? And no other sources, paper or otherwise?

2. How is it that Apple, like a Christian or a Muslim bookstore, should not be allowed to choose what products to sell?

3.  Should we require a toy store on the edge of the public square to sell expensive cars or yachts, because we think that these are also toys?

emozion

I reject Ms Pynchon’s premise of the national superstory. It is at best a loosely defined set of “national”?whatever that is?values, cultural expressions and icons; at worst a wet blanket of clich?d notions of a common?national??identity. The most beloved idea of America is “the land of the free”, the second best loved may well be “the melting pot”. But its elements does not amalgamate into a national alloy. The nation is too diverse, multicultural and fractured.

Apple should not be burdened with the expectation of carrying the fake national superstory with unreasonable demands for the company to allow all voices and all comers. Apple should itself respect free speech, but it should also be respected for making its own judgment in issues with conflicting interests of free speech, freedom of religious belief, freedom of sexual orientation, and freedom from discrimination. And, yes, the company’s legitimate commercial interests, too.

I don’t think this or that app, or even all apps combined, warrants this elevated cultural importance ascribed to them; if so, only in a symbolic way.

Victoria Pynchon

1.

Some questions for all:

1. When I suggest that the App store is a “public square” I’m not using that term in its legal sense. I understand from people far more knowledgeable than myself that commercial enterprises that sell “content” (primarily reading matter)are in the process of moving their “free” content from the internet and on to applications so that they can better monetize them there. I am therefore addressing the future, not the present, imagining a time when people will be acquiring information from Apps as much or more than they do from newspapers, magazines, blogs or web pages. I imagine that presumed time now so that control of it does not fall into the wrong hands while we’re sleeping.

2.  Apple is absolutely entitled to choose what products to sell. If it wishes to sell racist tracts that do not violate as yet still poorly defined hate speech laws, it is entitled to do so. Consumers, however, drive the business of sales people, as the campaign to rid the App store of the Exodus app demonstrates. Because we, the consumers, have significant control over what is sold, the question is not one addressed to Apple, but one addressed to ourselves. How do we responsibly exert our collective power (through petitions, boycotts and the like) over the purveyors of “content”? Should we stay our own hand when we see reading matter we don’t like because we don’t want to be on the receiving end of similar joint action? That’s the question - not what “rights” Apple has, but what we, the people, would like our “content” stores to carry.

3. I don’t understand 3.

Good questions (as I’m sure 3 will be when you explain it). Appreciate your raising them.

mhikl

Great discussion going on here, John. Very much like a town centre, I suspect.

Four major divisive topics to avoid in many situations are sex, race, politics and religion. Stay off them and open conversation might better be served. However, they are a mainstay of human interactions though rationality often takes stage left. Every discussion has its place. When small and not so small children are involved, the place may not always be correct.

It is understandable why these topics are regulated on the Apple iFamily and probably will continue being reviewed. America may have to find some other town centre to air its soul. Forums like TMO seems to be a good start. One point that is lost in this discussion is that the iProducts are a world phenomenon, not just an American one; and though America likes to announce itself and its constitution as a beacon from which the whole world can learn valued lessons (which is often true), remarkably, it is not the only society with a progressive social code, either from the past or the present, that keeps order and justice alive for the world. Such, for example is Japan, a beacon in its moment of crisis for whom we can stand in admiration.

Allowing serious porn, rancorous political and social views and vitriolic religious points of faith, even softened by guise of debatable freedoms, could gravely jeopardise Apple?s profits and future from many corners of the world. Were there not other avenues for those interested in unbridled freedom to express their views in what ever form, then Apple might be wrong in its stance. However, there are many media for the expressions of personal views and as one vocal member regularly points out, there is another source for apps. Android may eventually be in the same quandary as Apple. I suspect Android may have no easy choice; it must either test or step tepidly along Apple?s path.

There are many media. Some more appropriate for discussion than others. The App Store, on the other hand, is open to all. Just as we don?t allow the underaged to frequent liquor stores and brothels, iProducts have chosen to abide the same sense of regulation. If Android is open to every possible opportunity, then there must be a safe place for whole families to play. Apple is showing itself to be just that. Well, it’s trying.

Victoria Pynchon

[2]

I reject Ms Pynchon?s premise of the national superstory

I get the idea of a super story from Thomas Friedman. See this post for instance: http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/bookshelf/longitudes-and-attitudes/prologue. Friedman describes a super-story as “the a big lens [or] big framework, through which we look at the world, order events, and decide what is important and what is not. When he was writing about the Middle East, Friedman asserted that the American super-story was Biblical. In Hot, Flat and Crowded, Friedman claims that our new international super story is globalization. “It came together in the late 1980s and replaced the previous international system, the cold war system, which had reigned since the end of World War II. This new system is the lens, the super-story, through which I view[] the events of 9/11.”

I’m not an academic so my use of the term may have been inartful. When I began to think about the anger expressed over the inclusion of the Exodus App in the App store (an anger not directed at the identical information contained on the Exodus website) I asked myself “why?” I have an iPad and refer to it as a tablet and it occurred to me that the last time anyone talked about tablets a lot they were a couple of slabs of stone on which some “commandments” had been written. There’s little doubt in my lawyer’s mind that the lens or the super-story through which we view our legal rights and remedies is the Biblical story of the Ten Commandments. “What if this electronic tablet is replacing those stone tablets?” I thought. What if the e-Reader becomes our collective icon for what is true and “just.” THAT would explain the fury about including homophobic “content” in the App store. Then I dashed off this post. I was hoping someone smarter than me would pick it up and make the whole set of ideas and images coherent. As someone in another thread of comments said, I “over-thought” this one. Likely. That’s what my mom has been telling me since I was, oh, about 12 years old.

akcarver

Consumers, however, drive the business of sales people,

This situation is different from the traditional way consumers drive the business of sales people. Normally, a business would stock the things that sell. If Apple products didn?t sell as well as they do, you wouldn?t find them in Best Buy (and in fact didn?t find them there for a long time.)

What?s happening here is a small, but very vocal, minority are saying to Apple ?How dare you sell that product?? Rather than letting the marketplace work the way it should (something popular lasts, something unpopular doesn?t), they want to take something that they disagree with and not allow anyone have just because they disagree with it. This is wrong.

While we?re at it, I propose we abolish the term hate speech. There is no hate speech, there is no love speech. There is only speech. And in the United States of America, that speech is free. We should NOT criminalize something someone says, even though we may completely disagree with it. To do so will only lead to NO speech.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

You didn’t overthink it at all Victoria. One thing you need to understand about the commenters here is that on any other issue concerning Apple, they are in lockstep. Apple is all good, can do no wrong, makes perfect products, protects their gentle sensibilities, etc. So you’ve most definitely struck a nerve that divides deeply. The regulars here really care about Apple. I suspect that Apple doesn’t hold as *magical* a spot in your heart. Let me put it another way… If Nemo and I agree on something, better check the radioactivity of the local water supply.

Nemo

Dear iBuck:  I’ll take a stab at your three questions:

1.  Question one is a curious question.  It amounts to asking how little effect must one have on speech for bigotry to be okay.  Well, we could tackle the question by asking what effect the App Store and exclusion from it has on excluding speech from the public discourse.  Without empirical data, I can cite the growing course of scholarly and expert opinion, except for Google, which indicates that apps appears to be taking over from the open Internet as the source of news and opinion for people.  And doubtlessly, there are some people and probably a lot of people who don’t look beyond their iOS devices and the app that run on them for their news and information.  But less say that it doesn’t hit a sufficiently great number to impress you; then it will be okay for Apple to be a bigot for, let’s say, just a million folks.  A million isn’t so much.  Shouldn’t we be able to suffer Apple being bigot in-chief for a mere million people, even though some segment of that million would certainly disagree with Apple’s censorship of the Exodus and Manhattan apps?  Well, that and even one person is too much for me, because Apple has no moral right to exclude any civil and decent discourse and/or to be the arbiter of civil speech for anyone, as people can and should decide for themselves what views they will listen to and subscribe to.

2.  How is Apple different than a Wahhabi bookstore in Mecca or a Christian bookstore in the our Bible belt.  Well, apparently Apple’s App Store isn’t different in anyway, having thoroughly abandoned even a passing fidelity to the values of free expression of the American manifesto.  Apple on its Apple store is just as big a bigot as the biggest of them; the only difference is its views.  However, Apple should be different.  Apple’s executives, if you asked them at least in public, would pay lip service to the American values of free and civil speech.  Apple also has at least 15,000,000.00 iOS users who rely, at least in part, on apps for news and information, which I think is a bit more than any bookstore anywhere.  But even more important, Apple’s iOS devices, while not unique, don’t have good substitutes.  This is particularly true for the iPad.  And, unlike other devices, Apple’s iOS devices require that you get your apps from Apple’s App Store.  So because Apple is running a closed system on at least special, if not unique, devices for fifteen million people and rapidly growing, that for me place Apple in a category where it is morally obliged to permit all civil and decent discourse.

3.  Like Ms. Pynchon, I am not sure that I understand your third questions, but I will give it a try.  What you seem to be saying is that, because the Manhattan and Exodus apps aren’t games or media apps or something, they don’t fall into the category of apps that Apple has permitted, and Apple, therefore, isn’t obliged to permit them now.  But, of course, that, if it is your point, is easily refuted.  Apple has permitted from the earliest day many LGBT apps, which offend a great many people, and those apps are the exact counterparts of the Manhattan and Exodus apps.  They deal, generally speaking, with the same subject matter, that is, certain gay rights and/or the propriety of homosexual conduct.  The only difference is that Exodus and Manhattan take diametrically opposite positions on those issues.  So yes, Apple has permitted that category of speech on precisely the same topics, but with the Manhattan and Exodus apps, Apple or some powerful person inside Apple doesn’t like the Manhattan and Exodus apps’ position on those issues, so Apple refuses to tolerate them in its App Store; in other words, text book, pure bigotry.

But those who sanction Apple’s bigotry today on these particular issues will have a difficult time objecting to Apple’s future bigotry or anyone’s bigotry, when it rejects their preferred views.  On second though, no they won’t; they will come up with a load of specious BS to explain why the particular bigotry that rejects their views is wrong.  Well, they will probably object because, you guessed it, it is bigotry.

Victoria Pynchon

This situation is different from the traditional way consumers drive the business of sales people. Normally, a business would stock the things that sell.

True, but people have been exerting consumer pressure on sellers of merchandise since “we” first boycotted lettuce in California in the ‘60s (in favor of the farm workers). The HRC Index grades businesses on their “gay friendly” policies and many of my gay friends refuse to purchase merchandise at stores that score low. There IS an app for that. Even before lettuce, of course, many Jews refused to buy German products, VWs, for instance. So it’s not just the demand for the goods but also the reputation of the company that drives sales and Apple could rightly be concerned that more than 100,000 signatures from gay rights advocates justified their pulling the Exodus app from the store. That’s consumer power.

mhikl

The truth be told Ms Pynchon, most members on TMO are not single-minded. Apple is regularly taken to task by TMO AppleFans who expect nothing but the best from Apple, and from the TMO staff I might add. We do have a few unswerving rabble-rousers who are single-minded in their envy of what Apple stands for and for what it strives to produce. It is what it is, I guess; but very democratic.

Kudos to both your and John for the scope of this topic.

Victoria Pynchon

This is fun - (hopefully) productive procrastination as I struggle with the outline for my new book.

Nemo

My sister Pynchon, I too have diverted from more pressing matters to join this discussion.  But restricting speech from the public square is for me like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  But duty calls.  And I too congratulate you and John for stimulating such a good discussion.  TMO’s readers are a smart group, if on occasion intolerant on certain issues.  But alas, who isn’t?

Victoria Pynchon

Best discussion thread I’ve ever seen. Back to work.

ibuck

Victoria Pynchon wrote: Best discussion thread I’ve ever seen. Back to work.

Oh no you don’t.</laughingly>

If I understand them, Pynchon’s and Martello’s posts express the future subjunctive (what is imagined or wished or possible). Despite our current perceptions or beliefs, it is possible Apple could exert too much influence on dissemination of information / speech / news via the tablet business—if we all start to rely on apps and ignore web pages, blogs, radio news, paper magazines and newspapers. If this happens, it would reverse the democratization of information that happens now, even if we get better researched, well-written stories with coherent sentences and properly spelled words.

Steve Jobs has expressed interest in promoting better news gathering and reporting. And Apple is starting to dominate yet another business due to their “great” products and their understanding of many (if not most) customers’ needs and wants. And they want to make money.

I just imagine the folks at Apple wondering “How did we get into this mess?”

Like many on this forum, I wish for better Apple products and practices. How this plays out will be interesting—like the Chinese curse. “May you live in interesting times.”

PS: Having read Pynchon’s and Nemo’s reasoned responses, question 3 is moot.

Windsor Smith

I am surprised that Apple hasn?t offered a filter that leverages the content ratings on the apps. Example: I set my maximum rating and I only have access to apps that rise to that level. This would also allow parents to have better control over the apps that their children might download/see when browsing the app store. They might need to add additional levels for ?Controversial? or some such moniker to classify apps such as the one just pulled.

I don?t want porn on the app store either, but I?d favor the side of free speech and just request that we be given content filters (aka ?parental controls?) to remove things labeled as indecent, like with the ?explicit? tag attached to songs.

Actually, Apple already does include a rich set of parental controls in iOS; in fact, the settings in iOS 4.3 are over two screens long. But that’s not good enough for Apple. From the App Store Review Guidelines:

We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don’t work unless the parents set them up (many don’t). So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.

What this means to me is “Since we at Apple can’t trust parents to use the parental controls, we’re gonna treat ALL of our customers like children.”

Don’t get me wrong—I’m generally a huge fan of Apple, and I’m also a stockholder. But, clearly, in its “curation” of the App Store, Apple has indulged its authoritarian tendencies far too much.

Victoria Pynchon

I just imagine the folks at Apple wondering ?How did we get into this mess??

I’m certain that’s what they’re thinking right now!

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Heh. @Victoria: They are counting their money and patting themselves on the back for being courageous enough to uphold the values of tolerance. See also: irony. $1.8B in App Store sales last year with a protected market (ultimately enforced by the state via a various accept-it-or-leave-it shrinkwrap licenses) and no competition because there is no legitimate means for it.

Apple can take a divide and conquer approach because… notice that half the people like the stand they took. And the other half have exit costs. Will they like competing ecosystems? Will their friends on TMO call them sell-outs or Uncle Toms for getting a non-Apple device? Will they have to take those stupid white stickers off the backs of their VWs?

So you’re entirely right about the App Store being part of a national tapestry. Apple just doesn’t care that it is. It has no incentive to care.

jfbiii

Dear jfbill:? No one is being killed because of anything in either the Manhattan Declaration of the Exodus app.

You’re right about that. But if want to extend what’s being killed to “things” then we can include the civil rights that groups like Exodus actively work to deny LGBT people. My right to marry? As dead as Abraham Lincoln in my state. Except, Lincoln actually got to live for awhile.

The only thing that is being killed is the right of civil discourse, and the only interests being advanced is bigotry on behalf of a particular viewpoint.

Their message is uncivil, and dressing it in the trappings of civility doesn’t make it civil.

Apparently, bigotry can be speciously, though effectively, transformed into civil rights, if one thinks and casts the other fellow?s ideas as instances of baddness.

If one acts badly, there’s no need to cast their actions so. One need nearly list them, as I have. Apple has rights, too. You can stretch as much as you want (and a court may yet do so) so as to put them into a regulatory box that limits their rights to pull an app for whatever reason they like. Until that time, people who find the message of the Manhattan Declaration and EI have every right to express their displeasure at Apple’s actions in approving the apps. Nobody is preventing the bigots behind the Manhattan Declaration or EI from being bigots. Nobody is suppressing their right to express that bigotry through a soapbox of their own. If they choose not to build one, that doesn’t give them a claim to anyone else’s soapbox.

Again, there’s nothing civil or decent about their discourse. No more than discourse aimed at limiting the rights of racial minorities because they are racial minorities.

That the members of Exodus are trying to do any of the above is neither uncivil or indecent; it is simply their opinion and, as such, has no less dignity than your or anyone else?s opinion.?

Opinions themselves then, are automatically dignified? LOL…even you don’t really believe that.

Victoria Pynchon

Apple just doesn?t care that it is. It has no incentive to care.

Like Lilly Tomlin used to say on LaughIn pre-AT&T breakup - “we don’t care; we don’t have to; we’re THE PHONE COMPANY”

Not really!

The reason Apple approved the app is because it?s honest and sincere about helping people follow what is believed to be the teaching of the Bible. One problem here is that people of different religious faiths interpret the Bible differently. Forcing other people to believe what you believe never works and is offensive. However, helping people understand themselves is a good thing.

Have you read the Bible passages addressing homosexuality?  If you read it, and you believe the Bible, there is no way you could interpret it to mean that homosexuality is just fine!

But that’s not the point. Apple allows farting apps, and titillating semi naked photo apps. I agree with that. Apple should not be the censor. That’s the point. Squashing speech you don’t like is like a Whack A Mole game. It invigorates the mole and makes you look shallow and foolish.

Nemo

Dear jfbill:  There is nothing per se uncivil or indecent about discussing whether homosexuals, Africa American, or any other identifiable group should have certain rights.  If it were, one simply couldn’t discuss those issues, which is precisely what you are saying: Exodus and its ilk may not discuss this topic, because it offends me and for no other reason. However, your justification for saying, for example, that Exodus et al can’t discuss and oppose rights for homosexual Americans has no basis other than your particular prejudice.  It is perfectly fine to discuss and/or oppose someone or some group having certain rights, unless the mode of discussion is uncivil and/or it falls below universally accepted standards of civilized decency.  The Manhattan and Exdous apps are both civil and their opposition to certain gay rights falls well within, not your standards but universally accepted standards of decency, as is evidenced by the large number of people in this country and the overwhelming majority elsewhere who are on Exodus’ side of the issue.  Therefore Exodus and others’ opposition to the position of the many LGBT apps on the App Store are civil and decent and are, therefore, open for discussion on any forum that must or should allow civil and decent discourse, such as the App Store.

And pay attention to what I’ve said not what you think I said.  I never said that opinions are dignified merely by being opinions.  What I said is that opinions that meets the standard of civility and decency have equal dignity with any other opinion with respect to the right to be heard.  Since both the Manhattan and Exodus apps expressions are civil and decent, their dignity with respect to being heard is equal to your own civil and decent opinions or to anyone else’s civil and decent opinion.

jfbill:  You’re gay and infuriated by the Exodus and Manhattan, so reason and fairness are thrown out the window for you in evaluating this matter.  No lawyer would waste his time try to persuade you on a jury, nor would he have to waste a peremptory challenge or you, for the court, even on its own motion, would remove you for cause because of your implacable bias.  Therefore, I am not going to waste any more time with you.

jfbiii

Exodus and its ilk may not discuss this topic, because it offends me and for no other reason.

No, what I’m saying is that they don’t have a right to discuss wherever and however they would like, in this instance by publishing an App in the Apple App Store. They also lack the right to express their opinion without consequence and without challenge as to its civility and veracity.

Apple does not represent that The App Store is available to any particular message with respect to civil and decent discourse. In fact, they go out of their way to specifically reserve the right to reject or pull and app for any reason or no reason. I won’t speculate on the reason you are attempting to saddle them with a moral burden that doesn’t exist.

The majority opinion doesn’t necessarily define what is and what is not “decent.” The majority is—and has shown itself throughout history to be—capable of defining the “indecent” as “normal.”

There’s nothing civil about a group that works to suppress the civil rights of minorities, inflicts bogus therapies on children too young to consent or defend themselves against them, and misrepresents the lives of LGBT people. And there’s nothing civil about their message.

jfbill:  You?re gay and infuriated by the Exodus and Manhattan, so reason and fairness are thrown out the window for you in evaluating this matter.

And you’re a lawyer, so reason and fairness are thrown out the window for you in evaluating a matter as soon as you get a retainer. Feel free to not waste any more time with me. My bias is no more implacable that the bias of those you’re arguing for. I’m just not foolish enough to feel sorry for bullies when they’re put in their place.

Jack in Chicago

Three cheers for jfbiii:

I?m just not foolish enough to feel sorry for bullies when they?re put in their place.

OF COURSE anyone is free to preach and believe whatever he or she wishes, but the discussion gets beyond silly when folks are defending drivel as an “appropriate” app.

Using this line of reasoning we should applaud a “make slavery legal” app or “minorities are inferior” app.  They are just different points of view, right?  And, just because you may be a minority, that makes you biased, you’re just not being fair to all those potential app users who are not minorities or whose fight for civil rights are not being attacked by those apps. What do they know anyhow!

Victoria Pynchon

If you read it, and you believe the Bible, there is no way you could interpret it to mean that homosexuality is just fine!

See this web page about homosexual relationships in the Bible: http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bmar.htm#dav

This does not mean that groups like Exodus believe homosexuality is ok. Some people believe that certain translators of the Bible have deliberately mis-translated passages depicting homosexual conduct (substituting “shaking hands” for “kissing,” for instance) to align with their belief that homosexuality is wrong.

Victoria Pynchon

we should applaud a ?make slavery legal? app or ?minorities are inferior? app

I believe the point is not that anyone is applauding the Exodus app, but simply suggesting that we, the public, may ultimately do ourselves more harm than good by asking “content” providers to judge Apps as suitable or unsuitable based upon the opinions expressed in them. As so Apple allowing “minorities are inferior” apps in its store, you might note that Apple allows racist texts in its iBook store, i.e., Little Black Sambo. I’m sure there are others but there’s no category there for “offensive racist tracts.”

Nemo

I am not asking any one to feel sorry for any particular group or person; I am saying that in the public square, which the App Store has become, all have a right to have their say, as long as its meets accepted standards of civility and decency, which the Exodus and Manhattan apps clearly do.  However, I am pretty sure that all modern societies reject slavery as indecent, and the statement that minorities are inferior depends on which minorities you are talking about.  Serial killers are a minority, and I am sure that they are inferior in their mental health.  Is there any reasonable dispute on that point? 

However, I suspect that you were referring to African Americans, which are a group of folks that I know well.  I happened to be an undergraduate when Shockley and Jensen’s work arguing for the innate inferiority of African Americans was current.  Many African Americans respond as Jack and jfbill respond here to the Manhattan and Exodus apps, which did nothing more than advance Jensen and Shockley’s argument.  But they were many investigators, some African American other who were not, who did not say shut up but who did the careful scientific work of both discrediting Jensen and Shockley’s methodology and doing independent work to show that there were no innate differences in mental capacity.  So even if African Americans were biased against Jensen and Shockley’s work, they had more than their bias to say that work was drivel; they had hard facts.  Jay and jfbill have nothing in opposition but their hatred of what they disagree with.  The science was successful in discrediting Shockley and Jensen and others with similar views.  Of course, the work showing the truth wouldn’t have been done, if we had let shut up be our only argument and our only research, as Jack and jfbill are doing here.  Of course, by addressing Jensen and Shockley on the merits, we had to risk that they would prevail on the merits. 

But one needn’t be right to have the right to have your say.  Manhattan and Exodus may be wrong, but they have the right to heard in the public square.  Unlike slavery or the idea that African Americans are mentally inferior, which have been rejected as universally indecent, because of research proving them wrong, Exodus can still maintain, though I think them wrong, that homosexuality is a behavioral abnormality that can be corrected by behavioral therapy, and the folks at Manhattan’s opposition to gay marriage is well within the bounds of decency, and both groups expression of their views has been civil, so they should be heard just as the LGBT apps on the App Store that argue the contrary are heard. 

If Manhattan and/or Exodus are nothing more than drivel, then it should be very easy to show them as such.  Show that they are less than merely a different points of view, but are so at variance with fact and reason as to be beyond the pale.  Quit whining and get to it, if you can.  But the circular logic of Manhattan and Exodus mayn’t be heard because they are indecent and they are indecent because of what they say is as clear an instance of drivel as can be heard. 

Remind me to try that in court:  You honor the opposition is wrong because they are not right, and they are not right because they are wrong.  And jfbill once I take an engagement, it is my bias that gets thrown out, and it is my reason and fairness that comes to the fore, because were it otherwise, I couldn’t do my jobs of persuading those fair-minded folks and the judge who are going to decided the matter and of giving sound advice to my client.  I couldn’t do those jobs, if I were so inflamed with prejudice and bias, as you are, that I couldn’t persuasively argue the law and the facts, because I couldn’t see how others might see the matter.

Nemo

I am in accord with my Sister Pynchon:  As long as app is civil and comports with universally accepted standards of civilized decency, neither Apple or anyone should ban an app based on the speech that it contains.  But we should leave to each customers his choice of deciding what speech he will listen to and find favor or disfavor with.  Apple should not be Big Brother, and it sure as hell isn’t the paternal authority for its customers.  Each of us can decide for ourselves what has merit and what doesn’t.

Jack in Chicago

Victoria, your argument that, “...we, the public, may ultimately do ourselves more harm than good by asking ?content? providers to judge Apps as suitable or unsuitable based upon the opinions expressed in them,” is valid only if one accepts that the Apple App Store is a concept like the “free press” or “airwaves.”  It is a store—and owned by Apple, and as a business they make value judgements all the time, whether it’s how a product is designed and operates or what will be available to use on the product.

Like Sambo, Hitler’s Mein Kampf is still in print, and I’m sure both can be purchased as e-books, as can many other items various groups would deem offensive.  I wholeheartedly agree that they should be available—and their publication protected.  But to conflate this as equivalent to a purveyor offering products in its (app) store makes no sense.  Similarly, while you can find porn through a browser (or Sambo) Apple has chosen not to include porn apps in its offerings. 

To accept your argument means that Apple does not have the right to control its business—or should cede that right—and become the public square.  And if it were to do as you suggest, where do the rights of the shareholders enter into the discussion?  If customers complain and business goes south, well, are they expected to underwrite your public square with their losses?  Some things just aren’t as simple as you may wish them to be. 

In any case, this has generated a wonderful discussion among all parties and, for that, I’m delighted.

Victoria Pynchon

is valid only if one accepts that the Apple App Store is a concept like the ?free press? or ?airwaves.?

One more time. I’m not suggesting that Apple has no right to base its curated App store offerings upon the opinions contained in the apps. I’m suggesting that we, the consumers, ask ourselves whether we want to demand that Apple serve as a gate-keeper, prohibiting from entry into the Applesphere Apps that contain content to which activists object.

I’m talking about consumer power and how we wish to deploy it. Apple has an absolute right to control its business decisions so long as they are legal. AndI am not suggesting that it Apple has (or will) LEGALLY become a “public square,” an issue shopping malls struggled with in the courts during the 1980s.

I don’t think this is a simple issue or, frankly, I wouldn’t waste my own time, or TMO’s readers’ time with it.

Glad you’re enjoying the discussion. As I said earlier, this is the highest level comment thread I’ve ever seen online. Usually these things descend to name-calling after the fifth or sixth comment. Very happy to see a literate community comment forum.

Nemo

Victoria, if I may call you Victoria:  I am glad that you reminded me of the shopping mall cases, which may be directly applicable here.  I will have to review those cases.

Victoria Pynchon

glad that you reminded me of the shopping mall cases

Pruneyard! Once a law geek always a law geek.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruneyard_Shopping_Center_v._Robins

jfbiii

But the circular logic of Manhattan and Exodus mayn?t be heard because they are indecent and they are indecent because of what they say is as clear an instance of drivel as can be heard.

They were heard. There were repercussions to the expression of their ideas. They are free to express themselves in public from a soapbox of their own construction. The App Store simply isn’t public.

Although you have reduced my argument to “shut up,” it has in fact addressed the uncivil nature of the group’s raison d’etre. More than once. In this case, your bias towards applying an extra-legal solution to a non-existent problem is preventing you from accurately discerning how others might see the matter. If you have no personal experience with EI, and if the only interaction you have had with EI is their own marketing and propaganda then you are poorly situated to evaluate their civility.

This is not to say that every member of EI does not wish to be there and that no member will ever be helped by the ministry of EI. But the existence of some good does not erase the basic incivility of their organization, their message, and their actions. Do decent people and organizations behave the way the EI and the people behind the Manhattan Declaration behave? Do decent people actively work to suppress the civil rights of a minority? Do decent people subject children to potentially harmful “therapies” against their will and to which they couldn’t provide consent for on their own? Do decent people pervert the message of Christ for their own selfish gains? Do they?

Neither of these organizations acts solely for the good of others or even solely for the betterment of its own members. Both of these organizations also denigrate, demonize, and abuse some other segment of the population for their own gain. That’s decent, eh?

Nemo

Victoria:  That is excellent.  Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Pruneyard and given the requisite language in a state constitution and that state’s supreme following Pruneyard, Apple’s decision to remove an app based on the content of its speech alone may be untenable, unless Apple where willing to withdraw the App Store from several large states.  But I get ahead of myself.  The matter will take much more analysis.  Though the App Store shares many features of a mall, an online app store is a new circumstance.  But Pruneyard has promise.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@jfbiii: I have many gay friends, and I’m not at all sympathetic to either MD’s or EI’s cause. My view on marriage is a bit peculiar, in that I don’t see why two people need the blessing of the state or a god to have a lifelong relationship. With half of marriages ending in divorce, our society pretty much acts as if it agrees with me. As a legal process, divorce is rigged to go nuclear far more than any dissolution of anything should or would. It so often seems that the ones who the process are supposed to protect the most—the kids—are the ones who are hurt the most by the process. I have unmarried couple friends who are far better parents and “families” than most married couples. The point is that I really don’t have any skin in this gay marriage argument. One side is fighting for the 1950s, and the other side is fighting for the 1950s with gays included.

But when I see one side shouting down the other and organizing to get the other side’s app removed from a store on the grounds that the other side is uncivil to begin with, I cannot help but see it as bullying. What’s next? Should anyone who doesn’t support the War in Libya be silenced on the grounds that he hates black people and women (i.e. Hillary)? Advocates for gay rights are winning in practice. The people who have time and energy to be anti-gay are basically nutjobs at this point. Just fight fair and don’t start slapping, and you win. Having the app removed was slapping.

Nemo

jfbill:  I will give it one more try.  If you say that a person can’t speak because of the very purpose of his speech you are silencing him, which you may not do in a public square, which I maintain that the App Store is, absent a showing that his speech is illegal, uncivil, or indecent.  Now, you yourself admitted, supra, that the speech in its express terms is civil, so your only remaining objection can be that EI and Manhattan’s speech is indecent.  I can easily show that both of those apps, while being indecent by your personal standards, comport with both law, tradition, and the overwhelming majority of popular opinion throughout the world, against which you simply keep repeating that EI and Manhattan apps are uncivil, by which you contradict yourself, and that the apps are bad, when it is trivial to show that they accord with law and tradition in the majority of states internationally and are not illegal in the U.S.  And in the majority of states, popular opinion, law, and tradition support the positions taken by the EI and Manhattan apps.  Against all of this, you’ve presented nothing to support your charge that the apps are indecent and/or uncivil by universally accepted civilized standards—even though you admit their civility—but your prejudice and your obstinacy.  Without something beyond your view that the apps are uncivil or indecent, your argument reduces to: the apps are indecent because their purpose is indecent, and their purpose is indecent, because you say so.

I will give you this:  We probably haven’t heard any explanation from Apple about why it banished the EI app, because its reasoning would probably be as absurd as is yours.

Victoria Pynchon

Pruneyard has promise

As I recall,Pruneyard was narrowed by subsequent decisions; last time I visited the issue, I was representing a shopping mall against a group of lovely people in Birkenstocks who were petitioning holiday shoppers not to purchase war toys. One sweet old lefty man spent the entire deposition pushing tootsie rolls across the deposition table at me and then, after the deposition, asked to read my palm. It was, oh, the late ‘80s and I felt like a jerk. One of the few cases where I didn’t much believe in my cause nor much like my client.I think I won that case - can’t recall - must be blocking.

Jack in Chicago

Goodness, this is getting to be a rash that won’t go away.  Pruneyard?  Not even close.

Any one of the 15 million or so folks who bought the I-Pad knew (or should have known) that the maker limits apps to only those it approves for sale. Indeed, the I-Phone and I-pod Touch, devices similar in design and operation, which have been around for several years before the I-Pad hit the market have the identical restrictions on what apps can and cannot be used on those devices.  So, put another way, it’s nigh impossible not to know that Apple controls the entire inventory of apps.  Anyone wanting apps not available from Apple should get another brand of tablet—one that supports the desired apps.

Similarly, (And, Nemo, you should know this) magazines, newspapers, and electronic media are all free to reject any commercial offer for a product for sale they wish, and not be in violation of the law. People can visit malls without any requirement to buy anything and, as the common areas are public spaces—because the public is invited to freely use them—it follows that they are a form of a public square.  That’s a no-brainer.  BUT the mall owners can still restrict the type of stores they will allow to operate in the malls—- and completely ban any member of the public from selling- or giving away - any product in that public space. 

Victoria’s argument for consumer power is real and true—that’s what got the Exodus app removed.  There’s no reason why similar pressure couldn’t be used to open up the app store to more apps, even those that may offend some parties.  But to argue that this is in any way a freedom-of-speech issue falls flat. 

I’m surprised at how many of the correspondents here have morphed their arguments into generalized (though spirited) defenses of free speech presuming that I-Pad is somehow like the public square.  But I-Pads cost money, and the public square must necessarily be free and open to the public to be such a thing—just as access to the mall is free. 

Now, if someone can talk Apple into giving away its I-pads so everyone had one, then that public square/free speech argument may grow legs.

Nemo

Pruneyard has its problems, but I will have to give the matter more thought.  As I said, supra, an online app store isn’t a mall.  And yes, Apple reserves the right to ban apps, though I doubt that most purchasers of iOS devices know that Apple censors what they can see and hear based, not based on standards that most would agree with, such as restricting porn, but based on the prejudices extant in Apple’s executive suite.  The lack of common areas is also a problem, but that problem could, given the online nature of an app store, become an advantage.  And the question of what effect banning an app from the App Store has on prohibiting an apps speech from reaching people is a question of fact, not speculation, not your speculation or mine or anyone’s.

Finally, Pruneyard might not be the only line of attack, but that will very much depend on the empirically measurable effect that banning an app has on speech.  App stores are new, and it may be de facto government-like ability to ban speech disfavored by the app store’s owner from the public sphere will require an advance in constitutional jurisprudence to deal with a new threat to free and civil discourse.

Nemo

Also, the Exodus app wasn’t removed because most of Apple’s iOS customers found it repugnant, as the 100,000 folks who signed the petition to remove that app constitute less than 0.0067% of Apple’s iOS customers.  What you have with EI is a case of the squeaky wheel, pro gay rights advocates, not only getting the grease but that wheel rolling in the same directions as the big wheels in Apple’s executive suite.  Because if 100,000 signatures got EI’s app removed, why didn’t the Manhattan app’s 62,525 plus petition signatures for its restoration to the App Store, which was several times more than the signatures requesting its removal, work to restore that app to the App Store?

But with signatures we are always dealing with the most extreme and motivated people, and not the ordinary customers, who I will venture to guess would rather decide these things for themselves and should be allowed to do so.

ibuck

Nemo: But with signatures we are always dealing with the most extreme and motivated people

Signing a petition makes one an extremist?  Would you please explain this? Or perhaps correct it?

jfbiii

Now, you yourself admitted, supra, that the speech in its express terms is civil

I have not. I have maintained that, while they have couched their message in civil dress, it is inherently uncivil. Your continued misrepresentations of what I have actually said are ridiculous.

Feel free to ignore my opinion. But, I have personally engaged in a dialogue with a former head of EI at the time he held that position, regarding EI’s official public stance on a proposed public ordinance to provide protection from discrimination in housing to LBGT citizens of the city of Orlando, FL (forgive me if that is a poor legal description, I may lack the formal legal training to describe it precisely in this forum). I have personally spoken with people who have been voluntarily and involuntarily subjected to the reparative therapy provided by EI. My opinion of their civility is not based on my personal bias, but on my personal experience and on what I know to be the truth about what the organization seeks to accomplish. I have strong reason to believe that their public-facing promotional materials did misrepresent and continue to misrepresent their identity.

I have no doubt that a Westboro Baptist Church app would seek to misrepresent their purpose to even the smallest degree. But I would call their message uncivil and similarly petition Apple to un-publish their app were one to be approved (even though it would be in my best interest to encourage the expression of their particular message; even Mtv has not done so much as WBC to shift public opinion in my favor).

zewazir

I have not. I have maintained that, while they have couched their message in civil dress, it is inherently uncivil.

And by what measure do you come to that conclusion, other than the beliefs expressed conflict with your own?

jfbiii

It is inherently uncivil to actively seek to suppress the civil rights of a minority. It is inherently uncivil to target children who are unable to provide their own consent or to defend themselves from potentially harmful therapies. It’s uncivil to deliberately and willfully misrepresent the lives of LGBT people in the promotion of a bogus service.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

It’s also inherently uncivil to demand that the speech of others be censored, whether by the government or a beloved but reluctant private arbiter. And it’s bad strategy on top of that. Who the hell knew who MD and EI were before this? Just like who knew that there were apps that rounded up DUI checkpoints before Harry Reid got his cowboy poetry on in letters to RIM, Apple, and Google? So now more people know, and they mostly look at MD, EI, and the DUI apps as quirky buy harmless and the people so opposed to them look like agents of the PC gestapo.

#winning

zewazir

It is inherently uncivil to actively seek to suppress the civil rights of a minority. It is inherently uncivil to target children who are unable to provide their own consent or to defend themselves from potentially harmful therapies. It?s uncivil to deliberately and willfully misrepresent the lives of LGBT people in the promotion of a bogus service.

Can you show where, in this app, EI is seeing to supress civil rights?  Can you show where, in this app, EI is targeting children?  Can you show where the services offered through this app include harmful therapies? Can you even prove the therapies offered ARE harmful? And how do you come to the conclusion that assisting people balance their secular lives with their relationship to God is a “bogus"service?

Bottom line is you are basing your rhetoric on YOUR perceptions of EI’s purpose, and from that claim the authority to tell EI (and EI supporters) to STFU because YOU define their message as automatically uncivil. Dictatorship of the vocal minority.

Victoria Pynchon

Here’s where my actual expertise lies - facilitation of conversation leading to understanding if not agreement.

First, let’s all acknowledge that there is always tension between the free expression of one’s views in an open, multi-cultural society and the sometimes harmful impact those expressed views have on minority communities.

Second, we all wish to live in a society in which we are not only free to reveal our unique identities, but to be treated with respect and dignity. I believe that’s what we’re talking about when we use the term “civil discourse.” While we all have the RIGHT to be uncivil, we exert social pressure on one alone to treat one another with respect, i.e., no name-calling, no threats of violence, etc.

Third, our legal right to petition our government for our grievances is so deeply engrained in us as a national value and standard for political action that we use protests, letters of complaint, demands for change and boycotts against private companies as if they were functionaries of the nation or state.

I don’t think there is any disagreement on this point either - people do and should feel free to express their disapproval of others who have made it their cause to deprive minority groups of civil rights that are every American’s birthright.

Where reasonable people disagree is whether we should “shout down” those people. Or whether we should ask other people to shout them down. Or whether we should protest their inclusion in a collection of materials that a company with a fair degree of power over the dissemination of information curates, i.e., gives the thumbs up or the thumbs down.

jfbii has had personal experiences with Exodus International that leads him to believe it to be a group that intentionally misrepresents itself as having a contrary but relatively benign point of view and agenda for the purpose of influencing others to deny LBGT people their civil rights and the ability to live in this society with dignity and self-respect.

Others in the forum have become quite adamant that voices of exclusion should not be suppressed, but aired in public forums to see whether they can survive.

I, personally, being an optimist think it’s best to engage in the type of dialogue we are here - that talking with one another about our conflicting values and beliefs helps us not simply to become more “tolerant” but to also become accepting of one another in all of our complex, self-contradictory, and textured humanity.

We can argue opinions and beliefs with one another and not make a single step in the direction of the “other.” But when we share our experience - as jfbii has begun to do here - we engage in an exchange that cannot be argued or easily dismissed.

“I have been injured,” says party A, “by the taunts and bullying and repeated messages from the religious community that characterizes my loving gay relationships as dirty, shameful,even evil, and corrosive to the well-being of my fellows.

“Tell me more about that,” says party B, “because I too have suffered indignities, taunts and disrespect, even though there’s no advocacy group for me.”

THEN we begin to KNOW one another. Stereotypes drop away. Insults turn to questions. Questions lead to knowledge. Knowledge leads to understanding and understand leads to harmony.

Understand this as well, however. Peace without justice is tyranny. Because of that, many oppressed minorities view calls for peace and “civility” to represent satisfaction with the status quo that excludes them. It’s a ruse for continuing to deny them the rights of full citizenship. There are times when we are called upon to be UNCIVIL, to create unrest, to make the majority UNCOMFORTABLE with the ways things are and have always been.

I believe this is the stage we’re at with gay rights and lesbian rights and trans-gender rights.

My suggestion: engage in a dialogue about the experiences that bring you to the opinions you express so vehemently. THAT is an extremely worthwhile way to spend your time in any comment forum. Do it here and the practice will spread and the conversation, now rancorous, can be transformative, here and elsewhere.

Jack in Chicago

RE: Victoria’s comment: facilitation of conversation
leading to understanding if not agreement.

Well put!  Your comment is one of the best I’ve encountered on this or any forum. We all need an occasional reminder that anger can blind one to the other’s pain. It’s too easy to forget.

jfbiii

and from that claim the authority to tell EI (and EI supporters) to STFU because YOU define their message as automatically uncivil.

NO…I am not telling them to shut up. I am telling Apple that I believe their message doesn’t belong in Apple’s store. There is a difference here.

I don’t have the right to air my views here absent an expectation that if my [removed]speech) in this forum is deemed inappropriate by the forum owner that it may be moderated. Perhaps the forum owner doesn’t notice or is unaware that me, a poster, has been behaving badly and after being alerted reviews my posts and decides I’m no longer welcome as a member.

Similarly, developers, businesses, and organizations submitting apps to The App Store agree to Apple’s Terms of Service with respect to the App Store, which explicitly reserve the right of Apple to remove an app for any reason or for no reason.

As to the civil dress of the EI app: of course their public-facing materials, including their submission to the app store, are going to present a message that they believe will appeal to potential clients. In this case, I believe it to be lipstick on a pig.

I have reasons for believing that: I have personally interacted with people involved in Exodus, both staff and people who voluntarily and involuntarily were involved in EI’s ministry; I am aware of EI’s history, of how they were founded, by whom, and where their funding came from; I am aware of at least some of their forays into politics and the actions they took in opposition to laws meant to protect the LGBT population from discrimination.

you are basing your rhetoric on YOUR perceptions of EI?s purpose

Duh. On what else would they be based? In this case my perceptions are based primarily on my personal experience with EI. To me, they are facts because I experienced them first-hand.

ibuck

Thank you, Victoria, for your contributions to this discussion, especially the “facilitation of conversation” post above.  And though I still have reservations about Apple’s app store being a public square, I will relate my experiences, as you suggest, on several related items…

1. When a teenager, I was uncomfortable with, perhaps even fearful of, homosexuals. But I have outgrown that as an adult, largely the result of working with, and getting to know better, coworkers who happened to be gay or lesbian. These folks were ordinary people who did not flaunt their sexual preference, but quietly went about their jobs. With my fear no longer an obstacle, I observed their pain upon breakups, as well as their joy with new partners, just as with heterosexual coworkers and friends.  And I was appalled when hospitals wouldn’t allow them to visit their sick or injured loved ones because they weren’t legally “family.” Otherwise, these folks were just like other workers, with hopes, fears, virtues and faults. Their presence didn’t materially alter the work environment, or the community.

2.Tolerance of differences plays strongly in our American heritage, as I have seen the word embedded into tile-work in buildings and in dated plaques that are hundreds of years old. My tolerance of differences has made me less acquiescent* of those who are not only intolerant of differences, but persecutive of the folks who “differ.” Especially since their ire and abuse extend to those they try to besmirch with the label “liberal” as a pejorative, even when used on persons / viewpoints that are just to the right of center—just to confuse the issues.  Don’t their disingenuous** voices and actions take advantage of my tolerance in the public square? Furthermore, attempts to very narrowly focus their behavior on only what the app does, rather than the larger picture of their behavior, is a trick they have employed successfully for decades, to our detriment. Should we continue to allow them to misbehave in such public square discussions?

3.  In addition, the systemic dismantling of the many voices in our historical public square (radio, TV and newspapers) by allowing consolidation of corporate ownership, is troubling. Why should Apple concede that their app store is a public square, and admit disingenuous and troublesome voices when big corporate media entities like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox, which seem more like the public square to me,  don’t allow even moderate viewpoints (in my estimation), much less real liberal or progressive ones. Furthermore, Murdoch’s The Daily is already part of Apple’s App Store, so the conservative viewpoints do exist in that space. Shouldn’t this “public square” idea be a larger discussion than just what Apple allows or not? In other words, not just here, but in existing public squares. And all this while considering that NPR and PBS, among the last bastions of public squares that allow all viewpoints, are being defunded. To those who perceive themselves to be liberal or progressive thinkers, this feels like our viewpoints are being pushed aside on legal technicalities.

Where is the quid pro quo***?  When will real (as opposed to pseudo) liberal or progressive viewpoints not be pushed to the margins of existing public squares?


* acquiescent = ready to accept something without protest
** disingenuous = insincere, misrepresentative, misleading
*** a more-or-less equal exchange, that is, something in return for something

Nemo

ibuck:  Let me speak more precisely.  Those who sign petitions, particularly petitions on topics that aren’t salient in the thoughts of averaged folks, such as the petition to remove EI’s app, greatly tend to be atypical of the general population both in the vehemence and extremeness of their position and are, therefore, not, as a sample, a good proxy for the general population.  This is true for both the extreme right and let in this country and is a fact well known by pollsters, politician, and political scientists. 

It causes a problem in surveys on controversial topic, because it is hard to get ordinary people to respond and respond truthfully on surveys, so it is hard to get a valid random sample.  What easily happens in a survey is that those who respond on topics that are both controversial but also not salient are the atypical extreme.  So competent pollsters and other experts, who try to sample the population’s views, make great exertions and have special methods for surveying the general population.  Simply putting out a request for signatures petitioning for removal of the EI’s app didn’t employ any of those special methods to attempt to correct for an invalid sample and there wasn’t any attempt to ensure that the petitioners were a random sample of the population, so it is almost certain that those petitioning for removal of EI’s app didn’t even represent the views of even Apple’s iOS customers or its prospective customers, much less the views of the general population.  Which is another reason why Apple should disregard such petitions in general and the anti-EI petition in particular in deciding whether to permit an app of the App Store, but should confine itself to permitting all civil and decent discourse.

Victoria Pynchon

Thanks ibuck for taking the time to share your personal experience that underlies your opinions. I’m assuming you’re male and understand (or believe) that it’s more difficult for men - GENERALLY - to feel comfortable with sexual preferences that differ from their own, particularly in this culture which seems to provide men with so much less room to express themselves than it does women. The culture asks our men to suppress all emotions except anger, which is why I believe the men I help settle business cases say they aren’t “emotional” right after they’ve called the opposition everything except the devil incarnate and often in tones that evidence barely controlled rage. Women are allowed a broader range of emotions. We’re also not demonized (too much) by the culture is we cross sexual-preference boundaries. I could be wrong (and often am) but tend to believe that men in particular are often made SO uncomfortable by the “man up” and “don’t be a sissy” messages that when they see another man expressing himself more broadly - AND crossing sexual preference and gender boundaries - that it makes them ANGRY. They, who have been “good guys” and never strayed outside the image and roles the society approves. I am happy to see that the various iterations of the “coming out” movement allowed you to get to know your gay colleagues, understand their travails, and become comfortable in their presence. It sounds corny, but thanks for sharing.

Nemo

Dear jfbiii:  Here’s the definition of civility that is relevant to our instant discussion:  courteous and polite : we tried to be civil to.  Civility deal with the mode of expression and that alone.  So if the EI app expressed itself in civil dress, which are your words, it is by that fact itself civil.  Thus, you’ve admitted the EI app is civil.

jfbiii:  I am using the word “civil” as it is defined.  We don’t get to make up our own definitions of words, so that civil means, as you would have it mean, that EI and Manhattan don’t agree with me about gay rights and, therefore, their speech is uncivil.  That is patent nonsense.

Also, you assert that you personal experience with EI establishes that the speech of its app is uncivil.  Even if ad arguendo, what you say about EI is true, it does not in any way establish that the speech in its app is either indecent or uncivil.  When judging whether speech is civil and decent, we judge the speech itself, not whether the speaker is a bad person or has done bad things, for that has no bearing on whether the instance of speech at issue is civil or decent.  A saint’s saintliness does immunize his uncivil or indecent speech, and a demon’s wickedness does not condemn his civil and decent speech.  So you comment about EI’s other actions, even if true, is irrelevant to the issue of whether the speech in its app is civil and decent. 

We look only at the speech itself and whether the effect of speech is illegal or indecent.  EI’s speech meet those standards.

Nemo

My Sister Pynchon and jfbiii raises an interesting point:  Civil Rights.  jfbiii is infuriated because EI and Manhattan deny him and other gay Americans what he regards as their civil rights.  And my Sister Pynchon make an odd statement for a lawyer about the “civil rights that are every American?s birthright.”  But what exactly are civil rights?  How do we discover them?  How do we know what they are? Is there some indisputable way to establish civil rights in the way a mathematician can prove the Central Limit Theorem so that no reasonable person can reasonably disagree.

Thomas Jefferson, our third President, who was clearly a genius, and drafter of our Declaration of Independence, had this to say about self evident rights:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[72] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  But Jefferson didn’t tell use how he derived that noble statement or how he discovered that Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness are among the self evident and inalienable rights.  Without understanding Jefferson’s antecedents, it appears that he just snatched his rights from the ether. 

But we do know something of Jefferson’s antecedents.  His rights didn’t come from on High but were the result of late 17th century and 18th century intellectual ferment and historical events.  In other words civil rights are discussed, fought over, and are constantly, depending on your perspective, evolving or devolving.  But a hallmark of civil rights is discussion, sometimes among intellectuals but also among all of us.  It is that discussion and the ability to participate in it that leads to civil rights.  So what anyone means by civil rights may correspond to some truth about human nature, but civil rights are very much a human creation that accords with a society’s values and belief and, if a society is wise, rigorous, and honest in its beliefs, its civil rights may approach the truth. 

However, we as a people, as a society, reach points in our understanding of civil rights when we get set in stating what civil rights are.  But in America, our diversity, our heterogeneity, results in our view of civil rights never being quite settled; they are always in dispute and evolution.  We have that evolution in our discussions, our elections, our laws, and our customs, but in American the dispute as to what civil rights are and who has them always continues.  But in an effort to define civil rights as a particular group wishes them to be defined, that group adopts a common tactic:  Declare what the civil rights are and, thus, foreclose any further debate about what those civil rights should be, dismissing all debate that dissents from their view of civil rights as at best foolish and at worst wicked.  That is what jfbiii and Jack and others who take their part are doing:  gay Americans have the civil rights and, therefore, any debate that dissents from those rights or that question what those rights should be is and should be foreclosed as folly or wickedness.

But that won’t do, especially not in our diverse America.  Here, it is perfectly legitimate to discuss what civil rights are, what they should be, and who should have them, because it is only from such discussion, where all are included, that we can peaceably arrive at enough agreement on our civil rights to be a people, to be governable as people, and reach enough agreement on civil rights for them to be pervasively acknowledged.  And it is only from continued discussion about civil rights that we can peaceable correct our error about civil rights and improve our understanding about civil rights so that our view of civil rights gets closer to the truth.

The great and dangerous immorality of the position, chiefly represented here by jfbiii, is that by vainly attempting to foreclose discussion of what civil rights for gay Americans are, rather than making sound and reasoned arguments for what those right should be, the opportunity to come to a better, peaceable, and pervasive understanding of what rights for gay Americans are is hindered in direct proportion to the extent that such discussion is foreclosed.

So even if there are rights that are the birthright of everyone, they most certainly are not self evident but are rights that we must struggle toward, and a chief means of that struggle is open and frank discussion.  Therefore, because the App Store has become and is becoming more so everyday a public square for speech, Apple has an at least moral obligation to permit all civil and decent speech so that we can either create or discover what civil rights should be on the App Store, as a place where we forged our understanding of civil rights.

Nemo

Dear ibuck:  You tolerance isn’t much of a virtue, when you now simply tolerate only what you have grown to love, but as Justice Holmes said:  “if there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

—Oliver Wendell Holmes

No one is asking you to acquiesce.  Quite to the contrary, I am saying that you must engage, but to engage you must have permitted an interlocutor.  You and jfbiii have acquiesced to your bigotry; you have acquiesced by simply declaring what civil rights are, refusing to discuss, much less offer a cogent defense of, your position.  You say that these are civil rights; that is clear; and, therefore, I needn’t entertain any further discussion from, nor do you have the right, as do the LGBT apps, to speak you indecent bastards, so shut up.

Seriously? Do you want to hold up Rupert Murdoch and the attempts to defund public broadcasting as your justifications for Apple’s bigotry.  Well, I guess you do.  If bigotry is to be justified, you can hardly do better than Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News or the Tea Part politicians, who, without the slightest sense of irony, read the Constitution to open Congress and, barely before they closed the page on our sacred text, moved to defund public broadcasting.  Apple, in its management its App Store, fits right in with the Tea Party and Fox News, and you and jfbiii are simply tea partiers, but with different tea in your saucer, tea brewed in the tea cafe on the left, while the Tea Party’s tea is brewed in the tea cafe on the right.  But you are all bigots alike.

jfbiii

And now we’re down to the ad hominem.

YAY!

ibuck

@Nemo: it’s interesting that you post about preciseness and then make broad generalizations about people who sign petitions. I have questions:

1. Are your conclusions based on random samples of 996 representative individuals who have signed petitions? And that such surveys competently measured their social and political views, as well as the intensity with which they customarily express themselves? And then contrasted their response with dozens of other surveys of Americans who have never signed a petition (not one)? 

2. Has it occurred to you that many people, perhaps even a representative sample, saw the petition and chose not to sign it, or sign it right then, or chose to think about it? Could that have been an assumption or even a self-deception? 

3.Do you think you make better arguments because you have (apparently) studied law, use the jargon, invoke nameless authorities (“pollsters, politician, and political scientists”),  hoping that readers will miss your assumptions, prejudices, contradictions, and convenient omission of facts? facts that might sway the readers’ conclusions? Could it be that the “pollsters, politician, and political scientists” quoted are all members of the conservative party? Are you an right-wing conservative, Nemo?

4. Do you believe in the rights of individuals? Even when the majority denies them, as the citizens of the US have done with women, people of color, non-property owners, those unable to read and write,  couples from different races who wished to marry, Catholics, Jews and now, Muslims, etc? Are all the people who sought to change those policies extremists?

5. Are your personal attacks on individuals in this thread due to you not wanting any conclusions to be drawn but those you espouse? And no perspective to be taken except for the micro-focus on Apple’s app store, which you vociferously insist is a de facto public square?

You’ve used many logical fallacies in your posts as well as aligning yourself with “Sister Pynchon”, whom I’m not sure endorses such kinship, and whose approach seems to be more of a gentle appeal to reason. I may have used some as well, and if so I apologize.  I’m not, however, foisting myself off as a master debater or master of public policy, as you seem to do.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” 
- Margaret Mead (1901-1978) US Anthropologist, Author

ibuck

Wow. My 5:21 pm post was over the top, and it’s too late to edit it.

John, Victoria, TMO readers, including Nemo, I apologize.

Nemo

ibuck:  I didn’t make any generalizations but simply reported a well known fact among pollsters.  When studying stats, it is vitally important that you correctly define the sample and the population so that the sample is a valid proxy for the population for the event that you are gathering stats on.  If you just place a general call for people to sign a petition, depending on the how the petition is word and its topic, you have not begun to do what you need to do specify a valid sample.  It’s stats 101, and I took a lot more than stats 101. It has got nothing to do with stereotyping anyone; it has got everything to do with competently collecting stats that allow you to describe and/or draw inferences about the population that you are interested in.  In other words, it is math and a knowledge of the characteristics for the population that you are interested in.

So all I need to know to say that the sample of 100,000 sample says nothing about either iOS customers or the general population is on the face of it:  They simply asked for signatures.  That was it, and that won’t do.

And I also make good arguments about stats, because I studied stats with one of the founding fathers of econometrics.

1.  Since there was no definition of the population because the organizers of the petition weren’t doing a statistical study of any peopulation and since the petition’s question wasn’t designed to collect stats, there is no way of knowing whether 996 for is statistically significant at any level of confidence for any population.  Also, since there was no protocol to be certain that you were getting a random sample—which, of course, there could not be since the population is undefined—the sample clearly was not a random sample.

2.  If we are down to having to guess whether people choose to sign the petition, we clearly don’t have any experimental design.  A proper design would have sampled the relevant population using methods that would have obtained a random and valid sample at a number to normally achieve a 95% level of confidence.  But, as I said, supra, there isn’t even a defined population, much less a experimental design.

3.  As I said above, I, a long time ago, study enough stats to do it for a living, though I chose not to.

4.  While I am beginning to doubts your rights, I do think that people have rights inherent to their nature under various circumstances.  The trick is know what those rights are given the circumstances, and, as I said, supra that is always an evolving struggle. 

Well, a lot depends on the rights and the circumstances at issue, but neither those who seeks to change rights or to maintain the status quo ante are either per se extreme or necessarily right or wrong.

And do I believe that certain rights exist regardless of the will of the majority?  Yes, I do.  Our Constitution’s Bill of Right is an anti-majoritarian document that sets forth a set of right for the individual regardless of the will of the majority, but over 200 hundred years of just constitutional jurisprudence shows how hard it is to say just what those rights are under different circumstances and whose rights they are under different circumstances.

5.  I haven’t engage in any personal attacks.  I have, however, not blushed to call things by there proper names.  A bigot for example is one:  “bigoted attitudes; intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself : the report reveals racism and right-wing bigotry. See note at bias.”  With respect to EI and the Manhattan apps the term bigot, therefore, fits you, jfbiii, Jack, Apple, et al to a tee.

My Sister and my Brother is a quaint way that lawyers once referred to each other, though it has fallen out of fashion.  However, the idea is that one is a member of a fraternity and that, though disagreements on behalf of others may be intense, members of the legal fraternity maintained their professionalism, courtesy, and fraternal regard for each other.

Well, you had better hope that I was using logic and not logical fallacies; otherwise, you were exposed by mere fallacies, which speaks even worst of your position—unless you had some particular logical fallacy in mind, which I doubt.

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