Tim Cook must be getting giddy. First Apple did a very public about face on paying royalties to artists on Apple Music during the free trial period and now they are doing a 180 on a heavy-handed ban of any apps featuring the confederate flag.
Despite a hastily dispatched PR statement that “We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines. We are not removing apps that display the Confederate flag for educational or historical uses.” it has been clearly reported that apps that depicted the flag in a purely historical setting were removed.
The whole thing started as a reaction to the racially motivated killings in Charleston, South Carolina. This has lead to an ongoing debate across the US and elsewhere about the use of the confederate flag. Is it a symbol of southern pride and independent attitude or racism and homophobia? Frankly the answer is both depending on who is waving it. In a similar way in the UK the flag of St. George was co-opted by the extreme right in protests about immigrants (to the wry amusement of people who know where St. George came from).
It appears that rather than review the apps on a case by case basis, or at the very least checking the list of affected apps and removing obvious non-infringers before the ban, Apple went the whole hog, banning good, bad and ugly alike. with the likes of “Ultimate General: Gettysburg” being banned despite it being a game that attempts to recreate and educate people about a battle that definitely happened and is celebrated as a keystone event in US history.
This is not the first time that Apple has been heavy handed in censorship in its store and it’s not alone, with Google removing a game that simulated the bombing of Gaza and Facebook getting into a right tizzy over nipples. Clearly the line between personal freedoms and not wishing to cause offence or be seen as promoting bigotry is a hard one.
Apple is now apparently working with some developers to make the changes needed to have their apps reinstated. I’ll leave the last word to Maxim Zasov of Game Labs, the developers of Ultimate General: Gettysburg.
We accept Apple’s decision and understand that this is a sensitive issue for the American Nation. We wanted our game to be the most accurate, historical, playable reference of the Battle of Gettysburg. All historical commanders, unit composition and weaponry, key geographical locations to the smallest streams or farms are recreated in our game’s battlefield.
We receive a lot of letters of gratitude from American teachers who use our game in history curriculum to let kids experience one of the most important battles in American history from the Commander’s perspective.
Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical “Gettysburg” movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money.
Therefore we are not going to amend the game’s content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple’s decision will achieve the desired results. We can’t change history, but we can change the future.