“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,” an Apple spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We are not removing apps that display the Confederate flag for educational or historical uses.”
This sounds reasonable until one looks at the games that were removed. Most of them were educational and were used by teachers to give their students a richer understanding of important historical events. Reading about the Battle of Gettysburg can teach you a lot about what happened, but what if you were able to lead the troops into battle yourself? That’s how Maxim Zasov of Game Labs, the developer of Ultimate General: Gettysburg, describes his game; “All historical commanders, unit composition and weaponry, key geographical locations to the smallest streams or farms are recreated in our game’s battlefield.” His game was used by teachers in classrooms, and yet it was removed from the App Store along with all of the others.
Removing apps from the App Store is bad, but what Apple is doing to rectify the situation is even worse. BuzzFeed says that “sources close to Apple say the company is working actively with game developers affected by the Confederate flag ban to get their apps back into the App Store as quickly as possible. But in order to do that, developers will need to remove the Confederate flag from their games or replace it with something else.”
It’s one thing to deny history, and quite another to change history in order to remove what is now considered offensive or politically incorrect. To forget the mistakes of the past, why those mistakes were made, the ramifications of the mistakes, and what was done to correct them will only ensure that the painful lessons learned will likewise be forgotten. As Maxim Zasov said in his decision to not comply with Apple’s demands to change his game, “We can’t change history, but we can change the future.”
As was observed about history on Legal Insurrection:
History is mean, evil, grotesque, and riddled with human imperfections. Recognizing mankind’s failings doesn’t expunge them from the record. If anything, we must ensure future generations deeply understand our strides to expand the blessings of liberty so they may continue that fight. You don’t teach history by erasing the icky bits.
Banishing an image and believing that’s some sort of benchmark for equality? Trouncing the first amendment rights of others? Neither of these are productive endeavors. Neither maximizes equality or liberty or freedom. But both are painfully ignorant.
Apple is wrong in censoring the Confederate Flag and the Civil War games which used it to teach adults and children about an important time in American history. This willingness to remove apps from the App Store while emotions are high is a misuse of the immense power Apple has over what apps can be used on its devices.
Unless Apple reverses course and chooses truth over censorship, it’s a troubling portent of what they may do in the future.