Apple is removing war games that feature the Confederate flag from its App Store. How does erasing digital media that contain images of a contextually relevant historical object improve social justice?
Now, before I get too far into criticizing Apple, let me say I support the removal of the Confederate flag from state houses and other public areas. I'm glad that retailers aren't selling it. It has clearly been used as a symbol of hatred by many.
The flag is also historically significant. And, within the context of depicting historical events, the flag needs to remain where its presence makes sense.
Instead, Apple simply axed Civil War games such as Ultimate General: Gettysburg. A search of Civil War games on iTunes seems to reveal a few stragglers. You can still find in iTunes a few low-popularity games that depict the Confederate flag. Most of the popular games from the genre no longer show up in iTunes search results. The company that makes Ultimate General has already posted that it heard from Apple that it needs to remove the flag.
What's offensive about the use of the flag in a historical context? Unless you find the idea of re-enacting war in general to be offensive, re-enacting the Civil War, or World War II, or any other war with a historic viewpoint doesn't seem to me to be a problem. It's hard to imagine how game developers can execute such games without showing the historic symbols of the eras in which their games are based. Erasing the existence of a whole genre of digital media from the App Store because it depicts a contextually relevant historical object doesn't compute.
It's also curious that games seem to be the primary target for Apple. The company doesn't appear to be removing movies about the Civil War from the App Store. To my knowledge, you can still buy Ken Burns's The Civil War documentary TV series. Did Apple decide that movies and documentaries are art, and that computer games are not? That's an idea I find equally troubling.
Now, if someone created a game that featured the Confederate flag in a non-historical and violent context, I'd be all for its removal. I'd be happy if it stopped selling altogether. But the wholesale (or at least blunt-force) way Apple has done this hurts developers and gamers, but does nothing for social justice.
David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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