I know I promised to go into more detail about my recent Pulitzer win (still amazed and floating on air), but it seems that story has been eclipsed by interest in the fact that Steve Jobs and Apple reject apps that “ridicule public figures.” For more back-story, you can look here, here and here.
While I’ve been a fan of Apple and use their gadgets and gizmos to help create my cartoons, it’s good to see Apple’s anti-satire bent is getting some attention. I’m still amazed a company that created this ad is now so hostile to political content:
Satire and “ridiculing public figures” are not only good for our Democracy, they can be good for business—for Apple and for independent creators. (Once Apple accepted my previously-rejected app, NewsToons, it shot to the top spot for paid news apps, beating out CNN and the Drudge Report.) While the iPhone and iPad won’t solve all of the problems facing cartoon journalism today, they do represent a life preserver in a sea of closing newspapers and hugely profitable websites that refuse to pay creators.
In short, satire and ridicule good, Apple policy of rejecting political content, bad.
While mine is not the first political satire app to be rejected by Apple, it seems to have received the most attention thanks to the recent Pulitzer win. (And thanks to Laura McGann’s Columbo-like questioning that broke the story. “Just one last question . . .”)
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (where I am a board member) has called on Steve Jobs to see the light and do what’s right for journalism and free speech in the good ol’ US of A.
“While the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists realizes that Apple is a private sector company, Apple is also becoming one of the primary ways people publish news and information. With that innovation comes new responsibility.
A vigorous public discourse, opinion, satire and, yes, ridiculing public figures, are essential to journalism and our Democracy. Our nation would be a very different place if early technological innovators like Benjamin Franklin and those who followed him, forbade their presses from being used to ridicule public figures.”
Now, to answer a couple of questions people have been asking.
1.) Did you change the app’s content in any way before resubmitting it to Apple, in order to get approved?
No, I definitely did not. When you ask a political cartoonist to change something about the political content of their work, their usual impulse is to do the exact opposite. For example, back when I worked for a newspaper I was told by the new publisher to go easier on George W. Bush, which promptly caused me to go harder on Bush.
Which, um, led me out the door where I happily returned to working for myself.
2.) Why didn’t you tell Apple to go to hell and instead create an app with one of their competitors?
The reason I decided to continue working with Apple is that I want to see them put satire and independent political voices into their mix of apps. My NewsToons app is now one of those voices, and by the way, is still in violation of their Ye Shall Have No Ridicule policy.
Had I walked away in protest, there would still be no political animation in Apple’s app store. My goal is to show the inconsistency and subjectivity of their approval process. You shouldn’t have to win a Pulitzer or get on teevee just to get your political app approved. With the help of others, I’ll continue to push for Apple to open their doors to a wide range of satire, news and politics. If you have had an app rejected because it ridicules public figures, email me. (And, yes, I may create an app with one of their competitors.)
3.) Will you continue to update your app and add improvements? (Also sometimes phrased as, “Why does your sucky app take so long to load?”)
Yes, I will continue to add improvements to the app and it’s functionality. The first version is very simple and had a tiny development budget. (Unfortunately, I’m too dumb when it comes to programming to do these things myself.) The massive response to this app has made loading take longer than it should, but we’ll change that soon. I’m also really looking forward to making new apps that are more game-like.
Long story short, I’m really hoping this is just temporary confusion at Apple HQ as they change from a fortress-like computer company to more of a media company.
The Fourth Estate is becoming Estate 4.0.
After a bit of popular demand, I’ve decided to release some death threat snippets that came in following this cartoon. Most of the “popular demand” was from Tea (ahem) Partiers who accused me of fabricating the whole nasty death-related emails thing. So, without further ado . . .
Then there was a “Tea Bagger” who apparently didn’t mind being called one, though he was still angry.
Most were considerate enough to keep their language clean, although this one slipped a bit. (Edited for family viewing.)
Now, to prove I’m not hated in all the conservative locales of the United States, here is a gratuitous shot of me last September in Walt Disney’s hometown Marceline, Missouri.