I generally like the products of Apple. I'm writing this posting on an Apple MacBook, I have an iPhone (though one that will soon be very old indeed) and I recently bought an iPad. Their designs are great, they are easy to use, they work straight out of the box and they look and feel very "hip". What's more, they aren't Microsoft!
All of this marks me out as a fairly typical Apple customer since generally, once one has got into Apple you tend to get all their stuff and swear by them. Fair enough, even philosophers can develop brand loyalty. But recently something has been putting me off Apple and it's not the products or even the recent suicides at Foxconn, the Chinese enterprise that manufactures Apple products (along with Dell and Hewlett Packard). No, it's something that offends me even more than the dubious labour practices of the firms to whom Apple outsources.
What is this? The increasing tendency of Apple to censor and act as a moral arbiter. Recently a comic book version of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest was released which up-dated the story to make it more explicitly gay, included male nudity (though not genitalia) and even panels showing men kissing each other. Apple agreed to allow this comic book to be sold over iTunes but then censored the panels showing men kissing along with some of those showing male nudity. Amongst other things this reflected double standards on Apple's part who have allowed similar heterosexual scenes on comic books they have retailed. This complaint however is only part of the problem since if they had extended their censorship to heterosexual scenes they would have compounded the problem of censorship rather than ended discrimination.
Not only have Apple censored this new version of Wilde's play but they also recently censored a version of James Joyce's Ulysses, a work that suffered rather badly from precisely such responses during the 20th century. This again affected a comic book version which dared to show a scene of Leopold Bloom using the toilet.
Apple have broadly defended the policy as concerned with "freedom from porn", a curiously similar defence to that adopted by the Chinese authorities when faced with complaints from Google. The Chinese authorities cited concerns about children just as Steve Jobs has done when challenged. It's heartening to find that Jobs agrees with the country in which most of his products are made that censorship is good since it helps kids. But perhaps, like Google, he should beware of the company he keeps and consider adopting the slogan of not being evil, the slogan that helps to explain why they left China and departed from practices that are far from enlightened.