Thirty years ago, one of the original developers of the Apple Macintosh coined a phrase to describe founder Steve Jobs’ ability to “convince anyone of practically anything.” He called it a “reality distortion field.”
While the phrase was originally used in an engineering context, Apple’s recent actions concerning the Manhattan Declaration app make me wonder whether “reality distortion” has become a corporate policy.
As I previously told you, last fall, Apple approved the Manhattan Declaration app and gave it a “4+” rating, indicating that it was free of objectionable material.
What followed was a campaign by a small but vocal group of gay-rights activists to have the app removed from the store. They succeeded.
We then resubmitted the app with some modifications. Our intention, in keeping with the spirit of the Declaration, was to bend over backwards to maintain a civil and respectful tone.
A few days ago, we heard from Apple again. Apple’s reply added insult to injury.
The company informed us that it “cannot post this version to the App Store because it contains content that is likely to expose a group to harm.” You heard me correctly: “expose a group to harm.”
Apple cited its store guidelines which prohibit apps that contain “references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence.”
Seeing the Manhattan Declaration as “defamatory” or “mean-spirited,” never mind “likely to expose a group to harm” requires a reality distortion field of epic proportions.
Not only is the tone of the Manhattan Declaration civil and respectful, but its call to conscience is designed to lessen conflict, not promote it. But none of this seems to matter. For Apple, apparently, even civil and respectful disagreement is a kind of “harm.”
And don’t think that gay-rights activists will be content with getting us removed from the App Store-their goal is to exclude us from the public square altogether. And the best way to achieve that goal is to convince people that simply holding a traditional view on marriage, family and human sexuality is a kind of “hate speech” and incitement to violence.
That’s why we view the fate of a small app to be such a big deal. Apple’s economic and cultural clout makes the precedent being set here especially troubling-not just for us, but for any group that cites the Bible. It’s one thing, you see, if the company uses its reality-distorting powers to downplay problems with the antennas in its iPhones-it’s quite another when those powers are used to ban 3,000 years of moral reflection from the public square.
I still hold out hope that Apple will understand the implications of banning the Manhattan Declaration from its app store. And we will continue to make our case with them. Please join me. Contact Apple. Let Steve Jobs know that you stand not only for traditional marriage, life, and religious liberty, but also for civil discourse, debate, and free speech.