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Daniel Kurtzman

Daniel Kurtzman

Posted: April 17, 2010 07:40 PM

Apple Still Rejecting Political Satire Apps, Despite Outcry

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If you've ever been in the middle of a heated political argument and wish you had a witty retort to hurl at your partisan adversaries, sorry, Apple won't let you have an app for that.

In the latest example of Apple's selective censorship of political satire on the iPhone, Apple has rejected my dueling satirical apps iHeckle: The Conservative Insult Generator and iHeckle: The Liberal Insult Generator on the grounds that they consider poking fun at political groups to be "objectionable."

The iHeckle apps join a growing list of political apps that have been banned by Apple's satire police for engaging in what Apple considers the crime of "ridiculing public figures" or satirizing partisan politics.

The most ridiculous example is the cartoon app created by this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Mark Fiore, which Apple rejected because it ridiculed public figures such as President Obama, the White House party crashers, and Balloon Boy. (Who in America isn't guilty of mocking one, if not all, of the above?)

In the face of negative publicity, Apple has since invited Fiore to resubmit his app, and even Steve Jobs has acknowledged the rejection was a mistake.

Apple has previously rejected more than a dozen apps for ridiculing public figures, including a Bush shoe-throwing game, an Obama trampoline game, and an app called Bobble Rep that contains caricatures of Republican and Democratic politicians, which Apple eventually approved following negative press coverage.

My insult generator apps, however, don't even mention the names of any political figures. They contain faux insults that are satirical in nature, and which are meant for humorous and lighthearted banter between friends who have a sense of humor about their political differences. (Sample insult for a liberal: "Listen, you organically certified ecoweenie, as much as I'd like to talk to you, I'd rather be waterboarding." Sample insult for a conservative: "When did being a mavericky, race-baiting hatriot become a family value?")

When it comes to political satire, Apple's standards appear to be arbitrary and contradictory. iPhone apps from The Colbert Report, The Onion, and Msnbc.com Cartoons frequently poke fun at both the left and right, as does Google's iPhunny app, which features the latest jokes from the late-night comedians skewering Republicans and Democrats alike.

What's clear is that Apple has two sets of standards when it comes to approving political satire on the iPhone -- one for high-profile news and entertainment providers, and another for the rest of the unwashed masses.

If you're an amateur developer like me, you can spend months going through Apple's development and approval process, only to find that your "objectionable" apps don't meet the supposedly high standards of other apps Apple has accepted without issue. Such apps include iFart (which has made Apple a ridiculous amount of money off of flatulence); MyVibe (which turns your iPhone into a vibrator); Wobble (which lets users jiggle breasts, genitalia, or what have you); and iPoo (a social community that brings together other pooers).

Apple's standards may be confusing, but for anyone whose political satire app has been rejected for being "objectionable", it appears there are two possible paths to getting it approved: 1) add more farting, pooping, or self-pleasuring functionality; or 2) win a Pulitzer Prize.

Personally, I'll hedge my bets by attempting to do both.

Daniel Kurtzman is a journalist, author and satirist who edits the Political Humor page of About.com, which is part of The New York Times Company. His rejected iPhone apps are companions to his dueling humor books, "How to Win a Fight With a Conservative," and "How to Win a Fight With a Liberal."

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