Et tu, Apple?
It was hard enough getting through the holiday season already. What with Master Card, Visa, PayPal and Amazon.com, all ending their relationships with WikiLeaks, it's become almost impossible for someone who cares about free speech, press freedoms and government and corporate accountability to function in society, never mind shop for Hanukkah and Christmas presents.
But at least Apple wouldn't let me down; or so I thought.
For the last two years my MacBook Pro has literally been on my lap ten or more hours a day, and it's got the wear to prove it -- letters rubbed out and hard to press, screen uncleanably dirty, the cover cracked on both sides near the base. And so as the holidays approached and most everyone else at my Department seemed to show up with a shiny new MacBook, it seemed only a matter of time before I gave in and bought a new one myself.
A Terrible Day for Internet Freedom
On December 21, Apple pulled a WikiLeaks app from its iTunes store, banning it forever. When reporters queried the company about why it did so, the response was: "We removed WikiLeaks because it violated developer guidelines. An app must comply with all local laws. It may not put an individual or target group in harms way."
And so Apple has joined capital's war on WikiLeaks; adding its power to that of the credit card company's online retailers and even Swiss banks who refuse to do any business with the grassroots whistleblowing organization that has done more to bring the malfeasance of governments and corporations to the light of public scrutiny than any other organization in at least two generations.
And because of that, I will never buy another Apple product again. You've made your choice, Mr. Jobs, and now so have I.
You see, if WikiLeaks is too dangerous for Apple, than so must be I. I have been accused by right wing commentators and activists of putting Americans, Jews, Israelis and impressionable college students in harms way. I have been named one of the "101 most dangerous professors" in America because I routinely criticized US and Israeli policies (never mind that I've also criticized the policies of most other governments). I've been called a Marxist and an abetter of terrorism and anti-Semitism.
Shouldn't I be banned from iTunes as well?
As part of the project for my book Heavy Metal Islam, I produced a compilation album, Flowers in the Desert, that features some of the best hard rock, metal, hiphop and hardcore artists from around the Muslim world. From Morocco to Pakistan, these artists have been accused of being deadly threats to their societies by governments and conservative religious figures. They've been arrested, beaten, convicted of crimes, threatened with death by senior religious officials, and banned from performing. All because they dared to use Western-inspired rock music to express the myriad frustrations, fears and even dreams of their lives growing up in authoritarian, corrupt and often violent countries.
Meeting and falling in love with these artists, their stories and their sounds, I have done whatever I could to spread their message and their music as widely as possible. Including making sure Flowers in the Desert was available on iTunes.
Tell me, Mr. Jobs, shouldn't you pull my album from your store? Who's to say that I'm not more dangerous than WikiLeaks? I can introduce you to a bunch of conservative Muslims, from at least a dozen countries, who would tell you that WikiLeaks is great but me and my Middle Eastern musical comrades are putting Muslims in harms way and should not be allowed to distribute our Devil's music to anyone. Don't their feelings count? Shouldn't you pull my album to protect them and their children from harms way? You're not prejudiced against God-fearing Muslims, are you?
First Porn, then Politics and Culture
Pulling WikiLeaks from the iTunes store might have surprised some people; but there have already been hints that beneath the shiny, sleek designs and hyper cool image, Apple harbors censorial inclinations. To begin with, when the iPad was launched Jobs made a point of declaring that it would be free of pornography. "Freedom from porn," he declare proudly. "Yep, freedom."
You don't have to be a fan of pornography to understand the implications of one person or corporation prohibiting a consumer from consuming legal content on their products. Magazines, including the prestigious German publications Stern and Bild, have seen their apps pulled because they ran topless photo spreads, or had to put bikinis on models. And Apple has also banned apps with political cartoons and gay travel guides, leading the Guardian to declare in May that "many magazine publishers developing 'apps' for the new iPad... have had to self-censor."
To continue reading this article, please go to my original al-Jazeera colum, here
Follow Mark Levine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@culturejamming