One of the things that frustrates The Macalope is that pundits spend way too much time criticizing Apple for nothingburgers. Have you heard of these nothingburgers? The burgers, they make them from nothing these days.
Often Apple is criticized for things it hasn’t even done. Just one example: this summer saw the Forbes contributor network and exclusive distributors of the Impossible Nothing Burger spend months telling us how ugly the iPhone 11 Pro would be. It wasn’t. But they are glibly on to the next thing.
Why would you do that when there are actual things to criticize Apple for?
November 9th marked the 30th anniversary of the “fall” of the Berlin Wall (erm, excuse me, but the Wall didn’t so much “fall” as it was first rendered useless by popular action and later torn down, yes, I recognize this is a story time at a public library, I will leave of my own accord thank you very much). To mark the anniversary, Tim Cook tweeted:
Thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell, we must remember that the strength we possess in unity is infinitely more powerful than any differences that divide us.
Isn’t that nice? It’s such a nice sentiment. Just like Tim Cook’s Twitter bio which contains a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'”
These messages would come across a lot more sincerely, though, if just last month Apple hadn’t acquiesced to the wishes of another totalitarian government at the expense of a protesting populace.
In early October, Apple removed the Quartz app from the App Store and also removed the HKmap.live app, both at the request of Chinese authorities. The Quartz app “included content that is illegal in China” (specifically its coverage of Hong Kong protests) while Apple said the HKmap.live app was being used to target police. The developers of the HKmap.live app and Hong Kong protestors say it helped them avoid the police (residents can still access the web version of the app).
The incident that precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall was a huge number of East Berliners clamoring to be allowed free passage to West Berlin, something that was against the law. East German authorities had recently decided anyone could go to West Berlin for any reason, but only after following the process for acquiring a visa. East Germany’s citizenry, however, simply decided they’d had enough and wanted free movement.
Now, there are any number of differences between the fall of the Berlin Wall and what’s happening in Hong Kong. One of the biggest, though, is that East German authorities were unwilling to shoot their own citizens while Hong Kong’s are not. It’s inexplicable why Hong Kong’s citizens might want to avoid areas of police activity when, say, they’re coming home from a child’s birthday party. Possibly the little children in party hats and carrying balloons who get teargassed are looking to rough up some police. Hard to say.
While there are differences between what’s happening in Hong Kong now and what happened in Berlin in 1989, these events are the same in one respect: these protests represent people fighting for their rights against a repressive government. If the fall of the Berlin Wall were happening today and East Germany represented a large, strategic market where Apple did most of its manufacturing, one wonders what Apple’s reaction would be if the government asked it to remove an app that showed the best places to get through the Wall.
It’s against the law! We can’t encourage lawlessness on our app store! Even for 30 percent!
Wait, can we? No! Particularly because this app is free and 30 percent of nothing is nothing!
Well, OK. You can make a law-based stand. But if obeying the letter of the law is your standard, then spare us your after-the-fact lauding of times when people stood up to unfair laws. And The Macalope has a pretty good idea whose side Dr. King would have been on in Hong Kong.
The horny one would still defend Apple as being better than most of its rivals in supporting the individual’s rights over the government’s because of its stand on privacy. But there are times when the company’s desire to have its “We support the underdog!” cake and eat its other giant market and manufacturing base cake, too, strain credulity.