Today, the tech blogs (and established news media) are alive with the sound of outrage because, it is alleged, Apple have dared to approve an iPhone app designed to cure homosexuality.

The app is here. At least, that’s the one I think they’re talking about. It’s hard to tell, since none of the outraged articles I’ve read name the app or link to it*. The store’s description of the Exodus International app doesn’t include the words “gay cure” anywhere, either.

As Ben Goldacre pointed out yesterday, it’s not a good sign when journalists don’t link to primary sources. They might not have read them, or, worse, they might not want you to read them, because, if you do, you’ll notice that they’ve distorted the facts to serve their own agenda.

In any case, I downloaded this app, curious to know how a piece of software might cure homosexuality. My iPhone struggles to make phone calls, so this would be quite a coup. I’m still at a loss. I couldn’t find mention of a cure anywhere – just a lot of boring stuff about support and understanding. It’s not a “gay cure” app, and nor does it purport to be.

Is it hateful? Well, they seem to think that homosexuality is wrong, and I know a lot of people that would be upset by that. Still, if all the people that thought this way were getting advice like this instead of this, then the world might be a nicer place. Misguided? Almost certainly. Offensive? Naturally. Hateful? Not when you compare it to what these clowns are up to.

In any case, even if these guys didn’t rely on our good intentions to engineer all this distorted coverage to serve an agenda that has much more to do with Exodus International than their crappy app, then they’re certainly making the most of the newsworthiness of a big computer company that really doesn’t have much to do with it.

Why exactly did I open this can of worms, and what the heck does it have to do with classical music anyway?

It’s simple really. It would be wrong to sell (or even give away) an app that claimed it could cure homosexuality, because there’s no scientific evidence that such a thing is possible. That’s not what happened here, but if it was, then I’d condemn it. It would be wrong.

What about a product that relied on what is at best sketchy evidence to claim that it could make babies smarter, exploiting parents’ desire to give their children the best possible start in life, all for financial gain? There are plenty of those about. If I was going to petition Apple to stop selling something, I might start there.

* It’s free, and to say “I didn’t name it because I didn’t want to give them any publicity” is a bit like trying to write about the current situation in Libya without promoting Muammar Gaddafi.

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  1. March 21, 2011

    Uh oh.

    Well, okay: I don’t have an iPhone, unfortunately, so all I have to go on is what I see in that screengrab. But it looks like it’s advertising events that connect frightened gay people and the frightened parents of gay children with gay-conversion therapists. So clearly the “love and understanding” is something of a smokescreen.

    Should tech reporters download the dang app before reporting a story like this? Absolutely. Should Apple allow this app in its store? I don’t know! But if Apple is going to restrict obscene and controversial apps, shouldn’t it also restrict apps designed to promote anti-gay groups and events?

    • properdiscord #
      March 27, 2011

      Well, it looks like they took it down, so that’s something.

      It’s messy, but I wonder if this might be the right way for all of this to work. On the one hand, it doesn’t seem like “side with whoever can most effectively manipulate public moral outrage” is a terribly effective way of arriving at the right thing to do. On the other hand, what’s the alternative? It’s better than just coming up with some big principle (“free speech” or “don’t cause offence”) and sticking to it regardless.

      Let’s not kid ourselves, though. They’re not thinking any less commercially than Fox News. They just have smarter customers.

  2. Collin J Rae #
    March 21, 2011

    I am working on an app to cure idiocy, it certainly won’t work but will at least make nice sounds. I have internal proof that “Mozart Makes you Smarter” actually just makes one more lethargic, but then that title would’t sell very well.

    • properdiscord #
      March 21, 2011

      You could certainly sell some music as a sleep aid without having to lie.

  3. March 21, 2011

    I take your point but quibble with your example, since this particular Mozart Makes You Smarter CD seems to include excerpts of respectable performances by actual classical musicians. It’s benign, and at least it’s exposing people to good music. Your campaign should be turned full force on things like the Baby Mozart line, which offers horrendous computerized non-arrangements of the music, as if simply being exposed to a Mozart melody in any form were somehow beneficial. Take that on and I’d sign any petition you’ve got.

    • properdiscord #
      March 21, 2011

      Disney generally doesn’t make specific claims about the educational content of its Baby Einstein products. At least, they don’t any more. Still, calling them “Baby Einstein” probably leaves a lot of parents with a stronger positive impression of their educational value than just about any overt claim they could make.

      It’s interesting to note that they thought it was worth paying the Einstein estate for the right to use his name, but they didn’t think it was worth paying for actual musicians – even though it would be really easy to license all of this repertoire at very little expense.

      Perhaps they decided that the electronic sounds were preferable to real performances. A lot of products aimed at children seem to go out of their way to be obnoxious, so why not this one?

      In any case, I’m not sure I can agree with you here. It’s true – these albums are horrid – but I don’t think that’s a solid enough reason to try to get them taken off the market. Although I’d prefer that such terrible products either didn’t exist or at least weren’t as popular, it feels a bit Stalinist to try to ban them.

      False advertising, on the other hand, is already illegal, and for good reason. Disney just make crappy albums. Sony lied to us.

      In my experience of dealing with Disney, almost nothing is ever an accident. If they decided to use annoying electronic noises, there’s a good chance they thought it through. I don’t suppose it would do any harm to petition them, though. An open letter from a group of eminent music critics ought to get noticed, and if they really didn’t think about it, then there’s a chance they might change their minds.

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