Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Too Big for Twitter

Well, time to pull the drop cloths off the blog and get writing. At least one post.

It started with a tweet, or actually a retweet, as seen here:

I made the flying leap to the conclusion that this was regarding the "ex-gay" app that had just been pulled from Apple's iTunes App Store, and replied:

Nick Harkaway replied:

Now I really like Nick Harkaway. Not only because he is the author of what is perhaps my favorite book of the 21st century (so far), but because I've also come to respect the personality he reveals via the standard social media sites of the 2010's. Anyway, I felt that Twitter's 140 characters would not be nearly enough to "unpack" my thoughts, so I said:

So that's where we are. My point (as best I could make it in 140 characters, less the two @tributions) was that even within the marketplace of ideas, there are some ideas that are so repugnant as to require immediate rejection. Thus my suggestion that an "ex-Jew app" in 1942, in the guise of the Nazi party, was rejected. An "ex-Black app," (e.g. Jim Crow laws, Separate but Equal clauses) was rejected in the 1960s.

In the Wikipedia article about the market place of ideas Thomas Jefferson is quoted as having said (about the University of Virginia), "This institution will be based upon the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it" (emphasis mine). Oliver Wendell Holmes said "the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market." What has happened in the case of the Exodus International app is that reason did, indeed, combat it; it was not accepted in the competition of the market.

I hope that I don't have to address the reasons why the app in question is offensive. That's been covered by many other people, and my point here was just to respond to the question regarding the original (re)tweet about the marketplace of ideas.

I should leave it there, but I have to ask: is the iTunes store the "marketplace of ideas"? There has been no shortage of Apple missteps while allowing or disallowing all sorts of apps, and againg, I don't think I have to search out examples, they're easily found. Given the restrictions that Apple already places on apps that it will accept into the store, I would argue that they hardly represent the free market in any way. However, because they are, for better or worse, the proverbial 800 pound gorilla, what they do impacts the free market in many ways. And that, as they say, is a whole nother thing.

And I should leave it there, but just one more thing ... as my friend Joe often says, "I can hold my breath, but that doesn't make me an ex-breather."