Apple Store Drops Civil War History Apps Displaying Confederate Battle Flag

As the Confederate army drives up Oak Ridge on July 1st, 1863, Confederate flags mark brigades and the Confederate 3rd Corps HQ. Similarly, Union flags make the position of Federal brigades. In Apple's idea of a proper historical simulation, the flags of the "bad guys" are erased to avoid triggering knee-jerk spasms of angst amongst people who a week ago probably couldn't have distinguished a Confederate battle flag from a box of mac and cheese. Screen shot from Ultimate General: Gettysburg, a battle simulation recently pulled from Apple's App Store, because of the display in the game of the Confederate battle flag.
As concern over state-sanctioned display of the Confederate battle flag extends to loonier PC erasures of history, Apple Computer has buckled under public pressure, and dropped (nearly) all apps displaying the Confederate battle flag from its App Store.

This includes historical simulations, such as Ultimate General: Gettysburg, a much-praised, historically accurate, simulation of the battle of Gettysburg. In an announcement on the Game-Labs forum, the company that makes Ultimate General: Gettysburg said that Apple had demanded the history game be redesigned to eliminate any display of the Confederate battle flag:
“Apple has removed our game from AppStore because of usage of the Confederate Flag. Ultimate General: Gettysburg could be accepted back if the flag is removed from the game's content…We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money. Therefore we are not going to amend the game's content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple’s decision will achieve the desired results.”
For the last week, a number of American corporations, including Apple, have been under pressure to eliminate selling any products that display the Confederate battle flag or any content that seemed to be supportive or insufficiently condemnatory of the Southern Confederacy. For example, this article directly challenges Tim Cook to remove all apps from the App Store displaying Confederate symbols. It encourages Cook to abide by the App Store’s guidelines, which state:
“Any App that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harm’s way will be rejected.”
The article writer, Zac Hall, did bother to include this exception: “I don’t believe Apple should censor historical content or remove informational material from iTunes or the App Store…”, but the problem is one person’s “historical content” is another person’s “defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited” crime against humanity. This is always the problem with censorship.

In most historical simulations, including ones enabling players to take the role of Germans (AKA "Nazis") and Japanese armies from World War II, the idea is to enable players to learn about history by simulating it, including from the perspective of the “enemy”. In military history games, of course, the main focus is on battle strategy, and not on the political conflicts that led to the battles.

This lack of political context, which mirrors a historical attitude seeking to find and assess factual data without ideological bias, has always been a vulnerable aspect of historical simulations—and especially military history simulations or wargames. Why, after all, should a person even want to play a game where the Nazis—or the Confederates—might win? Doesn't that say something very negative about the person? People who think that it does are going to be suspicious of the motives drawing people to play a game like Ultimate General: Gettysburg.

But—so what?

The point made by Game-Labs seems quite pertinent—all historical art forms, including games, should be treated equally. And unless Apple is getting ready to remove any work of art—movies, television shows, music—that has any display of something “Confederate”, it should restore apps such as Ultimate General: Gettysburg, and any other history apps, whose inclusion of the Confederate battle flag is based merely on an effort to get the facts straight.

More than this, the Confederate battle flag, whatever people may think of it, has been such a constant feature of Southern culture and a number of American subcultures too, that attempting to censor it out of existence is not merely impossible, but is counterproductive to any goal America has in addressing its ongoing problem with racism. The kind of action Apple has taken, for example, seems reminiscent of 1984—which, if you know anything about Apple's marketing of itself, is quite ironic.

Read more about the Confederate battle flag controversy here.

UPDATE! Friday, June 26th, 2015—as of this evening, Apple has restored Ultimate General: Gettysburg to the Apps Store. Game-Labs says the game was not changed and "is the way it was...in 1863."

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