Should Apple sell copies of Mein Kampf?

The Jerusalem Post is one of several with the story:

Apple Inc. on Friday approved for sale a Spanish-language eBook version of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, complete with a swastika application icon.

A day later, presumably due to the blogosphere uproar, the $1.99 offering disappeared from the Apple’s Application Store…

9to5Mac, a Apple Intelligence site, questioned Apple Inc.’s policy, saying, “We know the App Store won’t sell overt erotica – even eBooks carrying the ancient love manual, the Kama Sutra, have been banned from the store – so we’re really, really keen to know how come the company approved a Spanish App containing Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, complete with a swastika logo.”

You can read more here, but generally views seem to fall in to various combinations of:

(a) No way should Apple sell copies of Mein Kampf.

(b) Of course Apple should be able to sell the book.

(c) Apple should have noticed that it’s illegal to sell the book in some countries. They should be above the law.

(d) It all goes to show how absurd Apple’s approval process is if they let through Mein Kampf but don’t let through other applications.

(e) Allow it, ban it, juggling with the law and be inconsistent? Apple’s turning in to Microsoft.

What do you think?

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21 Comments

  • Chris Keating 9th Nov '09 - 7:39pm

    Apple should basically sell what they want?

    I’ve read Mein Kampf (or parts of it) – nothing particularly strange happened to me as a result.

  • Of course they should be allowed to sell it.

  • One can usually find Mein Kampf in the history section of the local Waterstones. Pathetic fuss over nothing by the easily-offended-on-other-peoples’-behalf-brigade.

  • There is selling Mein Kampf (which whatever else you say about it is a book that had a considerable impact on the course of history and is a legitimate thing to study)

    Then there is selling Mein Kampt with a “swastika application icon”. That I would suggest puts it in a very different environment

  • Chris Keating 9th Nov '09 - 9:28pm

    Hywel, a cursory google search suggests that there are several editions of Mein Kampf widely available with swastikas on the cover. The other image that’s used is Hitler’s portrait, which is presumably just as objectionable, and impossible to fit into a small graphic for an iphone screen!

  • Douglas Thomson 9th Nov '09 - 10:30pm

    An alternate way of asking the question is:

    a) Are we ready to stop being afraid of Hitler, yet?

    or

    b) Should Apple sell 80-year-old badly-written screeds?

    I don’t think it’s a matter of whether Apple should be allowed to sell it or not – the question is, should they sell it. Although as Liberals we can say that private organisations should be allowed to sell whatever they like by way of literature (season with qualifications on that principle, according to taste), that doesn’t mean we can’t ask moral questions from time to time.

  • Well, as we’re all Liberals, it has to be a yes doesn’t it.

    Otherwise we’re essentially looking to ban content we disagree with. All well and good until someone wants to ban something YOU like.

    Live and let live. Someone reading Mein Kampf doesn’t hurt me.

  • (a) and (b) aren’t mutually contradictory. A liberal can say: one ought not to do this, even though one is allowed to do this. Indeed the philosophy would descend into libertinism without this distinction. In this case though I would not say the distribution of the book – on an eBook, for goodness’ sake – is going to lead to harm.

  • Pavement Politico 10th Nov '09 - 12:47am

    But Apple is already presuming to act as a moral arbiter by having restrictions on erotica and even swearing in some cases.
    I think I’m with (d) of course they can be allowed to sell what they want, and set their own policies regarding what’s acceptable. Consistency is nice but the market would be able to decide better what is and what isn’t acceptable.

  • Herbert Brown 10th Nov '09 - 1:04am

    “Apple should have noticed that it’s illegal to sell the book in some countries.”

    Namely, judging from Wikipedia, Austria, China, Mexico and the Netherlands. Interesting selection.

  • Tom Papworth 10th Nov '09 - 11:45am

    “There is selling Mein Kampf …Then there is selling Mein Kampt with a “swastika application icon”. That I would suggest puts it in a very different environment”

    Yes. But the environment is best described as “bad taste” rather than anything more serious.

    “An alternate way of asking the question is: a) Are we ready to stop being afraid of Hitler, yet?”

    An interesting question. When does WWII become historical enough to no longer be offensive. Napolean is largely seen as a comic figure in the popular imagination, these days; Hitler remains a monster. My guess is that it will be when nobody is alive who suffered due to the war.

  • Surely banning it or restricting its sale only serves to make it seem far more glamorous and important than it actually is?

  • The correct answer, of course, is that no liberal worth their salt should give their money to a company like Apple which exercises control over what you can and can’t access, on a supposedly general purpose computing device. Turning into Microsoft? Apple’s control-freakery has far outstripped Microsoft’s for some years now.

    I’m sad that more liberals don’t support the principles of free software, allowing people to have control over their own computers, stopping vendor lockin and computing monopolies to create a truly free market…

  • Most liberals don’t support the ideology of free software because most liberals aren’t economicaly illiterate cyber-hippies.

    Simples.

  • Iainm – I have no connection with Dave Page but I do think, whether or not you agree with him, he raises a point worth debating.

    I also think it’s a real shame that you reacted to his comment in the way you did rather than trying to engage him on the issues.

    It’s comments like that which kill discussion on websites like this. Can’t we please stick to robust discussion of ideas rather than descending into personal attacks?

  • I didn’t react to his point, I reacted to his suggestion that anyone who disagrees with his point necessarily isn’t a liberal, but I thought I’d done it in an obviously jokey way rather than a nasty way, so if it came across as a personal attack then I apologise.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Nov '09 - 9:52am

    Tom and others,

    You write: “An interesting question. When does WWII become historical enough to no longer be offensive. Napolean is largely seen as a comic figure in the popular imagination, these days; Hitler remains a monster. My guess is that it will be when nobody is alive who suffered due to the war.”

    Or perhaps when nobody remembers or can comprehend the chilling genocidal phrase lebensunwertes Leben (those unworthy of existence)?

    (Anyone tempted to forget might do well to read here for starters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babi_Yar )

    Or recall the break up of Yugoslavia just 18 years ago and the extract from Mein Kampf below, to see how easily and to what consequence racial intolerance is summoned but cool and calculating leaders.

    ‘the sacrifice of millions at the front (in WWI)’ would have been unnecessary if ‘twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas’. Page 620

    Lest we forget …

    B

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