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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 06/30/2010

THE RANT: Now is the time for all cartoonists to satirize Steve Jobs

Now is the time for all good cartoonists to come to the aid of their profession.

Until, at least, there's an app for that.

Word comes from political-cartoon syndicator Daryl Cagle that his latest iPhone app has been denied: Apple says "nothin' doin" to his resubmitted Tiger Woods Cartoon app.

Says Cagle of the re-rejection: "There were some comments on the web that suggested that Apple had changed their policy regarding 'ridiculing public figures' in regard to editorial cartoon apps, leading us to resubmit the app. Not so."

Such policy confusion. Such constant lack of clarity. Perhaps the mature response would be to let this ongoing Apple kerfuffle continue to play out case by curious case over many months, like divided senators dickering and clucking over some partisan bill. But we are cartoonists here -- who said anything about maturity?

No, the only true and appropriate response is for all right-minded cartoonists to pick a day or week to satirize the obfuscating Apple honcho Steve Jobs on this issue in their artwork, until the media attention helps prompt a clearer company policy on satire. (Or until we all tire of seeing Steve Jobs cartoons -- whichever comes first.)

Pick a day. Any day. (Labor Day, in honor of "Jobs"? I'm just spitballin'.) What's important is: Now is the time to find out whether the pen is indeed mightier than the app that looks like a really cool sword.

For cartoonists, the larger matter of Apple's policies toward some cartoon content has been simmering since last year, occasionally receiving flashpoint attention when a top talent such as a Tom Richmond or a Mark Fiore or a Robert Berry has his artistic app spurned. (In all three of those cases, of course, Apple eventually relented.)

In April, Comic Riffs provocatively asked: "Why does Apple hate satire?" -- but of course, Apple doesn't "hate" satire. Tactically, the company simply refuses to tackle the larger issue head-on and more clearly offer a broad policy on satire.

So far, Apple doesn't seem to mind taking its PR lumps each time one of these controversial cases receives publicity. The company can tightly control the app-store gates by taking each case separately, then offering a "mea culpa" when the firestorm gets a little too hot and also offering resubmission. As Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller told Comic Riffs several weeks back about two graphic-novel apps: "With 'Ulysses' and "The Importance of Being Earnest,' we made a mistake, When [the art] of these graphic novel adaptations was brought to our attention, we called the developers and offered them the opportunity to resubmit. Both [graphic novel apps] are now in the store with the original panel drawings."

Cagle mentions the online chatter about a would-be change in Apple policy toward satirical content. Much of this was fueled by Steve Jobs's comments at the recent D8 tech conference, at which he said of Fiore's case:
"So this guy submits his app and he gets rejected. We didn't see that coming. So we changed the rule, but this guy never resubmitted... then he wins a Pulitzer Prize, and he says we rejected him. So, we are guilty of making mistakes. We're doing the best we can, we're learning as fast as we can -- but we thought this rule made sense."

So there is both yet another Apple "mea culpa" of sorts -- followed by the created impression that the app-store "rule" toward satirical content has been changed. But Cagle's latest app rejection points to no rule having been changed.

That's just one case. The larger problem is: Many cartoonists seeking to have their iPhone/iPad apps approved say they still don't see a clearly articulated Apple policy toward satire. It's a vapor shrouded by steam wrapped in a fogbank. And the Northern California company seems to prefer it that way. Which raises several questions:

1. Don't Apple execs have the right to maintain a foggy policy -- it's their company? Well of course they do. But that doesn't make it right. As Fiore recently told Comic Riffs: "Apple IS a private company, but I think it goes farther than that now, because they're becoming a media company. And as a media company, they're the '4.0 Estate.' "

2. Isn't this making a big fight out a little policy? Potentially, not-so-much. As Tom Richmond wrote recently:
"With the introduction of the iPad, the focus of content for these devices moves out of the convenience of having a few apps in your pocket and into the promised land of a media delivery/consumption device that could revolutionize the way the world gets its news, entertainment and information. Suddenly Apple's control freak approach threatens the development of the very technology it is supposed to be innovating by placing restrictions and outright rejections upon the content that would be consumed via their devices."

3. I thought artists loved Apple? What's the deal? Most do -- for decades, Apple has long been an artist's best technological friend. And all this resistance from Steve "Think Different" Jobs, the zeitgeist visionary who helped build Pixar. It all reeks of profound irony, no?

4. Are cartoonists really so desperate for new revenue streams? Um, yes.

So now is the time for all good cartoonists to force the issue by satirizing Steve Jobs's hokey-pokey of a policy on satire. If only we can be unified. If only we can be biting. And if only we can tear ourselves away long enough from our new favorite apps in Apple's addictively cool store. I mean, have you seen the DC and Marvel apps?

Yep. Sure glad those got by the Apple censors.

By  |  12:50 PM ET, 06/30/2010

Categories:  The Rants | Tags:  Apple, Daryl Cagle, Mark Fiore, Robert Berry, Steve Jobs, Tom Richmond, Trudy Muller

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