I have always believed that Apple fears no one. Valued at over one trillion dollars, the maker of iPhones and iPads can do whatever it wants when marketing its products. It can count on the loyalty of tens of millions of passionate customers that make it immune to market fluctuations.
Apple is also on the cutting edge of supporting liberal social issues. And Apple does not care what conservatives might think of its “progressive” policies. With such a large consumer base, it would appear futile to protest against the giant.
Apple fears no one. It seems better to live with the fact and go on to other things.
Apple Does Fear Someone
You can imagine my surprise when I found out recently that Apple does fear someone. It trembles in the face of an adversary that I did not imagine to be so strong. Apple fears someone. And that someone is me.
Of course, it is not only me but includes others like me. However, it is hard not to feel empowered by the discovery. I feel like a tiny David in this faceoff with this trillion-dollar Goliath. I am consoled knowing what happened at the end of that first encounter.
I found out about this hidden fear in a Wall Street Journal article (9/22, 23/18), which discussed the entry of Apple into the entertainment arena. I was astonished by what I read.
Apple Embraces Hollywood
Like all the giant tech companies, Apple is looking for ways to expand its products and services beyond mere iPhones. It earmarked $1 billion last year for Hollywood programming. Apple will later present a slate of movies and TV shows to compete with the networks and streaming video companies.
And like everything in entertainment, I expected the company to promote the same morally-depraved fare that sells movies and pushes the Hollywood lifestyles that so injures the nation. It was depressing news to hear that Apple with its immense resources was entering into the ring to saturate the market with yet more immorality.
True to what might be expected, one of the pilot programs was called Vital Signs a semi-biographic portrayal of hip-hop artist Dr. Dre that included scenes of cocaine use, an orgy and drawn guns.
A Surprising Rejection
However, this typical Hollywood show was rejected by the Apple executive team. Similar shows face the same fate. The reason given for the rejection was that they contained gratuitous sex, profanity and violence.
Apple makes no secret of the fact that it is looking for a more family-oriented fare because it fears for its “pristine brand image.” Apple is famous for its smartphones not for products that promote a world of gratuitous sex, profanity and violence. One false move in presenting the wrong entertainment options to the wrong audience can have grave repercussion on sales of its product line.
Unlike other companies, Apple finds itself in a perfect storm situation. If it is not careful, everything can line up against the firm. As one Apple official put it, if customers do not like a Netflix film, they can always unsubscribe. If large numbers of Apple users are offended by immoral entertainment, they will punish the firm by not buying iPhones and computers, potentially losing untold billions in profits over the years.
The Fear of Moral Values
Apple knows something that most people don’t know. There are a lot of Americans that might take offense by the wrong programming. We are not talking about activists. Instead, we are referring to that broad swath of Americans who still cling, however tenuously, to Christian morals, family and property.
Reading this article made it clear to me that Apple, mighty Apple, fears this large sector of American public opinion who still hold to moral values. It fears those who are offended by gratuitous sex, profanity and violence. It fears those who might protest against them. Apple fears me.
The conclusion cannot be otherwise. Apple officials say it openly. It would be so easy to ignore these moral value clingers as so many corporate liberals do (and can afford to do). The threat must be very great indeed to spark this kind of policy from a trillion-dollar titan.
Of course, you cannot read too much into Apple’s decision. What Apple considers family fare will differ significantly from what I consider morally acceptable. There will certainly be programming that skirts and penetrates the limits of their family-friendly policy. We need to be suspicious that it will retreat from its policy at the first opportunity. However, the fact remains that Apple is not taking chances. For now, at least, it is playing it safe.
Lessons from the Apple Episode
I believe those who uphold morality can learn three valuable lessons from the Apple episode.
The first is that upholding morality can be very powerful. We need to understand morals involve universal behavior and therefore have a huge appeal to all who value order. By natural law inscribed in all souls, people have a natural attraction for the moral principles that determine right and wrong. These principles are valid for all times, all places and all peoples. Christianity strengthens morality and makes it easier to practice.
What makes the Apple policy so incredible is that we live in times of extreme moral decadence. So many have left the path of moral living and embraced the ways of the world. Others have written off morals as a lost cause. And yet, the attraction to a moral order is still so powerful as to force the hand of a giant firm that does not want to tarnish its image. We need to be aware of just how powerful we are, even in the present sad state of things.
The fact that the vast liberal base inside and outside Apple does not complain about this policy shows that they too sense a powerful foe. They save their selective outrage for more vulnerable targets.
More Numerous Than You Imagine
The second lesson is that those who defend morality are much more numerous than is generally thought. If they were very few, you can be sure that Apple could absorb the damage and follow the profitable business models of the other distributors. Those who defend morals must exist in significant numbers. And for giant Apple, significant numbers can mean tens of millions.
All too often we are led to believe that we are insignificant. The media like to give the impression that each of us is isolated and alone. Sometimes it takes a glimpse like this Apple episode to make us realize that we are not alone. There are many like us all over the country. Apple is certainly convinced of this reality. If only we could be convinced of the power of our numbers and convictions, our actions would be much more effective.
The Fear of Protest
The final lesson is that big companies fear protests. As in any battle, a large group of scattered persons is ineffective against a smaller better-organized force. What strikes fear in the heart of Apple is when large numbers of customers organize and protest. Indeed, many conservative groups have refined the art of protest and petition so that at a moment’s notice, people are aware of something offensive. They can quickly gather tens of thousands of e-signatures.
Ironically Apple faces the very real possibility that users will use their iPhones to register their protests and outrage against immoral programming. After all, word of mouth is still the most effective means of publicity—including bad publicity.
Not all protests will be effective since much depends on the circumstances. However, the possibility of an organized protest that threatens to sully its image is very real for Apple.
Apple fears me and others like me, but I do not think we are what it fears. Grace fortifies the soul of a Christian with the deep conviction that God will come to our aid in times of trial. It does not matter if the odds are against us or the forces arrayed against us are overwhelming. God will win.
As seen on The Stream.