To borrow a line from my pal Michael Cavna, a colleague from my Washington Post days: "Now is the time to find out whether the pen is indeed mightier than the app that looks like a really cool sword."
In a post on his Comic Riffs blog, The Post's Cavna is calling on cartoonists to rebel again what has become an inconsistent policy around cartoon apps - more specifically, cartoon apps that ridicule public figures. You may recall that Apple had a change of heart back in April about a cartoon app submitted by an online-only cartoonist named Mark Fiore, who later won the Pulitzer Prize for his work and called out Apple for rejecting his app late last year.
Apple's intentions were good enough - the company has a blanket policy about defamatory content in an app and rejected the cartoonists' app for that reason. Later, Jobs called it a mistake, realizing that cartoonists regularly ridicule celebrities and political figures. It's what they do for a living.
Now, as Cavna points out, political-cartoon syndicator Daryl Cagle says that his latest iPhone app - one that parodies Tiger Woods - has been denied. Enough is enough, Cavna says. It's time for cartoonists to take action. He writes:
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.)
Interestingly enough, Cavna takes this post beyond some light-hearted fun and points out that this is how cartoonists make their livings. The Apple devices are no longer just niche products. They are being described as media distribution channels now - and that includes content from traditional news media outlets, including cartoons.
So what's the goal here? It's not necessarily to get Cagle's app approved but rather to force Apple into a policy that offers more clarity and consistency. Clearly, now that Jobs has made an exception to its written policy, that policy is flawed. It should be reconsidered and rewritten to reflect what Apple has since learned. To keep the policy in place and change the rules on a case-by-case basis is wrong.
Maybe there's a cartoonist out there who will jump on Cavna's bandwagon, take a pencil to his notepad and illustrate for us just how wrong it is.
(Credit for Steve Jobs illustration: Taylor Jones, Politicalcartoons.com)