Can an app be evil?

Or the product of a malevolent will?

From an email from

Believe it or not, Apple is providing Exodus International — an organization that promotes “conversion therapy” to try to brainwash gay people into turning straight — a platform on iTunes for their homophobic iPhone app. This, despite the fact that Exodus believes that LGBT people should be confronted with “spiritual warfare,” and that “freedom from homosexuality” should be a societal goal.

What to do?

Please click here to sign the petition to Apple executives, asking them to stand up for equality and remove this dangerous iPhone app from iTunes now:

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

15 thoughts on “Can an app be evil?

  1. I’m skeptical that such an app could be a real threat. This app probably counts as hate speech, and if it does then it definitely should be removed, but I don’t know if calling it “dangerous” is warranted unless you mean it’s dangerous insofar as all hate speech is. Maybe I’m mistaken about conversion therapy, but I didn’t think it was very successful as a brainwashing technique (any more so than any other anti-gay rhetoric is).

    For the malevolent will part, labeling organizations like this “evil” lets them off the hook. They’re more ignorant than evil; they don’t understand what homosexuality is, since they think it someone you can ‘cure.’ Moreover, everyone supports heteronormativity to some degree, so focusing on the evilness of some people’s actions draws attention away from the underlying social structures, which aren’t necessarily the creation of “malevolent wills.”

    I hope this isn’t too nitpicking a comment, but the post sounds too scare-tactics-ish. I think it draws attention away from the fact that we shouldn’t tolerate hate speech and instead focuses on the idea that we need to protect ourselves from dangerous, evil things. Maybe I just have a short temper bc Fox News (among others) uses that line so often to draw our attention away from way more important matters and considerations.

  2. 1) It can do damage without working!

    2) For different reasons, I’m a bit ambivalent about this. I’d much prefer an open platform that anyone can write apps for. But given that they are going to control this stuff… Then sure, they should stop that too.

  3. I am traveling, but will try to say more if there’s wifi @ heathrow. Still, I do think it is wicked to attempt to interfer with lpeoples’ sexual identity without even regard to proper evidence.

    More or less, that is.

  4. I strongly agree with jj here. For instance, as regards the final paragraph in comment #1 above, just one of the reasons that we should not tolerate hate speech is to protect ourselves and others from dangerous, evil things.

    Sadly, tons of things in this world are dangerous. For instance, the first question most people ask recent mothers and/or parents is dangerous. Conscious and unconscious actions, policies, and things that reinforce sexist and/or heterosexual norms/stereotypes are dangerous. I contend that many of the horrible and tragic effects that things such as the “app” have on LGBT individuals, community(ies), and others who directly carry out and/or help perpetuate the causes of such effects are dangerous. Some people might want to reserve the word “evil” for especially bad atrocities, though I see no reason to exclude it here, especially since/when we are dealing with conscious causes/causal contributions – the unconscious cases/instances are bad enough.

    Although I could attempt to illustrate my aforementioned claims with detailed examples, there are entire literatures and organized resources available for anyone who wants to look into this matter.

    Without going into a detailed account of culpable ignorance, I disagree (further with comment #1) that “labeling organizations like this ‘evil’ lets them off the hook”. It seems a plausible conjecture that using the word evil emphasizes the moral seriousness of the claims, the harms, and so on. Have dissenting readers read the overview provided on the petition webpage? Have dissenting readers read up on the relevant literatures?

  5. I’m with the other commenters who aren’t really comfortable using a loaded word like ‘evil’ in this context. The people who created this shite obviously think gays are ‘evil’. WRONG! And to call an organization that claims secular motivations ‘evil’ for brainwashing gays just invites more superstitious fingerpointing. We all know you mean gay bashing is bad. But some holy troll-er could have a whole lot of fun with accusations of ‘evil’ being levied against a ‘secular’ organization.

    Non-theists pride themselves on their scientific reasoning (whether or not that pride is justified is a debate for another post on another Humeian whoozywhatsis). At the very least, the majority of non-theists are able to grasp the basic gyst of the hormonal/genetic factors that cause a person to be born gay or transgendered, and the fact that gays are more common and no more and no less threatening than green-eyed gingers. Non-theists DON’T usually bash gays.

    I can think of a whole slew of words to describe these homophobes that would send BiasedLunchtimeModerator into a tizzy. “Evil” isn’t one of them, because that word confers an undeserved supernatural status onto a gadget programmed by fools. How about plain old vile?

  6. Note: I’m not saying don’t ban the app. I’m saying that fighting fire with fire (fighting religious hooplah with more of the same) won’t work in this case. We fight ignorance, superstition and the all too human tendency to scapegoat innocents for fear of retribution from gods and devils by appealing to others’ reason and sense of self determination. It’s a product for sale on an open market. It’s defective and harmful (more so than smoking, I’d guess) and should be banned for those reasons alone.

  7. Hey – fine, use some word other than “evil” if you like. I do not think the post requires this particular word. The post does seem, however, to require a word that covers something sufficiently bad, something that passes some morally bad threshold, such that notions like “wicked” or “the product of a malevolent will” are appropriate descriptions/terms for communication.

    By the way, setting aside particular uses of the word accompanied by an entire book/article to explain some particular use, I think evil just means something really morally bad/harmful. Or “wicked”, to use one of jj’s terms. I do not share the view that evil “confers an undeserved supernatural status onto a gadget programmed by fools.”

    Also, I do not understand your sentence about BiasedLunchtimeModerator. What do you think a “BiasedLunchtimeModerator” is?

  8. After an 11 hour flight from Heathrow, I’m not too confident of my ability to enter into a sustained argument here. Bu one thing that is important is that what is evil isn’t necessarily a matter of consequences. Or so it seems to me. There can be, I think, genuinely bad and even wicked ways of regarding other people that don’t necessarily translate into something harmful in a particular instant.

    An example might be useful. To take an uncommon diseasefor now in the West: polio. Suppose someone decides on the basis of biblical references that polio is really a manifestation of God’s condemnation. This might be wicked even if they kept it to themselves. Creating an app – maybe to instruct people on how to ‘purify’ victims of polio – seems pretty awful.

    I hope this makes sense.

  9. Ok, David. “Morally reprehensible” works for me.

    BiasedLunchtimeModerator is the person who’s been using Jender’s gravatar since the first day of school last September. S/he (actually, this person’s comments have given me reason to be somewhat confident in my belief that she’s female, but I may be wrong, so I’ll say s/he for now.) deletes the most benign comments, and gives reasons that are way out of character for Jender. S/he deletes and responds to my protests most consistently on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 7am and 10am my time, or noon and 3pm GMT. Her/his vernacular is distinctly British. I know. I’ve baited her/him with juicy British words that Jender didn’t catch before, because Jender is an American who only works in the UK. Hence the LunchtimeModerator designation, rather than MorningModerator. My guess would be that Jender has other commitments during these hours, and she had to get somebody else to watch the site for her.

    As for BiasedModerator’s bias, for a few months, I suspected s/he was a religious conservative who despises my views on abortion rights and sex work. So I called her out. She responded, again, in a manner that was entirely inappropriate for a woman with as much education as Jender. She considers the word ‘Conservative’ to be an insult. Jender knows better than that. Check out her posts on US politics. Unfortunately, JenderClone deleted her direct confirmation that the term offends her.

    So, after our last discussion, where she deleted at least 6 comments, and possibly more if somebody other than Logoskaieros responded to me, I came to the conclusion that BiasedLunchtimeModerator is a radfem with a personal grudge against me that warps her interpretation of my comments as much as her ideological bent. Then again, I’m just extrapolating. I could be wrong. I am certain that JenderClone IS NOT the Jender I dealt with through the 09/10 schoolyear. And JenderClone’s deletions are sometimes unfair, to me and other commenters.

  10. What especially makes it bad (wicked, evil), I think, is that these radical Christians are not ignorant at all. They actually think that they are superiour beings who know the ‘Truth’, which is, in their eyes the only truth that can exist.
    Trying to ‘save’ others is not a trying to cure others from disease, or to convince others that they are wrong by discussion, it is aggression by people who don’t respect even the possibility that other views on existence might be as valid as their own (let alone be better or more coherent).
    Their aim is to ‘save’ everyone, starting with gay people, who in their eyes might be living in sin more so than heterosexuals (but probably just because they are easier targets in today’s society). These people won’t stop until everyone is convinced of their ‘Truth’ and lives their life according to the rules that are prescribed by their interpretation of the Bible.
    I don’t think I am exaggerating.
    The app is bad because it is a weapon used by aggressors. An anti-Apple campaign might be a good idea if Apple doesn’t respond.

  11. I really like Louise Chanarý comment #10. Many people think of weapons in common/conventional terms, which no doubt do much damage in the short (and the long) run. Still, the more subtle weapons that bigots use in everyday life, thought, and expression can cause and perpetuate comparable if not possibly more damage, I think we can argue. By analogy, Richard Lewontin’s piece of writing titled, “Biology as Social Weapon” comes to mind.

  12. JJ, I get your point about intent vs. consequences. Unfortunately, lawmakers have to focus on verifiable, quantifiable deeds and consequences rather than ideas and intentions. That’s what makes these discussions about “liberty” so durn interesting :-)

    Synaesthetik read the gay bashing organizations’ history to me last night, but my auditory processing isn’t so great. I can’t seem to get into the link today, so I’m going on last night’s interpretation. The article said something about aversion therapy with electric shocks. BAD BAD BAD!!! That type of “therapy” was discredited decades ago. It doesn’t even work as a quit smoking cure, with the consent of the participants, for a behaviour that is ACTUALLY somewhat harmful!

    So, this app could still be banned for the simple fact that the product it’s advertising is as harmful as a bad diet aid. Craig’s List’s escort section was removed because of a similar argument, was it not? A gay person who’s been lied to and coerced into torturing him/herself, for the sake of participating in heterosex acts that s/he would otherwise never consider is as much a victim of sexual exploitation as any child prostitute, is s/he not?And hate speech does carry harmful consequences, even if the hatemongerer doesn’t act on the words.

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