ABC’s plea to Apple to revoke ‘racist’ label

Grace Robinson
14 September, 2011
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The ABC has appealed to Apple to re-think its censorship of the Spicks and Specks app after iTunes labelled it as racist.

Despite the fact that the popular ABC program is named after a Bee Gees song,  the word ‘spick’ is often used as a racial slur in the US against people of Latin American descent, the Herald Sun reports.

The ABC has pleaded with iTunes to revoke its decision to change the app’s name to S***ks and Specks, after it leapt to No.1  position on the Australian entertainment app chart over the weekend.

The broadcaster’s argument lies in the fact that iTunes is a global platform and its automatic censorship of potentially offensive words to Americans should be reconsidered – in this case – for an Australian audience.

What do you think? Should Apple amend its decision to censor the app? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


49 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. coelmay says:

    Apple need to get their head out of their big fat ****.

    (p.s. I am typing this on an Apple computer.)

  2. Xenophos says:

    Absolutely – if they want to play in a global landscape they have to respect global mores. I’m offended. (Not really, but just making a point.)

  3. Petulio says:

    This is ridiculous. People are getting so oversensitive toward potential racism they’re afraid to do anything. Do we avoid buying coon cheese because the name is a racial slur? I certainly don’t. Because buying cheese has nothing to do with oppressing black people, just like this music trivia/comedy has nothing to do with deriding Latin Americans. Stop offending peoples common sense and let them decide for themselves.

  4. Ronel says:

    Sticks & Stones ………. I have always thought that Names only offend those that wish to be offended

  5. grapple says:

    spicks =/= spics seriously apple

  6. Tony says:

    According to the Oxford dictionary spick means neat,trim,new. If Apple are going to take this stance then maybe they should remove the defintion of “spick and span” from their own dictionary on the mac.

  7. John says:

    Who cares just make an app for Android and be done with it, Apple sucks anyway.

  8. Matt says:

    Oh FFS, next we won’t be able to order white or black coffee with this sort of rot.

    Political correctness is for the truly weak……

  9. Steve says:

    Typical American arrogance, ban the app in the US if they want to be so pathetically narrow-minded, but leave us in the rest of the world to decide our own moral stances!

  10. Norman Stanley says:

    Absolutely ridiculous there is nothing racist about Spicks and Specks in Australia I Tunes may call it whatever they want in America but leave it as Spicks and Specks in the Rest of the world

  11. Donald Broadribbq says:

    Utterly ridiculous!!!

  12. Bruce Prior says:

    This is all of a piece with the USA’s new wave colonialism, foisting their culture on the rest of us via TV and other ways. They won’t get me speaking american….I’m telling my mom about it!!

  13. James Steele says:

    It is a worrying trend that private companies in foreign countries are determining what we can and can’t experience here, at least through one medium: the iPhone app. Spicks and Specks is a significant part of Australian popular culture but access to it through this new international conduit is being denied to us by a US company??

  14. Linda says:

    Wow until I typed Spick into a dictionary just now, I thought “Spick” meant neat, tidy as in “my house is now spick and span” clear, tidy neat.

  15. Ivan says:

    Hmmm, perhaps Apple should think about changing its name.

    According to Wikipedia’s “List of ethnic slurs”, et al:

    Apple (North America) An American Indian (Native American) who is “red on the outside, white on the inside.” Used primarily by other American Indians to indicate someone who has lost touch with their cultural identity. First used in the 1980s.

    How do you like them apples?

  16. Barry Collier says:

    Are they serious? Must be a quiet week for Apple with nothing better to do.

  17. Andre says:

    Absolutely stupid, typical Americans. It’s an app for an Australian audience. If the yanks don’t like it then keep it out of the US app store. Just because the names means something different in America doesn’t mean that it should be banned here. Typical American they think they only exist.

  18. Karl says:

    People criticising Apple, saying that something potentially racist should be allowed in Australia should be aware that we don’t have a very good record in this area.

    There were times when it was ok to call people boongs, krauts or wogs – there are probably communities where it is still ok.

    I think that is an indefensible line of argument.

    I am trying to think of some way of arguing that the phrase is non-racist, and that the intentions are not racist, but I can’t help thinking that there might be some people not knowing the show or where the phrase came from who would think it racist.

    Far better to change the name to ABC TV Music Quiz or something like that.

  19. Rod says:

    Apple is being a little precious.
    However in the US it is offensive to ask for Black or White coffee so you can expect such a reaction from a paranoid god bothering country

  20. Andrew says:

    Statements such as this say more about the racism that exists at apple than the innocent nature of the television programme. Perhaps Apple should get the spick out of their own eye before trying to get rid of the speck in their neighbour’s!! Apple – the only xenophobic fruit!

  21. Tom says:

    I like to keep my desktop spick and span, it means very clean. Oops a daisy! oh dear, is “daisy” an offensive word somewhere in the world in a different context? I shall continue in silence. I hope other harmless words I use (in context) on a daily basis are not hijacked by the censors.

  22. Mark says:

    seriously, if anyone was really concerned about a moderate racist slur, sure , ban “SPIC”, after all that is the accepted spelling

    “Spick” is an english word with etymology going back hundreds of years.
    Should we also ban the word “count” because it has so many letters that it could also confuse id#@#- whew – that was close, this post almost degenerated into an anti-american rant!!

  23. Mike says:

    I love all things apple but this is just political correctness gone crazy once again. Whats next? we cant use the word ‘black’ in our apps?

  24. Mike says:

    and how many songs does itunes sell that contain the word nigger?

  25. joanne malster says:

    unbelieveable.. really how narrowminded, when did S&S ever devalue a latin? it has nothing to do with them, political correctness gone stark raving mad (and set to become worse).

  26. David Allen says:

    I think that being PC is important but the criteria should not only incude historical abuse but also current context and intension. It’s not that complicated; the context:the title is a reference to the Beegees song which has nothing to do with racial slurs, the intension: is to reference the song which is played during the intro. I really hope this descision is overturned. Apple is just another company trying to do the right thing and it is allowed to make mistakes which it does and I think this is one of those mistakes. it is easy to jump all over those mistakes but I would rather support a company that cares enough to try and do the right thing then buy into one that only cares about profit and the customer be damned.

  27. Anthony says:

    Gosh Apple are stupid. Another example of a huge corporation being too ignorant to understand there is a world outside the US of A. This, and their ability to pull down anyone who resembles / looks like / uses anything remotely connected to the word Apple or any of their other trademark names just shows the company up as a bunch of arrogant elitists – a lot different from the clean, healthy, friendly image they portray to the public to sell stuff!

  28. Decimus says:

    Well all you ABC loving green voters, stop complaining because soon there will be one world government and they will tell you what you are going to say and think. At least Apple are being sensitive to tens of millions of people in the Americas and none of you are.
    As far as the ABC goes, they would have to be as racist as Josef Stalin.

  29. Tiby says:

    This reminds me of when a Transformers action figure came out called “Spastic”. The forums were on fire with the Americans screaming that it is not an insult but rather just a generic term… IN THE USA. Hasbro changed the name for the UK, Australia, etc, where we know that through the unfortunate misuse of the word the Spastic Society had to change its name.

    When some non-Americans raised the fact that the word “Nigger”, “Boy” etc is offensive in the USA, the forums lit up again with how this is somehow different to someone who was born with a serious illness/incapacity and we should all just get over it.

    While I agree with the concept that only this who choose to be offended actually get offended, there really should be one rule when a brand/product is global.

    The action figure was described in his biography as having involuntary spasms, much like those who suffer from this illness, so it was clearly out of line. The ABC app “Spicks & Specks” is not only a play on words, but a long-standing television programme which absolutely no relation to the slur version of the word “Spic”.

    Who is it that needs to get over it again?

  30. David Phillips says:

    I have a cousin in the states. They call it the world.

    To most americians nowhere else exists. They are unaware of how they appear to the rest of the world and they do not care.

    I met one of the typical Yanks in Tonga recently and after a couple of minutes talking to him so-o-o obnoxious and abrasive. His attitude was that no one elses opinion was of importance or mattered.

  31. Slinky says:

    Just f**king ridiculous!

  32. Michael says:

    I only hope Coon cheese dont decide to put out an app!

  33. Tzvi says:

    The arrogance of people who write here appals me. If something is offensive for people then it is reasonable to take that into account. Just as with sexual harassment it is the perception of the person who is being harassed not the person who is doing the harassment that needs to be understood. There is no need to be offensive to people just because you think you have a right to do so. It is worth remembering that words have the power to hurt as well as to heal.

  34. Mathsguy says:

    This is funny, considering the ABC do more than their fare share of ramming their idea of what every-one’s ideals should be via over zealous censorship – it would seem they are getting a dose of their own medicine for once.

    Having said that, the irony doesn’t change the fact that Apple have, and will continue to, disenfranchise their user base if they keep this nonsense up; Nobody voted for Apple to become a rent-a-thought-cop. The ABC should get over it and just offer the app on the ABC site.

  35. Repete says:

    Rod is correct re ordering coffee in the US. If you want white coffee you ask for “coffee with cream”. For black coffee it’s “coffee without cream”. Sheesh!

  36. Charms says:

    I think in the international context if it is derogatory then it should be avoided. However do the PodCasts or TV programs of Spicks and Specks get accepted. Maybe limiting it to Australian iTunes registrations could be tried. It happened with other apps where the country is restricted. The classic Australian thing is that we still allow GollyWogs in our shops whereas in the UK they were banned because they were racist many years ago. Maybe the app could be called ABC’s S&S

  37. Selim says:

    I am against all raicist slurs, good on Apple!

  38. KatyC says:

    The common spelling for the offensive word in the States is not the same as the only spelling for this title’s meaning.

    It has a different meaning, it is not an abbreviation for the offensive term, therefore it is a different word.

    It is similar to spick as in “spick and span” meaning absolutely clean, which could make a good name for an app for household or vehicle cleaning tips and hints.

    This action by Apple can be seen as an act of language imperialism achieved through ignorance and cultural domination.

  39. Steve says:

    From the online Dictionary

    Noun 1. spick – (ethnic slur) offensive term for persons of Latin American descent

  40. Col says:

    I have no doubt that somewhere in the world, words or a combination of words, could be misinterpreted to mean something entirely different, or in this case deliberately bringing to peoples attention a slur in the U.S.!
    Really? Now I can’t listen to this Bee Gees song without feeling outraged, nor can anyone walk down the street looking gay and sprite either;)

  41. Christopher says:

    Never be rude to an Arab,
    An Israeli, or Saudi, or Jew,
    Never be rude to an Irishman,
    No matter what you do,

    Never poke fun at a Nigger,
    A Spic, or a Wop, or Kraut,
    And never poke fun at at…

  42. Glenn of Blackburn says:

    What an embarrassing gaff by Apple. Goes to prove drones aren’t confined to the marketing departments of PC companies.

  43. Jeff says:

    Does this mean the Bee Gees song with the line “spicks and specks” will be banned from the Apple Bee Gee album and all Apple proceeds gifted to the offended “spicks”? – Not on your nellie they will – it some “dumb” autocrat showing how powerful they are by ignoring “common sense” within the music community

  44. JC says:

    Seems very very silly to me. Maybe they’ll realise their mistake.

  45. gus says:

    Spicks and Specks is an australian trivia show named after a line in a song by an Australian group (The Bee Gees) .
    ‘Spics’ is a derogatory word used against Hispanics , Although it’s origins may be North American , it got plenty of use here (Australia) . I Should know i’m a Latin American born Aussie.
    I’m a huge fan of the show, and have never assosiated it”s name with the word ‘spics’…… i thought Apple was wrong .
    Then i read the comment by ‘Jeff’(September 17 , 2011 6:58 pm) reffering to “offended spicks? “…….offended spicks?…..maybe Apple was right

  46. Stephen says:

    Sure, the word ‘spic’ here in AUS is derogatory towards Australian Greeks/Italians too, it was a word used often when I was growing up in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne. But “Spicks and Specks’ I have only ever associated with the Bee Gees and that great song. Apple, get some perspective, the spelling is not even the same, but then again American dictionaries are always a ‘mistary’to me.

  47. Paul Scott says:

    There are many items in the US App store that we cannot buy. So make some apps regional.
    Everyone will be happy!
    What would the Bee Gee’s think

  48. Bob says:

    Apple should allow the use of the word spick in the context it was being used by the ABC, just as the words “black” and “white” or “man” and “woman” are used, and a host of other words, common sense will hopefully prevail.

  49. Kye says:

    Yeah so I’m a little late, but some of these commenters are so ridiculous I felt the need to say something.

    For all you know, Apple automatically filters App names and the person in charge of approving the App had already been provided with a pre-censored App name. For all you know, Apple automatically filters App names after all manual approval processes have been done. For all you know, the person who’s job it is to approve Apps all day just saw it as racism — censored it — and moved on to the next App within a few seconds. For all you know, different people could be in charge of different things.

    You people are over-reacting to a simple mistake Apple have made; and it was probably due to an automated process or internal miscommunication. You’re all going on about American ignorance, censorship, and political correctness, when chances are it was just a honest mistake by an Apple employee.

    You’re making the argument that Apple shouldn’t care about racism because “they aren’t in charge of political correctness on [their] App Store”, but I’m sure you wouldn’t like the App Store filled with stupid racist Apps. You’re saying all you can to make your argument sound like a good one, and you aren’t even considering what’d happen if Apple shared your point of view.

    You all need to just CALM DOWN.

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