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Hitler? There’s an App for That

Developers are creating Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini iPhone apps that offer little more than propaganda. And Apple’s gatekeepers approve them.

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“People create popular history online that’s more fractured and doesn’t have a lot of truth to it,” she said. “But people aren’t really interested in history—they’re trying to create an identity about themselves, their politics. Public space in Russia is still semi-authoritarian, so people find space online.” Without other outlets for processing memory and trauma, she said, the Stalin apps make a lot of sense.

The experience of “iMussolini” is instructive. When it was first released in the Italian iTunes store, it became the country’s second-most popular app, reaching 1,000 daily downloads. Jewish groups, Holocaust survivors, and the Young Italian Communists were quick to protest. The 25-year-old who developed the app was quoted defending free speech in a smattering of news stories, and the app was pulled, ostensibly for copyright violations. But within a few weeks, it was re-approved and forgotten. That was two years ago. Just a few weeks ago, I downloaded “iMussolini” in under two minutes, for 99 cents.

A commenter in La Reppublica best captured the confused response to the apps, writing, “This is really a flabbergasting phenomenon, especially when you consider that the iPhone has gained cult status for the Facebook and Web 2.0 generation. These aren’t nostalgic old people and historians of the fascist era but kids and young adults who spend time and money on the Internet and get their information from it.”

All this raises uncomfortable questions about our relationship with the Apple Mothership—the private company that’s increasingly replacing, or mediating, our public spaces and mundane daily transactions. When controversy arises, it’s an ugly reminder that we are consumers, not citizens. (Apple did not respond to interview requests.) And it’s also a reminder of the immediacy of new technology and its consequences. After all, we’ve had 65 years to discuss whether Mein Kampf should be on the library shelf.

In the smartphone world, our librarians and academics have been replaced by developers, who may lack doctorates but have plenty of coding know-how and access to Wikipedia. The result is that we can now simply download “Stalin” and begin reading his body of work. And the apps reveal a smorgasbord of interests, from dictators to yoga. Take the developer of “HD Adolf Hitler,” whose 32 other encyclopedic apps include “Life to Jesus,” “HDnostrodamus,” “HD Pearl Harbor,” “Biological Warfare HX,” as well as offerings on nail disease, sharks, obesity, and one called, instructively, “Kinds of Birds.”

In interviews, Luigi Marino, who developed “iMussolini,” has said of his controversial subject: “It’s a delicate page in our history that should never be forgotten. … The app does not intend to encourage violence in any way.” You can almost hear the shrug. At best, perhaps he’s just too naive to understand why people might take issue; at worst, he seems cavalier about the protests of Holocaust survivors whose objections he doesn’t even acknowledge. Though he did later release “iGandhi” as a sign, he said, of goodwill, it was followed by “Hitler” and “iStalin,” and more recently, “iSilvio!” poking fun at Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

“iMussolini” sits now at about 200 monthly downloads, and Marino’s other apps, which are free, generate a couple hundred daily. He now claims that he continued developing his dictator line of apps, rather than for Gandhi and his ilk, because “these characters are interesting from a historical perspective.” The controversy and resulting attention probably didn’t hurt his sales.

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philipmann says:

There is no underestimating the taste of the public

 I will boycott Apple.

rjrose says:

I would like to complain to Apple.  Finding who to complaint to is no simple task, however.  I posted a question in the Apple community, and someone in Mexico sent me a general link to iTunes customer support.
Equally disturbing (maybe more) is that someone else also posted an objection in the general Apple community, and he was told (by users, not Apple) basically, to get over it.  

Unlike the states headed by Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler, we have freedom of speech in the USA…

If you don’t like it…..don’t use it.  And the “holocaust wasn’t mentioned ??…You mean Stalins deliberate murder of 10+ million Ukranians and Chechens starved to death ???

philipmann says:

 Paul;

  If you read my sentence carefully,and slowly,you`ll notice that I don`t mention Hitler,or Stalin , or anybody.

    Plus, I don`t even have a smartphone.

Awesome, I’m going to download the Stalin app as soon as I can get it on Android. Long Live Marxism-Leninism!

lol are you sure about that?


I was told (again, by a user, not Apple) don’t buy it if you don’t like it.”

What’s the matter, don’t you like the way capitalism works? lol

Even Robert Conquest admits that “holodomor” was not deliberate. And it was only about 1.2 million that starved in the famine; famiens which happened almost every 13 years in Russia, which of course stopped completely after Stalin’s industrialization programme. As you know there hasn’t been one since, so Stalin actually saved millions of lives. 

Do some research and then you will learn about the “famiens”…even perhaps the three plus million who perished in the Dalstroy constellation of Gulag camps !

Dick Stanley says:

I suppose it could be worse. The Hitler app could replay some of his speeches.

Rabbi Moshe Pesach Geller says:

Just another example of the abject ignorance of young people today, their complete lack of perceiving subtlety, texture, nuance, their utter inability to derive significant meaning  from events, facts, written and spoken word and the celebration of immoral, amoral, unethical, inhuman beliefs in the guise of free speech and ‘everyone has a right to his/her opinions.’ You know what an opinion is? When I don’t know, I have an opinion. Right or wrong? True or false? Immaterial. Especially in the age of post-modern relativity, where truth has died. And of course, as long as something is a high tech business that makes people into slaves for something they absolutely don’t need, well, it’s business and morality has no place in a discussion of aquiring green pieces of paper with pictures of dead white men.

I’ve actually researched it very well, at least you admit that less than 4 million died in the gulags during the entire time of Stalin. That’s a good start. Life expectancy was actually higher for those in custody during war time on the eastern front.

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Hitler? There’s an App for That

Developers are creating Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini iPhone apps that offer little more than propaganda. And Apple’s gatekeepers approve them.

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