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NPR Retracts Apple Factory Exposé But Many Horrific Truths Still Remain
Posted By Pamela Alma Weymouth On March 19, 2012 @ 7:28 pm In Features,Green Technology,Innovation | 3 Comments
On Friday, NPR’s This American Life retracted its most popular episode ever  (888,000 downloads): a stunning exposé of Apple’s employee abuses at Foxconn Technology, their supplier in Shenzen, China. The radio episode in question aired an excerpt from performance artist and monologuist Mike Daisey ’s acclaimed one-man-show, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” In the show and in interviews with Ira Glass, Daisey claimed to have witnessed or heard firsthand reports of human rights abuses at Foxconn. But when Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz revealed that in fact several details in Daisey’s account were falsified, TAL retracted their show, airing a new interview with Daisey, who after a great deal of hedging, admitted to several lies. However, he justified his actions in his blog , “My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge.”
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Until TAL aired this episode, most Americans had never heard of Foxconn or Shenzen, the place where an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics are created by over one million workers — not only for Apple but also for Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, I.B.M., Lenovo, Microsoft, Motorola, Netgear, Nintendo, Nokia and Samsung, Sharp, and Vizio, among others. Sadly, this only gave more ammunition to those who would like to bury some of the real truths that were brought to light by Mike Daisey and the many honest reporters who investigated this story over the years.
Here are the facts which remain well-documented:
While Daisey should be taken to account for passing off theater (or a creative non-fiction monologue) as journalism, this does not diminish the fact that the abuses that are occurring at Foxconn and sweatshops globally should not be tolerated by American consumers.
Skeptics argue that Foxconn offers up good work for poor, uneducated, and unemployed Chinese citizens. David Pogue of the New York Times  writes, “Apparently, even those conditions, so abhorrent to us, are actually better than these workers’ alternatives: backbreaking rural farm work…” Even Ira Glass began to wonder in his retraction, “Wait, should I feel bad about this?”
Photo: Library of Congress, Lewis W. Hine, 1908
But if you think back to your eighth grade history class you might remember Charles Dickens, the Industrial Revolution, and the reason why child labor was finally banned in the US and labor laws were instituted. The Federal Wage and Hour Act  was passed by the Supreme Court in 1941. Up until then women, men, and young children were forced to work appalling hours under inhumane conditions and state labor laws were widely ignored by most factories, farms and employers.
Photographer Lewis Hine  was one of many people who fought to end the abuses being perpetrated on working men, women, and children. Like Daisey, his art was able to humanize a situation that many justified as the necessary price of advancement. Photos, like good stories, have the power to punch people in the gut in a way that facts, numbers and statistics fail to. The difference between Hine and Daisey is that Hine did not blur the truth; he trusted his images to speak for themselves.
Daisey used classic tools of great storytellers: exaggeration, time compression, and composite characters to create a powerful story “based on” truths. Several writers have gotten in trouble for falsifying memoirs—most notably James Frey  who got publicly scolded by Oprah for fabricating major details in his best-selling memoir A Million Little Pieces . Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction  explains, “There are lines—real demarcation points  between fiction, which is or can be mostly imagination; traditional nonfiction (journalism and scholarship), which is mostly information; and creative nonfiction, which presents or treats information using the tools of the fiction writer while maintaining allegiance to fact.” Daisey, sadly forgot the latter.
Daisey made a serious mistake, but let’s not allow one man’s mistake to diminish the fact that he also illuminated some real injustices. As filmmaker Michael Moore said (prior to the scandal), “Mike Daisey, in addition to providing us with a riveting, hilarious, but ultimately gut-wrenching piece of theater, may actually end up being singularly responsible for bringing Goliath to its knees.” Apple has made some changes to its monitoring of labor abuses since the spotlight was turned on them. In 2005, it created a code of conduct suppliers. Last month, it became the first electronics company to join the Fair Labor Association, a nonprofit labor monitoring group, and Foxconn said it would raise salaries  by 16-20% and reduce working hours.
According to New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, Apple could still make a profit if you raised the price of the iPhone by $65 and “…from a labor perspective you could build the iPhone in the United States for just ten extra dollars a phone if you’re paying American wages.” Now, we can either focus on what Daisey did wrong, or we can refocus our attention on the more serious issue here: how can we eliminate labor abuse abroad if we insist on always having the latest technology as quickly and as cheaply as possible?
What is a green citizen to do?
Article printed from Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building: http://inhabitat.com
URL to article: http://inhabitat.com/npr-retracts-apple-factory-expose-but-many-horrific-truths-still-remain/
URLs in this post:
 retracted its most popular episode ever: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/460/retraction
 Mike Daisey: http://mikedaisey.blogspot.com/
 one million workers: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html
 work over 60 hours per week: http://inhabitat.com/new-infographic-shows-the-human-cost-of-apples-iphone/
 underage workers: http://inhabitat.com/apple-supplier-audit-reveals-use-of-child-labor/
 improper disposal of hazardous waste: http://inhabitat.com/apple-accused-of-supply-chain-pollution-in-china/
 New York Times interviewed workers: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/technology/23apple.html
 18 suicide attempts occurred at Foxconn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn_suicides
 David Pogue of the New York Times: http://inhabitat.com http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/what-cameras-inside-foxconn-found/
 Federal Wage and Hour Act: http://www.dol.gov/whd/
 Lewis Hine: http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/hine-full.htm
 James Frey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Frey
 A Million Little Pieces: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Million_Little_Pieces
 Creative Nonfiction: http://www.creativenonfiction.org/
 real demarcation points: http://www.creativenonfiction.org/thejournal/whatiscnf.htm
 Foxconn said it would raise salaries: http://inhabitat.com/foxconn-raises-wages-and-cuts-overtime-thanks-to-international-concern/
 Change.org: http://inhabitat.com http://www.change.org/petitions/apple-ceo-tim-cook-protect-workers-making-iphones-in-chinese-factories
 Sum of Us: http://sumofus.org/campaigns/ipad/
 CREDO mobile: http://www.credomobile.com/
 Boycott your local Apple Retailer: http://inhabitat.com http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Apple/350260026008
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