The aftermath of the exposure of Mike Daisey, whose report about conditions at Apple factories in China has been retracted by This American Life, there’s a hell of a lot of relief among Apple supporters. For example, Jon Gruber at Daring Fireball is filling his blog with posts wondering if theaters will cancel Mike Daisey’s one man show, and wondering why the Times still has Daisey’s op-ed on their site. Gruber says his “spidey sense” was tingling over Daisey’s piece, yet he only said that after Daisey was exposed. He spent a tiny fraction of the time and energy covering what Daisey said (one obligatory post) than he’s spending now publicizing Daisey’s lies.
The reason for this is obvious–Daisey lied about details but the basic charges he made about working conditions at Apple factories are true. For example, here’s a New York Times story that hasn’t been questioned or retracted:
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.
More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.
As I noted when I posted about this in January, Apple is probably one of the better companies working in China, and no doubt other electronics companies are worse. Moreover, This American Life made a terrible error treating Daisey’s fiction as fact, and Daisey shouldn’t have pawned off his fiction as fact.
All that said, it’s painfully obvious to anyone who looks at how Apple’s products are made that Apple should work harder to improve the working conditions in their plants. It’s also painfully obvious that Gruber just wants to ignore that–he’d much rather write yet another post about the lifelike appearance of the retina display on the new iPad, or how wonderful it is that Apple is leading the JD Power satisfaction surveys. Here’s one of the most influential writers covering Apple, and if you considered the attention he’s paid to factory conditions in China, you’d come away believing that most of the charges are confabulated and that the whole issue just isn’t worth discussing. He could be leading on this, but instead he’s following at best and throwing up a smokescreen at worst.
Since I don’t read a lot of other Apple-centric sites, for all I know, the rest of the Apple-focused media could be better. Perhaps those of you who do read them could comment on that.