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Foxconn "Glad That Mike Daisey's Lies Were Exposed" 332

Posted by samzenpus
from the better-than-all-that dept.
theodp writes "Foxconn Technology Group, Apple's largest supplier and the target of allegations of poor work conditions, welcomed a retraction of a This American Life radio program episode it said was based on lies. 'I am happy that the truth prevails, I am glad that Mike Daisey's lies were exposed,' Louis Woo, a spokesman for Taipei-based Foxconn said. 'People will have the impression that Foxconn is a bad company,' Woo added, 'so I hope they will come and find out for themselves'. Foxconn also said that it has 'no plans to take legal action.'"
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Foxconn "Glad That Mike Daisey's Lies Were Exposed"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:43AM (#39402299)

    Wasn't the problem here not that what Daisey reported was false, but just that he didn't directly speak to people he claimed to speak with? Of course from a journalistic standpoint that is awful but it is now sweeping these problems under the rug.

    Foxconn can now act like there were no problems and ignore them just because the source used was a secondary source reported as a primary source.

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:49AM (#39402339)

    What would difference it would make if this was real? Apple looking for another producer? Apple fanbois suddenly starting to believe that their beloved company isn't all controled peace and happiness?

    Get real, that's China. And how someone pointed out, things like these have been going for years, and not only for Apple. And as long as they will produce stuff cheapily and we will be happy to buy it - it won't change a thing. They still be billions piss poor people.

    Unless China produced stuff gets heavy tarrifs (and every country who does it gets thrown out from WTO), it ain't gonna happen.

  • Ratings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:49AM (#39402341) Homepage

    This is what happens when someone goes in with a predetermined narrative. News at 11.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:52AM (#39402373) Homepage Journal

    What I don't understand is why his "act" was presented as "fact" by the Times.

    Their excuse is that it was an "op-ed". Opinion pieces are normally clearly identified as such; this piece was not.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people are going to assume that all the issues raised were bullshit because of the lies that were told, which means that if there was any truth at all, it's just been conveniently swept under the rug.

    Bozo boy has done FAR more harm to the idea of protecting foreign workers than he could ever have imagined through this literal bullshit.

  • by hsmith (818216) on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:55AM (#39402405)
    If there are misdeeds occurring at Foxconn, they haven't been exposed. Any potential problems being reported can now be brushed under the carpet of potential "bs" tied to this story.

    He did a huge disservice to exposing truth, good or bad, about Foxconn. If Foxconn isn't all that bad to work for, it would have been great to know - if it is a hell hole, it would have been great to know. But, this just clouds the water in getting to the bottom of it.

    Shame, because it would be great to have an unbiased report.
  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:59AM (#39402449)

    I am so glad we now know Foxconn is so nice. Those employees who live in Foxconns worker camps and jump off buildings are probably just depressed that one day they would have to retire.

    Seriously- the show was a fraud- but that doesn't mean Foxconn is good. I really don't know- but evidence probably points towards it not being an ideal utopia. The reason Foxconn isn't pursuing legal action is probably because they know it would end up exposing a bunch of bad stuff that really does happen resulting in more bad PR.

  • by omfgnosis (963606) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:00AM (#39402451)

    While Daisey certainly needs to answer for misrepresenting himself (to This American Life), most of the damage that I've seen has been done by a poorly educated and reactionary audience that doesn't understand that it's unreasonable to hold a creative activist to the same journalistic standards that, quite frankly, we don't hold journalists to either. Like so many of the controversies on "our side" (and I'm assuming we have some sort of common cause if you think Foxconn acting with impunity is harmful), we have a role that as a whole we simply aren't prepared—in mind or in temperament—to execute.

    Everyone involved here did their job, until it came to us. Mike Daisey's job was to prepare a piece that formulated a story from truths that would make an audience care passionately about those truths, thereby pressuring the actors involved. This American Life checked facts and disputed those it found questionable or inaccurate. We did not articulate, with clarity and principle, articulate the above.

    It's too easy to say that one guy with a stage performance did so much harm, just as it's too easy to say that he'd done so much good.

  • by omfgnosis (963606) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:05AM (#39402507)

    The difference it can make and has made is that Apple has consistently responded to pressure to be more open about its labor practices, and they have enough economic weight to throw around to make real (but perhaps not fundamental) change in at least their supply chain—which is substantial on its own—but even probably in the electronics market overall.

    Apple doesn't necessarily need to leave Foxconn (or any other supplier) to make them change their labor policies; the pressure of audits with accountability can go a long way, under enough social pressure. And say what you want about Apple's fanatic following, it certainly exists, but it also has a demographic tendency to be more inclined to apply pressure on labor abuse.

  • by omfgnosis (963606) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:07AM (#39402525)

    The stories, yes. The actual topics, no.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:14AM (#39402597) Homepage

    Which is an amazingly disingenuous response. Mike Daisy presents his monologues as first hand experiences . That is a flat out lie. Are his other monologues similarly not encumbered by the truth?

    And he was told, repeatedly, that This American Life considers actual facts to be important.

    And it also matters a lot. IF a random American in a hawaiian shirt would find out all this it would be a much more serious problem than the reality, which is bad but no where near as atrocious as he presents it.

  • by hsmith (818216) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:14AM (#39402603)
    Based on what? I've never visited a Foxconn factory, so, it is hard to say if it is or isn't, personally.
  • by Comboman (895500) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:16AM (#39402625)

    Anti-corporate "journalists" like Daisey and Michael Moore do irreparable damage to the causes they supposedly support by playing loose with the facts. If I were conspiracy minded, I might assume they were working for the very corporations they rail against.

  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:20AM (#39402675)

    Do you have a link to the statistics of suicide rate of employed individuals in China? Same could be said of any country/company- suicide rates tend to be hiring amongst the unemployed and the convicted.

  • by LDAPMAN (930041) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:30AM (#39402773)

    "creative activist"?? What the hell is a creative activist? Oh, it's someone who lies because the ends justifies the means.

  • by Goaway (82658) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:32AM (#39402807) Homepage

    It would be nice if we could just snap our fingers, and suddenly everyone would have great working conditions, and enough money to live well on.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. A society has to work its way up. And companies like Foxconn are the the forefront of that. They pay better and have better working conditions than the average. Once enough people reach a higher standard of living, they can start demanding more, and so on.

    By attacking the ones that offer the better situation for workers, you are holding the entire process back.

  • by sycodon (149926) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:34AM (#39402825)

    The Times and the other outlets presented this fact because it fit their preconceived ideas.

  • by greyc (709363) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:42AM (#39402925)

    (Note: I am neither of the AC ancestors, but I'm pretty sure I understand their position, so I'll try to explain it regardless)

    The critical difference here is that those Chinese workers are /not/ slaves. They are not forced into taking jobs at foxconn; they take these positions voluntarily, just like people in western countries do, because they think it's a favorable trade for them.

    Why do they do this? Because as bad as the working conditions and pay at companies like Foxconn are by western standards, they are very competitive compared to the local alternatives. This point is crucial: Foxconn are not exploiting people in the sense that all else being equal, the people who work for them would be better off just not doing so.

    You can make an argument that people living in sufficient poverty to make such a deal favorable is a terrible thing, and I'd agree with that. However, destroying Foxconn's business model by preventing them from selling to western countries does nothing directly to fix these people's poverty; in fact it makes it worse, by reducing the pool of jobs available to them (and not just randomly reducing it; you're taking away some of the best jobs in the pool!).

    As an analogy, think of how you'd react if people in a hypothetical country that's even more wealthy than your's decided that your working conditions are far too horrible for your pay, and somehow stopped jobs like the one you have right from being offered anymore, resulting in you having to choose a worse job instead. Would that make your life better? Would you be happy about it? It's the same thing here.

    The above is how the simple economic argument goes. Real economies and societies are complicated, of course, and there's several vectors by which driving Foxconn out of business oculd potentially improve the situation for common workers in China. But those aren't clear to me (and aren't clear to various other people who've looked at the issue) - the direct, obvious and robust effect is strongly negative. If you're going to argue that there are other effects compensating for it, it would be good to present your reasoning or link to other people arguing for the above reasoning being incorrect.

  • by Sentrion (964745) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:51AM (#39403037)

    BTW, freeing the slaves was never a bad idea, but many freed slaves suffered horribly after emancipation. Not that their living conditions were that great before hand, but after the Civil War there were many known cases of entire communities of plantation owners who hired freed slaves on the condition that the freed slaves would be paid after the harvest. But after the harvest, instead of paying what they promised, the ex-masters drove the workers off their land by force and it is believed that thousands starved to death during this time.

    And in the case of China, if the "free world" were to ban Chinese imports, China would fall into a severe depression. Unemployed workers would be very angry, as would the Chinese government. There's a slim chance this could lead to a general uprising that could lead to democracy, but more likely is that an over populated and well armed China with nothing to lose would absorb the unemployed men of fighting age into their armed forces, direct the anger of their masses toward the West, and obtain by military force what they could not obtain through commerce. Even in full scale war, such as an invasion of Japan and Taiwan, coupled with supporting N. Korea against the South, the US would likely not be the first to strike with nuclear weapons. And with an expanding military that has been growing more technologically adept, China probably would not see any reason to use their own nuclear weapons unless their home territory came under heavy bombing or invasion.

    As an anecdote to support my position, during WWII the WMD of the time was poison gas, which both the Allied and Axis powers possessed in significant quantities, yet neither side resorted to using gas in spite of the scale and devastation of the war. So I don't believe that America's nuclear deterrence would be enough to prevent a conventional war with China.

    So, the only option left for those of us who care about human rights and the treatment of workers who make the goods we consume, is we need to proactively seek out products that are manufactured and marketed in an ethical manner. Just as "organic" has become trendy to the point that well-to-do consumers will pay three or four times as much money for pesticide free vegetables, we need to make ethical and sustainable business practices just as "trendy". Kind of like the parable of the contest between the wind and the sun to see who could take the jacket off from a pedestrian. The wind blew harder and harder, but could not blow it off, but the sun just stood still and effortlessly warmed the path of the pedestrian until the pedestrian decided to take off his jacket. In time perhaps "ethically and sustainably manufactured in China" will be the new trendy "organic" label that Yuppies will wear with pride.

  • by Grygus (1143095) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:52AM (#39403041)

    This is, of course, nonsense. What is holding the entire process back is greed.

    Apple makes large margins on the sales of iProducts. If they were interested, they could pass some, not even a lot, of that back to their suppliers and conditions there would improve. But they do not; they keep those margins, which are as large as they are precisely because they pay their suppliers as little as possible.

    These people are in poor working conditions, not because it is inevitable, but because it is cheap.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:57AM (#39403093) Homepage

    Places like Foxconn are what forced Unions into existence and labor laws to come into place.

    Paying rent to the company and being forced to buy from the company store IS a form of slavery, Sorry you are too uneducated to see that, or you are just plain old evil and think it's a wonderful thing. The poor conditions in the factory are because the company owners are such greedy assholes that it's cheaper to kill workers than make it a safe place to work. They have far higher profit margins that way. If we did not have the labor laws and unions here in the USA we would be still doing the same thing. AS a greedy rich scumbag asshole knows no border or nationality.

    What I find entertaining is that the american public is up in arms over it. We demand low price things yet refuse to pay for things like living wages and safe workplaces for the people that make the latest shiny. The people claiming that it's only 20% of a price difference are complete morons.

    To build a ipad in the USA, you will be paying $18-37 an hour. Your factory will be required to meat all OSHA and EPA standards. The manufacture cost of a single iPad will jump to at least $1100.00 add a 40% markup and now you have a 16gig ipad base model selling for $1599.00

    The public would be up in arms and clamoring that it's a rip off! ZOMG! TOO EXPENSIVE!. we look the other way so we can have our slave labor cheap devices.

  • by Sechr Nibw (1278786) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:59AM (#39403123)

    ...they could pass some, not even a lot, of that back to their suppliers and conditions there would improve...

    That is assuming that the suppliers would then pass that money on to their workers. But why would they do that? Is it because only Apple is a greedy corporation, whose aim is to make money, and all other companies (suppliers) are benevolent, aiming only to improve conditions for their workers?

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:04AM (#39403187)

    Exactly... These are people who are leaving impoverished villages and lining up at places like Foxconn, fighting tooth and nail to get a job there. Their kids will go to school and get a chance to become more than their factory-line worker parents. We have no right to do anything unless people are being forced against their will and they are not...

    Fact is that a young person starting a job at Foxconn, doing lots of overtime, saving money by sleeping in a cheep dorm, can save up an awful lot of money in a years time. I'm sure working at McDonalds in the USA is nicer than working at Foxconn. If you are a young person in the USA who wants to become a lawyer, for how long would you have to work at McDonalds to save enough money to finance this? If you are a young person in China, how long would you have to work at Foxconn?

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:39AM (#39403603) Journal

    They're doing exactly the same thing that our own ancestors did in the 18th century when the Industrial Revolution kicked into high gear. They went and worked in deplorable conditions (far worse than anything at Foxconn) in the hopes of creating a better life for their children. It took a while, and ultimately governments were forced to get involved and put limits on hours per day, child labor and so forth, but in the end, by the middle of the 19th century you began to see the middle class forming, and it was the middle class that ultimately began imposing its will on the political classes.

    I don't think there's a way around this. I don't think there's a way to go from agrarian society straight into industrial society. The Soviets and the Chinese tried it, and by and large it failed (think Great Leap Forward here, probably responsible for more deaths than any other single policy in human history). The way it's happening in China is, to one extent or another, exactly how it happened elsewhere. At some point, doubtless, the scales will tip and the middle class in China will want the political power that is commensurate to their economic power.

  • The critical difference here is that those Chinese workers are /not/ slaves. They are not forced into taking jobs at foxconn; they take these positions voluntarily, just like people in western countries do, because they think it's a favorable trade for them.

    I understand this and the rest of your post, but they are about as close to getting to slaves as they can be. A lot of them are there because they literally have no chance at a better life without having to go through all the insane hours at Foxconn.

    Your first sentence alone could be used in a similar way: "the slaves aren't running away from the fields or complaining much lately, so they must really like it here!" No, they're there because they really do not have much of a choice. I mean, they do in a technical sense. I'm sure they could leave and go back to the countryside to live in a hovel with a dirt floor and absolutely 0 contact with the outside world. That's better than nothing, right?

    Argh, the logical leaps that some of us make to assuage our guilt about the shit ways people are treated in other countries! The ones who make our shiny gadgets, children's toys, and a vast majority of the stuff we use everyday, no less!

    And yes, I am full well aware that I am using something also made somewhere in China or Southeast Asia. If I had a "buy American" option for electronics I'd take it, although right now I'm killing time at a public library so I don't have much in the way of choice on what sort of computer I use.

    Right now the only thing I can really reliably and consistantly buy American are cigarettes and socks.

  • by omfgnosis (963606) on Monday March 19, 2012 @12:04PM (#39403919)

    And if his "creative" work involves "creating" facts that are reported on national news as facts, that's okay?

    As I said in another response, it depends on the nature of the fabrication. For Mike Daisey to do some research and discover that workers are suffering n-hexane poisoning, then to claim that he met such a worker when he did not, is a lie about his activities but not about a salient fact. It's well within the range of behaviors we rightly expect in a dramatization.

    And if Fox News decided to start calling Anne Coulter a "creative activist" - I mean, she writes books, that's creative! - you'd be okay with them reporting, "Anne Coulter says President Obama isn't even an American - he was born in Kenya, and he's a Muslim!" After all, she's creative, and an activist... TRUTH doesn't matter in the news, as long as it's for a "creative" cause, right?

    To be honest, yes I would be okay with them reporting that quote—even if they don't call her a "creative activist". The quote doesn't make a claim to veracity, only a claim to repeat what another person said. This example is far from analogous, and no different from when they report what "an official" said—which is to say, it's a terrible substitute for journalism but it's not really that far out.

    Here's a better example. Michael Moore has taken a lot of heat over the years for playing loose with the facts. Straight from the horse's mouth (source: http://michaelmoore.com/books-films/facts/bowling-columbine [michaelmoore.com]):

    "That scene where you got the gun in the bank was staged!"

    Well of course it was staged! It's a movie! We built the "bank" as a set and then I hired actors to play the bank tellers and the manager and we got a toy gun from the prop department and then I wrote some really cool dialogue for me and them to say! Pretty neat, huh?

    Well gee, whiz! The thing that happened in his movie didn't really happen. Michael Moore is lying! (He goes on to explain that it's true, but I'd be quite fine with it having been staged. Because it's okay to dramatize an issue to make a point about a fact.)

    It is the job of journalists to be factual and accurate and illuminating, to the best of their ability. But a creative person's job is different: to be compelling, and hopefully to be illuminating as well. Where Daisey screwed up (and I began my first response with this) was to be misrepresented as more of the former and less of the latter.

    What you're calling pedantry is really just people calling you out for the ridiculous logical contortions you're twisting yourself into in order to justify Daisey's lies - presented as fact - "because they're activism for a good cause."

    The logic I'm using isn't much of a contortion, it's quite simple. It's unreasonable to expect a dramatization to meet the same standards as journalism. It's not even just unreasonable either, our culture and our awareness would suffer for it. We need people to powerfully engage us on our choices. What we should expect from people like Daisey is that they make us care about the real truths in their stories; we don't need the stories to be accurate, so long as the topical substance is—and in this case it is.

    They asked him for the contact info for the translator he used so they could corroborate his stories. He refused to provide that info. If you don't want your stories fact-checked, don't present them to the world as fact.

    I agree that Daisey has to answer for misrepresenting his story to This American Life as a kind of journalism. That's why it was the first thing I said.

  • by maple_shaft (1046302) on Monday March 19, 2012 @12:12PM (#39403999)

    Very insightful post. I agree that Apple and Foxconn are symptoms of the problems in China than the cause of them.

    I would liken it to somebody having a broken arm and complaining of pain, so to fix the problem you amputate the arm. No more pain, but then the patient doesn't even have an arm anymore.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @12:27PM (#39404183)

    Paying rent to the company and being forced to buy from the company store IS a form of slavery, Sorry you are too uneducated to see that, or you are just plain old evil and think it's a wonderful thing.

    I think you're thinking of the appalachian coal mines in the US from the late 1800's to mid 1900's. Those were isolated places. Rural. Nothing close by. But, this [wikipedia.org] is where the largest Foxconn facility is. It's part of this [wikipedia.org]. Population of over 10 million people. Good luck forcing people to buy from the company store in a place like this.

    You may lot like the working conditions, and it is true that they're not ideal, but calling it slavery is simply not true. People want to work there, which is pretty much the exact definition of "not slavery".

  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Monday March 19, 2012 @12:28PM (#39404193) Homepage

    exactly exactly exactly.

    sustenance living is impossible when a big factory comes to town and shits on your farmland and pollutes your water supply, as is happening all over china. so unregulated industry destroys the way of life for millions of people, and they have no choice but to go work in that factory.

    it is fucking tragic.

    it is even MORE tragic that privileged americans completely understand this, but are too embarrassed to own it, and fight to deny it.

    even more, more (?) tragic, i'm sure every electronic doodad i own was made in some southeast-asian factory just like this, so i'm directly related to the problem but it is unavoidable! Can I buy a car WITHOUT electronics? yeah, probably something pre 1970's. Can I buy a fridge/oven/washing machine/HVAC without chinese made electronics? i could ditch all that and live off the land by burning wood for energy and hunting, but that's totally unsustainable too. it's a trap! my only hope is for my FedEx plane to crash on christmas eve so I can live on my own island and become friends with a volleyball.

  • Reality check (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danaris (525051) <danaris@@@mac...com> on Monday March 19, 2012 @12:49PM (#39404473) Homepage

    sustenance living is impossible when a big factory comes to town and shits on your farmland and pollutes your water supply, as is happening all over china. so unregulated industry destroys the way of life for millions of people, and they have no choice but to go work in that factory.

    That...actually doesn't happen very much. The factories tend to be concentrated in areas like Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Dongguan. Sure, there were farms in some of these areas years back, but by and large, they've been urban for a while. And there's a lot of China that's still rural, where the factories don't even want to go. There's just no profit in it.

    So, yeah, if you happen to be one of the few hundred—or even few thousand—farmers whose land was taken over or polluted by the factories, then that sucks, and I doubt they received much compensation, because, y'know, mostly-totalitarian regime and all that. But don't forget that that's only 0.00001%-0.0001% of the population. It's hardly a careful, concerted effort to drive people away from subsistence agriculture towards factory life.

    And you know what? They don't need any such effort, because the Chinese people are flocking to factory life as fast as they can possibly manage. Subsistence agriculture sucks.

    Dan Aris

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @01:02PM (#39404631)

    "Paying rent to the company and being forced to buy from the company store IS a form of slavery"

    Well, you can make out that anything is a form of slavery if you're willing to redefine what slavery means. I would prefer a more useful definition of the term, one that encompasses what slavery actually is, rather than extending the definition to anyone who has to work for a living. I might say that the hypothetical US worker being paid $37/hour to build ipads is also a slave - because, why only $37? And I'd be no more wrong than you are.

  • Sorry, but slaves also "want" to be enslaved and work their asses off when presented with the alternative of being dead. Choosing between two really horrible things does not automatically mean the one they chose is what they really want.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:31PM (#39405825)

    Sorry, but slaves also "want" to be enslaved and work their asses off when presented with the alternative of being dead. Choosing between two really horrible things does not automatically mean the one they chose is what they really want.

    Life is full of compromise. You think I like dragging my ass out of bed and going to work in the morning? I like my job, but I'd still rather hang out on the beach and eat sushi everyday. I guess I could just hang out on the beach, but that's not gonna get me my sushi money, is it?

    People want these manufacturing jobs because compared to every other job that's available to them, they're fantastic. You can say that's not what they really want, but people are lined up around the block trying to get these jobs, so by that standard, I think it's what they really want.

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