Simply Irresponsible Reporting


“This American Life’s” podcast titled “Retraction” was painful to listen to.  The report opens with the host, Ira Glass, stating that “This American Life” was retracting their episode titled “Mr. Daisy Goes to the Apple Factory.”  After explaining the situation, the episode progresses into an interview with Cathy Lee, Mike Daisy’s interpreter.  While this segment is shocking, it was not uncomfortable to listen to.  The next segment, Mike Daisy’s interview about his falsified monologue, is filled with tough questions and awkward pauses.  While Glass doesn’t seem to want to put Daisy on the spot, he definitely wants to do what he needs to do to reach the truth.  Daisy answers a few of the questions hesitantly, but simply does not have responses for many of the others.  I have never before listened to such an eye-opening and harsh, but justified radio episode. 

 

Many of Mike Daisy’s statements were unsympathetically criticized throughout the episode.  These include, but are not limited to, his statements about workers in illegal unions meeting at Starbucks’, meeting underage workers, the large number of workers outside the factory when he first appeared, the number of workers that he had a meeting with and for how long, the fact that the factory guards held guns, meeting workers who had been poisoned by overexposure to hexane, and the cameras in workers’ dorm rooms.  I found his false account regarding the hexane-poisoned workers especially astonishing.  How could he completely fabricate a report of having met such horribly mistreated workers?  It seems simply disrespectful and unfair to the workers he met and those who may have actually experienced this poisoning.  I definitely felt emotionally abused as a listener when I learned that this was all a story that Mike Daisy had created in his head.  The worst part is that he still refused to take responsibility for his actions and would barely admit that he was wrong in dramatizing his real experiences.

 

Still, as stated in the “Retraction,” hexane poisoning is definitely a real issue for some Apple suppliers.  Charles Duhigg mentions in the episode that there are Chinese workers who suffer from this type of poisoning, even though Mike Daisy did not meet any of them.  After doing some initial research, I came across a New York Times article from February 2011 about an annual review of the working conditions at an Apple supplier (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/technology/23apple.html?pagewanted=all).  It says that at one factory, 137 workers were found to have hexane poisoning.  While this is definitely proof of an issue, the factory employs 18,000 people, meaning only 0.76% of the workers have experienced poisoning.  I find myself torn between being upset that workers are being mistreated and thinking that it is lucky and maybe even understandable for such a small percentage of workers to be poisoned.  After reading through some of the first hand accounts in the article, I have come to the decision that Apple should continue their investigations of their suppliers to further limit abuse.  If they are able to find and remove underage workers, shouldn’t they be able to make the effort to lower the risk of poisoning, especially since they have plenty of resources available to make it happen? 

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4 thoughts on “Simply Irresponsible Reporting

  1. What struck me the most about your post was the last paragraph. The number of workers who were actually poisoned seems so minimal. Just as Grace said, I am also finding myself torn. Should I look at this number as a negative? Or should I look at the number as the factory locating and fixing the problem before any other workers were affected? I think the big questions is why was hexane being used to begin with? At this day in age, companies should be aware of dangerous chemicals and know not to use them. It amazes me how far some companies are willing to go to expedite the production process in order to improve the bottom line.

  2. Although I understand your point of view that it is a very low percent of people who have been poisoned, I think it is clear that this is a still an unacceptable percentage. It should without a doubt, be 0.0%. The fact that jobs exist which expose you to a dangerous neurotoxin that has the potential to poison you is ridiculous. This chemical should be completely removed from all factories.

  3. The idea that it is acceptable for only .76% of workers to be poisoned by hexane is one I do not understand. The way I think about it is this, if this had occurred in the U.S. if one person had hexane poisoning that plant would have been immediately shut down. This I think shows the dehumanization of Asian workers as it is suddenly not as big a deal. I think this mindset is a scary one but I don’t necessarily disagree that it is one which permeates throughout our culture.

  4. Your point was well made on the fact that if Apple can take control over the issue of underage worker in plants than they should also be able to do something about the hexane poisioning issues. Even though .76 is a small percentage of the 18,000 workers that work there, this is still a serious issue that will only get worse if Apple doesn’t implement some kind of plan to address it now. The same goes for the explosions at the factories due to large amounts of dust. Factories sent in reports to Apple about the problem they were facing after the first factory explosion, and Apple failed to take any action which lead to a second factory explosion. This is when I have to admit that Daisey had some justification in his overly dramatic monologue. Despite the lies and fabrications, he was correct in saying that his main purpose was to get more people to care.

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