When it comes to articles on worker’s issues, the US press is far too busy covering bogus Rapture predictions and royal weddings to be bothered.
While outlets like The New York Times have mentioned (or posted an article from Bloomberg, to be more precise) the recent explosion deaths in an iPad production facility in China, it’s difficult to not be cynical about the Paper of Record’s commitment to covering the human rights implications of the story when is is presented as business news (this may affect Apple’s ability to meet demand) and it only quotes the prepared statements of the company’s contractor itself.
Consider the previous issues with the same supplier. The NGO study’s allegations repeated in UK’s The Guardian are alarming taken at face value, but are certainly bolstered by the fact that the same manufacturer is trying to get its employees to sign anti-suicide pledges. I’m sure American consumers assume making iPads is a crappy job — but so bad that SUICIDE is a issue? Even more disturbing is that outlets like The Times prefer to keep this part of the story off of their pages. Or, at least, their front pages. Why?
I first considered writing about Apple’s Chinese workers when this story broke. One peculiarity of the story is that the headline was changed from “Workers Poisoned at Apple Supplier in China” to the less alarming “Workers Sickened at Apple Supplier in China.” You can see the original title in the browser header, and in search results:
Is it that much of a stretch to speculate that business interests, like the fact the The Times was petitioning Apple (at that time) to allow them to provide content by paid subscription through the iTunes Store, could have been a factor in the decision to tone down the article? Surely the placement and lack of damning detail in subsequent articles would bear this out, at least the possibility. In this media age can The Times afford alienating a giant player such as Apple? To discount at least the possibility of this is to ignore how little play is being given by it by this and other US MSM outlets.
As consumers, we at least have a soft whisper in our minds about the high human costs of a steady stream of cheap consumer goods. The press should at least give us the choice of being informed. Not since Kathy Lee Giffords was publicly shamed by her own apparel workers has the public interest really been peaked about what sacrifices are being made by global workers. Chilean miners capture our “human interest” in front-page MSM stories, as well they should — but when Chinese workers are killed by explosions, poisoned by chemicals, and kill themselves in alarming numbers on Apple’s watch, is it not really news?
It seems likely that Apple, along with other corporate giants such as The Gap, will continue to be shamed only by their shareholders (for delays in supply and the costs of paying dead worker’s families), while the general public will receive soothing corporate press releases assuring us that all is well.
The press should not be playing a role in keeping the public uniformed for the simple reason that this is exactly what Apple would prefer.