back to article 'This American Life' disowns Apple-bashing blockbuster

The überpopular US public-radio show This American Life has retracted a story it aired in January – the most listened-to show in its history – in which monologist Mike Daisey detailed what he claimed were his personal experiences when investigating heinous working conditions in plants operated by Apple's Chinese contract …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Because maybe they make the most profit from these embattled workers & then rub their faces in it when selling it back to them?

    If you want to shout about it, don't act all surprised if you get a bit back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The weapon of choice used to confuse.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Daisey was.........

        of course the first to take delivery of an iPad 3.....last month.

    2. ThomH

      Re: Err..

      So the conditions described aren't prima facie wrong, it's merely that there's a certain amount of profit above which child labour, employee poisoning, etc becomes unacceptable?

      I prefer to think all the named manufacturers are in the wrong. If placing disproportionate blame on Apple makes everyone have to act a little more properly then I accept that it isn't fair but I'm all for it.

    3. Armando 123

      Re: Err..

      Yes, you'll have noticed how Apple holds guns to people's heads to force them to work in their supply chains and then force them to buy Apple products.

  2. dr2chase

    Maybe people assumed Apple's customers would care?

    Which I guess also implies a lower opinion of the Dell, HP, etc customers.

    Or conversely, there was the assumption that this would take the Apple customers down a peg off their beautiful-toys high horses.

    What I think will be interesting, is to see if anyone else issues a retraction anywhere near the scale of This American Life's.

  3. Mikel

    Time for the rubber hose

    Until he coughs who paid for this hatchet job.

    1. perlcat

      Re: Time for the rubber hose

      Nobody paid for it. It's just the way Daisey sees the world meeting with NPR's confirmation bias. I've listened to that show enough to know smug buzz performance art when I hear it.

      Sadly, the truth took a back seat, and rather than helping the victims of Chinese industrialization, most people will now assume that if *one* tale of abuse is false, *all* tales of abuse are false.

      People helped? Zero. Perpetrators ashamed? Zero. Lessons learned? Zero.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Darryl

        Re: Time for the rubber hose

        Not a huge Apple fan, but perlcat is right. All this is going to end up doing is making everybody think that any reports of poor conditions in Chinese factories is just somebody else crying wolf. All of the companies that use Chinese manufacturing facilities (or any other country's) need to step up and make sure that their suppliers are treating their employees fairly and respectfully.

        Maybe it's fashionable to point the finger at Apple because they're so well known and so big, but everybody needs to remember that almost every electronics company in the world uses these factories.

      3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        In Soviet America the Democrats

        Well, actually the Democrats are the ones who accuse the namby pamby child welfare warriors of communism.

        You can't get into the Real China and see for yourself. But you can't Do anying in the Real America if you did see for yourself.

  4. An0n C0w4rd

    People pick on Apple for at least two reasons

    1) they're one of the most profitable consumer manufacturers in their field. Some people feel that means they can pay their workers better and treat them better than others

    2) the Apple publicity mill is world famous. There aren't websites like appleinsider or macrumors for competition like Dell or HP. People are trying to exploit that for their own agendas.

    Should Apple be vilified more than HP, Dell, IBM, Cisco, etc for using cheap Asian labour for mass production? I would tend to agree with the author that Apple are more open and try to prove that they care more than any of the others. Whether they do or not is another matter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People pick on Apple for at least two reasons

      > There aren't websites like appleinsider or macrumors for competition like Dell or HP. People are trying to exploit that for their own agendas.

      Have you not noticed the large number of Android sites, or Windows?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: People pick on Apple for at least two reasons

        You've listed two Apple blogs there, but there's not many more big ones; no comparible number of Android and Windows sites?

        I suggest you either get out more or use a search engine: Android and Me, AndroidGuys, etc. and the long standing Windows Super Site spring to mind. Even AOL who own TUAW also do an Android version.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: People pick on Apple for at least two reasons

        Android and Windows do not come in boxes containing chips, PCBs, displays, wires and other *hardware* components. There's no-one wielding tools or chemicals for every new copy of them finding their way onto the market.

        In other words, you're comparing Apples to oranges.

      3. An0n C0w4rd

        Re: People pick on Apple for at least two reasons

        Please think of the context of the article before you flame me for not realising there are Android, etc, communities. Android don't make hardware. Neither do Windows. They're software platforms.

        Apple is a hardware manufacturer and therefore more relevant for the context of the article, i.e. working conditions in Chinese factories. Hence my comparison to OTHER MANUFACTURERS, i.e. Dell an HP.

        Unless you claim that Android and Windows developers work with n-hexane and aluminium dust in the day-to-day processes of writing Java and C code?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I personally "pick on Apple" because its a proven fact that they run the business in a rather arrogant way. People pay a lot of cash for their products yet get hardly any service in return (unless of course you pay extra for it).

      And it doesn't matter to Apple if they violate national laws either. As could be seen in Holland a few months ago. A consumer TV program ("Radar") went to several Apple stores with an hidden camera and a "broken" product which was 1.5 years old. What to do?. Then they were told that "The warranty is 1 year, you could have purchased extra through iCare" the obvious question was raised: "But in Holland companies are forced /by law/ that consumers get 2 years of warranty, whats up with that?".

      Only 1 employee from (iirc) an Amsterdam located Apple store told the reporter that she was right but since this was an Apple policy there was nothing they could do. Apple literally and on their own accord ignore Dutch laws. They don't care. And it seems they don't care for honest employee's either because despite the hidden camera the guy who told the reporter that she was right got tracked down and fired.

      This is but one example; there are dozens more where products break outside the "Apple warranty" yet easily fall within the warranty period which is demanded by law. Apple obviously doesn't care.

      THAT is one of the main reasons people "pick" on Apple. Heck, this same aspect is one of the reasons I "pick" /heavily/ on Microsoft when it comes to their XBox; scratched CD's up to a point where they were unusable. Microsoft initially blamed the customers and the way they used the XBox, when it eventually turned out that it was all caused by MS using an el-cheapo DVD player.

      I don't pick on the XBox because Microsoft is a big bad company, or because they're rich or whatever. I pick on it because I think the way customers get / got treated totally /stinks/.

      And that can be said for Apple as well.

      1. An0n C0w4rd

        Re: @An0n

        > "But in Holland companies are forced /by law/ that consumers get 2 years of warranty, whats up with that?".

        Seems to me your major beef is with the consumer protection people not living up to their job titles. If the law demands N years warranty then selling a product without that would be illegal and subject to criminal prosecution by the authorities. Can you explain why that hasn't happened? Perhaps the law isn't what you (and the program makers) think it is?

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: @An0n C0w4rd

          The law *IS* what the program makers, ShelUser and I expect it to be, 2 years warranty. No less. Apple thinks they can (and often do) get away with bullshitting people, and the program was part of an effort to expose that and get the attention of the relevant authorities. Occasionally stuff happens that way, *someone* has to take notice. Either one of the consumer protection organisations, some relevant government department, or, in this case a media program dedicated to such stuff.

    3. Drew V.

      Change has to start somewhere

      While it is obvious that the real target should be the industry as a whole - HP, Dell, IBM, Cisco, etc. (or indeed, to go with an even more holistic approach, perhaps the target should be our entire economic relationship with totalitarian-capitalist countries like China), there is a certain activist logic in attacking Apple first.

      It is hard to put one's finger on it exactly - although you have enumerated some of the possible reasons already - but it may be that the best target for this sort of activism is companies who CLAIM to be better than the rest, when in reality they are only every so slightly above the industry standard.

      In other words, those companies who have built their business around an image of excellence, superiority, lifestyle choice, a holistic approach to marketing and presentation. When they implicitly promise the "whole package" - as in, "everything is better with us" - then there is a genuine discomfort felt when one finds out that the "whole package" does not include things like better labor standards or a morally conscious approach to outsourcing, etc. And again, in this those companies are merely living down to the industry's standards - which should be the real target over the long term - but with these companies the disconnect grates more, thus creating a gap into which consumer/activist resistance is able to emerge.

      In that sense, Apple has turned itself into the vanguard of a whole industry's hypocrisy. It's only logical that it comes under attack first.

  5. kevinp

    The focus is on apple because (1) they're the largest company in the world by market cap, (2) they've got enough cash to bail out Greece, and (3) they keep telling us to "think different."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What a load of BS

      The bashing has been going on for years and the "think different." adds ended over a decade ago.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: What a load of BS

        Apple has a lot of obnoxious fans that like to tell anyone that "thinks different" that they are meaningless and obsolete.

        That's bound to trigger a bit of animosity.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Think different

      I love the way that Apple bashers constantly use the phrase "Think Different" in a sarcastic sense. Apple have not told us to "think different" for a long while. If you stepped off your reactionary soapbox once in a while, you might realise that this was used in Apple's marketing campaigns of the mid to late 90s, when the first iMacs were produced. It is not something Apple have used since. Perhaps if you realised this you wouldn't sound like an uneducated idiot...

      1. Michael Thibault

        Re: "Think different" campaign

        Quite some significance to the fact that that two-word ad-copy/catch-phrase still resonates and circulates and gets a re-tread so many years later. Perhaps there's a relationship between Apple's current top-of-the-heap status and decisions they've taken in the past. Just musing.

        Oh, and the 'hordes of vocal fanbois' is complete bullshit, too. Stuff that; it's long since become a tape loop.

  6. Jeebus

    I can't tell if the passive aggressiveness of the argument that Apple should be excused because other corporations treat people like shit is intentional or not.

    They deserve to be pounded as often as possible for their massive exploitation of second and third world workers.

    1. Ian Davies


      I can't tell if your disingenous proclaimation that there is an argument that Apple should be excused is intentional or not.

      Apple *absolutely* deserves to be brought to book when they have done things wrong. The point, which you so conveniently ignore, is not that that Apple should be excused, but that other manufacturers should be judged to the same standard and expected to provide the same kind of information about their operations.

      To follow the whole nonsensical "Apple is biggest so deserves a kicking" argument to its logical conclusion, we must conclude that if you're small and not very successful then you can do whatever the fuck you like? Utter bullshit.

      As I've said before, when the list of tech companies that are a member of the Free Labor Association has more than one name on it, then you can start comparing.

      1. wayward4now

        To follow the whole nonsensical "Apple is biggest so deserves a kicking" argument to its logical conclusion, we must conclude that if you're small and not very successful then you can do whatever the fuck you like? Utter bullshit."

        If you're small and not very successful then people will feel sorry for you if you get an asskicking.

  7. Steve Knox


    'Why, then, is Apple the only company facing fierce scrutiny, petitions, and – yes – "dramatic license"?

    Oh, I forgot. Apple is evil – and apparently more evil than companies that don't audit their suppliers, but merely look away and hope no one notices.'

    No. It's not that Apple is evil. It's that Apple never misses an opportunity to imply that they're NOT evil -- that they're better for everyone than all of those other dirty IT companies. See, e.g,

    But even as Apple touts these high responsibility standards, they push suppliers to drive costs down (as any capitalist would). The realities of capitalism mean that producing the advanced technology products they do at the cost points they do pretty much means that someone has to be exploited.

    We're all complicit in this. But I don't see the other companies you mention stressing their supplier responsibility while at the same time sitting on piles of cash as a result of the huge markups they take before paying their suppliers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nope

      You're mistaken, they all play the responsibility card:

      "HP was the first major technology company to disclose the information. HP is sharing this data with the intent of promoting transparency and progress in raising social and environmental standards in the electronics industry supply chain."

      "Dell is committed to responsible business practices and we hold our suppliers to a high standard of excellence"

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: Nope

        'You're mistaken, they all play the responsibility card:'

        If you read carefully, you'll see that I never said that the others don't play the responsibility card. I said they don't do it whilst sitting on huge piles of cash or enjoying large markups.

        Some context (current figures from Yahoo! Finance):

        Apple: Cash: 30.16B ($32/share), Profit Margin: 25.80%

        Dell: Cash: 14.8B ($8.41/share), Profit Margin: 5.63%

        HP: Cash: 8.12B ($4.11/share), Profit Margin: 4.75%

        As I said, we're all complicit in this, whether it's because we demand lower prices for our gadgets or higher returns from the companies we've invested in. But Apple's numbers indicate that the company is holding on to profits and cash far in excess of the industry average. They have the resources which provide the greatest opportunity to effect change and are not using them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Steve Knox

          You can't compare HP/Dell and Apple profit margin directly because Apple is both a software and a hardware company.

          To use Dell/HP you have to put Microsoft in the context too:

          Microsoft: Cash: 51.74B, Profit Margin: 31.72% (latest figures from Yahoo)

          Microsoft also makes hardware and had some Chinese factory issues recently. Given they have the highest profit margins and cash reserves of all companies - going by your opinion - maybe they should take the first step?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nope

          "They have the resources which provide the greatest flexibility in responding to changing conditions."

          Fixed 'at for ya--no charge.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Steve Knox

          We read carefully and found that you were full of BS. Now you are trying it again. If you are going to compare Apple to Dell & HP then you should also compare them to Microsoft and Google. Why don't you, because it would show that you are speaking out of your arse.

    2. Thomas Davie

      Re: Nope

      I take it then that google should be pounded at relentlessly for making their company MOTO "don't be evil"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nope

        Given Google has the largest smartphone marketshare and a clear "don't do evil" policy" they should be the first ones demanding supplier responsibility, as part of the license to use Google's Android brand and their own logo. Not just Motorola.

        I can't even find a supplier report for their Nexus devices!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Retards will make excuses

      Apple have been bashed for not giving info about supplier working conditions and now your bashing then for giving information about their suppliers.

  8. skeptical i

    For the prices charged for the latest Apple kit ...

    ... one would expect those who actually put them together to be paid above average -- good looking product, works fabulously, and the higher price for the latest "iWow" goes to higher wages for the assemblers, so it's good all'round, right? Otherwise the higher price only goes to profit and I thought -- naively, I admit -- Apple was a little better than that. (And maybe they are a little better if they are actually monitoring labor conditions and enforcing humane treatment standards, which, as has been pointed out above, might broaden that spotlight to cover other manufacturers of other brands' merch.) Conversely, I don't expect that the folks who make the cheap plastic junk found at Crap-Mart to be paid above the minimum required (it's cheap product, after all). "From those to whom much is given, much is expected."

    1. Andy Tunnah

      Re: For the prices charged for the latest Apple kit ...

      It's not naive at all, with pretty much all other expensive electronic components a higher level of work force is behind it. In fact it's because of the higher level of work needed that the prices are high, and that's pretty much the standard in the tech world.

      Apple are very smart though, in that they modelled their manufacturing processes in the same way as the only industry that gets away with that crap - the fashion industry. They make something everyone will want, create frequent updates to keep in trend, and most importantly farm out that design to the cheapest manufacturer while maintaining a high price.

      I wonder if apple charged a normal price for their products, would they have the same snobbish fanbase ?

  9. Chimp

    Confirmation bias

    There is an acute labour shortage in the major manufacturing centres in China. People are free to change jobs if they can find better work elsewhere. Given this, simple logic tells you that the horror stories about working conditions are bullshit.

    And actually visiting these places confirms it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confirmation bias

      Are you talking about the same country where the union officials, party mandarins and fact cats are one and the same? Guess how much of a job you would be having if you leave - every other factory owner in the area will have you name on a list which says "wants more money".

      Though, frankly, China both as an environment and culture is better than India to that respect. I suggest you dig on LinkedIn (and Google) for non-solicitation practices and agreements in India. You will be surprised to find what companies like Ericsson, Nokia/NSN, etc are up to when left unchecked.

    2. Jeebus

      Re: Confirmation bias

      Liar, as a Quality Control manager, whose done plenty of business in China, and live in Hong Kong for over a decade visiting China regularly you are talking out your arse mate.

      With all due respect. None of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Jeebus

        Then you would know that wages in China have been doubling every decade since the mid 80's which means you are clearly talking out of your arse, mate.

        1. Jeebus

          Re: @ Anon cretin.

          If you multiply a pittance by 6 you still only get six pittance. The wages were far worse then, with inflation and growth accounted for their wages are atrocious.

          But thanks for posting Anon so you can hide the fact you don't understand very easy and simple facts such as these.


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ Anon cretin.

            So you made your money overseeing the quality of products produced by workers earning a pittance. You then post about that hiding behind some silly name.

            I guess being a halfwit is better than being witless.

  10. JaitcH

    Whatever the truth, Apple subcontractor's employee abuse under the spotlight

    Apple has made a fortune on the backs of sweat labour in China.

    It isn't common for an aluminium case finishing plant to explode and kill people; and Foxconn erecting netting to catch would be suicide artists isn't solving the root of the problem which is working conditions.

    Likewise with child labour.

    It can only be hoped that whatever publicity achieves what everyone wants - fair working conditions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whatever the truth, Apple subcontractor's employee abuse under the spotlight

      But while the spotlight is on Apple, the rest of industry is in the shade and continues doing what they always have.

      The explosions don't just happen at factories making Apple devices, here's an explosion at a factory making Sony laptops less than 6 months ago.

      What we need is to bring in a floodlight for the whole industry, a spotlight on a single a company that doesn't even account for the largest marketshare isn't going to achieve much.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Whatever the truth, Apple subcontractor's employee abuse under the spotlight

        > The explosions don't just happen at factories making Apple devices, here's an explosion at a factory making Sony laptops less than 6 months ago.

        This only comes up when it's time to defend Apple against charges of exploitation and tends to be ignored any other time, specially when drawing direct comparisons between Apple product and Sony product. Facts are only acknowledged when they are convenient.

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Whatever truth?

        Errors found while checking this document as XHTML 1.0 Transitional!Result: 96 Errors, 37 warning(s)

        Got a site more reliable than that?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whatever the truth, Apple subcontractor's employee abuse under the spotlight

      "Whatever the truth", there we have it. The truth doesn't matter if it gets in the way of your self-righteous hatred.

  11. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Daisey lied.

    It's as simple as that. I'm no Apple fanboi, you can check my posts to confirm that. Daisey should issue an unconditinal apology and retraction, and I'd being looking at his employer to punish him by donating his wages to a fund for workplace-injured Chinese factory employees.

    1. Doogie1

      Re: Daisey lied.

      Spot on. Lucky for him Apple's lawyers are all busy at the moment!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Before you go all 'Apple are evil' think for a moment what would these people be doing if Apple moved all their production elsewhere. For many people it's a case of work to eat / survive - you don't work and things are worse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They would blame Apple for people losing their jobs.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    It's Just The Land Of The Defamators

    Many american journalists think that a little bit of lying and inaccuracy is OK as long as it "servers a good purpose".

    Just look at how Audi was treated in the alleged "autonomously accelerating car" case, how Toyota was treated in the "brakes do not work" "scandal". Both cases were simply made up by journo-whores and lawyer whores. The corrupt idiots of the US congress even collaborated in "grilling" Toyota executives. In the end the US TSA had to call the whole Toyota case as basless.

    But the merkin Internet keeps the "Toyota is evil" notion still alive.

    So, nothing to see here.

  14. The Axe

    Tim Worstall defends Daisey

    The Register journalist Tim Worstall has written an article on Frobes where he defends Mike Daisey.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tim Worstall defends Daisey

      No a surprise as he takes pride in saying he only uses WinTel.

      Although when I say "uses" I mean "tries to use", and fails.

      As long as people aren't talking about the suffering of workers making his cheap Samsung netbooks he's fine with it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder...

    What stories Mike Daisey tells the tax man? He obviously doesn't have a problem bending the truth and making shit up to make money, why would he do different to keep it?

  16. JonHendry

    It's because

    "Why, then, is Apple the only company facing fierce scrutiny, petitions, and – yes – "dramatic license"?"

    Because everyone else "passes the savings on to the customer".

    Exploiting the workers is only bad if it doesn't save you any money.

    1. Ropewash

      Re: It's because

      Spot on.

      WE demand the lowest prices and they supply them by whatever means necessary.

      Apple just found a way to make people pay more for basically the same goods and everyone wants to bash them for doing this rather than sticking to the accepted policy of delivering ever cheaper crap. We would rather see the entire manufacturing process outsourced than to ever see what inflation has done to our own purchasing power.

      As an experiment try to source out how much it would cost to build any of these devices from scratch here in the first world and see how much it would cost to buy our gear based solely on ethical principles.

  17. disgruntled yank


    As public-radio shows go, maybe. But I bet that Howard Stern's managers wouldn't notice if Ira Glass's whole audience came or went from his numbers.

  18. hungry thylacine


    While it is easy to believe, and feel a sense of righteous outrage, that some of the worst excesses of human greed and deprivation are happening in these places that are hard to get to, scrutinise and report on, it doesn't take away from the fact that Mike Daisey is, in the local parlance, a lying, effing, scumbag!

  19. schubb

    No one else does?

    Even the Cult of Mac has been able to find out others do, and screwed up in their own article...

    How many did the author contact to find out about their processes? Appears to be none...

    From Microsoft:

    " This means Microsoft’s hardware suppliers are required, under terms of our contract, to provide Microsoft and third-party auditors on-site access to each facility for auditing and assessment purposes."

  20. Jamie Kitson


    Yellow-tinged journalism?

    No comment.

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