Don’t Bite the Apple: A fictional piece


I noticed striking similarities between the events that were portrayed in the Bucknell Forum version of “The Agony and Exctasy of Steve Jobs” and the plot of George Orwell’s “1984”. In the beginning of the show, Apple’s famous 1984 commercial is shown with the catchphrase “…you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984”.” Did Apple uphold that promise? The people marching in the background of the ad in aligned, controlled unison seemed strangely similar to the FOXCONN employees’ strict working conditions. As the play within the play continued on I began imagining a story within a story; that is, the reality of technology firms today within the confines of the story that far too often conceals the truth. The comparisons and generalizations I am going to make may not be entirely true, but it is not my goal to declare any truths, but rather to arouse questions (much like the ending of the Bucknell Forums’ play) or “Think Different”.

Rewriting History: In 1984, the “Party” had the slogan that read, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Many would agree that today consumers have been lead to false assumptions about the state of the technology world, but who is feeding this information? I believe George Orwell was correct in implying that it is the ones who control the present (i.e. the ones who control the rectangular screens, advertisements, media, etc.), control the past. News articles surround us claiming to be unbiased sources of information, but have a hidden agenda of changing consumers minds. In particular, Apple is notorious for doing this. Many consumers of Apple products believe that Apple is generally the first to offer new features. While it is hard to distinguish which companies are responsible for which features, Apple makes sure to accentuate each innovation with press to rewrite itself in history as the single best company and creator of products. I was not able to find a reliable source detailing each companies’ significant innovations, but I did run into many Apple-endorsing articles throughout my search. During a portion of the Bucknell play a video of a Steve Jobs’ interview was shown where he says this about FOXCONN… “I mean, you go to this place, and, it’s a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory.” Steve Jobs is able to swiftly reassure the public that there is nothing to worry about, when in actuality there still is.

Worker Conditions: There are a lot of previous blog posts describing the workers’ conditions at these factories, but I would like to point out how after listening to the second podcast somehow hid the reality that there are still worker condition issues. Is it possible that a PR guy at Apple contacted Ira Glass to request the debunking of Mike Daisey’s piece? In effort to save a company’s reputation, the lives of Shenzhen factory workers were forgotten. The similarity between the conditions of surveillance, control, and manipulation of these workers and of those in 1984 seems to contradict their original 1984 promise. In a way, Apple may have lied to all of its consumers by promising to be “different” when in reality it is not.

The Iphone itself: Apple users know that in the last week the new Iphone 6 was released. Many have already purchased the next model or have made plans to do so. One of the most noteable differences in Apple consumers is the necessity to upgrade and purchase more products. Other phones are already purchased “unlocked” and able to be changed or have new applications downloaded, whereas Apple controls all of the available apps in its own App Store. This may allow them to offer premium apps, but it does not allow the freedom that many users of other operating systems would have.

Mike Daisey’s “Confessions”: In Mike Daisey’s monologue there were some obvious problems with his story; however, he spoke to a different level of truth than Ira Glass in the refutation. He spoke with words that would inspire action which may have required lying in order to progress the overlying truth that “There is a need to be addressed.” For Ira Glass to refute Mike Daisey’s monologue may be like arguing that “There is no need to be addressed.” which could be also be seen as lying and destructive when taking into account that it is stalling progress. In either case, a type of “doublethink” is necessary in order to understand the true issue.

At the end of 1984 the protagonist, Winston, is subjected to torture for months before giving in. He then grows complacent with the Party’s lies and no longer questions them. The protagonist of our ongoing dialogue has been Mike Daisey, who similarly found a truth in the world that he believed in, and tried to make others aware of it. In the end, his dream was crushed in an interview that must have been torture for him to endure. Since “The Agony and Exctasy of Steve Jobs” it seems Mike Daisey is now defeated and has lost all motivation to continue to fight for the labor rights for Chinese workers.

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5 thoughts on “Don’t Bite the Apple: A fictional piece”

  1. This is a superb analogy. I feel most of the people who keep up to date on human rights issues such as those at Foxconn become Winston throughout their lives. We hear stories, doubt their accuracy, and discard them to continue with our daily lives. It would be interesting to me if people chose to fight back Apple on these issues the same way they thought back Nike in the 1990s. Could the population today be the Winstons that won?

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  2. I’m glad that you brought up the Nike case which definitely shows the power that consumers have in the market when FOCUSED. One problem I think that is becoming more evident in the aftermath of the internet/social media revolution is the tendency for information to travel longer ‘distances’, thus, distorting the truth. In “1984” the history was changed, but I believe the modern day equivalent is the much more discreet (and sometimes unconcious) tendency to view data in an inconsistent way.
    In an interview, Steve Jobs points out that the United States OVERALL suicide rate is higher than the FOXCONN suicide rate. However, this is misleading considering that the FOXCONN statistic only takes into consideration the one specific scenario of workers jumping from the top of the building.
    On a positive note, I do believe that the humans are inherently good, and it’s really just the system of checks and balances with powerful firms that needs changing. Perhaps, this >>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iIkOi3srLo Rainforest Alliance commercial shines some light on a direction that will help to add a structure to a cluttered information age. What do you think?

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    1. Kate, I think your statement “we hear stories, doubt their accuracy, and discard them to continue with our daily lives” is so incredibly true. Maybe we feel too desensitize by news and information because its everywhere all the time? There’s so much information and opinions being pushed at us from all angles that we’ve become a bit…apathetic? Maybe we truly are Winstons?

      Loved the Rainforest Alliance video. I was at the People’s Climate March yesterday and was talking to this elderly woman for a bit who was quoting Ghandi left and right, I couldn’t tell if it was intentional or not, during our conversation. She had this sign that read “I used to say ‘someone should do something about that!’ then I realized I am that someone!” which made me wonder if apatheism of our generation is mostly derived from us expecting other people do something or our reluctancy as individuals to feel like we can make an impact. Is understanding what causes our apatheism the key to capture the essence of activism that fought back Nike’s unethical labor issues in the ’90s and applying it to today’s labor issues with Apple?

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  3. I liked your idea to rewrite the story as one parallel to 1984. You may not have felt empowered to do so, but I think you could have actually written this even more as a story. Just so you know.

    Images, ads, marketing, and words in the hands of powerful economic actors, firms, do have extraordinary power. I worry that Americans, my students, overlook this and the power to rewrite history too easily.

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