As much as I hate to admit it, I definitely have a tendency to initially overreact to a story or piece of journalism after encountering it for the first time. My experiences over the past several weeks regarding the Mike Daisey story are a prime example of that. When I first heard Mike Daisey’s original monologue on This American Life two weeks ago, I came away shocked, confused, and angry. I was ready to burn my MacBook and boycott Apple forever. Maybe it was Daisey’s tone, maybe it was because it was an assignment from a professor, but I definitely believed Daisey and reacted strongly against Apple. I did not stop to consider that parts of the story that did not seem to add up.
Last week, I pulled a complete 180. I had another knee-jerk reaction, and I was ready to vilify Mike Daisey after hearing the “Retraction” show on This American Life. I acknowledged that he did a good job of raising awareness to the cause, but I felt his argument was dead in the water because he had lost all credibility. The story became about him, and not the issues taking place at Foxconn. That was my main problem with Daisey. His “retraction” was more about him than the issues at hand. This week, after hearing both sides of the story and along with the Bucknell version of Daisey’s play, I have a better feel for what is going on at Foxconn, along with probably a more level head.
Overall, I think Mike Daisey is just touching the tip of the iceberg with his story. There is a much bigger picture involved, the question is whether or not it is as bad as we are lead to believe. As Steve Jobs says in the play, Foxconn is not a unique situation in China. Foxconn is huge, China is huge, and there are many other places similar to Foxconn in China. Jobs additional points out that the suicide rate at Foxconn is actually lower than that of the United States. However, I think the most telling part of the Bucknell play was from Dr. Zhu, when he touched on the cultural gap between China and the United States. Workers in China view Foxconn as a tremendous opportunity to move to the big city, get a job, and escape poverty. They relish the opportunity, whereas Americans may view it as incredible harsh working conditions.
Dr. Zhu says “the gap between American understanding and Chinese reality remains bigger than China itself”. Therefore, the question really should be: If what Apple is doing at Foxconn is normal in China, then is Apple wrong in doing so? The problem seems to go way bigger than Apple, as dozens of huge American corporations are having their products manufactured elsewhere in the world under conditions that probably would not fly in our country.