Friday, August 24, 2012

Rebecca Greenfield racks up an impressive body count of errors, omissions, and glossing-overs in a single paragraph of her ridiculous post, whose point is to tally up a scorecard on whether Tim Cook is AWESOME, or SUPER-MEGA-AWESOME.

No, really. That's what she's assessing.

From the piece's one paragraph on Apple's labor:

For the first time, Apple worked with the Fair Labor Associated for factory audits.

False. Apple worked with Verite in 2006 when it authorized outside auditing, after the Daily Mail and many others exposed horrible labor practices at Foxconn. The fact that Apple ignored Verite's reports and paid only lip service to making any changes for six years is routinely ignored by tech press.

Greenfield's defense might be that this is technically true—after all, they had never worked with the FLA before…just another company who did exactly the same thing six years earlier, in a PR effort that was largely successful at silencing coverage.

It put out a report of its suppliers for the first time, too.

Actually, what it did was supply a list of its suppliers, but then hide which suppliers had committed which infractions, making the list useless for actually trying to hold the suppliers to account. But as a PR move it was successful, as evidenced by how it gets repeated by Ms. Greenfield and her colleagues in posts like this one.

But, not all of it made Apple look that great -- the suppliers report showed some unfortunate child labor.

Only in tech writing can child labor be demoted to "unfortunate", rather than barbaric, inhumane, or ghastly. "Unfortunate" is how I feel about Ms Greenfield's analysis—child labor should be on a higher level of outrage, though perhaps this is just a tech writer allowing her biases to show.

The report from the FLA, which Ms. Greenfield completely omits in this summing up, indicting Foxconn for severe overtime issues, dangerous work conditions, management colluding to prevent workers from having representation. Mysteriously, none of these more comprehensive findings make their way into this summary—she instead cribs from Apple's own reports months earlier.

And, it had some positive effects for Foxconn workers, who got raises.

Except that, per the latest SACOM reports and Rob Schmitz's reporting, independent signs of workers getting those raises on the ground have been nonexistent.

This is, sadly, typical in tech coverage.

Some have been asking me when I'm going to address the FLA report that came out this week assessing Foxconn. The answer is soon—unlike most of the press, I am reading the report and working through it, and this takes a little while.