Mike Daisey's fictional attack on Apple and Foxconn reveals fact of Silicon Valley greed
Apple's history of assigning a low priority to working conditions in Chinese factories making their components is getting more headlines now, after a snafu in the fact checking of a radio program produced in Chicago.
Which is more significant, Apple's lack of concern and accountability for workers in China, off whose backs they profited 100 times over, or the fact that a known entertainer didn't abide by journalistic ethics?
An overlooked and important aspect of this saga is how the discredited TAL broadcast lifts a lid on the lack of investigative journalism (both nationally and locally) focused on the big players in high tech. In this case, a muscular Apple PR machine is content to watch Mike Daisey be at the center, and by the way, look over here -- see how seriously Tim Cook (Jobs' successor) is cleaning things up.
What about the decade before, when conditions in China were as poor if not poorer and were definitely not Jobs' concern? The current events offer a rare view behind the scenes in Silicon Valley, where an increasing nasty cauldron of cynicism has been simmering for the last several years, due in part to the recession's dampening effects on newsroom staff and the numerous budget crises the legislature is grappling with.
For all the rah-rah stories written about the hundreds of startups sprouting in the fertile soil of the Bay Area this year, the massive technology engine of Silicon Valley remains unchanged and shows little indication of permitting the democratizing aspects of the social media its very technology supports to take hold in the workforce. Twitter's impact has been profound in places like Egypt, but so far there's no Occupy Silicon Valley. It's business as usual and transparency has no positive effect on the bottom line. Silicon Valley companies – by that I mean not only the CEOs but the Boards of Directors and the other C-suite execs – remain fixated on profits and/or "The Exit" and work closely with their PR and legal arms to tightly control all the messaging about their staff and brands.
Not since the once mercurial and now deified Steve Job's and the Apple board's stock-options backdating jiggery pokery between 1997-2002 surfaced in 2007 - covered by The New York Times and Bloomberg, has there been any body of investigative work in Silicon Valley by either the San Francisco Chronicle or the San Jose Mercury News.
Technology's scythe has disrupted journalism and reduced newsroom staffs to 25 per cent of their pre-recession/disruption levels, but come on. One of the world's biggest industries is in their backyard. If the fourthth estate doesn't do their part to keep excesses in check, who will? The Legislature? Not a chance. They gratefully accept any tax revenue to hold together a frayed infrastructure and the social safety net.
How does the local press defend their propensity to fill 90 per cent of their reportage using one of these formulas?
1) "Look, it's a new company." Venture capitalists throw X million dollars at juvenile male who understands nothing of the gritty details of work but who launches his Weirdly Named Company to provide a service that no one outside said upper class circles has a clue whether there is mainstream demand for.
2) "Look, it's an excuse to party." Announcements and first hand reports from another freaking cool startup/social media/geek fest conference happening in Austin, or on one of the two coasts. The gaggle of speakers includes C-suite execs (of the XY chromosome variety) from the hottest new weirdly named companies (Oink, Jiff, Milk ) and a token gal (or two) to appear inclusive.
3) "Look how much money someone is making." Company's X's stock price grazes some big number.