Our new spin on the Foxconn suicide epidemic

Working together with our colleagues in the PRC’s propaganda ministry we have developed a great new counter-narrative that we’ve been pushing pretty hard in background conversations with friendly hacks. Basically it’s the notion that Foxconn’s suicide rate is actually below the national average of China, meaning that if you’re working at Foxconn you’re actually less likely to commit suicide. That’s right. The truth is, we are actually saving lives in China. We’re the Samaritans of China.

Anyway, obviously we can’t come out and just say this, because then we look callous and insensitive, so instead we have our PR guys tee this up with journalists. We steer the hacks to statistics on suicide provided by the World Health Organization, then we hit them with some stuff about how their fellow stupid hack journalists only write sensationalist shit about suicides because they don’t know how to perform even a basic statistical analysis — unlike you, Hacky McHackerson, who we’re sure will do the heroic, attention-getting thing and speak the unpopular truth about Foxconn suicides being a non-story.

Sure enough you now can see it showing up on Fast Company, then on ZDNet, whence it leapt to Daring Fireball (surprised?). It’s also on the Wall Street Journal and 9-to-5 Mac. Alley Insider has one saying that Foxconn’s suicide rate is lower than in all 50 of the US states.

So far nobody in the moronic hackery seems to have figured out how they’re being gulled, because (a) they’re liberal arts majors who don’t understand how to use statistics, and (b) they’re also pompous nitwits who are always looking for a chance to prove how clever they are, so they can feel superior to everyone else, especially their rival hacks.

But, see, arguments about national averages are a smokescreen. Sure, people kill themselves all the time. But the Foxconn people all work for the same company, in the same place, and they’re all doing it in the same way, and that way happens to be a gruesome, public way that makes a spectacle of their death. They’re not pill-takers or wrist-slitters or hangers. They’re not Sylvia Plath wannabes, sealing off the kitchen and quietly sticking their head in the oven. They’re jumpers. And jumpers, my friends, are a different breed. Ask any cop or shrink who deals with this stuff. Jumpers want to make a statement. Jumpers are trying to tell you something.

Also, consider this. Walmart has 1.4 million employees in the United States. Can you remember a time when 10 or 15 Walmart workers jumped to their deaths from the roofs of Walmart stores over the course of a few months? Have you ever heard of Walmart asking employees to sign a no-suicide contract, or putting safety nets up on all of its buildings? If this did happen, would you think maybe something is going on at Walmart? Or would you just say, well, 10 or 15 people out of 1.4 million is still waaaay below the national average?

Britain’s National Health Service has 1.3 million employees. Number of suicides last year involving NHS workers jumping from NHS buildings: zero. Indian Railways has 1.6 million employees. Can you recall the last time 10 or 15 of them threw themselves under trains over the course of a few months? Deutsche Post has half a million employees. Ever heard a story about a dozen of them hurling themselves into letter-sorting machines?

And yes, France Telecom did have a suicide epidemic last year. Guess what. Nobody went around saying that it was no big deal because it was still below the national average in France — instead the official explanation was that the suicides were caused by brutal management harassing workers. The Sarkozy administration took this seriously and got involved and at France Telecom a top executive actually resigned because of the tragedy.

All I can say is the French are just such huge pussies. They just don’t have the balls to pull off the kind of brazen spin that we do without even thinking twice.

Well, soon enough our line about national averages will play itself out, and people will start remembering Foxconn’s track record of overworking employees, violating labor laws, assaulting journalists, suing journalists, and using hired security goons to bust into apartments of employees and perform illegal searches.

That’s why we’re already trickling out our next counter-narrative, which is that this isn’t about Apple, because Foxconn actually assembles products for lots of companies, like HP, Dell, Microsoft, Cisco — everybody. You’ve probably seen it showing up here and there. You’ll see more of it soon, I promise.

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