Saturday, May 29, 2010

Media suicide watch: It’s working!

In an alarming new trend, members of the media have been killing off their own credibility at an alarming rate in an effort to help a powerful corporation downplay a string of suicides at a labor camp manufacturing facility in China. All of these media outlets are promoting the ridiculous notion that Foxconn’s suicide epidemic is not an epidemic at all, because it’s way below the national average suicide rate in China. Why are so many members of the media suddenly committing professional suicide at such an alarming rate? Some believe the media workers can no longer bear the slow death of their industry and just want to end their misery. Others blame brutal working conditions, especially for those employed by online publications. These “bloggers” and “aggregators” spend 10 to 12 hours a day chained to computer monitors, doing incredibly boring and meaningless work, for little or no pay, and are routinely abused by their managers.

The latest to join the list are:

The Times Online which says something about throwing rice into the air and how you can’t control where it lands and therefore there is no “trend” at Foxconn.

PC World which urges readers to remember that “the number of suicides [at Foxconn] is only perceived as high.”

MacDailyNews, which cites an article in People’s Daily Online, “the organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China,” which reports that “this is an instance of media hysteria and disregard for statistical facts.” Highly recommended, MacDailyNews says. Because honestly, if you can’t trust the Central Committee, who can you trust?

People’s Daily Online, which provides intelligent, straightforward on that crazy hysteria, and determines that Foxconn is not to blame.

MacDailyNews again, which headlines a story, “Why Foxconn is not really experiencing a ‘Suicide Cluster’ and Apple isn’t to blame.”

The Unofficial Apple Weblog cites Gruber claiming that Foxconn is below the national average for China.

Tom Foremski at ZDNet who points out that France Telecom had a suicide epidemic and it was way worse than the one at Foxconn.

Tom’s Hardware, which compares Foxconn to the national average and finds those lazy, cowardly slackers at Foxconn falling far behind their countrymen.

Business Insider, which compares Foxconn suicide rate to that of all 50 states in the U.S. and finds, once again, Foxconn workers coming up short.

CrunchGear, which says Foxconn is nothing compared to Cornell, where kids are killing themselves all the time, and it’s not fair to blame Foxconn for its worker suicides because Foxconn actually treats them really well so there must be some other explanation.

Gizmodo, which cites the Telegraph and says it’s performing a “fact check” on this crazy notion that there’s a suicide problem at Foxconn. Again: media, not Foxconn, to blame.

Mashable, which repeats the claim about Foxconn being below the national average and gives Apple props for being “saddened and upset,” even though, when you think about it, there’s no real reason for us to feel upset, since there’s actually nothing bad or unusual happening at Foxconn, statistically speaking.

Cringely, who says, “not nearly as many workers are throwing themselves off the roof of that Foxconn factory in China as I would expect.” Yes, that’s right. He thinks there should be more suicides. Sigh.

ChinaDivide, which picks up on Cringely’s “I dare you” taunting tone and says that when compared to the national average, Foxconn’s suicidal workers are “far below the curve.”

Great work by all of you. You’ll all be on the shortlist for advance review units of the second-generation iPad.

Friday, May 28, 2010

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.