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The April 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine includes a letter to the editor by performer Mike Daisey, who was featured on a January 2012 episode of This American Life called “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” based on his stage show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” On March 18, This American Life aired revelations that some of the details in Daisey’s story were untrue. Among the facts contradicted by his Chinese translator was the claim that he had interviewed hundreds of Foxconn workers. She estimated the number at closer to fifty.
In “Killing the Competition” [Report, February], Barry C. Lynn expounds on the contraction of open markets in an age of corporate hegemony, comparing the plight of Apple employees in Silicon Valley with that of poultry farmers in the Allegheny Mountains. An even more apt comparison might be with workers at Foxconn and other factories throughout the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in China, who manufacture the devices that run Apple software. When I interviewed hundreds of Foxconn workers in 2010, I found they were, like the Apple employees interviewed by Lynn, skittish and fearful of being blacklisted.
Unlike most workers in Silicon Valley, those with whom I spoke in Shenzhen seldom have means of changing their lot, but they suffer no delusions. Perhaps, then, they have something to teach those of us who choose not to see the true nature of the corporations we work for or endorse. Lynn’s article reminds us of the naïveté underlying any assumption that regulation will occur naturally rather than through intervention.
More from Harper’s Magazine:
Official Business — March 17, 2015, 4:01 am
Listen to the broadcast version of “American Hustle,” Alexandra Starr’s story, for the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine, about how elite youth basketball exploits African athletes.
Official Business — January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm
We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”