Oct 252011

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I don’t care that The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is about the relatively shitty conditions under which all of our consumer electronics are made. The fact that the vast majority of every single product that could be seen as a target of your disposable income isn’t what’s being marketed on the marquee and it’s not the vehicle the one man show is using to hammer home your Western, consumerist guilt. It’s a singling out of Apple Inc. and Steve Jobs that gets people in the door.

The show focuses on one man’s trip to Shenzhen and the conditions he observed in some of the factories where Apple makes its products, taking tours that apparently aren’t even in the “Not for Tourists” guides. He meets with factory managers, workers and reps for underground organized labor movements at these companies. I have no intention of going, but from what I’ve gleaned from reviews, it seems appropriately awful and eye-opening. It’s also more than a little disingenuous.

First off, this is not a problem for which Apple is exclusively responsible, despite what all of the marketing for the performance would have you believe. A partial list of companies not named Apple that also have their devices manufactured in Shenzhen include Acer Inc., Amazon.com, Intel, Cisco, HP, Dell, Nintendo, Nokia, Microsoft, MSI, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Vizio. Did I mention this list is from one factory? Chances are, anything you buy that has an electronic component will come from a factory in Shenzhen. That’s why its one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.

Conspicuous consumption is one of those things the West is made to feel horribly about. It harkens back to every parental chiding about finishing your dinner because of the millions of starving Ethopians. I’m not going to argue that consumption and waste aren’t a global problem, but making money off of the name of one party to it and its now-deceased co-founder and CEO has a very familiar stink to it.

That fruit was hanging waaaay too low

Of course, I could have this all wrong. If it so happens that all the proceeds from the production (net expenses) go to the Shenzhen labor movement or some other worthy cause related to the issue, that’d be a pretty good indication that the person is more interested in helping solve the problem as opposed to cashing in off a big name and bitching about it, which is my suspicion. What can I say – I’m a pessimist. If I’m wrong, I’ll be happy to remove my post forthwith, apologize and buy a ticket to the show.

 Posted by at 3:13 pm

  2 Responses to “Oh Look! Another Guy Making Money from Steve Jobs’s Death”

  1. I have read about show maybe year ago looking for his Tesla and Edison show, so it is not new thing at all. This time some media outlets have found something about Jobs and Apple and they thought it is something new, and decide to run with it. Sorry, but media is here to blame. There is also interwiev with author where he explain that he choose Apple becouse of their brend recognition, but he admit that all manufacturers are to blame.

  2. It’s not new, I realize. When I heard about it, I’d hoped it would sputter on its own, but Jobs’s passing guaranteed that the money train had just pulled into the station.

    I don’t have a problem with good ol’ fashioned social commentary. I have a problem with disproportionately targeting a company that’s a very small part of the problem. It’s not like the production gives equal time to any of the hundreds of manufacturers that utilize the same facilities for their components. Brand recognition humping off-Broadway is the same practice as hit-whoring for Computerworld. Mike Daisey is as much of a humanitarian as Paul Thurrott.

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