Mike Daisey on Apple's recently published Job Creation infographic:
I got called yesterday by Politico because Joe Biden said something stupid—he's still using Steve Jobs as his favorite example of "innovation" bringing jobs back to the heartland of America, despite the fact that the kind of jobs he's talking about are now in China, and aren't coming back. And if they do come, it won't be coming from Apple.
Who, then? Daisey seems to be suggesting some other company as a more likely candidate, but he doesn't finish the thought. It's one thing to be disappointed with Apple (and even to gloss over infractions by other companies) but it's quite another to insinuate that some phantom corporation is likely to step up where Apple won't.
First—this is kind of a transparent dodge, isn't it? This doesn't address anything about Apple's treatment of its workers—instead, it almost seems like a bribe: don't ask us to regulate or behave in an ethical manner, because we might stop providing these half million American jobs!
No, it addresses parallel criticisms that Apple isn't doing anything to help the American economy.
I was under the impression that Apple was a small, lean company—half a million. That's amazing.
If Daisey is under that impression, he's either deluded or he's being disingenuous. Take your pick.
That's hard to believe, because the Apple of old was so good at press and statistical manipulation—Steve Jobs was an absolute master at this sort of thing. If Apple gave a number for something, you could be certain it said exactly what they wanted it to say.
We're talking about Steve Jobs, right? The Steve Jobs who was known for employing a Reality Distortion Field? The Steve Jobs who taught himself to stare without blinking so that he could control conversations? The Steve Jobs who would dismiss a product one quarter and release it the next?
Steve Jobs was a lot of things, but I'm not sure "straight shooter" is something I'd posthumously credit him with.
Steve Jobs once suggested the iPhone didn't have an antenna or signal loss problem, contrary to popular reporting: We just weren't holding it right! Later, Apple -- still under Steve Jobs's leadership -- tried to say that the phone wasn't losing reception at all, silly, it was just incorrectly displaying the reception bars: We were actually getting shitty reception all along! Oops! (Sometimes, though, we were actually getting BETTER reception than we thought.)
Later still: "Have some free bumpers!"
The "app economy" is apparently responsible for 210,000 jobs. Of course, I don't doubt that some brand new jobs exist that would never have existed without iOS apps. On the other hand, in that alternate universe, these talented people would be developing for other companies.
Would they? It's hard to imagine where we'd be at today, if you go back in time and basically remove the iPhone, the iPad, iOS, and see where we'd end up.
Is it possible that we'd be talking about an app economy? That we'd still see the industry shift in the way we've seen it shift? Sure. Anything is possible.
It doesn't really matter, though: The app economy -- as it exists today -- exists, in large part, because of Apple and the introduction of iOS. Developers are gainfully employed because of Apple. If Apple wanted to get really cute, they could probably go ahead and take a little bit of credit for all those Android developers, as well.
Apple hired an outside group, Analysis Group, to get these numbers. Remember when Apple under Steve Jobs was so proud that they didn't uses polls and outside analysis groups? Yes, I remember that, too.
I remember that Apple prided itself on not conducting focus groups to help drive its product strategy, yes. It's a bit of a stretch to compare that to what's going on here, though.
Now that I think about it: I'm pretty sure Apple, under Steve Jobs, put together a similar page to "spin" another alleged PR crisis, but I can't quite recall what that was all about.
Modern infographics? Check.
Released primarily to combat negative reporting and unwanted attention brought on by special interest groups? Check.
Apple taking action where other companies have not? Check.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Apple utilized an analytics group to compile those numbers as well.
Daisey may say that it's a different situation (probably because it's not the one he's passionate about) but the fact of the matter is, Greenpeace complains about Apple's environmental spin in exactly the same way he complains about Apple's Foxconn spin and they've both picked Apple for exactly the same reason.
And, of course, I could mention Steve Jobs's infamous Thoughts on Flash but why pile on?
It does bear noting that the majority of those US jobs, 27,350 to be exact by Apple's numbers, are low-paying retail jobs working at Apple Stores that are not unionized, and have in fact fought organizing efforts. So if you're imagining that fifty thousand as movers and shakers who get to create the future...well, for people like that the numbers are more like this:
Why does that bear noting? Perhaps Daisey is just padding his criticisms at this point, but it seems especially silly to "yeah, but" 27,350 full-time jobs (with health care benefits) in a down economy just because they're not what he considers to be "high paying" jobs.
We can't all be media darlings and monologists.
If, as some are demanding, Apple brings manufacturing jobs back to the US and pays all those jobs at the minimum wage, will Daisey consider those be "yeah, but" jobs as well?
Apple can't win for losing.
You can certainly bet that if Steve Jobs were still running Apple, we wouldn't be where we are now—a month into the most serious PR crisis in Apple's history, and still no press conference.
Again, Daisey is attributing to Steve Jobs actions and motives that don't really fit with the Steve Jobs I remember, or that history seems to have captured. Steve Jobs wasn't a press conference CEO. I can think of only one, the Antennagate presser, and it contained quite a lot of spin and reality distortion, as mentioned above.
As always, it occurred on Apple's terms, and on Apple's turf, or it wouldn't have occurred at all.
To suggest that, were Steve Jobs still alive, Apple would be doing more than they're doing under Tim Cook's leadership is, I think, delusional crazy talk.
From the article that set Daisey off:
“I honestly think that they’re not keeping up with what America’s waking up to: the circumstances under which their devices are made,” Daisey said.
I, in turn, honestly think Daisey is drinking too much of his own kool-aid.
It's always going to be popular to hate on Apple, and Foxconn is definitely in the news, but I think when the iPad 3 is released, we'll see what people are waking up to.
I don't think the story is resonating quite as strongly as Daisey thinks it is: My wife watched the Nightline special and couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. I suspect her take is probably closer to the national outlook than Daisey's is and, at some point, he is going to have to stop assuming (or asserting) that people only think that way because they're not informed.
I'll end on this: Daisey makes a living performing a monologue about the life of Steve Jobs and the labor practices of Foxconn, Apple's largest manufacturer.
I guess we can check off one more job in the "supported by Apple" column.