“The Anatomy of Media Bias” by Julian Sanchez is an attempt at analysis of two separate tragedies, that of the deplorable conditions of workers at Foxconn, and that of the senseless death of Trayvon Martin. I believe there is a link, though not the one that Mr. Sanchez has found. For Mr. Sanchez, the lying of Mike Daisey in his story on a Foxconn plant and the lack of coverage Fox News gave to the killing of Martin represent an example of disproportionality. The Daisey story ultimately involved a smaller number of affected workers than Daisey misled listeners to believe. Fox News did not give proper coverage to the Martin killing because of their sense that it was an isolated event. I believe Mr. Sanchez misidentifies in both cases the proper crux of both stories, a simple question of what sells and what does not, as well as who is invisible, and who is not, in the United States, and the world.
Let us consider first the story Mike Daisey told of conditions at a Foxconn plant in Shenzhen. Mr. Daisey’s account has been properly exposed as so many layers of deception (PDF transcript). Beyond simple lies of what he saw and did not see, Mr. Daisey took factual incidents reported by various sources and placed them all in a narrative about this one factory. That Mr. Daisey has been shown to be a liar is not enough for Mr. Sanchez: the incidents inserted into his story have somehow been demolished as well. “While most commentary on the story has rightly rejected Daisey’s invocation of “‘artistic license’” writes Mr. Sanchez, a misrepresentation is perpetuated, with the idea that Daisey’s version “of labor practices at Chinese suppliers like Foxconn, is true”. Sanchez buttresses this argument with two pieces, “Attacking the Press” by Erica Greider, and “Mike Daisey Was Wrong About Apple in China” by Daniel Engber.
The piece by Ms. Greider, unless I have misunderstood it, does not quite support the point Mr. Sanchez makes for it. Ms. Greider points to the miserable conditions of chinese factories, in a sentence that Mr. Sanchez appears to have missed: “We know that most of the things [Mike Daisey] describes happening at the Foxconn factory actually have happened, if not at the factory in question” (my bolded emphasis). Ms. Greider’s thesis, is that when Mr. Daisey places all these incidents in one factory, for himself to heroically discover, he may make points about chinese labor and media blindness, he does so not for the principle of story-telling economy, but for Mr. Daisey’s own self-aggrandizement. The horrors of these factories could be found, if only the media had been as willing to look as Mr. Daisey. An amateur in a hawaiian shirt discovered the truth, because he had a curiosity and righteousness the mainstream press lacked. This same mainstream media, of course, had already done substantial in-depth reporting on factories manufacturing products for Apple and other companies, in such articles as “In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad”, “Workers Sickened at Apple Supplier in China”, and “Explosion at Apple Supplier Caused by Dust, China Says”. Let us be clear, however, once again: Ms. Greider does not question that the details of horrific labor conditions are very much the case.
“Mike Daisey Was Wrong About Apple in China” by Mr. Engber serves as the main buttress for Mr. Sanchez’s point, then, and it is more problematic. “I’m told again and again,” writes Engber, “that it’s a tragedy Daisey misrepresented the little stuff because his main argument is so important and true.” It is wrong, according to Mr. Engber, for “This American Life” host to claim that basic story was true, on the details reported on such details that “Foxconn employees are overworked and underaged; Chinese workers are in fact poisoned by something called n-hexane; living conditions are crowded; attempts to unionize are busted; et cetera.” Any claims Mr. Daisey’s story makes about these, according to Mr. Engber, are “substantially false.” Mr. Engber then focuses entirely on the number of underage workers at Foxconn; Mr. Daisey gives us a rate of five percent underage workers when the actual number is 0.05. Were Mr. Daisey’s report a scientific paper, according to Mr. Engber, it would be considered fraudulent, for this very manipulation of data, whatever the soundness of the conclusion. Mr. Engber does not provide a source for his counter figures, as one would in a scientific paper, but I’ll take his word for it. The gap in underage workers in verified reports and Mr. Daisey’s monologue is employed as the sole point of refutation of any other claims.
Mr. Engber’s focus on the figure of underage workers to the exclusion of all other details of factory working conditions is a little strange, since the difficulties of chinese factories involved in ipad production have been thoroughly and reliably documented. The most chilling detail of Mr. Daisey’s piece, the nets outside of Foxconn factories to deal with the problem of suicides, is very much the case, and can be found in the story “1 Million Workers. 90 Million iPhones. 17 Suicides. Who’s to Blame?” by Joel Johnson in Wired. That many workers suffered long-term damage at the Suzhou Wintek factory which designs the ipad screens is well documented in “Workers Sickened at Apple Supplier in China” by David Barboza. An example is given of Jia Jingchuan, whose nerve damage was so severe he now must wear down-insulated clothes indoors. This came from handling what Mr. Engber calls “something called n-hexane”. After they suffered this damage, many were pressured to leave without compensation, their pleas to Apple for relief ignored. Improper ventilation in the Pegatron factory in Shanghai and the Foxconn factory in Chengdu resulted in explosions, causing severe burns and death in both locations. Accounts of both fires are ably documented respectively in “iPad Workers: Plant Inspected Hours Before Blast” and “Explosion at Apple Supplier Caused by Dust, China Says”. The overcrowding and strain of Foxconn factories, with employees forced to work overtime and workers’ legs swelling from standing ten hours a day, with barely edible food, and marginal living facilities, are all documented in “In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad”, by Charles Duhigg and David Barboza, as well as the report “Foxconn and Apple Fail to Fulfill Promises: Predicaments of Workers after the Suicides” by the heroic Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM).
Mr. Engber argues for the falseness of the claims of Mr. Glass that the details of the labour conditions has been corroborated by other sources. I have just linked to those accounts which I believe give such substantial backing to Mr. Glass. By stating that the details of factory work, including the toxic effects of n-hexane and overcrowding are “substantially false”, he indicts not Mr. Daisey, but the appropriated research of Johnson, Duhigg, Barboza, and SACOM. So, I make a similar challenge to Mr. Engber and his counterclaims. Demonstrate that the points on Foxconn overcrowding and improper ventilation, on the poisoning by “something called n-hexane” are substantially false, as he claims. If he cannot, then either he or Slate should retract their assertions. If they do not, then they abide by standards lower than that of most scientific journals, but “This American Life” as well.
That Mr. Daisey’s examination of chinese labour conditions was so extraordinarily popular, the most downloaded program in the history of “This American Life”, lies not just, I believe, with Mr. Daisey’s ability at storytelling but the very quality that Ms. Greider identifies, the placing of Mr. Daisey at the heroic center of these wretched factories, against the monoliths of corporate indifference. Where the superb accounts of Mr. Duhigg and Mr. Barboza place the reader in a passive role, a guilty party who consumes these products whose construction others investigate, Mr. Daisey gives the listener a heroic proxy, someone like himself, an ordinary schmoe who wants to do good, an enthusiastic well-meaning amateur much like the listener, or how the listener sees himself, surrounded by the treacherous and callous, including, I suppose, the employer of Messrs. Duhigg and Barboza.
So, Mr. Daisey’s program has given the audience what they wanted. In their own way, Apple has given their audience what they’ve wanted as well, a magical gadget at a very low price. Perhaps Messrs. Engber and Sanchez have given this same audience something as well, brushing aside all thought of labor conditions because of one man’s lies. This dovetails with Mr. Sanchez’s other point about the lack of coverage Fox News gave to the death of Trayvon Martin. The starting point is the now infamous graph detailing the miserly amount of coverage that Fox News gave to the shooting, as featured in this Think Progress post “All Major News Outlets Cover Trayvon Martin Tragedy, Except Fox News”:
Though the amount of coverage, according to Mr. Sanchez, may be inherently defensible, the contrast in coverage with other media may also lie with “whether one thinks institutional racism remains a serious problem in the United States”, whether this killing is a lone occurrence or part of a larger context of prejudice, with Fox News taking, obviously, the former position. I will offer a simple alternative, without righteousness, which is that, given its audience, this was the financially smart position for Fox News to take. That the positions of the network are not the result of the brainstorming of various solons, as Mr. Sanchez appears to think, but a simple, crude calculation of the appetites of its viewers. Ultimately, I think this means heavy coverage of the alien, the foreign, invading the abode of the decent, domestic american, and I think it is easily understood that american is euphemism for a certain skin color and religion. This is why the network gives uncritical emphasis to the possibility that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fake. This is why so much stamping and gnashing is given to the prospect of a Ground Zero mosque. Ultimately, a story about a man killing an unarmed black teenager goes entirely against this narrative, puts it entirely on its head, makes the alien a decent, law abiding innocent, and the gun wielding authority into something else.
The objection might be raised that there is nothing in the heart of the Fox viewer that is anything as rancid as this. That the choice made is similar to the rational calculation which Mr. Sanchez describes. I offer as possible refutation, two sets of statements, both collected courtesy of Little Green Footballs, which I learned via the invaluable Eric Boehlert.
I note that these statements appear to have been made with the comfort that the writer is among brethren, like minded men and women, so they may say these things without shame, compunction, or expectation of censure.
The first set of statements are comments made at the Fox News site, posted to the story reporting Whitney Houston’s death. The language is offensive. This is a partial listing, with the full set to be found at Little Green Footballs.
A tragedy is when someones passes away from a terminal disease or something else that no one saw coming.Whitney is just an inferior lo w life ni gg er that needed to go,no tragedy,no loss.
Any death is a tragedy you heartless bástard.
not nignogs their death is a plus
SHe couldn’t even sell issues of “the national enquirer” anymore. Everyone was tired of the TNB. Niqqer flaps her lips and screeches, niqqer becomes rich. Niqqer ends up nearly broke after spending all of her money. Niqqer in constant fights and drug binges. Niqqer ODs when she learns she’s nearly broke and she is so wasted physically she can’t make another album. Niqqer hit the end of the road, niqqer thinking and niqqer behavior led her to where she had nothing. She couldn’t face life without the “bling bling”, she knew she would never have any more “kaching kaching”
I am now patiently waiting for the grand messiah Obama to have a blk fundraiser in honor of Whitley with Kevin Costner as guest of honor with all the Hollywood elites invited along with Alan Colmes, Al Sharpton, Jeremia Wright, Charles Rangel, etc. with a menu featuring blk eyed peas, grits, Imported Kobe steak, Dom Perignon, sweet potato pie and a mus lll im scarf as a momento of this great occasion.
Of course the door prize will be an all expense paid trip to Kenya to visit the Obama tribe and birthplace of his ancestors while the American people still look for this imposter’s birth certificate in Hawaii !!!
This is typical of the blk gene pool; it happens all the time. They cannot handle fame and fortune whether it’s derived from music, acting, sports or just plain entertainment. Too much fame and too much money at one time will ki ll ll you.
How many blk people have died from drugs including alcohol that have been in the sports and the entertainment industry or screwed up their married lives like Tiger Woods or worse, OJ Simpson !!!
This is the same disease that got Obama voted into the White House.
i don’t even consider them to be included in the human race let alone on a pedistal. the people that do are a bunch of loosers.
Story goes Obama sh0ved to much cr@ck up the wh0res @zz when he was going to sniiff it…
Obvious the use of to much hair strengthener did her in.That s__t will peel paint!
unfortunately like most nignog crack hoes she was able to apply her trade on “da streets”
Another nignog off the public social rolls
BIack females are the fattest segment of the population. BIack males are the most murderousss segment of the population. Africans have the lowest IQ of all people.
Like most of her species, she suffered from chronic stupidity.
tough break niqqer.
Nothing wrong with Coors, what is good about it most_n i g g e r s_ don’t like it
oh niqqa please,nigga please.
one of the only b l a c k chics i would have ever banged…..once you go c r ack er…..you dont do cr a c k
Woo Hoo One less obama voter
Whitney who?!? some /\/iggress music artist that had a couple of hits in the early 90’s. She’s since been forgotten and now she’s dead.. Who cares..
Africans love their drugs.
Here is a second set of comments, again posted to the Fox News site, in reaction to the story of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Again, the language is offensive. Again, this is a partial listing, with the full set to be found at Little Green Footballs.
What a shame—a tragedy, really— because the dead lil’ gangsta could’ve used “‘A-FIRM-TIV AK-SHUN” to go to kollige an play footballz and make lotsa cash munny!”
Fast and Furious didn’t work to pass new gun control so now Eric Holder will try the race card.
No matter how crime figures are massaged by those who want to acknowledge or dispute the existence of a Dirty War, there is nothing ambiguous about what the official statistics portray: for the past 45 years a large segment of bIack America has waged a war of v i o l e n t retribution against white America.
Zimmerman was attacked by the man and defended himself with a gun. Zimmerman’s wounds were verified by police.
17 = child. LOL!!!!!!
Let the LIB word games begin.
Yet the “justice department” refuses to prosecute any voter intimidation that involves a blac k as the intimidator.
Why should anyone care about this kid? Because he is of color? People don’t value kids period. They are property. BTW, I am a conservative that cares a great deal about kids. We follow hundreds of cases each year, many white babies and children, none of them get attention. But he does??
Zimmerman felt threatened by Martin’s gang’s actions…this could have possibly lead to these terrible circumstances. Gang violence MUST BE STOPPED OBAMA!
Blacks can do no wrong, period! That is the DOJ’s excuse for becoming involved. 50+ years of being told they are special and entitled and the gov’t’s only focus is to make it so!!
In any event, it appears to be a case of one sc u m bag Cuban-type (Zimmerman) offing some scummy b l a ck kid (Trayyy-Vonnnn)…in some trash neighborhood….
but now, because the dead kid’s a kneegrow, we have:
the BIG BAD FBI on this “important” case…and
the usual BLACK-RADICAL-PROTESTERS who can’t mind their own business!
Gated communities exist because people are afraid….& negros thrive on crime…Look at our prisons.
Need that too….But Negr0s only have their welfare checks….and in any event can’t follow rules
What time do the riots start? Gotta get my popcorn and munchies ready for the “hood” burning!
Funny you never see them rally against the drug dealing murderers that control their neighborhoods. LOL!!!
How does anyone know what this 17 yr old said, Most likely he threw the race card out ” you stop me because I*M B L ACK” and then became threatning. The media alway plants the seed of doubt when when a B l ac k is sh ot by a caucasian
maybe his gang brothers incited violence too?
I close with this observation: there are things that are very profitable whose profitability makes us very uncomfortable. Such things include pornography and drugs. They also include hatred of our fellow man. Many years ago, a presidential candidate oversaw the publication of directions on how to deal with black men in your neighborhood, and I find it very prescient in foreshadowing details of the Martin killing.
If you live in a major city, you’ve probably already heard about the newest threat to your life and limb, and your family: carjacking.
It is the hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos. The youth simply walk up to a car they like, pull a gun, tell the family to get out, steal their jewelry and wallets, and take the car to wreck. Such actions have ballooned in the recent months.
In the old days, average people could avoid such youth by staying out of bad neighborhoods. Empowered by media, police, and political complicity, however, the youth now roam everywhere looking for cars to steal and people to rob.
What can you do? More and more Americans are carrying a gun in the car. An ex-cop I know advises that if you have to use a gun on a youth, you should leave the scene immediately, disposing of the wiped off gun as soon as possible. Such a gun cannot, of course, be registered to you, but one bought privately (through the classifieds, for example).
I frankly don’t know what to make of such advice, but even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.
This story, of course, was published in a newsletter by Ron Paul, a newsletter whose active oversight by Paul was confirmed in “Paul pursued strategy of publishing controversial newsletters”, by Jerry Markon and Alice Crites, of the Washington Post. It was, not incidentally, first investigated by Mr. Sanchez himself, along with Dave Weigel in very good work, “Who Wrote Ron Paul’s Newsletters?”. I consider Paul to be a man of mediocre intellect, who, however, now holds one distinction few writers can claim: what he wrote two decades ago is still very much relevant today. This newsletter was a very successful commercial venture, making Paul a multi-millionaire, successful not despite its targeting of black men and women, but because of it. This shrewd business calculation is, I believe, the same one Fox News makes now. The only question is whether we are willing to see it clearly as such, state it clearly as such, and ask for a world where our fellows are something more than paving stones to misanthropic wealth and worker ants for the building of our toys.
(This piece was edited for style with corrections made for grammar and spelling subsequent to its initial posting. I also negligently did not give a proper link for the Think Progress story featuring their graph on Fox News coverage of the Martin killing, nor did I give proper mention to Mr. Sanchez for his past work on the Paul newsletters.)