The Macalope: Unrighteous indignation

BuzzFeed’s John Herrman is flipping some tables at technology sites’ indifference to a recent report about labor abuses at an Apple supplier.

“The Only Apple Rumors That Nobody Cares About.”

As it turns out, this report included some other information, information that seemingly confirms the existence of a budget iPhone. Intriguing, but what about the abuses?

Undercover investigators working on behalf of China Labor Watch, a nonprofit based out of New York and Shenzhen, China, claim to have uncovered a shocking litany of labor abuses at the factories of Pegratron, one of the suppliers Apple uses to make its products.

Apple … and no one else in the world.

So it’s a bit jarring to see The Next Web, one of the largest tech sites in the world, writing up the following report:

Speculation surrounding Apple’s long-rumored budget iPhone has escalated over the last few months, but a first-hand report by China Labor Watch today all but confirmed the handset’s existence.

They totally ignored the labor-abuses angle! Can you believe that?!

Well, OK, when the Macalope says “totally ignored” he actually means that they reported on it the night before in a separate story, which focused solely on the labor-abuses angle. So, in other words, they led with the labor-abuses angle and then followed up with the budget-iPhone angle. So, that kind of “totally ignoring it.” By which the Macalope means “not ignoring it at all.”

The Next Web is not alone—many other sites have framed the news in a similar way.

Indeed! As a matter of fact, the first site Herrman links to, The Verge, covered it exactly the same way, by discussing the labor-abuses issue in a separate story first and then the budget-iPhone angle second. For all the Macalope knows, the second site Herrman links to, VentureBeat, may have done the same thing, but heck if the horny one’s going to go out of his way to defend Tiger Beat in the Valley.

And, to be clear, an unannounced major product from one of the most important companies in the world is most definitely news (update: and, as TNW’s Matthew Panzarino points out, the site did cover the core of the report last night).

Ooookay.

So, both are news, The Next Web covered the labor abuses first but …

Uh, actually, the Macalope has no idea what you’re complaining about anymore. Unless it’s just to say “Why, oh, why, don’t people care about how horrible Apple is?”

Maybe it’s because people, unlike the scolds at BuzzFeed, recognize that Apple’s not the only one who uses these firms. Or perhaps because people are just sadly inured to these things—in part because these stories don’t lend any kind of insight into what can be done to change things.

What is this news, placed solely in the context of Apple, supposed to motivate people to do? Stop buying Apple products? Hey, that’ll really solve the problem! See, people just need to realize that they can go across the street and buy smartphones from the magical elven companies that don’t use Chinese labor. This is, of course, assuming that the street they’re shopping on is Diagon Alley.

Also, it should be pointed out, house elves are horribly abused as well. So, there’s that.

Activists often make the claim that framing these things as being about Apple is the way to drive it home to people, since Apple products are so popular (although Android is still “winning” somehow). But Apple can’t solve this problem on its own. Pegatron has many other clients, at least a number of which are Android device manufacturers. Apple is legitimately trying to do more than pretty much any other company, but how does it solve anything when Google, Samsung, Asus, and a thousand other companies get virtually no criticism at all?

Maybe technology press could cover these problems more. The Macalope is certainly not saying they couldn’t. But maybe one way to do that is to make the story about more than just Apple.

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