Wired: It's About the Guilt, Not the Suicides

The March issue of Wired has the bold cover lines: "1 Million Workers. 90 million iPhones. 17 Suicides. This is Where your Gadgets Come From. Should You Care?"

The suicides are the hook, center on the cover, for this profile of a visit to the Foxconn factory complex in Shenzhen, China. The most interesting actual news in it is the fact that Shenzhen is apparently in the process of losing its prominence as China's cutting-edge industrial center.

But the suicide part, well, you learn pretty early in the article that "American college students kill themselves at four times that rate," and much later in the article discover that "the suicide rate at Foxconn's Shenzhen plant remains below the national averages for both rural and urban China."

That was just the hook, not the point, which is toward the end of the article by Joel Johnson, an editor at gizmodo:

To be soaked in materialism, to directly and indirectly champion it, has also brought guilt. I don’t know if I have a right to the vast quantities of materials and energy I consume in my daily life. Even if I thought I did, I know the planet cannot bear my lifestyle multiplied by 7 billion individuals. I believe this understanding is shared, if only subconsciously, by almost everyone in the Western world.

Every last trifle we touch and consume, right down to the paper on which this magazine is printed or the screen on which it’s displayed, is not only ephemeral but in a real sense irreplaceable. Every consumer good has a cost not borne out by its price but instead falsely bolstered by a vanishing resource economy. We squander millions of years’ worth of stored energy, stored life, from our planet to make not only things that are critical to our survival and comfort but also things that simply satisfy our innate primate desire to possess.

Past blogging from me on Shenzhen's dynamic business models, from 2007. Jesse Walker blogged on the innovations that can arise from Shenzhen's industrial knockoffs in 2009.

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  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Say a prayer, Brian, for the freelancer who still has to deliver when the whole premise of the story falls apart. We've all been there.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Or the staffer whose editor wants the "story," story or no.
    The "stories" I could tell...(shudders).

  • ||

    Say a prayer, Brian, for the freelancer who still has to deliver when the whole premise of the story falls apart.

    Why isn't the story that a story about iPhone suicides being bunk not "the story"?

    I think the problem lies in the fact that watching journalists and reporters being pulled on the rack for sucking is not only entertaining to consumers but is classic "man bites dog" muckrakary.

  • ||

    I think the problem lies in the fact that watching journalists...

    I think the problem lies in the fact that editors do not understand that watching journalists...

  • SIV||

    The only Apple product I own is a 120 gig iPod Classic.I think I'll engrave "This Machine Kills Communists" on it.

  • Jack D. Ripper||

    Your commie has no respect for human life. Not even his own.

  • Abdul||

    He robbed the proletariat of another valuable unit of labor in crushing capitalist scum.

    To the gulag with his anti-revolutionary wrecker family!

  • ||

    "This Machine Kills Communists"

    It took about a decade, but Apple finally has the sales pitch that'll get me to buy an iPod.

  • ||

    It'll take a lot more than that for me. Apple, to me, is like the deep-dish pizza of electronics. In other words, it's fucking useless.

  • SIV||

    It's actually an 80 gig. I like it but the headphone jack is starting to fail.
    Nothing from iTunes or in the AAC format has ever been on it. Anyone know if I take it to the Apple store for a battery replacement (battery is fine) if they really just charge you $50 and hand you a new one? That would be nice. Hell I'd go $75.

  • hmm||

    Moar gadgets plz.

  • hmm||

    Sent that from iphone, while listening to ipod, while working on macbook...

  • SIV||

    homo
    *nttawwt*

  • hmm||

    I did that all wearing skinny jeans and a tight retro t-shirt with a white belt.

  • hmm||

    nttawwt

  • Gus||

    Yes. Yes there is.

  • prolefeed||

    The homo part is fine. The fashion faux pas? Not so much so.

  • Almanian||

    What prole said

  • ||

    There is an obvious solution, Joel Johnson. But I guess you'd rather whine than man up.

  • Warty||

    He's like a flagellant who purposely sins just so he has an excuse to beat himself.

  • ||

    Oh no. See, he's sacrificing for us. He's engaging in a guilt-ridden act of expression so we can all give up the shit he'll never give up because whiny little bitches never give up their shit. That's for the non-as-smart-as-me others.

  • ||

    Johnson's been a trolly mac-douche internet wanker for quite some time. He's a good fit for gizmodo.

  • ||

    "Every consumer good has a cost not borne out by its price but instead falsely bolstered by a vanishing resource economy.."

    Oh lighten up, Francis.

  • ||

    This is why God is slowly killing Steve Jobs. Foshizzle.

  • Brett L||

    Steve does look the Cryptkeeper in todays pictures. Seriously, he needs to sacrifice another 24yo to the demon he sold his soul to.

  • IceTrey||

    "Every last trifle we touch and consume...,is not only ephemeral but in a real sense irreplaceable."

    That's just not true. All metals can be recycled, most plastics and certainly the paper he talks about.

  • sevo||

    "That's just not true."

    You're too kind; it's raging bullshit.

  • WTF||

    Hey, don't let facts get in the way of teh narrative.

  • JD the elder||

    Even if I thought I did, I know the planet cannot bear my lifestyle multiplied by 7 billion individuals.

    Actually, I think this guy has it ass-backward. What the planet couldn't support is 7 billion people living a less-efficient lifestyle. If you live in a city of any size, try to imagine that suddenly everybody there had to grow or find their own food. There'd be mass starvation in a week, and you wouldn't have the time, energy, or excess wealth to do anything else (like buy iPods or edit magazines).

  • ||

    THIS. The technology of 100 years ago never would have supported a planet of 7 Billion people. 7 Billion with the lowest percentage living in poverty in the history of the planet, partially due to the rapid industrialization of China!

  • Jingles||

    The New White Guilt(tm).

  • Almanian||

    It's what's for dinner!

  • Nuke tibet||

    What's wrong with individuals following China's "One Suicide Only" law?

  • ||

    Wouldn't work in Israel.

    Israel has the world's highest resurrection rate.

  • ||

    We squander millions of years’ worth of stored energy, stored life, from our planet to make not only things that are critical to our survival and comfort but also things that simply satisfy our innate primate desire to possess.

    Would some monastery (preferably a flagellant order that eats only boiled oats) be kind enough to take Joel Johnson in, so that he can assuage his own guilt?

  • prolefeed||

    Ironically, given the topic he wrote about, a more thorough solution to the problem posed by Joel Johnson would be ... wait for it ... Joel Johnson committing suicide.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    the suicide rate at Foxconn's Shenzhen plant remains below the national averages for both rural and urban China.

    So iPhones are saving lives?

  • ||

    Probably. These people are better off than a lot of individuals in rural China.

    "Globalization & Outsourced Manufacturing: Saving Lives & Pulling People out of Poverty!"

    Your run-of-the-mill liberal won't like that story since it goes against their "They took errr jobs!" and "Sweat shops!!!" schtick. In their opinion, all of these workers should still be living noble pastoral and agricultural lives (see: squalor).

  • ||

    It also flies in the face of the "happy peasants living in the country are better off than factory workers in the city" that has been standard Marxist dogma since the word "alienation" was coined.

  • sevo||

    "happy peasants living in the country are better off than factory workers in the city"

    How can a man be happier than walking 5' behind and staring at the north end of a south-bound ox?
    I mean, pure bliss!

  • Joe Pile||

    Amen to that!

  • Invisible Finger||

    Exactly. People have less reason to kill themselves since they got Foxconn jobs.

  • ||

    The irony being that iphones and the infrastructure that supports it uses far less resources then land lines phones.

    You get more functionality with an iphone then you do with lesser technology and use less resources to get that functionality.

    Joel Johnson is either a fucking idiot for missing that obvious point or he is simply a hack who intentionally chose to ignore it.

  • Brett L||

    I prefer Tim's view. He pitched a hot idea that didn't pan out and owed the magazine a feature article still.

  • ||

    Probably is true.

    But left wingers claiming that apple factories are suicide factories then discovering that the whole thing is bullshit IS the story.

    JJ chose to stick to his left wing guns after the facts proved his premise wrong.

    The story should have been "hey look at those crazy left wingers. not only are apple factories not hell holes but in fact the poeple employed in them are better off then their country men.

    Buying iphones is not only fun...but crass consumerism helps poor poeple!!"

    Instead we get some bullshit environmental garbage that is easily refuted.

    JJ is either an idiot or a hack, with or without Tim's explanation.

  • ||

    JJ is a decent gadget blogger, so I think I'll forgive him this instance of fuckery. He should stick to what he's good at.

  • hurly buerhle||

    You know it's tough times at Wired when their lame lefty politics start conflicting with its open worship of all things Apple.

  • Ben||

    China could use some thinning out.

  • ||

    I don’t know if I have a right to the vast quantities of materials and energy I consume in my daily life.

    Jumping Jesus, what a pussy.

  • The Gobbler||

    I don’t know if I have a right to the vast quantities of materials and energy I consume in my daily life.

    My credo.

  • prolefeed||

    I don’t know if I have a right to the vast quantities of materials and energy I consume in my daily life.

    Then quit consuming them until you get that figured out, fuckstick. Go work on a Third World farm and experience the noble life that is the alternative to the factory work. Betcha it'll take less than a single day mucking out shit from pigpens and eating one skimpy meal per day of plain rice to clear that dilemma up for you.

  • Sam Grove||

    right down to the paper on which this magazine is printed or the screen on which it’s displayed, is not only ephemeral but in a real sense irreplaceable.

    Are we approaching "peak paper"?

  • Trespassers W||

    Speaking of a waste of resources, why on earth do they still PRINT Wired? Do they have a lot of Luddites in their customer base?

  • ||

    "I LOVE Technology, if only there were some sort of fancy hightech way of reading about it."

  • Scooby||

    My wife gets pissed off when I carry the laptop along when I drop the kids off at the pool. That's why I still get paper magazines.

  • ryback's cook||

    This.

  • T||

    My subscription to WIRED came free with something I bought from Amazon. So they me sent me dead trees for a year so they could waste umpteen more pages trying to get me to resubscribe. I read it, but I wouldn't pay for it.

  • SIV||

    I subscribe! It's less than $10 a year and gives me something to read on the shitter besides American Rifleman

  • db||

    Small Arms Review >> American Rifleman

  • SIV||

    I bought (and still have) the first issue vol.1/no.1 of Wired at the news rack. It had Bruce Sterling on the cover so I thought it was a science fiction/science fact type mag. Like Omni with better graphics. I've read it off and on ever since.

  • Tom||

    We squander millions of years’ worth of stored energy, stored life, from our planet to make ... things that simply satisfy our innate primate desire to possess.

    Yes, and, as we all know, innate primate desires are inherently evil.

  • ||

    things that simply satisfy our innate primate desire to possess.

    Is this even remotely specific to primates?

    I can think of several species that don't even posses nervous systems that acquire, hold, and defend territory and resources.

  • Scruffy Nerf Herder||

    Does that include neo-cons?

  • ||

    Does that include neo-cons?

    I am trying to dehumanize all of humanity here.

    You targeting a specific group to dehumanize only confuses the other animals here.

  • GILMORE||

    I admit, I don't even understand the writer's rationale.

    Meaning, i'm not sure in anything other than like a Janist hyperpsychomoralistic "every breath we take steals air from birds" or something, it even makes the least bit of fucking sense. Scratch that = i think even the Janist would be like, "stupid fucking white man", and kick his ass.

    It just seems to be 'zero-sum'-ism at work again.

    If we exported our rich, white, middle class teens to become factory workers in asia, would that even things out? I'm all for it. Hell, I'll be an exploitive factory manager if it helps them sleep at night. It will be like Outward Bound, only where their labors produce profits for emerging market industrialists...

  • sevo||

    "It will be like Outward Bound, only where their labors produce profits for emerging market industrialists..."

    I think you're on to something here! We could call it the "Profit Corps" and actually accomplish something!

  • ||

    Why don't people understand relative increases in standard of living? Why?

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