The dark side of Steve Jobs

An off-broadway show in New York looks at what it takes to make all those iPods

In what seems like an endless stream of Steve Jobs tributes and devotions, one voice stands out as a reality check. Mike Daisey, New York-based author and monologuist, is hoping to cut through the nostalgia and remind people of the nastier side of Jobs’ legacy.

“I’m almost tired of hearing what a genius he is,” says the 37-year-old creator and performer of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a one-man show about the life and work of the former Apple CEO that opened off-broadway at the Public Theater in New York City on Tuesday. “I think he’d be disgusted by this level of nostalgia. He was a very unrelenting, unwavering person—focus was really the centre of his skill set, his genius.”

Daisey’s show touches on everything from Jobs’s mastery of industrial design to the objectionable practices of iPhone and iPad manufacturing plants in China. The monologue tells the story of Jobs’s obsessions and his impact on humanity—from Silicon Valley to Shenzhen. Daisey’s style is semi-improvised, or what he calls “extemporaneous monologing”—which means the show differs from night to night, often depending on the mood of the room. “The work happens in the room so it’s hard to say what is going to change,” says Daisey. “At the same time, the fundamentals of the story aren’t affected by his death. In fact, they’ll be amplified. The end of an era, the loss of individual personal power in the face of corporatism.”

Daisey’s first performance of The Agony and Ecstasy met critical acclaim following its debut in Berkeley over one year ago. Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder, told the New York Times, “I will never be the same after seeing that show.” The Washington Post called the show “blisteringly funny” and the New York Times has called Daisey “one of the finest solo performers of his generation.” Now, as he launches his New York run, Daisey’s catching some unexpected publicity following Jobs’s death. While he acknowledges the mood of his audience may be “charged,” he says he didn’t think twice about keeping the show going.

“A lot of my work in this particular monologue is breaking down people’s defenses so we can actually talk about the truth of China, of manufacturing. The stuff we never ever talk about—that we go to any length not to talk about.”

Daisey—a self-confessed iPhone addict—developed the show following his own undercover investigation of Foxconn, one of Apple’s manufacturing plants in China, now famous for its high suicide rates. Two years ago, he traveled to China and managed to tour the facilities by posing as an American businessman. He discovered dreadful labour conditions and tales of human rights abuses that confirmed the worst of what he’d read in online reports.

“I have personally talked to hundreds of people whose joints in their hands have disintegrated from working on the line over and over again,” says Daisey, who also discovered workers as young as 13 at Foxconn. Many of the workers logged 16-hour shifts, and some never left the factory—sleeping in small rooms crammed with bunk beds. “I think, if there’s any justice in the world, then [Jobs’s] legacy will share in its description the fact that he was a manufacturing industrialist in this age. And that means that he made the choice to export all of his jobs to China. Sending the jobs there but none of our values, and exploiting people who live under a fascist government.”

Prior to Jobs’s death, Daisey used to hand out cards with Jobs’s email address on them at the end of his shows, encouraging audience members to email the Apple CEO with their questions and concerns. Some of them did, and Jobs—as he was known to do—occasionally responded. In some cases, he pointed them to Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Report online. To others, he wrote, “Mike doesn’t understand the complexity of the situation.” Even in defending what Daisey feels is indefensible, Jobs was just as Daisey describes him: unrelenting and unwavering.




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The dark side of Steve Jobs

  1. The man’s body is still warm in his grave, and you publish a negative article about him. He’s paid his dues to society, giving us a great gift and he changed the way we live our lives, so show some respect! He’s dead and he’s left a legacy; DEAL WITH IT!

    • Yeah those things are part of his legacy

    • Please, let go of the Saint Steve meme.

      • He wasn’t a saint….but there’s no reason to villify him either.

  2. Daisey was given the correct information about the cause of the suicides at Foxconn having nothing to do with Apple. But he chooses to continue the lie.

    Pictures and video taken inside the plant show that Foxconn made a design mistake when they set up the assembly lines. They failed to account for a problem discovered to cause mental breaks for office workers forty years ago.

    The cubicle was the solution designers devised by 1968 to stop the problem in offices. Foxconn uses cubicles in engineering offices in Korea but does not understand why they must be used. A pair of safety glasses with wide temple arms opaque or blacked out would have prevented the suicides for pennies in China.

    Where true sweatshop conditions exist, such as the garment industry in New York, there have never been suicides. But at France Telecom with a 35 hour work week and union representation there have been 60 suicides or attempts in the last few years. Again, pictures and video show the failure to account for Subliminal Distraction exposure by using Cubicle Level Protection.
    Pictures are available at VisionAndPsychosis.Net.

    • I fail to see why Apple is being blamed for this in the first place….Dell, Amazon, Nintendo, Microsoft, Nokia and many more…all use Foxconn.

      In any case, Foxconn has decided to replace all their workers with robots over the next 3 years.

      I wonder what the suicide rate will be amongst the newly unemployed?

      • I don’t want to perceived as attacking anyone but I believe Foxconn will be replacing a million employees out of 1.2 million with robots over the next 3 years.
        Apparently they announced this at a “dance party” for staff….nice company.

        • They have an entire village built to order…homes, shops, banking….dance parties….what more do you want them to do?

          • One magazine – I believe it might have been Forbes? was suggesting that if the robots are doing much of the work there is really no reason to out source to save on labor so companies like Apple could build their components in North America again. 

          • Yes, I’m sure American unions would go along with robots taking their jobs.

  3. I would love to see what kind of decision this clown actor would make when he is put in a position of a CEO of a manufacturing company that is public and has a duty to keep up all the financial metrics or face the inevitable ousting from the company’s board, due to a falling stock price and the increasing shareholders’ frustration.  I highly doubt that this actor has what it takes to create a business that brings even higher rate of increasing sales growth that beats the growth of Apple, and be able to create enough financial room to employ his hipster friends that live in Brooklyn, Berkley and Los Angles.  If he can do what he criticizes, then anybody would be happy to see him create a business that creates jobs in America.  

    I’m sure this actor adds tons of jobs in New York or Berkley (i would assume he must have added a lot more than Steve did through Apple’s Retail Operations in America) by running a production as an actor that makes living “pretending” to be and criticizing someone, and profiting from the attention that media creates from Steve’s death.  I do respect the actor and the production for speaking out for Human Rights in China. But this actor just doesn’t have what it takes to earn the right to criticize someone who has given so much more social net-positive to the world compared to himself.  The least he could do is to take what he has commercially profited from Steve’s death, and donate it to people that are human-rights deprived.  Steve was all action, this guy is all words.  

    • Have you ever created any work of art greater than a post complaining about other people’s complaints on a website?  Have you ever written a play, or gone up on stage in front of hundreds of people to make them laugh? 

      So Bill, what gives you the right to criticize the actor?  If he shouldn’t offer a different view of a man who is being deified in the mainstream media for his work as an industrialist, what gives you the right to offer your opinion

      There is more to life than profit.  Steve Jobs is being glorified for his ability to rake in money, without anyone taking a look at the skeletons in his closet, of where there are many. Looking at someone only for the good they did whitewashes history.

      • Let’s compare notes on “creating work of art”, you say?  Well, let’s see. 
        Between Steve and this actor Mike…   I’m not so sure…what do you think? 

        In case you still don’t understand, I never said the actor should not offer his view–what I said is that his point of view sucks.  And I said that’s because he doesn’t have the legitimate voice to effectively judge the work of Steve Jobs and Apple’s.  That’s my opinion.  Maybe you think this actor is awesome.  That’s your opinion.  What does everyone else think?—the market will sure tell us. 

        Me? Well, thanks for bringing me to the conversation of Steve Jobs and this actor portraying Apple’s choice of using China’s manufacturing.  I feel honored.   But my opinion is voluntary, while the work of the actor and that of steve in this discussion are not.  So, I don’t know who your biological mother and father are (or maybe you were adopted in a very challenging environment), but this sort of thins is called logic.  And, by the way, there is tons of softwares and applications out there that can help people who need help with that.  

        And to your response, I’m just a guy responding to a journalist’s article that opened up itself to responses, democratically enough. And you asked, what and who gives me the right to render my opinion?  Well, I think you should talk to, I think her name is, Claire Ward.  By the way, her name is at the top.  

        Good luck with life, LionelHampstead. 

        • Bill it is time for your mediation. Be a good boy and take it now.

          • ??

          • “Be a good boy and take it now”?  Are you the priest that forced my nephew to toss your salad in his mouth?  

          • Silvio23, ur disgusting.  what kind of filth are you? 

      • I thought this actor sucks, actually.  typical example of a classless american who doesn’t feel wrong to profit from someone else’s death.  i think it’s wrong to make money criticizing someone after he is dead, in the name of artistic activism. pretty american style to defend that, too.

      • In 2004, Steve Jobs called Watler Isaacson to suggest that he writes Steve’s biography, sensing his own early death to come soon.  And when he made that suggestion, he set no limit on what could be written about him.  He said, “I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of. But I’ve got no skeleton in my closet that can’t be allowed out.” 

        Obviously, he made choices in life that he KNOWS any reasonable person in his position would also have made.  Otherwise, he would not have trusted such an open biography on himself even to a writer he handpicked himself.  

        Stop reinforcing people that blame Steve Jobs after his death.  

  4. I would love to see what kind of decision this clown actor would make when he is put in a position of a CEO of a manufacturing company that is public and has a duty to keep up all the financial metrics.  If he does not make the choice of manufacturing sourcing that other competitors in the industry are making, he is likely to  face the inevitable consequence: ousting from the company’s board, due to a falling stock price and the increasing shareholders’ frustration.  I highly doubt that this actor has what it takes to create a business that brings even higher rate of increasing sales growth that beats that of Apple.  What do you guys think?  The company must be able to create enough financial room to employ his hipster friends that live in Brooklyn, Berkley and Los Angles.  If he can do what he criticizes, then anybody would be happy to see him create a business that creates more jobs in America.  

    I’m sure this actor adds tons of jobs in New York or Berkley anyway to be saying how Steve has could have done better.  I would assume this actor must have added a lot more jobs than Steve did, considering the modest presence of Apple’s Retail Operations Steve and his team built in America.  The actor runs a production as an actor that makes living “pretending” to be and criticizing someone, and profits from the attention that media creates from Steve’s death.  Pretty cool, huh?  
    I do respect the actor and the production for speaking out for Human Rights in China.   I genuinely believe it is the right thing to do.  But this actor just doesn’t have what it takes to earn the right to criticize someone who has given so much more social net-positive to the world compared to himself.  The least he could do is to take what he has commercially profited from Steve’s death, and donate it to people that are human-rights deprived.  Steve was all action, this guy is all words.

  5. It is easy to get swept away in the Jobs cult mania. I am glad that the dark side of such ‘unrelenting and unwavering’ people is being brought to light. I am glad that the profit motive of business as killer of humans without mercy is being shown for it is. I have worked for a large corporation. I did not like it. I eventually left. There was no way to balance your life. Lip service was paid to balancing work with private life. But the rewards and promotions went to those willing to spend 18 hour days. It seemed like the whole organization was maniacal. I do not see where Steve Jobs added much value except pretty up a few things and cost a bundle. Apple products have been imitations of existing technologies and products.

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