DJing is not politically neutral

Lots of DJs talk a lot about mac and great their products are. I use mac products. I’m not in love with them the way many mac users are, but I certainly enjoy using them more than the Microsoft products I’ve used, and I’ve not explored Linux or other options. But how should I feel about apple now that I’ve listened to Mike Daisey’s story about factories in manufacturing China? This This American Life story explores the issue in detail, doing more than shouting about awful working conditions in sweatshops to explore why western communities feel ok about buying products from and supporting companies which use sweat shops.

I think this is an interesting topic for DJs. We tend to think of ourselves as workmanlike people, just playing the music, or doing our art for the sake of the dancers, who’re doing their art. But if the tools we use are created with the fairly horrific exploitation of others, is it really art? Can we really justify what we’re doing as being in any way a good thing?

I’m not sure what to think or how to act. Living in the global north (ie in a developed, wealthy country), being a part of demograph is which is empowered by the exploitation of others, I think that the first thing I have to do is recognise my own privilege. How is my life made easier by the difficulties of others? My own privilege comes from the disadvantaging of other people. It’s not a neutral thing, the happy happenstance of my own or my parents’ or my grandparents’ hard work and good fortune. I live this life because other people cannot.

[edit 16/3/12: apparently Daisey fabricated much of his story. I don’t think this negates the original point (that factories making electronic goods for affluent consumers exploit their workers), but the details are not as Daisey would suggest.]

[edit 18/3/12: another interesting discussion of the Daisey issue as theatre/performance and suspension of belief]


  1. This:

    seems apropos.

    “Although I know that the iPhone 4 is made at sweat shop factories in China, I still think that this is the only choice, because Apple is actually one of the best. Actually before I made a decision, I compared Apple with other cell phone companies, such as Nokia,” he said through a translator. “And the conditions in those factories are worse than the ones of Apple.”

    Not to say that Apple is necessarily good, but they are actually trying to generate change that is good, and they’re pretty serious about it. has all the details.

    In terms of exploitation – this isn’t exactly a simple thing. The workers at Foxconn have it *better* than the vast majority of people in China, by a very long way. Yes, they’re not being paid “first world wages”, but nobody in China is. China is a crowded country, and has been for a very long time – it’s a century ahead of “The West” on the population curve. Even in “rural” China, there is *no* land that isn’t terraformed, and either in active human use as living space or for growing food. Even little road cut outs have vegetables growing in them. I’m not kidding. That’s just life in China. This is not the standard of living we have here…

  2. I don’t know if DJ’ing is politically neutral, but I do know there is a flaw in your reasoning: Apple is one of many, MANY companies who use those manufacturing facilities in China. Every single manufacturer of fine electronic devices uses Foxconn to build their stuff. Apple is the convenient whipping-boy these days, and has been for their entire existence.

    Here is a layman’s rundown of the facts:

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