Is Henry Blodget, gasp, right about Apple and the BBC?

December 21, 2014, 11:17 PM UTC

How bad was the BBC’s investigation of Apple’s Asian supply chain — the one that discovered last week that Chinese factory workers take scheduled naps and that tin mining in Indonesia is a dirty business?

So bad that even Business Insider’s Henry Blodget — the master of anti-Apple clickbait — felt obliged to come to Cupertino’s defense.

“If this really is news to you,” he wrote in Yahoo, “you’ve been living in denial. If you’re suddenly appalled at Apple, moreover, you should acknowledge a few things:

  • Tin from dangerous Indonesian mines undoubtedly finds its way into other manufacturer’s smartphones, too (so don’t feel smug about your Android)
  • Apple is more transparent about working conditions in its supply chain than just about any other company in the world (and you already know how depressing these conditions are)…
  • Apple has made enormous improvements in the working conditions in its supply chain over the last several years, and it continues to make them. Apple also freely acknowledges that it’s not perfect and has lots of work left to do. (An admirably honest assessment.)


“More painfully obvious bullet points in the full thing here,” writes the MacDailyNews, a site that never has anything bad to say about Apple and can’t bring itself to say anything good about Blodget.

“Blaming Apple for poor work conditions at Chinese companies,” MDN adds, coming back to the BBC broadcast,” is like blaming Bono for the spread of AIDS in Africa.”

I wrote about the 3-minute clip the BBC posted Thursday. I liked the undercover footage inside the iPhone factory.

The full 48-minute episode arrived on YouTube Friday afternoon. It was a mess. In a memo to the UK staff, operations manager Jeff Williams said he and Tim Cook were “deeply offended,” by the suggestion that it had broken a promise to its workers. In Indonesia, Williams writes,

Apple has two choices: We could make sure all of our suppliers buy tin from smelters outside of Indonesia, which would probably be the easiest thing for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism. But it would be the lazy and cowardly path, because it would do nothing to improve the situation for Indonesian workers or the environment since Apple consumes a tiny fraction of the tin mined there. We chose the second path, which is to stay engaged and try to drive a collective solution.”

He might have added that 375,000 tons of tin are mined each year and Apple, by one estimate, consumes less than 0.4% — mostly as tiny drops of solder. Even if we accept Blodget’s premise that everybody who owns an Apple product shares some of the responsibility for the lives lost and coral smothered, it’s not a terribly big share.

I’m sure I’ve done worse things in my life than buy an iPhone.



Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.