The Genocide Behind Your Smart Phone (Video)

Alan Mascarenhas writes on Newsweek:

It takes a lot to snap people out of apathy about Africa’s problems. But in the wake of Live Aid and Save Darfur, a new cause stands on the cusp of going mainstream. It’s the push to make major electronics companies (manufacturers of cell phones, laptops, portable music players, and cameras) disclose whether they use “conflict minerals” — the rare metals that finance civil wars and militia atrocities, most notably in Congo.

The issue of ethical sourcing has long galvanized human-rights groups. In Liberia, Angola, and Sierra Leone, the notorious trade in “blood diamonds” helped fund rebel insurgencies. In Guinea, bauxite sustains a repressive military junta. And fair-labor groups have spent decades documenting the foreign sweatshops that sometimes supply American clothing stores. Yet Congo raises especially disturbing issues for famous tech brand names that fancy themselves responsible corporate citizens.

A key mover behind the Congo campaign is the anti-genocide Enough Project: witness its clever spoof of the famous Apple commercial.

Read More: Newsweek

9 Comments on "The Genocide Behind Your Smart Phone (Video)"

  1. emperorreagan | Jul 21, 2010 at 9:42 am |

    Is anyone surprised that the cheap electronics they purchase are made from rare minerals purchased from corrupt countries and/or groups then assembled in countries with the most favorable (lax) labor & environmental laws?

    Did everyone assume that the incredible reduction in cost in electronics was simply a miracle produced by economies of scale? Or did they think it was all some sort of mystical engineering voodoo that allowed electronics to be priced continuously lower (and dramatically lower when you consider inflation-adjusted dollars instead of just list price)?

    • While the environmental portion may make it cheaper, I suspect the cheap & lax labor is the biggest driver. The idea is that Apple and other companies would be making sure the labor isn't being exploited… which seems a bit counter-intuitive since the pay over there seems like exploitation compared to pay in North America.

      • emperorreagan | Jul 21, 2010 at 11:41 am |

        Certainly. Complying with environmental regulation contributes to about 2-3% of the total cost in the US based on what I've read before. Labor and tax are much greater components in the cost reduction offered by some other countries for manufacturing.

        Compliance with environmental and building regulations would contribute to a higher portion of the cost when making capital investments to expand production.

    • I assume that almost everything I buy involves someone, somewhere being exploited. The problem with campaigns like this is that they lead you to believe that the crime in question is just an aberration that needs to be cleaned up, and not an inherent part of the system that we all contribute to on a daily basis.

  2. Cerebralcaustic | Jul 21, 2010 at 10:28 am |

    Recently, I read the book “Anti-Americanism” by Jean-Francois Revel, which made some interesting points about Africa, drawing heavily on the work of Ryszard Kapuściński, a Polish diplomat who spent many years in Africa.

    -From about the 1960s to 2000, African nations received FOUR times as much foreign aid, per capita, as Latin America and Asia.

    -In the 1950s and '60s when European nations dissolved their colonies around the world, most African colonies turned to communism/Marxism/socialism (often in direct association with Russia and/or Cuba) with centrally planned economies, while most Latin American and Asian nations turned to democratic forms of government with free market capitalist economies.

    Revel argues, quite convincingly, IMHO, that political leftists are reluctant to recognize and discuss the true problems in Africa … to do so would force leftists to admit some hard truths about socialism. Instead, the left points fingers of guilt at the west, suggesting that Africa's woes can be blamed largely or entirely on Western interference or on capitalism.

    Compare any poverty-stricken nation in Africa, for example, with Indonesia: both were under colonial control of European powers for much of the 20th century. But after the Dutch granted independence to the Indonesians, the nation has become one of the leading economies in Asia … but Indonesia established a republican government with a capitalist economy compared to the numerous Marxist governments in Africa who brutalized their people and decimated the land.

    • And Latin America is known for its economic prosperity, stable governments, and squeaky-clean human rights record…right?

      We've repeatedly seen free-market economic systems forced on small countries, with unions being suppressed by force and foreign companies chiefly profiting from the extraction of the country's own resources. Africa's problems stem chiefly from the fact that they were never allowed to develop their own institutions organically. Even many of their national boundaries were drawn according to arbitrary colonial whims. It boggles my mind that you could try to place the blame chiefly upon Marxism.

  3. Hadrian999 | Jul 22, 2010 at 2:19 am |

    the whole left right bickering is meaningless,
    things like this happen because people are greedy selfish monsters,
    the weak get screwed and the strong get rich under any system because
    no matter what the rules are and no matter how well thought out the winners will find ways to game the system and the losers wont have much to say about it.

  4. Apple was once a fairly ethical company was it not? Then pervy fat Al Gore joined the team and it has been downhill ever since. Whatever that man touches turns to crap, lol.

    The spate of suicides in China:

  5. Apple was once a fairly ethical company was it not? Then pervy fat Al Gore joined the team and it has been downhill ever since. Whatever that man touches turns to crap, lol.

    The spate of suicides in China:

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