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Friday, March 16, 2012

This American Life Pulls Mike Daisey's Story about Apple's Labor Abuses in China Because Daisey Played Fast and Loose With the Facts

Posted by on Fri, Mar 16, 2012 at 11:03 AM

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a monologue by the great American storyteller Mike Daisey about labor abuses in Chinese factories where Apple products are made, was hugely successful. It seemed to move mountains—in its wake, This American Life aired an excerpt that became its number-one podcast episode, the NYT did an investigative feature, and even Apple seemed to care, saying it'd let a third party audit its worker conditions.

Which all sounds good—except Mike Daisey wasn't telling the truth. Or, worse, he was telling partial truths. (I say "worse," because damaging the credibility of a serious human-rights story can be extremely counterproductive to helping real people who are suffering real abuses.) This American Life has retracted the story and is airing an episode this weekend to "detail the errors" in Daisey's story. Their press release is here. Daisey's response—that he took "dramatic license" and "what I do is not journalism," which refutes a major thesis of his show (at least the version I saw)—is here. I emailed Daisey for a comment. He pointed me towards that link.

I hate to write this: I really, really hate to write this, because I admire what Daisey does, because labor abuses in China are serious business, because I want to believe that theater can be a world-changing force for good... but I kind of saw this coming. And it disturbed me at the time, because when journalists and activists (and activist-journalists) play fast and loose with the facts, they not only hurt themselves, but the people they're supposed to be advocating for.

From a review of Daisey's show I wrote in May of 2011, when it came to Seattle:

... he's not telling us the truth. After getting home from the show, opening up my MacBook, and wiping the blood off the keyboard, I did a little Googling. In under a minute, I learned some things: The New York Times that Daisey derides as being nothing more than a mouthpiece for Shenzhen corporate interests? It's been writing about labor abuses in the city—child labor, days-long shifts, etc.—for at least five years. The BBC has written several stories about Shenzhen, including the suicides that Daisey talks about. Looks like there's journalism about Shenzhen after all.

That wouldn't be damning—every good storyteller builds on the foundation of forebears—except that Daisey is extremely disingenuous about the story, his relationship to it, and what his forebears have said about it. And if he's disingenuous with the most basic, verifiable facts, why should we trust him with the complicated, unverifiable facts—like those of his trip to Shenzhen, for instance?

... when a storyteller moves from memoir to reporting, he incurs a new set of responsibilities: the responsibilities of verifiable fact. And as a reporter as well as a theater critic, I'll admit that facts are a bitch. They're messy, they screw up your well-calibrated plotlines, and they'll leave you in a ditch without a second thought. But facts matter.

Full quotes below the jump.

He is horrified by what he finds in Shenzhen—specifically the Foxconn factory, which produces the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. (Foxconn is the biggest exporter in China.) There's child labor, suicides, days-long shifts, no health care, repetitive and hideous work conditions, brutal crackdowns on unions. He interviews workers who have been maimed and union organizers who run the risk of jail time for just talking to him. All Americans are complicit in this situation, Daisey rails at us in a 20-­minute sermon at the end of The Agony and the Ecstasy. The next time we open our MacBooks, he tells us—really—we will see the blood of Chinese children welling up from our keyboards.

And Daisey alone knows this truth; Daisey alone has emerged from the heart of darkness of Asian industrialization to bring us the horror. In Shenzhen, he says several times, "there's no journalism." The "BBC fixer" who was supposed to help him out? Useless. The New York Times? It merely reprints press releases from Shenzhen boardrooms. Thank god Mike Daisey has crawled from the maw of capitalism to tell us the truth.

Except that he's not telling us the truth. After getting home from the show, opening up my MacBook, and wiping the blood off the keyboard, I did a little Googling. In under a minute, I learned some things: The New York Times that Daisey derides as being nothing more than a mouthpiece for Shenzhen corporate interests? It's been writing about labor abuses in the city—child labor, days-long shifts, etc.—for at least five years. The BBC has written several stories about Shenzhen, including the suicides that Daisey talks about. Looks like there's journalism about Shenzhen after all.

That wouldn't be damning—every good storyteller builds on the foundation of forebears—except that Daisey is extremely disingenuous about the story, his relationship to it, and what his forebears have said about it. And if he's disingenuous with the most basic, verifiable facts, why should we trust him with the complicated, unverifiable facts—like those of his trip to Shenzhen, for instance?

When a storyteller moves from memoir to reporting, he incurs a new set of responsibilities: the responsibilities of verifiable fact. And as a reporter as well as a theater critic, I'll admit that facts are a bitch. They're messy, they screw up your well-calibrated plotlines, and they'll leave you in a ditch without a second thought. But facts matter. And if you start faking some of them, you put everything you say in peril. The real casualties of Daisey's fibbing aren't him or the audience—screw him and screw us. The real casualties of his fibbing are the Chinese people (probably real, but who knows?) on the production lines whom Daisey says he interviewed. The man whose hand was ruined, the child worker, the people whose backbones were fused together by standing for hours at a time: They deserve an advocate who will be scrupulously honest.

The full review, with its praise for Daisey's storytelling skills and doubt about his story's veracity, is here.

 

Comments (50) RSS

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Bonefish 50
Will in Seattle is a perfect example of someone who is only liberal by dumb luck; his happy willingness to follow lies would make him feel right at home in the birther movement, if only liberalism hadn't (somehow) gotten a hold of him first.

As I said elsewhere, Will, you don't have to embrace lies about Apple alongside legitimate grievances against Apple in order to fight against their labor abuses. In fact, this approach is the last thing you should want to do.

Cite the legitimate grievances (there are plenty), weed out the lies, and distance yourself from liars. Failing to do this will ruin a movement more quickly than Apple ever could. Simply being "against Apple" shouldn't be good enough for any serious person to swallow something as truth, against all evidence.

You're not a college freshman anymore. Quit blindly embracing every single thing that seems (on the surface) like it's sticking it to The Man. You can afford to be more discerning if there's real evidence in your favor.

Admitting that not every single thing ever said about Apple is true is NOT the same thing as supporting Apple. Don't worry; you won't lose your "more liberal than thou" cred. You'll just gain some "sane and halfway intelligent person" cred.
Posted by Bonefish http://5bmisc.blogspot.com/ on March 19, 2012 at 2:04 PM · Report this
49
While we are distracted with the competing scandals of working conditions in Chinese factories and Americans who make stuff up, I hope we might eventually get back to things that really matter, such as this real (and fixable) problem brought up in the extended Glass/Duhigg interview (emphasis was added by me):

Glass: There's, there's a bunch of incredible stories you tell in that article, and one of them is you talk about the number of industrial engineers needed to oversee 200,000 line workers.

You say there's 8,700 industrial engineers that you need. And so to get this plant going, to get this particular operation going that you were writing about—I can't remember which one it is—you said it would take nine months to find those 8,700 industrial engineers in the United States, and in China, how long it took?

Duhigg: 15 days. And that 15-day figure, the guy who told me that was also, also told me that that's basically because they kind of drug their heels on it a little bit. They probably could've done it faster.

And what's important about those industrial engineers is we're not talking... The United States has the best-educated workforce in the world. If you need top engineers, no place can touch the US. But the industrial engineers that Apple needs are people who essentially have high school degrees, and then two years of additional kind of technical training.

Glass: Because they're basically setting up, "Here's how we're gonna do this with these workers in this assembly line." They're setting up operations.

Duhigg: That's exactly right. They don't need someone with a college degree from, you know, Carnegie-Mellon; they need someone who has vocational training. And the US has essentially cut all of our vocational training. China on the other hand has expanded it enormously.

If you want to DESIGN something cool, you don't go to China. If you want to BUILD something cool, there's no other place to go. Because it'll take you nine months to find the engineers you need in the US, and 15 days in China.
More...
Posted by plb on March 19, 2012 at 12:47 AM · Report this
Majestic 48
"I really, really hate to write this" God you sound just like the "journalist" and I use that term loosely that Bernie Goldberg wrote about in "Bias" about Media Bias. Why don't you get off your soapbox and either do your job, which should be unbiased or become a politician. You know that these redactions will never get the press that the original story got. At least we all know now never to take anything Mike Daisey says as true. I hope you learn from this and maybe remember what your should have been taught in journalism school.

...and no I'm not right or left, just a person who likes to make up his own mind.
Posted by Majestic on March 18, 2012 at 2:08 PM · Report this
47
Sorry about the double post. In fact, I've cleaned up my typos and apologize for not being able to just delete the earlier posts. Apologies. Here is the corrected version:

Mike Daisey, the inexplicable rising "theater star" oft-quoted for his "observations" about corporate malfeasances, has just been outed by PBS' "This American Life" as a liar. His monologue rant against Apple, "The Agony & Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," has been revealed to be filled with BS, stuff he made-up.

Mike Daisy was an actor desperate for attention even when he foisted his first "monologues" in Seattle at the Open Circle Theater. Maudlin stories about his fat, his family and his pathetic "romantic" life weren't filling enough seats, and lardy, sweaty, shrill actors have a fat chance making a living via traditional avenues, playing fictive characters in "plays" or "movies." His solution was clever--pick a hot topic--and use it to attract attention to his "work." First time out was to pick on Amazon.

By choosing to fill his "theater" work with stories about brands, he could co-opt the brand's fame--a theater marketer's dream, replete with almost self-writing press releases that themselves create news by masquerading as announcements of heroic, out-of-the-box "investigations" by an otherwise unremarkable, grossly obese "actor."

Daisey could have written a "theatre" monologue about an actor so morbidly obese that he had no prospects in film, TV or theater, but his "character" would be then a loser, no hero, in a tale of failure. He HAD to find a way to cast himself as a dashing leading man, despite the fat, sweat and chicken voice, and faking himself as a brave, investigative "truth" finder was a stroke of genius--who might begrudge him this little fantasy, especially since he'd only besmirch corporate brands? He knew his audience: theatre fans, ie a dependable smattering of liberal, knee-jerk gossips already suspicious of corporations, Israel, capitalists, etc. By naming his fictive leading man "Mike Daisey" and by not qualifying his work as "fiction" (and that is the word and definition you'll find he avoids in all his tremulous replies to PBS's Ira Glass, for by larding his now-exposed lying as "theater" he hopes to squeak by--all theater is assumed to be "fiction," no? No? Were he to sub-title his work, for example, in this way: "Steve Jobs - a fiction" he might deflate his marketing angle--would folks come?!--but most importantly, he would destroy his personal illusion whereby) he creates a grand fantasy in which his fictional hero "Mike Daisey" saves not only poor, abused children and the crippled, he saves "us," the world, and he gets to privately thumb his nose at us as well?

Why would he do that? Because I imagine he assumes most of us look at him and without the heroics, just see a fat, strident man. "You assumed I am just a smug, grossly sweating, obese, actor doomed to minor character roles,  horribly undisciplined as evidenced by my apparent inability to respect a meal or exercise plan and thus in complete betrayal of my actors' "craft" (wherein "actors" treat their bodies as "instruments" and thus physically train and regiment toward accomplishing "range" with their instruments), but you are mistaken--I am a hero who toils in the darkness to find "truth." You have misjudged my sweat and fat, especially the sweat, as it spills from the heroic effort to bring you truth." That's Daisey's subtext, an illusion designed for himself first--if we accept that, the rest is...gravy.

Tag it as fiction, not only is the actor revealed, an unattractive, limited craftsman fated to be typecast as a "glutton" in films like "7even," so is his "theater," an odd animal believed by Daisey to exist outside the comprehension of those who respect honesty, revealed to be just another self-aggrandizing screed, a charlatan's circus act with little aspect of "art" after-all.
More...
Posted by JoeBob Obvious on March 18, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
46
Of course it was a lie, I have saved every China article from the NYTs for years. Quickly looking at one folder, I have over 900 articles on China in the last 4 years. They are filled with articles on labor issues, human rights issues, etc. In fact, when I first heard of Daisey's show, the bits I heard all sounded like tales he had pieced together from reading the very same articles I had collected.

I saw the retraction in This American Life, and how Ira Glass still doesn't know whether the mangled hand story is true, but it's clearly not true if you know Apple and how it makes iPads and MacBooks. They use a unibody design. They don't press or stamp metal into a casing shell for iPads or MacBooks, as Daisey presumes. Apple takes billets, small ingots of aluminum and mills them in an automatic machine tool. The billet is enclosed in a hood for environmental reasons before the tool operates. There is no way a worker could get a hand mangled in the way Daisey proposes. Clearly, he did NOT talk to a worker who had gotten hurt making an Apple product, perhaps another product for another company.

I did see on tv, an expose, 60 Minutes, or similar program where workers injured by machine presses were interviewed. Terribly sad. I wonder if Daisey got his "inspiration" from the same program.
Posted by ChKen on March 17, 2012 at 7:58 PM · Report this
45
The point isn't that he is a bad advocate for Chinese workers. Everything he said about conditions is true. The problem is that he is willing [and we are willing to help him] to lie to us and manipulate our feelings towards Apple [bad] and Mike Daisey [good]. He is a shameless self-promoter who should be put in the same dustbin as James Frey.
Posted by now what? on March 17, 2012 at 3:58 PM · Report this
44
Have to agree with G. Daisy was an actor desperate for attention even when he foisted his first "monologues" in Seattle at the Open Circle. Maudlin stories about his fat and his family and his pathetic romantic life weren't filling enough seats, and lardy, sweaty, shrill actors had a fat chance making a living via traditional avenues, playing fictive characters in "plays" or movies. His solution was clever--pick a hot topic--and use it to attract attention to his "work." First time out was to pick on Amazon.

By choosing to fill his "theater" work with stories about brands, he could coopt the brand's fame, a marketer's dream, a self-writing press release. He could have written a "theatre" monologue about an actor so morbidly obese that had no prospects in film, TV or theater, but he would be a loser, no hero, a tale of failure. He HAD to find a way to cast himself as a dashing leading man, despite the fat, sweat and chicken voice, and faking himself as a brave, investigative "truth" finder was a stroke of genius--who might begrudge him this little fantasy, especially since he'd only besmirch corporate brands. He knew his audience: theatre fans, ie a dependable smattering of liberal, knee-jerk gossips already suspicious of corporations, Israel, capitalists, etc. By naming his fictive leading man "Mike Daisey" and by not qualifying his work as "fiction" (and that is the real definition he avoids, for by larding his exposed lying as "theater" he hopes to squeak by--all theater is assumed to be "fiction," no? No? Were he to sub-title his work, for example, in this way: "Steve Jobs - a fiction" he would deflate his marketing angle--who would come?!--and he would destroy his personal illusion whereby) he creates a grand fantasy in which his fictional here Mike Daisey saves not only a heroine, poor, abused children and the crippled, he saves "us," the world, and thumbs his nose at us. "You assumed I am just a grossly sweating, obese man with a strident tone, horribly undisciplined as evidenced by my apparent inability to respect a meal or exercise and thus in complete betrayal of my actors' "craft," but you are mistaken--I am a hero who toils in the darkness to find "truth." You have misjudged my seat and fat, especially the sweat, as it spills from the heroic effort to bring you truth." That's Daisey's subtext, a total illusion designed for himself first--if we accept that, the rest is gravy.

Tag it as fiction, not only is his theater suddenly unattractive, so is the actor.
More...
Posted by JoeBob Obvious on March 17, 2012 at 3:27 PM · Report this
43
Have to agree with G. Daisy was an actor desperate for attention even when he foisted his first "monologues" in Seattle at the Open Circle. Maudlin stories about his fat and his family and his pathetic romantic life weren't filling enough seats, and lardy, sweaty, shrill actors had a fat chance making a living via traditional avenues, playing fictive characters in "plays" or movies. His solution was clever--pick a hot topic--and use it to attract attention to his "work." First time out was to pick on Amazon.

By choosing to fill his "theater" work with stories about brands, he could coopt the brand's fame, a marketer's dream, a self-writing press release. He could have written a "theatre" monologue about an actor so morbidly obese that had no prospects in film, TV or theater, but he would be a loser, no hero, a tale of failure. He HAD to find a way to cast himself as a dashing leading man, despite the fat, sweat and chicken voice, and faking himself as a brave, investigative "truth" finder was a stroke of genius--who might begrudge him this little fantasy, especially since he'd only besmirch corporate brands. He knew his audience: theatre fans, ie a dependable smattering of liberal, knee-jerk gossips already suspicious of corporations, Israel, capitalists, etc. By naming his fictive leading man "Mike Daisey" and by not qualifying his work as "fiction" (and that is the real definition he avoids, for by larding his exposed lying as "theater" he hopes to squeak by--all theater is assumed to be "fiction," no? No? Were he to sub-title his work, for example, in this way: "Steve Jobs - a fiction" he would deflate his marketing angle--who would come?!--and he would destroy his personal illusion whereby) he creates a grand fantasy in which his fictional here Mike Daisey saves not only a heroine, poor, abused children and the crippled, he saves "us," the world, and thumbs his nose at us. "You assumed I am just a grossly sweating, obese man with a strident tone, horribly undisciplined as evidenced by my apparent inability to respect a meal or exercise and thus in complete betrayal of my actors' "craft," but you are mistaken--I am a hero who toils in the darkness to find "truth." You have misjudged my seat and fat, especially the sweat, as it spills from the heroic effort to bring you truth." That's Daisey's subtext, a total illusion designed for himself first--if we accept that, the rest is gravy.

Tag it as fiction, not only is his theater suddenly unattractive, so is the actor.
More...
Posted by JoeBob Obvious on March 17, 2012 at 3:23 PM · Report this
42
@37: What's with the "any intelligent person" stuff? We gonna get into logical fallacies here? Anyway, I'm going to have to disagree, though...I think Daisey is talented enough to make the stories he heard in Hong Kong about poisoned workers visceral enough that he didn't need to insert himself into them directly. For example. Or add fictional cameras into worker dorms when he now says they were just in the hallways. Should we really be outraged about cameras which don't exist? Aren't cameras in the hallways watching when you leave your room bad enough?

If drama is needed, then write something that's fictionalized but based in fact. Write a dramatic screenplay. Not something featuring yourself sitting at a table saying "I, Mike Daisey, did this" and "I, Mike Daisey, met so-and-so." Followed up by talking to numerous media sources repeating these "facts" (obviously outside of the theatrical/dramatic framework there, right?).
Posted by g on March 17, 2012 at 12:08 PM · Report this
41
Many seem to be missing the point that Daisey *explicitly* avowed that he was telling the unembellished truth to TAL. And listening to him perform on the show tonight, you can hear him calculating whether this drama of his own lies will be just another wave he can surf to further fame. It's pathetic; he can't even bring himself to just admit that he lied, even while he retracts any of his previous statements that can be conclusively exposed as untrue, and insists doggedly on the merely spectacularly improbable ones.

Look, i *get* that sometimes facts can get in the way of a geater truth. I applaud dramatic liscence and brechtian tactics in the service of raising consciousness. But, first, that isn't the same as reporting, which is what Daisey said he was doing at the time, and two, i see no evidence in his behaviour that his drama was ultimately performed in the service of any higher cause than his own ego. He certainly has done the cause of labor justice in china--never a simple issue to start with--serious harm.
Posted by Xtoph on March 16, 2012 at 11:54 PM · Report this
40
Check out who's coming to Seattle on May 13.
http://www.cornish.edu/news/cornish_awar…
Posted by elaineinballard on March 16, 2012 at 11:45 PM · Report this
39
"The problem is that Apple makes shiny products that people buy, and people are looking for any excuse to excuse their buying products from a sweatshop."

No, people are looking for any excuse to bring down those who ride too high - to hammer down on the nail that sticks out. Apple is like a celebrity - we love the story where somebody gets super successful - and the only thing we like more is to see the mighty fall.

Besides, any story with Apple in it sells. In fact I'd be wary of any story that simply tries to re-enforce our cultural stereotypes... it's a new form of racism that we now say "well yeah the Chinese as a country are so super successful but look at the cost. LOOK AT THE COST. THE COST." And we like to get lost in that latter point, because it maybe makes us feel better. Maybe it's the only justification we can see why China is rising. In reality we should take a good look at ourselves - maybe the institutionalized corruption that has taken hold in our democratic system has made this system, and us, weak?

It was idiotic to pick out Apple as a culprit from the very beginning - any reasonable person knows that Foxconn has 1M employees and makes devices for every large consumer electronics company in America. Not just Apple. Why Apple? Because it sells. Why labor abuses? Because they sell.

Journalism has been going down the drains for years, maybe a decade - increasingly the tabloid rule has taken hold -whatever sells papers, generates clicks, is reported. Truth? Irrelevant. Even better, if something turns out to be complete BS like the above story, then we can make coin with it a second time when we refute it all. Another sensation! Wow! This is like tabloids work, and now also FOX, CNN, and the NYT. Even NPR, that last bastion of serious journalism, fell for it.

I think people are way too concerned with the labor situation in China. First of all if you were to be concerned, concern yourself with that causes these supposed unfair labor conditions, the absence of democracy, and the crackdown on dissidents. That's the first issue to solve. Secondly, realize that the vast majority of China's price advantages comes simply from way lower incomes across the country - even if China was a shining democracy with unions and stuff, wages and incomes there would still be 1/10th of what they're here - and everything else being the same, so would labor costs be. The second reason for China's rise is wise macro-economic planning by the state (something completely absent in the USA), investment in education (can you hire 3,000 engineers overnight in the USA? No.), and let's face it a workforce that is willing and eager to work crazy hours. There's more hunger for success there.

I don't want to say everything's hunky dory in China as far as labor rights go - why would it be, this was a 3rd world county up until not too long ago. But these things will come with wealth - already wages are rising at a fast clip, and so are conditions as there's more competition for workers.

The hope that China's success is built on labor rights abuses and sweatshops is not only false - it's dangerous. We need to be looking at ourselves to compete.
More...
Posted by nikster on March 16, 2012 at 11:15 PM · Report this
James McDaniel 38
It seems this isn't the first time Mike Daisey has fabricated stories for public consumption:

http://daringfireball.net/linked/2012/03…

Mike Daisey's description of his Truth monologe - "These stories are reflected against an autobiographical accounting of Daisey’s own history of lying and telling the truth in an attempt to illuminate the uncertain landscape of the emotionally true, the literally true, and the constant struggle to speak the truth."

NYT review of Truth - "He admits that he once fabricated a story because it “connected” with the audience. After telling this lie over and over again, it became so integrated into the architecture of his piece that it became impossible to remove or, perhaps, to distinguish from what really happened."
Posted by James McDaniel http://facebook.com/JamesMcDanielPhotos on March 16, 2012 at 9:02 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 37
@31 To ignite people's fire. It takes a good dramatic spark to get people to force people to look into shot sometimes. Dry reports don't work as well as visceral stories. Any intelligent person knows that.

@36 Not really. I note the great ChaCha receipt lynch mob of 2011. The problem is that Apple makes shiny products that people buy, and people are looking for any excuse to excuse their buying products from a sweatshop. /Typed From My iPhone
Posted by TheMisanthrope on March 16, 2012 at 8:26 PM · Report this
36
@30 Our standards for muckraking are different (read: higher) these days.
Posted by sahara29 on March 16, 2012 at 4:23 PM · Report this
35
Will in Seattle, I'm pretty sure you don't know what TAL does. Just because they have fiction sometimes doesn't mean they don't also do journalism. Newsflash: they do a fucking lot of it. Even if they almost always did fiction and this one story was the exception, the story was presented by Daisey as fact despite numerous opportunities to qualify it BEFORE he got caught. Also, Ira Glass and the other producers of the show clearly believe that they themselves are producing journalism and are holding their show to a higher standard than that of fiction. They wouldn't make a big fucking deal about it if they thought the "poetic license" was okay.

I'm not sure why people are arguing so hard against this. You do realize that popping Mike Daisey's balloon is not the same as saying that Apple is a 100% ethical company, right? The people critiquing Daisey are NOT saying we should ignore the issue he raised; rather, we're saying that the issue is so important it deserved to be done right.
Posted by sahara29 on March 16, 2012 at 4:21 PM · Report this
34
He'll be working the Ducky lottery at the Puyallup Fair by September
Posted by I guess reality doesn't have a liberal bias on March 16, 2012 at 3:35 PM · Report this
33
If was doing shows about anecdotes involving himself and his travels this wouldn't really be an issue. But his shows have been issue-driven. So, reporting, dude; sorry.
Posted by g on March 16, 2012 at 2:48 PM · Report this
32
Remember, facts have a famous liberal bias. Sometimes.

Daisy is toast.
Posted by Liberals lie? on March 16, 2012 at 2:35 PM · Report this
31
What would be the point of his piece if it was "slightly fictionalized"? Daisey sits there and tells us he traveled to China (true) and personally observed underage employees (false)? I don't at all understand why this show should even exist if it's partly-fabricated.
Posted by g on March 16, 2012 at 2:18 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 30
I do wish he would have just said that it was slightly fictionalized in the first place.

Anybody remember being taught the benefits of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on March 16, 2012 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 29
But hey enjoy your Homeless Wireless Enabled fiction you call "news" ...
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on March 16, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 28
@14 yes, they do, but there is no EXPECTATION that they do.

Just as there is no EXPECTATION that a LITERARY FICTION STORYTELLING show on NPR is a Journalistic Work.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on March 16, 2012 at 2:05 PM · Report this
pfffter 27
Calling Mr Frey, Mr James Frey ...

I'm interested in hearing the smackdown on the show this weekend. I hope it's harsh. He deserves it.
Posted by pfffter on March 16, 2012 at 1:45 PM · Report this
James McDaniel 26
Some more details on Mike Daisey's fabrications - http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/i…
Posted by James McDaniel http://facebook.com/JamesMcDanielPhotos on March 16, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
25
I think it's a cop-out for him to claim when pressed that he should be assumed to be taking dramatic license because he does work in a theatrical setting. His pieces become *much* less compelling if they're taken as fictionalized, and would get a lot less coverage.

He seems to want the benefit of the publicity he gets when his monologues are taken as fact-based but to be able to play the "I'm not a reporter!" card when it suits him.
Posted by g on March 16, 2012 at 1:28 PM · Report this
24
@20: In fact, what he specifically told Glass in the TAL piece when confronted with their fact check was that he couldn't speak to any studies done on the subject. He could "only speak to what I saw." Pretty much puts to the lie to his bullshit, "I'm an artist, not a journalist" excuse.
Posted by LimeLemminkäinen on March 16, 2012 at 1:27 PM · Report this
23
@10: What really fucking pisses me off about the Daisey statement you quote, is that nowhere in the program--on TAL or on stage--does he say that some of his experiences are fabricated. I can understand embellishments in autobiographical art, but flat-out lies are inexcusable. His argument is basically the Limbaugh excuse: "I'm just an entertainer! You're not supposed to take everything I says seriously!" Well, excuse me, but personal monologue is a very specific kind of performance, one where the audience takes for granted that what the performer/writer is describing is basically true. If it's not, there's a little fucking piece of paper called a "program" where you can easily write something to the effect of, "Not all of the experiences described in the performance are true. Some are based on stories that I heard from others. Specific examples include etc., etc." Artistically speaking, and to put it at its mildest, Mike Daisey has shown himself to be incredibly irresponsible.
Posted by LimeLemminkäinen on March 16, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Mullin 22
I will remind all my fellow show people, and all people who enjoy shows, that all of the great plays, and many of the not as great, like THE NEW NEW NEWS: A LIVING NEWPAPER, have statements embedded in the work, dramatic "watermarks" if you will, that explicitly acknowledge that they are fabrications.

Daisey used no such "watermark". He only copped to fabrication after he got caught. He's now going to try to hide behind our artist aprons, since the world of journalism has sent him packing. It's up to each of our consciences whether to let him. I'll respect whatever anyone concludes, so long as they really think it through.
Posted by Mullin http://www.paulmullin.org on March 16, 2012 at 1:17 PM · Report this
21
Daisy's monologues are presented as being truthful by virtue of them being spoken by Mike Daisey and being conveyed as things that he experienced and researched. I don't think it's at all reasonable to expect people to assume that large parts of them are fabricated just because they're dramatically presented. If he needs to add drama, he should add it centered around his reactions to what he found or in the way in which it is presented, not in the specific details of the sections which are presented as, basically, fact-based first-person reporting.

If it's about "Mike Daisey" traveling to China to learn about the conditions behind his beloved Apple products and then discovering disturbing things, what's the point if he makes a bunch of it up? A guy sitting at a table speaking as himself in first-person about current or historical subjects that are real should be speaking about them in truthful terms, unless the point of the monologue is deception or it somehow feeds into the central point (like "F for Fake").
Posted by g on March 16, 2012 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Anthony Hecht 20
@3 - Have you heard the original TAL piece? Daisey is interviewe during the second segment when they're doing some (clearly not enough) fact checking. He definitely does not say that this was all full of dramatic license, he firmly and specifically represents the story as the truth. It was not. He had a clear opportunity to say, "this is theater, I'm not a journalist, I embellished or added drama where I felt it was needed to tell the story." He didn't do that.
Posted by Anthony Hecht on March 16, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
19
@3, how do you use made-up facts about a real-life situation to "get at a deeper truth"? That sounds like doublespeak.
Posted by g on March 16, 2012 at 1:05 PM · Report this
18
+100 to the TAL team for taking care of this as soon as they became aware that Daisey's story was problematic. Recall that in the original episode they did call him out for certain things (that were later indeed shown to be false), like the presence of underage workers. Daisey lied on tape to Ira's face about that one.

Ira Glass cares deeply about a great story, but even more so about journalistic integrity. He doesn't let a good story get in the way of the facts - the facts and the questions drive the story, and he's very careful to point out when something is clearly in dispute. Recall the recent episode on the high school kid who fell for the undercover cop - he made sure to give the cop's side of the story, and point out that there were differing accounts. He screwed up on this one by being too trusting, but their quick reaction time - and willingness to really lay it all out there in an entire episode - speaks so well to their character. I support the TAL team 100% as storytellers and journalists. Ira 4eva.
Posted by daftgiraffe on March 16, 2012 at 1:02 PM · Report this
17
Anyone who says "he's not a journalist" (and apparently that includes Daisey himself) is full of shit. If you present a monologue in which you speak as "Mike Daisey" and say that you went to China and spoke to these people and observed this and this and this, then you're presenting yourself as a source of objective truth. The fact that the artistic vehicle is a dramatically-presented monologue in a theater is irrelevant.

I'd be disturbed enough to learn that he made up stuff about Tesla or one of his other subjects; when he's talking about possible current human rights violations centered around a topic many are interested in, it's much worse. People didn't write about this show and he didn't get on TAL because they thought he did a speculative fiction piece about where his magical iPad came from.
Posted by g on March 16, 2012 at 1:01 PM · Report this
16
Meanwhile Chinese line up around the block for a chance to work at Foxconn. But American liberals know best.
Posted by Apple hit $580 this week on March 16, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
15

There is some evidence that life for a factory worker in China could be much, much better than here.

That's what they really don't want you to know...
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on March 16, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Report this
AFinch 14
@11 - I think the Daily Show does have fact checkers and are quite rigorous. Of course, I kind of thought the same of TAL too, and I'm severely disappointed in this. I think Daisey pulled a fast one to get access to the TAL audience.
Posted by AFinch on March 16, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
attitude devant 13
Well, I hate to say it, but I thought the whole thing was fishy to begin with. Just too dramatic and Daisey-aggrandizing. (which is not to say there aren't problems in these factories...) Even This American Life felt the story was problematic at first and had some rebuttals in the same hour. But this is really bad and only hurts the people he claimed to be trying to help.
Posted by attitude devant on March 16, 2012 at 12:23 PM · Report this
12
Goldy is a deeply proud shareholder of Apple stock.
Posted by This is posted in the interest of full disclosure. on March 16, 2012 at 12:01 PM · Report this
11
Oddly, Mike Daisey was on Up with Chris Hayes, Saturday March 10th, discussing exactly this. I don't think Mike is the problem here, as we've become rather confused as to what is rooted in truth and what is reporting.
Posted by See also, The Daily Show on March 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM · Report this
Mullin 10
""What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic—not a theatrical—enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret."

I regret that Mike only chose to have this regret after the fabrications were exposed.
Posted by Mullin http://www.paulmullin.org on March 16, 2012 at 11:58 AM · Report this
9
You're right to call this "worse." Making shit up to make a better story does indeed undercut the legitimate story that's there.

How much better would it have been if instead of Apple-centric focus on monstrous violations of basic human rights, we instead had an industry-centric focus on the actual, legitimate problems these workers face? I've heard from people claiming to boycott Apple products in favor of other manufacturers -- who make their products in the same factories in the same way, but now without the same oversight that Apple's moving toward.

Misinformation, however well intentioned, obscures and weakens your case. Hopefully, "This American Life" and the New York Times will follow up and really get to the truth of the matter, rather than merely let the sensational "good story" linger out there.
Posted by Bostonguy on March 16, 2012 at 11:44 AM · Report this
8
@ 7. My review was a year ago. Or perhaps I misunderstand your question.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on March 16, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
7
Why is this getting brought up now and not a year or two ago whenever this began?
Posted by Chester Copperpot on March 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
And don't get me started about you PRESUMING that This American Life is Journalistic Reporting of News and not Storytelling ...
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on March 16, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 5
Hooray for Apple!

This is the same as all those stories about how the PlayBook or Android is going to set the world on fire and put Apple out of business, and next thing you know, RIM is bankrupt and Apple is still on top. Lame predictions of Apples demise are getting really old.

Mostly I don't want to have to boycott the only tolerable computer. And I do mean just tolerable -- the secret of Apple's greatness is how much worse their competition sucks. What were we talking about again?
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on March 16, 2012 at 11:29 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 4
You seem to be suffering under the delusion that reporters actually gather and collect news, verify it with trusted sources multiple times, have actual editors with strong subject knowledge in the area about which one is writing, and so on.

Interesting.

By the way, did you hear Snooki is moving here soon for her new reality TV show Snooki Does Seattle: The Tale of a New Jersey Italian finding Love, Laughter, and Tans by the Seaside?

(god, you're so gullible)

In reality, the vast majority of workers in factories in China don't have health coverage because they are made into "illegal workers" by the Chinese system designed to keep farmers out on the farms and the permit structure that lets local governments not pay for their health care. So there's still blood on your keyboard.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on March 16, 2012 at 11:29 AM · Report this
bhowie 3
I remember at the time of this review I thought your nit-picking about truth was not really valid. The point is he is not a journalist, what he did was use drama to get to a deeper truth.

You and This American Life are trying to hold him up to a different standard than he himself ever claimed.

He stands by his work and so do I.
Posted by bhowie on March 16, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Report this
2
Wow. Simply awful. That press release from TAL is damning - paragraph one: "... numerous fabrications."
Posted by Stephen McCandless on March 16, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Report this
1
Hoo boy.
Posted by gloomy gus on March 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM · Report this

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