Last week, when I finished listening to Mike Daisey’s podcast, I looked at my Apple products in disgust; I pictured young children treated like slaves or prisoners polishing the screen on my iPhone. Apparently, Mr. Daisey has a knack for exaggeration, and my iPhone and the company that makes it may not be so tainted after all. Guards carrying guns? Cathy has never even seen a gun before. Factory workers meeting in Starbucks? That just doesn’t happen. This hour long retraction refutes these facts and more in Daisey’s trip to Shenzhen, and forces me to question his authority and legitimacy as a journalist, and on a deeper level, the authority and legitimacy of the media we encounter everyday.
As a New York Times article written by Charles Isherwood about the retraction published around the time of this episode of TAL states: “nonfiction should mean just that: facts and nothing but the facts.” By this credo, since Mr. Daisey had clearly fabricated many of the aspects of his story, it should be considered fiction. What constitutes factual information, and what is myth? How much of what we hear should we believe? Who can we trust? These are all questions that come to mind. One documentary never tells the whole story- it tells the story from one point of view. And yet I found myself intrigued by Daisey’s story—I had no doubt it was true. Part of that was Daisey’s theatrics; he was an incredibly gifted storyteller, appealing to pathos. I shouldn’t have fallen for that trap.
If Daisey can do such a great job of making me believe something that is not true, how much else of what I believe is false? How much of what I see in the news everyday is actually factual? I guess there is really know way of knowing. If one wants to be educated on an issue, they should read countless articles, do their own personal research, and then draw their own conclusions. Reading one article or listening to one podcast does not make someone an expert; it makes them knowledgeable about one viewpoint—probably a skewed one. If nothing else, Daisey’s monologue and the following retraction have taught me to be a bit more cynical: believe only half of what you hear.