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Actor, not a Journalist…


After listening to the “Retraction” piece in This American Life radio, I was very surprised and also angry about Mike Daisey’s exposed dishonesty regarding the Foxconn manufacturing plant and the Apple corporation. The lies told in the monologue successfully convinced me of the situation in China’s manufacturing plants and even persuaded me to think badly of Apple for allowing such a thing to happen. Though it is not concretely portrayed which aspects of Daisey’s story were truthful, he clearly was exaggerating some of the details present in China (whether he witnessed them or not) in the effort to make people care about such issues. The problem with Daisey’s strategy is that in today’s society, access to information is so readily available to people that when claims regarding corporations as big as Apple come out, it is inevitable that someone will challenge your research extensively. Daisey is an unethical liar because the false claims he makes persuades people’s opinions very effectively in the direction he wanted them to go. Proper opinions can never be formed without the honest interpretation of the facts.

Mike Daisey believed that if he could fabricate a story powerful enough to make people care about some of the issues going on with manufacturing in China, he would be able to get away with the blatant lies he told to accomplish such a story. Just by listening to his tone in the podcast, it was evident that he was feeling stressed by the whole commotion caused by the broadcast and that he did not expect the story to collapse on him as it did. The evidence provided by the translator proves how Mike Daisey had planned the whole scheme from the beginning; he was thinking and behaving as an actor fulfilling a mental role rather than trying to act like a true journalist. As Daisey displays on his blog’s monologue listing (http://mikedaisey.blogspot.com/p/monologues.html), the first item on the list is the Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs with quotes from co-founder Steve Wozniak, which to the average reader on Apple corporation related issues would see as a legitimate voice supporting the credibility of Daisey’s work.

Rather than exposing the issues of Apple’s manufacturing in China in an honest light, Daisey’s stories lead people towards the opinions he wanted only to lose them in the end due to the deception of the facts. If he had actually talked about the overtime issues Apple frequently had with the workers at its plants his story may have seemed a little less emotional and harder to relate to, but at least those who listen to the broadcast are given the proper interpretation of the facts beforehand. The issues that really do exist in China are the result of China’s adoption to become the dominant force cheap labor manufacturing. The system works so well because of the supply chain relations as well as their locations in China. Everything is located within short distances of one another causing reduced shipping time and cost. The operation is meant for large scale mass production, with very low wages for the hundreds of thousands of workers present there. This caused the workers to actually demand overtime hours frequently which lead to some of the issues that Apple openly acknowledged.

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2 thoughts on “Actor, not a Journalist…

  1. I was also angry after listening to the retraction of Mike Daisy’s account. I think my anger was somewhat pointed towards Daisy, but also towards myself for so easily falling into his emotional track. I really like how you brought up Daisy’s emotions. I noticed several times during the retraction interviews with him that he had very long pauses after he was asked questions regarding his feelings. He did not want to own up to what he did, other than to say that he should not have published his work as journalism. Daisy also said several times that this was one of the best pieces he ever wrote. It’s funny to me that he is most proud of a work that got to people’s emotions because it was filled with lies and exaggerations. I think that there is a time and place for stories such as Daisy’s that are based on things he has heard, but he should not claim them as his own experience. They should be prefaced with “based on a true story,” rather than a claim that it is a true story.

  2. Clearly, I was irritated with Daisey about what he did. However, I think you do have to remember why we are angry. I am not so much angry at Daisey because of his performance or even that he seemed not to regret it. What angers me most is that Daisey relied on lies to gain his emotional response and then submitted it as a journalistic entry. This is where I become very angry. The fact that Daisey unethically lied about this being a journalistic entry just to ensure he would receive the emotional response he wanted. I honestly think he would have received a similar response even if he had said this is merely “based on a true story.” However all emotional response in my opinion is ruined because Mike Daisey has lost most if not all credibility in my eyes. In addition to that I believe TAL has also seriously lost credibility because they were willing to air this monologue without truly validating what was being said. That is wrong and should never be allowed to happen.

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