Blog 3

A “Theatrical” Truth


This American Life, a journalism authority retracted Mike Daisey’s monologue.  Additionally Daisey regretted airing his performance through this reputable news source.  However, Daisey, much to the frustration of This American Life, adamantly defended his work in other realms.  While Daisey admitted that it was a mistake to frame his monologue as journalism he claims that it remains truthful in the “theatrical context”.

Different media and entertainment outlets elicit degrees of factuality depending on their classification and reputation.  “Retraction” made me question how much gray area there are for facts.   Mike Daisey should not be characterized as a liar if we view the world as purely subjective, and journalism as a personal adaptation of the truth.  Yet, if we view the world using this lens at what point can we delineate between fact and fiction?

The fact that Daisey spoke of his “conflicted” feelings, and felt “trapped”, and became “sick about it” suggests misaligned motives. I support Daisey’s efforts to expose a truth, defend the voiceless, and bolster empathy for the Chinese workers who experience harsh and sometimes dangerous working conditions.  His intentions were to make people care about the suicides at the factory.  Mike states, “I wanted to tell a story that captured the totality of my trip”, and “everything in the monologue was build from the truth.”  I don’t believe Mike’s story should be classified as pure fiction, however, he misled the public by representing his piece as pure fact, rather than a narrative and interpretation of an assortment of experiences.  This choice gained him press, fame, and temporary prestige, but it also caused social, economic, and political repercussions.

The power of truth is undeniable.  We all have the ability to misrepresent reality.

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5 thoughts on “A “Theatrical” Truth

  1. Thanks for sharing. I agree with your sentence “I don’t believe Mike’s story should be classified as pure fiction……”, I think Mike Daisey started his research in a good way, but he might just end it wrong. And between the start and the end, the process he provided goes from a story telling to a drama acting, I think he might just want to catch more eyeballs and make those people who know nothing about their iPhones show the worship to his work.

  2. If we view the world as purely subjective, I do agree that we cannot characterize Daisey as a liar. However, when the issues at hand involve raising awareness about poor working conditions and regulation in China why lie? His lies simply create hyperbolic scenarios of what actually happened, which successfully made people aware of these issues only to be later destroyed the information relayed in Retraction. If he had simply expressed truthful facts about these poor conditions in China, I feel that he would have nearly the same outcome without the negative impact of dishonesty. As you state in the last line of your post, the truth really is undeniable and in the long-term the truth is the only survivor.

  3. If we view the world as purely subjective, I do agree that we cannot characterize Daisey as a liar. However, when the issues at hand involve raising awareness about poor working conditions and regulation in China why lie? His lies simply create hyperbolic scenarios of what actually happened, which successfully made people aware of these issues only to be later destroyed by the information relayed in Retraction. If he had simply expressed truthful facts about these poor conditions in China, I feel that he would have nearly the same outcome without the negative impact of dishonesty. As you state in the last line of your post, the truth really is undeniable and in the long-term the truth is the only survivor.

  4. I really enjoyed your post. I also agree with the comment above, that if Daisey just stated what actually happened in his trip many people would have responded in a similar fashion. I understand he was trying to make people aware of this issue in China, however, after the Retraction I think the opposite happened. People are more caught up with the fact that Daisey lied instead of the poor working conditions in China. It clearly would have been easier for Dasiey to tell the truth instead of trying to exaggerate it.

  5. I agree with your post. I think that as an actor and writer, Daisey wrote this story with the intention of gaining a reaction. He exaggerated his story and told multiple lies in order to have a narrative that he knew would be an instant success due to the such controversial and vulgar-yet ultimately false descriptions. The mentioning of the hexane poisoning and the man with a disfigured nub for a hand were added to the story in order to instigate a dramatic reaction from any listening audience, not to raise awareness for the factory workers in Shenzen. Daisey defends his dishonesty by saying he really just wanted people to not forget about China and not belittle the seriousness of the suicides but it seems to me that really he was just looking for fame and a story that would sell.

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