I know that Mike Daisey’s report had blatant lies in it, but I don’t know if I care. The details don’t really matter to me. If there was a 12 year old worker or a 13 year old worker at the factory gates the day Daisey visited is irrelevant if there is in fact child labor occurring at the factory. The point of Mike Daisey’s story was to make people care about labor conditions of a factory worker in China. If he chose to fabricate a few encounters to reach people, then maybe the ends justified the means.
A similar phenomenon happened with the movie Gasland. Producer Josh Fox made a documentary about hydraulic fracturing and the natural gas industry. It was riveting, saddening, and enraging. Most importantly, it made people pissed off about energy companies taking advantage of individuals and communities while not taking full responsibility for the potential impact of their actions. Fracking was happening with negative effects and nobody knew or cared until Gasland was made public. Turns out, the documentary was riddled with inaccuracies. (http://energyindepth.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Debunking-GasLand.pdf). But the thesis, the main take-home, the entire purpose of the film- that gas companies were underpaying individuals to lease their land, that fracking ahs many horrible environmental and health effects, and that governments are in league with the energy industry- is completely true.
Similar to the “Retraction” stated by this American Life, another film producer challenged the accuracy of Gasland. Ann McElhinney produced Fracknation, (http://fracknation.com/) a documentary that “tells the truth about fracking.” Well after Josh Fox lied so skillfully, how am I supposed to believe this lady? What is her motivation for producing a film that sides with the energy industry? Just because she believes she is telling the truth, doesn’t mean her information is accurate. Despite what is true or false, at least now people are listening. People are thinking about fracking and the way the energy industry is governed. Just like in Daisey’s story, the sensationalism that captured people’s attention sparked investigation that eventually uncovers the truth.
My reaction to both the podcasts and both the documentary tells me that information I have access to is almost never objective. There is always going to be lies, biases, and opinions that influence truth. Some energy companies lie and manipulate, some factories will hide child labor, journalists will try to influence opinion, and actors will exaggerate stories to make a point. Maybe it is up to the person gaining information to make sure what he or she is hearing is true. Maybe you can never be completely sure of the truth, and will only ever be fairly certain. Either way, truth is never easy to discern.