Be Careful What You Believe


I can personally say that I felt somewhat embarrassed as Ira Glass began to break down Mike Daisey’s arguement or monologue that we listened to last week. Last Sunday, I typed out a blog post on this same Apple laptop that I’m using now about how I was startled by the “truths” Daisey appeared to expose about Apple and Foxconn. I wondered aloud what types of hardships the people who produced my keyboard faced while making it. Additionally, I believed Daisey to be sincere, passionate, and trustworthy. I thought he was the real deal, and he was doing a fantastic job of raising awareness to what really happens at Foxconn. Seeing as Daisey’s monologue was the most downloaded podcast in the history of This American Life, I’m sure I’m not alone in this situation.

All the air has come out of the sails at this point. Every minute, Daisey’s assertions such as 12 year old workers, underground union meetings at Starbucks, injured hands, and guards with guns were broken down and proven to be false. The more I think about it, Daisey’s details were questionable even the first time I heard them. However, he told a great story, and the passion in his voice made me want to believe what he was saying. I wanted to believe he was truly trying to make a difference, and not simply advance his personal career. “Everything in this monologue is built out of my trip.” This is the line Daisey answers with when asked if he simply lied to his listeners. Clearly afraid of the negative connotation surrounding the word “lie”, Daisey pauses for a long time before dodging the question with this answer. Last week, he seemed to burst with confidence and could do no wrong. Now, he sounds defeated. He seems more concerned about saving his reputation then conveying to the listeners what the truth actually is.

This is what the problem with this situation really is. I don’t doubt that Foxconn has many issues, and Apple needs to take action in some areas. I believe that the Foxconn employees do face poor conditions and a lack of worker’s rights. The problem with what Daisey did is that he takes all the good out of his argument, and forces people only to focus on the lies that he told. The Mike Daisey Foxconn story is now about Mike Daisey, and not Foxconn. He did a good job raising awareness and getting the word out there about Apple and Foxconn. However, all of that is gone now because Daisey chose to exaggerate the story and advance his career instead of focusing on honest reporting and getting the facts right. He lost all credibility. I take away from this experience a lesson about how one always needs to take news or stories they come across with a grain of salt. Mike Daisey did a lot of good things, but his failure to act ethically and with integrity tore down what once was an extremely powerful story.

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8 thoughts on “Be Careful What You Believe”

  1. Although I agree that Daisey should not have blatantly lied about the details and occurrences of his trip I still found his underlying message to be extremely powerful, but found his responses during the interview hard to believe. While listening to his interview I lost respect for him because he was dancing around the questions he was being asked and still seemed to not understand why he was at fault. I think that if he handled the situation in a more honorable way his story would have still been respected and as powerful to the listeners.

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  2. Great post Zach! I stand with your comment about how the story is now not at all about Foxconn working conditions. Now, the media has turned on a negative light on Mike Daisey’s character flaws. Daisey’s integrity has been compromised, and the retraction makes him out to be an attention starved actor trying to make it into the limelight. However, it is also true that Foxconn and other electronic producing factories need to implement change. Issues do need to be brought to consumer attention, even if these are not as gruesome as Daisey describes. This reminds me of the question posed in the conclusion, should we feel guilty? Drawing on Daisey’s once powerful story, the answer would have been yes. Now, we must understand both sides of the argument. Yes workers at factories like Foxconn may be working extensive hours, but they are also working to better their living conditions. Maybe a factory like this is more of an opportunity to them. It brings up the question of free will.

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  3. I found your post to be very interesting and thought-provoking. When you mentioned that his story is not about Mike Daisy and not the issues at Foxconn, I found myself shaking my head in agreement. I then stopped to think about all the people that may have come across Daisy’s original story, but not “Retraction.” One would think that with the original monologue being TAL’s most downloaded podcast ever, that a significant number of people heard it, but did not hear about the investigation into the lies told by Mike Daisy. This thought then raised the question, “so, is Mike Daisy’s story still accomplishing (at least partially) his intended goal?” I also strongly agreed with the fact that Mike Daisy was afraid of the connotation the word “lie” has and the resulting consequences admitting himself to be a liar would have on his career. In his attempt to save his reputation, as you mentioned, he tried over and over to justify himself and the choices he made regarding this story.

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  4. I can tell you that you are not the only one that felt embarrassed after hearing the second podcast. I’d like to think that I am a skeptical reader and can distinguish fact from fiction, but his story exemplifies the ability to be pulled by emotion away from the truth.
    However, I do think that using the word “lie” is a little harsh considering that odds are that out of the many confirmed** underage workers (91) there are multiple 12 year olds, hexane is still a problem in Chinese factories elsewhere, and otherwise the working hours and conditions are far from what would be acceptable in the United States.
    I feel like calling what he said a “lie” is an easy way of ignoring the truth in what he said.

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  5. I love how you point out that “Mike Daisey’s Foxconn story is now about Mike Daisey and not about Foxconn”. It’s so true, because I felt an emotional connection to his original story, whereas now I see it as a hoax. I agree with you that it seemed as though Daisey just wanted to cover his own trail and maintain his career, rather than support his true cause which was to get Foxconn’s story out in the open.

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  6. You are obviously on one side of the fence in regards to Daisey’s lies. You are correct that his lies perhaps took away a lot of attention from the actual story when his lies surfaced, but in the end people were still subjected to his story. In this case, I think any publicity is good publicity for the workers of Foxconn. I disagree that all of his credibility is lost. I think it is very easy to consider this incident for what it is, and what it is is a storyteller being slammed for not adhering to strictly facts in his narrative. If his intention was not to make people care, perhaps I would care that he lied about his interpreters first name, but because I can logically deduce the significance of why he bent the story I do not mind that he did.

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    1. “All credibility is lost” is too strong for me too. Unfortunately, there are cases, like the author who went on Oprah with a memoir he had wholly fabricated, that cloud this one. At the same time, perhaps TAL did more to make the story about feeling betrayed by Daisey. Narrative and story are powerful and credible and not always the same as provable facts.

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