So it turns out Mike Daisey exaggerated or just plain made stuff up about his trip to China in The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Starting from giving bad contact information for his translator, Mike Daisey’s lies spiral out of control as he enjoyed the benefits of the press for his show to speak on the issues he portrays. Daisey is eventually brought back to face his lies through the wrath of Ira Glass, who reveals many of the issues we heard about in his monologue, and previous broadcast, to be completely false: no N-Hexane scandal (that Daisey directly saw), no overwhelming numbers of underage laborers, and the old man was completely made up to be “like a movie” according to his translator.
I can laugh and acknowledge lessoned learned: I won’t point the finger without checking out the facts ever again! We didn’t check the facts, mostly, because it was so easy to believe this dramatized story. It was captivating, because it was a story built to illicit an emotional response. These characters are simply reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions about Chinese life and culture. It was successful because Daisey said it that it all was real. We so easily accepted the ‘hard truth’ about our lifestyle implications for chinese workers. But turns out, maybe this is not so true. Even Cathy the translator admits, it’s like “like a movie.” We’re too quick to jump the gun and point the finger. Next time, I might check a story out on Google before I start to ask questions about bad practice.
Apple actively seeks out underage workers. They have a plan, they care, they’re aggressive about following through on it. Other key issues from Daisey’s podcast- like the 14 Chinese hour shifts and nets hanging from the buildings horrible working conditions- remain to be seen. Duhigg concludes the podcast by reminding us that there are two sides to every story; we hold China to US working standards disregarding China’s economical, political and historical context.
That being said, I’ve never been to China; however it sounds like Cathy is portraying the standard of working conditions for Chinese factory laborers to be above what we would expect based on Daisey’s monologue. This might be reflective of the liberties the Chinese media has to exaggerate the story for various financial and political reasons. (Cite: Cathy has never seen a gun in real life. Even I’ve seen a gun here in rural PA on police officers.) Cathy seems to imply that Mike is a storyteller, a writer rather than a journalist, who is allowed to make exaggerations, except when it begins to shape people’s opinions. But even then, Cathy didn’t really seem to care one way or another that Mike had distorted the truth.
Know who cared though? Ira Glass. He really cared. I was uncomfortable listening to him berate Daisey into admitting “I was wrong, I made shit up”. Which he does eventually get Daisy to say. I stopped listening at 45 minutes in for a while because I couldn’t take the verbal abuse of Mike Daisey any longer. I just kinda felt bad for the guy. Ira Glass gets to keep his reputation, which is good. But it felt like a triumph when Daisey finally admitted he lied. Like someone somewhere needed to stand up and celebrate, “HA! He did it! He LIED to us!” Glass won. It would have been good to clear up the facts, yes, and maybe I’m just overly empathetic, but it felt overdone…sorry NPR. But, in the end, I’m glad I can re-evaluate my relationship with Apple again with a more informed perspective!