While listening to “Retraction” I was, on one hand, becoming more and more frustrated by the fact that Mike Daisey was unable to flat out say that he fabricated and exaggerated many of his personal experiences in China, yet on the other hand, I realized that the purpose of his monologue is to bring awareness to people about a situation that realistically does need to be improved. Listening to Daisey’s follow up interviews with the This American Life crew was uncomfortable, as he regularly took long pauses after being asked a question, as if he was debating whether or not to tell the whole truth, or to continue attempting to cover his tracks. Ultimately, by the end of the podcast I found myself to be irritated by Mike Daisy’s responses, the way in which he chose to answer the questions presented to him, and his justification for doing what he did.
If one takes a look at the chronology of Ira, and the rest of the TAL employees’ fact-checking/investigation into the truths of Mike Daisey’s trip to Foxconn and surrounding areas, the first mistake that Daisy made was his attempt to keep those at TAL from speaking with Cathy. Due to the fact that Mike claimed getting in touch with Cathy was no longer possible, Ira claims he made it clear to Mike that his monologue would have to live up to journalistic standards. It seems clear that Ira believed, as would I, that this would entail Mike telling a purely factual account of what he experienced in China. It was at this point that Mike should have come out and told them that some of the things he claims he witnessed in China did not happen to him specifically, although he knows there to be cases in which similar occurrences have taken place and that he wanted to illustrate some of these to his audience in order to convey his message. Instead, he portrayed his story as purely factual, and although it may have succeeded in raising awareness about some of the harsh factory conditions in China, as is illustrated by the fact that it was TAL’s most downloaded podcast, it accomplished this goal by means of deception and exaggeration.
“I think I was terrified,” stated Daisey.
Daisey was terrified of the chance that exposing himself would lead to the destruction of this work, which I believe he is truly passionate about. The main problem I have with his deception, however, is that in an attempt to make his story captivating and moving, Mike Daisy took many of the worst case-scenarios surrounding China and their factory conditions and portrayed them as if he experienced them firsthand. Anyone listening to Mike Daisey then takes all of this information as factual, as Ira mentioned, and forms an opinion about it. Personally, when listening to the original podcast, “Mr. Daisey Goes To The Apple Factory,” I figured that if one person is able to visit Foxconn and witness horrible things, such as child laborers of ages 12 and 13, people badly poisoned by hexane, and people whose body parts have been deformed by the repetitive tasks required in the factory, then it must be commonplace there. This is where I was wrong. I wasn’t wrong in the sense that things of this nature don’t take place in these factories, because I know they do, however I was wrong to take Daisey’s word for it and thus believe it to be more commonplace than it may actually be. Mike Daisey’s decision to raise awareness by portraying all of these horrible things as if he witnessed them, exaggerated the extent to which workers in China are treated poorly. I am not writing this blog in an attempt to state that I don’t believe factory workers in China, such as those at Foxconn are treated extremely poorly, I am just irritated, as Ira was, about how Mike Daisey chose to present his experiences. Any audience listening to his story and expecting to hear the truth has the right to know what has been pulled from other sources and what he truly experienced. While change certainly needs to be made towards improving the working conditions in places such as Foxconn, I don’t believe it is ethical for people’s beliefs to be influenced by something they believe to be factual, but actually isn’t.