Terrified of the Truth


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.

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6 thoughts on “Terrified of the Truth”

  1. I like how you describe the misconception that Mike Daisey creates by adding all the issues into one story as making it seem “more commonplace than it may actually be”. I think this is a key point which not only deceives audiences that it is performed in front of, but also leads them to believe that it is an issue of higher importance than it is. There are simply too many social-justice issues to tackle all of them full force, so it is imperative that each is portrayed to the magnitude that it deserves.

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  2. I agree with you, as I was irritated by Daisey’s way of presenting his monologue as well. As a listener, I believed the story to be journalistic and factual. Maybe it is different if you watch Daisey perform the monologue in person, but over the radio on NPR, I was under the impression Daisey spoke nothing but the truth. In realty, Daisey told a story. He did not present facts about the Apple/Foxconn situation. This is what left me, like you, feeling frustrated and deceived. I love how Daisey raised awareness about the seriousness of the issue at Foxconn, I just don’t like how he went about doing it.

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    1. I agree with you and Zack about being irritated by Daisey’s refusal to just admit he messed up. I think that by the end of the podcast, Daisey tries to incorrectly justify the reason for his lies. Personally, I think Daisey was just trying to get famous, and the exaggerations sensationalized his story. I am frustrated now that I don’t have a clear idea of what actually goes on at Foxconn, because I can’t take Daisey’s performance from last week at face value anymore.

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  3. “Daisy was terrified of the chance that exposing himself would lead to the destruction of this work, which I believe he is truly passionate about.” I also really connected to this comment by Daisey. You could almost personally feel the defeat in his voice after the extended pause. I too understand why he chose to embellish the true story, but feel as though he didn’t consider the effect of him being exposed would have on the cause he brought into the public eye. Now that the large audience knows that Daisey was not telling the truth, it unties his whole argument and I think even lessens the amount of people willing to listen to such claims of factory injustices. Sadly, I think Daisey’s passion for the issue clouded his judgement and led to his exaggerated monologue and its repercussions.

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  4. I was also very annoyed with how Daisey was dancing around Glass’ questions about the validity of his firsthand experiences at the FoxConn factory. I found myself growing more and more frustrated as Daisey kept coming up with different reasons on why he included in his story what he did. If I were Glass, I would have especially been mad at Daisey when he asked to come back on the show, and Glass thought that Daisey was going to admit more lies, but ended up defending his story. I think that this story also touches into the problem of stealing Intellectual Property. Daisey had stolen first hand accounts from journalists who had actually witnessed the events, and then passed them off as his own experiences.

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  5. The way you use the quote about terror is very effective. The podcast, as a piece of journalism? Of memoir? perfectly captures the awkwardness of the interaction.

    Daisey is an actor. His piece was presented as non-fiction. Had he said at the beginning “this is based on my experiences” would it have been as effective?

    Do we have different standards of truth-in-detail from truth-in-narrative for actors or artists?

    Apple does not tell its customers where the technology is made (see Siri conversation). Is that a lie by omission?

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