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Mike Daisey Proves He Still Doesn’t Get It

The decline of American manufacturing employment is an important topic. The nature of America’s trade relationship with China should receive serious discussion. The conditions faced by the workers who make our iPhones and iPads matter immensely.

They deserve rigorous inquiry. They do not deserve Mike Daisey.

A quick recap for those readers who may have missed the story: This American Life, a weekly public-radio show, ran a story by the monologist Mike Daisey who claimed to have visited Apple factories in China and uncovered grievous abuses of its workers. However, it turns out that Daisey fabricated large portions of his segment—details like scary security guards carrying guns (only the military and the police are allowed firearms in China); meeting with workers as young as 12; interviewing workers who claimed to be poisoned by an iPhone screen cleaner; and much more. This American Life recently apologized for not fact-checking the work properly and retracted the story.

Daisey has rightfully faced a hailstorm of criticism for his shoddy work. He has responded to this criticism, not surprisingly, in a manner both shallow and self-serving; he still contends that “there is nothing in this controversy that contests the facts in my work about the nature of Chinese manufacturing.”

Daisey appears to have learned little from this saga. In his “apology” he denounced his critics as vile, compared himself grandiosely to Mark Twain, and struck the pose of a martyr. Via Meadia think this is truly pathetic. What Daisey misses is that when you are writing about abuses, the more serious the abuses are (and the more urgent the fight against them), the more serious and accurate you have to be about the facts. By stretching the truth the way he did, Daisey betrayed precisely the people he claimed to be helping.

A lot of people think it is easy to do good. It is actually very difficult, and a great deal of harm is done by people who rush into the do-gooding business without understanding themselves or the world very well. Sadly, Mike Daisey doesn’t seem to be learning from his mistakes — yet. Via Meadia will hope for the best.

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  • vanderleun

    Another member of the Dan Rather “Fake but Accurate” Brigade.

    Then again you really can’t expect Daisey to cop to his lie. If he did he wouldn’t have a show and the show is all he has and all he is likely to have.

  • http://web-logos.blogspot.com/?m=1 JCP Brown

    Thanks for the clarification. Often when one doesn’t follow a story from the start, one can fall out of the loop of what’s going on real quick! The blogosphere & social media can be as much of a noisy circus as traditional prnt & TV media! So, thanks

  • Kris

    “when you are writing about abuses, the more serious the abuses are (and the more urgent the fight against them), the more serious and accurate you have to be about the facts.”

    Why are you defending abuse? Don’t you realize how horrible abuse is? No doubt the Abuse-ish Lobby has gotten to you!

    [/sarc]

  • Anthony

    “…the more serious the abuses are…the more serious and accurate you have to be about the facts….A lot of people think it is easy to do good. It is actually very difficult….” – pretty much says it all WRM.

  • Maid Abusing Socialist

    Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but it looks like Mike has got to hook up quick with Nir Rosen and form the perfect ‘Power Couple’ journalistic bromance…

    [comments that Grandmother Mead would not have accepted at her dinner table deleted]

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    On the subject of our relations to China here is a thoughtful comment by a native Chinese observer:

    “[A conference member] said that America’s China policy “is the most successful American foreign policy in the last fifty years. Presidents of both parties have come to the notion that broadening and deepening our relationship with China is in the national interest,” he said. It’s hard to know how to evaluate statements like that—what is the criteria for judgment? How was success defined? What were the alternatives, and what have been the opportunity costs of the current arrangements? . . .

    The basic point of the day’s event was this: China and the U.S. need to emphasize their mutual interests; fundamentally, they share many interests; they need to not misunderstand each other; and through dialogue and efforts at cooperation, both sides will work everything out.

    The fundamental assumption underpinning this—unspoken, definitely unspoken—is that the interests of the Chinese Communist Party are aligned with the interests of China as a country and a people, and as a consequence, that the CCP’s interests are fundamentally reconcilable and aligned with the interests of the United States. But this is a highly questionable assumption. The fact that it is left unstated, undefended, and unjustified, and yet it is the implicit basis for the entire current approach to China–though one must tip one’s hat to Obama’s “pivot” and recent willingness to do something about trade issues–seems rather troubling.”

    http://blog.theepochtimes.com/1/china/

  • Robert

    Did you catch the flavor of the “apology”? Read it again: “there is nothing in this controversy that contests the facts in my work about the nature of Chinese manufacturing.”

    Get it? He’s saying there actually are facts somehere in his report, but he’s not going to tell you which ones are factual and true. That’s up to you to determine. Moreover, he’s not apologizing for his untruths.

    And these people want to run our lives.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    More on the behind the scenes power struggle in China:

    http://tinyurl.com/6ryw6hp

  • Toni

    “He has responded to this criticism, not surprisingly, in a manner both shallow and self-serving;”

    Not unlike politicians’ “apologies.”

    Truth is the best weapon against injustice (and the best curative for fiscal insanity, e.g., the euro, and other denials of reality). Propaganda is by definition not the truth, and thereby hurts the cause of justice. Whatever your cause, lying hurts it.

    But Daisey has been lying in his Apple monologue for more than a year. Why did the world take so long to catch on?

  • http://knownofold.blogspot.com J R Yankovic

    “A lot of people think it is easy to do good. It is actually very difficult, and a great deal of harm is done by people who rush into the do-gooding business without understanding themselves or the world very well.”

    Another sad comment on the moral destitution of the Age: Even our “humanitarians” are lacking in both judgment and integrity.

  • Corlyss

    This was my favorite line in the WSJ story: “Mr. Daisey said he stood by his work, though he noted his work is a theatrical piece, and not journalism.”

    Bet that wasn’t what he said when he submitted the item to This American Life! Bet he had dreams of a Pulitzer.

    Daisey should apply to Michael Moore for a job.

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