'This American Life' Contributor Should Be Sorrier for His Apple Factory Fibs

ipads iphones apple productsRemember back when the controversy about Apple's factory conditions first erupted? Performer Mike Daisey, who does a one-man show off-Broadway called The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, was at the epicenter of that brouhaha after bringing his show to an episode of the popular public radio show This American Life with Ira Glass. The details in the show were presented as fact -- making plenty of Apple customers more than a bit wary about spending their hard-earned money on iPhones and iPads manufactured in Chinese sweatshops. 

Well, this past weekend, TAL had to retract the story -- I know, total gasp! -- because they uncovered "significant fabrications" in Daisey's story, to the point where they couldn't "vouch for its truth." For instance, Daisey confessed he never met a worker at the Foxconn factory who had been poisoned by n-hexane, as he claimed on the show. Wow, huh? Paging James Frey, Stephen Glass ...


The thing is, if you asked Mike Daisey if he thinks what he's done is as bad as what shamed fabricators Frey (author of A Million Little Pieces) and Glass (reporter for The New Republic) did, he'd probably say no way. He says he's sorry that he presented his work as journalism on TAL, but he still stands by his work. But even so, he still felt it necessary to change his show -- tacking on a prologue explaining the controversy and taking out various parts that are being questioned. So, clearly, on some level, he knows he screwed up, and he's trying to make up for it with these tweaks.

But I'm not sure if he's actually sorry enough. He argued on the retraction episode basically that what he says is "true," even if it's err ... not. He claims he subordinated the truth behind his real experience in the Apple factory, because he felt he had a "larger story" that he wanted to tell. Um. It sounds to me like what he considers a "larger story," most people would call a "lie."

Still, actual reporters (like from The New York Times) have investigated the situation with Apple's factories, and iPads and iPhones may very well be manufactured in "harsh conditions." The truth is ... we don't really know the full truth about Foxconn. But it sure isn't what Mike Daisey presented it to be. And for that, he should be much sorrier.

Do you think Mike Daisey wrecked his reputation by presenting a creative, perhaps exaggerated work as journalism?


Image via Yutaka Tsutano/Flickr

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