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March 16, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Ira Glass retracts the This American Life episode "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory". Mike Daisey responds.

Previously.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed (545 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Woah.
posted by feckless at 10:43 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is going to be intense.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:44 AM on March 16, 2012


TAL's site is down. This is big, but isn't it possible that the translator was coerced to lie?
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:44 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoa is right.
posted by brundlefly at 10:45 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit surprised that TAL actually fact-checks their stories, especially the ones that are just "stories" told in the first-person.

I wonder if TAL feels like they endorsed the monologue by spending a good part of the episode "fact-checking" it.
posted by smackfu at 10:46 AM on March 16, 2012


It sounds like Rob Schmitz, another NPR reporter who's covered China extensively, thought a lot of things about the story seemed wrong, and that's what set off the revisit.
posted by escabeche at 10:47 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


BTW, This link (PDF) is actually working and has some details.
posted by smackfu at 10:47 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


anotherpanacea: “TAL's site is down.”

TAL's site does not actually appear to be down at all. It's loading fast for me.
posted by koeselitz at 10:47 AM on March 16, 2012


"In Schmitz's report, he confronts Daisey and Daisey admits to fabricating these characters."
posted by eriko at 10:48 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


"It's not just you! http://www.thisamericanlife.org looks down from here."
posted by smackfu at 10:48 AM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. - Daisey

I...it..

Whoa.
posted by rtha at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Try this.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


That would be the smoking gun, eriko.

Rarely do the guilty actually confess at the end of the episode, outside of crime shows...
posted by IAmBroom at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the Marketplace report on which most of this is based. It's possible it'll go down too, but Schmitz interviewed both Daisey and the translator and came up with some major inaccuracies.
posted by Tubalcain at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, that site went down in the seconds after I posted that. That is really weird.
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2012


Interesting. I have no doubt that the situation with Foxconn and its workers is much, much worse than progressives would consider acceptable, and that it needs a lot of attention and work. It's interesting how Daisey's approach to publicizing the issue could undercut his message.
posted by verb at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


koeslitz, this is what your link says for me: "It's not just you! http://www.thisamericanlife.org looks down from here."
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:50 AM on March 16, 2012


(It's still loading fast for me, too. But I guess it's cached or something.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:50 AM on March 16, 2012


"Dramatic license." Does this guy also take surprisingly symmetrical photographs?
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:51 AM on March 16, 2012 [19 favorites]


Rut-oh!
posted by ericb at 10:51 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's up and down every few seconds, from what I can tell. Now downforeveryone.com is reporting that the site is up (for me, anyway). Anyway, this is a total derail. Sorry.

It's really interesting to find this out. I remember feeling a lot of sentiment behind Mr Daisey's interesting travelogue, but if it's largely "artistic license," I don't know how I feel about that.
posted by koeselitz at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2012


I'm really not surprised at all that Daisey tells truthy stories. I'm very surprised that TAL ran it.
posted by smackfu at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


From what I've heard TAL is pushing up the release of the whole episode, so it may be up more like tonight than Sunday.
posted by jessamyn at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


See, the bit where Daisey flat-out lied about who the translator was suggests that this wasn't an innocent misunderstanding about whether this was "dramatic license" or "journalism". He used her real (Western) name in the monologue, told the TAL people that it a fake name, and if it wasn't that Rob Schmitz had worked with that translator himself...
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:53 AM on March 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


RS: So you lied about that? That wasn’t what you saw?
MD: I wouldn’t express it that way.
RS: How would you express it?
MD: I would say that I wanted to tell a story that captured the totality of my trip.


Incredible.
posted by pinsomniac at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, is this one of those things where Daisey blurred together his experiences for more truthiness/entertainment value, but he didn't want to reverse that blurring when it was later presented as journalism?

That's a big fuckup, but at the same time, many of these errors aren't all that captivating to me, as far as Apple's side of it is concerned. For example, he claims to have met poisoned workers, but those poisoned workers weren't in Shenzhen, and he almost certainly never personally met them. Boo on Daisey, but how does this make Apple look better?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


NPR pulls ahead of arch-rivals PRI in the battle for the Golden Totebag of Accuracy in Journalism!

In seriousness, I really hope this doesn't cause problems for anyone at TAL. This American Life has consistently done a fantastic job, and I think issuing a retraction via a full episode like this reflects well on them overall. I'm looking forward to hearing it.
posted by helicomatic at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2012 [26 favorites]


You have to admit, the part he fabricated about "he says it's a kind of magic" was pretty good storytelling.
posted by smackfu at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, is this one of those things where Daisey blurred together his experiences for more truthiness/entertainment value, but he didn't want to reverse that blurring when it was later presented as journalism?

Also: is "This American Life" journalism?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


That doesn't excuse the fact that we never should've put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.
Are you listening, Faux News? THIS is what journalistic integrity looks like. And Ira isn't what most would call a journalist.

Daisey: What I do is not journalism.
No, it's not. It's called "lying".

Daisey: The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism.
Most theater audiences are made aware that what they are seeing is not real. It tends to make performances of Death by Murder more palatable.

Daisey: But this is my only regret.
So far.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2012 [28 favorites]


i thought his "storytelling" was overly theatrical and dramatic to begin with. this now doesn't surprise me.
posted by Avenger50 at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't believe how much shit I got on MetaFilter for questioning Daisey's authority and ability to report on labour conditions in China.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2012 [98 favorites]


"I say things that aren’t true and imply that they are to make money and get attention. And then, for no reason, people get all upset about it and act like it’s my fault."
posted by bongo_x at 10:57 AM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ugh. What a mess. In hindsight, combining theater and journalism probably wasn't a great idea.
posted by diogenes at 10:57 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: is "This American Life" journalism?

That's my question too. When they play a Moth monologue, is that fact-checked? When someone tells the story of their childhood and Jewish family, is that fact-checked?
posted by smackfu at 10:57 AM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Boo on Daisey, but how does this make Apple look better?

Part of what made the original story as compelling as it was was the idea that one guy on a relatively short trip could meet so many characters who were negatively impacted by their time working for Apple. If he conflated something shitty that happened a thousand miles away, that makes it sound a lot more like 'Sometimes bad shit happens' rather than 'If all this shit happened in one place, imagine how much more shit there must be happening.'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:57 AM on March 16, 2012 [23 favorites]


This will have the rather unfortunate effect of obscuring the abuses there may or may not be at Foxconn. That will likely be another of Mr Daisey's regrets – I hope. But I wonder if this was really intended to highlight those abuses.
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 AM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


So I can get that macbook air now without the guilt?
posted by hellojed at 10:58 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


If the form adopted for his "theatrical presentation" was a sort of mockumentary, then its appropriate to insist that it was not journalism. Otherwise, Daisey goes through some length in his monologue (at least the for-radio excerpt) to describe the places he visited, the people he talked with, the efforts he went to in order to uncover the truth. In short, he presents the piece as journalism.

Despite the great reporting by the Times and investigations performed by labor rights groups, this has "climategate" potential, and soon someone could write a book like "The Hoax." We do, after all, live in a world where the balance of facts matters less in the face of anecdote and hyperbole.
posted by IndpMed at 10:58 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have to admit, the part he fabricated about "he says it's a kind of magic" was pretty good storytelling.

When I was dramatically retelling the story to my wife(as I often do with TAL episodes, but I'm not sure she's ever paying enough attention to notice how often I do it), I mentioned that detail seemed like "too much," but made for a better story so I included it.

That kind of detail is just too good to be true.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:59 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The "Previously" link should probably go to this post.
posted by designbot at 10:59 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


> It's interesting how Daisey's approach to publicizing the issue could undercut his message.

This message never seems to be learned; it's always so attractive to stretch the truth in order to advance the Real Truth. One of the most depressing passages in Claud Cockburn's brilliant memoir I, Claud involved his filing false reports during the Spanish Civil War to aid his (Republican) side. Lyin' ain't helpin', people, and I don't want to hear about your "artistic truth."
posted by languagehat at 10:59 AM on March 16, 2012 [26 favorites]


Do you really think the Mac fans are now going to go "oh, Apple working conditions are fine since that TAL story was fake"?
posted by smackfu at 10:59 AM on March 16, 2012


Let's see, is that libel, or slander, or both? Perhaps more interestingly, can he afford the lawyers to defend his position successfully against a company with like a hundred billion dollars in the bank who happens to actually be in the right?

There's not a rock big enough or deep enough underground that I'd want to crawl underneath if I'd pulled this kind of stunt. That he can hold his head up under the clear blue sky right now is stunning of itself.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:00 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Where's that damned FedEx truck?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:00 AM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


That's a big fuckup, but at the same time, many of these errors aren't all that captivating to me, as far as Apple's side of it is concerned. For example, he claims to have met poisoned workers, but those poisoned workers weren't in Shenzhen, and he almost certainly never personally met them. Boo on Daisey, but how does this make Apple look better?

It doesn't, and all of the manufacturers that use FoxConn are still complicit in whatever issues the company has. If any of us have ordered products from Acer, Amazon, Apple, Asus, Barnes & Noble, Cisco, Dell, Intel, IBM, Logitech, Microsof, Netgear, Nintendo, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Toshiba, Vizio, or any number of other electronics companies, we're part of the problem.

That's really sobering -- and the response that most of us have to big, difficult-to-grasp problems is to figure out ways to ignore it. For some of us, that means picking the company from that list we don't like and concentrating the blame on them. For others it means seizing on an incident like this and saying, 'Oh, it's not really a problem at all!'

The problem is that globalization and capitalism makes these kinds of things at least somewhat inevitable, and we haven't figured out a good systemic answer to that.
posted by verb at 11:00 AM on March 16, 2012 [46 favorites]


Daisey certainly just shot himself in the foot in terms of appearing on TAL in the future, I would imagine. Since that's a pretty huge showcase for American storytellers, seems like a bad plan.
posted by maryr at 11:00 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the issue, at least to me, was that Daisey was calling into question the sincerity of Apple's efforts to deal with abuses in factories in China. His argument was that "Apple is not sincere, and here are some facts to prove it."
posted by KokuRyu at 11:00 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's my question too. When they play a Moth monologue, is that fact-checked? When someone tells the story of their childhood and Jewish family, is that fact-checked?

I'm not sure that This American Life needs to fit neatly in a box labeled "journalism" or "not journalism." If they report about Apple or the economy or the judicial system in Georgia, I assume they're fact checking; if they run "a woman reads her diary from when she was drug addicted high schooler" then who knows.

The show does multiple things, and I assume has different rules for how they handle those different things.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


Also: is "This American Life" journalism?

No. But it is interpreted as such by its listeners most of the time. Every once in a while, This American Life will have a story on a topic with which I am extremely familiar and knowledgeable, and I will be reminded that the stories are typically crafted for narrative, rather than for an accurate portrayal of the topic. That's not to say that This American Life lies or lacks integrity, of course. But it's good to have a few grains of salt ready, just in case.
posted by The World Famous at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this is pretty much going to let Foxconn & all of their customers (including every single commenter in this thread, whether you know it or not) off the hook in the public mind.

Nicely done Daisey, nicely done.
posted by aramaic at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Despite the great reporting by the Times and investigations performed by labor rights groups, this has "climategate" potential, and soon someone could write a book like "The Hoax." We do, after all, live in a world where the balance of facts matters less in the face of anecdote and hyperbole.

Well, it all depends on how Apple responds. If nothing else, this has turned some eyes towards their supply chain, and they've already instituted some policies to make it more transparent. It would be hard for them to now retract those policies because, if for no other reason, a move away from transparency looks inherently dishonest.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2012


In related new, it turns out that working in an Amazon warehouse is actually really fun!
posted by diogenes at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2012 [19 favorites]


For example, he claims to have met poisoned workers, but those poisoned workers weren't in Shenzhen, and he almost certainly never personally met them. Boo on Daisey, but how does this make Apple look better?

That was my reaction to that section of the retraction as well. So, he used factual information about poor worker conditions that are not denied whatsoever. What's denied is that he could have personally met workers who endured them. Well, OK. So he's a liar, and Apple is nevertheless still contracting out its production to manufacturers who are doing terrible things to workers.

The worst thing about this is not that Daisey lied. The worst thing is that a lot of what he said seems very likely true, but will now be viewed as suspect because he claimed to have seen it himself.
posted by tocts at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2012 [36 favorites]


Do you really think the Mac fans are now going to go "oh, Apple working conditions are fine since that TAL story was fake"?

I think it's going to be a lot harder to convince them of unfair/dangerous working conditions in the future. In the long run, this is probably a disservice.
posted by maryr at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: is "This American Life" journalism?

A lot of This American Life shows can be firmly placed in the "journalism" category. Some of them, especially in the early years, I would call "storytime". I don't think you can define the show as a whole as journalism or not journalism.
posted by helicomatic at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


On preview - I agree with tocts.
posted by maryr at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2012


That's my question too. When they play a Moth monologue, is that fact-checked? When someone tells the story of their childhood and Jewish family, is that fact-checked?

They're a venue that does both journalism and other things. This is hardly mind-bending. When The New Yorker runs an article about, say, the drug trade in Mexico, that's journalism and must adhere to their (high) journalistic standards. When it runs a short story about a talking leopard, that's fiction and need not adhere to any purely journalistic standard.

When TAL has a fictional story it tells you that that is what you're hearing. When it runs first person memoir, it tells you that that is what you're hearing. When it runs an expose of Apple's Chinese supply factories it is unquestionably engaging in journalism and the story damn well better be true.
posted by yoink at 11:04 AM on March 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


Also: is "This American Life" journalism?

I think it's usually pretty clear in the set-up where a given TAL story falls in the fact/fiction spectrum. I guess the problem is that they went out of their way to frame the Daisey episode as reportage. And also that Apple has serious lawyers, when someone's cranky relative made fun of in a creative monologue probably doesn't.
posted by aught at 11:04 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Yeah, this is pretty much going to let Foxconn & all of their customers (including every single commenter in this thread, whether you know it or not) off the hook in the public mind.

Nicely done Daisey, nicely done.


I don't think so. According to Apple, the company is trying to change things, and they've also hired an independent auditor to make sure these changes are put into effect. Daisey said that the independent auditor is basically a stooge.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:05 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing that people like him miss is that when you want to change an inequity, you have to be absolutely scrupulously proper when reporting it. It's hard, I know, you want to just polish it up a little, or a lot, maybe, but you just can't. Because stuff needs to be true. I'm not hugely in favour of globalization but I'm also certain that the Foxconn employees are by and large happy as hell to have those opportunities. And Apple absolutely needs to be held to account for real abuses and violations on their watch. But you can't just make shit up because when you do that, and people find out, then everything you say whether it is true or not is just out the window. That's the way it works, once you are tainted as an unreliable witness, your entire testimony is suspect.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2012 [35 favorites]


So far Apple's response whenever people have asked for more transparency of their supply chain, has been, yes, lets do it.

Yes the TAL created a lot of pressure in that it triggered a Nightline investigation and all of that, but I don't see Apple backing off of what they have agreed to do now. I think Daisy may have gotten himself into a lot of trouble legally for not disclosing his was a performance, not journalistic, piece.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If any of us have ordered products from Acer, Amazon, Apple, Asus, Barnes & Noble, Cisco, Dell, Intel, IBM, Logitech, Microsof, Netgear, Nintendo, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Toshiba, Vizio, or any number of other electronics companies, we're part of the problem.

Broad brush, verb. I disagree firmly.

If you unintentionally, and especially unwittingly, buy products that are "morally tainted", you are not "part of the problem."

I'm not a bad person merely because I ordered sausage from Mrs. Lovett; it's only after I hear about Sweeney Todd's arrest, and rush to get my bulk order in, that the guilt stains me.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


smackfu: “Do you really think the Mac fans are now going to go ‘oh, Apple working conditions are fine since that TAL story was fake’?”

This was never really about "Mac fans," I don't think. People who are fans of Apple products are a diverse bunch. But as far as consumers in general, I don't think they really want to think about this kind of thing; and the sooner they can put it behind them, the better. So, yeah. I expect this will have the effect of silencing further dialogue on the matter.

posted by koeselitz at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm still curious why Apple fans are singled out as the deluded ones, given the large number of manufacturers that work with them. If you are reading this message, odds are you're supporting Foxconn directly or indirectly. No one -- not the hip Air-toting indie rocker nor the penny-pinching Ubuntu hacker nor the grandma who got a Nook or a Kindle Fire-- can pretend that these supply chain issues are the problem of some detestable other.
posted by verb at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2012 [36 favorites]


I guess the problem is that they went out of their way to frame the Daisey episode as reportage.

I agree that was the big problem with this. Daisey's monologue on Broadway had no expectation of journalistic integrity. TAL tried to bring it in-house and turn it into jouranlism, and failed at that, partly due to Daisey's lies. But Daisey isn't a journalist, so it's interesting.
posted by smackfu at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


The key quote:
"I'm not going to say that I didn't take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard," Daisey tells Schmitz and Glass. "My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it's not journalism. It's theatre."
posted by furtive at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


TAL wavered a bit in the beginning, but I think of it as part edutainment, mostly documentary.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2012


Also, what are the odds this would happen on the day the iPad 3 went on sale (at least today's the day according to the Best Buy email that I got this morning).
posted by aught at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Daisey certainly just shot himself in the foot in terms of appearing on TAL in the future, I would imagine. Since that's a pretty huge showcase for American storytellers, seems like a bad plan.

Maybe he can write a book about it, questioning what "truth" really means. That's the sort of thing most of the people who get caught lying in their nonfiction work end up doing.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: it's good to have a few grains of salt ready, just in case.
posted by epersonae at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


When TAL has a fictional story it tells you that that is what you're hearing. When it runs first person memoir, it tells you that that is what you're hearing.

Yeah, you're right....I guess my big question is, not having heard the original broadcast, is "what kind of piece did TAL say this was, or did they even do so".

Although, if Daisey is saying "I had it on your show as journalism, " that's a more powerful mea culpa.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2012


I always thought Daisey marketed himself as a storyteller first. Now, I suppose it's naive of me to think those stories would be truthful. It's really too bad, I had a lot of respect for this guy, have been to several of his shows and consumed a fair portion of his 24 hour monologue.
posted by furtive at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2012


The problem isn't only the lies. An equal problem is the market for the lies. This was a story many of us really wanted to believe.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: is "This American Life" journalism?

Sometimes. Ira Glass just won the George Polk award for a report on a drug court judge in Georgia (more on the George Polk Awards).

On the other hand, I just listened to an episode with stories about chickens and turkeys. But they're good about letting you know if you are about to listen to a factual report, a fictional story, a dramatic narrative, or whatever.
posted by mikepop at 11:09 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has TAL ever 'retracted' an episode before?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:09 AM on March 16, 2012


If you unintentionally, and especially unwittingly, buy products that are "morally tainted", you are not "part of the problem."

I think this and questions about the supply chain for meat remind us that we have a responsibility to proactively gather the information needed to make appropriate decisions. We can't go merrily on our way, buying whatever our heart fancies never considering the ripple across the economy, environment, and lives of others. I struggle with this, and I know I could do more.
posted by IndpMed at 11:11 AM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


> Do you really think the Mac fans are now going to go "oh, Apple working conditions are fine since that TAL story was fake"?

Given that they are the Republicans of computerdom, I'm sure this will play out just like "Rathergate".
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 11:11 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Has TAL ever 'retracted' an episode before?

They've corrected things quite a few times, but it takes a lot to retract an entire episode.
posted by smackfu at 11:12 AM on March 16, 2012


I played the tape of the story he had made up to Mr. Daisey. He had never heard it presented as journalism before. He said something to Cathy and Cathy said "He says it's like a kind of magic."
posted by rusty at 11:12 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let's keep this in perspective: The big story here is journalism wonkery. This is much more a story about TAL and journalism ethics than it is about the general accuracy of what was reported on the show.
posted by benbenson at 11:13 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


(jesus christ, since when is ASCII art verboten?)

I TOLD YOU THAT STORY STUNK ON ICE.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:13 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who (maybe not so proudly?) has listened to all of the 450+ episodes of TAL, I've got some mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can't imagine another journalistic outlet that would spend an entire hour retracting a story, nor one that would do as solid reporting as the drug court story or any number of the other stuff they've done just in 2011/12.

On the other hand ... holy shit, they messed up. Big time. By giving the show an entire hour, and devoting its second half to weighing the counterpoints (a move I really appreciated at the time), they really gave the story a lot of journalistic credo. Granted, given their number of episodes, something like this was inevitable sometime.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:13 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I'm still curious why Apple fans are singled out as the deluded ones

Because everyone wants to see something fail, and Apple has rebounded amazingly well and is breaking new records.

In a way, their products have become associated with conspicuous consumption even when they aren't that much of a luxury good (for their respective markets).

It taps into the same giddy spot in peoples brains when they find out BMW drivers supposedly have a smaller penis on average, according to some report on the internet.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:14 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


(jesus christ, since when is ASCII art verboten?)

A page full of ASCII art characters printing "I told you so" seemed like the appropriate choice for you? REALLY?
posted by smackfu at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Broad brush, verb. I disagree firmly.

If you unintentionally, and especially unwittingly, buy products that are "morally tainted", you are not "part of the problem."


I guess I'm not really clear how my statement was 'painting with a broad brush.' Those are the companies that use Foxconn to manufacture the goods that they sell in the US at lower prices than they would otherwise be able to. If I buy an iPad -- and wouldn't be willing to spend much more on it than I do -- I'm part of the problem, even if I don't realize it. Same with routers or Nooks or Kindles or Samsung TVs or whatever.

I'm not saying that someone who un-knowingly buys a product manufactured by Foxconn is directly responsible for that company's working conditions. We're all, however, participants in an industry that keeps itself going by driving down the cost of manufactured consumer electronics goods. Apple (for example) keeps their prices higher and uses it to fund R&D; many other companies pass on the lower manufacturing costs to customers and try to make it up on margins. All depend on the downward-spiral of actual component and manufacturing costs to make their plans work.

I'm not saying this because I think it unsolvable, or to suggest that we should just shrug our shoulders and accept it.
posted by verb at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2012


egg on their face

Obviously this is because egg is delicious and sometimes difficult to eat neatly.
posted by elizardbits at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't believe how much shit I got on MetaFilter for questioning Daisey's authority and ability to report on labour conditions in China.

Same here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 AM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


As another person who's listened to all the episodes of TAL [aside from those few lost ones, like #5] I wish TAL would do fewer current-events episodes and more of the "storytime" that drew me in.
posted by ego at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is so simple to understand in hindsight. Daisy goes to China and doesn't like what he sees. He writes a theatre piece about it. It does it's job and moves other people as well. The story gets taken up and Daisy gets so involved in his own creation, he forgets that it has moved from the theatre to the newspaper (or maybe he doesn't but those around him do).

Any playwright or author of historical fiction has to feel for Daisy, but both he and those who pushed the story to the front pages bear some responsibility for presentation and labeling of the material.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


A page full of ASCII art characters printing "I told you so" seemed like the appropriate choice for you? REALLY?

Considering the excoriation heaped on those of us who smelled the bullshit from the start, yes.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unbelievable!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2012


I don't even give a shit about Daisey's supposed lack of journo credentials - it's impossible to report on a foreign country beyond the most simple, high-level details unless you read and speak the language.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:19 AM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


(jesus christ, since when is ASCII art verboten?)

Taking a big ASCII ART dump to say "I told you so" is pretty much exactly the sort of shitty behavior that makes threads around here worse. If your primary goal in this thread is to make the thread about you being at odds with other people on the site, maybe just give it a pass.
posted by cortex at 11:19 AM on March 16, 2012 [31 favorites]


Great to see this degree of transparency from Glass
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:19 AM on March 16, 2012 [71 favorites]



Any playwright or author of historical fiction has to feel for Daisey


Really? As a novelist working on a big and probably over-researched historical novel, I am probably angrier at him than I would be otherwise.

If we don't know the difference between truth and fiction in our own work, we are lost.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:20 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's some pretty harsh and damning language from Ira. Holy Hell.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2012


Daisy goes to China and doesn't like what he sees. He writes a theatre piece about it. It does it's job and moves other people as well.

You forgot the part where he pitched it as "journalism." Instead of theater. You forgot that part.
posted by Avenger50 at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


he forgets that it has moved from the theatre to the newspaper (or maybe he doesn't but those around him do).

Any playwright or author of historical fiction has to feel for Daisy, but both he and those who pushed the story to the front pages bear some responsibility for presentation and labeling of the material.


Meh. My sympathy for him pretty much evaporates at the point where he tells a bald-faced lie to cover up his other lies. You really can't make the "oh, he just unwittingly got caught between the different standards of different fora" argument when he deliberately sabotaged the attempt to fact check his story. He knew he was lying, he knew that TAL didn't want to air lies, and he lied to TAL in order to get his lies aired. Feh.
posted by yoink at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maybe he can write a book about it, questioning what "truth" really means.

The D'Agata / Fingle book was the second thing I thought about when I saw this (right after how loudly apologists for Apple and/or China were going to crow about the news).
posted by aught at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2012


What is this 'Mac fans = the Republicans of computerdom' meme that keeps coming up in Apple related threads? Color me confused.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:22 AM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


If we don't know the difference between truth and fiction in our own work, we are lost.

Ayup--and we're even more lost if we know the difference and lie about it.
posted by yoink at 11:22 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't quite see how "I told you so" is relevant here. Unless you told me, "You know, the general facts of the story all seem to be correct. But I doubt that Daisey talked to some of the people he said he did."

In which case, yes. You told me so.
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 11:22 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not entirely convinced that his story was fabricated. Right now it looks like TAL got in touch with the interpreter, who disputed aspects of the story.

Clearly, someone is telling lies. That person could be Daisey, and TAL is right to pull the story now that they've got some question as to its veracity.

But that person could also be the interpreter. Remember, she's a Chinese citizen, living in China. The Chinese watch the news. It seems entirely possible that someone in a position of influence/authority at Foxconn and/or the Chinese government could easily have gotten to her.

I was never all that impressed by the story to begin with--What, labor abuses in China?!, Surely, you jest!--so I don't much care one way or the other, but either version strikes me as being equally plausible. In that light, his denials may not be entirely inappropriate.

I'm going to withhold judgment on this one until we know more about it.
posted by valkyryn at 11:23 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do you really think the Mac fans are now going to go "oh, Apple working conditions are fine since that TAL story was fake"?

I thought Daisey's original story was wrong precisely because he focused on Apple. He was behaving like a first world dandy, telling about the surface gloss of global problem. Technically brilliant show, but the moral was disgustingly short sighted and from a narrow perspective.

A person can avoid Apple products, but that won't fix a damn thing, particularly since Daisey himself refused to give his iPhone, eve after he had visited Foxconn. Why not Mike? I ask that seriously, not gloatingly (I'm not giving up mine either, hell no), because I think that's the real story, why we identify with some products and not others. That would have been a perfect story to focus on Apple.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:23 AM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Globalism has downsides. Some people have noticed this, and called out specific examples, using drama for effect. Other people don't like this, or don't understand it.

That's about it.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:24 AM on March 16, 2012


Vindication is good, but I retract my comment in the previous thread about TAL doing yellow journalism. It takes great courage and journalistic integrity for Ira Glass to admit fault, and I'm glad his program exposed Daisey for the charlatan that he is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:24 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Clearly, someone is telling lies. That person could be Daisey

You're forgetting that Daisey told lies about the interpreter.
posted by yoink at 11:24 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Clearly, someone is telling lies. That person could be Daisey, and TAL is right to pull the story now that they've got some question as to its veracity.

Wait what? Daisey's admitted it already.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Can you think of anyone else, or any show, that would do this, and keep their credibility, or even increase it?

And have (arguably) more people glued to their radios and iPods to hear the retraction than the original story?

Whatever one thinks of him, it is impossible to deny that Ira Glass has built something really unique, over the years.
posted by Danf at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Apple's net profit margin (NET!) has been over 20% in recent quarters, and they hold $100 billion in cash and investments ($67 billion long-term, but liquid). I don't buy the argument that if consumers insist on better working conditions at Foxconn and in the manufacture of Apple products, we have to accept significantly higher prices.

The stock could suffer when margins decline, but the money would do more good benefiting employees compared to boosting pension or enriching investors.
posted by IndpMed at 11:26 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


And have (arguably) more people glued to their radios and iPods to hear the retraction than the original story?

This retraction story is going to be the most tedious, self-flagellating hour ever heard on public radio.
posted by smackfu at 11:26 AM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Is TAL journalism?

Is the New Yorker journalism?

Some of it is, some of it is fiction, or criticism, or humor, etc. The parts that are represented as journalistic should indeed be truthful. The other parts need not be, as long as they are not represented to be such.
posted by rikschell at 11:26 AM on March 16, 2012


[Absolutely do not make this personal. You have MetaTalk specifically for this purpose if you can't help yourself. Don't pre-doom this thread. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:27 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clearly, someone is telling lies. That person could be Daisey

you didn't read the blog post. Daisey admitted he lied. Feel free to release your judgement.
posted by Avenger50 at 11:27 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't believe how much shit I got on MetaFilter for questioning Daisey's authority and ability to report on labour conditions in China.


Sigh. I can.
posted by josher71 at 11:27 AM on March 16, 2012


KokuRyu: “I can't believe how much shit I got on MetaFilter for questioning Daisey's authority and ability to report on labour conditions in China.”

As far as I can tell, you made only one comment to that effect. Three people seem to have disagreed with you, and weren't (as far as I can tell) extremely petty in their responses.

Blazecock Pileon: “Same here.”

I can't find any comments where you said that Daisey was an unreliable source, actually. Honestly I think I'm not searching very deeply, and I know a lot of people have given you pointless shit in the past, so who knows.

entropicamericana: “I TOLD YOU THAT STORY STUNK ON ICE.”

As far as I can tell, you actually didn't. You indicated that you didn't care whether it had been "fact-checked," and then went on to say that you wouldn't listen because "the ‘Apple Factory’ angle is cheap, lazy, and obvious."
posted by koeselitz at 11:27 AM on March 16, 2012 [47 favorites]


You see, Daisey was acting like a journalist for theatrical purposes and now he's acting like he's sorry he got caught. It's all theater, folks. All the world's a stage...
posted by DaddyNewt at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


sorry, "one comment" should link here
posted by koeselitz at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't get this "line dividing journalism and theater".
Daisy tells a story with the structure of "this happened to me, and it happened like this".
The idea that he's surprised we expect that story to be truthful is at best naive in the extreme (and not very intelligent), and at worst, a baldfaced lie.
posted by asavage at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


Hey now, koeselitz, what's with the fact chec--

Oh right.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


So in summary, Daisey is a wanker, and conditions might suck for workers who make Apple products, but since Daisey is a wainker and a liar that can go on until someone more credible and intelligent can weigh in... Of course Daisey's excuse is that he's making "art".

Of course conditions in China might suck for ALL workers who produce the cheap shit that we want at a cheap price. The whole reason we get shit cheap from China is they have a whole different idea about workers, pollution, and etc. than we do here. We're basically exporting our purchases to bypass our supposed values in order to get our crap cheap.
posted by Eekacat at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the delicious irony of fact-checking people's comments in this thread but I'm pretty sure we're supposed to avoid doing that, no?
posted by elizardbits at 11:30 AM on March 16, 2012


Can you think of anyone else, or any show, that would do this, and keep their credibility, or even increase it?

This will actually harm their credibility with the general public. People who were fans of TAL will understand and forgive, but for most people this will become a convenient club to bash TAL with whenever they say anything they disagree with (a la Jason Blair or Judith Miller at the NYT or a la the Bush memos at CBS etc.). And a massive "where we went wrong" piece is pretty much standard practice for these kinds of things at any reputable news organization. I.e., you'll never see Fox News do one, but the NYT, LAT, NPR et al have all done them.
posted by yoink at 11:30 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't believe for a minute that life in any Chinese factory is comparable to summer camp but to call out one company's product line as if it was unique always seemed biased to me. But beyond that, the retraction is likely to convince people that there's no need for improvement and thus the story will end up accomplishing the opposite of what it intended (assuming Daisey's intention was to improve factory conditions, I may well be wrong on that account).
posted by tommasz at 11:30 AM on March 16, 2012


I appreciate the delicious irony of fact-checking people's comments in this thread but I'm pretty sure we're supposed to avoid doing that, no?

It does seem like that should be happening in a MeTa, not here. (No one has create one yet, however.)
posted by aught at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2012


I can't believe how much shit I got on MetaFilter for questioning Daisey's authority and ability to report on labour conditions in China.

Same here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 PM on March 16


Unless I'm missing something only one person responded to your comment in the previous post, and they didn't even dispute your point. More importantly, your comment never even questioned Daisey's authority.
posted by furtive at 11:32 AM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Kinda shouty in here?
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


> lost ones, like #5

They lost the master tape, but in 2006 someone gave them a cassette tape of the show and it's in the iPhone app (and possibly on the website when it comes back). Some other episodes that weren't up due to clearance issues when they were serving mp3s (for streaming, but you could download them) are there also.
posted by morganw at 11:34 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apple's net profit margin (NET!) has been over 20% in recent quarters, and they hold $100 billion in cash and investments ($67 billion long-term, but liquid). I don't buy the argument that if consumers insist on better working conditions at Foxconn and in the manufacture of Apple products, we have to accept significantly higher prices.

Apple is one of the only exceptions to that, primarily because a number of their products have very high margins and a premium price. The rest of the manufacturers on that list are, in some cases, selling their products at a loss already. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony all use Foxconn to manufacture their game systems. They're already on razor thin margins or even underwater on each sale. With a lot of mid-tier and low-end consumer electronics like routers, e-readers, etc? Yes. Bumping the price up by a few dollars means that consumers will buy a different product.

This doesn't mean that we should shrug our shoulders and dismiss the problem, but we do have to come to grips with the fact that it's a systemic issue rather than a company specific one.


Of course conditions in China might suck for ALL workers who produce the cheap shit that we want at a cheap price. The whole reason we get shit cheap from China is they have a whole different idea about workers, pollution, and etc. than we do here. We're basically exporting our purchases to bypass our supposed values in order to get our crap cheap.

Bingo.

That used to be one of the cool things about NeXT boxes. All manufactured here in the US. By a fully automated robot factory, but still. No workers abused.
posted by verb at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Eekacat: "The whole reason we get shit cheap from China is they have a whole different idea about workers, pollution, and etc. than we do here. "

A big part of the power of the second act of the original TAL story was precisely this idea that Chinese people may have different ideas / needs as labor goes than westerners do. Setting aside the pollution angle for a minute (there, science is pretty clear that X metric tons of carbon produce global warming at Y rate, making the world inhospitable in Z years), there are (apparently, at least) some workers who would rather world 14 hour days starting at 16 than be debilitatingly poor. You could argue (as Daisey did, pretty powerfully) that the marginal cost of making those conditions a lot better is worth it, all things considered, but it's increasingly difficult to argue that western ideas about who should work when are necessarily appropriate at all times for all people.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


So I've got the caller-ID screen attachment for my old telephone.
Where can I pick up the "air quotes" attachment for my old radio?
posted by hank at 11:36 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hopefully dropping things down a little bit –

I really didn't mean my last comment as a calling-out of those who've said "I told you so" here. My only point is this: a lot of people here did say that Apple is certainly not the only company to manufacture through Foxconn, and they were absolutely correct. What almost none of us suspected was that Daisey wasn't just putting unfair emphasis on Apple; he was actually lying about what happened on his trip.

The thing this kind of underlines, I think, is the egregiousness of what Daisey did here. It's shocking, really. Even those people perceptive enough to see that his reportage was unfair generally didn't suspect the depth of his deception.
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 AM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Daisey did prove one thing though: If … you… talk… really… slowly…you… can……make ……anything………seem……………………profound.
posted by Pathos Bill at 11:37 AM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is the first time I have ever considered the possibility that Ira Glass might be a reliable journalist. And I listened to hundreds of TAL journalism pieces over the years. Very much a woah moment for me. I always thought TAL was kind of like Andre Cadresciu's NPR schtick expanded to 60 minutes, even though they did incredible stuff once in a while like the thing on the "Giant Pile of Money".
posted by bukvich at 11:38 AM on March 16, 2012


It doesn't even seem like it was necessary to lie. Keeping it truthful really wouldn't have hurt the effectiveness at all... it just seems like he didn't want to change his already existing monologue, so he lied to keep it the same. Rather stupid.
posted by smackfu at 11:38 AM on March 16, 2012


Holy crap the FedEx driver marked an exception and didn't deliver. This is a place of business and the truck never even came! I'm going to slit a throat.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:38 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


The thing this kind of underlines, I think, is the egregiousness of what Daisey did here. It's shocking, really. Even those people perceptive enough to see that his reportage was unfair generally didn't suspect the depth of his deception.

Indeed. As someone who buys and uses a hell of a lot of computer equipment for his job, that angers me because I want there to be more public pressure on the entire industry to improve working conditions.
posted by verb at 11:39 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I expect Apple's lawyers are showing up on Mr. Daisey's doorstep about.....now.
posted by eriko at 11:41 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy crap the FedEx driver marked an exception and didn't deliver.

I had one too -- relax. A problem FedEx is having is that the trucks are full of dozens of the same boxes. If they grab and scan yours as out for delivery, then realize they grabbed the wrong one, they have to scan it as "delivery exception" to clear it so they can scan and deliver the correct one.

So, it's very possible that yours is still on a truck heading to you.
posted by eriko at 11:42 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I expect Apple's lawyers are showing up on Mr. Daisey's doorstep about.....now.

How does that work if a story that is 90% true and 10% false causes damage? Is the person responsible for 10% of the damage or 100% of it?
posted by smackfu at 11:43 AM on March 16, 2012


I expect Apple's lawyers are showing up on Mr. Daisey's doorstep about.....now.

... dressed as FedEx drivers.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:44 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


So we all turn on each other in this thread and then go buy iPads? Man, Apple has the best PR.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:44 AM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


He was also interviewed by Bill Maher on Real Time. I wonder if he lied to Maher (and by extension all of Maher's viewers) as well.
posted by zarq at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it is pretty clear that people expect stories told in the first person to be largely true. Witness the outrage over A Million Tiny Pieces. Even in cases where an author explicitly states "oh no. This isn't true and this character isn't my ex wife" people think it is true anyway. Any storyteller understands this. I can only assume Daisey presented his story in first person in order to play on this. To cover his ass he should have said "a friend" uncovered all the abuses and then went missing.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This will actually harm their credibility with the general public. People who were fans of TAL will understand and forgive, but for most people this will become a convenient club to bash TAL

I feel like you’re overestimating the number of people who’ve heard of TAL. I kind of feel like you’re either a fan, or you don’t know what it is. I don’t think there are swarms of people out there shaking their fist at TAL.
posted by bongo_x at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


when they find out BMW drivers supposedly have a smaller penis on average

OK, I only saw two, and only fleeting glances from the side, from a couple urinals over. And it was a cold day.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not condoning Daisy's behavior wrt lying, and certainly not if he was selling it as journalism. But if you look at some of the facts that were declared to be in error, they're the kind of thing you would do to create a compelling drama.

If the same company has problems at two separate factories, conflating them into one makes sense dramatically. If you know that the workers don't see the finish product, creating a scene where they have that experience makes sense dramatically.

If Daisy's mercenary instincts got the better or him, then he deserves the shit he'll catch over this, but I don't know that you can fault his theatrical instinct.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:46 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is this 'Mac fans = the Republicans of computerdom' meme that keeps coming up in Apple related threads? Color me confused.

Yeah, I wasn’t even going to ask, just skip right over that like it was an "Obama is a muslim" comment.
posted by bongo_x at 11:46 AM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


some workers who would rather world 14 hour days starting at 16 than be debilitatingly poor

Is this really a difference between Western and Chinese workers? Maybe I'm biased because my family was straight up poor when I was in high school (thanks, US health care system!) and my mom did indeed work 16 hour days between two jobs to keep us out of 'debilitating poverty' status. When my brother was 16, he went to school as was legally-mandated and then worked a full shift on top of that. Do I think my brother should have been allowed to drop out and work two shifts like my mom was doing? Absolutely not, and it has nothing to do with 'western ideals' - it has to do with making sure that families are not stuck in a cycle of poverty (where poverty creates conditions that further poverty, like forcing parents to take their kids out of school to earn enough money to survive).
posted by muddgirl at 11:47 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


"It was completely wrong for me to have it on your show," Daisey tells Glass on the program.

Oooof, that will be uncomfortable to listen to.
posted by dry white toast at 11:47 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who's always thought Daisey was a hack, I'm not surprised.
posted by mrnutty at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I saw his show when it was at the Berkeley Rep - and I don't know, maybe because it was at the theatre, I just assumed that it was part truth/part fabrication & artistic license was granted.

So I remember being slightly surprised that it was on TAL & being offered up as fact in this hard-hitting piece.
posted by trixare4kids at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Daisey's trying out the "fake but accurate" defense. Difficulty: nobody really wants to hate Apple.
posted by Infinity_8 at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2012


One bright side of all of this, no one is EVER going to do this to Ira Glass ever again. Just damn, that was harsh, and deservedly so.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:50 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Infinity_8: "Difficulty: nobody really wants to hate Apple."

Is this sarcasm?
posted by brundlefly at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just got that email from TAL and my reaction was... awesome! Daisey is one of the few story-tellers that Ira has brought on to the show who really got under my skin. I know his delivery is intended for a theater setting. I understand he's trying to be dramatic, but he just sounded so shady and annoying and... well, I was not a fan of the piece (no I'm not a fan of sweatshops either). Very rare for me, TAL is my favorite show ever.

It will be interesting to see how this all works out.
posted by JBennett at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apropos of Something, I think you have to be very careful drawing conclusions from the fact that people are willing / eager to take those jobs. The dream of a better life has fueled centuries of exploitation. Sadly, we are not very good at judging which paths will actually lead to a better life, as we overemphasize short term gains (wage) over long term consequences (disability). So, you can say we should not be too hasty to impose our standards and ideals, and I would agree with you in part, but it is still possible to keep track of those longer term outcomes that individuals are not well-equipped to judge and hold corporations which we purchase from to the higher standard of providing labor conditions that are not exploitative.
posted by Nothing at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


iToldyouso


posted by mazola at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm still curious why Apple fans are singled out as the deluded ones,

They single themselves out. Do you see anyone defying Alfred E. Toshiba?

If you haven't noticed the Steve and Apple Inc hype bubble going on you're being willfully ignorant.

"I have a rainbow mohawk and wore a clown suit to work today. Why is everybody staring at me?"
posted by just sayin at 11:52 AM on March 16, 2012


from the marketplace story

"What makes this a little complicated is that the things Daisey lied about seeing are things that have actually happened in China: Workers making Apple products have been poisoned by Hexane. Apple’s own audits show (PDF) the company has caught underage workers at a handful of its suppliers. These things are rare, but together, they form an easy-to-understand narrative about Apple."
posted by garlic at 11:53 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: "Is this really a difference between Western and Chinese workers?"

Probably isn't in cultural terms, you're absolutely right. I shouldn't have implied such a strict dichotomy.

Where I think there's a functional difference (maybe) is in the kind of job. The minimum wage in the US rests on the assumption (a correct one, I think) that if McDonald's didn't have to follow minimum wage laws, it would just pay the same workers less and hire roughly the same number of people; child labor laws rest on the assumption (again, a correct one) that children should take advantage of free universal public schooling rather than spending the full day working.

I'm not sure yet how those concepts ought work in a context where the free schooling isn't universally available, and the jobs we're talking about presumably wouldn't be there unless labor was so cheap. To that question, the TAL episode offered a choice: you can take Daisey's line that we should all as a moral issue pay a little more for technology in order to enable the enforcement of strong international labor laws, or take the Krugman / Kristoff position that sweatshops are all things considered a superior alternative to entire provinces of poverty.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:53 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Daisey's trying out the "fake but accurate" defense. Difficulty: nobody really wants to hate Apple.

Difficulty two -- you presented it as real and accurate, and it turned out you explicitly lied. I should believe you now why?

I do give real credit to This American Life here. They are not dancing around the point. They stood up and said that the story was false, they were retracting it, and they would show an episode showing how they became aware of the problem with the story.

Basically, they're making the retraction as prominent as the story. This is exactly correct. They're not burying it, or hiding from it, or making excuses.
posted by eriko at 11:54 AM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Daisey: workers inhaled toxins that damaged their lungs and I met them.

Shining defender of truth: He never met them! See, he's a liar!
posted by zippy at 11:54 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Difficulty: nobody really wants to hate Apple.

On the contrary, lots of people do. Lots of people want to hate Microsoft, or Sony, or Nintendo, or whatever company their particular technofetishist tribe considers the bad guy. What no one wants to do is admit that this issue most likely includes companies whose products they buy and use and really like.
posted by verb at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is this really a difference between Western and Chinese workers? Maybe I'm biased because my family was straight up poor when I was in high school (thanks, US health care system!) and my mom did indeed work 16 hour days between two jobs to keep us out of 'debilitating poverty' status.

Is it possible that your debilitating poverty was not the same debilitating poverty that would drive a Chinese villager to seek employment at Foxconn?
posted by 2N2222 at 11:57 AM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


And that it's a larger issue than just tech -- if the jeans you're wearing are made in China, those factories aren't exactly safe and friendly.
posted by statolith at 11:57 AM on March 16, 2012


> "I have a rainbow mohawk and wore a clown suit to work today. Why is everybody staring at me?"

How is carrying an iPhone and a MacBook Pro the equivalent of a mohawk exactly? Unless you want to go out of your way to pigeonhole someone because of the hardware they carry (who knows, maybe they are triple booting their system because they like the hardware but not the OS), I don't see how someone carrying apple devices some how "deserves" derision.

Now that fucker with a Zune on the other hand.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Difficulty: nobody really wants to hate Apple.

It's like you've never been on the internet before.

The "fake but accurate" defense is bullshit, and Daisey surely knows it.
posted by rtha at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ira Glass: Here's Everything That Was Made Up In Our Big Apple Foxconn Story
posted by desjardins at 11:59 AM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I know when I started listening to that segment, I thought, "Ohh, this Mike Daisey, a Theatre Man! So obviously, major parts of this are going to be completely false."

Honestly, even as a theatre piece, I don't think you could be reasonably expected to think it was partially fake. Did people expect that of his Amazon piece?
posted by ignignokt at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is this 'Mac fans = the Republicans of computerdom' meme that keeps coming up in Apple related threads? Color me confused.

We're making it so that everyone who wants to buy a PC has to get a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound.
posted by fungible at 12:02 PM on March 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


If you unintentionally, and especially unwittingly, buy products that are "morally tainted", you are not "part of the problem."

I'm not a bad person merely because I ordered sausage from Mrs. Lovett; it's only after I hear about Sweeney Todd's arrest, and rush to get my bulk order in, that the guilt stains me.


You can be part of the problem without knowing it. If the problem is that people are being killed for your sausages, then by buying those sausages you are part of the problem, whatever the fuck it means to be a "bad person". Also, it's really impossible that someone, right now, has never heard that things in Chinese factories are not so great unless they are wilfully not paying attention.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:02 PM on March 16, 2012


They single themselves out. Do you see anyone defying Alfred E. Toshiba?

If you haven't noticed the Steve and Apple Inc hype bubble going on you're being willfully ignorant.

"I have a rainbow mohawk and wore a clown suit to work today. Why is everybody staring at me?"


I'd be curious if anyone other than bristling, defensive Apple fans even notice that X-Boxes, PS3s, Wiis, Kindles, and Nooks are in the same boats as iPads. It's now part of the narrative of every Apple product launch, and while I don't think that's unfair (Apple could choose to accept lower margins, for example), it ignores the fact that kids going out grab an XBox and the launch of the Kindle Fire and so on are just as deeply ingrained.

If the dominant media narrative about Foxconn was "Amazon takes on the tablet world at workers' expense," it wouldn't be any more or less accurate, and it would probably not generate as much media buzz, but it would be just as problematic.
posted by verb at 12:02 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


@garlic

"What makes this a little complicated is that the things Daisey lied about seeing are things that have actually happened in China: Workers making Apple products have been poisoned by Hexane. Apple’s own audits show (PDF) the company has caught underage workers at a handful of its suppliers. These things are rare, but together, they form an easy-to-understand narrative about Apple." (From the Marketplace story)

I think the problem is that the way his story describes it is that he just wandered into a restaurant and met these people. The picture that he paints makes you feel like it is way, way more prevalent than a more traditional news report may make it out to be. I'm not thinking that you necessarily disagree with me, but that would certainly be my response to people saying that he was just fictionalizing things that had actually happened.
posted by montag2k at 12:07 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can't we both deplore Apple for their horrible labor practices and also take exception to Mike Daisey's lying?

(Disclosure: I bought an iPad because I needed a tablet device, and the research I did didn't turn up any more ethically produced options. I wish I had "sweatshop free" options in electronics purchasing as I do in clothing purchasing, but until that happens, my hands are going to be unclean because I need electronics.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:07 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I have a rainbow mohawk and wore a clown suit to work today. Why is everybody staring at me?"

I use a Mac. All my friends use Macs. I wear jeans and a t-shirt every day. Some of them wear the same. Others grow their hair out. Some are - gasp - women. Please stop judging me for my choice of operating system. It's been happening for years and it's no more valid now than it was when Apple was the underdog. We are not hipsters. We are not ostentatious. To group all Mac/Apple fans together is reductive in the first place. Leave us alone.
posted by JimBennett at 12:08 PM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


I don't get this "line dividing journalism and theater".
Daisy tells a story with the structure of "this happened to me, and it happened like this".
The idea that he's surprised we expect that story to be truthful is at best naive in the extreme (and not very intelligent), and at worst, a baldfaced lie.


I think the "journalism vs. theater" is more of a shade-of-truthiness argument, actually. As was pointed out above, TAL does a good job of letting you know whether what you're hearing is a non-fiction personal essay or journalism or whatever; and Daisey is right that theater can't be straight journalism. And personal essay isn't journalism either; there can indeed be an element of literary license.

However, not that much, which is where I think Daisey actually fell down.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:09 PM on March 16, 2012


How is carrying an iPhone and a MacBook Pro the equivalent of a mohawk exactly?

Oh, it isn't.

You know who i'm talking about. The guys wearing Steve shirts, the ones that proclaim that every Apple inc product is a revolution, the ones that conspicuously consume their products, ad nauseum.
posted by just sayin at 12:09 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It doesn't even seem like it was necessary to lie. Keeping it truthful really wouldn't have hurt the effectiveness at all... it just seems like he didn't want to change his already existing monologue, so he lied to keep it the same.

Daisey lied so that the drama of Chinese tech worker exploitation would be in part about him.
posted by aught at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Just sayin, can we not do this, please?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just wonder and worry about how many people will conflate this with saying NPR's journalistic practices are bad.

(And yes, I know TAL has nothing to do with NPR other than stations carry both of them.)
posted by RyanAdams at 12:12 PM on March 16, 2012


Daisey lied so that the drama of Chinese tech worker exploitation would be in part about him.

Exactly, and so he could be sure to profit from it.
posted by bongo_x at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the record, the New York Times story about worker abuse at Apple's partner factories in China is devastating and was well researched and cites plenty of sources.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


It's also interesting that this pretty quickly devolves into a "Apple fans vs. PC fans" or "Apple fans vs. everybody that loves to hate Apple fans" thing.

I think that's the common refrain – and as a Linux guy, I'll be the first to admit that it's one that's attractive. Of course there are a whole bunch of easy default arguments that always get made on this line: "Apple isn't the only one to treat workers like that!" "Ah, but that's not the point - Apple is still responsible!" &c.

However – I suspect that Mr Daisey never intended to highlight a subject about which he is 'passionate.' I suspect that he intended to be successful as an entertainer. And the bit that I find interesting about this is that I think he got much, much more mileage out of this whole story by pointing at Apple than he ever would have by pointing at Toshiba or Acer or something. That suggests that the conflict between pro- and ant-Apple people is something that can be monetized and exploited.

So it kind of seems silly for us to continue sniping about it. We got played. Our love of arguing about whether Apple is awesome or evil is precisely what gave Mr Daisey his platform.

EmpressCallipygos: “Just sayin, can we not do this, please?”

That seems like a very good idea.
posted by koeselitz at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


What is this 'Mac fans = the Republicans of computerdom' meme that keeps coming up in Apple related threads? Color me confused.

Yeah, I wasn’t even going to ask, just skip right over that like it was an "Obama is a muslim" comment.


I think it was a dumb comment, but I took it to be something akin to the Karl Rove "our opponents are reality-based" thing; non-Apple enthusiasts sometimes get the feeling any criticism is met with "na-na-na can't hear you, M$ is evil" from the devoted.
posted by aught at 12:14 PM on March 16, 2012


I called this one. That story was a big fluff on a contemporary issue involving The Largest Company In The World, that Daisey knew would put bottoms in seats.

Here's my Daisey to English Translation:

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism.

Journalism is about verifiable information and accountable sources. The theatre is about drama and story-telling. I told a story. It was passed off as journalism...

For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue.

...I liked the publicity when it was good. This might impact ticket sales, now I regret it.
posted by nickrussell at 12:14 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the problem is that the way his story describes it is that he just wandered into a restaurant and met these people. The picture that he paints makes you feel like it is way, way more prevalent than a more traditional news report may make it out to be. I'm not thinking that you necessarily disagree with me, but that would certainly be my response to people saying that he was just fictionalizing things that had actually happened.

The idea that he would be able to just casually wander in and meet people this stuff has happened to also implies that they are common enough to make stumbling across it easy, and it makes certain kinds of dramatic stories carry disproportionate weight while other issues that are far more troubling get ignored because they lack a compelling narrative hook.



You know who i'm talking about.

Yes. The Other. Just like the pale, sweaty nerds who use Linux or the clueless grandmothers who use Windows and the italians who like spaghetti.
posted by verb at 12:14 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sure. I'm just trying to say that a very vocal, dedicated, minority can set the tone for an entire group. That's life. Maybe that's where the republican comparison comes from, I don't know.

I didn't make a judgement. I was just trying to answer the question. Poorly, apparently.
posted by just sayin at 12:15 PM on March 16, 2012


The line from Daisey's story that carried the most weight for me when I heard the TAL episode was something along the lines of:

"If you ever wonder what capitalism and the free market would look like if left truly unchecked, you don't have to imagine. You can go to Shenzen right now and see it for yourself."

It would have been so easy for his story to still have an impact. He could have been clear that some of the people in his story were composites, and that the stories were an amalgam of his visits to however many factories. TAL would have made sure the audience was clear on those things and still could have fact-checked the overall accuracy of what his show depicted. There was a right way for Daisey to do this.

It's a shame because I think there's still truth in that line above, but now its buried under so much crap.

Final point: I think we can say definitively that the way Ira Glass is handling this puts to bed the question of whether or not he's a journalist. Can that debate be over now? If only there were more like him.
posted by dry white toast at 12:15 PM on March 16, 2012 [23 favorites]


"I think we can say definitively that the way Ira Glass is handling this puts to bed the question of whether or not he's a journalist. Can that debate be over now? If only there were more like him."

Amen.
posted by bz at 12:16 PM on March 16, 2012


I don't know.

posted by just sayin at 8:15 PM on March 16 [+] [!]


You hit the nail on the head there, I must say.
posted by Grangousier at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


NYT's Media Decoder blog notes that NYT has yet to retract the "magic" anecdote printed in Daisey's op-ed last October.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the most depressing passages in Claud Cockburn's brilliant memoir I, Claud

iSee what you did there.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:21 PM on March 16, 2012


I think that's the common refrain – and as a Linux guy, I'll be the first to admit that it's one that's attractive. Of course there are a whole bunch of easy default arguments that always get made on this line: "Apple isn't the only one to treat workers like that!" "Ah, but that's not the point - Apple is still responsible!" &c.

The problem, of course, is that the 'Apple isn't the only one' argument is factually correct. Apple's absolute elimination from the market wouldn't change a thing: the relentless downward spiral of component and machine prices that gripped the entire computer industry for a decade was one of the things that caused the shift from domestic manufacturing to foreign.

Foxconn is the world's largest electronics company. Period. Apple fans who think that "We're not the only ones" is the end of the discussion are morally bankrupt, and those who think that ragging on said Apple fans (in particular) does anything are also part of the problem -- they're just using Chinese workers as a convenient rhetorical device to engage in their own version of hipster-baiting.
posted by verb at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Remind me to fact check whether or not Estragon and Vladamir were actually waiting for Godot next time a Beckett excerpt appears on NPR. I think TAL is ultimately responsible for any repercussions from the story if they truly chose to portray Daisey's work as journalism. Daisey clearly presented the show as travel fiction and theater, something which is clear from his run at the Public Theater. I think this is a case where TAL went out of their comfort zone, and is rightly retracting the story.
posted by Roger_Mexico at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironically, this morning I was given a ticket to tomorrow's performance of Agony/Ecstasy; I do wonder if this will be addressed on stage in addition to Daisey's public statement.

As to the integrity of TAL and Ira Glass, whatever my word is worth, I have studied under and worked with (sparingly) some key producers there, and I am sure this truly is an anomaly for at least their journalistic pieces.
It has been quite a while since I listened to their work (almost 5 years), but maintaining ethics was always emphasised.
More as an aside, I also worked with a former producer of Ira Glass's from his earliest days. To paraphrase, with no critique of IG's journalism ethics, he said that IG was not such a great news reporter at the time, but had the great raw talent as a storyteller, and was well on his way to developing the two with that experience. Although, I would give IG the benefit of the doubt, and he did work with Joe Frank, who is the modern master of raw storytelling--enough for me to support him!
posted by Duck_Lips at 12:23 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to Mr. Schmitz, the translator said that did not happen. A spokesman for The Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ya, that is a guy writing for the New York Times saying that the New York Times did not respond to a request for comment. You don't see that every day!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:23 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


> I'm just trying to say that a very vocal, dedicated, minority can set the tone for an entire group.

Yeah, except that stereotype died out years ago, around when Apple dropped OS 9 (these were the guys that argued that cooperative multitasking was superior) then PPC. Like, I seriously don't see those guys anymore, and I am in a ton of Mac circles as part of my job. If one does show up, rarely are they taken seriously, and usually they are some OS 9 hold out. Apple was no longer making the anti-PC, they were making a good PC.

Yes Apple has figured out how to create objects that people have an emotional bond with, but that is the result of putting thought in the design process, which drives everything. They aren't lacing the things with surface activated opiates that cause people to want to use them so much. For individuals who don't share the same design sensibilities it doesn't make sense to why you would like it. I cook a lot, I tend to be very particular about the knives I use because I want them to fit right in my hand and feel the right way. For other people there are other knives, and people who have different relationships to food and cooking they may have different standards to what is acceptable cutlery.

So maybe that is at the root of it: Apple has a fairly appealing design that works across a large swath of people apparently (based on the numbers sold of their device), but they can never get 100% and the outliers are outliers because they have been entirely missed in the design process. So to them, it is just illogical to why someone would like it, therefore the people who like it must be illogical, or sheeple, or whatever, and therefore due for derision.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


We're making it so that everyone who wants to buy a PC has to get a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound.

Although it's usually referred to as "iTunes for Windows".
posted by The Tensor at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2012 [42 favorites]


Foxconn is the world's largest electronics company. Period.

FoxConn isn't an electronics company, though, really, is it? It's a labour services provider which happens to specialize in making electronics - just as other factories specialize in making trainers or football. It might be more accurate to say that FoxConn allows electronics companies to be smaller than they would otherwise be. It's a bigness sink.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:31 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Although it's usually referred to as "iTunes for Windows".

Hey to be fare, it sucks pretty much as bad on the Mac side as well.

At least now I pretty much only have to use it when I want to load podcasts on my iPhone.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:34 PM on March 16, 2012


Also: is "This American Life" journalism?

That's my question too. When they play a Moth monologue, is that fact-checked? When someone tells the story of their childhood and Jewish family, is that fact-checked?
posted by smackfu at 10:57 AM on March 16 [+] [!]


Late to the party here, but TAL may be sensitized to these issues due to the fact that a Moth monologue by Malcolm Gladwell ran on TAL a few years ago in which Gladwell appears to admit to fabricating stories as a young reporter. I believe he later claimed it was the story he told at the Moth which was the fabrication.
posted by mwhybark at 12:37 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I listened to this TAL episode when it came out, and was particularly impressed by how they devoted half of the show to fact checking Daisey. But now they are retracting the story because...the facts weren't facts? I think I need this to simmer a little bit in my brain yet, because this is confusing as hell.

On the one hand, bully for TAL for being responsible journalists in an news environment where that behavior has been seriously and perhaps permanently comprimised.

But on the other hand, WTF? How could this have been aired if the due diligence should have turned this up right away?
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:37 PM on March 16, 2012


FoxConn isn't an electronics company, though, really, is it? It's a labour services provider which happens to specialize in making electronics - just as other factories specialize in making trainers or football. It might be more accurate to say that FoxConn allows electronics companies to be smaller than they would otherwise be. It's a bigness sink.

Yeah, that's a very interesting way of putting it and in general I agree. The way you put it does downplay Foxconn's role, though. They also do actual design of whitelabeled products for other companies. If you hunt around Fry's and TigerDirect you can even by Foxconn branded motherboards and other components.
posted by verb at 12:40 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I AM STILL WAITING FOR TAL'S RETRACTION FOR THE STORY ABOUT THE MAN STUCK IN THE WELL. (Sorry for yelling).
posted by stchang at 12:42 PM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Daisey's defense is that he comes from the world of theater, not journalism, but honestly I'm uncomfortable with a theater piece that has the same exaggerations that the TAL piece has. Sure, I'd assume that liberties were taken, some characters were combined, and most anecdotes were compressed, and I'd assume that all of it had been topped off with a dollop of poetic license. But I'd also assume that if he told me about meeting someone who had been poisoned by n-hexane then he'd, you know, actually met someone poisoned by n-hexane and that the encounter had more or less happened the way he described it.

I'm not at all saying that theater should be held to the same standards as journalism. But presentation matters, and The Agony And The Ecstasy isn't presented as a fictionalized monologue about a hypothetical trip to China. It's Daisey sitting alone at a desk, reading from notes about his experience. To me, that implies that what I'm witnessing is truer than, say, a series of dramatic vignettes about life at Foxconn, with actors and actresses playing roles. But maybe I'm naive or, worse, not just cut out for the Post-Truth Era.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:44 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


But on the other hand, WTF? How could this have been aired if the due diligence should have turned this up right away?

Much of why it didn't turn up right away is due to Daisey's lie regarding his interpreter's real name and contact info:
"At that point, we should've killed the story," says Ira Glass, Executive Producer and Host of This American Life. "But other things Daisey told us about Apple's operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn't think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake."
I'm not sure how much clearer it can be. Daisey deliberately misled TAL by preventing them from contacting the interpreter; TAL accepts full responsibility that being unable to contact the interpreter should have made them kill the story in the first place.
posted by scody at 12:47 PM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


At least now I pretty much only have to use it when I want to load podcasts on my iPhone.

Have you tried Downcast?
posted by drezdn at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


TAL accepts full responsibility that being unable to contact the interpreter should have made them kill the story in the first place.

I wonder if there will be a fall-guy at TAL.
posted by smackfu at 12:53 PM on March 16, 2012


But on the other hand, WTF? How could this have been aired if the due diligence should have turned this up right away?

As to the integrity of TAL and Ira Glass, whatever my word is worth, I have studied under and worked with (sparingly) some key producers there, and I am sure this truly is an anomaly for at least their journalistic pieces.

I think how Daisey's piece was discovered highlights a specific way in which TAL is not a news organization. They don't have producers or contacts in China, and when Daisey said his translator was unreachable, they took his word for it. Marketplace, on the other hand, has a correspondent in China and found the translator.

This seems slightly parallel to the way Stephen Glass [no relation] was eventually found out (and one of my favorite comments about it) by people who know the situation better.
posted by gladly at 12:54 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have you tried Downcast?

(Not the original complainer, but) man do I want to like Downcast. I just have major stability issues with it, on both a 1st-gen iPad and a 4th-gen iPod touch. GUI gets very unresponsive, some podcasts just won't play or die midway through, and it crashes very, very often. I have a couple hundred podcasts in my OPML file - I've tried removing many with limited improvement.

There support has responded to my queries but hasn't come through with any fixes.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:54 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw his show when it was at the Berkeley Rep - and I don't know, maybe because it was at the theatre, I just assumed that it was part truth/part fabrication & artistic license was granted.

dang i miss the greasemonkey inline quoting script since jumping ship from FF

I saw the show in Seattle, and I concur. There's a bit in the opening where Daisey describes 'field stripping' his MacBook as a way of establishing nerd cred that, as someone who has executed said procedure, I simply did not buy. So I (in hindsight) recall thinking some of the narrative elements were a bit cooked (guy in a Hawaiian shirt standing out side of a factory getting mobbed by eager Chinese workers, for example). In the context of the show I did not see this as an issue.

I was, I guess, interested to hear the bits on TAL when that show aired. I can't really recall if I was surprised that certain narrative elements were present in that incarnation. I guess I was mostly pleased that a theatrical production with a strong focus on labor had exerted an influence on journalistic activities.

But, in sum, what a fuckup.
posted by mwhybark at 12:55 PM on March 16, 2012


"I'm not going to say that I didn't take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard," Daisey tells Schmitz and Glass. "My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it's not journalism. It's theater."

Ah yes, playing the old Limbaugh Gambit.
posted by mkultra at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


They don't have producers or contacts in China, and when Daisey said his translator was unreachable, they took his word for it. Marketplace, on the other hand, has a correspondent in China and found the translator.

Well don't oversell it.
Reached by phone in Shanghai, Schmitz says “This was not an amazing piece of detective work.” He Googled the name of Daisey’s translator and called the first person with that name he found.
posted by phearlez at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is like that time I read Life of Pi and totally thought it was a true story until I got to the part with the moving island of human teeth or whatever and then I was like oh right I got this from the fiction section of the bookstore

So it's really not the same at all. I am disappoint.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:01 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ack, all those good folks who starting working to put on their own productions of Daisey's play (when he made it royalty-free and OK to remix etc. for live productions not long after the TAL episode aired)) are now in a difficult spot...
posted by Bwithh at 1:05 PM on March 16, 2012


Count me among the non-fans of TAL, all along and pretty fiercely at that (I'm sure I've slammed it on MeFi before, to rousing choruses of boos from the Church of Glass). In fact, count me among the non-fans of all sorts of NPR/PRI/APM product that blends "storytelling" and "journalism" in ways that I find troublesome (another, and the worst offender, is RadioLab, which I know I have slammed hard here before and been excoriated for doing so). In my view, the culture of public radio news/talk/long-form journalism/theater production is far too focused on "doing good radio," rather than on balance or fairness or truthfulness. I've tried for a while to find the objective correlates for my immediate reaction to hearing either Glass or Krulwich (or their many inferior fellow radio peers), which is to detect (in the famous South Park formulation) a cloud of smug settling in over the interior of my car (the only times I listen to any of this stuff are when I am driving). What is that smugness? Usually, I think it's a class thing, a sort of know-it-all view of their target audience as sharing their elitist perspectives on so many subjects. But I think looking at this episode, now, that it's more than that. And it's a damn shame, because the right wing has it so in for public broadcasting, and how much you wanna bet this episode provides more fodder for the "defund public media" arguments, even though commercial media are, without doubt, even more insidiously propagandistic and cavalier with the truth, often under the cover of "journalism" that barely resembles what I would consider the meaning of that term.


Many activists -- and not a few brave scholars -- have been describing the brutal and inhumane conditions for industrial workers in the developing world under globalization, and the disconnect between those conditions and the culture of consumer society in the wealthier societies that consume so many of the products produced under those conditions without a second thought about the political, environmental, or human costs of doing so, for years now. Along comes Ira Glass to turn it into highbrow entertainment you most likely consume on a product manufactured by those FoxConn workers or their equivalents. Cue the oh so radical reaction of the upper middle class audiences for these sorts of things, for whom being "informed" amounts to doing something about it. I don't think Daisey's reporting had one iota of influence on Apple's bottom line, and now he's gone and discredited a true and disconcerting argument that needed to be made with objective facts and not presented so soothingly that the listener falls into a torpor behind the wheel of his late-model Volvo on the way home to his million dollar house on the mainline.

I'm not joining the I Told You So chorus (because I didn't, among other reasons), but nor am I going to praise Glass for anything other than doing his job here, for which he has my respect, but not my adulation. Daisey is discredited utterly. And the actual work by actual activists, journalists, and scholars who take real risks trying to bend the arc of economic globalization even slightly toward justice is the real victim here.

What a clusterfuck. Stop "producing" and start "reporting" if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist. Otherwise you're no better than Fox News or MSNBC or any of the other professional propaganda outfits.
posted by spitbull at 1:05 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Reached by phone in Shanghai, Schmitz says “This was not an amazing piece of detective work.” He Googled the name of Daisey’s translator and called the first person with that name he found.

oh, Ira. *facepalm*
posted by Bwithh at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except that TAL couldn't have Googled the name of the translator because Daisey said her Western name wasn't actually Cathy. Which it was.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I liked the publicity when it was good. This might impact ticket sales, now I regret it.

Actually, Woolly Mammoth's PR rep confirmed to me a few hours ago that the July return of "Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" will be going on as planned. I suspect it'll still be well attended. And they knew ahead of time this was going to break (though not "how soon/how quickly it would take off") so clearly they've thought out the decision. I may follow up with them to ask if they get any refund requests.

Personally I have a problem with the things Daisey fabricated. I do not LIKE the composite character/reordering storytelling phenomenon but I understand that makes me a minority. To me this is worse since Daisey doesn't just combine multiple conversations with different people into one, the say biopics do all the time. He says "I met a person who X" and that's simply not true.

What makes me really nuts about this is how completely unnecessary it is. KokuRyu says "I can't believe how much shit I got on MetaFilter for questioning Daisey's authority and ability to report on labour conditions in China" but the things that we know Daisy wasn't accurate about don't change the reality of the working conditions there at all. He said he met people who he didn't, but they were people who had already been documented to have been exposed to the chemical. He told a cute anecdote about someone supposedly seeing a product he worked on in its completed form for the first time.

The real substantive stuff was right, and in fairness to Daisey, he was making a public thing out of it before others were. In the live piece he comments on how easy it was to show up and talk to some people, how reporters were filing stories from hundreds of miles away when he was able to show up and stand at the gates.

There's some pretty laughable irony there we now know, but his contributions are not non-existent. He's poisoned them now and for nothing. But revealing that he is flawed and has said some things that are untrue doesn't make everything that was confirmed by many other sources is without meaning or even that his targets and meaning were wrong. It means he and his methods were.

I'd still encourage anyone who has the chance to see his monologue on stage. I like it less for knowing things are inaccurate, but I can't morally defend attacking it as being more corrupt than Jersey Boys for fudging specifics about real people on stage. I reserve that for Daisey for harming a worthy cause.
posted by phearlez at 1:08 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


And, I mean, if someone says to me "My translator's Western name is Anna but I am calling her 'Cathy' for the purposes of the story, so as to protect her identity" it would never occur to me in a million years to Google "Cathy" because why would anyone lie about that?
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:08 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if there will be a fall-guy at TAL.

The way Glass is accepting responsibility for this, I'd be shocked if they threw anyone else under the bus. Glass made the call. It's either him or no one. And he doesn't sound like the type of guy to stand behind a red shirt.
posted by dry white toast at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I (in hindsight) recall thinking some of the narrative elements were a bit cooked (guy in a Hawaiian shirt standing out side of a factory getting mobbed by eager Chinese workers, for example).

Yeah, that was the bit that seemed hinky to me when I first heard it, too. Because presumably all those people who mobbed him to talk openly about how terrible things are would know that they were presumably being surveilled by talking to Big Obvious Westerner.
posted by scody at 1:12 PM on March 16, 2012


Sidhedevil: "And, I mean, if someone says to me "My translator's Western name is Anna but I am calling her 'Cathy' for the purposes of the story, so as to protect her identity" it would never occur to me in a million years to Google "Cathy" because why would anyone lie about that?"

To make your theatre piece, you use the translator's real name, because it's not like anyone's gonna call her from the theater. Ira comes calling, and you scramble because you know Cathy can call bullshit on your story, so you describe it as a pseudonym so he can't ask.
posted by Apropos of Something at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


To make your theatre piece, you use the translator's real name, because it's not like anyone's gonna call her from the theater. Ira comes calling, and you scramble because you know Cathy can call bullshit on your story, so you describe it as a pseudonym so he can't ask.

Yes, exactly. Because Schmitz didn't hear that lie, he was able to puncture the bubble easily.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


(too many "presumably"s in one sentence, presumably)
posted by scody at 1:16 PM on March 16, 2012


For those interested, WBEZ Chicago's live stream at 7PM CDT will presumably be the first chance to hear the retraction episode.
posted by Apropos of Something at 1:18 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems slightly parallel to the way Stephen Glass [no relation] was eventually found out

Funny you should mention him:
Stuck in the Wrong Decade, act 4
How to Take Money from Strangers, act 3
posted by ego at 1:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also apparently Delivery, act 5.
posted by ego at 1:23 PM on March 16, 2012


KokuRyu, I retract my comment in a previous Mike Daisey thread. I counted on TAL's fact-checking to ensure that Daisey's story was accurate. It was not. I apologize.
posted by RakDaddy at 1:26 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


With all this high tech comm gear build in China, I'm amazed nobody has yet reported the modern equivalent of little slip of paper that says "Help I am being held prisoner in a fortune cookie factory" -- or do they just have really good quality control to catch those now?
posted by hank at 1:27 PM on March 16, 2012


FoxConn isn't an electronics company, though, really, is it? It's a labour services provider which happens to specialize in making electronics - just as other factories specialize in making trainers or football.

That's really quibbling though, isn't it? There is no official definition of "electronics company." It's just a company that has to do, in some way, with electronics.

It's the nature of journalism, and facts themselves, that you can never be 100% sure of anything. Discovering the truth is an iterative process, that's why newspapers publish retractions. When it turns out something you've said is inaccurate, the only thing you can do, really, is retract publicly and audibly.

I note they haven't retracted anything having to do with Judge Williams.

mrzarquon: Yeah, except that stereotype died out years ago, around when Apple dropped OS 9 (these were the guys that argued that cooperative multitasking was superior) then PPC. Like, I seriously don't see those guys anymore

You must not hang around a lot of Apple threads here. I've not had a chance to read this entire thread (203 comments and counting), but I seem to detect an "Apple fans == Republicans" correlation. Some of them are a bit more partisan than the average, defensive almost, which is where that observation comes from I think.
posted by JHarris at 1:32 PM on March 16, 2012


I'm amazed nobody has yet reported the modern equivalent of little slip of paper that says "Help I am being held prisoner in a fortune cookie factory"

What about this?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:32 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


just sayin: Sure. I'm just trying to say that a very vocal, dedicated, minority can set the tone for an entire group. That's life.

No, that's "bigotry". A textbook example, in fact.

just sayin: I didn't make a judgement.

Damn. That's rich.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of them are a bit more partisan than the average, defensive almost, which is where that observation comes from I think.

You'd be defensive too if people lumped you in to some nonexistent subculture because of which operating system you use.
posted by JimBennett at 1:38 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's interesting how Daisey's approach to publicizing the issue could undercut his message.

I think his message was just "MIKE DAISEY" all along.
posted by spaltavian at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


What about this?

And those photos were the inspiration for Daisey's piece, to bring this full circle.
posted by smackfu at 1:52 PM on March 16, 2012


(Or photos like that, at least.)
posted by smackfu at 1:53 PM on March 16, 2012


You must not hang around a lot of Apple threads here. I've not had a chance to read this entire thread (203 comments and counting), but I seem to detect an "Apple fans == Republicans" correlation. Some of them are a bit more partisan than the average, defensive almost, which is where that observation comes from I think.

Apparently, 58% of Mac users self-select as liberal, 39% of PC users self-select as conservative, according to the linked PC World article. While I generally don't like opt-in online surveys as a data source, I trust them more than someone's "gut feel" after participating in a few flame wars. I'd be just as remiss if I said that Linux users were Ayn Rand fans, for example.

It could be that you're simply mapping 'These people reacted defensively when major media stories isolated out a company they like from a list of several dozen offenders' to a particular political affiliation. Psychology suggests that is not a phenomenon that maps to a particular American political party.
posted by verb at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


All types of people use all types of computers.

All types of people make all types of choices.
posted by helicomatic at 2:12 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think his message was just "MIKE DAISEY" all along.

Bingo.

Anyone who has watched Apple more than casually over the years, knows there is a whole industry of Apple bashers that make up shit to grab headlines and attention for themselves. Daisey's story reeked of self-promotion.

Jeez people, have you never been on the internet before, and don't know how to tell when someone is trolling you?
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I listened to the original show and yes, it sounded fishy. Then I read this, in Daisey's (now retracted) TAL blog post:

"My theatrical performances are very large—I have been compared to Zero Mostel, Jackie Gleason, and Bill Hicks in reviews, and I often perform before hundreds of people at a time."

And I realized that he was indeed a douche. I didn't realize the extent of it, though.
posted by ghastlyfop at 2:14 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anyone who has watched Apple more than casually over the years, knows there is a whole industry of Apple bashers that make up shit to grab headlines and attention for themselves. Daisey's story reeked of self-promotion.

But wasn't Daisey a huge Mac fan before this? Was he just a rogue double agent? Ooo, the intrigue!
posted by smackfu at 2:15 PM on March 16, 2012


However – I suspect that Mr Daisey never intended to highlight a subject about which he is 'passionate.' I suspect that he intended to be successful as an entertainer. And the bit that I find interesting about this is that I think he got much, much more mileage out of this whole story by pointing at Apple than he ever would have by pointing at Toshiba or Acer or something. That suggests that the conflict between pro- and ant-Apple people is something that can be monetized and exploited.

Most artists, particularly those who work in the dying, underpaid world of the theatre, try to do work they have some passion about. Since Mike Daisey does solo monologues, he has a lot of creative control over what he discusses. His performance history suggests he has a passion for oversized personalities and men of genius; he's done monologues about Edison and Tesla, about Barnum and Brecht, about Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Zevon, and even about James Frey (interestingly enough). And he did a monologue about Steve Jobs, who I suggest everybody on any side of the Apple debate would agree was a fascinating, driven man. There's a reason Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs is still a bestseller 6 months later. Stan Shih, founder of Acer, is probably not as fascinating a person. (His Wikipedia article is three sentences long, for instance.)

Daisey's show was entitled "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs", and it was every bit as much about Steve Jobs as it was about the purported visit to Foxconn. The stage show alternated several monologues about scenes from Steve Jobs' life with the scenes Daisey described about his visit to Shenzhen, to the plant where Steve Jobs' products are manufactured. The actual stage show - at least the version I saw at the Berkeley Rep - was two hours long, and This American Life excerpted 40 minutes of that. The excerpts were from the personal Shenzen part of the story, and obviously the first-person affect and factual presentation were a key part in TAL's decision to excerpt the piece.

But it seems cynical and misinformed to argue that the show could have been about Toshiba while ignoring the parts that were unique to Apple.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:19 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


smackfu: "Also: is "This American Life" journalism?

That's my question too. When they play a Moth monologue, is that fact-checked? When someone tells the story of their childhood and Jewish family, is that fact-checked?
"

Fuck I hate the Bourgeoisie.
posted by symbioid at 2:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about this?

If you click through to the bigger versions, you can clearly see iTunes open on a computer behind her. Interesting pictures.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a bigot because stereotypes exist? Sheesh.

It took me a few to realize how others were offended. Never contribute to malice...

I left the thread with my tail between my legs and didn't want to derail the thread with backpedaling.

But, a bigot? Fuck that.
posted by just sayin at 2:27 PM on March 16, 2012


When The New Yorker runs an article about, say, the drug trade in Mexico, that's journalism and must adhere to their (high) journalistic standards. When it runs a short story about a talking leopard, that's fiction and need not adhere to any purely journalistic standard.

According to Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence, when Bishop was writing for The New Yorker her fiction and her poems were extensively fact checked. The obvious fiction of a talking leopard would be fine, but if the leopard traveled west from Algeria to Libya, that would be a problem. I don't know if their fact checking is still that precise.
posted by Jahaza at 2:29 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ira must be irate.
posted by timsneezed at 2:55 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to address this from the point of view of a playwright, and one who has written work based on history.

Daisey is right that theater is not journalism. In the above link, I wrote a play based on an actual historical event. But I created two fictional narrators for the piece who, because of their circumstances, could be on hand to witness the events of the story. These characters are explicitly theatrical constructions, including having stage names, rather than real names, in order to signal the fact that they are fictional creations.

Some of the events of the story were left out in my telling. A few establishing scenes were created, and they are fictional. Dialogue is invented, and it is fictional.

This is expected in theater, and required, because, as Daisey says, theater is not journalism. I have worked most of my adult life as a journalist, so I know the difference.

That being said, what Mike Daisey didn't wasn't this sort of theatrical streamlining. My play never invents a significant fact about the event it tells, and doesn't leave out facts that contradict the story being told because they are inconvenient.

And I should point out that the structure of my play is more traditionally theatrical, and so people are already removed from the story and aware that it has been theatricalized. Daisey's approach -- just a man sitting with notes saying "I actually went to China, and this is actually what I saw" does not indicate that sort of remove.

As playwrights, we must be respectful of fact when telling a story based on fact, and not ignore it when it is inconvenient and then hide behind a "this is theater, not journalism" defense. To do any less is to be disrespectful both of fact and of theater.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:58 PM on March 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


At this point, I'd just love to hear what David Pogue has to say. Any of you guys looked back at the comments about that one?
posted by chrisgregory at 3:06 PM on March 16, 2012


The Apple fans = Republicans thing is a reference to this comment.
posted by designbot at 3:07 PM on March 16, 2012


designbot, that link isn't right.
posted by brundlefly at 3:11 PM on March 16, 2012


According to Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence, when Bishop was writing for The New Yorker her fiction and her poems were extensively fact checked. The obvious fiction of a talking leopard would be fine, but if the leopard traveled west from Algeria to Libya, that would be a problem. I don't know if their fact checking is still that precise.

They like to claim it is, but when people fact check their fact checkers, it turns out they're not as good as they say they are. It's fact-checkers all the way down.
posted by one_bean at 3:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


But wasn't Daisey a huge Mac fan before this?

That is unverifiable, but that's what he claims. It wouldn't have been a very good narrative if he wasn't.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:13 PM on March 16, 2012


Watch me state the obvious when I say: I feel like we're overthinking this one.

If someone went to Mike Daisey's performance and heard him tell these stories, she'd probably think he was telling the truth. She'd repeat some of those anecdotes to her friends and they'd probably treat them as true.

Mike Daisey either (a) knows this and doesn't care, or (b) has deluded himself into believing otherwise because he's not good enough at turning the bare facts into a compelling story. The fact that he lied on TAL is only slightly worse than the fact that he lied on a stage. The shame is just a bit more historic and institutionalized on the journalism side.

On a totally different note, this whole episode reminds me of the only thing I dislike about Fargo: the opening credits claim that "THIS IS A TRUE STORY," when at best it's a patchwork fictionalization of things that kinda sorta happened. When I learned that the "true story" assertion was a device, I was miffed, but I got over it because it's a brilliant movie even if you know it's fiction.

Joel Coen claims it let them get away with stuff they couldn't have otherwise, but I disagree. I think the text could've said "THIS IS THE MOST FICTIONAL FAKE THING EVER TO HAVE BEEN FICTIONALIZED" and nobody would've given a damn.
posted by savetheclocktower at 3:27 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


But wasn't Daisey a huge Mac fan before this?

Surely the point is that his career was based on telling people what they wanted to hear?
posted by chrisgregory at 3:28 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'm sure I've slammed it on MeFi before, to rousing choruses of boos from the Church of Glass"

Can we just stop characterizing people who disagree with us as members of a cult unless we're actually talking about an actual religious cult?
posted by Mcable at 3:30 PM on March 16, 2012 [24 favorites]


> "My theatrical performances are very large—I have been compared to Zero Mostel, Jackie Gleason, and Bill Hicks in reviews, and I often perform before hundreds of people at a time."

“I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.”
posted by savetheclocktower at 3:36 PM on March 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


I learned early on, as a doc producer for PBS, that if a story seems too juicy to be true, it's not true.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:38 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, all this platform dodge and feint aside, how do we really fix a systemic problem like this?

How do we convince, say, an entire industry to start paying its suppliers an order of magnitude more (or hell, even double or triple and improve conditions) per person-hour?
posted by verb at 3:39 PM on March 16, 2012


It seems like a good time to point out that, at this point, "Apple fans" isn't an adequate characterization of people who buy Apple products. Normal people – in the hundreds of millions – buy Apple products. This is setting aside the fact that actual die-hard fans of Apple are probably more diverse than they're usually given credit for, but they are entirely beside the point.
posted by koeselitz at 3:42 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


How is carrying an iPhone and a MacBook Pro the equivalent of a mohawk exactly?

Oh, it isn't.

You know who i'm talking about. The guys wearing Steve shirts, the ones that proclaim that every Apple inc product is a revolution, the ones that conspicuously consume their products, ad nauseum.
posted by just sayin at 5:09 AM on 3/17
[1 favorite +] [!]


Oh, so the guy who lives next door to Reagan's fictional Welfare Queen, got it.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:44 PM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Sorry that link didn't turn out right.

The Apple fanboys = Republicans meme mentioned by 0xdeadcode is a reference to this comment by 0xdeadcode, which was apparently inspired by this comment by 0xdeadcode.

It's the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of thread derails.
posted by designbot at 3:46 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


But to live outside the law, er, dramatize outside accepted standards, you must be, er, at least show some respect for those who expect you to be honest.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 3:53 PM on March 16, 2012


Yeah, except that stereotype died out years ago, around when Apple dropped OS 9 (these were the guys that argued that cooperative multitasking was superior) then PPC. Like, I seriously don't see those guys anymore, and I am in a ton of Mac circles as part of my job. If one does show up, rarely are they taken seriously, and usually they are some OS 9 hold out. Apple was no longer making the anti-PC, they were making a good PC.

Unfortunately, it is still alive and well on forums everywhere.

Whenever someone says "I want focus follows mouse behavior!", some people inevitably reply that "you really don't want to do this". It's that whole "we designed it the right way for everyone" mentality that turns off so many would-be Mac users.

That page wasn't a recent example (2008), but I happened to be looking for "focus follows mouse" recently and saw that same attitude over and over again.
posted by horsemuth at 3:54 PM on March 16, 2012


There's enough hate here for Daisey, but I am angry at TAL as well. And I love TAL with a creepy fervor akin to Daisey's alleged love for his Mac products.

i mean, did they not think to maybe check with the Western journos reporting on China, such as the dude who busted this shit wide open? It feels like a sloppy rush to put out something that would make for Great! Radio!
posted by angrycat at 4:01 PM on March 16, 2012


That fucking sucks. It's amazing how much people can delude themselves when they feel they are on the path of righteousness.
posted by latkes at 4:01 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apropos of Something: "NYT's Media Decoder blog notes that NYT has yet to retract the "magic" anecdote printed in Daisey's op-ed last October."

Quick followup: Editors have appended a note to the beginning of the op-ed noting the offending paragraph has been removed. Can somebody with more journo experience tell me if this is standard practice for a retraction - note something's been removed, but not print a correction or leave the original text for examination? Seems really fishy to me (then again, TAL also pulled down its Daisey story today).
posted by Apropos of Something at 4:02 PM on March 16, 2012


That's really quibbling though, isn't it? There is no official definition of "electronics company." It's just a company that has to do, in some way, with electronics.


Quite possibly; I dont really know what the official definition of a quibble is - or indeed what the status of this observation as a quibble or not a quibble would mean to you or to others.

However, I think it is worth noting that FoxConn is not an "electronics company" in the way that Apple, for example, is an electronics company, although they both do things with circuits. In fact, if we are saying they are both electronics companies, the question then becomes what is meant by "big" FoxConn has more employees, but Apple has the largest market cap. Which is the biggest?

Those different kinds of bigness are important. FoxConn's has a lot of employees, and a high turnover, but its margins are relatively slender. Without some sort of structural change, or a general change in the relationship they have with their customers - including but not limited to Apple - there is very little incentive, on a business level, for them to do anything which would increase cost or lower output.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:08 PM on March 16, 2012


RE: fact checking, I thought I remembered a TAL ep that talked about fact checking a first person comedy story piece that turned out not to be true, but it was actually fact checkers at a magazine before TAL who caught it, because the writer didn't know. So the TAL ep is entirely the writer telling a story someone else told him and then revealing it wasn't true.

"He just thought that it would be a story that would amuse me. And he was absolutely correct. I guess he had no idea how successfully that story was going to appeal to me. And so, I mean, I kind of bought it."

I'm kind of impressed the magazine fact-checked comedy pieces.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:14 PM on March 16, 2012


Thanks for that article, horsemuth. It's interesting, my last couple of home computers have been Macs, and I've gotten used to the OS's what I'll call "scroll focus follows mouse" behavior. That is, if you just start typing, it goes to the currently active window, but if you use the mouse's scroll wheel or a touchpad scroll gesture, it goes to the window currently under the cursor. It's super useful when you're typing something and need to refer to a large second document (or several) to do so.

Anyway, once I started my current job and got a Windows 7 work laptop, I fell in love with its quick window management shortcuts, e.g. win+left or right to make a document take up exactly horizontally half of the screen, so you can have two documents side by side. I found myself in situations where I'd have a word processor open, as well as a copy of emacs with my outline and notes, as well as a PDF of some filing, and a web browser with some case or statute, spread across my dual monitor setup with ease.

...but as soon as I needed to scroll one of those documents, I'd have to click or alt-tab into its window before the scroll wheel operated the window under the cursor. And I started to feel that guy's rage (although, seriously, not like an alarm constantly going BONG! BONG! Annoying nonetheless)

Now I know TweakUI lets you do something about this!

,.-º'¯`* the more you knoooowwwwww
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:15 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do we convince, say, an entire industry to start paying its suppliers an order of magnitude more (or hell, even double or triple and improve conditions) per person-hour?

Hint.
posted by The World Famous at 4:17 PM on March 16, 2012


> Unfortunately, it is still alive and well on forums everywhere.

FFM is kind of a weird edge case where it works well in the windows/apps are the same concept, but not well in the menubar at the top of the screen world of OS X. (on the plus side, you can atleast enable it for terminal and x11 still, and after living in iTerm for the last three weeks, it already has that as a none defaults write preference).

But true, everyone does have their little ponys of user experience for any operating system that when they change make all sorts of shit storms happen on the internet (see the current Human vs Computer scrolling behavior under 10.7).
posted by mrzarquon at 4:19 PM on March 16, 2012


However, I think it is worth noting that FoxConn is not an "electronics company" in the way that Apple, for example, is an electronics company, although they both do things with circuits.

Well, they're not simply an assembly line. They design and manufacture actual components -- up to and including whole motherboards and so on -- that are either used by or sold by other companies. There are quite a few companies like that: Hannspree, for example, used to be just a manufacturer but they started manufacturing their own consumer-targeted products competing with their own higher-priced customers. Foxconn might well be on a similar trajectory in certain areas. You can buy FoxConn branded motherboards and other components, for example, but most of what they do is designing and/or manufacturing products for other companies. There's a long history of that kind of work even with companies that have successful consumer products -- Sony, for example, essentially made the old Powerbook 100 for Apple back in the 90s.

So, yeah, they're different than Apple or Sony but they're absolutely a huge company. They have about half the number of employees that Walmart has, for example -- that can give a bit of a picture why they're such a dominant force in computer and electronics manufacturing.


Those different kinds of bigness are important. FoxConn's has a lot of employees, and a high turnover, but its margins are relatively slender. Without some sort of structural change, or a general change in the relationship they have with their customers - including but not limited to Apple - there is very little incentive, on a business level, for them to do anything which would increase cost or lower output.

Most of the computer industry has extremely slim margins; Apple is one of the few companies that's managed to stay out of that death spiral. Your point about Foxconn's relationship to its customers is a good one, though. Even if Apple gave up some of its juicy margins to improve life for the workers assembling its projects, the majority of the industry using Foxconn has a lot less breathing room. We'd have to be willing to accept higher prices (even if they were only slightly higher) on a lot of different things.

How do we make that happen? And when it does happen, how do we ensure that it's not just a "Feel good about ourselves without changing the systemic problems" kind of thing?
posted by verb at 4:26 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think so. According to Apple, the company is trying to change things, and they've also hired an independent auditor to make sure these changes are put into effect. Daisey said that the independent auditor is basically a stooge.

Ya, in exactly the way George Bush said he would bring democracy to Iraq, and Barrack Obama said he would bring change to America. The people working in those factories live in company dorms for fuck sake. Company dorms with suicide netting on the windows! Let's have some perspective here.
posted by Chuckles at 4:28 PM on March 16, 2012


"I'm not going to say that I didn't take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard."

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:32 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ya, in exactly the way George Bush said he would bring democracy to Iraq, and Barrack Obama said he would bring change to America.

...And it's still more than any of the other companies that use Foxconn have promised, unless I missed something in the news. Which brings us back to the question I asked earlier: how do we change it?

Pick a company we hate, and start bitching at them? Threaten to boycott computers? Sing folk songs? Send checks to China? I wrote to Tim Cook, and I'm not upgrading my phone, but what concrete steps can we take beyond picking a company on Foxconn's customer list that we dislike and feeling smug about them?
posted by verb at 4:32 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


FWIW, I remember this thread about Japanese whaling and the Sea Shepard from a few weeks back with the comment, "(Paul) Watson advises readers to make up facts and figures when they need to, and to deliver them to reporters confidently, 'as Ronald Reagan did'."

This is a great example of what happens when someone follows that advice.
posted by Mcable at 4:38 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, I just did a little fact checking of my own, and I hereby retract my defense of Daisey. While I still have no problem with the techniques he used, when in the service of theatre,, he's clearly deliberately blurring the line.

I found the program from his Berkeley Rep performance, and he has included the sentence "This is a work of non-fiction?" in the program. This is exactly the opposite of what he should have done, e.g., This is a work of fiction based on real people and real events.

Earlier in the program notes, he describes his process, which makes clear that he's not entirely reliable. He does his research, but the the thing is put together entirely without notes and in an extemporaneous non-written form. To me, that mode is incompatible with his non-fiction statement.

Compare his style with Anne Deveare Smith, whose work is based on verbatim transcripts of her subjects.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:53 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Good for TAL for having the integrity to post the retraction. I fear that this will be used against them and NPR by Fox et al as signs of liberal media media inaccuracies across the board.
posted by arcticseal at 5:11 PM on March 16, 2012


Listening to the retraction episode live on WBEZ right now. A quarter of the way in and it's some remarkable radio. Ira describes the staff as angry, and he sounds angry. A reporter from Marketplace is interviewing the translator (Cathy), who is basically refuting all the emotional moments from the story line-by-line, and includes e-mails that cooperate some of her side of the story.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:15 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


he's clearly deliberately blurring the line.

As Marketplace reminded me on my drive home, he didn't just blur the line - he jumped over it, a lot, every time he was interviewed on the talking heads cable and broadcast news shows. He wasn't performing his theater piece on CNN; he was stating that he had witnessed things he had not witnessed.
posted by rtha at 5:20 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I fear that this will be used against them and NPR by Fox et al as signs of liberal media media inaccuracies across the board.

God, the irony. The fucking irony.
posted by scody at 5:20 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Foxconn is the world's largest electronics company. Period. Apple fans who think that "We're not the only ones" is the end of the discussion are morally bankrupt, and those who think that ragging on said Apple fans (in particular) does anything are also part of the problem -- they're just using Chinese workers as a convenient rhetorical device to engage in their own version of hipster-baiting.

Apple is different, because Apple charges a premium for their brand. It is similar to the way Nike was targeted years ago over the same labour practice issues. I think it is perfectly reasonable to make people who buy a brand (even if only part of the purchase) own (at least in part) what that brand truly represents.

Which brings us back to the question I asked earlier: how do we change it?

Today, I'm changing it today by purchasing 200 broken DCM425 cable modems so that I can repair and then sell them to Teksavvy customers. In the larger sense can't really think of anything.. politically, I think it is a lost cause.
posted by Chuckles at 5:28 PM on March 16, 2012


ack, today fail :)
posted by Chuckles at 5:29 PM on March 16, 2012


This American Life Episode 460, "Retraction", is now online.
"I'm coming to you today to say something that I've never had to say on our program."
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:42 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm listening live as well, and it is pretty moving radio. The long pauses between Ira asking Daisey if he's lying and Daisey's response are very telling. Ira sounds really mad (which is odd, coming from a man who is ordinarily so withdrawn and well-humored).

My impression is that Mike Daisey did feel conflicted about lying to TAL. Daisey is skilled in theatrics. He is a carnival man, a storyteller, and his story was concocted to work in the particular context of a one-man show, where real, verifiable facts may take a back seat to narrative necessity. When Ira approached him to run his story, he got excited about the prospect of fame and glory, as any showman would. He had a choice to make: bury the fudged facts, or give up his chance to make it big. Mike Daisey's ego won out, plain and simple.

For what it's worth, Ira was totally unapologetic toward Daisey. I feel vindicated.
posted by deathpanels at 5:44 PM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


The third act is a well-reasoned interview with one of the NYT reporters who wrote the above-linked story. The episode is, in total, a really powerful and unique experiences - the reflections from the APM reporter pulled no punches, Ira really dukes it out with Daisey. And, of course, we're reminded that Daisey's version of events have been presented in lots of other media outlets without checking, including the NYT and MSNBC.

So, as upset as I feel about being duped, it's worth reflecting on public radio as a medium being so refreshingly self-correcting.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:51 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, I've said in the previous thread that I felt Daisey was manipulative and a bit of a hack, and that, while the overarching issue was very real, this wasn't TAL at its best. So I'm glad that my spidey senses worked.
posted by Baldons at 5:58 PM on March 16, 2012


Apple is different, because Apple charges a premium for their brand.

Yep. And I agree that Apple is in a position to pay more than others do for that reason. Apple customers pay a premium for the product design, for good integration across the brand's products, and for other things that companies like Asus aren't necessarily bringing to the table -- "We pay our manufacturers twice as much as the competitor" is one of those things that could easily be worth a premium. I wrote that to Tim Cook, and while I'm not under the impression that it will individually have an impact, it's Something I Can Do At The Moment.

That still leaves us with the vast majority of Foxconn's customers not in the same position, and the underlying dynamics unchanged. I went around my house and took an electronics inventory. I've got close to a dozen products that were likely manufactured by Foxconn, and only four of them are Apple's.

How do we deal with the vast majority of their customers who aren't enjoying juicy margins? The number of iPads sold, for example, is dwarfed by the number of gaming consoles sold -- they're all manufactured by Foxconn, too, and most of them have negative margins for years after introduction.

Over in the Metatalk thread related to this post there was a corollary discussion about ethically sourced electronics, and the conclusion seemed to be "Don't buy laptops or game machines, or buy them used and accept that they started out dirty." Encouraging brand boycotts when there aren't alternatives is kind of tough.
posted by verb at 6:00 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


New favorite phrase: "Unpack the complexity." Uh, yes, that would be Daisey-speak for "Find out I lied."
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:02 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm listening to the podcast - the second section (from about 27:00 on) is exactly like having a conversation with lying, cheating, and evasive student. Ira seems pissed and irritated, and rightly so.
posted by carter at 6:03 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm also intrigued, reading back over some of the stuff Daisey wrote and said in his interviews. One of the points he hammered on repeatedly, for example, was that Apple in particular had to be aware of the scope of these issues because he was able to witness evidence of them simply by flying to China, and walking up to a factory.
Daisey went to Shenzhen. Foxconn wouldn’t let him in, so he stood outside the main gate with his translator, talking to workers at shift change.

“In my first two hours of my first day at that gate, I met workers who are 14 years old,” Daisey said. “I met workers who were 13 years old. I met workers who were 12. Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?”
A big part of the impact of his narrative was that it was more than just accidents or malfeasance discovered in a 1.5 million employee company -- his narrative was that a random schmoe off the street could knock on the front door and be neck deep in maimed, poisoned child workers.

That's more compelling than the distant, statistics-dulled truth, but it was also a bald-faced lie and telling it over and over has done a lot to undermine the actual case.

It also looks like the public outcry has resulted in at least some changes by Foxconn -- at one of its most prominent factories, workers last month received at 16-25% raise.
posted by verb at 6:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Pick a company we hate, and start bitching at them? Threaten to boycott computers? Sing folk songs? Send checks to China? I wrote to Tim Cook, and I'm not upgrading my phone, but what concrete steps can we take beyond picking a company on Foxconn's customer list that we dislike and feeling smug about them?

I have to wonder if there is a deeper significance that the entire American media bought this story, hook line and sinker.

Americans have an unvoiced fear that China's model of state-sponsored capitalism is "winning" against our own. Manufacturing is hardly an industry in the U.S. anymore, but it was once the powerhouse of the economy, the backbone for a social services infrastructure during the high points of the "American century". Trade deficit is the elephant in the room of today's American political theater. China makes our shit. This is the subtext of Daisey's story: we Americans are prosperous consumers of computers, and the third world Chinese make them for us. They slave away under harsh conditions for our convenience.

In a certain light, do we not want to hear that China has inhumane working conditions? This narrative tells us that a) Americans have a privileged place in the world economy as consumers of the highest quality electronics ("It is like a thing of magic!", said the fictional Chinese man about the iPad), and b) China's labor model is unsustainable and will surely collapse soon, if only we can expose the way in which the working people are being exploited, because no one would willingly work 60 hour weeks in a factory.

And yet, many Americans today work equal hours for minimum wage at Walmart, unpacking and distributing China's manufactured products, and they are in a similar predicament. Here is the repression technique: China employs child slaves, they're much worse off over there. But you live in America, where you can afford to buy a computer! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
posted by deathpanels at 6:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


"It's the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of thread derails."

Nasty, hard to swallow, and makes you question the sanity of Americans?
posted by Pinback at 6:30 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It also looks like the public outcry has resulted in at least some changes by Foxconn -- at one of its most prominent factories, workers last month received at 16-25% raise.

It is very interesting that they bother reacting at all, to be honest. I guess I should see it as encouraging. At the same time, I can't help thinking that if you turn all the Foxconn employees into middle class aspirational consumers the world is just that much more fucked.

When you mentioned about the whole don't buy laptops thing I remembered about the Euro zone regulation that would require all cell phones to be charged via micro USB. How does Apple circumvent (at least partially) that? Standardization of power bricks is the lowest of low hanging fruit for improving the electronics industry..
posted by Chuckles at 6:31 PM on March 16, 2012


When you mentioned about the whole don't buy laptops thing I remembered about the Euro zone regulation that would require all cell phones to be charged via micro USB. How does Apple circumvent (at least partially) that? Standardization of power bricks is the lowest of low hanging fruit for improving the electronics industry.

Adapters.
posted by verb at 6:33 PM on March 16, 2012


From Cathy herself, "He's a writer. So I know what he says is only half of that, or less. But he's allowed to do that. Right? Because he is not a journalist."

16:19 on this file

How much of this is Daisey's fault and how much is ours? Would we hold Spalding Gray to such a standard? Daisey's error was pimping this as journalism, but he also had a gullible clientele in a media that was willing to conflate a good story with journalism. On the other hand, this is awesome theatre.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:50 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"It's the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of thread derails."

Nasty, hard to swallow, and makes you question the sanity of Americans?


Says the man from the land of... Vegemite. *shudders* I kid! I'm sure Vegemite-and-chocolate is just as tasty! seriously, our weird national sandwich spread can beat up your weird national sandwich spread


Would we hold Spalding Gray to such a standard?

If Spalding Gray had been approached to adapt one of his performances for a radio show, and then repeatedly asserted that the information he subsequently conveyed in that show was factually true, I suspect we would have.
posted by scody at 6:55 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, sure.. And it turns out to be a voluntary agreement anyway. Still, Apple is violating the spirit of the notion, aren't they :)

My point in bringing it up is that we have a lot of things to change on regulatory side here in the west. We are going the wrong way though. There used to be (maybe still are) regulations to protect the roll of small auto repair shops and I think after market parts makers (wish I had a clue about how to find a ref for this, but I don't have that much time tonight..), but now we have the DMCA. With all the anti-hacking mindset, I think the US will ban reverse engineering sometime soon.
posted by Chuckles at 6:57 PM on March 16, 2012


Here's a piece from the very end of the show that I think is relevant in terms of whether the discussions we had earlier should have been any different, given this revelation:

Charles Duhigg (New York Times):So should you feel bad that someone is working 12 to 24 hours a day in order to produce the iPhone that you're carrying in your pocket—

Ira Glass: Well, now like, when you say it like that, suddenly I feel bad again, but okay, yeah. [laughter]

Charles Duhigg: I don't know whether you should feel bad, right? I mean—
Ira Glass: But, but finish your thought.

Charles Duhigg: Should you feel bad about that? I don't know, that's for you to judge, but I think the the way to pose that question is... do you feel comfortable knowing that iPhones and iPads and, and other products could be manufactured in less harsh conditions, but that these harsh conditions and perpetuate because of an economy that you are—

Ira Glass: Right.

Charles Duhigg: —supporting with your dollars.

Ira Glass: Right. I am the direct beneficiary of those harsh conditions.

Charles Duhigg: You're not only the direct beneficiary; you are actually one of the reasons why it exists. If you made different choices, if you demanded different conditions, if you demanded that other people enjoy the same work protections that you yourself enjoy, then, then those conditions would be different overseas.
posted by liketitanic at 7:00 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"should have been any different, given this revelation of Daisey's dishonesty."
posted by liketitanic at 7:02 PM on March 16, 2012


Holy crap the FedEx driver marked an exception and didn't deliver.
Before I figured out what you were actually talking about, I imagined this was a fantastically subtle references to the Stephen Glass Fedex story. (I'm never sure whether to be excited or frightened when the pattern matching bits of the brain latch on to things that aren't there. Those phantoms are often quite interesting.)

In case anyone else is curious, it looks like all three of the Stephen Glass pieces for This American Life are still online as originally broadcast. I'm nearly certain I remember hearing TAL discuss him at least once following his public outing, though I can't find it anywhere. Either it was mentioned in passing and isn't searchable, or I've mixed them up with some other source. As far as I can tell, none of the three pieces he did for TAL, nor the print versions of two of the same stories have been debunked. With the exception of the Fedex story, the significant parts of those stories are all pretty hard to independently fact-check, and one can hardly blame the staff of a public radio station for failing to exhaustively re-check puff-pieces from a decade ago when one of their contributors turns out to be suspect.

Like others, I'm saddened to see a important story burned by mishandling, especially when it's veritably correct in everything except the details. But, the details matter. I'm happy to see that This American Life has handled this responsibly.
posted by eotvos at 7:15 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


With Jason Russell and Mike Daisey, this is apparently International Undercut Your Human-Rights Message By Being A Sack Of Shit day.
posted by Silky Slim at 7:29 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yes, exactly. His self absorbed need to his story winds up hurting a larger cause. Way to go there.

-
Sent from iPhone
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:51 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is like that time I read Life of Pi and totally thought it was a true story until I got to the part with the moving island of human teeth or whatever and then I was like oh right I got this from the fiction section of the bookstore

Tooth island would have been a great improvement. For what it's worth, I had a friend who read the entire book without ever realizing it was fiction, and had to be told afterward.

Metafilter: A moving island of human teeth or whatever.
posted by compartment at 8:25 PM on March 16, 2012


That used to be one of the cool things about NeXT boxes. All manufactured here in the US. By a fully automated robot factory, but still. No workers abused.

So.... Better that workers are paid nothing than not enough?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:29 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Charles Duhigg: You're not only the direct beneficiary; you are actually one of the reasons why it exists. If you made different choices, if you demanded different conditions, if you demanded that other people enjoy the same work protections that you yourself enjoy, then, then those conditions would be different overseas.

There is a funny sociopolitical syllogism packed into these two sentences.

1. In a market-driven economy, consumer choice affects production.
2. In a global political system, human rights violations can be policed by public outrage.
3. Therefore, global consumers are responsible for human rights violations.

This smells like classic neoliberal ideology to me. We push the responsibility for treatment of workers onto the market, as guided by consumer choice, so it's obviously the consumer's fault when there are disastrous side-effects.

Assuming the Daisey story is true, why isn't the conclusion here that China's government should be held accountable for the way its workers are treated? Or that stricter regulations should be applied to companies like Apple that purchase components from Chinese factories? Why shouldn't one of the large governmental entities with entire administrative bodies devoted to this stuff be held responsible for policing working conditions abroad if it's so goddamn important that our MacBooks be made by well-treated laborers?

Joe Sixpack doesn't have the resources to scout for human right every time he buys a stick of RAM.
posted by deathpanels at 8:38 PM on March 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


So.... Better that workers are paid nothing than not enough?

Apparently yes. I mean, that's really what it comes down to at this point, isn't it? We worship the cult of efficiency in our country, and even here on MetaFilter companies like Apple are mocked -- reviled, even -- for costing more than alternatives. We want our toys fast and cheap and often, and the economy revolves around that.

Efficiency is cool, until you remember that the weak link in most systems is the people who do the labor. Many Chinese companies solve that by throwing lots and lots and lots of super-cheap labor at the problems. Here in the US, factory automation was already becoming a big issue before outsourcing changed the conversation permanently. I suppose we could pass legislation outlawing automation technologies and outsourcing? Sometimes seems like it would be a lot better to put cradle-to-grave welfare programs in place and stop pretending that the modern economy is built for full employment.
posted by verb at 8:51 PM on March 16, 2012


Here in the US, factory automation was already becoming a big issue before outsourcing changed the conversation permanently.
Efficiency and automation isn't a recent innovation, it's been at the core of the factory system for centuries. This guy is probably to blame, at least in part.
posted by deathpanels at 9:14 PM on March 16, 2012


Does anybody have a mirror for the original audio episode? If you could memail me a link, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.
posted by surenoproblem at 9:15 PM on March 16, 2012


Efficiency and automation isn't a recent innovation, it's been at the core of the factory system for centuries. This guy is probably to blame, at least in part.

Fair point, and "humans replaced by machines" isn't exactly a new fear, either.
posted by verb at 9:25 PM on March 16, 2012


Finally getting around to listening to the show. I love This American Life, and this is the finest, most gripping one I've ever heard. Absolute drama.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:26 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Would we hold Spalding Gray to such a standard?

I read Reading to Cambodia pretty closely when it came out. I don't recall Grey fudging the facts on that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:54 PM on March 16, 2012


Mike Daisey's blog just crashed my browser. }(
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:04 PM on March 16, 2012


Wait, no, it may have been the TAL player actually.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:10 PM on March 16, 2012


Better that workers are paid nothing than not enough?

I suppose there are repair technicians, managers, site engineers, cleaners, etc. - all of these would be local jobs subject to US labour laws.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:19 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm never going to lie to Ira Glass
posted by localhuman at 10:24 PM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


That TAL was incredibly hard to listen to. I found Ira Glass choking out the word REPUTATION for the ad at the end (some sort of online reputation management company) especially gut-punching, but maybe that was just me.
posted by fillsthepews at 10:35 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nope, I totally heard that too.
posted by silby at 10:42 PM on March 16, 2012


Bob Garfield's op-ed in The Guardian:
By the simple choices of journalism, facts in and of themselves do not constitute truth. They can be selected and arranged any which way, intentionally or unintentionally, to distort truth and turn it upside down. That is precisely how political consultants earn a living: assembling nominal facts to tell big, fat lies.

Nonetheless, the argument for what Stephen Colbert mocks as "truthiness" is hollow. Weschler's position requires we trust his goodwill, that we trust Kapuściński and Mitchell and Capote and Steinbeck – and Mike Daisey – to embellish and invent responsibly. We should process the quotation marks on their stories in a different way – not as verbatim, but as something purer.
Damning, yet spot on. To listen to Daisey half-apologize is to listen to a man with as tenuous a connection to truthful inquiry as half the Republican presidential field. True, Daisey won't be getting as much press coverage as Rick Santorum, but the self-justification runs the same way: fudge a few facts, ignore some others, and present subjective judgment as universal truth all because your broader cause will fail without it. We know, mostly, that Santorum's not-so-secret agenda is a form of theocracy and a notion of God most of the rest of us reject. We hope that Daisey's agenda is better conditions for Chinese workers ... but do we know? Do we know it's not the same hurf surf Apple bashing? Do we know it's not the promotion of Mike Daisey?

See, whether you agree with the eventual outcome of the line of thought or not, that's what happens when you play fast and loose with the truth: you lose the authority to tell anyone else you know what's best. Lord knows I want liberalism to succeed, but I wouldn't be a liberal if I didn't think it were an appropriate and rational response to genuine, observable conditions about human societies. If I want to uphold those values (particularly, if I want to uphold the ones that suggest white European men shouldn't be going around telling women or people of color what they really want), I have to be super super careful in what I present as fact and the way I play the pathos card.

Act III of the episode is really interesting: you hear Ira wrestling with Duhigg on the moral choices we make when we buy products, and Duhigg rather interestingly suggests that products aren't made in China because of cheap labor, they're made in China because of cheap supply chain management - lots of engineers and flexible factories nested close together that can react almost instantly to a company's needs. They also talk about how the United States was once a country with weak labor regulations, that it found those conditions morally reprehensible and passed laws against them, and that it has more or less "exported" the poor conditions to other countries.

I've done my fair share of progressive agitating and sweating about free trade and fair trade, but both the TAL episodes have forced me to wonder whether "export" is the right word. Sure, I'm a serious believer in strong labor regulations in my own country, and a believer in strongly protecting the environment we all share, but ... am I in a position to tell another country what its labor laws should be? Is Daisey? Neither of us is an expert in labor, nor a factory worker. Neither of us is Chinese. Neither of us know the language. Neither of us (apparently) are journalists. All we are is people who buy computers, almost every brand of which is seemingly made in the same factories anyway. In order to be anything else, we need real, honest-to-goodness truth. We need some expertise, even a little, before it's fair to say we know anything about What Should Be Done. To find that I had to unlearn the little expertise I thought I had because Daisey lied ... well, that's what's frustrating.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:45 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


To listen to Daisey half-apologize..

HALF apologize? He did not apologize at all, he was totally evasive. The closest he came was the usual "political non-apology" which was basically "I'm sorry you were offended." Then he said he stands behind his work. He is not apologetic at all.

The issue here is exploitation. Daisey exploited the Chinese workers for his own profit, far more than Apple ever did.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:53 PM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Fiction means something. Factual truth isn't everything. I've said this before, I'm sure. But I feel the need to clarify: If you're offering fiction *for the truth*, then you need to be roundly beaten.

I think the guns bother me most of all. A lot of it was essentially true. Happened in another city, but it happened. Didn't meet them, but they exist. Whatever. The Starbucks thing I had figured was a metaphor in the first place for whatever the local equivalent hangout was, to give people a way to contextualize it, whatever.

But the guns. The guns don't exist. They can't exist. They aren't just borrowed from elsewhere, which I could buy as still reasonably valid for TAL. They often have stuff that has so many details-changed-to-preserve-privacy or whatever that it bears no resemblance to the real thing--I remember one about a woman arranging romances on a reality TV show where it was fairly easy to find the real show and the people in the story did not for the most part have RL analogs but I didn't feel lied to and I'm still not sure how much of that one was intended to be fictional. But the guns exist there just to make China look worse. And by extension, just to make Daisey look better. And the guns were there before he ever had the opportunity to be on This American Life, before that temptation ever existed. I have a lot of trouble with that.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:14 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a Grade-A hater, I'm in the enviable position of believing that both Apple products and Mr. Daisey have always been way over-rated, pretentious, and kind of annoying.

Sure, the "tools of theater" are telling good stories and using your imagination. But it's adorable to hear Daisey playing this card when he built his career on doing fact- and investigation-based monologues.

Sorry bro, you're done.
posted by bardic at 11:26 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


am I in a position to tell another country what its labor laws should be?
It's an interesting question with no easy answer. Consider various "I"s in that sentence. Does the United States have the right to demand that China change its labor laws to be more like the United States' labor laws? Can or should one sovereign nation pressure another to undergo social reforms? If so, what sorts of laws, and can that process be reversed? I.e., would we be so keen on a situation where China is enforcing its labor laws on the United States?

On the other hand, if "I" is myself as an individual, then I'm speaking as a world citizen, and I may demand that the protections afforded to me against abuse by employers be available for everyone, especially those most at risk of such abuse.

I don't know What Should Be Done either, and I doubt anyone does. The answer may come from how capitalism plays out in the 21st century. Some balance between free enterprise, state-sponsored socialistic programs, and protecting labor markets is necessary to continue growing economies without collapsing into revolution and/or financial ruin. But that may just allow the system to limp along for another century or two before collateral damage to the environment and depletion of natural resources catch up to it and everything collapses. (Peak oil, etc.) Or the system may figure out solar energy or neutrino engines or whatever and make it into space.
posted by deathpanels at 11:47 PM on March 16, 2012


Daisey exploited the Chinese workers for his own profit, far more than Apple ever did.

0_o
posted by joe lisboa at 11:48 PM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Jesus. I’m looking for something that isn’t just boilerplate asshole. But this is just another page out of the “Unraveled Hoax” flavor of Mad Libs. It’s James Frey all over again with the proper nouns changed.

Here we’ve got the part where he wouldn’t use the word “lie,” but would instead replace it with a beard-stroking self-compliment:
Rob Schmitz: So you lied about that. That wasn’t what you saw.
Mike Daisey: I wouldn’t express it that way.
RS: How would you express it?
MD: I would say that I wanted to tell a story that captured the totality of my trip. So when I was building the scene of that meeting, I wanted to have the voice of this thing that had been happening that everyone been talking about.
Ira Glass: So you didn’t meet any worker who’d been poisoned by hexane?
MD: That’s correct.
Here’s the part where he’s too ashamed to admit to the real figures, so he splits the difference because he thinks it’s somehow more face-saving than the truth:
Rob Schmitz: How many factories did you visit when you were there?
Mike Daisey: I believe I went to 5.
RS: You told ira 10.
MD: I know.
RS: OK.
MD: But, now that I’m looking at it, I believe it was 5.

(Cathy remembers three.)
And here’s the part where he says that the majesty of the stage makes it OK that he told people lies:
Ira Glass: I think it’s OK for somebody in your position to say it isn’t all literally true, know what I mean, feel like actually it seems like it’s honest labeling, and I feel like that’s what’s actually called for at this point, is just honest labeling. Like, you make a nice show, people are moved by it, I was moved by it and if it were labeled honestly, I think everybody would react differently to it.
Mike Daisey: I don’t think that label covers the totality of what it is.
IG: That label – fiction?
MD: Yeah. We have different worldviews on some of these things. I agree with you truth is really important.
This is the part that makes me angriest, because he says that the accurate label — i.e., “this is a dramatization based on actual experiences” — would somehow fail to capture his work. Bullshit. That’s exactly what it is. Whether he’ll admit it to himself or not, he can’t label it that way because the work itself has no value unless people think all these things are literally true. If he did give that disclaimer, nobody would’ve given a shit about his monologue in the first place.

Ira is polite to say that the show would still be good with the proper label. Maybe he means that sincerely. I know I wouldn’t give a damn about a show where I can assume that every colorful anecdote is pure fiction. Because then it doesn’t work as agitprop at all; then he’s just doing a one-man show with exploited Chinese workers as supporting characters. He’s found a way to take a serious human rights issue halfway around the world and make it all about him.

It’s an odd coincidence that I mentioned Fargo earlier on this page. I love Fargo because I can’t help but be fascinated at people at the center of hoaxes, and in how they behave when it all begins to fall apart.

It’s an odder coincidence that I referenced Anchorman. Because, as IMDB reminds me, the movie starts with its own disclaimer: “The following is based on actual events. Only the names, locations and events have been changed.”
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:02 AM on March 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


What is it these days with people's inability to own up to their bullshit and take it on the chin? Daisy's weasel-words on the matter, trying to absolve himself of responsibility, come from the same book as the PR spin from the companies he's trying to draw our attention to.

Y'all fucked up. Own it.
posted by Jimbob at 12:05 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The terror is Daisey's voice when he's getting called out is amazing to behold. I did not expect to hear an inner psychological drama take place. Here's someone who has been secretly living in fear that he will be exposed as a fraud, and is now experiencing everything he's constructed come tumbling down in an instant. It seems like he wants to do the right thing and fess up---he could have demanded that they switch of the tape recorder---but whatever image he had constructed for himself is looming over him like a mafioso, threatening him into silence. You think he's going to confess, but then after a hugely long pause: "I just can't say it." What in the world was that? A failed attempt at human honesty? I imagine this is what it's like to try to get a confession out of a murderer.

But then a few days later he thinks, Aha! I have my story down!, and it's back to being the phony who lives in fear. He was so close to being free!
posted by painquale at 12:13 AM on March 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


Don't want to be too anal, but is this "bullshit" in the technical sense? With bullshit you don't care at all about the truth value of what you are saying. In this case it seems the guy is lying.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:26 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The terror is Daisey's voice when he's getting called out is amazing to behold. I did not expect to hear an inner psychological drama take place. Here's someone who has been secretly living in fear that he will be exposed as a fraud, and is now experiencing everything he's constructed come tumbling down in an instant.

That was very much my response, too. I actually had to stop listening about halfway through; I'll finish it tomorrow, but the psychological drama someone grappling with the unpleasant implications of their own fabulism was just too uncomfortable to listen to all in one go.
posted by scody at 1:33 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Y'all fucked up. Own it.

That will never happen. Daisey's narrative, while fictional, is more compelling than mere fact. But I'm looking forward to his new career as a tech blogger for FOX News or maybe Pogue's assistant at the NY Times. The exclusive "scoops" will be entertaining, that's a certainty.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:49 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


With bullshit you don't care at all about the truth value of what you are saying. In this case it seems the guy is lying.
"What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.

"This is the crux of the distinction between him and the liar. Both he and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth. The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that. But the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it. This does not mean that his speech is anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are."

- Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit
The distinction between Mike Daisey bullshitting and outright lying still seems unclear to me. I'm not sure he cares much about facts or reality or how things "truly are". Motives count for a lot here, as you note. It's a pretty subtle, but important distinction.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:06 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was also enthralled by the drama of Daisey confronted with his misdeeds. I even had to glance at my player once, just to make sure it was still working; The length of his pause before "I just can't say it" constituted an eternity of "dead air" that would normally never be allowed on TAL.
For another example of a mind-blowing podcast where an interviewee is called out on his bullshit on the air with devastating emotional effect, I strongly recommend the two Carlos Mencia episodes of WTF with Marc Maron (Part 1 is a straightforward interview with the comedian, where he is allowed to give his somewhat manufactured account of what he's all about; Part 2 contains interviews with two colleagues who give more insight into his notorious joke-stealing, and then a devastating followup interview where Mencia is forced to confront his bullshit and does the most spectacular dance of semi-apology, self-denial and barely-concealed aggression I have ever heard, and is pretty much given just enough rope to hang himself.) Those last two links are iTunes links, and also behind a pay-wall, as those are now Premium Episodes.
posted by Silky Slim at 2:48 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Carlos Mencia is a perfect analogue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:00 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, kinda. Mike Daisey made shit up, but at least he didn't steal from other monologists. Give him that much.
However, in the realm of sefl-denial... Kindred spirits, definitely.
posted by Silky Slim at 3:07 AM on March 17, 2012


You're not only the direct beneficiary; you are actually one of the reasons why it exists. If you made different choices, if you demanded different conditions, if you demanded that other people enjoy the same work protections that you yourself enjoy, then, then those conditions would be different overseas.

I've been looking at Spyderco knives lately. They tend to be sourced from a number of areas. I can buy a Spiderco that's made in China, one that's made in Japan and one that's made in the USA. (Apparently, knife buyers are a conservative bunch and there's a pile of them won't buy something unless its made in the USA.)

Something like the Spyderco Tenacious is made in China and costs about $30. A Japanese built Spyderco probably costs three times that -- around $90. And a US built Spyderco might run you six times that at $180.

From what I can see, the build quality of the knives is pretty well identical. They might use more expensive materials in the Japanese and the American built knives, but that's just a tiny proportion of the cost. The bulk of the costs are going to be labour costs.

You're always going to have a tiny number of people who are driven by motives other than economic -- aesthetic or political, for example -- when it comes to making their purchasing decisions, but when people are trying to make the most of the scarce resources they have, there's always be a demand for that $30 knife, regardless of the conditions in the factory that builds it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:05 AM on March 17, 2012


Maybe this has been stated, but the only problem I have with the "I just exaggerate to prove a point" excuse of performers is that they only ever say it AFTER they get caught. The rest of the time, they pretty much hope their audience believes their pitch. I think.

Maybe there are some people out there who truly think they are doing performance art and that the audience is "in" on the joke, and would be astonished that there are people taking them seriously. I think that Rick Santelli guy might be in this category, that his initial rant about tea parties was complete metaphor and theater. But then people took him seriously and instead of being responsible and saying "hey guys, I was making an analogy", he believed his own hype and ran with it. But that's the failing- when you are being truthy and people start to not be in on the joke, I think you have to step back and correct course.

There is a future possible universe where someone like Steven Colbert could make this turn and be the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Bill O'Reilly of the next generation. I hope it doesn't happen, but I think it absolutely could.
posted by gjc at 6:11 AM on March 17, 2012


Yeah, that looooong pause also made me check to make sure the program was still running.

I think TAL did the right thing here, because Daisey's own presentation of his monologue presented it as factually true, and that's how I understood it at the time and clearly how Ira Glass understood it, too. But it makes me wonder about TAL's presentation of pieces from David Sedaris, who I think has admitted (in a kind of mini-scandal a few years ago) to exaggerating and sometime making stuff up as part of his humorous stories. Now, I think you can certainly argue that what Sedaris is doing is not journalism, in a way that the FoxConn story was. But nevertheless, maybe I'm just naive but if someone is telling me a story and saying that certain things happened to them, I tend to believe it.

I would be interested to hear Glass's take on this.
posted by chinston at 6:15 AM on March 17, 2012


It also looks like the public outcry has resulted in at least some changes by Foxconn -- at one of its most prominent factories, workers last month received at 16-25% raise.

It is very interesting that they bother reacting at all, to be honest. I guess I should see it as encouraging. At the same time, I can't help thinking that if you turn all the Foxconn employees into middle class aspirational consumers the world is just that much more fucked.


Actually, my guess is that the raises had very little to do with the outcry. Factory wages in Shenzen China (where a lot of manufacturing takes place) have been going up by about 20% a year recently and are projected to continue to go up at the same rate for at least 3 -4 more years.
posted by nolnacs at 6:24 AM on March 17, 2012


You're always going to have a tiny number of people who are driven by motives other than economic -- aesthetic or political, for example -- when it comes to making their purchasing decisions, but when people are trying to make the most of the scarce resources they have, there's always be a demand for that $30 knife, regardless of the conditions in the factory that builds it.

I think that's the core of the problem- in the "good old days", the $30 knife wouldn't exist. People didn't have to make that value judgement because it was being made for them by circumstances. So consumers never really learned the skill. And in generations past, it was always the richer country selling to the poorer country. Now it is the poorer country selling to the richer one. Both can be seen as taking advantage of the poor, but on some level, that's all of human interaction- two people making a deal that works for both of them. The question then becomes "who are we to tell someone else their job sucks so badly that we are going to fire them". Those workers live miserable lives. But they wouldn't have traveled and stood in line if that job wasn't somehow better than their previous way of sustaining themselves.
posted by gjc at 6:25 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


But it makes me wonder about TAL's presentation of pieces from David Sedaris, who I think has admitted (in a kind of mini-scandal a few years ago) to exaggerating and sometime making stuff up as part of his humorous stories. Now, I think you can certainly argue that what Sedaris is doing is not journalism, in a way that the FoxConn story was. But nevertheless, maybe I'm just naive but if someone is telling me a story and saying that certain things happened to them, I tend to believe it.

I would be interested to hear Glass's take on this.


One metric is probably the impact of the issue, whether the story is bigger than the person telling it, or smaller. Sedaris' stories about the guy down the block who makes clocks out of owl beaks is smaller than him- we are listening because we are interested in Sedaris and his ability to tell a story. Where in this case, we don't (or didn't) really care who Mike Daisey is, because we are there for the story. We went to him to find out about China, not his yarn-spinning mastery.

So I guess it comes down to what the pitch is- Rick Bayless is selling authenticity and his interpretations of the foods of Mexico. TGI Friday's makes no such pitch- they are selling a fun atmosphere. Which means, I guess, that Daisey was giving us an Olive Garden experience- selling authenticity, but filling us up with endless breadsticks.
posted by gjc at 6:36 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Daisey compounded his fuck-up by being wishy washy and basically admitting he lied. Should have stood by his story, said that Apple's henchmen have somehow gotten to Ira Glass, it's all true, and there might be doubt about his story but many people would still believe it and respect him. Instead, he submitted himself to some grueling cross-examination when he should have been defiant. What a fool.
posted by jayder at 6:36 AM on March 17, 2012


I'm still curious why Apple fans are singled out as the deluded ones, given the large number of manufacturers that work with them. If you are reading this message, odds are you're supporting Foxconn directly or indirectly. No one -- not the hip Air-toting indie rocker nor the penny-pinching Ubuntu hacker nor the grandma who got a Nook or a Kindle Fire-- can pretend that these supply chain issues are the problem of some detestable other.
posted by verb at 1:06 PM


Going beyond the fact that a similar story using Samsung doesn't sell, I think the story relies mainly not on the fact that Chinese workers have terrible conditions, but that Apple is an evil company. Look at tocts comment: tech companies aren't contracting to to terrible working conditions, Apple is.

It's precious how people are concerned that Apple fans will now move on and continue to buy Apple products. I'm an Apple fan and just as concerned. The question is how many people that pushed and followed the story will now lose interest that the company they love to hate isn't quite as terrible as they had hoped. For many, that was the story.

You must not hang around a lot of Apple threads here. I've not had a chance to read this entire thread (203 comments and counting), but I seem to detect an "Apple fans == Republicans" correlation. Some of them are a bit more partisan than the average, defensive almost, which is where that observation comes from I think.
posted by JHarris


Yeah, I have no idea why Apple users are so defensive on metafilter.

"I have a rainbow mohawk and wore a clown suit to work today. Why is everybody staring at me?"
posted by just sayin


The Apple user = Republican meme is moronic and insulting. I know you're not the biggest fan of Apple Jharris, but it's okay to point out ignorance. It's okay to say that a stupid stereotype based on a very small number of users (that's part of every group) does nothing but harm discussion. Trying to defend foolish ideas only makes you look like a fool.
posted by justgary at 6:45 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


On Sedaris making things up: This is a time-honored technique of humorous writing, and is no crime at alll. One of the funniest books you could ever read is James Thurber's My Life And Hard Times, supposedly an account of his growing up in Columbus, Ohio. Among the stories are of a town-wide panic caused by a rumor that the dam broke, a cousin who caught and died from dutch elm disease, and particularly memorable incident involving spooking his neurotic father (who dreamed of being chased by Calvin Coolidge).

Except it's known that Thurber pretty much made most of it up. You could take offense at that and discard the book, but you'll miss out on some really hilarious writing. And while not literally true, they are true in the sense of being revelatory about human nature. As John Hodgman says, his trivia book of lies, by not being literally true, is free to be truer than it would otherwise be. This is rather a different kind of truth, yes, but I'd still call it valid. (This is not the kind of truth that Daisey was offering, though.)

On Mike Daisey: The worst part of all this is that it gives ammo to people who seek to excuse both Foxconn and the computer industry that relies on them.

Here is a thing to consider: why did he come clean? Why did he admit his exaggeration? Daisey's stories were originally part of a performance piece. TAL built a show around it based on a different standard of truth, but it's one that looks different. The conflict, to me, seems to be between the poet's truth and the reporter's truth. When one is mistaken for the other, there are problems.

Here's something to consider. Werner Herzog admitted on Colbert fictionalizing something in one of his documentaries. Does that make him as bad? Do we now discount everything Herzog has ever told us?
posted by JHarris at 6:53 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


justgary: The Apple user = Republican meme is moronic and insulting. I know you're not the biggest fan of Apple Jharris, but it's okay to point out ignorance.

Hey now, I wasn't the one who brought it up. Sheesh.

I've been trying hard not to be argumentative here. I actually have an iPad, and I use a Mac Mini. They are not bad machines, but I will say that some people seem to define themselves by their preference for them, and sometimes it seems to give them a thin skin. Like now.
posted by JHarris at 6:59 AM on March 17, 2012


You just know Daisey's gonna do a show about this.
posted by whuppy at 7:23 AM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow, the retraction episode of TAL is difficult to listen to, but engrossing. If you want to see a man tap dance, listen to Mike Daisey start to say he made stuff up, then double down on the idea that a theater piece presented as true doesn't actually have to literally be true, but true in spirit.
posted by inturnaround at 7:27 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Should have stood by his story, said that Apple's henchmen have somehow gotten to Ira Glass, it's all true, and there might be doubt about his story but many people would still believe it and respect him. Instead, he submitted himself to some grueling cross-examination when he should have been defiant. What a fool.

Nah. The (attempted) coverup is always what will get you worse in the end. It will get found out, and now everyone knows you're a lying liar who lies and now you've got a whole new scandal that is all over the news again.
posted by rtha at 7:39 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Daisey compounded his fuck-up by being wishy washy and basically admitting he lied. Should have stood by his story, said that Apple's henchmen have somehow gotten to Ira Glass, it's all true, and there might be doubt about his story but many people would still believe it and respect him. Instead, he submitted himself to some grueling cross-examination when he should have been defiant. What a fool.

Burn the tapes!
posted by ignignokt at 7:57 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


am I in a position to tell another country what its labor laws should be?

This is the big question, isn't it? I think it's important to see this from China's perspective (by which I mean the perspective shared by the Chinese government and, I can tell you, a whole lot of Chinese people). China's version goes like this: "We are an up-and-coming economy, but our enormous population, much of it rural and uneducated, means our per capita GDP sucks. Thanks to the last forty years of revolution and Communism, we don't have much by way of industry or resources or choice exports. What we have are people---lots of them---and a currency sufficiently devalued that those people can work for (internationally speaking) very low wages. If we are to have any hope of becoming a well-off country, we have to use what we have. So we'll do what every other industrial country did in the early years of industrialization---anything goes, so long as you're bringing in money. In 10, 20, or 50 years we'll have enough of an industrial and technical base, and a high enough GDP, that we can afford labor laws like all the rich countries have. Until then, the West's demands that we adopt their working conditions of choice are merely an attempt---either out of malice or stupidity---to prevent us from having an economy."

That's the thing you have to understand: Many Chinese people, including many of these same exploited workers, truly believe that the West's attempts to demand better working conditions are an imperialist attempt to shut down their economic growth. They would much rather have a crappy job and some hope for the future than no job and no hope, which is what a NeXT-style system would provide.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:07 AM on March 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's precious how people are concerned that Apple fans will now move on and continue to buy Apple products. I'm an Apple fan and just as concerned.

Eh, I'm not getting to worked up about it, strict Apple computer buyer that I am. From my point of view, it's a hyper focusing on small aspect of a larger problem, that of goods sold in America being cheaply made by foreign workers. Clothing, food, household appliances, furniture and other things all follow this same problem, as least as far as America goes.

Stressing out about Apple is very petty, narrow minded and simplistic. You're born into and live in a work that has terrible things occurring, some of what you're unwittingly part of. To change that and live in a more morally just world would be unending your lifestyle to a degree I see few people willing to do or even seriously considering.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:16 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should note that not *every* Chinese person thinks that way, obviously---there are on-the-ground movements pushing for better conditions. But a *lot* of people do.

Oh, and regarding Apple: I don't know any Apple people who base their identity around their OS. But I know an awful lot of Apple-haters who seem to think a person's OS of choice defines them, in the case of Apple users. Hence the focus on Apple here---it's one more way for people who don't use Apple products to feel superior, under the guise of hating that Apple users "act so superior".
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:32 AM on March 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I really can't see how there is any leeway in the excuse that it was "just theatre" - this wasn't gonzo journalism and was never presented that way, nor as a work of fiction. It was a marketed both by Daisy, and then by TAL as a story, sure, but a story about a real (first) person going to real factories that exist in a real place, discussing real companies with real products and the real chemicals they really do use, with quotes from a real translator. This was a thousand miles away from Hunter S. Thompson on the campaign trail - where falsehoods are used for humour, not to misinform. Daisy presented this as a reality - the only theatrical thing about it was the use of an emotive, engaging voice to tell it.

Was trying to think of what this reminded me of, and it occurred to me - the Helen Darville/Demidenko saga, where an author claims to have drawn on her, it turns out, non-existent Ukrainian heritage.
"The things narrated in this book really happened, the things they did [are] historical actualities." After indicating that the work was based on history, the note went on to position the author's presentation of her work as fiction, saying: "But this is also a work of fiction. I have presented it as fiction...."
posted by Jimbob at 8:33 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hence the focus on Apple here---it's one more way for people who don't use Apple products to feel superior, under the guise of hating that Apple users "act so superior".

As the proud owner of an iPhone, and someone who is currently in the process of "switching" his laptop to an MBA (but who still is definitely still going to use Linux and Windows on his desktop into the foreseeable future), and with well over a decade on Metafilter, I can tell you it's ridiculous to say there aren't a number of easily recognizable obsessive pro-Apple zealots here. It's would also be ridiculous to say there aren't a pile of anti-Apple nutters constantly trying to prove how they produce the worst products ever.

For some reason unfathomable to me, some people really really really care about brands. Ford vs. Chevvy. Fender vs. Gibson. Nike vs. Reebok. Get the fuck over yourselves.
posted by Jimbob at 8:39 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


That 'This week I am in no mood for an extra quote from Cory' at the end of this week's TAL was like the silent clock at the ending of an episode of 24 wherein something truly ghastly happened.
posted by angrycat at 10:04 AM on March 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


Here is a thing to consider: why did he come clean? Why did he admit his exaggeration?

Because he was totally busted by Cathy, the translator. Which he knew would happen--that's why he lied to TAL about her name.

If he had given her a fake name in the story in the first place, then given TAL a different fake name, he might never have been exposed as a liar.

Worst. Scooby Doo. Episode. Ever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:06 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: I've been looking at Spyderco knives lately. They tend to be sourced from a number of areas. I can buy a Spiderco that's made in China, one that's made in Japan and one that's made in the USA. (Apparently, knife buyers are a conservative bunch and there's a pile of them won't buy something unless its made in the USA.)

Something like the Spyderco Tenacious is made in China and costs about $30. A Japanese built Spyderco probably costs three times that -- around $90. And a US built Spyderco might run you six times that at $180.

From what I can see, the build quality of the knives is pretty well identical. They might use more expensive materials in the Japanese and the American built knives, but that's just a tiny proportion of the cost. The bulk of the costs are going to be labour costs.

You're always going to have a tiny number of people who are driven by motives other than economic -- aesthetic or political, for example -- when it comes to making their purchasing decisions, but when people are trying to make the most of the scarce resources they have, there's always be a demand for that $30 knife, regardless of the conditions in the factory that builds it.


That's really interesting. Benchmade and Spyderco are two of my favorite knife makers. I haven't purchased from either in a long time, because, frankly, they make really good knives, and the ones I bought 15 years ago are still in very good working order. The interesting thing to me is that until 2010, unlike Spyderco, which does most of their product sourcing offshore, Benchmade produced 90% of their stock in one factory located in Oregon. In 2010, Benchmade bought their entire product line to Oregon. The price points on their blades run very similarly to Spyderco.
posted by qnarf at 10:11 AM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dais(e)y presented this as a reality - the only theatrical thing about it was the use of an emotive, engaging voice to tell it.

Jimbob, it's not entirely clear from context if you are including Daisey's theatrical monologue in your remarks above. I think you are because you make adistinction between Daisey's presentation of the material and TAL's presentation of the material.

On that assumption, I totally disagree with you that the "only theatrical thing" was Daisey's narrative voice. In the stage show, Daisey uses movement, lighting, and structural techniques of rhetoric to present the piece. Does that self-evident theatricality necessarily imply falsity, fictionalization, and so forth? By no means, and in that context, Daisey clearly made a creator's decision to muddy the waters, to not tell his audience what elements of his narrative were fictionalized. But it was plenty theatrical.
posted by mwhybark at 10:33 AM on March 17, 2012


Interesting.

After doing a bit of digging around, it looks like margins on Apple's hottest products like the iPad are a lot lower than implied in this thread. A teardown of the new iPad and its materials costs suggests 5% margins, and apparently Foxconn labor only accounts for about 2% of the manufacturing cost -- materials costs are a much much large slice of the pie. At least in the case of the new iPad, it suggests that while Apple's margins are good overall the margins on the iPad are no different than (say) the Kindle Fire.

Which, of course, is a bit of a moot point now that I think about it since the Fire is manufactured by Foxconn too, but it does undercut the point raised earlier that Apple is in the best position to change things because it's making way more on each iPad than its competitors are making on their products. It's selling a lot of iPads, but it appears to have similar margins.
posted by verb at 10:44 AM on March 17, 2012


A teardown of the new iPad and its materials costs suggests 5% margins

That Examiner link doesn't say the margin on the new iPad is 5%. It says that it has dropped 5% from the margin on the iPad 2 - from 56% to 51%. That is, it the $629 model costs $31 more to make, but is priced the same, as the iPad 2 model previously priced at $629.

(The margin on the iPad 2 will also have been affected by that $100 price cut, but the material costs will also have dropped, as the parts get older and production techniques are perfected over time.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:10 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


(To be exact, the parts cost $31 more. Add $11 for assembly, is the rule of thumb, and then shipping and warehousing costs. Introducing more SKUs will also increase logistical complexity and thus cost...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:11 AM on March 17, 2012


The price points on their blades run very similarly to Spyderco.

Pricing on that kind of product is much more about marketing than either material cost or labour cost. The 'special' products are made in very low volume with big margins, and the 'regular' products are made at high volume and low margin. That shouldn't really surprise, and it doesn't imply much about where the manufacturing is taking place.
posted by Chuckles at 11:14 AM on March 17, 2012


The 'special' products are made in very low volume with big margins, and the 'regular' products are made at high volume and low margin.

Which, incidentally, actually helps to explain the margin difference between iPads and Android tablets, in a perverse way - Apple make and sell so many more of these things than, say, Motorola that not only do they get to realize economies of scale, they also get to bargain hard with manufacturers and assemblers because they are ordering so much more parts and so much more labor. And they are impacting the availability of components and labor for smaller orders.

The success of the iPad is effectively pushing relative iPad production costs down. So, to make a margin smaller than but ballparkily comparable to Apple's on your tablet (if you're just factoring in material costs - of course, Apple also have probably also spent more on software development, advertising, and so on), you have to charge as much - and then most people won't buy it, because of the strength of the iPad brand. And so on. So it becomes a question of how much you want to go under that price, and how much that will impact your margin. So you are producing lower numbers, and thus paying more per unit, but you dont get to charge a higher margin because your product is not a special edition or a prestige edition - it's just not as big a seller.

Which speaks to JHarris' point about other producers not having the same margin headroom, and how you deal with that if you want to improve factory conditions, with the cost implications. You might need industry-wide repricing, and you're probably not getting that without increased regulation...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:28 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Finally hearing the retraction episode of TAL. Daisey completely shoots himself in the foot. He's too stubborn to admit that his poor choices - as a dramaturge - have undermined his main project.
posted by mwhybark at 11:44 AM on March 17, 2012


That 'This week I am in no mood for an extra quote from Cory' at the end of this week's TAL was like the silent clock at the ending of an episode of 24 wherein something truly ghastly happened.

I just heard the show on the radio, and heard that moment. Sounded very much like Ira Glass just trying double super hard to make sure the listener remembers just how put-upon Ira Glass was during this incident.
posted by gjc at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm listening to the "Retraction" episode right now, and I am just so thoroughly disgusted with Daisey. He says that he was worried about the implications about having two different versions of the truth, the TAL version and the Agony/Ecstasy version, and how awful that would be. But it wouldn't be! If, as you say, the rules of the theater are different than the rules of journalism, then following those two separate rules would result in two different stories, and that would be FINE.

In fact, I think that could be really powerful. "This here is the good story, the dramatic story, the story with an arc and a message. This over here is the TRUE story, the nitty-gritty, the true details that I pastiched together into the good story. Here's the exploration of how I got those true details, and how I made the artistic choices that I did, and why I decided to do this story in this way." That's ethical and honest and perfectly cromulent.

I mean, Julia Sweeney does her whole God Said, 'Ha!' show, and I don't expect that every detail of that is the bald-faced, unvarnished, unmassaged truth. It would not lessen the impact of the show if she said "Actually these details happened in a different order, and these two things didn't REALLY happen on the same day, and this one meeting with this one doctor was actually pastiched together out of five meetings with two doctors, and these figures were gained by me through Internet research rather than presented to me by my oncologist, and this one story actually happened to someone else, but rang so true to my experience that I appropriated for dramatic purposes." That would be not only OK, but interesting and enlightening. I wish Daisey had done this.
posted by KathrynT at 11:47 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


So there are still a couple nights of the live theatre show booked. I wonder if audience members are going to choose opportune moments to shout "Bullshit!"
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:22 PM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


That Examiner link doesn't say the margin on the new iPad is 5%. It says that it has dropped 5% from the margin on the iPad 2 - from 56% to 51%. That is, it the $629 model costs $31 more to make, but is priced the same, as the iPad 2 model previously priced at $629.

Doh, thanks! I totally misread that. Those are some fat margins. heh.
posted by verb at 12:33 PM on March 17, 2012


I'm never going to lie to Ira Glass

Ira Glass: Were you afraid we would discover you've been listening to public radio without contributing?

Mike Daisey: No... not really...

Ira Glass: Really? There was no part of you which thought, like, ok, listening to public radio without making a monetary pledge of support is basically stealing, and it's shameful, and ... did you think we would discover you weren't paying your fair share for this amazing resource of public radio?

Mike Daisey: Well I did think it would unpack the complexities of, of like how, how public radio gets funded and whether it's really meant to be a public good, um, for all, you know...

Ira Glass: What does that mean, unpack the complexities?

Mike Daisey: Well it means, it means that, you know, just, like the funding thing.
I mean I think I’m agreeing with you.

Ira Glass: I mean with the pledge drive, we approached you and asked you specifically
about that. There’s an email that, that Lakshmi Singh sent you, about that. She
wrote, "Local membership and community support are the life blood of the hundreds of NPR Member stations nation-wide. With the support of millions of listener donors, member stations provide the rich, local journalism, and cultural programming needed by their communities."

And, and at that point you could have come back to us and said ‘oh no no no I
don't think I should have to contribute, you know, I just like listening to the radio and it's public radio and it should be free and available to the public without any kind of donation requirements, but instead you said, you wrote, "I will consider making a pledge."

Why not just tell us what really happened at that point?

[long pause]

Mike Daisey: I think I was terrified. [breathing]

Ira Glass: Of what?

[long pause]

Mike Daisey: – That--

[long pause]

Mike Daisey [quietly]: Nina Totenberg...
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:43 PM on March 17, 2012 [29 favorites]


I'm finally able to listen to this in its entirety, without interruption. It's the most uncomfortable piece of reporting I've ever encountered, and among the best.

I'm trying to remember the last time I heard a reporter say to a subject "So, that thing you told us before. That was a lie. You lied about that." I can't think of one, though it's probably happened. I hope. The news is full of presidential candidates talking about how awesome they are and what their stances on various issues are, and no nationally reported pieces that I've seen have said anything like "Candidate X says his record on [foo] is [bar] and has always been [bar]. That's a lie; here's the video clip and copies of his voting record!" It's always that so-and-so is "misrespresenting" their positions, rather than flat-out lying about it.

It's refreshing to hear "You lied about that. What's up with that?" I would like more, please.
posted by rtha at 12:48 PM on March 17, 2012 [14 favorites]


It's refreshing to hear "You lied about that. What's up with that?" I would like more, please.

Me, too. Me, too.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:52 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


rtha - The Daily Show does that all the time.
posted by Silky Slim at 12:54 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally, I can't wait for Stephen Colbert to take TAL, Daisey and their supporters to task, next week. The laughs are guaranteed, given the people involved with this reek of truthiness at pretty much every level.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2012


> rtha - The Daily Show does that all the time.

They don't do with near enough regularity right to the subject's face, though. The pieces I'm thinking of are usually about someone, not interviews with them. The usual interviewees on the Daily Show are people with books or movies out, and most often (though not always), the interview is sympathetic, not confrontational, because that's the nature of the show. That's okay, too - there's room for all kinds of reporting and interviewing techniques.

But goddamn, it's refreshing to hear a reporter call a liar a liar directly to their face.
posted by rtha at 1:19 PM on March 17, 2012


Mike Daisey Lies on This American Life; Theaters Won’t Cancel Performances or Issue Refunds
When I contacted theater companies on Friday afternoon, it was evident that they were more taken with the “engaging” nature of Daisey’s show rather than its veracity. DJ from New York’s The Public Theater informed me that the three remaining performances of Daisey’s show scheduled on Saturday and Sunday were still on. There were no plans to cancel.

But what of theatergoers who might have believed that Daisey’s story is real and who booked tickets in advance of these allegations?

“We don’t offer refunds,” said DJ.
Ah, the theatre.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


This American Life: Retraction was some of the most riveting radio I've ever heard; Daisey's dismantling -- thorough and satisfying. In glaring contrast to Daisey, Ira Glass knew this incident was a serious threat to his credibility and that confronting it head-on with complete candor was the only way to limit the damage. I knew I was supposed to feel afterwards that Glass had taken responsibility, and that journalistic ethics had won and that we could once again believe in This American Life, but I'm left with this nagging feeling that his apology didn't go far enough, that he didn't really take full responsibility, and that This American Life is totally out of its depth when it comes to real reporting. It's really hard to focus on the complete failure of their fact checking operation when you are distracted by the dissembling trainwreck that is Mike Daisey, but the fact is that Rob Schmitz picked apart the story instantly, upon first hearing. This man is a true journalist. But that he so quickly unraveled all the remaining threads is mostly a testament to the utter flimsiness of it all, rather than his being an exceptional journalist. It seems to me that the missing story is what change, if any, would come to the production of This American Life to prevent fabrications from being aired as truth, again. And I'm left wondering.

Apart from blaming Daisey, this was the extent of the blame that Glass would accept for him and his staff:

"At that point, we should've killed the story," says Ira Glass, Executive Producer and Host of This American Life. "But other things Daisey told us about Apple's operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn't think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake."

Being credulous isn't a mistake; it's a trait that makes you unsuitable to check facts.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:23 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which speaks to JHarris' point about other producers not having the same margin headroom,

What? I don't remember making that point, at least not in this thread.
posted by JHarris at 3:39 PM on March 17, 2012


Sorry, you're right - it was verb, here.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:52 PM on March 17, 2012


Personally, I can't wait for Stephen Colbert to take TAL, Daisey and their supporters to task, next week.

Is this likely? I mean, the story is getting a lot of traction, and I see why - but is it really a comedy routine, and especially one for a program that generally aims its guns at the misdeeds of the great and powerful? Mike Daisey isn't the CEO of an investment bank, or a senator - he's a minor practitioner in a minority artform who found that the attention he got when he moved outside that minority artform exposed him to a commensurately greater level of scrutiny. This American Life isn't exactly Fox News, either. Combine that with the New York Times story, which seems to corroborate a number of the claims made, but from a more reputable source, and I'm not sure there's much comic potential here beyond simple schadenfreude. Otherwise, this mainly just seems sad.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:05 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


but the fact is that Rob Schmitz picked apart the story instantly, upon first hearing. This man is a true journalist.

Right, but it's not simply that he's "a true journalist" and the TAL staff aren't. He is a journalist who is an expert in the subject matter, and so could instantly spot what was wrong with a number of telling details in Daisey's story. There are countless other good journalists who don't happen to be experts in the Chinese economy, and so the details that gave Daisey away to Schmitz wouldn't have been any more meaningful to them than to the producers at TAL.
posted by scody at 4:25 PM on March 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


It seems to me that the missing story is what change, if any, would come to the production of This American Life to prevent fabrications from being aired as truth, again.

eddydamascene, good analysis, and the soon to be apparent foundation of attacks from the right on TAL. Glass is such a profoundly influential public radio figure that there is no way this is done. I would expect TAL to respond successfully, but it sure seems likely that there is going to be a shitstorm.
posted by mwhybark at 4:46 PM on March 17, 2012


Two more things now jump out at me that I didn’t catch the first time through.
Ira Glass: I understand that you believe that but I think you’re kidding yourself in the way that normal people who go to see a person talk – people take it as a literal truth. I thought that the story was literally true seeing it in the theater. Brian, who’s seen other shows of yours, thought all of them were true. I saw your nuclear show, I thought that was completely true. I thought it was true because you were on stage saying ‘this happened to me.’ I took you at your word.
Mike responds to this by talking about the special theatrical context, which is a complete dodge. Because Ira’s telling him that people don’t hear his words in that context; they hear them in the context in which the words mean the things that they mean.

(By the way, I’m willing to stipulate that there is a theatrical context, and that it’s less factually rigorous than journalism. But it’s not the sort of thing that performers define and audiences are subject to — it works in the opposite direction. The audience are the ones who, by their reaction, decide the context. It’s not their fault for interpreting it the “wrong” way; it‘s Mike’s fault for not establishing the ground rules ahead of time. The user is always right.)

Or, put another way:
Mike Daisey: Yeah. We have different worldviews on some of these things. I agree with you truth is really important.
Ira Glass: I know but I feel like I have the normal worldview. The normal worldview is somebody stands on stage and says ‘this happened to me,’ I think it happened to them, unless it’s clearly labeled as ‘here’s a work of fiction.’
(awkward pause albeit only mildly awkward by this episode’s standards)
Mike Daisey: I really regret putting the show on This American Life and it was wrong for me to misrepresent to you and to Brian that it could be on the show.
This last line is a non-sequitur because Mike can’t rebut Ira’s point. Mike’s whole defense here is that it’s OK to do what he did inside of a theater, but he fucked up when he brought that into a journalistic setting. Ira, on the other hand, is suggesting that Mike pretty much fucked up from the get-go. Mike could only revert to his talking points. It‘s not an admission of guilt, but it might as well be.
posted by savetheclocktower at 4:48 PM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


scody, I'm no more anxious to see the butterfly of TAL crucified and anatomized than you are, but it's not unjustifiable that since TAL has expanded its horizons to pick up the slack of the rest of the media (I'm thinking of the Marketplace financial crisis partnership reporting in particular) that TAL's journalistic practices undergo unsympathetic critique. That's not to say I'll enjoy seeing this happen.The show will be the stronger for it, and since the show is clearly a standard setter, so will others.
posted by mwhybark at 4:54 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ira Glass: Were you afraid we would discover you've been listening to public radio without contributing?

I seem to recall a pledge drive where Ira Glass phoned people whose friends or family had turned them in for not contributing. Listening to that was painful; I can't imagine what listening to this episode will be like.
posted by hoyland at 4:56 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a Voltaire quote about forsaking accuracy for entertainment that totally does not apply here. I fear I may have to explain that.

My issue with TAL is that they always seem to be showcasing established stories or works now, so half the time, I've already heard it somewhere else. Is that all they do now?
posted by provoliminal at 5:16 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


> [T]he fact is that Rob Schmitz picked apart the story instantly, upon first hearing. This man is a true journalist. But that he so quickly unraveled all the remaining threads is mostly a testament to the utter flimsiness of it all, rather than his being an exceptional journalist.

To me, the legwork that Schmitz did after first hearing is the impressive part. I think that’s what shows him to be a good journalist. But he picked apart the story instantly because he lives in China and thus thus knew all the colorful addenda (guards with guns, unionizing at Starbucks) didn’t ring true.

It’s the same reason why Stephen Glass was able to get “Hack Heaven” published in a national magazine — it was a story about a subculture that nobody at TNR was familiar with, otherwise they’d have known how ridiculous it all sounded.

(And that’s what I don’t understand about Glass or Daisey: why take the risk? Why venture boldly into subjects you know nothing about? You might as well just say that women’s breasts feel like bags of sand.)

Anyway, here’s the problem: the fact-checking process at most news outlets isn’t rigorous enough for this sort of thing. Fact-checking, in most cases, is a cover-your-ass exercise. It ensures that names are spelled right and figures are correct, and that you don’t accidentally allege that an innocent person committed a crime.

In my experience, at least, it’s not adversarial. It’s not a false-until-proven-true kind of situation. Stephen Glass and his ilk get away with it because news outlets aren’t prepared to adopt that stance.

For example, Glass was a master at writing stories that naturally wouldn’t have much corroborative evidence. He was good at coming up with plausible reasons why certain things couldn’t be independently fact-checked (e.g., “my source is really pissed off at me and won’t return my calls”). In many cases, all the fact-checkers had to check against were Glass’s own notes.

(This alone doesn’t excuse “Hack Heaven” — Christ, how did that thing ever get published? — but it explains some of Glass’s less egregious offenses.)

”Surely that sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed,” you might say, and I’d give full-throated agreement except for the fact that it’d probably also exclude a lot of stories that are both important and completely truthful. I think it’s a feature, not a bug, that journalism relies in part on the good faith of reporters. If it were otherwise I don’t think I’d be comfortable with calling it “journalism.”
posted by savetheclocktower at 5:33 PM on March 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is this likely? I mean, the story is getting a lot of traction, and I see why - but is it really a comedy routine

Oh, definitely. So many vested interests have been struggling to make this a huge story for the last three months, that it'll be hilarious to see Colbert drive around a big concrete mixer full of humble pie.

And there are plenty of servings to go around, including to TAL and Daisey's audience, not just for TAL's staff and Daisey themselves. The real fun started when everyone involved is struggling to either wipe their hands clean of the mess, downplay or rationalize it, or shrug and say it's just theatre. TAL, Daisey, and the audience's hubris should be red meat to any professional comedian — but especially to Colbert, whose alter ego loves tongue-in-cheek dismantling of large-scale exercises in JournalismLite™ truthiness like this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:44 PM on March 17, 2012


You might as well just say that women’s breasts feel like bags of sand.

...what?
posted by jokeefe at 6:04 PM on March 17, 2012


Bag of sand.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:14 PM on March 17, 2012


That 'This week I am in no mood for an extra quote from Cory' at the end of this week's TAL was like the silent clock at the ending of an episode of 24 wherein something truly ghastly happened.

I just heard the show on the radio, and heard that moment. Sounded very much like Ira Glass just trying double super hard to make sure the listener remembers just how put-upon Ira Glass was during this incident.


Well, the point of the quote from "Torey Mallatea" (I *think* that's how it's spelled? It is radio) is to take some funny quote from the episode. Frankly, nothing in this was funny. I kept waiting for that part of the show to come on (noting that Ira seemed to be choking at having to talk about reputation.com) and thinking, "Dear god, I hope he doesn't go there this time." I am glad he did not.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:15 PM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've only listened to the first half of the TAL retraction, but sweet jesus, Daisey's overly dramatic "every word that floats from my mouth is a lotus petal upon the water" speaking style is damned annoying—I mean, you're admitting to lying to everyone (Ira and his team, millions of radio/podcast listeners, the people who bought tickets and came to your show), can you can the drama-club speaking style for 10 seconds?
posted by blueberry at 6:45 PM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


but the fact is that Rob Schmitz picked apart the story instantly, upon first hearing. This man is a true journalist.

Right, but it's not simply that he's "a true journalist" and the TAL staff aren't. He is a journalist who is an expert in the subject matter, and so could instantly spot what was wrong with a number of telling details in Daisey's story.


Sorry, I jumbled up my arguments. Schmitz was in a much better position to judge the veracity of this story -- no dispute. I called Schmitz the "true journalist" because out of all the players in this drama, he alone lays claim to the whole truth. Schmitz and Daisey nicely illustrate the extremes of journalism and storytelling, and the interesting part for me is to try to pin down where exactly on that spectrum TAL exists. From many years of listening, my impression is that they seek out compelling stories that happen to be true, which is not exactly the same as seeking out the truth. When your focus is on the story, you run the risk of getting swept up in the fabrications of people like Daisey.

soon to be apparent foundation of attacks from the right on TAL

If some asshat in Congress turns this into another argument against public support for public radio, my head will literally asplode.
posted by eddydamascene at 7:12 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


savetheclocktower makes a good point about the realities of fact checking in journalism... maybe I'm arguing to an imaginary standard.
posted by eddydamascene at 7:15 PM on March 17, 2012


From many years of listening, my impression is that they seek out compelling stories that happen to be true, which is not exactly the same as seeking out the truth. When your focus is on the story, you run the risk of getting swept up in the fabrications of people like Daisey.

I agree with that, very much. And yeah, I agree with the larger point that going forward, TAL is now going to have to reevaluate the more journalistic approach that they've been taking for some stories and whole shows lately.
posted by scody at 7:24 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, the point of the quote from "Torey Mallatea" (I *think* that's how it's spelled? It is radio) is to take some funny quote from the episode. Frankly, nothing in this was funny. I kept waiting for that part of the show to come on (noting that Ira seemed to be choking at having to talk about reputation.com) and thinking, "Dear god, I hope he doesn't go there this time." I am glad he did not.

My problem is that he could have just not done that bit and turned off the microphone after the credits. As we know, Glass obsesses over the editing and content of the show. So including that, and the "stressful" sounding advertisements, means that Glass purposefully wanted to make sure the listener understood just what kind of mood he was in.
posted by gjc at 8:25 PM on March 17, 2012


What I find funny about this is how much I've trusted the voices on TAL over the years, or for that matter any voice I hear on NPR. Now that I can take a few steps back, I can see that I trust NPR because...well, who's going to lie in order to get to be on This American Life? It's not like you get to sip champagne with Ira and land a multimillion dollar book deal.

Daisey lied because he wanted to be one of those people on NPR or TAL that we all love so much. He wanted to be like Ira Glass, Scott Carrier, David Sedaris or Sarah Vowell, or Terry Gross.

I can imagine people lie cheat and steal to be like, say Ryan Seacrest, Puff Daddy, or Charlie Sheen, but it would never occur to me that someone could do something totally immoral and slimy to be a big celebrity in the world of people who listen to NPR.

The truth is that there are many sad people in the world and many liars. There are many people who want to be something they aren't and do not think of the consequences. I've never thought that there isn't any power and prestige to being Ira Glass, but I've felt very fulfilled by being someone who listens to Ira Glass. Seacrest, Sheen and Puff Daddy sell this hollow consumerist image, whereas Glass produces honest, thoughtful pieces that really try to be true to human experience. By its virtue of allying itself so closely to truth, TAL seemed to have naturally rejected sad liars trying to use the show to get famous.

But now it seems that TAL was never so closely aligned with the telling the truth, I mean...Starbucks? He says the people trying to form a union were doing it at Starbucks? How the hell did I miss this when I first heard it? How the hell did the TAL Staff miss it? They're professionals, right?

Naively, I thought that by being in possession of journalistic integrity, they would naturally reject that avarice found in much other media figures. But, yeah, the reality is that TAL never really checked its stuff and Daisey is a pathetic liar.

I guess what's unique is to see the personality of someone who is corrupt and greedy within NPR/TAL being so completely exposed. The image moral integrity found throughout NPR/TAL (most cloyingly in A Prairie Home Companion) has been unmasked.

Given that I hear so much crappy reporting on NPR delivered from this voice I've been conditioned to believe represents perfect moral integrity, I think it would be a good thing for the unmasking of the NPR/TAL voice to occur more regularly!
posted by shushufindi at 9:01 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Washington Post: Performer Mike Daisey scrubs his monologue about Apple and sticks to the facts after criticism
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:28 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The image moral integrity found throughout NPR/TAL (most cloyingly in A Prairie Home Companion) has been unmasked.

Indeed. I'm beginning to question the veracity of some of Garrison Keillor's reporting on Lake Woebegone.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:08 PM on March 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


So including that, and the "stressful" sounding advertisements, means that Glass purposefully wanted to make sure the listener understood just what kind of mood he was in.

Or maybe he didn't think about it.
posted by JHarris at 12:02 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Tory thing that Ira does at the end of each episode is a traditional routine, they do it literally every show, so it seems reasonable that he would at least acknowledge it this episode.
posted by mooza at 12:37 AM on March 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


"I want you to understand that what's being called into question is the personal experiences. The facts of what the situation is in China in manufacturing are undisputed. And they're reinforced by the NY Times, CNN, NPR..."

A recording of the prologue [MP3] from the March 17 matinee.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:07 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It should not be forgotten that the conditions at Foxconn were well established to be very bad months before that TAL episode aired. In no way does this absolve Apple, or the rest of the computer industry for that matter. (Although, at least Apple has publicly committed toward improving things for workers.)
posted by JHarris at 2:22 AM on March 18, 2012


I haven't read this entire thread, though I had as of a couple days ago. I wanted to add a voice pointing out that while it's obviously unfortunate for TAL to have presented this as journalism, and obviously dumb for Mike Daisey to have gone along with that, I'm not so sure that Daisey's initial theater/monologue piece should be considered unethical apart from its later retelling on the radio. Do you really think Spalding Gray was telling the truth about himself in all of his monologues? There's a history in that context of aiming for some other sort of truth (or entertainment) through a bending of the facts that I don't think should be dismissed out of hand.

I'm prone to thinking of Daisey's failing here as an eminently human one, and to taking pity on him a bit. He's done pieces for TAL and other radio shows before, re-recordings or re-presentations of stories he's told in other venues, and those had no need to live up to real journalistic standards. It was idiotic not to realize the distinction with a piece like this, but it seems rather unlikely to have been a matter of "ly[ing] because he wanted to be one of those people on NPR or TAL that we all love so much."

That said, I have little to no sympathy for someone like John D’Agata, at least how he comes off in the NYTimes review of Lifespan of a Fact, so I guess my criteria for judgement here is strongly based on the context of the original piece, whether it was originally intended for a journalistic venue, etc.
posted by nobody at 5:11 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those blessed structures, plot and rhyme--
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter's vision is not a lens, it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All's misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun's illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.
---Robert Lowell, “Epilogue
posted by Toekneesan at 6:07 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


As for Spalding Gray, I don't believe him for one minute that the only story that wasn't true in Swimming to Cambodia was the banana that stuck to the wall. That does nothing to diminish my love of his work. I watched And Everything is Going Fine last night and it made me worry for Mr. Daisey.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:05 AM on March 18, 2012


Do you really think Spalding Gray was telling the truth about himself in all of his monologues?

If we're going to insist that Spalding Gray was inaccurate in his retellings, how about offering up some proof?

Daisey was unethical. Glass is right -- if a guy gets up onstage and says "This is what I saw," there is no inherent reason for us to believe he has fictionalized the story. The fact of something being presented in a theater space does not instantly signal that details of a narrative have been fictionalized. It is the responsibility of the artist to provide that context, but everything about Daisey's show instead signaled "all this actually happened, and I was witness to it."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:39 AM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I only listened to maybe 15 minutes of the TAL retraction episode, but the part that really saddened me the most was when Daisy responded to the charge that he was lying about meeting victims of n-hexane poisoning. The reasoning he gave was that
"I wanted to have the voice of this thing that had been happening that everyone been talking about."
This is textbook appropriation of other's tragedies. The responsible and ethical thing to do would have been to travel to Suzhou and interview those workers, if he wanted to 'have the voice of this thing that had been happening.' Or he could talk about how that was an omnipresent topic on people's minds. Or any one of the dozen impactful things that really happened to him.
posted by muddgirl at 8:49 AM on March 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't think Ira would have been allowed to leave out the sponsor blurb (or change who was up for sponsorhood that week, that is how they're getting money) at the end of the show. Sure, he wanted you to know he felt weird about it, but also, how well could you deliver that with a straight face this week? I sure as hell couldn't.

If you are claiming that you traveled to a place and did research about it and took the time and money to do interviews and find out actual facts...hello, you are presenting yourself as some kind of truth-telling person. Perhaps even a journalist. Daisey clearly wanted the audience--both of TAL and of his show--to think these were actual facts. And he tried to make sure that nobody found out otherwise. And then tried to weasel out of it by claiming, "I'm a theater person! Nobody expects us to tell the whole truth!"

I think we all know there's something somewhat different about a Spalding Gray or David Sedaris or other folks on TAL who are clearly telling a story about their personal lives, compared to that. I probably can't verify exactly that some of Gray's or Sedaris's stories happened exactly as they said, but given the tone of them and that they're personal anecdotes told from memory, I sort of expect that not everything is exact and the occasional thing is fudged here and there. But those folks are not making serious allegations about a company/people claiming they're true. And that's where the distinction lies. I think TAL is usually pretty clear about which stories of theirs are journalism/fact stuff (the cop who tape recorded other cops, the drug court) and which aren't (one-minute long stories, silly stuff about turkeys at Thanksgiving).

At this point I'm just wondering how long it will take for Daisey to get sued.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:36 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


On CBS Sunday Morning today: Reaction to Mike Daisey's Foxconn claims.
posted by ericb at 10:43 AM on March 18, 2012


Bag of sand.
posted by hot soup girl
Thanks. I do try to keep up, but sometimes...

posted by jokeefe at 10:48 AM on March 18, 2012


Spalding Gray: I'm not making up any of these stories I'm telling you tonight. Um... except for one. Except for the fact that the banana sticks to wall when it hits. That's the only one. Everything else is true.


What is he telling us here? I think he's saying I am an unreliable narrator. Spalding would later call what he did narcissistic journalism. Everything mentioned serves the self and the story. Accuracy has nothing to do with it because it's literature looking for a greater truth. In that way it's also similar to gonzo journalism. Daisey is very much of that tradition. He apologized several times for what he thought he did wrong. "I'm sorry I came on This American Life." He never should have done that without a disclaimer. But there is nothing wrong with this as a monologue. It is an excellent monologue. It's also worth noting that we're all hearing the story as edited by TAL. Perhaps that's not the most reliable source for deciding who is to blame.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:15 AM on March 18, 2012


But there is nothing wrong with this as a monologue.

Really? There's nothing problematic about the conclusion of the monologue, which is essentially "I was there, it was easy to see all this stuff; Apple knows all this stuff and does nothing to change it; people who buy electronics know this and don't care"? Because clearly that is the punchline of the monologue. Clearly Daisy still believes this based on the facts of his trip, and clearly he thinks the monologue is important because it conveys that conclusion to the audience.

Daisey wants to claim on one hand that his monologue transcends pedestrian ideals of truth vs. lies, but on the other hand claim that his monologue is important because it conveys his factual conclusions about the state of Chinese manufacturing and our own complicitness in those offenses. But to a lot of people, you can't have the second without the first. In the end, what is the difference between Daisey's monologue and, say, Santorum's claims about forced euthanasia in the Netherlands? After all, they are both 'speaking what is in their heart.'
posted by muddgirl at 11:27 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Context. Daisey said it on Broadway. Santorum wasn't in a theater doing a one man show.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:30 AM on March 18, 2012


A public forum hosted by Focus on the Family for conservative candidates is kind of a performance, as much as a one-man-show. The idea that Santorum was 'speaking what's in his heart' comes from (I believe) his campaign manager, who was interviewed by a Dutch journalist.

From the transcript of the retraction episode of TAL, it is clear to me that Mike Daisey believes in the conclusion of his monologue, and that the whole point of the show was to portray this idea that these injustices are going on and people don't care. The fact that it was on Broadway is a red herring. He was presenting a philosophy of life the same way Santorum was.
posted by muddgirl at 11:35 AM on March 18, 2012


A lot of apologizing for Daisey in this thread. I wonder what would be the reaction if one made a similar monologue about "WHAT REALLY HAPPENS BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD!" and sold it to the media as fact, while flinging shit at the media for not asking 'the tough questions'. My hypothesis is that people would be less interested in seeing the shades of grey and debating context, the definition of journalism and the like.

Fuck this moral panic, western guilt trip bullshit.
posted by falameufilho at 11:56 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


When you walk into a theater and sit down, and the lights dim, and the curtains open, you are participating in one of our most ancient rituals. As the play begins, your mind must go to a place that it rarely visits. A dreamlike state that is both real yet fake. If a person is struck on stage, we feel it. Emotions run high, and every now and then we have to exit the dream, and reassure ourselves that whatever instinct we just felt needs to be suppressed. After all, it's only theater.

I want Daisey, and Gray, and Birbiglia, and Sedaris, to all have a voice and a place to do what they do. Daisey wrote this for the stage, for live performance. When we think about it, we need to think about it in that context. He's being trashed by this. And yes, he was too ambitious. But the piece, as a stage performance, is still stunning. There is nothing wrong with questioning Apple, they can take it, and unlike Daisey, they have now benefited from this. And there is nothing wrong with him making us feel empathy for the people who make our devices. Yeah, he made shit up. But he changed people's hearts when they first heard his story. As did the stories in the Times. The Greeks would have approved.

If you heard this on TAL, you heard it in the wrong context. But as a live performance, it is something very different.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:07 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you heard this on TAL, you heard it in the wrong context.

It's not like it accidentally ended up on TAL. Ira Glass didn't show up at a performance and surreptitiously tape it. Daisey was complicit in every step of the process, no?
posted by muddgirl at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes, and for that he has apologized.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:14 PM on March 18, 2012


Yeah, he made shit up. But

...that's the problem, right there.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:15 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, he made shit up.

At one point on the retraction episode, he says that the facts should not be subordinate to the storytelling. He seems simultaneously to mean that and to not understand at all what it means.

Also, he freely went on very traditional news shows and said "I saw [blahblahblah]" when he had not seen it.
posted by rtha at 12:16 PM on March 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


In Swimming To Cambodia, the autobiography is one thing and the political message is another, and they're kept quite separate - either a straight history lesson (with a map, even), or relating stories told to him by other people (whether Roland Joffe telling him about the story of Cambodia or the drunken sailor on the train, telling him about pressing The Button). Gray also plays with the fact that The Killing Fields is a fictionalised representation of history throughout.

Speaking of Gray, was there much of a market for this sort of thing before him? I'd thought his style had grown out of what The Wooster Group were doing rather than other people doing the same thing,* but 70s New York Experimental Theatre isn't my strong subject.

*Though, Joe Frank and Jean Shepherd, yes, obviously.
posted by Grangousier at 12:17 PM on March 18, 2012


I think that there's just a fundamental philosophical disagreement about whether it's OK to prevaricate in the interest of 'changing people's hearts and minds.' We see this in everything from A Million Little Pieces to The Agony and the Extasy to Kony 2012 to Kacyee Nicole. I probably wouldn't care so much if there wasn't a running thread of 'people making money by making knowingly false statements and presenting them as facts.'
posted by muddgirl at 12:29 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Toekneesan: "Daisey said it on Broadway. Santorum wasn't in a theater doing a one man show."

No, Daisey said it on CNN. Nobody cared that he said it on Broadway. Very few people actually saw him say it on Broadway. But when he said it on live TV news - in several venues - people noticed. Or are you claiming that CNN is basically a theater where there is no expectation of truth? With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I might follow that argument.
posted by koeselitz at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ira Glass and CNN cared that he said it on Broadway. That was how they heard about it. Ira mentions how moving the theatrical experience was, that was how he first discovered it. The problem came when it left the theater.

Yes. I admit it. I feel a great deal of pity for Mr. Daisey. He created a brilliant theater piece and its success has wrecked his life. He got too ambitious.

But as it was written, and in the theater, it is another thing entirely.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:54 PM on March 18, 2012


and its success has wrecked his life.

Isn't this sentence problematically passive? Daisey is directly responsible for that success. He can apologize to TAL listeners for lying during the fact-checking process, but that doesn't magically absolve him of the consequences.
posted by muddgirl at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem came when it left the theater.

Why the passive voice? Daisey took it out of the theater. No one held a gun to his head. He acknowledges that theater and journalism are different and have different standards wrt to facts and truth. He did this. He was an active participant. Going on CNN etc. did not "happen" to him.
posted by rtha at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


You've noticed how may times I said he got too ambitious, right?
posted by Toekneesan at 1:12 PM on March 18, 2012


It still doesn't matter that it "left the theater" -- as Glass said, when someone stands before you and says, I saw these things, the way a normal worldview interprets that is that he saw those things, when in fact, Daisey did not.

If it were presented as, say, a dramatic monologue inspired by his research and his travels to China, even, that would be (still in my mind just barely) OK. But for Daisey to say that he went there and he saw these things -- the N-hexane-affected workers, or the man with the crippled hand saying the iPad was a kind of magic -- when he did not, and to represent it as having been there and seen it, that's not OK in the theater or outside it. That's sheer fabrication. The disclaimer is necessary.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:12 PM on March 18, 2012


Toekneesan: "Yes. I admit it. I feel a great deal of pity for Mr. Daisey. He created a brilliant theater piece and its success has wrecked his life. He got too ambitious."

Really? It doesn't seem preachy and absurd to you? Not to mention obviously exploitative?

"The problem came when it left the theater."

That's completely beside the subject. Every lie becomes a problem when it leaves the realm of not-lying. There is no difference here, and it makes this no less of a lie.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on March 18, 2012


In the end, what is the difference between Daisey's monologue and, say, Santorum's claims about forced euthanasia in the Netherlands? After all, they are both 'speaking what is in their heart.'

I'll do the math on this if you like.

DAISEY: Has a one man show on Broadway. Was the focus of an episode of This American Life. Has appeared on CNN. Exaggerated claims that he experienced personally aspects of a known, terrible problem.

SANTORUM: Running for president of the United States. A prominent demagogue supported by millions of people. Outright hateful in his opinions. Backed by many millions of dollars in SuperPAC funds, a legion of voters, and if he wins the nomination will probably be pushed towards the presidency by a major cable news channel.

Note however that Santorum doesn't actually utter many obvious falsehoods. When he does, there are a few (not nearly enough, but a few) who make it a point to call him out on it. So he, like the other Republican candidates, hides what he really means in dog whistles, generalizations, cunning language and statements of strongly-held opinion. The outright liars are less of a problem than the people who cloak evil opinion with the semblance of truth and justice.

Daisey realized he did wrong and apologized. Santorum continues to spread his hateful opinions, cloaked in self-righteousness, and probably will until the day he dies, and there is a non-zero chance that he could one day take these opinions to high office and imprint them upon the country. And Daisey did it to try to highlight the plight of workers in China who produce the amazingly successful gadgets popular around the world, while Santorum emits his absurdities to restrict rights and denigrate whole classes of people.

It is true that ends do not justify means. But at least Daisey had a positive end in mind; with Santorum, both are suspect.
posted by JHarris at 1:37 PM on March 18, 2012


Daisey realized he did wrong and apologized.

I'm not sure we listened to the same Daisey.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:42 PM on March 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


JHarris - I originally had a modifier speaking to effect size (although in the long run it would be difficult to argue that a Focus on the Family forum has a smaller effect size than the retraction of a national TAL broadcast). My point was that Santorum's goals in speaking falsly about the Netherland's voluntary euthanasia laws are the same goals as Daisey's performance about Foxconn - 'to change hearts and minds' - and the language they used to excuse their mistruths was very similar.
posted by muddgirl at 1:51 PM on March 18, 2012


You know who else told big lies to change hearts and minds? I reckon we can get to a straight Mike Daisey to Hitler equivalence in about two moves, if we want to. But I'm not sure what it will tell us about NPR, or Mike Daisey, or FoxConn.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:58 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I'm not sure what it will tell us about NPR, or Mike Daisey, or FoxConn.

That we should hold those we agree with to the same standards as those we disagree with.
posted by muddgirl at 2:07 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


An interesting 2006 e-mail exchange between Daisey and Phil Campbell regarding Daisey's monologue on truth in art and memoir.
posted by Phlogiston at 2:19 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really? There's nothing problematic about the conclusion of the monologue, which is essentially "I was there, it was easy to see all this stuff; Apple knows all this stuff and does nothing to change it; people who buy electronics know this and don't care"? Because clearly that is the punchline of the monologue. Clearly Daisy still believes this based on the facts of his trip, and clearly he thinks the monologue is important because it conveys that conclusion to the audience.

Yes, really. The only part that is problematic at all is claiming he was there for all of it. It is all easy to see, Apple does know it all, people in the West don't care. Those three things aren't disputed by anybody.

The exact opposite of Santorum. There isn't forced euthanasia in the Netherlands, so that is complete BS.

I'm really quite astonished that I have to explain this..
posted by Chuckles at 2:26 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the Santorum comparison is totally specious. It is a verifiable fact that factory workers in China have been poisoned by n-hexane. Daisey didn't make that up; he made up a story of personally meeting some of those workers. This is in no way comparable to Santorum's lie about forced euthanasia in the Netherlands, a practice that doesn't actually exist.
posted by scody at 2:42 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Yes, really. The only part that is problematic at all is claiming he was there for all of it.

You breeze pass the “only part that is problematic” when that’s the entire point. Claiming he was there for all of it is a big deal. He could’ve just referenced the hexane stuff, but instead he injected the content into the shell of an anecdote. It’s a cheap tactic to get people more engrossed.

I’ll assume, for now, that Daisey is sincere about trying to get conditions changed at Foxconn, and is not simply co-opting the story for self-glorification.

If that’s true, that means that he wants to spur people to action. And the fact is that they are more likely to do so when they’ve been emotionally affected. And, yes, that is more likely to happen when someone tells tales in the first person.

Advocacy is all about pulling on heartstrings, of course, but there are plenty of ways to do so without wholesale invention. That crosses a line; let’s not pretend otherwise.

Also, people don’t like being lied to. Does that not matter? We can argue about the ethics of the theater, but I’m just talking about his cause. You don’t lie to people when you’re trying to organize a movement. They’ll find out, and then they’ll be pissed off, and they won’t want to support your cause anymore.

And, yes, in this case they should be able to separate the cause from the douchebag, and I hope they will. But Daisey’s the one who put them in that position. If I were a long-time advocate for better labor conditions in China, I’d feel like Daisey is a basketball fan who ran onto the court in the waning seconds, took the ball from me, and airballed the last shot, just because he wanted to “help.”

It is all easy to see, Apple does know it all, people in the West don’t care. Those three things aren’t disputed by anybody.

Which means that he could’ve crafted a meaningful monologue without making anything up. This story has been compelling since long before Daisey got his sweaty paws on it. If you can’t build something beautiful with only those Lego bricks, then you’re not very good at Lego.
posted by savetheclocktower at 4:14 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just listened to the retraction episode and it made me deeply uncomfortable. At first I thought it was because we were listening to a man who was clearly caught in a bunch of lies, being forced to squirm and admit it. That Cathy's testimony was damning enough, there was no need to force the man to destroy his own career - it was already destroyed. This just seemed like triumphalism, to an extent. Or even revenge. Make the poor sucker wallow for making us look bad for trusting him.

But then I realized what really bothered me was that this guy was a performer. A barely second-tier performer (and even that largely due to TAL). Who cares if they wipe the floor with him, however deservedly? When the actual facts about FOXCONN and Apple are still damning, and all he lied about were sweatable details, calling him out on the carpet to personally indict himself forever was like everyone beating a straw man. It doesn't matter if there's no more Mike Daisey, performer, and it never did. I was upset because as others have mentioned here, no one, not TAL and not CNN and not ABC and sure as hell not FOX, are doing this with any of the people who matter, and whose casual, every day lies are actively impacting on people's lives. I wish that this would inspire journalists to go back to making politicians sweat, to call them out and force them to admit when they lie. But I doubt it.

The end wrap-up about the facts about Apple and Chinese practices were worth the listen, though.
posted by Mchelly at 4:47 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


He probably can't field-strip his MacBook Pro either.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:03 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Listen to what Daisey says, interspersed with the looooong silences. When Glass really pushes him, asks whether one of his concerns was having two different versions of the story out there — Daisey says that's it, because the theater version is the best work he's ever done. His days-later follow-up only reinforces the narcissism.

As Mchelly says, Act 3 was worth sticking around for.
posted by dogrose at 5:19 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel a great deal of pity for Mr. Daisey.

You're entitled to it. But don't defend him, please.
posted by falameufilho at 6:16 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please don't defend him? What a strange attitude..

Anyway.. There are lots of things problematic about Daisey and what he did, but there is nothing problematic about the conclusion. The conclusions, and the supporting facts, as they relate to Apple, off-shore manufacture, and the lazy-fare attitude of the western marketplace are all correct.
posted by Chuckles at 6:27 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just reread my own comment and I don't like how harsh it came out. When I said "It doesn't matter if there's no more Mike Daisey, performer, and it never did," -- obviously it matters a great deal to Mr. Daisey and his family, and I think it's an awful shame that he allowed it to happen to himself when he could have just said "I'm a storyteller and sometimes I change things in the service of the story." I just meant that his example (and the huge example made of him) is such miniscule potatoes compared to the real, lying evil that serves for much of U.S. politics right now, and is never called on the carpet unless a sex scandal is somehow involved. And that to me is criminal.
posted by Mchelly at 7:01 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Journalistically, clear cut bullshit. But nobody is defending that. After hearing him toady, I've reached the conclusion that theatrically, just as much bullshit. If the publisher of a non-fiction, personal, and harrowing account, for example, The Diary of Anne Frank, came out later on and said that it had been fabricated from pieces of true stories, it would be just as much artistic bullshit.

If Daisey had presented this as an embellished story, or partly true, OK, whatever, it could be a great artistic work. But the presentation of the true story of what he saw and did is absolutely, utterly inexcusable in the artistic sense, and invalidates what may have otherwise have been a valid emotional experience.
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:03 PM on March 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's worth noting, too, that Daisey's fabrications really do affect the journalistic content, not just the personal aspect. A big part of Daisey's point was "Hexane poisoning is so common, you can walk up to any random factory and find guys it's happened to." Now it's gone from "a terrible thing that happens constantly" to "a terrible thing that happened to someone". Did it happen to lots of people, or just to a couple people at one factory that did particularly badly?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:15 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Evan Osnos at the New Yorker comments on the TAL retraction. He points to an excellent NYT article by Charles Duhigg and David Barboza on working conditions in Apple's factories, published January 25: In China, Human Costs are Built Into an iPad.

The NYT also published the article in Chinese, and collected and translated comments from Chinese readers.
posted by russilwvong at 12:13 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's one little detail that keeps nagging at me. As I read it, I never hear Daisey say in the original story that he met anyone who'd been exposed to n-hexane. To me -- and I remember thinking this when I heard it originally -- it sounds like it's one of the topics of discussion at the secret union meeting, but not something directly impacting anyone at the meeting. I've copied the relevant bit below:

There's a group that's talking about hexane. It's an iPhone screen-cleaner [more details about how it's used in the factories] The problem is that n-hexane is a potent neurotoxin and all of these people have been exposed. Their hands shake uncontrollably. Most of them can't even pick up a glass.

I don't see any indication, implied or otherwise, that "these people" (the people who worked with n-hexane and are now having problems) are the same people that he meets at the meeting. It would be like me saying, "I was talking to my coworkers today and they were talking about polio. All of these people are getting polio, even though there's been a vaccination for it since the 1950s." My coworkers don't have Polio. "These people" (the unnamed people who were the subject of our discussion) do.

Clearly I'm in the minority here, as the hexane thing took up such a large portion of the discussion between Glass and Daisey, and it never occurred to either of them to suggest a closer look at the wording. But part of why it bugs me is that Daisey's explanation -- he didn't personally meet them but they had gotten a lot of attention in China -- is precisely what I thought he was saying originally.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:08 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really sick of the "it's art not reporting" argument. Or rather I'm really sick of people making the argument at the wrong time and then pretending that isn't important. This came up recently in the fact checker story thread. The author of the Slate story that led that post invoked a quote from author Tim O'Brien: story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth, a sentiment which generated quite a bit of ire in some people.

The thing about that quote though is that it comes from O'Brien's incredibly good and important book The Things They Carried and if you open that up (I've got my copy in front of me) to the title page the first thing it says under the title is "A Work of Fiction by Tim O'Brien". The very next page is the copyright page and just above the copyright statement is a statement that reads "This is a work of fiction. Except for a few details regarding the author's own life, all the incidents, names and characters are imaginary."

And on the very next page after that O'Brien dedicates the book to fictional men he didn't serve with in a fictional army company, and so goes the book. And you can think what you like about O'Brien's thesis, which forms a central theme of the book, that factually untrue stories can present a greater truth in some circumstances than factual account. But you can't deny that his presentation of this thesis is made in complete integrity.

Daisey didn't just make up facts about his experiences in China. He presented them as facts. He did nothing to suggest that his statements are basically factual.

The context of his monologues in theater might arguably provide the barest of excuses for his believing it is unnecessary for him to explicitly note that his monologue contains very substantial elements of fiction derived from his personal experiences. But it is clear that in the preparation for the original TAL episode, Daisey outright lied about the veracity of his account. In the face of fact-checking that could reveal his lies, he told more lies to prevent his lies being revealed, and lied about why he did it.

And now Daisey is on and on about how he stands behind his work. Well you know, that's too bad because he didn't stand behind his work when it mattered. If he'd really believed that the work stood up on its own merits then he wouldn't have felt the need to lie about it. He would have been up front from the moment the true veracity of factual events was explicitly put before him. He didn't show any regrets when the showcase TAL gave him gave him huge publicity on the public stage where he continued to represent his monologue without caveat as a representation of factual events.

Daisey has now jumped with amazing rapidity to abandoning any pretense of genuine regret or thoughtful consideration of the actual ethical issues of how he has labeled and presented his work and focusing instead on his moral indignation over this controversy overshadowing the actual plight of workers in China. I actually agree that this is a shame, that the global conditions of workers that provide luxury goods to the first world is far more important than the honesty of one monologist. But I'm not going to ignore the fact that the one person solely responsible for this message-diluting controversy about ethics and honesty is Daisey himself. He had the opportunity when he created his show to frame it honestly. He had the opportunity when TAL showed interest in the show to clarify the issue and come clean about how the show was constructed and why he felt that was okay in the context of the theater. He had the opportunity again after his lies to TAL staff were revealed to come clean but he chose instead to qualify every admission he made within an inch of its life and wrap it all in self-justifying, obfuscating abstractions. He is solely responsible for any degree to which this story dilutes the facts about worker conditions in China as well as for the damage it had done to his credibility.
posted by nanojath at 10:41 AM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Paragraph 4 should read He did nothing to suggest that his statements are weren't basically factual duh)
posted by nanojath at 10:44 AM on March 19, 2012


Thanks russilwvong, I thought this comment was a beautifully concise summing up:
This article demonstrates multiple perspectives. The social responsibility of Apple, the moral standing of Apple’s fans, the monitoring function of the government, the labor rights awareness of the workers, and the supervision power of the media… All these aspects were discussed but none of them is doing what they should have done. One detail in the story caught my attention. The problem of n-hexane and industrial dust is not yet to be solved after such a long time, and we need to think about why. — Wozhizhiyi
A lot of the comments concentrate on it being a Chinese labour relations and government regulation issue. Great that local people want to own the problem from their side, that doesn't mean we should see it that way in the west. Also, a lot of comments say that other factories are actually much worse than Foxconn. Not with a huge amount to support the position, and mostly implying/assuming that Foxconn only does Apple. I wonder.. Certainly really small factories are going to be ripe for much worse conditions.
posted by Chuckles at 11:19 AM on March 19, 2012


A great perspective that really resonated with me (with bonus reference to The Wire): The Jimmy McNulty Gambit.
Mike Daisey wasn’t the first person to make up a false personal story as a way of raising the kind of “awareness” that will necessitate change, [...]

The pattern, the trend, and the continuity are far more interesting than the individual stories. [...] While their subjective accounts tend to be the least true part of it [...] behind those subjective untruths, we also find a broad field of objective accuracy: Foxconn is a terrible place to work, Joseph Kony really is a nightmare, building schools in Afghanistan is a good thing to do, and Syrian repression is no joke. Marlo really was a serial killer.
That's what's been so fascinating to me about this episode. I believe Daisey when he says his motivation is to spur improvement in working conditions in China, and I agree it's important not to turn a blind eye. I can't agree with his tactics, which are classically megalomaniacal, but I can't dispute that they worked. At least, until he got busted. The comparison with McNulty is funny, but to me it seems quite apt.
posted by jacobian at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see I also screwed up the last link to Mike Daisey's most recent comments about the situation in my first comment.
posted by nanojath at 11:58 AM on March 19, 2012


Daisey has now jumped with amazing rapidity to abandoning any pretense of genuine regret or thoughtful consideration of the actual ethical issues of how he has labeled and presented his work and focusing instead on his moral indignation over this controversy overshadowing the actual plight of workers in China.

He's not wrong; I've seen and been irritated by folks (like Gruber) who seem far more interested in the fact that Daisey lied than they are in the fact that his lies barely change the documented problems in Chinese manufacturing.

What a way to show you haven't really learned, though. He's not wrong in the facts, but he's wrong in thinking that he has any place or right to complain. This is a kerfuffle of your own making, Daisey. You may have muddied those waters with what you believed were the best of intentions, but you're the one who did it. Being upset that people noticed the mud - which you were cool with when they perceived it differently - is not your right.
posted by phearlez at 12:00 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mike Daisey Was Nowhere Near Being Substantially True About Apple in China
posted by homunculus at 12:45 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's not wrong; I've seen and been irritated by folks (like Gruber) who seem far more interested in the fact that Daisey lied than they are in the fact that his lies barely change the documented problems in Chinese manufacturing.

The problem for me is that it does change the magnitude of the documented problems. Daisey's story dramatically overemphasizes them.

4,500 people die on the job in the United States every year. Americans are poisoned and overworked and dehumanized every single day. I'm sure there are underaged kids in American factories *somewhere*.

Imagine I wrote a story about my 2 years in American manufacturing and mixed my real experiences with stories and news reports I've acquired over the years. Most people I know in industrial engineering have seen people *seriously* injured on the job, so it'd be pretty easy to pull together a hell of a narrative. That story would paint a VERY negative picture of American industry.
posted by pjaust at 12:49 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I thought that "just sayin's" clown suit analogy referred to Apple itself, not consumers of Apple products. From that perspective it seems obvious that yes, Apple's objective all along was to be something different and special and yes, transcendent. Their stuff is amazing but their shit does stink. It's not an mp3 player, it's an iPod. It's not a PC, it is something completely different. Duh, Apple markets themselves this way and makes themselves an easy Target for attacks like these. And having a ridiculous ton of cash makes them stand out a bit. Apple is not to "everyone else" as Costco is to Sam's Club. But anything to raise awareness. It should be obvious that everyone else is guilty too but they don't put out the same kumbaya vibe that Apple does. They don't make for fair trade organically grown hardware :)
posted by aydeejones at 12:53 PM on March 19, 2012


I capped "target" by accident but was thinking of bringing in a Walmart vs Target analogy and my mobile typing laziness got the better of me.
posted by aydeejones at 12:55 PM on March 19, 2012


You know, I've been really ready to give Daisey a lot of the benefit of the doubts. But his continued attempts at self-defense and latest comments, trying to distance himself from Stephen Glass and James Frey, only make him seem even more like them.

I can't comprehend the level of narcissism it takes to completely not understand that, though there is a lot of relativity in the world, there is actually such a thing as 'facts that are true' and that somehow, when you lead people to believe what you are saying is true when they are not, that it somehow doesn't matter. I just really don't get it at all.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:53 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


the same kumbaya vibe that Apple does

serious question - can someone provide an example of this "kumbaya vibe"? I don't remember ever seeing an ad where they claim to be green, or charitable, or champions of human rights. They claim to make well-designed products that are easy to use - which they do. I think the kumbaya thing is a whole-cloth invention of their users. (Then again, I don't pay much attention to advertising.)
posted by desjardins at 2:30 PM on March 19, 2012


Woz supports Mike Daisey's message and says you should too:
"I think his monologue has influenced Apple to take steps in that direction the best they can," Wozniak said. "I don't want to see that undone. Because people must know there are workers who can't get medical coverage and are underage and are put on a blacklist that prevents them from getting work again. I applaud Mike Daisey because of the attention and understanding he has brought to this."
posted by octothorpe at 2:52 PM on March 19, 2012


This might fit the bill.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:54 PM on March 19, 2012


serious question - can someone provide an example of this "kumbaya vibe"?

Their website describes the steps they've taken to tighten up the environmental costs of making and shipping their stuff. But I haven't seen any TV or other advertising from them that actively promote getting these data to the public. You have to actively search it out, by looking for a tiny link hidden away at the bottom of a pretty large and information-dense front page. What the characterization of this aspect says about Apple's critics and the nature of the criticism is perhaps interesting in itself, on a psychological level.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:55 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is really well known, and his image is intimately tied with Microsoft's, but there's no popular image of Jobs as a charitable person. Microsoft has also donated software to nonprofits for a long time - if Apple has donated hardware or OS, I'm not aware of it.

Here's Microsoft's corporate citizenship page, accessible via the About link on the home page. (FYI, I own both an iPhone and a Windows 7 laptop, so I'm not a reflexive Apple-hater or Windows booster.)
posted by desjardins at 3:20 PM on March 19, 2012


I came here to post the link to the interview with Steve Wozniak that octothorpe posted above – it's interesting. Apparently Woz thinks Mike Daisey is great, that people just don't understand what he's about. Also, Woz apparently told Steve Jobs that Mike Daisey is awesome before Jobs died.

Apparently Steve Wozniak thinks that Mike Daisey has done Apple a great service. That's a very interesting perspective to have.
posted by koeselitz at 3:34 PM on March 19, 2012


I can't comprehend the level of narcissism it takes to completely not understand that, though there is a lot of relativity in the world, there is actually such a thing as 'facts that are true' and that somehow, when you lead people to believe what you are saying is true when they are not, that it somehow doesn't matter. I just really don't get it at all.

I'm not sure that Daisey doesn't understand this, to be honest. It think that rationalization as a survival mechanism kicks into full gear when your livelihood and reputation are at stake.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:37 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apparently Steve Wozniak thinks that Mike Daisey has done Apple a great service. That's a very interesting perspective to have.

It's an interesting greater-good argument, but I bet that even Woz would admit that Daisey would have done Apple a greater service if Daisey had gone about it with more integrity. I think that's what's bothering people. It's not the dramatic license, it's the not telling people that's what you are doing, when it matters.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:42 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


but I bet that even Woz would admit that Daisey would have done Apple a greater service if Daisey had gone about it with more integrity.

I don't think this is an integrity issue. I think it's a format problem.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:55 PM on March 19, 2012


But the very choice of format is itself an integrity issue. Once again, every lie is just acting in the wrong context. If this isn't an integrity issue, then there are no integrity issues surrounding lying at all – they're all just poor choices of format.
posted by koeselitz at 4:04 PM on March 19, 2012


The original format was appropriate. It didn't go so well after that. He is under no obligation to be a reporter on stage. His job on stage is to effect through affect. Drama is literature. He was being dramatic. He was not being a reporter. When it was recorded and put on TAL, things got slippery. He should have known better. But on stage, Woz has it right:
A lot of people are saying [about Daisey] 'Oh you didn't experience this yourself,'" Wozniak continued, "but in his style of art he's trying to help the audience experience these things. I never expected the show to be real. The 'Pirates of Silicon Valley' [the film about the early rivalry between Apple and Microsoft] was not completely accurate. How could it be? But the movie is very true in the way that matters most."
posted by Toekneesan at 4:17 PM on March 19, 2012


If Colbert takes it on I'm 99% certain he will make a joke specifically about the fallacy of throwing out all of the allegations about working conditions after discrediting Daisey for wrapping the underlying truth in a smelly layer of truthiness.
posted by aydeejones at 4:44 PM on March 19, 2012


Something that hasn't come up, but should. Did Daisey go to Glass and say, "Hey, I've got this awesome monologue and you should put it on your show" or did Glass see the monolouge and say "Hey, your show was awesome. Can I record it and put it on This American Life?

It matters which happened. If Daisey went to Glass, what an asshole. But if Glass went to Daisey, and said, "A whole episode of This American Life"... then maybe Daisey is only human.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:18 PM on March 19, 2012


And now I think less of Steve Wozniak.
posted by bongo_x at 5:22 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


But if Glass went to Daisey, and said, "A whole episode of This American Life"... then maybe Daisey is only human.

Glass has acknowledged that they did not fact check the story as thoroughly as they should have. That suggests a desire to capitalize on a hot story for self-interested reasons, so it's definitely egg on his face regardless of who approached whom.
posted by jayder at 5:23 PM on March 19, 2012


But we're not questioning Glass, we're questioning Daisey. We'll all still tune in next week. It matters in how we think about Daisey.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:26 PM on March 19, 2012


That suggests a desire to capitalize on a hot story for self-interested reasons,

I’m a huge fan of TAL, but I never listened to the original show. I usually say that any episode of TAL is good, even the ones I thought sounded terrible, but this just didn’t hit me right, and I never got around to listening.
posted by bongo_x at 5:26 PM on March 19, 2012


And now I think less of Steve Wozniak.

Seeing people do rhetorical backflips to defend a liar is saddening, sure, but it's human nature. People are so invested in this that facts simply do not matter to them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:49 PM on March 19, 2012


bongo_x: “And now I think less of Steve Wozniak.”

Blazecock Pileon: “Seeing people do rhetorical backflips to defend a liar is saddening, sure, but it's human nature. People are so invested in this that facts simply do not matter to them.”

Well, I'm not absolutely sure that's what Woz is doing. There have been some who have done that, granted; but as far as Apple is concerned, I can see why someone who cares about that company would feel as though Mike Daisey had done a good thing, regardless of Daisey's (I believe execrable, but I guess that's my opinion) personal moral position here.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that Daisey's push was part of what drove Apple to once again be on the leading edge here – this time in assuring that their factory conditions are acceptable and humane. And I think it's actually a pretty cool thing that Apple has responded that way and continues to do so. I notice a distinct lack of crowing from the official Apple camp over Mr Daisey's little scandal. I get the feeling that they understand that this thing is a hell of a lot bigger than he is, and I appreciate that they're treating it as an occasion to be better.
posted by koeselitz at 6:04 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's fine, but sort of like saying that because I rescue dogs from the pound PETA should get a pat on the back and their methods are for the good of all.
posted by bongo_x at 6:25 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now that I've actually listened to "Retraction", Daisey sounds even worse than before. I thought he had just said he saw things he didn't actually see, but he really did just make things up. Cameras in workers bedrooms? Totally false, never happened anywhere. Armed guards at the factory doors? Happens *nowhere* in China.

The one that maybe annoyed me the most was the bit about underage workers. Apparently underage workers are very rare in China---Apple's audit turned up 91 in a pool of several hundred thousand. It seems like underage workers are one thing Western companies really are very careful about. That's an interesting element! It's like underage workers are one thing everyone recognizes as How It Shouldn't Be, so they make very sure that doesn't happen while ignoring adults who are being poisoned. That could have been an interesting thing to explore---does China have a similar "save the children, fuck the workers" culture? Or is that a Western imposition?

But that would have been complicated, and Mike Daisey can't do complicated---he's a sentimentalist, a heartstrings-tugger (hearing the clips excerpted on the show reminded me how insufferable I've always found his sticky, slow-voiced faux-compassion), and consequently he can't process things that don't fit a nice simple narrative. Really this whole thing has been a powerful argument against the theatrical truth he claims to defend: The real truth is rich and complex and thought-provoking, the theatrical event was simple-minded and tendentious.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:00 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's fine, but sort of like saying that because I rescue dogs from the pound PETA should get a pat on the back and their methods are for the good of all.

After one rationalization after another, it all starts to blend together. I don't intend any glibness, but maybe Wozniak's brain injury had affected his ability to discern truth from falsehood. That would be unfortunate for him, if so, but what about the others? What's their excuse, for pushing lies despite knowing better?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:06 PM on March 19, 2012


you're doing your thing, BP. you just implied that maybe Woz is retarded. not really cool.
posted by mwhybark at 9:24 PM on March 19, 2012


Well, I think one of the main problems is the continued focus on Mike Daisey. Hopefully he'll go away as a news item soon. When he does, Foxconn will still be here, things will still need improving, and it will still be incumbent on Apple and everyone else to try to make conditions better.

I guess what really pisses me off is that Daisey continues to be a major issue – particularly among those who dislike him and think him a charlatan. They may not know it, but they're only validating his charlatanism by focusing on it rather than the very real issues at stake here for millions of workers and consumers.

Blazecock Pileon: “After one rationalization after another, it all starts to blend together. I don't intend any glibness, but maybe Wozniak's brain injury had affected his ability to discern truth from falsehood. That would be unfortunate for him, if so, but what about the others? What's their excuse, for pushing lies despite knowing better?”

I think it's pretty clear that Steve Jobs would have found this little theory execrable. Mike Daisey is an idiot; his petty lies doesn't matter. The issue of ethical labor does.
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 PM on March 19, 2012


I guess what really pisses me off is that Daisey continues to be a major issue – particularly among those who dislike him and think him a charlatan. They may not know it, but they're only validating his charlatanism by focusing on it rather than the very real issues at stake here for millions of workers and consumers.

I hear what you are saying, but I really, really think it's possible to focus on both things at the same time, with as much intensity as both issues need. My indignation is not a limited resource in this regard. I'm a little bit irritated, actually, that Daisey has set up something of a false dichotomy, that if we look too closely at the way in which he presented, it detracts from his core conern. Nope, not really for me. I think that the issues regarding Foxconn are quite important and need to receive full attention, and also that Daisey really did something here that was inappropriate that needs attention. Focusing on the later does not necessarily detract from the former. Daisey, though, would really like us to think that's the case.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:20 PM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


you're doing your thing, BP. you just implied that maybe Woz is retarded. not really cool.

Brain trauma can affect perception of what is real and what is false. Capgras delusion is one example of the result of neurological damage, which involves this kind of loss of function.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:21 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Please stop with the "Woz might be brain damaged" line of discussion or take it to MeTa folks.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:35 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I think one of the main problems is the continued focus on Mike Daisey. Hopefully he'll go away as a news item soon. When he does, Foxconn will still be here, things will still need improving, and it will still be incumbent on Apple and everyone else to try to make conditions better.

I hope he'll just go away, period.

Gruber noticed an unannounced change to Apple's Supplier Responsibility web page:

Weekly data collected in January 2012 on more than 500,000 workers employed by our suppliers showed 84 percent compliance with the 60-hour work week specified in our code. In February 2012, compliance with the 60-hour work week among 500,000 workers at those suppliers increased to 89 percent, with workers averaging 48 hours per week. That’s a substantial improvement over previous results, but we can do better. We will continue to share our progress by reporting this data on a monthly basis.

Yes, Apple is actively making conditions better, they have been working on this long Daisey ever noticed, and now Apple is seeing improvements they have demanded. Everything Daisey uses is straight from Apple's Supplier Responsibility reports, but willfully misinterpreted (i.e. lied about) to make it seem like Apple is at fault for bad conditions, rather than fighting to improve those conditions.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:49 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


That works out to 55,000 workers doing more than 60 hours per week. So... good job?
posted by smackfu at 11:02 AM on March 20, 2012


Sounds like a good job to me. Gruber has further info from the report:

48-hour average workweek and a five-percent month-over-month decrease in 60+ hour weeks — for February, the month where Apple was ramping up production of the new iPad.

My understanding is that Apple is trying to set a max 48 hour work week but Foxconn and others are resisting and want 60.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:13 PM on March 20, 2012


Which is cost again, presumably, rather than a love of exhausted workers: if you can avoid hiring 20% more staff - with the commensurate need for facilities, paperwork, processing and actually finding the people - the Chinese workforce is huge, but not limitless, and other companies are also recruiting - you will.

So, an interesting question (to me) is what would it cost to institute a 48-hour work week, in terms of new facilities and administrative expense, and how long would it take - and what would need to happen to start that process.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:09 PM on March 20, 2012


I think giving Daisey some leeway for being "theatre" is disingenous and an absolute disservice to theatre professionals. I liked this response from Alli Houseworth, whose former theatre company(Wooly Mammoth) produced Daisey's play under the impression and insistence of Mike Daisey that "this is a work of non fiction."

Theatres have the same standards for the word "non fiction" as everyone else does.
posted by sawdustbear at 3:40 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having now listened to the Retraction episode, I'm surprised at the focus on Mike Daisey's lies in the story itself, rather than on his direct lies to Ira Glass and the staff of This American Life as they were working with him in preparing to air the episode.

I see a lot of discussion of why Daisey lied or manipulated facts in the service of creating the narrative of his stage show, his "story" on TAL, and even his interviews in other news media. And, though I disagree with his rationalizing that dishonesty as artistic license for the cause or for theater or in service of the narrative or whatever, I do understand that that is something that happens a lot, in the theater, in storytelling, and even in what are ostensibly journalistic endeavors.

So the answer to "why did you lie in the story" is "because I thought it served the narrative and helped the cause." Ok, whatever. Woz and others think the story is helpful even if not 100% true.

And I get that it is not unreasonable to assume that This American Life is generally OK with airing stories by storytellers that do that with their stories for a variety of reasons. The example that seems to be thrown around lately on the web is David Sedaris, but there are plenty of other regular This American Life contributors whose featured bits tend to be narrative, first-person storytelling exercises that are certainly not 100% true and are certainly not considered - by them, by Ira Glass, or by anyone else at This American Life - to be capital J Journalism. So when Mike Daisey was approached, it may have initially been reasonable for him to think that, given his status as an on-stage storyteller - a man of the theater, as it were - This American Life intended to present his performance piece in the same way that it presents those other first-person-but-not-totally-true performance pieces.

But, as demonstrated in the Retraction episode, Ira Glass and others made abundantly clear in writing that they were viewing and would be presenting Daisey's piece not as a theater performance of near-truth, but as Journalism; and not just as Journalism, but as really super important Journalism that required the highest level of honesty. They circled back with him to double and triple check that he fully understood that absolutely no level of "storytelling" license could be tolerated with this story. They asked if he understood that. And he lied to them about that issue. It wasn't just that his story was not honest. It was that he lied directly to Ira Glass and This American Life when he was asked point blank if his story contained any "artistic license" or manipulation of facts for the sake of the narrative. They told him that his story was to be presented as hard journalism and he flat-out lied to them, knowing that they would be burned when they relied on him.

Some This American Life stories are storytelling. But some are hard-hitting journalism - particularly those dealing with the economy or trade issues. Daisey was told in no uncertain terms which of those he was being asked to do. And he responded by representing to them that his work took no liberties with the truth, that it was 100%, completely factual in every possible sense, and that it met the highest possible standards of factual journalism. That's the big lie. That's why this is a big deal. And that's why I can't let Mike Daisey off the hook even if I decide to buy his explanation that what he does is theater for a cause.
posted by The World Famous at 4:06 PM on March 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


Also, note to self: Never cross Ira Glass.
posted by The World Famous at 4:25 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just read the Allie Houseworth response. I shouldn't be surprised if Daisey straight up lied on the radio about how this piece was presented in theaters.

I mean, look, is it completely unreasonable for Ira Glass to see the words "THIS IS A WORK OF NON-FICTION" and hear Daisey continually say "I was there, I experienced this," and assume, hey, this is a WORK OF NON-FICTION? Is Glass just some backwoods rube who just can't understand the difference between performance and performer?

(Hint: I think the answer is no)
posted by muddgirl at 8:46 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


@ running order:
Which is cost again, presumably, rather than a love of exhausted workers: if you can avoid hiring 20% more staff - with the commensurate need for facilities, paperwork, processing and actually finding the people - the Chinese workforce is huge, but not limitless, and other companies are also recruiting - you will.

According to "Retraction", the problem is isn't that. A lot of the factory workers are young people (20s or 30s) who want to come to the factory town, make as much money as they can as fast as they can, and then go home. There's not much to do after hours anyway, except drink and gamble, which costs money. So while Apple is actually pushing for *fewer* overtime hours, the workers are demanding more---Apple would like to have a larger pool of trained people, but the workers want to make as much as possible for themselves right now. This is one more way that reality is more complicated, and more interesting, than Daisey made it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:48 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apparently, the tickets for Daisey's show were (still are?) $80. That seems like a lot (to me) for someone who isn't touring with his original band members from the 1980s.

Now let's say Daisey was selling $80 cookies* to select scores of theater-goers in New York City. These cookies were very tasty—unbelievably tasty you might say—but it turns out that Daisey was making these cookies using bark dust as a filler.

Now along comes This American Cookie and suddenly Daisey has the chance to sell his cookies to millions of people across the country. Oh man, everything is going great!

Now, he could say So Ira... the thing is... but then what will all those New Yorkers think?.. Having all swallowed his bark dust sandies at 80 bucks a pop?

They may want their money back! And even if not, I may be outed as the liar I've been. Hmm... better for me to ride out my lies, and bask in the warm false glory of being Incredible Cookie Man! And if anyone ever calls me on my lies I'll say they don't understand thee-A-ter—that I was ACTING! </FictionalCookieMonologist>

I was listening to a podcast1 this afternoon about Daisey and it brought to mind the movie Shattered Glass (about fellow fabulist Stephen Glass) where the other (real) journalists were all lamenting their bad luck at missing these "great stories" that Glass was actually just weaving out of thin air.

I think the situation at Foxconn is probably getting a little better because of the lies Daisey told, but I don't think that end is what actually drove him. To me, Daisey is first and foremost a self-promoter.

For instance, I think Daisey would have exactly 0% interest in being anonymous whistle-blower. Rather, he wanted to play dress-up and have his Braveheart moment, where he's rallying the masses2—people loving him (and his making money hand-over-fist besides).

The guy refuses to give up his own iPhone, he's making $80-a-head, and he gets to run from camera to camera acting like an righteous, outraged messiah. In his mind, where's the downside?

I finally listened to the whole TAL Retraction episode and there's this part that I think speaks volumes (I'd tell you the exact minute mark, but I honestly can't listen to that guys smarmy delivery anymore): Ira Glass says something like "It seems like—I'm sorry, but it seems like..." and you can hear Daisey jump on that "I'm sorry" with a barely audible "Oh, it's okay"—like he's thinking, "Ha ha, Ira's asking for forgiveness and I'm giving it to him! I am such a forgiving person!".

That coupled with his, again, smarmy middle-school-drama-club pretentiousness3, and his refusal to ever give a direct god-damned answer (instead saying things like "Oh, the latter, definitely the latter!"), and finally his coquettish "Oh, I don't want to say it.... [then there's either a long pause, or else Ira Glass tries to ask him something else and Daisey sees that Glass isn't going to get down on one knee and plead for his answer] ...oh, okay I'll just say it..."

...Anyway, I've heard Daisey described as an actor, but I think he is just an intolerably pretentious huckster.

tl;dr: As chance would have it, there's an inadvertent byproduct of a deceitful, self-involved monologist stringing together some facts with fictions (fictions that he tooled with the sole purpose of making himself look good); It looks like it might actually make the lives of those he was exploiting (making money off of, by telling false stories about) a little better.

*cookie = story
1. World Have Your Say: How far should artistic license go? [direct link to MP3]
2 Except in Daisey's version, at the end of the speech he's laughingly muttering to himself Heh heh heh, ka-ching, ka-ching!
3 Have you ever seen the movie Brick? Remember the scene where the protagonist is questioning the leader of the drama club in the dressing room and she is like Ever. So. Dramatic!? It's what comes to mind whenever Daisey opens his mouth to pontificate.

posted by blueberry at 12:24 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


fiercecupcake: "Daisey realized he did wrong and apologized.

I'm not sure we listened to the same Daisey.
"

I kind of feel like he did realize he did wrong and apologized, but not in a "I missed the mark and I'll strive to be a better person" kind of way, but more in a "I'm in deep doo-doo now and I'd better say that I'm sorry" kind of way.

There have been times in my life where I have made horrible, irreversible mistakes that have come back to haunt me. When I discovered the mistake I'd made, the realization hung on me like a heavy cloud of horror. During the long awful silences during the interview, I heard that cloud of horror settled on Daisey. When he says things like he wish the show had never aired, he's saying he wishes that none of this was his reality now, which is apart from whether he feels true regret or remorse over his actions.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:41 AM on March 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now along comes This American Cookie and suddenly Daisey has the chance to sell his cookies to millions of people across the country. Oh man, everything is going great!

It's kind of interesting that being on TAL of all things is what caused this story to blow up. He already was doing the monologue in theaters and it wasn't getting press, and TAL isn't exactly the NY Times. Like millions of people is probably pretty iffy right there. So assuming that Daisey was thinking this would be his big exposure seems a bit odd.
posted by smackfu at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2012


This American Life is routinely in the Top Ten downloaded podcasts in the App Store and is often (I suspect on new episode day?) #1. I think millions is totally reasonable.
posted by maryr at 8:24 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


He already was doing the monologue in theaters and it wasn't getting press, and TAL isn't exactly the NY Times.

I'm not quite clear what you're saying here. It's one of the most popular public radio shows and podcasts in the country, with a regular weekly audience between the two formats of more than 2.5 million. Of course getting on TAL is a massively big break for someone like Mike Daisey.
posted by scody at 8:29 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess? I mean, there's plenty of people doing stuff weekly on TAL, I don't really consider them "big". Sarah Vowell isn't a household name or anything.
posted by smackfu at 9:06 AM on March 21, 2012


And really, I just mean... Mike Daisey was already pretty much at the top level of being a monologist, with a dozen successful monologues, touring shows, books, etc. I'm just not sure what the real gains are that he would get from TAL that would corrupt him (which was the premise of the comment I was responding to).
posted by smackfu at 9:14 AM on March 21, 2012


I don't really consider them "big". Sarah Vowell isn't a household name or anything.

She was picked to be a voice actor for a Pixar movie. I'm sure you have to know and be known by some people to make that happen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:26 AM on March 21, 2012


From the transcript of Retraction (with emphasis added by me):

Ira Glass: When we were getting ready to go on the radio, in the weeks leading up to it, I and Brian told you, and we wrote emails-- I have an email here Brian wrote you at some point with the list of, wait, is this stuff exactly right? It included the population of Shenzhen, tiny little-- like, where'd you get this number from?

And he writes at the top, "Here's a list of things I want to run by you. Some are questions I have just for clarifying facts. And if you have suggested minor language tweaks for accuracy"-- this is for numbers. And he writes, "Being that news stations are obviously a different kind of forum than the theater, we wanted to make sure that this thing is totally, utterly unassailable by anyone who might hear it."

And then you wrote back to him. You said, "I totally get that. I want you to know that makes sense to me. A show built orally for the theater is different than what typically happens for news stations. I appreciate you taking the time to go over this."
And so you understood that we wanted it to be completely accurate in the most traditional sense.

Mike Daisey: Yes, I did.

Ira Glass You put us in this position of going out and vouching for the truth of what you were saying. And all along, in all of these ways, you knew that these things weren't true. Did you ever stop and think, OK, these things aren't true, and you have us vouching for their truth?

Mike Daisey I did. I did. I thought about that a lot.
posted by The World Famous at 10:06 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want to subscribe to the This American Cookie podcast so bad.
posted by nanojath at 10:43 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Sorry, folks! Turns out a Jaffa cake isn't really a cookie! This week on This American Cookie."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:48 AM on March 21, 2012


Daisey's Georgetown talk a couple days ago: About 27:00: "In the story on stage, I play the role of a bad reporter."
posted by starman at 11:01 AM on March 21, 2012


Sarah Vowell isn't a household name or anything.

That most certainly depends on the household. She's a New York Times best-selling author. She's regularly on Letterman, Conan, and the Daily Show. She's in a Pixar film.

I mean, you can keep trying to split this hair that TAL is a non-entity because, I don't know, more people actually listen to Rush Limbaugh, or because more people would recognize Kim Kardashian at the airport than Sarah Vowell. But your contention that TAL isn't "the big time" for many, many performers is just false on the face of it.
posted by scody at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Transcript of Daisey's first public talk since the retraction. Interesting that Daisey claims to have told Ira Glass during the fact-checking process that his translator was a composite character:
And so, all those reasons are true, but I also didn't want them to talk to her because I knew my chronology was fucked. I knew that I had taken ... liberties. And so I didn't want them to talk to her for that reason too. So they're both true. So I told my producer that her name wasn't Cathy, that it was Anna. And I said that I had a cell-phone number but it didn't work. And then Ira called me. And Ira talked to me, through it. And he was like, "Really? You really don't have any contact information?" And he said, "Look, I know how things get made, things are complicated*. You can tell me. You can tell me. People are composited." And I said to him, "She's a composite, of three characters."

I did it because I'm suggestible when I feel guilty. So I just said it. In the conversation. That she was composite of three characters. That one of them was named Anna. That I did not have contact information for her. And that was the end of that.

When I went in to talk to them about everything that had done down*, we talked about that. They brought up the fact that I had emailed Brian and told him about Anna. I said yes, and I told you this was a composite of three characters. No one brought it up. But it's on the tape, from the full four hours that I talked to them, that is edited to 15 minutes that are in the episode. Which is not to say that I think somehow the full four hours would make me look a lot better. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying ... there's more tape.
posted by chinston at 11:28 AM on March 21, 2012


Transcript of Daisey's first public talk since the retraction.

Oh for god's sake. That's almost 10,000 words long. If you can't bamboozle them, just bury them in bullshit.

From TFA:

I'm a monologist. I'm an autobiographical, extemporaneous monologist.

No, he's an egotistical, logorrheic harangue-ist.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:47 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's something about his delivery and speaking voice that makes me kind of crazy - like he's chewing the words, or something. I honestly felt this antipathy when I was listening to the first TAL, not just when all this other bad stuff came out. I can't quite figure out what is so grating to me.
posted by chinston at 12:08 PM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually read through that entire thing, and as you'll note in my comments above, I am not a defender of what he did. At all. So I don't know if it's because he's a good performer or what, but I found his response to be compelling and honest in its self-deprecation, and sincere in its apology. He explains what he did, he explains how it went wrong, and I feel as if he's a guy who I now like but who did a genuinely wrong thing, and he explains how it all goes down. He might just be a really good liar, and I might be a sucker, but I can walk away from this now feeling as if he did his penance, to be honest with you, without having to fact check every little thing that he's ever said in the media. It's wroth a read.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:24 PM on March 21, 2012


Just to clarify, I'm talking about Daisey's public talk about the retraction, not his initial discussion with TAL.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:26 PM on March 21, 2012


And then Ira called me. And Ira talked to me, through it. And he was like, "Really? You really don't have any contact information?" And he said, "Look, I know how things get made, things are complicated. You can tell me. You can tell me. People are composited." And I said to him, "She's a composite, of three characters."

Okay, this is where it clearly has all the hallmarks of pathological lying at this point.
posted by scody at 12:49 PM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


SpacemanStix: “He explains what he did, he explains how it went wrong, and I feel as if he's a guy who I now like but who did a genuinely wrong thing, and he explains how it all goes down. He might just be a really good liar, and I might be a sucker, but I can walk away from this now feeling as if he did his penance, to be honest with you, without having to fact check every little thing that he's ever said in the media. It's wroth a read.”

I've read most of this through, and I have to say, it's incredibly misleading. I mean, the way he characterizes how the show came together is not at all correct.

This is the lie he's been telling since he got caught, and it's the latest lie he's clinging to. He wants desperately to make it seem like this thing started as a semi-fictional theater monologue, and that it gradually got turned into something that sounded like journalism when he talked to the reporters. He'd love to apologize all day for letting theater be taken as journalism or whatever, because that makes it seem like he slid into this and just gradually ended up in a place where he felt compelled to lie.

But that's not what happened at all. From the very first day the show was open, Mike Daisey demanded that the phrase "THIS IS A WORK OF NON-FICTION" be printed on playbills, and insisted to everyone he worked with that the story was absolutely true. He walked into the theater lying to everybody he worked with and to the public as well. This piece didn't come from a theater-world where things are sort of vague as to truth and maybe it's fiction and maybe it's not. Mike Daisey – a guy who had done monologues which were openly and honestly fictional before – went to great lengths from the very beginning of the show to insist to every person that would listen that every iota of his story was true.

So for him to say, as he has over and over again since this blew up, as he does in that post-retraction talk published in the Atlantic, that he started in this maybe-fiction-maybe-not theater sort of world with the piece and gradually slid into accidentally letting his story become a lie – well, that is emphatically not true. At no point whatsoever has he been even a little bit ambiguous about what this was supposed to be. The word "NON-FICTION" was plastered all over it from day one.

To admit that, Mike Daisey would have to admit that this was a premeditated attempt at self-promotion. And for that reason I don't think he'll ever tell the truth about it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:54 PM on March 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh for god's sake. That's almost 10,000 words long. If you can't bamboozle them, just bury them in bullshit.

I think you're being a bit unfair here. 10,000 word monologues are what he does. That's why he was originally invited to Georgetown, with the expectation that he would present a monologue, just not on this topic/angle. It was even billed originally as theater and performance on announcements and calendars.
posted by Durin's Bane at 1:32 PM on March 21, 2012


I think you're being a bit unfair here. 10,000 word monologues are what he does. That's why he was originally invited to Georgetown, with the expectation that he would present a monologue, just not on this topic/angle. It was even billed originally as theater and performance on announcements and calendars.

So was his talk at Georgetown also a dramatic piece wherein he altered the facts to suit the narrative, in the grand tradition of the theater? I'm going to assume the answer is "yes."
posted by The World Famous at 1:34 PM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


So was his talk at Georgetown also a dramatic piece wherein he altered the facts to suit the narrative, in the grand tradition of the theater? I'm going to assume the answer is "yes."

No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that his hosts and those in attendance expected him to fill up a certain amount of time. I don't think they all wanted him to get up on stage, read for two minutes from a prepared speech and leave.
posted by Durin's Bane at 1:41 PM on March 21, 2012


It may be unfair to say that he's 'burying us in bullshit,' but it does seem to be the case that this latest monologue is itself built on lies. Maybe the fact that he no longer proclaims that it's "A WORK OF NON-FICTION" means he's resigned himself to lying.
posted by koeselitz at 1:52 PM on March 21, 2012


No, that's not what I'm saying.

Sorry if I wasn't clear in my comment. I didn't think that's what you were saying. But I do think it was what Daisey was doing. He could have come to Georgetown, spoken for a minute or two about the This American Life thing - maybe give a brief, heartfelt apology and admission of general wrongdoing, expressing admiration and respect for Ira Glass, that sort of thing - and then delivered a brilliant monologue, demonstrating to the audience that he is a master of his craft and that, notwithstanding this major misstep in the field of journalism, he is, nevertheless, a worthy monologue-giving-dude and someone worth supporting in that field. But he didn't do that. Instead, he turned the story of his having lied repeatedly and in writing to Ira Glass into yet another truth-bending storytelling hour. Ridiculous.
posted by The World Famous at 1:56 PM on March 21, 2012


Honest question here (and I'm not defending him, as you raise good rebuttals), but I'm interested in the social aspect of this: if he were to genuinely apologize and come clean, what would it have to look like? Is redemption for him even possible, or should every attempt be interpreted as spin? (I mean should in the sense that he's created a scenario for himself that regardless of what he says, there's no way to truly verify, hence he's really screwed).

This isn't a call to grant him redemption or anything. I'm just wondering if some issues are so damaging to one's reputation, and initially involved something that is so inherently self-defeating to the effort (i.e., pathological lying), that it's impossible to get it back. I wonder if this is one of those times, and he simply needs to live with what he wrought, even if he does come clean.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:10 PM on March 21, 2012


The best way to ruin an apology is with an explanation.

I wonder if this is one of those times, and he simply needs to live with what he wrought, even if he does come clean.

I think so.
posted by The World Famous at 2:17 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Mike Daisey wants to think of himself as McNulty, but he's really just Templeton. </wireseason5>
posted by blueberry at 10:38 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"That's why I decided to travel to ancient Egypt. Alone. To personally witness — to see with my own eyes — the brutality behind these pyramids we love so much."
I was THERE! by Mike Daisey
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:01 AM on March 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, fuck. That's hilarious.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:40 PM on March 23, 2012


Abed: Documentarians are supposed to be objective, to avoid having any effect on the story. Yet we have more effect than anyone because we decide to tell it and we decide how it ends. Will your story be another sad one of yet another man who just wanted to be happy? Or will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories, and embrace the fact that sharing the sad ones can sometimes make them happy?
— Community, Season Three, Episode Eight. Documentary Filmmaking: Redux

I just saw this and for some reason it made me think of this thread.

If only Daisey admitted he had nothing.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:48 PM on March 23, 2012


Templeton? Yeah, I can see it.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:59 PM on March 23, 2012


about those Stephen Glass stories on TAL...
posted by Bwithh at 3:47 PM on March 25, 2012


Mike Daisey Finally Gives the Apology He Should Have Given Days Ago [Gawker.com]
posted by blueberry at 9:19 PM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


From blueberry's link, "Things came out of my mouth that just weren't true" - this guy still can't give up the passive voice when talking about his lying.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:21 AM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I finally listened to the TAL retraction episode and, besides feeling very apreciative of how the show dealt with it, I felt so, so bad for Daisy. I thought it was weird and telling that he kept coming back to being proud of himself as an artist. He so strikes me as a self-hating man trying to convince himself he's alright. But in so much obvious pain too. And did anyone else feel that he never came out of character? He did the whole interview in a softer version of Monologue Voice - it was like the Real Mike Daisy just couldn't appear. I am worried for this man right now.
posted by latkes at 7:03 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apple supplier audit finds major wage and overtime violations
A heavily anticipated report on working conditions at Apple supplier Foxconn documents dozens of major labor-rights violations, including excessive overtime, unpaid wages and salaries that aren't enough to cover basic living expenses.

More than 60% of the workers at three of Apple supplier Foxconn's factories in China say their wages fall short of their basic needs, according to a report released Thursday by auditors from the Fair Labor Association. The FLA is a watchdog group hired by Apple to audit its overseas suppliers.
...
The FLA's report says Foxconn has agreed to work with the group to remedy many of the violations it recorded. In one key move, Foxconn says it will achieve "full legal compliance" with Chinese work-hour laws by July 1, 2013. To do that, Foxconn will need to hire "tens of thousands" of extra workers to offset its current employees' workload, the FLA said.

posted by deanklear at 5:42 PM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Passion of Mike Daisey: Journalism, Storytelling and the Ethics of Attention
posted by kliuless at 10:25 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apple supplier audit finds major wage and overtime violations

Yea, but it's way more important that Mike Daisey lied and hurt Apple's feelings than that workers are being exploited.
posted by octothorpe at 5:51 AM on March 30, 2012


No, what's actually more important is our ability to sound like we care, while still using the products created by brutalized workers all over the world. It's even better if we can blame one particular company, while we use products created by their competitors, who actually treat their workers worse.

...because we don't actually care, we just want to sound like we do, and maybe score a few cheap rhetorical points against people who use products we don't like.
posted by aramaic at 6:20 AM on March 30, 2012


I think Apple was silent about Mike Daisey because they knew he was right, even though parts of his story were lies. How accurate was this audit since it was announced publicly and foreshadowed by weeks of speculation? We'll never know.

The important thing is that Apple — because they are so brand-conscious — has hired an independent third party to audit all of their factories, and I hope it will become a standard part of product literature to say "This product made in FLA inspected factories" or something similar.

Though Zizek and others may mock ethical capitalism, I think it is the best path towards a more just world, and one that we can start to put to practice immediately. We could apply massive tariffs to products not made in inspected factories, thus pushing up the price of cheap, unsustainable products, and providing the opportunity for the recovery of US manufacturing. It would be wonderful to have easily serviceable, recyclable, and sustainable American made electronics, but that isn't going to happen until we place a true dollar value on humane working conditions and sustainable consumption.

Do I think it's likely any time soon? No. The American economy loves cheap, easy money, and the US government is run by business interests and a few hundred millionaires in Congress, so I understand the skepticism about improving the current system. Eventually, we won't have a choice, but I sincerely hope we start changing course before we sink ourselves in a final bout of "irrational exuberance."
posted by deanklear at 6:48 AM on March 30, 2012


...because we don't actually care, we just want to sound like we do, and maybe score a few cheap rhetorical points against people who use products we don't like.

I think that you are using "we" here, when you mean, at most, "I", and more likely "a set of people not including myself". In this case, I think it's possible to posit that some people - perhaps even most people - care less about their relationship with consumer products than you think they do.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:16 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Merlin Mann’s Mike Daisey impression on Twitter (43 second soundclip)
–from 5by5’s After Dark podcast, episode 61
posted by blueberry at 9:17 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


True Chinese factory horror stories Mike Daisey might have told, had he not been such a lying liar
posted by homunculus at 12:10 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


While Apple Is Criticized for Foxconn, Other Companies Are Silent

In the last week I have asked Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Microsoft and others about their reports on labor conditions. Most responded with a boilerplate public relations message. Some didn’t even respond.

This is, in part, why when the first reports from Mike Daisy were coming out, and then the urge for Apple to be the beacon of change in the area because they weren't, a lot of folks who were following the labor stuff since 2006 when Apple started doing it were scratching our heads. Apple is already leading the industry in some ways, at least publicly (which is more than one can say about the rest of the businesses that didn't respond or don't even have the information fully available or up to date), but others don't seem to want to follow. Making it just about Apple doesn't help, because the companies are going to be quiet about it and hope no one points out that there are kindles and nooks and xbox's being made in that same factory.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:27 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apple is a big target for this sort of thing because they're the Huge Company Of The Hour, and have higher profit margins than the others. But it is true -- nearly the whole computer industry now relies on Chinese labor, and the shame can be pretty equally applied. Of them all now, Apple, who at least has started to address the issue, is better off ethically than the others.

Which isn't to say that Apple doesn't still use Chinese labor, which is ultimately expletive even if none of the stated atrocities had happened. It is funny isn't it, that a supposedly Communist country makes so much money pimping out its proletariat. Someone has misread their Marx.
posted by JHarris at 10:49 PM on April 9, 2012


> It is funny isn't it, that a supposedly Communist country makes so much money pimping out its proletariat. Someone has misread their Marx.

My aunt, who spent 14 years in Hong Kong and mainland China, said that if you ever wanted to see a market free of government regulation, just look at China. Money can buy you anything there, except democracy.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:05 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


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