“Stories Should be Subordinate to the Truth”


I completely understand why The American Life has retracted Mike Daisey’s podcast discussing Apple and Foxconn since it was not up to the standards of journalism, in fact it should have been used as a memoir in a theater setting. Daisey fabricated many of the facts, such as the workers’ ages, unofficial blacklist documents, the name of the translator, and workers’ injuries. Although I believe some of Daisey’s story, it is difficult to decipher between the lies and the truth.

It is hard for me to decide if Mike is an unethical liar or not. I would like to think he is not unethical because of his purpose of the memoir. Daisey admits that the truth is important, but states his objective was to make people care again. He said in 2010 there was a lot of coverage of Foxconn and the suicides, but when the coverage became scarce people weren’t interested in the workers anymore. His intention was to make a monologue that caused people to open their eyes to these injustices again. Since the working conditions of the factories are causing workers to commit suicide, I would say Foxconn is being unethical. Supposedly Daisey’s intention was to expose these unethical tendencies to the public and give these workers a voice. Although Daisey manufactured or exaggerated many of his points, I don’t believe it was for immoral reasons.

Daisey’s argument would have been more accepted if it was considered a memoir. Mike was very subjective in his findings and if the audience knew it was a memoir, they would be able to listen and interpret it in their own way. It is important to avoid blindly accepting others’ ideas as fact. In the media today there is so much information available that anyone can post. This is good in the sense there is ample information and a broad range of ideas, but a reader has to be wary of what is creditable.

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6 comments on ““Stories Should be Subordinate to the Truth”

  1. I agree, his intent to expose working conditions was admirable. But he chose the wrong way to write about this topic. As I listened to his monologue, I thought of Eve Ensler (author of the Vagina Monologues and other feminist works) who has a strategy of interviewing people and creating theatrical pieces based on these interviews. I wish Daisy had taken a similar approach. He could’ve admitted that he was interpreting and creating art based on events and conditions in China…

  2. There are plenty of other ways to gain attention for the subject rather than just blatantly lying. Maybe if Daisey was more diligent in correctly documenting what happened rather than just rattling off stories from memory he would not have lost his credibility in the journalism community.

    • I completely agree. After the discussion today of The Jungle, it seems Daisey could have presented his piece as a satire. He would gotten a similar reaction while raising awareness about Chinese labor.

  3. In this case, I’d have to say that I think Daisey is an unethical liar. We all listened to his monologue and thought he was telling the truth. The fact that he has tricked many people into thinking he was stating real facts is unethical. Without outside information, the average listener would probably believe he was telling the truth about his experiences. Looking back and remembering how dramatic he was in telling his story frustrates me because we now know he was only acting.

  4. I do agree with a lot of what you are saying her first off. I do think that Daisey was a liar, and that it was unjust to tell a lie. But what I am more interested in is this idea of a memoir. I am trying imagine how this would look, because I think any attempt at a memoir would appear more as a dramatization. You know those commercials that state “dramatization” on the bottom of the screen, notifying the audience that it is intentionally over the top and not to take things literally. I just struggle with the idea that if Daisey were to present this memoir to the American people, stating that none of it is actually true, Americans wouldn’t perk their ears up at that. But, he did know that if he were to lie that no matter what the outcome, the initial beliefs before the questioning would spike interest in the American people on labor conditions and outsourcing.

    • You raised an interesting point and and example of a “dramatization.” I agree with you that if Daisey didn’t use this story in the journalism field and the audience knew the piece was more of an art or satire, the reaction of America would not have been as strong. I wonder if Daisey didn’t lie and only exposed the true facts he learned during his experience in China, if these valid facts, without Mike’s intense exaggeration, would’ve gotten American’s attention.

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