Listening to Mike Daisey’s interview in the “Retraction” episode was one of the most frustrating academic experiences I have ever faced. I say “academic” because when I listened to the original podcast; I took everything I heard as truth and as educational rather than entertainment. I feel tricked and manipulated. I want to blame myself for trusting a self-proclaimed entertainer to deliver a journalistic message about a topic he is trying draw attention to, but for some reason I cannot. Like Ira from This American Life said, Daisey portrayed his monologue as truth.
For me, you cannot use entertainment as a forum to send a message to your audience. If I go watch a standup comedian, I am not expecting all the stories they tell for their jokes to have actually have happened. As long as I am entertained, I’m happy. There is no underlying serious message that they are trying to get across to the audience. They are simply trying to make them laugh. So for Daisey to use the excuse that his monologue is theatre, a form of entertainment, as an excuse for his lies is absurd. I understand that he wanted to evoke a lot of emotion to make people care about the working conditions in factories in China, but the lies discredit any truth that his monologue contains.
This whole experience will make me more wary of any opinion pieces I read or listen to in the future. It will also help me to pay attention to the details of an argument and identify clues to question the accuracy of pieces. When the producers of This American Life mentioned the parts of Daisey’s monologue that drew their attention to question the accuracy of it were parts that did not even register with me initially, but when looking back when the brought them up did seem a little odd.
I enjoy watching documentaries and since I have began watching these quick 50 minute informative videos, I have seen quite a few on factories like the one Mike Daisey discusses. Yet this monologue was still striking even though I expected to hear things I have already heard. One thing that stood out to me was his discovery of handmade electronics. Daisey elaborates on finding this out by discussing how so many of us wish things were handmade or had the personal touch that they used to. To think the devices that we use to prevent personal interaction; the devices that give us the ability to find any amount of information without any effort are put together by human hands. Not machines, not computers. Our high-tech computers are not constructed by a higher technology, but by uneducated people. I am completely fascinated by this. All the technology in the world and bare hands built my iPhone and MacBook Pro. And then to think how much money these things cost and think back to how each factory must look. I can only infer from other videos I have watched but I cannot imagine the working conditions are good nor is the pay. Daisey said they are not even allowed to speak in a 12 hour shift!
Later, he and his translator discuss the possibility of the workers being mentally ill. I thought I might agree with that statement but after really thinking about it I do not it is illness, but the culture. The culture is almost unfathomable – that workplaces like this are so common and people work and live in silence regarding such horrific lifestyles.
The piece of the story that struck me the most was when his translator said, “you hear stories, but you do not think it is going to be so much.” That line perfectly summed up my reaction to this piece. I had seen documentaries about slave-like factory workers and have read about them for other ethics courses, but every time I watch or read, something new sticks out to me. Like the handmade electronics and forced silence I heard about from Daisey. I am always shocked that places like this exist and that even with all the media attention given them, the conditions never seem to improve. It has become just as common to hear about a factory like this as it is to buy an iPhone, yet nobody stops buying them. I feel hopeless listening to this feeling like I cannot help, nor have I considering I have a Mac and an iPhone. So does my mom, dad, sisters, and almost all of my friends. I know I will buy the next one too. I would love to say that won’t, but I want to. Even after listening to that piece. Yet I do not feel like a bad person. That is just our culture. I said their culture is unfathomable, but it seems like ours might not be much better.