Mike Daisey This American Life


After listening to Mike Daisey’s monologue on the Foxconn factories in China, there was one comment he made that stood out amongst the rest. It came within the first few minutes of his speech. Like he said, everyone knows that almost all of the technological products that we use in the United States are made in other countries around the world, mostly in China. But that’s about it. Everyone knows that the Eiffel Tower is in Paris or the Coliseum is in Rome, which has no effect on our daily lives, but no one knows where the devices we use constantly throughout every day of our lives originates.  That there is a single city in China that is responsible for manufacturing all the electronics we use daily. In many ways, Shenzhen is one of the most important cities in the world to Americans. Yet the majority of us, including myself, have never heard of it. I am sitting here typing this on my Apple computer with my iPhone right next to me and I had no clue where they actually were made. China is a massive country and to say something is made in China is incredibly vague and almost ignorant. Imagine someone from outside the United States, who is a reasonably educated person, saying that the only thing they know about White House is that it is in America and not that it is in Washington D.C. or it is where the president lives. You would probably look at them a little funny. To me, it is baffling that there is this city that so few have heard that plays such a major part in our lives.

The reason that comment was the most interesting to me from Mike Daisey’s monologue was because I already knew about the working conditions in these sweatshops in China. I do not know for certain, but I feel that most Americans know this as well. I find it hard to believe that there are people in America that think that these workers in China are getting treating like workers in the United States. I mean that is the reason the factories are over there and not here in the United States. Although most people know about these poor working conditions, it is not something that people want to think about. You would go crazy if every time you opened your computer or looked at your phone you thought of all the workers in China that put them together with their bare hands.

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Do we care about working conditions abroad?


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At the end of the segment, Ira Glass asked New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg how consumers of Apple products should feel about their Apple purchases. Duhigg’s initial response was that his job as a reporter is to present facts to aid the reader in developing his or her own opinion, but when pressed he revealed that he doesn’t believe that consumers should be satisfied about working conditions abroad. Duhigg explains there have been times in United States’ history when we had poor working conditions. Change was created when we decided, as a nation, that those conditions were unacceptable. In the globalized world we live in, why haven’t we exported our standard of care to stakeholders in other countries?

This is a complex question that is guaranteed to elicit a wide range of answers. America’s highly individualized culture encourages individuals to make decisions based on short term personal benefit. I think the fundamental problem in this age of consumerism is that many people in our globalized world lack concern and care for people who they do not know and the environment that they do not see get destroyed.

Mike Daisy’s monologue, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, humanizes our consumer driven culture through analyzing Apple through the perspective of vulnerable stakeholders, the Chinese workers. While he shouldn’t have categorized his work as journalism, I think his work still deserves attention. I just googled images of working conditions during the American industrial revolution and the result was faces, sad faces. For comparison, I googled images of Chinese industrial working conditions and the result was zoomed out shots of uniformly arranged people, who all looked the same. The fundamental issue is the same in both of these searches (working conditions), and yet we are characterizing those who are affected in very different ways. I can think back to high school history textbooks that explain the industrial revolution working conditions as an awful short term trend that we learned from and have overcome. For one reason or another, we justify Chinese industrial working conditions.

While it is interesting to think about how we developed this disconnected mentality, it’s also important to think about where the information comes from that informs our opinions. Mike Daisy’s semi- fabricated account was based on news articles and second hand stories he had heard about working conditions. He believes these sources to be accurate and based in truth, while others may contest that belief. At this age, so much of what we know comes from other people telling us what they believe to be the truth, rather than the truth that we experience for ourselves. My personal reaction to the issue of working conditions is based on what I perceive working conditions to be like in Asia. I picture the inside of factories through news reports that focus on negative aspects of the impersonal industrial production system, therefore, I think very negatively of them. The media has incentive to exaggerate or fabricate claims (For example, today I heard of a case where a celebrity pulled his car over to help a homeless man, whose belongings who had been scattered across the street. The reporters published stories claiming this celebrity had hit the homeless man with his car.) but companies have incentive to minimize publicity of negative aspects of their business. Unfortunately, businesses are likely to be the ones with the most accurate information, but have incentive to keep information from the public.

Retraction


My first reaction to listening to the Retraction episode, is that “This American Life” ignored the simple advice/knowledge, that we as students hear over and over again; be careful what you put on the internet or radio because you will never be able to take it back. More specific for this situation, is you must be clear about what kind of information you are presenting to the public. Is it fictional, factual, opinionated? But, as far as Mike Daisey is concerned, he is a performer, he considers what he does as a form of art. Therefore, he can defend his exaggerations and “lies” by saying that he was simply using his artistic license to get his point across. And when confronted on the radio show he does defend himself, he does not consider what he said to be lies. When asked why he did not consider himself a liar for saying that he personally met with hexane poisoned workers he said, “I would say that I wanted to tell a story that captured the totality of my trip. And 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 had been talking about.” The radio show then goes on to talk about how his monologue has reached so many ears, and how he is now known as a leader in speaking out against apple. Most importantly, how people take his monologue as fact.

In today’s day in age, there is more readily available information than ever before, much of which you can not call fact. Although it is obvious, that is why it always important to check the sources of the information that we read on the internet or hear on the radio. There are probably hundreds of things that I think to be fact, that in reality are not true at all. For example, I recently watched a science video on the internet that talked about common science misconceptions, many of which I believed before viewing the video. Some of the misconceptions are that our blood is blue before it touches oxygen (false), the Brontosaurus existed (false), the far side of the moon is the dark side of the moon (meaning it receives less sunlight) (false), and many others. All this being said, it is often hard to know exactly where the information you are reading/listening to/watching came from, and how reliable it really is. That is why I have learned to take most everything with the proverbial grain of salt. Even when sitting at a lecture or in class at Bucknell, much of the curriculum being taught is affected by each professor’s personal opinions and experiences.

This may seem like a pessimistic way of looking at our world today and the readily available information flying around, but I believe it to be a realistic one. That is why before I formulate an opinion on a particular subject I try to find information about it from multiple sources. There are obviously exceptions to this. Even though I mentioned before that my professor’s curriculum may be effected by their opinions, if I am told in class that Gross Profit Margin is (Revenue-COGS)/Revenue, I will take this as fact without having to find external sources. Finally, I find that it is important to “label” what one says/blogs/writes as either fact/opinion/objective/subjective so that when others come across this information they know exactly what they are being exposed to. And also that if what you claim is indeed fact, that you cite it with a reputable source.

Science video: http://www.wimp.com/sciencemisconceptions/

Daisey’s Retraction: Do we believe what we want to believe?


It was quite surprising listening to the “Retraction” of Mike Daisey’s original podcast about his experience during his visit to China. In the broadcast of “Mr. Daisey and Apple,” Daisey is very persuasive and believable. It is clear from the “Retraction,” however, that he greatly enhanced his stories and stated many lies. By presenting his story as a product of journalism rather than merely a theatrical piece, he deceived thousands of people. His performance was such a strong, dramatic theatrical piece and it made me feel like I was there in China seeing these things with my own eyes.

Maybe it made me feel this way because this is what I wanted to see. Mr. Daisey’s use of theatrics during the original podcast confirmed my previous beliefs and preconceived notions of both China and Apple. This was most likely Mr. Daisey’s main intention: to further persuade China/Apple skeptics that Apple is an unethical company and turns a blind eye when it comes to labor. Moreover, Mr. Daisey further gratified my curiosity, and probably many other peoples’, when he alluded to the eeriness in China. This aspect of China is one that I strongly agree with and even experienced first hand when I visited in 2010.

Although Daisey blatantly lied and exaggerated his story, I still believe that his original podcast is an important piece. It is important to raise awareness about the working conditions in China, although it is difficult to know what is fact and what is fiction in China, ironically the same issue that Daisey faces in his broadcast on The American Life.

Daisey attempted to mold his opinions into real-life experiences and in turn he convinced people to believe his opinions and experiences. As I have stated, I agree with Daisey’s opinions of Apple and China. However, after I listened to both podcasts and learned that his story is untrue, I have realized that maybe other stories and accusations against Apple are untrue as well. Maybe other people, because of their strong opinions…whatever they might be…have created stories and accused Apple of things that are not true. Maybe Apple is not as unethical as people say…

In Journalism, Opinions Can’t be Facts


The retraction of Dasiey’s article was very surprising. When someone is reporting statistics that are extreme and frightening, it is hard to believe that they would take matters of fact into their own hands. The worst part about such a moving article presenting incorrect facts is that now, the public cannot truly appreciate and believe all the information they previously absorbed. It is hard to realize what was true and what was false and to have faith in any of the information Daisey presented. It was especially inappropriate for Dasiey to present such false facts on a public news station acting as a journalist. When he was asked to present the piece on such a station, he gave up the right to formulate his own story rather than present the public with true and factual information.

I was partially sympathetic to his explanation of “shaping” the story. He wanted to raise awareness of the horrific conditions of Chinese factories by including all the shocking anecdotes he heard from factory workers. Even though he had not personally spoke to those affected by the Hexane gas, for example, he wanted to spread awareness that issues like that exist. Unfortunately, he added such extreme aspects to the story that were untrue for anywhere in China, not just at Foxconn. With allegations of guns at the gate and underage workers that were confirmed as false, the shock factor of most of his story vanishes. Yes the conditions are poor and the pay is terrible, but these facts are known. The discussions with workers did not reveal much more information than we have already heard. Daisey needed to add a theatrical value to the piece that just could not be corroborated.

Perhaps the worst part of the retraction was Dasiey’s admittance to being fearful of the truth being found out. He lied about his translator and did not allow for all facts to be checked out by a news station. Daisey did not let them do their job: report accurate news to the public.  It is even worse that he says at some point he wished the story was pulled. Daisey knew that it was wrong for this story to be heard but he also feared people looking into his facts. Any notability he would have as a journalist would be, and now is, gone.

It is important in analyzing his original post and his retraction to realize that opinions are valuable and deserve to be heard, but opinions loose credibility when lies are twisted in. Thinking workers are young is different than blatantly stating their ages and thinking the guards are intimidating is different than stating that they are deadly. Yes, most of what Daisey said is true in a sense. He was trying to formulate truth by mixing stories and details from multiple sources. Where he went wrong was including details that do not exist anywhere. He betrayed the trust of his translator, his employers and the public that listened in to his story. Journalism is an art form – using news to captivate an audience, but the art is lost when one cannot make the truth captivating and instead lies to enhance a story.

George R. R. Martin Eat Your Heart Out


Mike Daisey has provided me with one of the best pieces of fiction I have heard in a while. In part with my obsession of Game of Thrones, I hope HBO takes his monologue  and produces it into 7 part series.  All of my quips aside, the retraction is another example of why it is important to take information reported by media agencies with a grain of salt. We were all moved and down right appalled by what we heard Mr. Daisey describe last week about the conditions these workers lived in and how they were treated. But how many of us really took the time to look for the true story of if this all happened? We believed his account because, well, he sounded sincere, and honest, and passionate and it seemed like such a tragedy, much like the Red Wedding (another Game of Throne Reference btw). Whatever it was, it begs to question, what are the falsities we encounter in daily media sources?

I think there is a greater point to look at here. MIke Daisey is not a reporter. Rather, he is an actor, author, and monologist. For him, prize is all about the captivation of his audience. Yeah sure he could have recounted the true nature of his events and given us the actually picture of what happened. But where is the captivation in this? Needless to say, much faults falls on The American Life to thoroughly examine what Mr. Daisey was going to say and check in on the validity of this story. If you ask a crook if he is a crook, chances are, his answer is going to be no. When asking Daisey to get in contact with his source, especially on a subject so saturated with controversy given the public name of Apple, you might want to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  It would have been less of a public embarrassment to have taken the 2-3 weeks to check in on the validity of Mr. Daisey’s sources. Especially when it is usually company policiy to have some one from The American Life along to ensure the validity of a story.

With this said, next time before we part ways with one of our products because of a “groundbreaking” report, we should look to see if it even scratches the surface. In today’s age of being technology flooded, a little research shouldn’t command to much on us. We cannot allow someone’s opinion to shape and mold our perception of the truth without having the full picture. For most, we can hope those who report news and information are like the Lannister, and stays true to their word.

Mike Daisey Retraction


The retraction of Mike Daisey’s story about the terrible conditions at the Foxconn plant shows the importance of fact-checking in the world of journalism.  Daisey was able to manipulate his listeners into thinking that Apple was an evil company that forced its suppliers into terrible working conditions – or at least did nothing to stop them from occurring.  Daisey exaggerated and even fabricated parts of his story to influence the opinions of his listeners to fit his impression of Foxconn and Apple.  The graphic and descriptive nature of his story was so realistic that we all believed it to be true without looking at other sources to verify the facts behind his experiences.

While I am disappointed that Daisey’s story is fabricated, I cannot say that I am completely surprised.  Some of his anecdotes appeared to be stretched to the point where they were hard to believe he accomplished in a few days time, such as talking to “hundreds of workers” outside of the Foxconn gates; however, we believed them because they were on the news and were told in a manner so descriptive that there was an impression that these anecdotes couldn’t possibly be fabricated.  This retraction shows that we cannot always believe what we are told, even if it appears to come from a credible news source.  Facts can be twisted, exaggerated, or in this case, fabricated, to present a particular view of the person presenting the information.

This retraction shows that it is important to look at multiple sources when forming an opinion.  A simple Google search “Mike Daisey Foxconn” fills the first page with articles saying that the story was fabricated.  I personally feel foolish that I did not look into this or other sources regarding the reporting of Daisey’s story, but it shows that myself and others are quick to believe what is told to us without consulting other sources to verify the merits of a particular story.  This argument can be expanded to the news media that try to use facts in a certain context to spin news their way.  Whatever the story, it is important to have the facts straight before forming an opinion.

Reation to ‘Retracted’


After listening to the ‘Retracted’ radio show, I am now very conflicted about the FoxConn/ Apple Factory story. On the one hand, I am disturbed that Mike Daisey would go to such lengths to fabricate a story that generated a lot of debate about the behavior of Apple. Yet, on the other hand, I am somewhat sympathetic to what he was ultimately trying to do. After traveling to China and interviewing factory workers, Daisey was clearly disturbed by what he discovered and wanted to ensure that his observations were heard by the public. Clearly, the factory conditions in China are not great and there are certainly many risks to working the long hours that many of these workers do. However, Daisey clearly did not feel that the ‘true’ story was powerful enough to raise awareness about the issue and motivate people to question Apple’s actions. He chose to exaggerate many aspects of the story, such as meeting people who had been poisoned by Hexane, based on stories that he claims to have heard about in order to generate an emotional response from his audience. Obviously, his strategy proved to be successful as his story quickly spread across US news and social media and he was hosted on numerous other shows to speak about the issue.

All this being said, Daisey’s actions are completely unacceptable. For two years, Daisey fully contends that a story filled with lies is completely true, leading many people to unnecessarily question Apple’s actions. Though taking a closer look into the factory conditions of Apple’s suppliers is probably a good thing, the way that Daisey goes about raising the issue is completely unfair to Apple and can be considered as a type of defamation. Maybe Apple should put more effort into ensuring that its suppliers provide suitable conditions for their workers, but scrutinizing them based on made up information is not the way to go about.

Personally, I believe that the most important aspect of the whole incident was the fact that Mike Daisey proclaims himself as a ‘journalist’ and reports the story as it is news. By doing this, he implies that every single detail of his story is factual and that there is little room for interpretation. If he had gone ahead and labeled it as a ‘memoir’ and allowed people to listen to it in a ‘theatrical context’ as he claims he should have done, then there wouldn’t be such a big problem. The story probably would have still generated strong discussion about Apple’s corporate behavior, but it would have left the door open for people to question the reality of the situation.

By Chris M. Posted in Blog 3

iTruth: tech, art, ethics, media, and the world of our devices… (Blog 3)


Blog 3 Prompt

Post DUE SUNDAY.  COMMENTS MONDAY.

What is truth?  Lies?  Who gets to decide?

Montage of Daisey and Jobs from New York Magazine

Now things get complicated.  You heard This American Life’s podcast focusing on Mike Daisey’s monologue-play and the issues it raises about Apple, China, worker rights, us as consumers, and globalization.

There is a reason I had you listen to that bootleg version.  TAL scrubbed the podcast from its website and released “Retraction” in which they devoted a full hour to “retracting” the original podcast.

Was Mike Daisey an unethical liar?  What, exactly, did he lie about, or not?  What is art, journalism, or truth?  Who decides?  These are some of the questions this new chapter in the story presents.

Please listen now to “Retraction.”  You can do so on-line here, or you can get it through iTunes or other distributor like Amazon.  There is even a TAL app (iphone and droid).

In your post, discuss any issue the “Retraction” episode brings to mind.   Be sure to include any links to other resources, media, or photographs.  Write clearly, but also in your own voice.  Please also discuss how your reaction is shaped by the information to which you have access and what that access says about truth, objective “facts” versus “opinions,” lies, meaning, knowledge, and any other aspect of these events that relates to how we know what we know (formally called epistemology- the study of knowing).

Your post should be at least three paragraphs.

More Relevant Information

Mike Daisey Blog

Bucknell’s tech/no performance of the interrupted monologue (Fall 2012).

Original and Revised scripts (for free!) from Mike Daisey.