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…


Daisey Retraction

Mike Daisey’s original monologue was so deep and detailed that it forced me to develop a strong opinion about the labor conditions in Chinese factories, specifically Foxconn. It was the jaw-dropping facts such as the workers jumping to their deaths, the guards threateningly holding guns around the property, and the worker he met that was poisoned by hexane that made me feel so angry about how Apple ignores the people who work for them in order to turn a profit. After listening to the Retraction and Mike Daisey’s admission to lying about those facts, I feel cheated as a listener. He can call himself a man of the theater, but when you fabricate major details in order to better prove a point, you are just a poor journalist and a liar.


Daisey wanted people to hear something they have never heard before about Apple and their dirty secrets. He desired the audience to leave his passionate monologue with disgust in respect to Apple and how they police what goes on in their factories overseas. At no point in his speaking did he once tell people that he was an actor and information that he is giving may not totally be true. If he did that, he would lose all credibility with the audience and his point would not have the same effect on how people felt. By taking such drastic measures, like telling the radio station that there was no way to find his translator, to hide that his “journalism” was solely “acting” he turns from creative researcher into an unethical reporter.


As a member of the audience, I expect the speaker to respect that I gave my time to listen to him or her and be truthful. I should in retrospect fact check in order to have an informed opinion, because my initial response was premature. By taking Daisey at his word, I formed an opinion on lies that sounded so powerful, but in reality had no validity. He used death, disease, and human rights issues to create a picture that would force people to have strong opinions. People want to believe what they are told, but sadly in reality that cannot always be the case.



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.

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

Blog 3 Prompt


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.