As promised, here is a link to the Breaking Bad/Apple comparison article. It is a fun read regardless of whether or not you watch the show. Jobs and Walter White have very similar “career arcs”. Both had debilitating cancer that truly effected their motivations and ideas. Both have huge egos regarding their ability to create the best products in their particular market (meth/high end electronics). Both had the prior experience to make bold steps towards reaching their potential as innovators (White was a chemistry teacher, Jobs a genius whiz kid). It is the final season, but if you are looking for a new show, you won’t be disappointed if you choose Breaking Bad.
FIrst of all, it’s not difficult to research the gun laws of China. Security guards are not permitted to carry firearms! Big mistake by Daisy, who’s mind must have been clouded by fame when performing the research to back up his lies and exaggerations.
My favorite part of this article was the fact that Mike Daisy, growing conscious of the skepticism, lied about Cathy’s name and phone number. It’s hard not to smile when discovering how easy it was for This American Life to find Cathy; simply google her (http://bbs.chinadaily.com.cn/thread-736700-1-1.html).
We must keep in mind one important facet of Daisy’s career and reputation. Along with a tech journalist, he is an entertainer and an actor. Journalist love the truth, entertainers love fame. Daisy’s created a beautiful, touching monologue by exaggerating the dramas of Foxconn and presenting them as non-fiction. I also find it appalling that This American Life premiered the story after performing such a minor background check. Their security process was so lazy and flawed, it seems that anyone could have fabricated a story in order to boost their career, along with getting America to sympathize with an exaggerated cause.
Mike Daisey’s second appearance on This American Life was painfully awkward to listen to, with pauses so lengthy that I found myself checking to see if the audio had paused. There is no doubt that while many of the events in Mr. Daisey’s monologue have occurred in sweat shops and factories in China, it quickly became apparent that he himself did not witness them. Looking back, I could have written an equally entertaining and compelling monologue by reading the Wikipedia article entitled “sweat shops”, and perhaps if I had passed the information off as having been gleaned through personal experience, I too could have been risen to Mr. Daisey’s current level of fame.
For me, the most entertaining part of the podcast occurred when Ira Glass brought up A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Almost everyone knows the story of Frey’s so-called autobiography, later proved to be untrue, and then torn apart by Oprah Winfrey herself. I was amused to learn that Mr. Daisey had previously commented on the scandal, even admitting to fabricating a story himself. As an entertainer, Mr. Daisey cannot be held to the same standard as a journalist. However, when he enters the realm of journalism, acting outside his monologue show, then he must be held to that standard.
However, Mr. Daisey’s actions are not alone in deserving scrutiny. This American Life is a reputable journalistic program, and the idea that they ran a story as potentially divisive as Mr. Daisey’s without checking out his story is laughable. The ease with which they were able to find Mr. Daisey’s translator Kathy makes TAL look sloppy and unprofessional. They didn’t put in the work up front, and frankly, deserve to have it backfire.
Looking back, I cannot believe that I didn’t question Mr. Daisey’s statement regarding the security guards with guns. Guards rarely have guns here in the United States, where we live in a democracy. The idea of guns being allowed in China, where the government doesn’t even allow Google free-reign, is ridiculous. A passing internet search was all that was required to confirm that guns are illegal in China, except in the case of government officials, which the Foxconn guards were certainly not (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearms_law#China). Perhaps if TAL had done a cursory search themselves, they could have avoided the public embarrassment of running Mike Daisey’s story.
I was really disappointed by the retraction to Mr. Daisey’s monologue regarding his journey to Shenzhen. As I’m sure many other listeners were deeply touched by his dramatic Foxconn experience, I can’t help but feel somewhat betrayed after realizing that nearly half of his details were as credible as a comedy show. From the very beginning of his monologue, he grasps our attention and paints the picture of Schenzen, a dark and military like place where factories like Foxconn are fenced in with guards carrying guns. I have to admit, it really did set the tone for the way the story would progress, but after the fact-checkers at This American Life learned from the Chinese tour guide Cathy that only those in the military or the police force are able to carry guns in China, Mike’s story unfolds as one giant theatrical blunder. Mike’s first mistake, although many were made, was when he refused to tell those working at This American Life his translator’s real name and contact information. In the monologue he calls this woman Cathy, but later changes her name to Anna, whose phone number he claims no longer seems to work. The first clue in this fact checking investigation was looking into the information that was unwilling to be given. Luckily in this century we have the power bestowed on us by google to search and find just about anything we would ever need to know. Cathy’s phone number was easily found by the click of the google search engine.
Another interesting fabrication that I found rather humorous was Mike’s claim of meeting with the illegal Chinese union. He posed the question “How do you find people who are right to work with you.” Their respective answer was merely at coffee shops and different starbucks around the area. I am indeed no professional fact-checker, but even hearing that scene a second time had me questioning Mike’s validity in this claim. A Chinese worker who makes roughly ten to fifteen dollars a day is able to sit at a Starbucks café and drink over-priced coffee? From what I know about the Chinese economy and wage rates for factory workers, I find this information just as unlikely as Rob did. When Cathy was actually tracked down and questioned about this apparent secret meeting with the union, Cathy remembers the details a little bit differently than what was stated by Mike. Daisey claims he spoke to 20 or 25 members. Cathy however, remembers at most 3. The underage workers that he claims to have seen ranging from the ages of 12-14 were also very skeptical to Cathy. She says they may have met workers who looked rather young, but she would be very surprised and would definitely remember if there were workers as young as 12. Tim Culpon, journalist at Bloomberg news, also attempted to find some 12 year old workers, armed guards, and crippled factory operators which he said would make his story “more compelling” but unfortunately, he wasn’t lucky enough. The group of workers they did get to talk to and hear complaints from was very different from workers in other companies. Inside Fxconn, complaints were not enough overtime. These workers actually wanted to work more and get more money. A year later, Tim went back to Schenzhen and noticed local neighborhoods, shopping strips, bubble-tea stands, and nothing even close to the depictions of woe and horror described by Daisey.
It is difficult to pick out merely one or two fabrications to discuss in Daisey’s story since there are so any details where the fact-checking has essentially failed to check-out. Even the simplest details where Daisey claims the number of factories visited was 10. Which he then changed to 5, and where Cathy remembers only 3. He also revises the number of illegal union workers from 20 or 30, knocked down to ten, and cathy remembering 3. After listening to the previous podcast from last week and it’s retraction for this week, as horrible as it is that Daisey has publicly lied on a radio station known for presenting factual information, fabricated and exaggerated dozens of details in his story, his intention in doing so was a good one in my opinion. I found it admirable that Daisey was finally able to admit that his biggest mistake was turning a monologue into a journalistic approach in order to get people to care. Details were fabricated and exaggerated, yes, but did he succeed in creating a buzz that essentially made more people care? Whether or not his facts check out, Daisey has been able to cast a light on a subject that people would otherwise pretend did not exist. Working conditions might not be as extreme as Daisey presented, but there are still issues that remain such as the suicides at Foxconn and the factory explosions due to a build-up of dust. I can fully understand Daisey’s good intentions by making these issues known so that the public and companies will care enough to prevent events like these from happening. While he lost the battle on the fact-checking reports, he still made a good attempt at bringing light to many issues wrapped with good intentions.
I didn’t find the retraction of the This American Life episode or the ‘lies’ told by Mr. Daisey to be quite as shocking as some of my classmates. I think the main reason for this was because I anticipated that some of the stories in Mr. Daisey’s monologue were not quite the truth. The events of life do not happen in a way that is a fit to tell a story. There is no climax fit into daily life, or a series of events that lead to it, or an emotional end that makes us think about morals and ethics. These key features of stories must be crafted intentionally. It is Mr. Daisey’s job, as a writer and an actor, to portray the events of his trip to China in a way that will be appealing to an audience, and I believe that is exactly what he has done. The show is on Broadway after all, which should give some indication to the audience that the events of the story would be exaggerated, dramatized, and controversial. Mr. Daisey’s intention was to bring light to an issue which he felt needed the support and attention of American citizens. There is no doubt that he has achieved this goal as thousands of people are signing petitions, writing news articles, conducting their own investigations, and conducting news broadcasts about the conditions in Chinese factories. That is not to say, however, that Mr. Daisey did not take many missteps to achieve this end goal.
Where Mr. Daisey got himself into trouble was allowing This American Life to portray his theatrical work as reputable journalism. Not only that, but he continued to lie, avoid questions, and skirt around the truth in order to present his material as factual information. He had many opportunities to fess up and admit that some of the details were fabricated for the sake of drama, but was too blinded by the fame and message he believed in, to take these opportunities. Like Ira Glass, I too have doubts about the truth of any of the things he now claimed to experience. And why shouldn’t I when it has been shown that he lied about how many factories he visited, the number of people he talked to, the dorm room conditions, the government blacklist, the hexane poisoning, and many other details.
This podcast revealed in particular that Mr. Daisey never even saw the actual dorm rooms that the workers lived in, although he described them with detail in his original monologue. I decided to investigate the actual conditions of these dorm rooms to see how accurate his description was. I found an article (http://gizmodo.com/5678732/exclusive-look-where-the-workers-who-made-your-iphone-sleep-at-night) which describes the conditions and provides photos, of Foxconn dorms. Although the conditions are far from desirable, they are not as gruesome as he described. I doubt that any person would expect much more than this when thinking about the living quarters that a company would provide its factory workers with. They workers sleep on bunk beds in a small room but have access to TV viewing rooms, cyber cafes, and exercise equipment, which hopefully makes their life a little less bleak. In fact, it is probably better than some of them could afford to have on their own. So although I strongly disagree with Mr. Daisey’s decision to present his work as factual truth, I believe he has brought light upon conditions which truly should be adjusted. But I am left with the question, was the end worth the means?
After hearing the retraction of the story and what Mike Daisy had to say, I feel as though nothing had changed for me. For starters, they make it clear that even though he personally did not experience these things they did happen. At the same time, by doing his monologue he was able to convey these facts to the public on a wide scale. Where Mike Daisy ran into trouble was the fact that he claimed that he experienced them all himself. All he had to do with his monologue was preface it by stating that it was a compilation of his own personal experiences along with those which he had read about. In this way he would have been exonerated from all blame and fraud. He could have still had all of the fame and prestige by carrying this message due to his unique ability to tell a good story which is why the story resonated with so many people and not because of the events themselves.
However, this story does speak to the lower standard of journalism and reporting in our country, It seems as though anyone can get up on a soap box and preach and people will listen and respond. However, it is only much later that people fact check and the truth comes out. However, at that point it is too late. By the time this story was retracted Mike Daisy had made all of his money from appearances and fees and so did the podcast. The slight loss of credibility does not negate the money made in the mean time. I believe that this is a function of the competitiveness and intensity of the media coverage in today’s society where with 24/hr news coverage, twitter and the internet, information is shared before it is ever verified and a story simply becomes too big not to discuss even if it is just a rumor.
“This American Life’s” podcast titled “Retraction” was painful to listen to. The report opens with the host, Ira Glass, stating that “This American Life” was retracting their episode titled “Mr. Daisy Goes to the Apple Factory.” After explaining the situation, the episode progresses into an interview with Cathy Lee, Mike Daisy’s interpreter. While this segment is shocking, it was not uncomfortable to listen to. The next segment, Mike Daisy’s interview about his falsified monologue, is filled with tough questions and awkward pauses. While Glass doesn’t seem to want to put Daisy on the spot, he definitely wants to do what he needs to do to reach the truth. Daisy answers a few of the questions hesitantly, but simply does not have responses for many of the others. I have never before listened to such an eye-opening and harsh, but justified radio episode.
Many of Mike Daisy’s statements were unsympathetically criticized throughout the episode. These include, but are not limited to, his statements about workers in illegal unions meeting at Starbucks’, meeting underage workers, the large number of workers outside the factory when he first appeared, the number of workers that he had a meeting with and for how long, the fact that the factory guards held guns, meeting workers who had been poisoned by overexposure to hexane, and the cameras in workers’ dorm rooms. I found his false account regarding the hexane-poisoned workers especially astonishing. How could he completely fabricate a report of having met such horribly mistreated workers? It seems simply disrespectful and unfair to the workers he met and those who may have actually experienced this poisoning. I definitely felt emotionally abused as a listener when I learned that this was all a story that Mike Daisy had created in his head. The worst part is that he still refused to take responsibility for his actions and would barely admit that he was wrong in dramatizing his real experiences.
Still, as stated in the “Retraction,” hexane poisoning is definitely a real issue for some Apple suppliers. Charles Duhigg mentions in the episode that there are Chinese workers who suffer from this type of poisoning, even though Mike Daisy did not meet any of them. After doing some initial research, I came across a New York Times article from February 2011 about an annual review of the working conditions at an Apple supplier (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/technology/23apple.html?pagewanted=all). It says that at one factory, 137 workers were found to have hexane poisoning. While this is definitely proof of an issue, the factory employs 18,000 people, meaning only 0.76% of the workers have experienced poisoning. I find myself torn between being upset that workers are being mistreated and thinking that it is lucky and maybe even understandable for such a small percentage of workers to be poisoned. After reading through some of the first hand accounts in the article, I have come to the decision that Apple should continue their investigations of their suppliers to further limit abuse. If they are able to find and remove underage workers, shouldn’t they be able to make the effort to lower the risk of poisoning, especially since they have plenty of resources available to make it happen?
As Daisey’s story unraveled and the truth was revealed through the incredibly awkward conversation between him and the journalist I realized that the new morals I thought I had discovered through his inspiring monologue were based off of lies. The retraction made me feel awkward at many moments but also very stupid. Why would I believe any security guard would be able to carry guns? When would that be normal? A more obvious example is the part that Daisey describes his taxi ride to a road that just ends. Why would I not realize this was made up or fake? He is talking about China not Haiti in his monologue.
Like I mentioned before the fact that I did not question why security guards would have guns is pretty amazing to me. This would not make sense in America or Europe but I must associate China with no rules. Which also does not make sense since it is a communist country. Doing simple research I could find an article about the gun laws and how harsh they are. http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/international/chinas-strict-gun-control-laws-not-enough-to-stop-violence. They actually are some of the most severe gun laws. I should have known this already so it is not surprising that the journalist immediately caught on to Daisey’s lie.
The podcast in a whole was again extremely interesting but disappointing. Though it is good to hear that conditions aren’t AS bad as Daisey describes them. The interview was very awkward with Daisey when questioning his facts. Daisey obviously knew what he was doing when he fabricated the story. This happens all the time among friends. You realize your story is cool but when you tell it the extra punch you need is not there. So rather than make a dumb comment you add a little bit to get your friend’s attention. That may be acceptable when telling stories with friends, but I would have never have guessed the monologue I heard last week was exaggerated or false. The second interview with Daisey gave it away and by the end I was irritated hearing him try to defend himself. The thirty second pauses and “well not exactly” responses really made me feel bad for TAL. Yeah I am disappointed in being fooled but a radio station used to give actual news and journalism was taken for granted as well.
Listening to the podcast this week made me pretty uncomfortable. While I do think Mike Daisey should be held accountable for his actions, I will admit it was hard to listen to him defend himself on This American Life. His responses were excruciatingly slow and, honestly, not at all well thought out. Even when he volunteered to come back on air the second time, his explanations were poor. How much can he really distinguish his work as “theater?” He seems disillusioned from the definition of truth.
One of the falsehoods they discussed in the podcast was of the guards at Foxconn holding guns outside the factory. This didn’t strike me much during the first podcast, but when they mentioned it in the retraction, I felt like I should have noticed it before. I hadn’t really realized it until I went abroad to France last spring, but laws and attitudes regarding guns are very different in the U.S. than they are in the rest of the world (when the shooting in Toulouse happened, some considered it France’s version of 9/11). Cathy herself said that she had never seen a gun in person, and after doing a little research on my own I did indeed find that gun control in China is extremely tough. I’m surprised that no one found Daisey’s tale of guards with guns to be suspicious, especially in a country that is well known for placing heavy control over its citizens (though perhaps if we look at China in that way, maybe it would make sense for the guards to have the guns…).
All of this makes me wonder what Mr. Daisey’s original intentions were in performing this piece. It would appear that he has some sort of vendetta against Apple and Steve Jobs (even though he claimed to own an iPad). Was he telling the truth when he said he wanted to draw back attention to the issue of factory conditions? Or was he simply looking for attention and the money that follows? Whatever his intent, he certainly succeeded in creating a controversy.
YOU HAVE NOW! I agree with many of the other posts when commenting that this Podcast was painful to listen to. After being so moved by the first piece, I found myself disgusted with Mike Daisey. He has lied to ever person that has listened to, downloaded, and read about his rather famous piece. I felt lied to. I was completely enraptured in his fictitious tale and hearing Cathy and reporters prove fact after fact to be incorrect, I was almost embarrassed for Mike Daisey. This Podcast made him look entirely incredible, and for lack of a better term, like an idiot.
I was first appalled about Mike Daisey’s efforts to keep his translator, Cathy, away from the public. He lies to say that he wanted to shield herself from media attention, but in fact he knew that she could prove his falsities. She was there, heard the stories, saw the action, and could testify that most of what Mr. Daisey claims to be ongoing and true, it in fact a lie. When Cathy was contacted, she hadn’t been aware that the story was published, or how much she had been incorrectly quoted. She was able to go through the script and separate what truly happened from fabrications. I agree that TAL should have checked with her before every publishing the story. Of course a professional actor/story teller wants to put a riveting spin on the truth – that is their job. His credentials should have been a flashing red light of caution when the story was ever heard. The tale is so moving, that people want to believe its true. When in fact, even the most moving aspects of the piece, are fabricated.
One thing in particular that resonated with me from the original piece was Mike Daisey’s encounters with underaged employees. Mike Daisey still recalls that he met a group of underaged workers, while Cathy says this is not true. She says that Daisey may have assumed their age based on looks but they didn’t meet a group of girls that were definitely underaged. In Daisey’s account he says he met a twelve year old girl, but admits that this is not true.
I found a ABC reported segment where a reporter actually entered and got footage of Foxconn and met many workers. He commented on how young the workers are but immediately says that the workers are not thirteen like you hear in horror stories of the factory (like Daisey’s account), but instead seventeen and eighteen. http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive. Although this is still a young age, it is legal. Mike Daisey seems to have fabricated this encounter with a group of workers of such a young age.
The ABC report above shows the factory that Daisey talks about and givers viewers an inside look. I was very surprised when I watched the segment because it was not at all like the image Mike Daisey had conjured in my mind. While the conditions aren’t spectacular, and I am not dying to work there – it seems like he embellished every detail possible to get an emotional stir from his audience.