Mr. Daisey: White Lies or Detrimental Embellishments?

Mr. Daisey: White Lies or Detrimental Embellishments?

Even while enduring an interrogation regarding the validity of his statements in his Apple “expose”, Mike Daisey vehemently defended some imperative “facts” in his piece of “nonfiction”.   The particular “fact” that upset me the most was when he insisted that he not only saw, but spoke to multiple Foxconn workers ages 12 and 13.  Even under the guise that he was using theater and all of the factual leeway that accompanies it to tell his tale, it was still wrong to fabricate a “fact” that was so pertinent to the effectiveness of his story. 


The reality of the situation is that Daisey merely saw a group of factory workers and assumed their age to be between 12 and 13.  He even said that he “suspect[s] they are around that age”.  As one commentator points out, Westerners often miscalculate the age of people of Asian descent, and believe that they appear to be younger than they actually are.  I think that Daisey may very well be guilty of giving into stereotypes and preconceived notions here by presuming the ages of workers without actually asking them first. 


This brings me to the point responsible for much controversy: Daisey is adamant that he actually spoke to a worker who was 13.  Now I, as a listener, am faced with the decision of whether or not to believe him.  I do not think I am alone in classifying this “fact” as fiction.  If he had not lied about meeting the union workers or the man who suffered from Hexane poisoning, then fine, maybe I would believe him.  But the fact of the matter is that if he was willing to embellish so deeply as to deem his most moving observations a sham, then there is no way that I am going to believe that he actually spoke to a worker aged 13 even though Kathy cannot attest to it because she was “not there at the time”.


Upon conducting some basic research on whether or not Apple manufacturing plants (namely Foxconn) do employ underage laborers, I was surprised to find no definitive answer, but answers that seemed to point to “yes”.  As awful as this is, I do think that there is a significant difference between the articles that I found stating that the plants had 16 and 17 year olds working for them, as opposed to Daisey reporting that he spoke to 12 and 13 year olds.  In my inexperienced mind, it does not seem outrageous for a factory to employ people under the age of 18.  I think that my rationale for this is that the minimum working age in the US is 14.  Upon further thought, however, this rule does not apply for full-time work, and I’d be willing to bet that the minimum age may be even higher in factories due to the potential hazards.  I think the separation in my mind is also due in part to my personal experiences, and how mature I felt at 12 and 16 years of age, respectively.





One thought on “Mr. Daisey: White Lies or Detrimental Embellishments?

  1. Your focus on age is really interesting to me. I agree that at the age of 13 I would not have enjoyed or felt comfortable working in a factory day in and day out. But I also think that we have a bias coming from the US where there is a strong presence of labor laws. The minimum age to work in California is 16, and I know that this age varies per state. But in all cases, I doubt that age is younger than 14, as you stated.

    This part of the story also made me think about the Chinese gymnast scandal in the previous summer Olympics. I think most people would agree that the majority of Olympic gymnasts are tiny and look about 12. But the Chinese girls were actually underage – or the very minimum – bringing into question the ethics of the Chinese. If the government is willing to turn a blind eye when sending athletes to the biggest athletic competition in the world, why would they hesitate regarding the young workers in Shenzhen?

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