“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?