I found the “Retraction” podcast of Rob Schmitz interviewing Mike Daisey to be almost more intriguing than Mike Daisey’s original monologue that was published on This American Life. I was almost cringing with uneasiness during the long and awkward silences during the interview. Clearly Daisey did not have all of his answers prepared, nor did he know how to finally admit to the truth, which contrasted drastically from his scripted monologue. Daisey is a talented speaker, and I found myself believing everything he said while listening to his first podcast. I was surprised to hear about the magnitude and various things that Daisey had lied about. Not only did he completely lie about some things, he also embellished the truth on other facts, which seemed overall unnecessary.
One of the facts that was proven untrue by TAL was that Daisey visited the dorms rooms of the workers at Foxconn. Daisey describes the dorms as cement blocks with 15 beds in each. Daisey said that the workers have to “Slide into [the beds] like coffins.” According to this article and photo, the bunk beds are not nearly has coffin-like as he described, and also the article states that there are 8 workers to a dorm room, not 15. However, it is true that there were nets installed outside of the dorm rooms to prevent any potential suicides (see here). According to this article, Foxconn takes the management of these dormitories very seriously. Of course, with over 450,000 workers living in the dorms, it is necessary to have an extensive management team to provide for the workers.
Overall, Mike Daisey’s blatant lies, or some would even call them white lies, have hurt Chinese workers in Shenzhen more than help them. I understand that Daisey wanted people to listen to his moving story, and he wanted the story to be as moving and compelling as possible for this. However, is creating fake facts to convince people to care about Foxconn’s conditions the right way to go about this? Is sacrificing some truth for the sake of “theater” over “journalism” a good idea? Would Daisey’s monologue have been as powerful if he did not sensationalize his experience, or would people have listened just as much?