The Retraction: An Ethical Dilemma

After listening to “The Retraction”, I have found myself at an ethical crossroads.  On the one hand, I find it downright ridiculous that Mike Daisey could blatantly fabricate/embellish so many details of a story with which so many people formed an emotional connection.  On the other hand, if as he says, his main reason for doing so was to raise awareness of a world issue, it could be argued that his reasoning justifies the methods.  Despite the difficulty, though, I feel this incident calls for you to take one ethical road or the other. If given the choice, I have to say that I find Daisey’s lies unacceptable and I think he could have raised awareness in another way.  Although his story did pique society’s curiosity, he could have done so while still maintaining his credibility as a storyteller.

I do have a lot of sympathy for the TAL radio show crew because, as they mentioned, a lot of the falsities that Daisey presented could have easily been detected with a little bit of research.  Even the first thing that Rob Schmitz mentions — Daisey’s recollection of factory guards with guns — could have been completely overturned with the tiniest bit of detective work.  According to this Wall Street Journal article, China’s gun laws are indeed as strict as Rob Schmitz implies.  In fact, the possession of just one gun can lead to something as harsh as a 3-year prison sentence.  Given these restrictions, it would be highly unlikely that a very well-known company’s factory would have guards who openly carry guns.

All in all, I was highly disappointed in the means by which Mike Daisey tried to increase knowledge of a world issue.  He not only jeopardized his own trustworthiness, but also that of the renowned TAL radio show.  He clearly understood the difference between journalistic standards of honesty and theatrical standards of honesty, so I fail to see how he believes that he was justified.  I do think he got a nice embarrassment, though, with his circular explanations and his attempts to talk around legitimate answers to any of Ira Glass’s questions.  I can, with both journalistic honesty and theatrical flair, say that his utter discomfort was the highlight of my listening experience.


2 thoughts on “The Retraction: An Ethical Dilemma

  1. I totally agree with you that the path that Mike Daisey chose to raise awareness of a serious issue is downright unacceptable. In addition to his trustworthiness and that of a renowned radio show, he also undermined people impression of the gravity of the Apple workers conditions. People would feel totally “tricked” and become incredulous of the true facts expressed in the story, the opposite of which Mike Daisey was attempting to do. And about the armed guards and the Starbuck details, I really wonder why nobody caught these obvious fabrications in the first place; It looks like TAL doesn’t have any crew with some connection to China.

  2. I too agree that Daisey could have chosen a different, more ethical way to present this story about Foxconn. Instead of labeling his monologue as truth derived from his own personal experiences, he could have performed the exact same show, free of criticism, if he had merely disclaimed his act as the result of experience and RESEARCH. Now, instead of the positive change he was hoping to implement, his entire story is under scrutiny, taking attention away from the very cause he claims to champion.

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