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.