I was really disappointed by the retraction to Mr. Daisey’s monologue regarding his journey to Shenzhen. As I’m sure many other listeners were deeply touched by his dramatic Foxconn experience, I can’t help but feel somewhat betrayed after realizing that nearly half of his details were as credible as a comedy show. From the very beginning of his monologue, he grasps our attention and paints the picture of Schenzen, a dark and military like place where factories like Foxconn are fenced in with guards carrying guns. I have to admit, it really did set the tone for the way the story would progress, but after the fact-checkers at This American Life learned from the Chinese tour guide Cathy that only those in the military or the police force are able to carry guns in China, Mike’s story unfolds as one giant theatrical blunder. Mike’s first mistake, although many were made, was when he refused to tell those working at This American Life his translator’s real name and contact information. In the monologue he calls this woman Cathy, but later changes her name to Anna, whose phone number he claims no longer seems to work. The first clue in this fact checking investigation was looking into the information that was unwilling to be given. Luckily in this century we have the power bestowed on us by google to search and find just about anything we would ever need to know. Cathy’s phone number was easily found by the click of the google search engine.
Another interesting fabrication that I found rather humorous was Mike’s claim of meeting with the illegal Chinese union. He posed the question “How do you find people who are right to work with you.” Their respective answer was merely at coffee shops and different starbucks around the area. I am indeed no professional fact-checker, but even hearing that scene a second time had me questioning Mike’s validity in this claim. A Chinese worker who makes roughly ten to fifteen dollars a day is able to sit at a Starbucks café and drink over-priced coffee? From what I know about the Chinese economy and wage rates for factory workers, I find this information just as unlikely as Rob did. When Cathy was actually tracked down and questioned about this apparent secret meeting with the union, Cathy remembers the details a little bit differently than what was stated by Mike. Daisey claims he spoke to 20 or 25 members. Cathy however, remembers at most 3. The underage workers that he claims to have seen ranging from the ages of 12-14 were also very skeptical to Cathy. She says they may have met workers who looked rather young, but she would be very surprised and would definitely remember if there were workers as young as 12. Tim Culpon, journalist at Bloomberg news, also attempted to find some 12 year old workers, armed guards, and crippled factory operators which he said would make his story “more compelling” but unfortunately, he wasn’t lucky enough. The group of workers they did get to talk to and hear complaints from was very different from workers in other companies. Inside Fxconn, complaints were not enough overtime. These workers actually wanted to work more and get more money. A year later, Tim went back to Schenzhen and noticed local neighborhoods, shopping strips, bubble-tea stands, and nothing even close to the depictions of woe and horror described by Daisey.
It is difficult to pick out merely one or two fabrications to discuss in Daisey’s story since there are so any details where the fact-checking has essentially failed to check-out. Even the simplest details where Daisey claims the number of factories visited was 10. Which he then changed to 5, and where Cathy remembers only 3. He also revises the number of illegal union workers from 20 or 30, knocked down to ten, and cathy remembering 3. After listening to the previous podcast from last week and it’s retraction for this week, as horrible as it is that Daisey has publicly lied on a radio station known for presenting factual information, fabricated and exaggerated dozens of details in his story, his intention in doing so was a good one in my opinion. I found it admirable that Daisey was finally able to admit that his biggest mistake was turning a monologue into a journalistic approach in order to get people to care. Details were fabricated and exaggerated, yes, but did he succeed in creating a buzz that essentially made more people care? Whether or not his facts check out, Daisey has been able to cast a light on a subject that people would otherwise pretend did not exist. Working conditions might not be as extreme as Daisey presented, but there are still issues that remain such as the suicides at Foxconn and the factory explosions due to a build-up of dust. I can fully understand Daisey’s good intentions by making these issues known so that the public and companies will care enough to prevent events like these from happening. While he lost the battle on the fact-checking reports, he still made a good attempt at bringing light to many issues wrapped with good intentions.