Was the end worth the means?


I didn’t find the retraction of the This American Life episode or the ‘lies’ told by Mr. Daisey to be quite as shocking as some of my classmates.  I think the main reason for this was because I anticipated that some of the stories in Mr. Daisey’s monologue were not quite the truth.  The events of life do not happen in a way that is a fit to tell a story.  There is no climax fit into daily life, or a series of events that lead to it, or an emotional end that makes us think about morals and ethics.  These key features of stories must be crafted intentionally.  It is Mr. Daisey’s job, as a writer and an actor, to portray the events of his trip to China in a way that will be appealing to an audience, and I believe that is exactly what he has done. The show is on Broadway after all, which should give some indication to the audience that the events of the story would be exaggerated, dramatized, and controversial.  Mr. Daisey’s intention was to bring light to an issue which he felt needed the support and attention of American citizens.  There is no doubt that he has achieved this goal as thousands of people are signing petitions, writing news articles, conducting their own investigations, and conducting news broadcasts about the conditions in Chinese factories.  That is not to say, however, that Mr. Daisey did not take many missteps to achieve this end goal.

Where Mr. Daisey got himself into trouble was allowing This American Life to portray his theatrical work as reputable journalism.  Not only that, but he continued to lie, avoid questions, and skirt around the truth in order to present his material as factual information.  He had many opportunities to fess up and admit that some of the details were fabricated for the sake of drama, but was too blinded by the fame and message he believed in, to take these opportunities.  Like Ira Glass, I too have doubts about the truth of any of the things he now claimed to experience.  And why shouldn’t I when it has been shown that he lied about how many factories he visited, the number of people he talked to, the dorm room conditions, the government blacklist, the hexane poisoning, and many other details. 

This podcast revealed in particular that Mr. Daisey never even saw the actual dorm rooms that the workers lived in, although he described them with detail in his original monologue.  I decided to investigate the actual conditions of these dorm rooms to see how accurate his description was.  I found an article (http://gizmodo.com/5678732/exclusive-look-where-the-workers-who-made-your-iphone-sleep-at-night) which describes the conditions and provides photos, of Foxconn dorms.  Although the conditions are far from desirable, they are not as gruesome as he described.  I doubt that any person would expect much more than this when thinking about the living quarters that a company would provide its factory workers with.  They workers sleep on bunk beds in a small room but have access to TV viewing rooms, cyber cafes, and exercise equipment, which hopefully makes their life a little less bleak.  In fact, it is probably better than some of them could afford to have on their own.  So although I strongly disagree with Mr. Daisey’s decision to present his work as factual truth, I believe he has brought light upon conditions which truly should be adjusted.  But I am left with the question, was the end worth the means?

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7 thoughts on “Was the end worth the means?

  1. Sarah, I thoroughly enjoyed your analysis on this matter. I agree, the main problem with Daisey’s story was that he presented it as authentic journalism and not what it truly was – an exaggerated collection of stories compiled to shed light on the serious problems in Shenzhen. Overall, I do not think the ends justify the means. Any progress that Daisey made in presenting his story to us listeners was only negated by the stigma that comes with false journalism.

  2. Although I was one of the people who found the embellishments surprising, I definitely agree that I (and other members of Daisey’s audience) should have been prepared for some elements of his story to be slightly exaggerated. You’re right…it is his job as an actor to produce drama and elicit emotions in any way possible. Your post really made me consider even further that perhaps the only thing we should really fault him for is allowing “This American Life” to represent his stories as truth. It could be argued that his other “wrongdoings” were simply a part of his job.

  3. In response to your question, I do think the ends justify the means. While Mike Daisey’s credibility is forever lost, this doesn’t mean that his goal wasn’t accomplished. People will talk. People will investigate. Sure it is a shame that he created and presented false journalism, but a failure and disappointment there doesn’t mean a greater goal wasn’t achieved.

  4. Sarah I found your article that you posted about the living conditions to be very insightful. I agree that you would not expect these workers to be staying in five star hotels. However, I disagree with your assessment that the ends justified the means. In this situation I felt as though Mr. Daisy did not have to lie to get his message across and raise awareness. I think overall that this retraction hurts his credibility and as such hurts his cause.

  5. I definitely agree with Alex. Mike Daisey fooled us all with the fabrication of over a dozen different details that made his monologue as popular and dramatic as it has become. While his story isn’t exactly one hundred percent true, Daisey does say that his biggest regret is presenting his theatrical presentation of the issue to a radio station that deals with only factual and news related information. His lies fooled us all, but they did help to achieve the greater goal of getting people talking and more importantly, getting people to care. Regardless of how fabricatied his details were, the fact still remains that issues do exist and what better way to bring attention to them than a story playing off of human emotions.

  6. I find your take on the dramatization very interesting. You are definitely one of few that looked at Daisy’s story as a work of art, rather than a falsified news report. Before reading your reaction, I felt that Daisy was completely at fault for misrepresenting information, but I agree that where he went wrong was more just allowing This American Life to air it on the radio. It is likely that he got in over his head, and simply didn’t know how to fix his mistakes. I can relate to your struggle with justifying Daisy’s lies, since he brought a large amount of public attention to a problem that had been ignored for years.

  7. Pingback: Who Checks the Checkers? | Business, Government and Society fiVe

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