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Thread: This American Lied: Mike Daisey's fabrications about Apple & Foxconn

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    Porosity Caster parzival's avatar
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    Default This American Lied: Mike Daisey's fabrications about Apple & Foxconn

    In case you're unfamiliar with the story, there's been some news stories about working conditions in China, especially with respect to Apple's iPhone and iPad manufacturing. One of the most compelling stories was told by Mike Daisey, a monologist who traveled to China for himself and heard first-hand the stories of workers, and then made a show about it. This American Life liked it so much they put his show, or some of it, on the air.

    But it turns out he actually made up quite a bit of the story. TAL is issuing a retraction this week, and other news agencies who carried the story may need to do similar things.

    Daisey has issued a statement that he "stands by his work". He's not a journalist, and is entitled to dramatic license in telling his story.

    Now, as it happens, much of what he said isn't untrue. Moreover, it probably heightened awareness of what might be a real problem, and it may have spurred Apple to act more openly about its plans. some of the news stories were the result of Apple's own report on the issue, so it's not as if they were hiding about it. Would they prefer people not think about such things when buying their products? Probably; so maybe Daisey did some amount of good in raising awareness.

    Yet I'm appalled that his story, presented as it was as if it really happened to him, was not true. The problem is that he made it seem as if it were an open secret. As if this thing were so commonplace that all it took was some foreign guy to wander up and ask a few people and he could hardly avoid meeting someone with a terrible story to tell. And I think his lack of credibility might hurt the overall story just as much as it heightened awareness.

    My opinion is that he can't just hide behind the "not a journalist" defense when telling such a story. I don't think just journalists should be required to tell the truth. This, to me, crosses a line that dramatic license does not allow for.

    What do you think? Did he take it too far - or is the fault somewhere else?

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    I would say he is irresponsible but I think the story helped to briefly highlight how bad conditions are in China factories in general.

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    Oliphaunt
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    It's pretty ridiculous for this guy to promote himself as an muckraking investigative reporter and then turn around and claim he's "not a journalist".

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    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    If he has made any of it up, then he has to say that parts of it are fiction, he cannot say all of it is truthful and needds to make it clear.

    Highlighting problems through stories and tales is older than Aesop, so what he is doing isn't new, even if he was telling it as a story. But he has to say it is a story. Misrepresenting it as the truth is just asking for trouble.
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    Oliphaunt
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    Good NYT piece. It articulates my discomfort with the idea that it's OK to lie if it "raises awareness" pretty well.

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    This reminds me of the James Frey debacle, where people were defending him because it was such a great story that had to be told, while handwaving away the fact that he made it up completely while claiming it all happened to him. I think that it really does a disservice to actual true stories that really do need to be told. I don't care much for the truthiness defense.

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    Porosity Caster parzival's avatar
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    The kind-of ironic (but maybe not, but I don't want to psychoanalyze him) is that one of Daisey's earlier shows, titled "Truth", is about stories like James Frey and others who manufacture truth.

    I think an interesting contrast is to something like "What is the What" by David Eggers. Now, the main character, Valentino Achak Deng, is a real person. The book itself has some events that clearly happened, and others that almost certainly did not. But it is presented as a novel. I don't know that Eggers or Deng have ever said what is or isn't factual (I'm reasonably sure they've never claimed it was all true). It seems part of the purpose of the book was to raise awareness and tell the story of the Sudanese Lost Boys. Somehow I'm okay with all of that. Maybe because it seems clearer that this is fictionalized.

    I'm still not sure why one story, which I know to be a fictionalized version of real events, makes me react much differently than the other, which I had to expect was a dramatized version of some factual events.
    Last edited by parzival; 30 Mar 2012 at 03:33 AM. Reason: added note about claims of truth

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    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    Reading back over this reminds me of the Johann Hari case in the UK, where one of the leading liberal writers was found to have both plagurised and made up stories he was writing in his newspaper articles.

    It was amazing the number of people who were trying to justify his work as well.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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