Mark Radcliffe notes that discoveries of more violations at Apple’s Foxconn manufacturing plant in China prove that Mike Daisey wasn’t as wrong as once thought.
But yet when NYC-based monologuist Mike Daisey’s latest show “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” was outed to be riddled with “lies” and “fabrications” by NPR’s Marketplace and This American Life (who redacted their earlier piece on him, which was their most-downloaded in history), he was portrayed as nothing more than a dishonest fraud, a la Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, James Frey.
As if 90-100% of his “story” was completely made up, had no bearing to the truth, and had no other objective but to selfishly promote his career.
(Yeah, because that’s what you do if all you care about is fame: become a theater-based monologuist and travel to China to report on workplace violations. You’ll be a millionaire overnight.)
But it was as “mostly” accurate, it turns out. Even NPR admitted this. (While shaming him at the same time.) The new story turns out underaged workers, pay violations, excessive overtime, and more.
I wrote about this controversy last week, so I’ll try not to repeat too much of my argument. But my point is that the level of condemnation employed by most journalists against Daisey strikes me as misplaced. I find it troubling that there was such a frenzy to tear him down, when at the end of the day, it was still his show (and the general truth behind it) that is largely responsible for shining the light of scrutiny on the labor practices of the world’s richest company. There was an OCD-esque desire to throw out the baby with the bathwater as soon as a few smaller details were in contention.
But almost no one simply acknowledged that he did go to China. He did visit factories. He did talk to workers, all in an effort to know the truth. The headlines imply he made it all up while sitting on his couch at home. We should have two different levels of scorn for someone who lies about everything sheerly for fame, and someone who merely stretches the truth to help raise awareness about a labor rights issues.
And if, like me, you still have trouble with the other discrepancies—for example, the alleged guns being held by the guards—I encourage anyone who thinks he’s full of shit to listen to his 1-hour talk given at Georgetown last week. Daisey says he still remembers seeing the guns, though it was from far away, and acknowledges “Kathy” (his interpreter) did not, theorizing simply that two people can often see two different things while on the same trip. Other explanations he offers make a lot of sense, too.
But in our quest to separate the good men from the bad, let’s save our true righteous indignation for the Bernie Madoffs of the world; Daisey’s stretching of the truth, while problematic and worthy of attention, still had a moral aim and essential truth behind it.