The public radio program This American Life on Friday announced it was retracting the entirety of an episode it aired on the reportedly deplorable working conditions at a Chinese factory owned by Apple supplier company Foxconn, because the episode “contained significant fabrications.”Pretty stunning stuff. I look forward to hearing more about this.
The original episode, “Mr. Daisey Goes To The Apple Factory,” which aired in late January, featured the supposedly firsthand account of American theatrical performer Mike Daisey traveling to Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen, China.
Daisey has a response on his own blog, too:
I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity.While I'm on the subject, here are a couple of recent articles discussing the notion that Apple could make its spiffy devices either in the U.S. or at least while protecting workers. One is from The Nation, the other from Grist.
I'm pleased that people are at least talking about this stuff now. Too bad it has to be so contentious.
Update: Lengthy piece from The Atlantic discusses how Daisey's behavior has damaged his cause. I have mixed feelings. Certainly the situation is bad enough that the case for change can stand on its own. If Daisey's show were the only source of information on labor abuses in China, it would be far more serious. But plenty of independent investigation has also pointed to the issues. So yeah, it's bad to promote your cause with untrue information, but if anyone dismisses the issue because of that, they are also making a mistake.
Update 2: Tom Tomorrow cites a NYT piece on the controversy today. They venture into the question of what constitutes journalism, among other things. The discussion gets interestinger and interestinger. Everybody is coming down hard on Daisey, but no one seems quite sure how to treat This American Life.
Update 3: Commentary from an actor who has performed Daisey's show about Steve Jobs and Apple. All interesting, but particularly this:
But let’s get a hold of ourselves. Should we really be discussing “the abuse of the performer-audience relationship” in the same breath as the real, tangible abuse of Chinese factory workers? Shouldn’t This American Life feel just a little bit silly devoting a solid hour, full of probing research and revealing details, to both of these abuses equally?I'm glad to see all the discussion. This is the first contribution I've seen that seems to grasp some of the larger facts here.
The brief piece on Marketplace could have been followed up with a footnote on the TAL website, and perhaps an audio insertion at the top of the original piece, and everybody would have been happy.
But to drag Daisey into a studio and grill him for four hours about what he did actually see and what he didn’t– it’s called “burying the lede.” For apparently hell hath no fury like a public-radio storyteller scorned, especially when he’s got the huge, sanctimonious club of “journalistic ethics” at his side.