Believe nothing that you hear, and half of what you see.


 

A teacher in high school once told me, “Believe nothing that you hear, and half of what you see.” Although this is an extraordinarily cynical way to go about life, I feel it’s an important rule of thumb. I think the first word I would use to describe Mike Daisey’s account of Apple would not be “falsified” but “sensationalized”. Daisey pads his somewhat true story with untrue happenings not in order to mislead people but in an effort to sensationalize his story for people. These added happenings certainly have this effect; they make his story far more interesting and his points far more conveying. To make an analogy out of this, Daisy sensationalizing a supposedly true spoken-word story would be like a professional athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs. His story remains in our mind but it’s looked back upon with a hint of skepticism. There was a certain amount of cheating going on behind his story.

In the film Scarface, Tony Montana says, “All I have in this world is my balls and my word, and I don’t break them for no one.” Montana is surprisingly poignant with this statement; all anyone has in this world are their balls and their word (so to speak), and they’re each very difficult to fix if broken. This little catchphrase of Montana’s applies especially to Daisey and those of his profession. Daisey’s career as a spoken-word artist who speaks about his own opinions and experiences is entirely dependent on whether or not his audience can trust him. The slow, inviting delivery of his material would lead one to believe Daisey is aware of how much weighs on his audience’s ability to buy into what he’s saying.  Perhaps after such a storied career Daisey thought that he had gained enough trust from the general public to pad his story with a fair amount of sensationalism. Unfortunately, Daisey failed to realize that having a storied career, and having gained the trust of his audience means nothing if he breaks the latter of the two things he has in this world.

At the end of the day, Daisey lied. He presented sensationalized truths to an impressionable audience. In the United States court of law one swears before testimony to deliver “nothing but the truth.” I wonder if Apple considered suing Daisey for slander. Daisey never gave any impression that his story was falsified in any sense, and although this may have taken away from the effect to the audience it is lying and cheating to do otherwise. Daisey’s journalistic venture into China embodied the yellow journalism of the 1920s. Daisey, as Tony Montana would say, “broke his word” with his piece on Apple. The end result of Daisey’s hurt credibility is fair more relevant than toiling over what of his piece was truth and what was lies.

Stop bullying “Lil” Daisey


While listening to the “hot debates” between Mike Daisey, on one side, and Ira Glass with Rob Schmitz, on the other, I caught myself creating an image, kind of like a video, of what was going in the studio. The whole conversation reminded me of a child talking to his parents, trying to justify his “little” lies. It was a public beating of Mr. Daisey, who himself did not even make an attempt to behave maturely. Perhaps it, the Retraction, was theater all along. I cannot say for sure.

“Lying is bad” – our parents said. Subconsciously we do know that, however, when it comes to justification, it is hard to determine, even for those who taught us, what exactly is bad about lies. The most common argument that I have heard against any forms of “not telling the truth”: “Would you want to be deceived yourself?” I wouldn’t say no to that in any case. As you might yourself come up with an example of a “lie for good”, and therefore successfully achieve contradiction.

So, why is lying bad? I think that the problem associated with lies is the confusion it creates. By deceiving other people one becomes unpredictable and therefore less trustworthy. “What to expect from this person?” “What to believe in?” By lying, especially to the public, one creates instability in information delivery chain and impairs society’s perception of that information. Today, data is the most valuable thing. At the end of the day, millions of lives depend on reliable information. Hence, all the knowledge received is not reliable, due to the uncertainty, and therefore can be neglected, which is simply stupid in the Information Age. Chaos awaits us, once lying becomes publicly acknowledged to be acceptable.

So, how is Mike Daisey even related to what I was writing about? Mr. Daisey has not admitted to lying, because “it is inaccurate to say so”. Couple of questions asked, and he desperately starts to alter his story, just like a little child before his parents. This reminds me of myself at the age of 15: once I came back home late at 1am and was altering the story, adding some details hoping that I would not be punished as much. What is even worse – everybody knew Daisey was lying.Lie to me I would like to paraphrase Ira Glass: “Mike came to explain his story, rather than to admit his lies”. Mike Daisey turned the radio show of journalistic format into a theatrical performance – farce. “Must let the show go on”.

Mike Daisey believes Mike Daisey: Do You?


Being restricted to three paragraphs to try and answer these questions is cruel and unusual punishment.  I would be lying if I told you that I have the answers.  But since I must do so as a result of the assignment, I will intend to do the best I can to answer the questions given the context and resources that have influenced me.  What is truth? What are lies? Who gets to decide?  At the crux of sorting out all of these answers, in my opinion, are three main elements: motivations, intentions, and goals.  To illustrate this idea, consider this very blog response.  We can then put this Apple case on the stand and try to generate some more assertive answers.

Sure, I have greatly enjoyed these podcasts, but my motivations for writing this blog are clear.  I am scrambling to post the answers to the aforementioned questions by midnight tonight mostly because I realize the effect it would have on my grade if I did not do so.  I have laid out my intentions, though they are also pretty guided by the prompt.  I plan to consider the answers to these questions based on the resources I have been provided, my own background knowledge, and the context in which I am presenting my findings, namely, a blog to spur discussion among classmates on the topic at hand.  My goal is along these same lines.  I want to create an interesting idea that can be used to more generally understand the meanings of truth and lies within the appropriate context.  In this case, my idea is a set of elements that must be considered in each case – motivations, intentions, and goals.

 Making the dramatic shift from my blog post that maybe twelve people will read to Mike Daisey’s monologue that millions of people have heard, we must remember the core elements and apply them to this situation.  First let us consider his potential motivations behind his actions.  It is pretty reasonable to think he was motivated by the potential of become famous and garnering media attention.  In this retraction podcast, we hear about the MSNBC interview and numerous other outlets for the name “Mike Daisey” to become well-known.  When considering his intentions, it is hard to look much further than the comment he makes in his monologue, which is repeated in a dramatic moment during the retraction,” I am going to lie to a lot of people”.  The fact that he said this straight forward, I believe that Daisey intended to make false statements the entire time.  Last, when considering his goals, I am struck by how much this project and work means to him.  He almost seems to be describing a “suicide” when he gets emotional and says how sometimes he wishes he would have just killed the project altogether.  Mike Daisey had a goal of embarking on a mission to tell the story of Apple to everyone—with a combination of facts and personal touches.  Considering this context coupled with the dictionary definitions of truth, “that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality”, and lies, “an intentionally false statement”, allows us to form an opinion of whether Mike Daisey should be considered a liar, or as he says it, a story-teller and writer.  I believe that since personal wealth could be motivating his actions and decisions, his intentions were to intentionally tell false statements (the definition of a lie), and his goals were not, in my opinion, creating a majority best interest, Mike Daisey should be considered a straight-up liar.  Maybe I do not get to decide, but I think anyone can decide so long as he considers how all those elements play into the context of the situation.  Do you think these elements make sense, and if so, do you think they justify Mike Daisey’s “lies” or do they further make him seem to be a lying scumbag?

The Simplicity of Truth and the Complexity of Lies


Listening to Mike Daisey’s responses in “Retraction” made me cringe.  His long pauses followed by short answers made listening to the interview with This American Life uncomfortable.  The problem with Daisey’s monologue is simple (at least in my mind) – he mixed truth with lies.  I’m a firm believer that people know when they are telling the truth and when they are telling a lie.  When Ira Glass asks Dasiey to clarify shady parts of his monologue, such as the ages of workers he interviewed or whether the guards carried guns, his long pauses and seemingly voided answers made the interview process exhausting, as Glass would describe during the show.  

Some might argue that Daisey just took his time to answer the critical questions that Glass asked him, however I firmly disagree.  Have you ever been accused of lying but known deep in your heart that you told the truth?  I have – and there’s no way I, or anyone else in their right mind for that matter, would respond the way Daisey does.  His answers make the story even more difficult to believe because he lacks simplicity.  Truth is simple and well-understood.  Lies are complex and difficult to understand.

So, was Mike Daisey an unethical liar?  Ironically, this is a difficult question to answer.  Personally, I believe Daisey when he says that his monologue was his best work, and that is why it was so hard for him to answer some of the questions that Glass asked him.  I believe that he did indeed experience and witness some of the things that were in his monologue, but that he also drew from other articles and instances that had nothing to do with Foxconn and put them into his elaborate story.  Therefore, I think the right thing to do would’ve been to explain to his audience that it’s a fictitious story BASED on true events – not non-fiction like he initially described it.  He could have even done this after the fact, with his interview on “Retraction” and I think he would’ve been fine.  Instead, he chose to give shady answers and not fully come clean with what happened, resulting in unethical behavior.  

What Constitutes the Truth?


What do you think that it means to be ethical?  This is the issue that is being called into question in regards to the Mike Daisey scandal.  Mike Daisey, a well-known author and performer, who has been publically ostracized by many because of his intent to deceive the American public with his monologue, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.  In this one-man show Daisey performs a monologue based on his thoughts and experiences after visiting Foxconn, one of the main suppliers of Apple, based in China.  Daisey performed this monologue all over the country, in different theaters, to sold out audiences.  His story became a sensation and brought the issue of poor working conditions in sweatshops to the forefront of the American public’s mind.  And, why wouldn’t it?—Daisey’s performance is supposed to be a true account of his experience.  It even says in the program, underneath the title of the show, in all caps, ‘THIS IS A WORK OF NONFICTION’ (Huffington Post Article).  This, the world has come to discover, is false.  In fact, most of the monologue never happened.

This controversy began when Mike Daisey agreed to have his monologue aired on the popular radio show, This American Life.  Up until this point everything seemed to be going well for Daisey, as the entire American public was happily digesting every one of his lies.  However, he should have realized that his lies would eventually catch up with him, now that they were out in the world for anyone to fact check and disprove.  Well, that is exactly what happened.  After hearing Mike Daisey’s monologue on the radio, Rob Smitz—an American journalist living China, reporting for the popular radio show, Marketplace—began to question the validity of a lot of Daisey’s claims.  Because Smitz was a reporter living in China at the time, he knew what the actual Chinese culture and customs were like.  It is this knowledge that allowed Smitz to catch Daisey’s lies.

Most of the lies Daisey fabricated were not in fact, “fact” lies, but more “experience” lies.  In an effort to clarify his suspicions, Smitz, went out and found “Cathy”, Daisey’s translator for the duration of his visit, in an effort to clarify things.  After Smitz found Cathy, Daisey’s entire story began to unravel.  While Cathy, herself, was unaware of Daisey’s monologue, Smitz soon filled her in on exactly what Mike Daisey had claimed happened during his trip.  The first thing he asked her was whether or not Daisey’s claim that the security guards were carrying guns when they approached the gates of Foxconn was true.  Cathy tells him that there is no way that, that is accurate because it is illegal for security guards to carry guns in China.  Then he starts checking other basic statistic Daisey used with Cathy, such as how many factories they visited and how many workers they talked to.  All of Daisey number differed drastically from Cathy’s.  After realizing that his sneaking suspicion that Daisey was lying about some of the facts of his trip was in fact true, Smitz wondered what else was he lying about?  This was when the truth finally came out.

After questioning Cathy it became clear that most of the events Daisey claimed actually happened were exaggerated or completely made up.  Some of the most prominent lies were made in regards to the secret union of workers Daisey claims to have talked to; his conversations with workers who had suffered injuries from a dangerous chemical, n-hexane; and even arguably the most powerful moment of the whole monologue, Daisey’s encounter with the man whose hand had been crushed while on the job.

So where does this put us now?  This was not Daisey’s first publically performed monologue.  So what do you do when you discover that someone you thought you could trust, someone who was well known for his “honest” monologues, is caught lying?  Was Daisey’s behavior completely unethical or did he do what had to be done to bring this issue to the forefront of American conscious?  Personally, I think Mike Daisey is, to quote the prompt for this blog, “an unethical liar”.  I apologize to anyone that supports him, but there are better ways to get your voice heard then duping the entire country, and world for that matter.  I agree, sweatshops are an enormous issue that should and must be addressed.  It is logical that any behavior not condoned by U.S. values and laws, by U.S. companies, should not be condoned; however, I do not believe that this excuses Daisey’s lying.

But, not all American’s agree with me. In fact, Justin Snider, a reporter for the Huffington Post, suggests, “Were it not for Daisey, we—the general American public—wouldn’t be talking about Foxconn.” (Huffington Post Article).  This is true in some ways, although, other well-publicized cases, such as the Nike case, were already beginning to educate the American public on the horrors of third-world sweatshops.  It is not the fact that Daisey lied that really bothers me, it is how Daisey behaved after he was caught lying that made me question his motives.  What Daisey should never have done in the first place was to claim that his show was, without a doubt, nonfiction.  Yet, what was really the icing on the cake for me, was that even when he was caught blatantly lying, he tried to deny it.  This completely destroys his credibility in my mind, period.  He completely discredited himself and made himself look like a pathological liar when he was unwilling to come out and admit he lied.  It is not ethical to lie to society just to get the public to react the way you want them to.

One of the other questions raised by this scandal, is what constitutes art, journalism, or truth?  And who gets to decide this?  As a society we have created cultural norms that individuals reference when making decisions.  For example, truth in our society is defined as  the events that actually transpired and nothing more.  This does not include anything that has not happened.  Truth is absolute and irrefutable.  There is nothing that can change true events.  The study of journalism is based on this concept of truth.  Journalists, in the United States, are expected to only report actual, truthful events.  If they didn’t then how would the public know when they were exaggerating or telling the truth?  While this does not mean that journalism is completely void of biases, as biases are a part of human nature.  But journalists are expected to only report the facts, not an embellished version of what actually happened.  Therefore for Daisey to claim that his show was a work of nonfiction is ludicrous, and only makes every other reporter associated with him look bad.  Art, on the other hand, could be defined as one’s own interpretation of the truth.  Art is a form of self-expression, and does not prescribe to the same strict guidelines that both journalism and the truth do.  Daisey is an artists, not a journalist.  However, this does not change the fact that it was unethical for Daisey to claim that what he wrote/performed was true.  Just because he is an artist does not excuse his lying.  If he had been smart he would have appropriately cited his story as “based on true events”, not as a work of nonfiction.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/justin-snider/why-mike-daisey_b_1361270.html

A half truth is a whole lie


If the first words I ever told you were loud enough to make you speak up for a cause, then its inspirational. If the first words I ever told you were strong enough to make you take action, then its motivational. If the first words I ever told you were powerful enough to change your life entirely, then its momentous. But if the first words I ever told you were corrupt, misleading, and downright disrespectful, then its dishonesty and betrayal to not only yourself, but to the rest of the American people for what you’ve done. When Mike Daisy’s words were first spoken, This American Life should have been looking into the situation before deeming it a credible story. I believe it is just as much as This American Life’s mistake as it was Mike Daisy’s mistake for lying about a lot of the things he said.

This story should never have reached the light of day if they took the time to approve its validity and now, there are people out there who actually believe what Mike Daisy claims. I believe Mike Daisy was also lying when he said the main reason for his performance was to make people care about what was happening in China. Listening to the way he answered questions about why he lied shows that he never thought he was going to get caught. His intentions, he claimed, was to open up to the world about the lives of China’s factories workers, but you do them and yourself no good when you make false claims to raise awareness.

In Mike Daisy’s monologue he discusses all the horrible things he “heard” about dealing with labor conditions, but never mentioned the fact the Apple or Foxconn are doing things to improve them. Mike Daisy is a fraud in my eye and should never be credible or taken seriously ever again. I’m very disappointed in This American Life for releasing this story before finding out whether it was the truth or not. I believe the image of Mike Daisy has gone down and he deserves it. You can’t make things up and expect to get away with it. In the end, everyone gets caught.