It was uncomfortable to hear Mike Daisey during the retraction segment on “The American Life.” Ira Glass asked pointed questions about the validity of Daisey’s original monologue, “The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, and demanded to know why he hadn’t been entirely truthful. Daisey conjured up a few poor excuses, but the long silences and clear trepidation in his voice had more of an impact than anything he said. And of course, Ira Glass is absolutely correct – Mike Daisey did lie to millions of listeners about his experiences in China.
When I first heard Daisey’s monologue, I really enjoyed listening to his seemingly inside scoop from his trip to Foxconn. Terrible working conditions in factories is a very prevalent topic, and I have been struggling with my own opinions towards the issue. And after hearing his experience, I couldn’t help feeling empathy for the factory workers and the sacrifices that they make in order to provide for themselves and their families. The stories about suicide, small living quarters, and grueling working conditions made me look at my Apple products in a different light. Mike Daisey was clearly successful in his task.
However, was telling a lie the best way to tell the truth? The automatic response is no. Daisey should have told the story honestly, especially since he claimed that he was exposing these factories for what they truly were. And since he did witness the long hours, listen to horrible injury stories, and meet an underage worker, he did have an interesting story to tell. In retrospect, Daisey probably wishes that he did not tell all of the lies that he had, which has made almost as much hype as the story itself.
However, we are not exactly back to square one. His monologue was a huge success; he did enlighten many people about the travesties in the factories and the hardships those workers face. And although parts of it were lies, Daisey was successful in exposing the conditions factories, in a way that people wanted to listen. So although the retraction definitely discredits my opinion of him, I do understand his motives and have to acquiesce that he did accomplish his goal: to open our eyes to the truth about Apple.