Real Eyes Realize Real Lies: Spotting a Liar


Mike Daisy is a liar.  I do not care about what his intentions were in the long run, or that some of the events that he describes happened in other places.  He told us, the public, a falsified and exaggerated version of his story in order to make us aware about a problem.  Initially he was able to get the attention of many on the situation, but once his “retraction” piece came out, it seemed like the only problem he ended up creating awareness for was his credibility problem.  Daisy lied about everything from not being able to get in touch with the translator again, to fabricating a story that he met victims of a n-hexane incident.  Now some of these things are also just exaggerations, but the fact that he sat there and told this monologue, claiming everything in the story as truth, makes him a liar, and completely defeats his own purpose of what he set out to do in the first place.  Let’s look at the effects of what he has done so far.  When he first told his story, he affected the public by revealing poor working conditions in China, specifically in Foxconn where Apple products are produced.  It created a stir. This seemed to be his goal, and it was working.  His only problem: this story was perceived as a genuine piece of journalism, when in actuality it was fabricated story that was told in order to “tell a story that captured the totality of [Mike Daisy’s] trip.”  Once people learned of his falsifications, the story lost all credibility and the focus switched from the poor labor conditions to the poor representation of “journalism.”  Had Mike mentioned somewhere that the stories involved were slightly modified to get a point across, or that they were intended to reveal a truth but never actually occurred to him, there could be no complaining about the truth of the story.  But as the host of TAL Ira Glass said, “I know but I feel like I have the normal worldview. The normal worldview is somebody stands on stage and says ‘this happened to me,’ I think it happened to them, unless it’s clearly labeled as ‘here’s a work of fiction.’”  In a second’s notice Mike lost all credibility to me, and even though his message was about a social problem, the fact that he lied and falsified information makes ALL the information questionable.  He really lost the sense of trust that the listeners got from him, and with that trust came a desire to fix the problems being mentioned.  This incident seemed to have eliminated both aspects from his life.  It is like a real relationship in life.  It takes days, weeks, months, and years to fully gain the trust of some people, but it only takes one mistake to ruin all of it.  This, in my opinion, was Mike Daisy’s mistake.

As I mentioned earlier, the fact that he claimed all information to have happened to him and never mentioned anywhere that the stories presented weren’t entirely true is what makes him a liar.  He had all the opportunities in the world to mention this, which would leave the social impact of his intact, while leaving his credibility out of question.  On This American Life’s website, they describe themselves as follows:

“We think of the show as journalism. One of the people who helped start the program, Paul Tough, says that what we’re doing is applying the tools of journalism to everyday lives, personal lives. Which is true. It’s also true that the journalism we do tends to use a lot of the techniques of fiction: scenes and characters and narrative threads.”

This seems like the perfect forum for Mike Daisy to admit the story is slightly made up while getting his points across.  Which brings me to the part where Daisy mentions his one regret: passing the story off as journalism.  Journalism is expected to be an accurate portrayal of events.  The website Journalism.org is the site for the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism group, where they are concerned with journalism and the media.  Within the website, they mention their nine core principles of journalism.  The first principle is worded as such: “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.” The description of this principle really hits the nail on the head for me, and when read in the context of Mr. Daisy, it makes him seem like the furthest thing from an honest journalist:

“Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but it can–and must–pursue it in a practical sense. This “journalistic truth” is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, valid for now, subject to further investigation. Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information. Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built–context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum. As citizens encounter an ever greater flow of data, they have more need–not less–for identifiable sources dedicated to verifying that information and putting it in context.”

Advertising it as journalism was definitely a mistake on Daisy’s part.  If you take the time to go through the other principles, you can see a lot of times that Daisy fails to follow them.  So we can conclude here that this shouldn’t have been labeled journalism.  So what is the end effect on me as a listener?

Listening to the “retraction” episode, I was rather shocked by all of the revelations and also by the way Mr. Daisy presented himself.  Before I knew he lied about the stories I was moderately affected by his piece, and understood that labor conditions were really poor and needed changing.  Now, after hearing about the lies and exaggerations, I cannot take his monologue to heart anymore, and find myself angrier at him than at the conditions abroad.  Like I mentioned before, he ended up hurting the awareness movement he initiated.  I felt almost betrayed.  It was because I felt as though this man used his position as a recognizable name while on a popular radio show to fraudulently bring attention to a larger problem.  I than began to listen to the word choice he was using, and became irate with a few of the sentences he said.

“Truth always matters.”

Well then what the hell happened when you wrote this?  He seems to be digging himself in a hole at this point.

“Stories should be subordinate to the truth.”

Again, I repeat, what the hell happened?  What you say and what you do are complete opposites here.

“So much of this story is the best I’ve ever made.”

Right here is when I really didn’t like him.  The word choice of “made” just shows how he seems to accept that he fabricated this information.  I could “make” an AWESOME self-biography with his principles of writing if I wanted.  This brings me to the question of “what is truth?”  In this case, some of the instances had truth within them, but is it true the way Mike Daisy told it?  We also have to chose on who determines what is true.  In this, some of the instances require you to choose Mike’s word over Cathy’s.  It is at this crossroads that the connection between truth and trust is prevalent.  Listening to the podcast make me distrust Mike across all aspects of his story.  The translator, on the other hand, had no evident reason to lie and never came off as a liar.  Now in my own opinion, she is telling the “truth” because of those reasons.  Just because I think she isn’t lying doesn’t actually mean it IS the truth.  The truth is a funny thing because everyone has different frames of reference.  It’s like the saying there are always three sides to the story: what he said happened, what she said happened, and what actually happened.  Now the he and she involved could have seen the same event in a totally different way, but to them, their version of what happened seems true to themselves.  In a way, truth is internalized.  But, back to the point of trust.  Because it may be hard to fully understand the truth behind any situation, trust is imperative.  Telling the truth about something develops trust.  Once trust develops, it is easier to get people to believe you.  This relationship must continue.  If trust is broken through lying, there is a long period of time that follows where no matter what is said, the validity of the statement is put into question.  In conclusion, I find that Mike Daisy essentially broke the trust of the people, and as a result, lost the momentum he created about a social issue.  In the end, the lies within his monologue overshadowed the truth within an industry.

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4 thoughts on “Real Eyes Realize Real Lies: Spotting a Liar

  1. I am with you Vinny. The obligations of journalism are to report the truth, not bend the lines between just to get your way. After I saw this, I was like, “How could this man ever be credible again when he intentionally lied to the public.” Journalism is supposed to be transparent, not selecting sides and portraying the the truth with facts. No journalist should every try to gain support for one side, even if it might be the right side, by telling false information. If he was really a journalist, he should have gathered the proper data and told the real truth to the world.

  2. Brilliant post, Vinny. I really enjoyed the way you pulled out direct quotes from Daisey that were blatant lies and used them in your blog post. After hearing the “Retraction,” I came to the same conclusion; Daisey is a liar. However, one issue that I couldn’t shake while listening to the retraction was the legitimacy of Cathy’s statements. I was really glad to see that you included the idea that this really comes down to Mike’s versus Cathy’s word.

    You say in your post, “The translator, on the other hand, had no evident reason to lie and never came off as a liar. Now in my own opinion, she is telling the “truth” because of those reasons. Just because I think she isn’t lying doesn’t actually mean it IS the truth.”

    I do agree with you that her stories for the most part appear to be more believable, but I wonder if there are some underlying motivations or intentions behind her words. In the “Retraction,” Cathy made it clear she takes great pride in the reputation of her beloved country. Although the corporation could be to blame, how does a country look when they are constantly in the news for gruesome labor violations? Therefore, I think it could be possible that, after hearing Daisey’s monologue, she attempted to downplay and discredit some of the unfortunate “truths” that Daisey was trying to discover. At the end of the day, she is a proud Chinese businesswoman; China’s reputation is a top priority. Despite all this, I still agree that the accumulation of proven inaccuracies in Daisey’s monologue make his word much harder to believe.

    • You raised a good point when you said that she appears to take great pride in her country and as a result could want to save its reputation. Maybe I am putting too much trust into her like I did Mr. Daisy. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. But in this case I don’t see enough motive for her to really lie like that. She wasn’t the one trying to get a message across to millions of people, she was just answering questions. I find myself being able to put a lot of trust into her, especially because Daisy admitted to fabrication on some events.

  3. Great post. Your use and selections of quotes was fantastic. Particularly, I really enjoyed the first quote about the duty of journalism. In my blog I commented on the same idea that people were trusting Mike to provide facts about Apple and Foxconn workers. He literally told Ira and the “This American Life’s” staff that he was reporting the truth. In the end, he lied to thousands of people who trusted him .So i completely agree with your stance that he should have labeled it differently.

    Secondly, I agree his lie hurt the movement he tried to help. Now, people are going to test the credibility of any Foxconn or Apple labor issue. People now associate Mike Daisy’s lie to Apple and Foxconn. He was no small player in the Apple and Foxconn media crave either. People knew of his act and it moved many people to start caring for change. Just like you and I, think about how the thousands of other people felt when they discovered that the monologue was a lie. Naturally, they will hesitate to trust facts on Apple and Foxconn again.

    Lastly, I really liked the comment’s above insight on Cathy’s validity. I believe it is a great insight because I never thought to question it. Being a China business woman creates some conflict of interest because she could prioritize China’s reputation. However, she did mention that Daisy is a “good man” for trying to reveal Foxconn’s treatment of workers. In addition, she says she works and helps with reporters all the time. Overall, he helps to look into both sides before making any conclusions.

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