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.