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.  


6 thoughts on “The Simplicity of Truth and the Complexity of Lies

  1. It was definitely sad to hear Act Two of “Retraction” when Mike Daisey was interviewed about his monologue. Though I must say, he seemed incredibly unprepared for the show. If he knew his story was being investigated and fact checked, and if he knew that discrepancies between fact and his monologue would be found, he should have been more prepared for this interview. His long pauses and shady, vague answers leads me to believe that he really had no idea what he was doing when he agreed to be interviewed for this show. I wish he would have come clean about what exactly he lied about, apologized for lying, restated his intentions, and closed with the true important takeaways from his monologue.

    • Yes! The fact is, there is still a lot than can be taken away from his monologue despite the lies that he mixed in. However, he did nothing to help his case on the “Retraction” episode – in fact, he hurt his credibility so much more. The more I read people’s posts the more I’m reassured that honesty is always the right answer. Of course, it’s not always easy, and lying can be deceiving because it seems like it will fix your situation, however in the long run you can always find comfort in knowing that you told the truth.

  2. I agree, Jennie, that those steps would have been the best ones for him to follow during the Retraction interview. His pauses made believe he was trying to come of with a sneaky calculated answer. His answers were actually very calculated and almost always evaded the actual question. In all circumstances that Ira brought up, Daisey never said the words, “I lied.” He would beat around the bush and the best he did was say something along the lines of “yes, I agree,” when asked the question, “was this a lie?” I actually came away from listening to his responses with a sense of pity. I felt bad for him and how much he was being discredited. But of course, he made a fool out of TAL and Ira was not going to let him get away with not facing up to his behavior.

  3. “Mixed truth with lies” — how many lies would you say it takes before that mix causes a problem? I really liked the way you put this, and it makes me think of a lie as a poison; mixing in even the slightest bit can cause serious damage. You are so right about the example you gave of when you know deep down inside that you are being truthful. Like you said, it is simple, based on facts that you know to be true. When you say that lies are complex, I think the most complex part is trying to figure out why one would say the lie in the first place? In this example, if Daisey would have just came clean and presented his quality work honestly, everything would be fine.

    • I agree that if Daisey would have come clean everything would be fine. If he went on the radio show and said, look… “I’m sorry for not being completely truthful in my monologue.” And then went on to be completely truthful in what he saw and what he didn’t, I think everything would be all good! But he didn’t do that, and that’s what I mean about lies being so complex. Honestly, it would be hard to admit that he lied because it is shameful and he got a lot of publicity from it.

  4. I was also uncomfortable by Daisey’s long pauses during the interview. You could sense that he was still crafting his story in a way to avoid outright lying, but not tell the whole truth either. He spun a tale in his monologue that he either had to roll with or let roll over him. I think he could have done a lot more damage to his name if he did openly admit to lying to the public than he did by defending his position.


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