Truth within the Lies


The word “lie” can be defined in this context as an intentionally false statement. The Retraction, revealing that Mr. Daisey is in fact a liar, did not actually come as a huge surprise to me. Looking back, his vivid descriptions of angry guards carrying guns outside of the factories almost reminded me of a scene out of North Korea, rather than China. What really astonished me was that Daisey never fully admitted that most of his original story was fabricated. He claims that he is not a journalist, he is an artist, and thus he should be held to different standards. However, Daisey did not say beforehand that his segment was a work of fiction, intentionally trying to mislead his audience. Yes, he did reveal some overarching terrible truths about Apple. The truths that he revealed are still terrible. He did not need to weave a web of lies to get his points across. Daisey’s segment exposed shocking practices at Foxconn factories in China where Apple products are made. That is a truth. Mike Daisey fabricated countless details in order to get his fifteen minutes of fame. That is my speculation. His segment never would have gotten the amount of attention that it did if he had announced that it was a fictional “work of art” to begin with.

I think the most shocking fabrication of all was Daisey’s claim that he was unable to contact his translator, Cathy. A simple Google search for “Cathy Shenzhen translator” brought me to her contact information. She also has a personal website (http://www.shenzhenhelper.com/) that is written in English and describes her services. This day in age, with unlimited information available to us at the touch of a button, Daisey probably should have thought twice before lying about how difficult it was to get in touch with his translator.

After doing a little research, I found that Daisey also misrepresented his show as a work of “non-fiction” when he performed at various Public Theaters (http://theater.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/theater/defending-this-american-life-and-its-mike-daisey-retraction.html?_r=0). The fact that he has misrepresented his show in multiple places reinforces my belief that Daisey deliberately wanted his audience to believe that everything he said was true. If he promoted his show as “non-fiction”, then it should have been just that—nothing but the facts. As I said before, I am not surprised that that he is a liar, but I still was duped into believing him. I believed that his interviews with the 13-year-old Chinese girl who worked at the factory, and the former Foxconn worker whose hand was destroyed, were true. Even though I want to be mad, I am not. Daisey shed light on the harsh labor conditions that these people really do work in. Maybe Daisey’s fifteen minutes of fame will ultimately lead to change in China. Then again, maybe not.

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If Daisey were Pinocchio, I wonder how long his nose would be by now…

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5 thoughts on “Truth within the Lies

  1. This post reminds me of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds. In his radio broadcast he presented everything as fact to the point where audiences were actually afraid and began to look outside for the sight of an alien ship. However, one glaring difference between Welles’ work and Daisey’s is that at the end he admitted that it was just an act. I agree with your post that telling a story is fine even if it is under the guise of being true so long as you don’t let people leave believing that it is the truth.

    • I really like your comparison between the two broadcasts – i didn’t think of that until I read your comment. I do however disagree that Daisey admitted it was all an act. He did say it was part of his interpretation, but when confronted with the flaws in his story revealed by Cathy he remained largely in denial.

  2. I agree completely with your first paragraph, when you mention how there were so many lies weaved into the truth. What I am so surprised about is why Daisey felt the need to lie so much when he did have good stories to tell, ones that actually transpired. He didn’t need to make up the amount of workers he spoke to, because he did talk to at least a few, confirmed by Cathy. Hearing the terrible conditions from a factory worker still sends the message he was trying to make. By lying he has belittled the interviews that he actually got while in China. Even though I know he stretched the truth to make more of an impact, I think now not even the true stories have any effect, since we don’t know what is true and what is not.

  3. I agree with you when you said that it was arguable that his segment would never have gotten the amount of attention that it did get it he was it was fictional. Most people want to know the whole truth and are not interested in fictionally, artful works. However, I disagree when you say that “he did not need to weave a web of lies to get his points across.” I think that most of us would not have been as emotionally attached to the monologue or have as much interested about the issues going on in China if we listened to just his own experience. While I do not support lying, I think that the society that we live in has fostered an environment where a story needs have so many elements of surprise, fear, and sadness attached to it, in order for it to gain any acknowledgment. All of the statements that he said were true in the sense that they have happened in China, but just he did not experience them.

  4. I like how you pointed out how he describes his piece as a fictional “work of art”. This makes me think of, all things, Law & Order. Law & Order is, quite obviously, a fictional show yet they find the need to specify that it’s fictional at the beginning of each of their episodes. Law & Order sometimes bases their episodes on real events but goes about changing the character’s names, ethnicity, crimes, and so on, to maintain a level of fiction. The reason the show does this is to avoid being sued for libel by a party who believes L&O portrayed a character that specifically represented them. Daisey on the other hand uses very real, specific, companies and people within his work of “fiction”. Just a thought.

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