Believe nothing that you hear, and half of what you see.


A teacher in high school once told me, “Believe nothing that you hear, and half of what you see.” Although this is an extraordinarily cynical way to go about life, I feel it’s an important rule of thumb. I think the first word I would use to describe Mike Daisey’s account of Apple would not be “falsified” but “sensationalized”. Daisey pads his somewhat true story with untrue happenings not in order to mislead people but in an effort to sensationalize his story for people. These added happenings certainly have this effect; they make his story far more interesting and his points far more conveying. To make an analogy out of this, Daisy sensationalizing a supposedly true spoken-word story would be like a professional athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs. His story remains in our mind but it’s looked back upon with a hint of skepticism. There was a certain amount of cheating going on behind his story.

In the film Scarface, Tony Montana says, “All I have in this world is my balls and my word, and I don’t break them for no one.” Montana is surprisingly poignant with this statement; all anyone has in this world are their balls and their word (so to speak), and they’re each very difficult to fix if broken. This little catchphrase of Montana’s applies especially to Daisey and those of his profession. Daisey’s career as a spoken-word artist who speaks about his own opinions and experiences is entirely dependent on whether or not his audience can trust him. The slow, inviting delivery of his material would lead one to believe Daisey is aware of how much weighs on his audience’s ability to buy into what he’s saying.  Perhaps after such a storied career Daisey thought that he had gained enough trust from the general public to pad his story with a fair amount of sensationalism. Unfortunately, Daisey failed to realize that having a storied career, and having gained the trust of his audience means nothing if he breaks the latter of the two things he has in this world.

At the end of the day, Daisey lied. He presented sensationalized truths to an impressionable audience. In the United States court of law one swears before testimony to deliver “nothing but the truth.” I wonder if Apple considered suing Daisey for slander. Daisey never gave any impression that his story was falsified in any sense, and although this may have taken away from the effect to the audience it is lying and cheating to do otherwise. Daisey’s journalistic venture into China embodied the yellow journalism of the 1920s. Daisey, as Tony Montana would say, “broke his word” with his piece on Apple. The end result of Daisey’s hurt credibility is fair more relevant than toiling over what of his piece was truth and what was lies.

4 thoughts on “Believe nothing that you hear, and half of what you see.

  1. I like how you say he “sensationalized” the story. That is exactly what he did, he added embellishments that were falsehoods to create a more empathetic and emotional connection with the listeners. However, to say his injury to his career and reputation is more relevant than the lies themselves is getting a little ahead of itself I believe. True, he slandered his own name and “broke his word” but his monologue was one of the most downloaded and well-received pieces on the site when made available. Thousands listened to it, and thousands more were told of it. Many might not hear about his lies, so the impact of those lies might be more far-reaching than the damage to his reputation. Also it might not even have hurt his reputation beyond repair. His piece has already been displayed as a theater piece on other media stations. His piece has gotten wide attention where he was able to go on talk shows and radio shows, but the retraction would not necessarily get the same attention. I believe the lies themselves played a more important role in persuading or affecting society than Daisey’s reputation suffered.

  2. As with the comment above, I also really like how you said he “sensationalized” the story. That is the perfect word to describe exactly what he did. However, I do agree with Frank on his other points. The fact that Daisey hurt his own name is much more damaging than the lies he told. Daisey shed light on some overarching truths that needed to be addressed. It was a great way to make them known in America.

  3. I love the Scarface reference and the quote from Tony Montana definitely applies to Mike Daisey and his monologue. I agree that Daisey thought he could just pad his story with things he didn’t actually witness firsthand and I’m sure he thought he would get away with it just fine. When you mention ‘trust’ and how vital it is for a man like Daisey it makes me think of times when I’ve been in a bind and had the decision of whether to use the quick-fix lie or man-up and tell the truth. As a kid I told my fair share of lies to my parents or friends because I was selfish and didn’t want them to think poorly of me. However, typing this today I’ve definitely learned my lesson that although the truth hurts, it hurts for much less of a time than finding out about a lie further down the road. 🙂

  4. Although I agree that Daisey presented a sensationalized story of what he saw, he is a storyteller, not a journalist as his translator said. He didn’t write this monologue in a pinch or lose track of details, it was a very deliberate attempt to capture the attention and emotion of his audience. I like the original quote “Believe nothing that you hear, and half of what you see” because we should always be skeptical of any performance for being just that, a performance.


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