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.

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While listening to the “hot debates” between Mike Daisey, on one side, and Ira Glass with Rob Schmitz, on the other, I caught myself creating an image, kind of like a video, of what was going in the studio. The whole conversation reminded me of a child talking to his parents, trying to justify his “little” lies. It was a public beating of Mr. Daisey, who himself did not even make an attempt to behave maturely. Perhaps it, the Retraction, was theater all along. I cannot say for sure.

“Lying is bad” – our parents said. Subconsciously we do know that, however, when it comes to justification, it is hard to determine, even for those who taught us, what exactly is bad about lies. The most common argument that I have heard against any forms of “not telling the truth”: “Would you want to be deceived yourself?” I wouldn’t say no to that in any case. As you might yourself come up with an example of a “lie for good”, and therefore successfully achieve contradiction.

So, why is lying bad? I think that the problem associated with lies is the confusion it creates. By deceiving other people one becomes unpredictable and therefore less trustworthy. “What to expect from this person?” “What to believe in?” By lying, especially to the public, one creates instability in information delivery chain and impairs society’s perception of that information. Today, data is the most valuable thing. At the end of the day, millions of lives depend on reliable information. Hence, all the knowledge received is not reliable, due to the uncertainty, and therefore can be neglected, which is simply stupid in the Information Age. Chaos awaits us, once lying becomes publicly acknowledged to be acceptable.

So, how is Mike Daisey even related to what I was writing about? Mr. Daisey has not admitted to lying, because “it is inaccurate to say so”. Couple of questions asked, and he desperately starts to alter his story, just like a little child before his parents. This reminds me of myself at the age of 15: once I came back home late at 1am and was altering the story, adding some details hoping that I would not be punished as much. What is even worse – everybody knew Daisey was lying.Lie to me I would like to paraphrase Ira Glass: “Mike came to explain his story, rather than to admit his lies”. Mike Daisey turned the radio show of journalistic format into a theatrical performance – farce. “Must let the show go on”.

A half truth is a whole lie


If the first words I ever told you were loud enough to make you speak up for a cause, then its inspirational. If the first words I ever told you were strong enough to make you take action, then its motivational. If the first words I ever told you were powerful enough to change your life entirely, then its momentous. But if the first words I ever told you were corrupt, misleading, and downright disrespectful, then its dishonesty and betrayal to not only yourself, but to the rest of the American people for what you’ve done. When Mike Daisy’s words were first spoken, This American Life should have been looking into the situation before deeming it a credible story. I believe it is just as much as This American Life’s mistake as it was Mike Daisy’s mistake for lying about a lot of the things he said.

This story should never have reached the light of day if they took the time to approve its validity and now, there are people out there who actually believe what Mike Daisy claims. I believe Mike Daisy was also lying when he said the main reason for his performance was to make people care about what was happening in China. Listening to the way he answered questions about why he lied shows that he never thought he was going to get caught. His intentions, he claimed, was to open up to the world about the lives of China’s factories workers, but you do them and yourself no good when you make false claims to raise awareness.

In Mike Daisy’s monologue he discusses all the horrible things he “heard” about dealing with labor conditions, but never mentioned the fact the Apple or Foxconn are doing things to improve them. Mike Daisy is a fraud in my eye and should never be credible or taken seriously ever again. I’m very disappointed in This American Life for releasing this story before finding out whether it was the truth or not. I believe the image of Mike Daisy has gone down and he deserves it. You can’t make things up and expect to get away with it. In the end, everyone gets caught.

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…

A lie about the truth?


It was uncomfortable to hear Mike Daisey during the retraction segment on “The American Life.”  Ira Glass asked pointed questions about the validity of Daisey’s original monologue, “The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, and demanded to know why he hadn’t been entirely truthful.  Daisey conjured up a few poor excuses, but the long silences and clear trepidation in his voice had more of an impact than anything he said.  And of course, Ira Glass is absolutely correct – Mike Daisey did lie to millions of listeners about his experiences in China.

When I first heard Daisey’s monologue, I really enjoyed listening to his seemingly inside scoop from his trip to Foxconn.  Terrible working conditions in factories is a very prevalent topic, and I have been struggling with my own opinions towards the issue.  And after hearing his experience, I couldn’t help feeling empathy for the factory workers and the sacrifices that they make in order to provide for themselves and their families.  The stories about suicide, small living quarters, and grueling working conditions made me look at my Apple products in a different light.  Mike Daisey was clearly successful in his task.

However, was telling a lie the best way to tell the truth?  The automatic response is no.  Daisey should have told the story honestly, especially since he claimed that he was exposing these factories for what they truly were.  And since he did witness the long hours, listen to horrible injury stories, and meet an underage worker, he did have an interesting story to tell.  In retrospect, Daisey probably wishes that he did not tell all of the lies that he had, which has made almost as much hype as the story itself.

However, we are not exactly back to square one.  His monologue was a huge success; he did enlighten many people about the travesties in the factories and the hardships those workers face.  And although parts of it were lies, Daisey was successful in exposing the conditions factories, in a way that people wanted to listen.  So although the retraction definitely discredits my opinion of him, I do understand his motives and have to acquiesce that he did accomplish his goal: to open our eyes to the truth about Apple.

 

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2012/03/retracting-mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory

You’re Only In Trouble If You Get Caught


What do you think of this question?

175210-aladdin_super As I was writing my post for this week, the phrase, “You’re only in trouble if you get caught,” popped into my mind.  It seemed fitting.  To jazz up my blog this week, I tried to google this phrase and see if I could find a cartoon or clip that I could present to all of you.  I figured I had heard this phrase several times before, so it had to come from somewhere. That’s when I discovered it.  This quote is from Aladdin, my favorite Disney movie of all time, making this even more perfect for my blog.

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