Mar 21, 201207:24 PMChina Mom
“It would have been true if it had happened that way”
If you listen to This American Life on NPR, you’re probably aware of the recent bruhaha over a show that aired in January called “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.”
The story was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which Daisey talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and iPads.
The January broadcast detailed horrific conditions in an Apple factory called Foxconn in Shenzhen, China. The show literally – and I do mean literally – stopped me in my tracks that day when Mike Daisey described meeting a couple of underage factory workers – a 13-year-old girl and her friend who was 12.
I immediately thought of my daughter. Could that have been her future? I know that’s a ridiculous thought, but my mind went there. And my heart followed. The reality of the average small-town Chinese girl hit home. And these young factory workers were likely girls with families – not girls who grew up in an orphanage. What future do they have?
I got a grip and listened intently to the rest of the episode. I even contemplated writing a blog post about it, but didn’t know where to begin or what I would even say. I’ve thought a lot about the story since January – it really got under my skin. And apparently, I'm not alone.
“Mr. Daisey Goes to Apple” became the single most popular podcast in This American Life’s history. A listener sent a petition with 250,000 signatures to Apple calling for better working conditions for their Chinese workers. Mike Daisey became somewhat of a media darling, giving dozens of interviews and becoming Apple’s most outspoken critic. This story struck a nerve with people.
If only it was true. This past week, we learned that Daisey pretty much fabricated much of his story. To say he stretched the truth would be an understatement. This American Life dedicated another entire broadcast last weekend to retracting the story because they couldn’t vouch for the truth.
I won’t go into the falsehoods point-by-point – you can check it out yourself if you wish – but once again, this story stopped me in my tracks. Why? Daisey never met any underage workers at Foxconn. Not one. I feel used.
The core issue for This American Life is, of course, is that Daisey presented this story as fact – as journalism. Daisey says it’s theater and he took artistic license to make a dramatic story. He’s apologized for having it on the show as journalism. But that’s about as far as he goes.
He has said that worker abuse in China is real and documented elsewhere, and he only made up lies about meeting abused, ailing, and underage tech employees because he wanted to create a personal connection for the audience that would make them care. He claims that if you’re more outraged over what he did than you are about how Chinese workers are treated then, “something is wrong with your priorities.”
No. I think my priorities are just fine, pal. And here’s the truth as I see it: you made up a story to get attention. Your lies got you on a popular radio program. The price of your fame is the pain and suffering of nameless Chinese factory workers whom you couldn’t even take the time to find or interview. Their stories are real. You’re a fake. And while their plight will continue, your fifteen minutes is up.