I Just Want People to Care


Common sense seems to dictate that the narrative told by Mike Daisey is irrefutably untrue. Ira Glass and Rob Schmitz make a compelling argument that many of the depictions of poor working conditions in China were fabricated by Daisey in an effort to create a more emotionally compelling story. On the show, Ira Glass asked Daisey numerous questions beginning with why Daisey “lied to Ira and This American Life producer Brian Reed about how they could fact check his story with Cathy Lee.” Was Daisey’s misrepresentation of facts unethical in nature? Was he purposefully trying to mislead the public into believing the factual accuracy of his statements?  In beginning to answer this question, I think it’s important to understand the importance of Daisey’s open source approach to sharing his story free of copyright. If Daisey was incentivized by monetary gain he would never have published his play. Also is this was the case, it wouldn’t surprise me if he intentionally fabricated his story to reach a wider audience and reap higher profits from the popularity of his narrative. On the other hand, I believe his true motivation was to raise awareness of the poor working conditions in China. He states in his conversation with Ira Glass that he wrote his narrative for theatrical purposes as opposed to in a journalistic capacity. He also detailed his passion for telling stories in order to “make people care”. In this way, I believe Daisey fabricated his story as to achieve the best opportunity for reform. Although, I agree with many criticisms of Daisey’s narrative, I think Glass over-reacted to the situation and was not completely justified in his anger.

Although many of the events depicted by Daisey were proven to be fabricated it doesn’t alter the underlying problem of corporate mistreatment of workers. As Daisey stated, he just wanted to raise awareness for those in horrific working conditions. This raises the question, “does Apple owe its customers ‘guilt free’ products?” I believe that corporations have the option of providing “ethically-pure” products but it’s not their obligation. Corporations have a primary responsibility to provide value to their shareholders –as long as they act within their legal capacities. Daisey suggests that the popularity of Shenzhen as a hub for electronics manufacturing was their government’s promise to the corporations in return for economic prosperity. In this sense, Fox Conn and Apple are legally justified to conduct business in this way. I think the only obligation that corporations have to their consumers is disclosure. In a similar way that external auditors have a responsibility to assess the fairness of financial statements as to not leave out information that would change an investor’s decision, it’s up to Apple to disclose any information that would change a consumer’s decision to buy its products. As reported by This American Life Apple currently reports on its operating standards for all suppliers and details the conditions in which its products are made—yet, many people continue to buy Apple products. Although, Apple may not be the best example, ethical business practices are becoming increasingly popular as companies that fail to do so are being brought to the “light”. I think as society becomes more conscientious of ethics in business we’ll see a rapid increase in the success of “guilt-free” companies.

 

Also, if anyone tried to Google Cathy –it was as easy as Rob Schmitz depicted.

cathycnen

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6 thoughts on “I Just Want People to Care

  1. Interesting post, I like a lot of the points you raise, particularly in the final paragraph. I think when the question is, “is Apple obligated to provide its consumer with guilt-free products?” the answer is obviously no. Although they may not be obligated to do this, it is certainly the more environmentally-conscious, humane, and ethical route to produce guilt-free products. Yet, clearly Apple’s large profits and loyal customer base show that this notion of “guilt-free” products may not be all that important to the consumer. Still, I believe that Apple, as one of the most influential firms in America and the world, should be inclined to engage in more ethical practices to set a standard for other companies now and in future generations. But if this is not the most cost effective strategy, how will Apple maintain its competitive advantages? Here is a trade off that needs to be considered and balanced appropriately.

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  2. I know Daisey mentioned that he wrote this piece as something to be seen or heard in a theatrical sense, but he also mentioned that everything he says and discovered could be held to a journalistic standard. This, of course, raises the question of what does a journalistic standard mean. Who’s to say a lot of the news we read today is not sensationalized to a certain degree to attract readers and provoke more reactions? His idea of a journalistic standard could easily have been different from what This American Life could have thought, and it could have been as simple as that. In the end, I agree with your points in the first paragraph. He did not mean any intentional harm on a large scale and just wanted to make an impact. I also find the monetary part interesting.

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  3. Interesting –I know journalistic standards vary widely depending on the source from which a piece of news was obtained. I agree that a lot of the news today is widely sensationalized with a goal of attracting readers and advertisements. I think a mindset like this is advantageous to proving that Daisey was not intentionally deceiving his viewers. However, in his follow-up interview with Ira Glass, why didn’t he say that? I found it very frustrating listening to Daisey comment on his alleged fabrications. I felt that his primary argument –which he wrote for a theatrical purpose with journalistic components was widely understated. I think the severity of the redaction would be dramatically reduced were it for Daisey being honest with The American Life about his original intentions and miscommunication.

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  4. Unfortunately, Daisey has become difficult to trust now. In his interview he takes long pauses when he is asked questions about his fabrications. He is obviously thinking of ways to make what he was doing sound right. However, I do not know what to believe. We’re his intentions good or was he just trying to make money?? Your post made me question that. I guess I would have to know the guy better in order to know what his intentions really are/were. He needs to just come out with the truth, but who is to know if anyone will believe him.

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  5. Even if exploitation is legal, who made it so? And is Apple contracting in China encouraging unethical LAWS? Do they have obligations to seek places to do business that have ethical laws?

    Ford helped Stalin make factories in the 1930s. The Koch Industries’ founder (father of current activist tycoons) built oil refineries for Hitler. Legal… but…?

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