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.