Lying for a Greater Truth


In TAL’s episode “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory”, Daisey makes references to personal experiences with Foxconn that become the crux of his overarching argument; that Apple and other companies that outsource labor in order to cut costs need to take responsibility for the disregard of ethics and harsh conditions their suppliers are subject to. The retraction by TAL that followed his monologue revealed that the majority of Daisey’s experiences he so attests to were fabricated upon further investigation. The workers he saw whose hands shook from m-hexane poisoning? Never saw them. The cameras he described in the dormitories? Turns out Cathy never even brought him to the dormitories.

So my question after listening to the retraction is, how does one draw the line between a stretch of the truth and blatant lies? Is it okay to lie on the premises of a much greater truth? Mike Daisey seems to believe so. While Daisey was exposed to workers of Foxconn and did tour the factory, all of the gut-wrenching details that made the audience gasp in disbelief, such as the man with the damaged hand who saw an iPad for the first time and the factory workers whose hands shook as a result of the m-hexane poisoning, were all either over exaggerated or made up in its entirety. When confronted about these fabrications, Daisey immediately argued that he intended for his piece to be a theatrical piece, not a form of journalism. That, while he may or may not have seen the extent to what he describes in his monologue on his trip to Shenzhen, it still served the overall purpose he hoped it would; to make people care.

It doesn’t bother me that Daisey exaggerated his story of Foxconn. He is a performer. That is what performers are trained to do. What bothers me is that he tricked people into caring by warping reality to push himself into the spotlight and then felt little-to-no remorse about it. He merely apologized for passing it as a journalistic piece when it should’ve been labeled as a theatrical piece. However, he never addresses hiding information about Cathy from TAL nor does he ever fully own up to all the lies he fabricated. I found it ironic that the entire monologue’s primary focus was the ethical and unethical behavior of companies like Apple, with its entire basis of arguments constructed around unethical lies.

With all that being said, Daisey’s voice was heard and it was successful in getting people to care about a cause that deserves attention. Despite his intentions, whether it be fame or not, the monologue undoubtedly pulled at the heart strings of numerous Americans and exposed the world to the consequences of cost-cutting outsourced labor that so many companies take part in. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, one undeniable fact holds true despite the retraction. That is that today’s society is centered around efficiency and materialism and as a result profitability triumphs over any basic human right. Daisey’s story, while fallacy-ridden, indisputably questions this belief and makes us all question our own ethics when it comes to the products we consume.

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5 thoughts on “Lying for a Greater Truth

  1. I agree with what you said about Daisey’s lack of remorse after being caught exaggerating his story about Apple and Foxconn – he didn’t really accept the fact that he lied about some of the aspects of the story, and I feel like he should have taken responsibility for that. You mention how he goes and talks about the unethical actions that Apple was partaking in, and it made me think about how Daisey is doing the same thing in terms of journalism. Even if he was a theatrical performer, he has the obligation to ensure that every part of his story is accurate when he goes to the air. I’m okay with embellishing in order to make the story more interesting, but he is a performer, and should be able to make it more interesting just by the way he tells a story. He should not have done so by distorting the truth.

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    1. I think that what matters isn’t so much the number of lies within his story, but rather the effect each lie has on the validity of the greater cause at hand- that being the problem of globalization and the consequences of outsourcing labor in relation to Apple and other companies. In other words, does the 43%, of lies make us question his story enough to drop the greater problem of poor labor conditions all together?

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      1. Ok. So each lies cumulatively erodes his legitimacy until you get to a threshold of “not credible.” Right? Seems that puts us back at the question of where is the threshold? 10% 15% 50%? or is the threshold measured some other way?

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  2. Your final conclusion, that efficiency in the name of profit maximization trumps any other concern, seems to me the definition of a “crisis” that Mills describes in The Sociological Imagination. And by making it about whether or not I, or you, consumer Apple products, or to paint it as an unalterable feature of existence, negates the possibility of change by managers, corporations, or societies. Is that what you want? Is that how you see globalization?

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