Justice, intrinsically good or merely good for what it gets you in life? This is the integral question that Plato poses in his famous work, The Republic. Like normal back in 4th century BCE, Socrates, Plato’s mentor, was always being hyper-critical of both random strangers and his closest buds. One of Socrates’ friends would be like “Yo, Teez, I’m hungry…let’s get some gyros.” And Socrates would be like “Do you even know what hunger really is? What is life? Why is life?” And Socrates’ friend would be like “You’re the worst.” This is how pretty much every one of Socrates’ interactions went, and eventually, all the Athenians got super pissed and killed him. Solid digression. Moral of the story…Socrates wants to argue that justice holds intrinsic value and successfully does so in The Republic.
Why bring up justice or Socrates? This same question can be asked for the truth. Does the truth hold intrinsic value or is it only good when it’s convenient for the individual. If the truth has intrinsic value, then why do people lie all the time? Why don’t people just tell the truth all the time? Why do people only confess to crimes when they know they’ll be striking a deal and getting something out of it? Socrates might as: “What is the truth? What happens when everything you know to be true turns out to be a lie?” Here’s where we can start to dig into the Daisey case. TAM and its listeners were under the impression that Mike Daisey’s account of his trip to China was entirely true, and they were shocked as a result. The story had a profound effect, and it was the most downloaded show that TAM had ever had. But, as it turns out, it was too good to be true. Naturally, TAM wanted to figure out why Daisey would lie, and the retraction shed some light on that issue.
So why Daisey lie, and what does this tell us about the intrinsic value of the truth? Daisey says that all of the elements of his story came from his trip, and he doesn’t think it’s fair to call parts of his story “lies.” Assuming he did lie about some aspects of his story, this would make it seem that there is value in a lie, or else Daisey wouldn’t have done it. Maybe the only real value is in appearing to be telling the truth. If no one would ever find out whether what you are saying is the truth or a lie, would you always tell the truth because of the intrinsic value, or would you lie to get what you want? Daisey never imagined that people would find out that he was lying, and he even tried to cover up contact with Kathy so that TAM couldn’t contact her. He clearly wanted to appear as if he were telling the truth. But he lied, so there has to be value in lies, too.
For me, Daisey’s work doesn’t lose any value based on the fact that he embellished some parts of the story. I still gained valuable knowledge about Foxconn and Apple that I didn’t know before. So, I guess I also found value in his lies. But undoubtedly, there’s something magical about knowing the truth. People die for the truth, and that makes me think that it holds intrinsic value. If Socrates knew about Daisey’s situation, he’d probably miss the entire point of the conversation and renounce Apple as inherently terrible for having zero nutritional value. We would then tell him it’s a hugely successful computer company, and he’d say that it was good in the way that it was a computer company, but nothing more.