This American Lie

The realization that parts of Mike Daisey’s story were fabricated comes as quite the surprise to me. Coming from a show with the reputation of This American Life, one would expect the content to be entirely true. In retrospect, the fact that Mike Daisey was performing this as a play is a bit suspicious because typically a play is considered “art” and, at most, is “based on a true story”. This is what seems to be the case here, Mike Daisey adapted his play from real experiences but took many artistic liberties as many playwrights would. For this reason, I think Ira Glass and TAL should have been more weary about presenting Daisey’s story as fact and, while, he is right to be angry upon the realization that the story is fabricated it is kind of his fault for not having fully fact checked this story before airing it.

I definitely think that Mike Daisey was wrong for presenting his story as truth; he knew going into it that TAL was a well respected radio show and deliberately tarnished their reputation by performing his place with no warning that he added to some of the events. Ira Glass is completely justified in his anger towards Mike Daisey. I do not think he overreacted, if anything I think he under reacted. If someone presented a fake story in the newspaper they would probably never be able to practice journalism again. I was shocked to hear the contradictions between Daisey’s and Cathy’s story. I agree with the point that Mike Daisey was trying to make, however, the real victims here are the mistreated workers in China. To exaggerate their conditions takes away from the actual problems that they experience. While Mike Daisey originally raised awareness about severely poor conditions people were outraged, however, now that the conditions were proven to be not as bad it makes the issues seem less pressing.  Instead of Apple making an effort to improve conditions for the Foxconn workers they can simply show that the conditions are “not as bad” as Daisey claimed. Think about a fisherman catching a 10 foot fish and telling people it was 50 feet. When people find out that he exaggerated they may not even believe that he caught a fish, the problem is that the fish really does exist, it’s just only 10 feet.  Chinese workers are absolutely right to complain but their claims may not be taken as seriously since the public is going to be much more careful about what they believe after this fiasco.

I think with any success story there are going to be tradeoffs. Apple is no exception. While consumers deserve to have “guilt free products” they also deserve to know when they are receiving “not guilt free products.” This brings to light one of the main issues with capitalism. Some people can’t be rich without others being poor. The system is flawed in this respect and at the end of the day the solution lies with consumers boycotting these products. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon and the only effect that this episode of TAL has had is highlighting these contradictions in our system and showing how difficult it will be to resolve them. Ira Glass is right to be embarrassed as he has failed to discern between art and truth. This calls into question the difference between art and truth. To what degree is it ok to exaggerate in order to make a point? Is it ok to portray this exaggeration as truth? Would Apple have attempted to make changes if Mike Daisey told his story exactly as it happened?



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