So like many others (about a million others, apparently) I listened to the Mike Daisey piece ‘The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’ when it appeared on This American Life a few months ago.
A moving story.
But you hear something like that, presented as it was (a stand up delivery by Daisey to a live audience), and you know it is a performance. You know it is practised, words agonised over, delivery at the microphone nuanced for maximum impact. You can hear that much - and it pays off, because it’s very effective.
But you don’t expect lies. I am not talking about embellishment, which you do expect. Or a bit of wiggle room on exact facts, which is common in the art of verbal storytelling. I am talking about boldfaced lies.
Bits of it he just…made up..you know, for effect. The really sad thing is that there are some terrible conditions for workers in China (oh sure, they are lawful under Chinese law, but they would be illegal in any ‘western’ nation), but because Daisey went too far with this piece, he has hurt his cause. I hope this event become some kind of precedent for downplaying working conditions at Foxconn or any other factory in China, or as some kind of absolution from guilt. Not culpability exactly, just the guilt of knowing that your iPhone or MacBook was made in the place with the right laws and culture that provides the biggest profit margin. It’s all about the shareholders.
The double-whammy of course, is that Daisey’s monologue was itself a product - a paid for ‘play’. A theatre performance. And the more intriguing and horrifying the story, the more people get interested, and the more money he makes. It is obvious he had a cause here, a message to get out. But the irony of being dishonest in your retelling of events in a paid-for performance about the horrible effects of greed and capitalism aren’t lost on me. I doubt they will be lost on anyone.
Full credit to This American Life to have to break the news and issue the retraction. A professional job indeed, in a journalistic environment almost entirely devoid of professionalism.
Yes, typed on my MacBook Pro