“I am happy that the truth prevails, I am glad that Mike Daisey’s lies were exposed. But I don’t think that the reports about this have gone far enough to find out what exactly is the truth. People will have the impression that Foxconn is a bad company, so I hope they will come and find out for themselves.”
“Mike Daisey, the off-Broadway performer who admitted that he made up parts of his one-man show about Apple products being made in Chinese sweatshops, has cut questionable sections from the monologue and added a prologue explaining the controversy.
Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater, where the monologue is being performed, said Saturday that Daisey has ‘eliminated anything he doesn’t feel he can stand behind’ from the show and added a section at the beginning in which he addresses the questions raised by critics.”
I’d love to know what sections have been cut. If you attend a performance, please share any observations you have.
“In the theater, our job is to create fictions that reveal truth– that’s what a storyteller does, that’s what a dramatist does. THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS reveals, as Mike’s other monologues have, human truths in story form.
In this work, Mike uses a story to frame and lead debate about an important issue in a deeply compelling way. He has illuminated how our actions affect people half-a-world away and, in doing so, has spurred action to address a troubling situation. This is a powerful work of art and exactly the kind of storytelling that The Public Theater has supported, and will continue to support in the future.
Mike is an artist, not a journalist. Nevertheless, we wish he had been more precise with us and our audiences about what was and wasn’t his personal experience in the piece.”
Great fiction does indeed offer insight, discussion and introspection on real issues. That’s not the problem here. The problem is that Daisey knowingly let his audience assume he was sharing factual, first-hand experiences.
As for the show itself, it continues. Edward Champion of Reluctant Habits contacted the Public Theatre and found that the three remaining scheduled performances will take place. Additionally, ticket holders who’ve decided they don’t want to see the show in light of Daisey’s lies will not receive refunds.
There’s more. Daisey is scheduled to perform the show at Burlington, Vermont’s Flynn Center on March 31. Champion was told that show will be performed as scheduled. Daisey also has a run scheduled at Washington, D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theater Company from June 17th to August 5th. According to Champion, those performances will happen and there will be no refunds.
As for the show itself, there have been minor changes 1. Aaron Dobbs attended the March 17, 2012 2:00 PM show in New York and shared these tweets:
- “For those wondering Daisey addressed @ThisAmerLife situation before the show, suggesting people look into ‘the controversy’ on their own..”
- “… After the performance. He said they had made some changes to the show. The only ones obvious to me were where he said …“
- “… A quote like ‘When asked two years later, my interpreter said she did not remember …’ this person. Not sure what else may have changed“
I’d love to know if Daisey still tells the story about meeting underage workers, after admitting on This American Life that he never did. Or if he describes a man who suffered hexane poisoning, after admitting that it never happened.
There’s no controversy at all. Daisey lied to This American Life, CBS Sunday Morning and The New York Times. He also let his audience believe he was sharing factual, first-hand experiences. He was not.
Update: The Chicago Theatre has cancelled a performance that was supposed to feature an on-stage Q&A with Ira Glass. No surprise there.
[Via Daring Fireball]
The retraction episode of This American Life has been posted online. It gets intense. PDF of the full transcript here.
“During fact checking before the broadcast of Daisey’s story, This American Life staffers asked Daisey for this interpreter’s contact information. Daisey told them her real name was Anna, not Cathy as he says in his monologue, and he said that the cell phone number he had for her didn’t work any more. He said he had no way to reach her.”
Cathy Lee (Chinese name: Li Guifen) was in fact Mike Daisey’s translator during his trip to China. She’s pictured and interviewed here. Oops.
- The NPR site is down as of this writing, so here’s a mirror of its statement. ↩
Rob Schmitz, Mike Daisey and Ira Glass discussing the accuracy of Mike Daisey’s reporting:
“Rob Schmitz: [Chinese interpreter] Cathy [Lee] says you did not talk to workers who were poisoned with hexane.
Mike Daisey: That’s correct.
RS: So you lied about that? That wasn’t what you saw?
MD: I wouldn’t express it that way.
RS: How would you express it?
MD: I would say that I wanted to tell a story that captured the totality of my trip.
Ira Glass: Did you meet workers like that? Or did you just read about the issue?
MD: I met workers in, um, Hong Kong, going to Apple protests who had not been poisoned by hexane but had known people who had been, and it was a constant conversation among those workers.
IG: So you didn’t meet an actual worker who’d been poisoned by hexane.
MD: That’s correct.”
“Daisey went to Shenzhen. Foxconn wouldn’t let him in, so he stood outside the main gate with his translator, talking to workers at shift change. ‘In my first two hours of my first day at that gate, I met workers who are 14 years old,’ Daisey said. ‘I met workers who were 13 years old. I met workers who were 12. Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?'”
In an op-ed piece Daisey wrote for the New York Times, he said:
“I have traveled to southern China and interviewed workers employed in the production of electronics. I spoke with a man whose right hand was permanently curled into a claw from being smashed in a metal press at Foxconn, where he worked assembling Apple laptops and iPads. I showed him my iPad, and he gasped because he’d never seen one turned on.”
The problem isn’t that Daisey bent the truth in the name of entertainment during his stage show (which he recently released under an open license). It’s that he blatantly and knowingly lied to the New York Times, CBS Sunday Morning and This American Life. That’s not “a tool of theatre,” Mike. That’s called lying.
This American Life has retracted an episode entitled “Mr. Daisey And The Apple Factory,” 1 after learning that it was “partially fabricated.” Ira Glass:
“Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.”
Wow. “Daisey” is Mike Daisey, whose one-man show, “The Agony And Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” describes the time he spent at Foxconn, posing as an American industrialist. 2 This American Life — produced by WBEZ in Chicago and distributed by Public Public International — aired a portion of Daisey’s monolog. That episode, “Mr. Daisey And The Apple Factory,” was the show’s most popular to date. An entire subsequent episode has been dedicated to the retraction.
“What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic - not a theatrical - enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations.”
I’m floored by this. “The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism.” Really, Mike? Is lying to NPR fact-checkers a “tool of theatre?”
If I make shit up while standing on a stage, and tell you it’s fact, or knowingly permit you to assume its fact, it’s OK. Because I’m standing on a stage. Theatre!
I bet Ira Glass is spitting nails.
Every summer, PRI re-publishes my all-time favorite episode of This American Life, Notes On Camp, as an episode of the show’s podcast. Host Ira Glass tries to bridge the gap between “camp people,” those who adore the camp experience, and “non-camp people,” or those who just don’t get it.1
No matter which side you’re on, I promise you’ll love this episode. It’s a stellar way to spend 60 minutes. Enjoy.
- For the record, I’m a non-camp person. ↩