Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lying In the Pursuit of Truth, or The Daisey Dismantling

So A Thing happened recently.  A couple months back, This American Life did an episode about Mike Daisey's 2010 trip to China that inspired his one-man show The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, wherein Daisey claimed to have visited a number of factories to speak with workers who worked on the iPad.  The monologue is an account of various worker violations at the Foxconn factory that manufactures iPad parts; Daisey claims to have met significant numbers of underage workers (and implies that their existence at the factory is an open secret with management, who turn a blind eye), spoken with a sizable contingent of workers who are part of an illegal union, seen guards with guns at the gate of the factory, met with workers who have suffered neurological damage from a cleaning agent called n-hexane, and met with a man whose hand was crushed in an industrial accident who had never seen an iPad before being shown one by Daisey.

If you go to the link above, you'll see that they've since aired an episode retracting the story.  The plot began to unravel when Rob Schmitz, a reporter for Marketplace stationed in Shanghai, noticed discrepancies in Daisey's story and decided to track down the translator Daisey worked with (with little difficulty, as he tells it).  Daisey had previously said that he had given his translator, who he calls Cathy in the play, that name as an alias, when her real name was Anna, and that he no longer had up-to-date contact information for her (this is the point, says TAL host Ira Glass, that they should have immediately killed the story).  The reason he did this, as Schmitz lays out, is that Daisey's account of events and the translator's differ wildly.  Daisey, in other words, fabricated many of the factual details of his journey.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Death and The Wire: "Lessons" and "The Cost"

For a number of reasons I struggled getting into this particular entry, partly because I've been distracted by other TV shows (Breaking Bad, Parks and Recreation, and the superlative Community) and partly because the newest addition to the death toll is something of a bit player.  However, I realized eventually that that was the point, and it's actually brilliant.