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.
Daisey has done a monologue called "Truth" about fabricators such as James Frey (who made up his purportedly autobiographical novel A Million Little Pieces) and Stephen Glass (a former journalist who fabricated news stories for the magazine The New Republic), which lends the whole affair a tinge of either dramatic irony or schadenfreude, depending on whether you are looking for a hacky phrase about a dramatist or being honest. I'm familiar with the idea of fabricators, stemming from watching season 5 of The Wire and reading subsequent David Simon interviews where he talks about fabricators he or others have known, and one of the things that comes up with fabricators are stories that are a little too good to be true, where it's just a little too coincidental that the reporter was in that particular place in that particular time. According to Schmitz in his the first act of the TAL retraction he addresses the ones he saw in Daisey's piece, the threads that eventually unraveled the whole story when they were tugged at (his written article about it is here).
|how did this get here i am not good with superheroes|
As an artist, your great power is the ability to write a beautiful sentence, to become a character, to create a video or a painting or a song, and these are things that not everyone can do. Of course, as an artist, you should follow your passion about an issue, as Daisey obviously did. His story about workers exposed to n-hexane did happen, but he never met those workers; they worked in a different province. His story of the man with the mangled hand, who he shows the iPad to like Moses bringing the tablets from the mountain (the amount of white man's burden/white male privilege/colonialism in the piece is probably another article entirely), is made up completely, but it contains the line, "He's never actually seen one, this thing that took his hand," which is a wonderfully effective piece of writing and acting. Unfortunately, because Daisey shirked his responsibility to truth, it's ultimately in service of nothing. You can easily find a tearjerker story on the Lifetime network if that's what you're in the market for, but that's not what Daisey's selling.
Daisey has a great power, but he forgot his great responsibility. In seeking to illuminate, he ultimately obfuscated. Now the story is no longer about what Apple and Foxconn may or may not have done; now the story is about Daisey, and whether we can trust anything he said, or says, from now on, about Apple or anything else. If you want to criticize Apple or Foxconn, who have actually committed wrongdoing, you now have to sort through a layer of Mike Daisey's bullshit to get at the truth. There's a certain amount of ego involved in being a monologist, and if Daisey's interest is only in Daisey, he needs to get out of the game and find a different profession.
Just not journalism.
3/19/2012 Edit: Here is an interesting and nuanced take on the subject, which I like because of (but also beyond) the fact that he invokes Jimmy McNulty.