The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Public Radio Liar: ‘I Wanted to Tell a Story That Captured the Totality of My Trip’

Posted on | March 16, 2012 | 12 Comments

The quote is from Mike Daisey, who went to China and came back telling lies about conditions in Apple’s factories there:

It’s Daisey’s story about visiting a Foxconn factory in China where Apple manufactures iPhones and other products. With the help of a Chinese translator, Daisey finds underage workers, poisoned workers, maimed workers, and dismal factory conditions for those who make iPhones and iPads.
“I’m telling you that in my first two hours at my first day at that gate I met workers who were 14 years old … 13 years old … 12,” Daisey recounted. “Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?”

My initial thought: 13-year-olds who work? What a great idea! But my kids aren’t Chinese and there aren’t any iPhone factories nearby, so . . .

Cathy Lee, Daisey’s translator in Shenzhen, was with Daisey at this meeting in Shenzhen. I met her in the exact place she took Daisey—the gates of Foxconn. So I asked her: “Did you meet people who fit this description?”
“No,” she said.
“So there was nobody who said they were poisoned by hexane?” I continued.
Lee’s answer was the same: “No. Nobody mentioned the Hexane.”
I pressed Cathy to confirm other key details that Daisey reported. Did the guards have guns when you came here with Mike Daisey? With each question I got the same answer from Lee. “No,” or “This is not true.”
Daisey claims he met underage workers at Foxconn. He says he talked to a man whose hand was twisted into a claw from making iPads. He describes visiting factory dorm rooms with beds stacked to the ceiling. But Cathy says none of this happened.

We should have known this was too good to be true. Hell’s bells, I can’t even get my 13-year-old to pick up his socks. It would be entirely too much to expect him to toil for hours in an iPhone factory.

Anyway, this Mike Daisey must be one of those right-wing Bretibart-type bloggers who make stuff up on Fox News, I guess. Am I right?

Acclaimed Public Radio International program “This American Life” has retracted an entire episode about working conditions inside Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer that builds much of Apple’s most popular hardware, after learning the reporter “partially fabricated” information about his visit to the factories. . . .

(“Partially fabricated”? I should try that: “Hey, I’m a professional journalist with a 14-inch-long penis.” And if it’s only 11 inches …)

Among the many facts Daisey fabricated, according to PRI, were the number of Foxconn factories he visited, the number of workers he spoke with, as well a major lie about meeting with a number of workers who claimed to have been poisoned by chemicals used on iPhone assembly lines.

(OK, so maybe it’s closer to 9 inches . . .)

“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,” the show’s host, Ira Glass, wrote in a blog post on Friday. “That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.”

Ira, buddy, we need to talk about the meaning of this word, “mistake,” because it strikes me that this is more like “willful negligence” and “editorial malpractice,” but who am I to lecture the host of an “acclaimed” public radio program, huh?

Merely a professional journalist, with a penis at least 7¾ inches long. Because I want to tell a story that captures the totality of my penis. And speaking of total penises:

A co-founder for Invisible Children was detained in Pacific Beach Thursday for being drunk in public and masturbating, according to San Diego Police Department.
Jason Russell, 33, was allegedly found masturbating in public, vandalizing cars and possibly under the influence of something, according to Lt. Andra Brown. He was detained at the intersection of Ingraham Street and Riviera Road. . . .
Invisible Children’s CEO Ben Keesey released a statement after 1:40 p.m. on Friday saying:
“Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. …”

(Exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition? I’m “suffering,” too! Want to see my 14-inch penis? I’m “focused on getting better.” Honest.)

Russell is one of the the founders responsible for the “Kony 2012” video that  went viral last week. He is described on the organization’s website as a  co-founder and “our grand storyteller and dreamer.”

OK, I co-founded this blog, but the “grand storyteller and dreamer” gig is above my paygrade. I am merely a professional journalist, with a penis of indeterminate size that I’ve never been arrested for displaying. Yet.

UPDATE: World-famous liar Mike Daisey:

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism.

Speaking of “tools” . . .

UPDATE II: Jack Shafer isn’t buying Daisey’s excuse:

Liars come up with all sorts of justifications when caught. In Daisey’s case, he claims “dramatic license” gives him the right to lie to Glass. Other apprehended fibbers working in the journalistic arena have blamed booze, drugs, madness, overwork, bad fact-checking, notes got lost, wrong version got sent to the editor, or family problems.
I’m still waiting for somebody who got caught lying while practicing journalism to say why he did it. I have my theory: 1) They lie because they don’t have the time or talent to tell the truth, 2) they lie because think they can get away with it, and 3) they lie because they have no respect for the audience they claim to want to enlighten. That would be an ideal subject for a one-man theatrical performance.

The notion that it is a journalist’s job to “enlighten” others is probably the key to understanding what Daisey did. As with Dan Rather and the bogus Texas Air National Guard documents, Daisey believed so deeply in the truth of the “larger story” that he became indifferent to the actual facts.

This “fake but accurate” concept is one of those ends-justify-the-means rationalizations to which idealistic crusaders and other bullshit artists cling ferociously. Michael Moore doesn’t give a damn about trivial little things like “facts,” because his stock in trade is The Important Message that others supposedly lack the courage to tell. While they’re busy congratulating themselves on how heroically “courageous” they are, of course, they’re trampling the truth into the dust.

Shafer suggests that people will now begin fact-checking Daisey’s 2002 book, 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @, and in a review of that book I found this tantalizing clue:

21 Dog Years [is] a great testament to the irrational exuberance of the dot-com era. Daisey signed on at Amazon as a last resort after a string of temp jobs and low-paying acting gigs. The book’s best passages tingle with tension as Daisey watches himself fall for the new-economy talk he knows is jive. “There was the Old World, and the New World, and a war was coming in which Amazon would play a vital role, vanquishing bad, brick and mortar corporations,” Daisey writes. “We began to believe that by supporting we would be helping to crush chains and monopolies and faceless bureaucracies. We were hopelessly naíve.” . . .
He avoided being fired only by being promoted, thanks to a study he did on the customer-service response times of competitors — a study that used faked data.
What Daisey slowly came to realize, with a perfect mix of horror and mirth, was that it didn’t even matter that the report was fiction. “It was only now that I could see that they never cared whether that report was real or not,” he writes.

Whoa! In a book published ten years ago, Daisey confessed to having lied his way into a promotion at a previous employer? An “acclaimed” public-radio program saw no problem in trusting the veracity of reporting by this confessed liar?

Oh, and by the way: Despite Daisey’s sneers about “irrational exuberance,” Amazon is still in business — and quite successfully so..


12 Responses to “Public Radio Liar: ‘I Wanted to Tell a Story That Captured the Totality of My Trip’”

  1. AnonymousDrivel
    March 16th, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

    I tried to work in how the pen is mightier than something, but came up short.

  2. richard mcenroe
    March 16th, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

     You among others. *g*  If Stacy tries to exaggerate his deductions that convincingly, he could be live-tweeting his tax trial…

  3. ltw
    March 16th, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

    “Dreams from the Daisey”  An ascent narrative?  A descent narrative?  No one can tell what is driving Daisey.

  4. Evilbloggerlady
    March 16th, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

    The dude did not even score an Oprah book club plug before melting down…how lame is that?

  5. Adjoran
    March 16th, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

    Interestingly enough, this episode was “This American Life”‘s highest-rated and most-watched-online show, ever. 

    Call me cynical, but I think that goes a long way toward explaining why it made the air:  it was a bombshell allegation, the sort of thing the media finds just too good to check.

    Speaking of which:

    “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,” the show’s host, Ira Glass, wrote in a blog post on Friday.

    Given the ease with which Daisey’s tall tale was exposed, it seems the total effort to “fact check” the story was asking Daisey, “Are you sure about all this?”

  6. Charles
    March 16th, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

    Daisey got caught because ordinarily no one listens to “This American Life.” The show specializes in works of fiction. A particulary inventive segment I remember from a decade or so ago featured Ira Glass describing being alowed to hang out in the changing roms of a Chicago department store while his recently exed ex-girlfriend stripped to her underwear and tried on various outfits. Right, like that ever happened.

  7. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    March 16th, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

    “Right, like that ever happened.”
    Charles is right… even the suggestion of Ira Glass having a girlfriend is just crazy.  

  8. richard mcenroe
    March 17th, 2012 @ 12:49 am

    (Poor bastards.  They’re good men, all, but they still think in inches.)

  9. Adjoran
    March 17th, 2012 @ 2:26 am

     I could believe it – if by being “allowed” he means “they didn’t find me.”

  10. Kranky One
    March 17th, 2012 @ 10:41 am

    First off … TMI Stacy!!! TMI!!!

    Second off, brilliant article!

    Third off, if you ever figure out how to get young teen children to pick up after themselves, work in iPhone factories, or similar, please do post.  Some of us with said kids really want them to at least pick up after themselves.  iPhone factories can wait.  

  11. A Key to “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” or “A Mosaic of Facts.” | jsench
    March 17th, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

    […] So Mike Daisey did not meet these people, but he did put their story in a mosaic that made them meaningful to hundreds of thousands of listeners. That made people care. Stowe used the word mosaic, Daisey used the notion of “a story that captured the totality” of what was happening. But try doing some google searches on this very real problem and you’ll now find a bunch of stories about the “discredited story.” Indeed, commentators are right now seizing on, getting comic mileage out of, the idea that “a story that captured the totality” of what was happening in China is another word for lying as in this post on “Public Radio Liar: ‘I Wanted to Tell a Story That Ca… […]

  12. neills
    March 17th, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

    Put that thing away, Stacy. Or on ice. Something…

    (TOO funny)And as to the videographer arrested for spanking it in public — I live about a mile from there, it’s near a boat landing and the occasional hotel, road, lots of trees but not a lot of commercial and no residential stuff. Maybe suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, his video  going unprecedentedly viral……created a kind of perfect storm for him. I mean, you just gotta release that kind of chaos — regardless of stature.

    As to National Progressive Radio: hoisted by their own petard. Keep it up, guys, only bigger and badder.