Mike Daisy: For or Against Sweatshop Manufacturing?

When Mike Daisy started speaking on This American Life, I was intrigued as to what the four pictures that started his journey actually looked like. So, I opened up a new tab and started to run a quick google search. Upon looking for these pictures, I stumbled upon an article that stated this episode was later redacted by This American Life because Mike Daisy fabricated many of the encounters in China he spoke about. This was incredibly disappointing to learn– especially since it was before I was able to listen to his story. Instead of being able to enjoy his talented narrative of his experiences, I was highly critical and skeptical of everything I heard, ruining what I’m sure would have otherwise been quite a captivating speech. It was especially ironic when Mike remarked that he was “going to lie to a lot of people” in regards to his communication with Foxconn.

Eventually, I began to feel quite angry. It was clear that Mike’s overall message was not fabricated. The sweatshop conditions were real, child labor exists, and most of what he said really is happening, it was just some specific interactions that were fabricated or greatly exaggerated. But my anger did not stem from the lies directly. Instead, I was furious about how much damage Mike Daisy is doing to the very cause he sought out to support. I believe that people do need to understand what is going on in Chinese manufacturing sweatshops, and I do believe that people need to hear and should support Mike’s message. However, when he shares this message that is filled with lies and deceit, he discredits the problem and does more damage than good. The next time I hear a report about sweatshop conditions in Chinese manufacturing plants, I will be highly skeptical and remember the lies and falsities Mike Daisy tricked over a million people into downloading.

I tried redirecting my anger from Mike Daisy’s lies and deceit to Apple for supporting a company like Foxconn, but the truth is I couldn’t. Apple is just doing good business. They even go outside their scope of responsibilities and send auditors to make sure there are no underaged children being put to work, and make Foxconn pay for their education if there are. The podcast even showed that they stopped doing business with one supplier due to the excessive amount of child labor there. Apple is not responsible for the working conditions of Chinese companies, and if they feel the conditions are so poor they have been proven to use their purchasing power to take their business elsewhere. The responsibility lies entirely on the government of China and boards of Chinese companies to create adequate working environments.

5 thoughts on “Mike Daisy: For or Against Sweatshop Manufacturing?”

  1. After reading your blog post I am a little shocked and very annoyed that most of his accounts are fable. I did not do research before hand on whether his stories were real, but took the podcast to be fact. Though I am sure he had good intentions on with his talk, it is upsetting that he could make such a controversial issue into a theatre production, potentially for money. I fully agree with you in that he may be hurting the issue of human rights labor more than helping it. However, he does do a nice job of making the issues relatable and personal for the listener.

    I disagree with you on Apple’s role in this industry though. You blame China for the human labor violations occurring within their country. But corporations, like Apple, are willingly operating in unethical spaces and put limited pressure on the Chinese government to better then human labor laws. If Apple did have a serious commitment to human labor standards, they would hold these companies accountable by having external auditors investigate companies like Foxconn.


  2. It’s really interesting to hear the accusations and redaction of Mike Daisey’s monologue, especially now that I have listened to it and written my own blog post. Do you think there can be any positives to Daisey’s approach, even if it included lying? You mention that he hurt the cause he was trying to support, but is any press good press if it gets people to evaluate the manufacturing of technology?

    In my own blog, I asked whether or not the ends justify the means. When I asked this question, I was more so referring to Daisey’s deceptive tactics for obtaining his research. However, I think the question can still apply to Daisey’s possible lies. Is it okay to prompt a discussion about ethics by using potentially unethical means?


  3. I had my suspicions that Mike Daisey had fabricated his encounters at Foxconn throughout the podcast, so I was not as surprised to learn that this was in fact true. However, should we really say that Apple is just doing good business? In my own post I suggested we learn more about the working conditions of companies and use this information to influence our purchasing decisions at an individual level. As we discussed in class, do you think Apple only has a responsibility to make money or do you think that they should consider the possible consequences if individuals stopped purchasing their products due to the way in which they are produced?


  4. Jess, I agree that external auditors may further Apple’s dedication to human rights, but they already have sent their own auditors to evaluate these factories. How much is enough? They should also stop doing business with Foxconn to show their dedication, but I’m sure the loss of such cheap labor would crush the prices of their products relative to competitors, all of whom seem to be taking advantage of similar situations in China.

    Mary, I would agree with you to an extent– it IS acceptable to prompt this discussion as long as he doing so under the label of an entertainer, NOT as a journalist. By appearing on a show such as this one, I see this as crossing an ethical line.


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