Before addressing the literal problem that Mike Daisey poses in This American Life’s show “Mr. Daisey and Apple”, I want to draw attention to and applaud the method that he used to present his findings: storytelling. If a person were to sit in front of a computer screen and listen to an hour-long recording about labor issues in foreign countries, I don’t think that person would be able to pay attention for the full hour or be able to recount much of the information that person heard. By presenting his findings in the form of a dramatic story, Mike Daisy holds the listener’s attention, helps the listener remember some key details of his findings and even “tricks” the listener into caring about the actors in the story and therefore the larger problem at hand. This piece of media demonstrates the power of storytelling in our society as a mode of communication.
Since listening to this show, I have read on This American Life’s website that they retracted this episode because a number of parts had been fabricated by Daisey. Some of these false claims included some characters that he claimed to have spoken with in or outside factories. On the site, they quote Daisey saying, “I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard. My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it’s not journalism. It’s theater.” I think Daisey made a good point in this quote he gave to This American Life. He meant to develop this story and highlight the problems at hand as a work of art. Indeed, it should not have been presented as a work of journalism, but instead as a piece of entertainment meant to highlight an important issue in our globalized work. If Daisey’s intentions were clear to the listener at the outset of the piece, I think it would have been fine to air as is.
Moving to the substance of the show, I want to start with Ira Glass establishing the main question at hand by asking, “Should we feel weird about the computers and phones we use, all the clothes that we wear, that are made in faraway factories in Asia, under harsh working conditions? Leaving Mike Daisey aside for a second, that’s the question that all this raises, right?” I don’t know the answer to this question and I will not pretend like I know the answer to this question. The only way I hope to answer this question is to ask more questions: Do we care? Do we care enough to do something? What can we do? What effects and implications does taking action have? Will prices rise for consumers? Will this stimulate the Chinese Economy as well as other economies?
I understand why Mike Daisey chose Apple as a case study for the larger problem of largely unchecked labor in foreign countries. As he explains, he has long been a super fan of everything Apple. One strategy may be to attack one of the biggest and most relevant companies in the world in order to make an example out of them. However, perhaps another angle could be to go after the thousands of other smaller companies who create similar problems with labor in foreign countries. Instead of going after a company like Apple that has the best lawyers and lobbyists money can buy, why not go after smaller players? I assume Apple would chip in to help these companies, but this could be an additional strategy. If this is a problem that people actually care about then different strategies should be explored.