“Retraction” is an attempt by This American Life to restore their credibility. It succeeds in this respect to an extent, but it does not completely negate their failure to do sufficient fact checking for the original story. Unfortunately for Mike Daisey, all of the credibility This American Life and Ira Glass restore for themselves is at his expense. They paint Mike Daisey as a liar by asking leading questions and eventually outright asking if he lied.
Mike Daisey lied about Foxconn to make a more interesting story. He is a storyteller though, so does it matter? This American Life, however, is not a podcast that tells stories, it is supposed to provide listeners with investigative journalism. Ira Glass should have figured this out and realized that he most likely exaggerated his experiences so that he could make a play out of it. From this perspective, Mike Daisey did not really do anything wrong. He lied about his experiences, and he performed his monologue as truth, but it was still a performance that clearly should have been taken with a grain of salt.
Who did Mike Daisey hurt by lying about his trip to China? While it may be an unpopular opinion, the reality is that Mike Daisey unfairly damaged the reputation of Apple and Foxconn. He made false accusations regarding the extent of unethical practices and flat out falsified other details. Ira Glass notes that the only people in China who have guns are the military and the police. Mike Daisey on the other hand, says “the guards look pissed. They look really pissed. And they are carrying guns” (“Retraction”). This comment is just plain false. It is an attempt by Daisey to get the audience interested, provide concrete evidence that Foxconn workers live in constant fear and make the Foxconn factory seem more like a prison than a place of business.
The trouble with Daisey’s lies is that they ended up letting Apple and Foxconn off the hook. These two companies do deserve to have their reputations damaged because of their labor practices. However, Daisey made it impossible to tell fact from fiction and, in doing so, made it impossible to properly address the problem. Some say lying for the greater good of humanity is acceptable, but this example shows that when those lies come to light they can make matters worse